Thursday, November 24, 2011

Washington State Cabernet Cage Match

This week is affectionately referred to as "rivalry week" and we're talking College Football not Jeff Novitzky v Lance Armstrong.  Since the pro cyclists are taking a break right now I will honor Rivalry Week by hosting my own version of the Apple Cup.

Last weekend was Apple Cup weekend in Washington featuring the 104th rivalry football game between the University of Washington Huskies and the Washington State University Cougars.  In honor of this battle for state supremacy the Lucha Vino challenge features a wine maker from Walla Walla v. a wine maker from Vashon Island in an East v. West fued.

You might be protesting right about now, saying "Hey!  All the grapes are from the East side of the state.  How can you call this a true East v. West rivalry?"  To this I say "Good question, but I make up the rules and my rules say winery location determines what side of the state you are from."

Dunham Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon v. Andrew Will 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Tale of the Tape

Dunham Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Lewis Estate Vineyard, Frenchtown Estate Vineyard,
Double River Estate Vineyard and Phinny Hill Vineyard.

Aged in 80% French Oak and 20% American Oak barrels.

Purchased for $28.00 at Corky Cellars.

Andrew Will 2007 Mays Discovery Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Discovery Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Aged in 30% new French Oak barrels for 21 months.

Purchased for $28.99 from Full Pull Wines.

Round 1.  First Opening

Andrew Will fires off with a nose of rich plum, currant and dusty light spices.  The palate is dark sweet currant with a sweet cedar spice box finish.

Dunham counter attacks with a nose featuring currant, peat and mineral notes.  The palate is big rich dark currants,  chocolate and clove spices that linger on to the finish.

Andrew Will is showing some style and finesse.  Dunham does not really notice barging into the fray dropping elbows and knees taking round one and putting Andrew in a spot of bother.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Andrew Will is recovering and bringing some power to the fight with a nose showing dark currant, smoke and a little spice.  The palate is equally bold with currant, cocoa and spices that go on to finish.

Dunham raises an eyebrow as if to say "OK tough guy.  Game on."  The nose has character of sour peat, currant and cedar spices.  The palate is building strength with currants  and some toffee & espresso bean tartness with clove spices on the finish.

Round 2 is closer with Andrew Will showing some great resilience.  Dunham rises to the challenge squeaking out the points to take the second round.

Round 3. One day later

Andrew Will is not intimidated adding some kung fu to its bag of tricks.  The nose has developed currant, clove spices, menthol and bitter chocolate with some subtle hints of lemon in the background.  The palate is showing currant, black cherry, clove and cinnamon spices with a tart dry finish.

Dunham rises to the challenge sending Andrew Will to the brink of elimination with a nose of currant, dark fruit, peat, cinnamon and hints of coffee.  The palate is also showing currant, black cherry, clove and espresso bean spices with a tart cedar spiced clove finish.

This has been a close, impressive clash of Cabernet titans.  Dunham was dominant winning all three rounds after taking some extreme heat from Andrew Will, especially in round 2 and 3.

Wrap up and over all observations

What else could you expect from Washington Cabernet Sauvignon?  Bruising heavy weights dukeing it out in the ring, both with a "take no prisoners" attitude.  In the end the Dunham Cellars brought more to the fight and barely hung on to take all three rounds.

Both of these Luchadors continued to build character and power over the duration of the match.  For this demonstration of strength and cunning I give each wine an 89.  The Dunham earned this score based on power and intimidation.  The Andrew Will earned the same score based on character, finesse and strength.  Showing the ability to build over time.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Washington Garnacha v. Spain

There is a lot of early season racing in Spain as the pro peloton tries to stay dry and warm.  An interesting early season race series takes place in Mallorca.  There are 5 one day races that are run like a race series, yet no overall winner is declared by the race organizers.

Searching for some warm weather the Lucha Vino challenge opened a bottle of Garnacha from Monsant throwing down a big challenge to Washington state.  Idilico Garnacha stepped up to the challenge.  Let's see how this match turns out.

2008 Vespres v. 2009 Idilico Garnacha

Tale of the Tape

2008 Vespres

80% Garnacha and 20% Samso' (Carignan)

Aged for 8 - 10 months in French Oak Barrels

Purchased for $20 at Bottle House during tasting with Classical Wines.

2009 Idilico

100% Garnacha from Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain

Aged for 12 months in neutral French oak barrels. 

Purchased for $18.99 from Full Pull Wines.

Round 1.  First Opening

The Vespres jumps into the ring with a nose of rich red fruit, currant, savory toasty spices and hints of leather.  The palate shows tart red berries, leather and light spices with a dry finish.

Idilico starts out with a subtle attack featuring a nose of strawberries and some light toasty character.  The palate is showing slightly tart red berries with some hints of pepper and a bit of hazelnut on the finish.

Vespres wasted little time taking the fight to Idilico and earning the points for the first round.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Vespres isn't slowing down with a nose of rich dark fruit, leather and floral notes.  The palate is dark fruit. cedar spices and a long tart spiced and slightly nutty finish.

Idilico is trying a myriad of styles to counter attack the Vespres.  This round Idilico is showing a nose of toasted red fruits and dark Asian spices.  The palate is dark currant, spices and a tart toffee, espresso bean and clove finish.

Idilico takes round two bobbing and weaving and stealing points when Vespres isn't looking.

Round 3. One day later

Vespres continues to step up its game with a nose of savory licorice, spices and cocoa.  The palate is also showing dark fruti, chocolate and spices that linger on to the toffee infused finish.

The legendary bull, Idilico,  may have defied the odds by surviving the bull fighting ring in Spain, but suffers a less glamorous fate in the final round of our match.  Showing a nose of barnyard, earth, red fruit and Asian spices with a palate of medium red fruit, clove and a finish of light nutty cedar. 

Idilico continues to put up an attack of varied and interesting styles, but has no retort for the power displayed by Vespres.

Wrap up and over all observations

Two great Luchador warriors entered the ring in this match.  Both displayed skill and stamina, building from one round to the next with the Vespres from Montsant taking the final round and the victory.

I give each of these wines a solid 89 for longevity and character.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Washington Syrah v. France

The anticipation is starting to build for the 2012 Tour de France already.  The favorites are denying that they have a chance to win.  The teams are re-forming after a number of team mergers and sponsor drop outs that have left teams scrambling to make their financial commitment to the UCI.

This past week included Languedoc Day and the 2012 Tour will traverse this French wine region once again.  France and Languedoc provided the inspiration for this week's Lucha Vino matchup.  A Washington Syrah takes on a Syrah from Languedoc Roussillon

2007 Guilhem-Durand Syrah ViellesVignes Les Genets v. 2007 Vin Du Lac Barrel Select Syrah
Tale of the Tape

2007 Guilhem-Durand Syrah Vielles Vignes Les Genets

100% Syrah from the Languedoc Roussillon region in France.  Information is spotty, at best, on this mysterious Luchador. 

Purchased from Garagiste for $9.86.

2007 Vin du Lac Barrel Select Syrah

95% Syrah and 5% Petite Sirah from the Columbia Valley AVA sourced from the following vineyards:

Weinbau Vineyard – Wahluke Slope
Windy Ridge Vineyard – HorseHeaven Hills
Upland Vineyards – Snipes Mtn
Fallon Vineyard – Lake Chelan

Aged for 11 months in 1/3 new French and American Oak Barrels.

Purchased from the winery for $22.99

Round 1.  First Opening

Le Genets came out firing with a nose of smoked meat, pepper and dark fruit.  The palate was equally bold with notes of dark fruit and pepper with a slightly dry finish.

Vin du Lac was not phased by the French Challenger kicking sand all over Le Genets with a nose of smoke, pepper, dark fruit and hints of cocoa.  The palate is big and bruising with dark fruit and buttery toffee notes that linger on into a smokey finish.

Vin du Lac takes the opening round after trading some serious body slams with Le Genets, finishing up with a figure 4 leg bar on the French Challenger.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Le Genets will not be intimidated stepping into the ring with a nose showing smoke fueled notes of soy, menthol and dark red fruit.  The palate has plenty of dark fruit, pepper, smoke and cedar spices that lead to a finish that has smoothed out featuring bold ripe fruit.

Vin du Lac is feeling bold showing a nose of pepper and smokey dark fruit with a bit of buttery character lingering in the background.  The palate has more notes of buttered popcorn and dark peppery fruit trailing off with a smooth finish dominated by notes of salt-n-pepper.

Once again Vin du Lac is putting the hurt on Le Genets taking round 2 leaving Genets in a spot of bother. 

Round 3. One day later

Can somebody put out a missing Luchador report? Le Genets was harder to find than a French Tour de France winner..  The nose has dissipated to minimal hints of cedar and pepper.  Likewise, the palate has turned unusually sweet with notes of plum and blackberry that persist all the way through the finish.

Vin du Lac takes full advantage of Le Genets weakness finishing the French challenger with a flying suplex off the top ropes.  Vin du Lac is maintaining its strength with a nose of rich dark fruit and dusty cedar spices with a bit of barnyard funk.  The palate is full of currant, clove and pepper with a toffee & cinnamon spiced finish.

Down goes Le Genets losing 3 to 0.  As the score reflects, this match was extremely one-sided in favor of our Washington State Luchador.

Wrap up and over all observations

This match was pretty lopsided.  The Syrah from Languedoc was best in the first couple of hours.  It lost most of its character on day two.  The Vin du Lac from Washington maintained its character throughout the bout showing some solid Washington Syrah character.

I give the Guilhem-Durand Syrah Vielles Vignes Les Genets an 85 and the Vin du Lac Barrel Select Syrah an 88.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Washington Merlot v. California

It is November and to raise awareness to men's health issues the month has been renamed to "Movember."  Last year Robbie McEwan grew a mullet in honor of Movember.  I'm not sure it turned out as good the mullet that Vladimir Karpets rocks, but who could?

We are in the thick of Cyclocross season and that means the pro road racers are already dreaming of the next UCI Stage race in Australia.  Meanwhile, the cross racers are working into top form in preparation for their world championships in January.  Where would you rather race your bike in January?  Australia in the sun, or Koksidje in North West Belgium?

Merlot sounds a bit like Movember, so this week's challenge features a Washington Merlot vs a California Merlot.

Olsen Estates 2008 Merlot v. Kunde Family Estate 2006 Sonoma Valley Merlot

Tale of the Tape

Kunde Family Estate 2006 Sonoma Valley Merlot

100% Sonoma Valley Merlot

Aged for 18 months in 30% new French, Hungarian and American oak barrels.

Aged for an additional 20 months in bottle prior to release in Spring 2010.

Purchased at Corky Cellars for $15.99

Olsen Estates 2008 Merlot

100% estate grown merlot from the Yakima Valley AVA

Aged for 16 months in 100% new French Oak barrels.

Olsen estates has been in the vineyard business for more than 25 years.  The timing of their decision in 2006 to enter the wine business ended up being "not so good."  (More details from Paul Gregutt here) As a result, they have returned to focus on their vineyards, shutting down their winery.  Unfortunate for them, but good fortune for us wine drinkers that like to find a great wine at a great price.

Purchased at Bin 41 for $20

Round 1.  First Opening

The Kunde Family Estates was a bit timid, choosing to crawl under the ring ropes modestly showing a nose of cherries and toasty oats.  The palate features dried cherry and cocoa with a tart semisweet finish.

The Olsen estates was a bit more flamboyant, but nearly tripped as it attempted to leap off the top rope.  The nose features dark cherry, soy and wet asphalt with a palate of dark cherry, semisweet chocolate and a dry finish with some notes of sweet tea.

Both Luchadors seem to be slow starters.  Neither one is doing much in round 1, seemingly waiting for their opponent to make a mistake.  Round 1 goes to Olsen Estates by the slimmest of margins,  gaining an edge by demonstrating a bit more complexity. 

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

Some say imitation is the greatest form of flattery.  If that is true then the Kunde is paying major props to Olsen Estates by gathering up a nose of cherries and soy sauce with a palate of cherries and tart semi-sweet chocolate that leads into a tart tea finish.

The Olsen Estate won't fall for the flattery and continues on its mission of dominance with a nose of dark cherry, light clove, soy sauce and smoked meats.  The palate is robust with dark cherry, cocoa and notes of tart cedar.  The finish is sweet with dry cherry bark and green tea.

Another round to the Olsen Estates.

Round 3. One day later

The Kunde has moved into some type of altered state with a nose showing some funky dark cherries and bitter cocoa.  The palate is dark cherries with a tart cherry bark finish.  The tannins are out front - loud and proud  This Luchador appears to be disoriented and may have taken one too many blows to the head.

The Olsen has carried its round two performance on to the final round with a nose of dark cherry, soy and a hint of chocolate.  The palate is showing strong notes of dark cherry backed by clove, menthol and some tart spices on the finish.  Also not as integrated as I would have expected with the tannins playing a dominant role in Olsen's ring presence.

Round three goes to Olsen estates for a clean sweep in what turned out to be a slightly uninspiring contest.

Wrap up and over all observations

Both of these Merlots would benefit from some more time training before getting in the ring (or more time in the cellar) with the tannins being more forward than I expected.  Overall the comparison was interesting, although I was expecting a bigger bruising Merlot from Sonoma.  If you have recommendations for California Merlot let me know.

I give the Olsen Estates an 87 and the Kunde an 86.