Arts and Crafts Were Never This Fun

Sparkle and Fade

A Cabernet Experience

Exploring Terroir with Forgeron Cellars

Oregon's French Connection

Maison Louis Jadot's Résonance

The French Connection

Rhone to Columbia Valley: The Syrah Doctrine

C'mon Get Happy

New Growth at Matthews Winery

Who We Are

The staff of the Northwest Wine Anthem, we're good

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Playing Favorites: 2010 Avennia Sestina

The word paradigm is an over used one, and ultimately it shows that we don't understand the specificity of the concept. If you've read Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (I had to as an undergraduate) you understand the concept is one that had specifically scientific underpinnings. In science, Kuhn posited, there are dominant and prevailing models of thought that dictate how people go about practicing science and what they assume to be true. These accepted sets of realities dominate until something revolutionary, a discovery, shakes them to their core. The new prevailing model of thought that comes about better fits observed realities. For example Copernicus posited that the sun rather than the earth is the center of our "cosmos" or Einstein's discovery of the Theory of Relativity. It's this revolutionary shifting that is the pattern of real scientific progress according to Kuhn.

The term now gets thrown around too much with very little regard to it's origins. Kuhn did not see his concept as one that should apply more broadly, so he would not agree at all with my application of it. But none the less here we are and here I go.  The current "paradigm" or perhaps more accurately conventional wisdom regarding wine in Washington is that the state produces some excellent wines and that when compared to the finest wines of California, Washington compares much more favorably in terms of high quality to value than in sheer greatness alone. The same paradigm holds that there are two or three producers in Washington which can be cited as standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the finest wines in California. Cayuse. Leonetti and Quilceda Creek are those oft cited producers. The current paradigm continues that the state's best as well as exciting up and coming wines are coming from fruit grown in the Walla Walla Valley or Red Moutain.

Chris Peterson is making wines at Avennia that might signify the arrival of a paradigm shift when it comes to what we believe to be true about Washington wine. The 2010 vintage marked the first for Avennia but Chris Peterson has been making wines in Washington for almost a decade under the assistant winemaker title at Delille Cellars. His reputation and relationships meant that Avennia has gotten its start with some of the state's best fruit from vineyards like Boushey and Red Willow.

Chris's aim is really to emphasize the importance of place in the selection of these vineyard sites and to use his words the "purity of fruit." Avennia is an embrace of the Old World in wine, and really old poetry it turns out. With the 2010 Sestina, Chris is also looking to some of Washington's oldest sites as well, the wine is a blend of Cabernent, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with the preponderance of the fruit coming from Bacchus Vineyards planted in 1972, as well as Red Willow Vineyard which was planted in 1973. For Chris, older vines make lend themselves to his style. "...since the vines are older, we get the varietal typicity and complexity that we are really looking for. In other words, the fruit remains restrained and in balance with the non-fruit complexities"

Avennia has returned to some of Washington's original roots (both in a figurative as well as literal sense), highlighting some of the state's finest and first vineyards, those falling in the Yakima Valley (Red Willow) and greater Columbia Valley (Bacchus/Sagemoor) AVAs. The wine-making style looks to get away from some of the big, powerful wines that Chris was producing when he was at Delille. The Avennia wines place an emphasis on some of the state's cooler sites, less new oak and extraction. Those are things that can mask both the importance that a vineyard site plays as well as get in the way of the letting wine just being itself.

The resulting wine, the 2010 Sestina is tremendous, but it's tremendously elegant, understated and complex. Aromas of crushed slate and graphite leap out of the glass alongside fennel and dried figs. The palate continues to demonstrate the wine's elegance. Flavors of black currant and raspberry with a freshness and snap to the wines that are a hallmark of a cool vintage. The wine is beautifully balanced and structured with texture and refined tannin. Very, very pretty. Paradigms, they are a-changing.

While the wines are certainly not cheap, they are well priced with the Sestina in the $50-55 neighborhood.  The Avennia wines are better than just about any other Washington wine in this price range that I've tasted (I love the Betz wines in this price range as well). They make a case for another "style" of Washington wine. One that eschews power for elegance. With it's initial releases the Avennia wines have been universally lauded and there will likely be a day when they become much more expensive or nearly impossible to come by. (By the way, don't hate the player hate the game.) The 2011 vintage of the two Bordeaux blends, the Sestina $55, along with the Gravura $35 come to market this month. I suggest you make it a point to seek them out.

This wine was a sample provided by the winery.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Find, February 21st

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this", and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending, we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

Is anything "hidden" good? If it were, why hide it?

When you think of things being "hidden" I feel like there's an automatic agenda there. To keep things from you right? What are they keeping from you exactly? Hidden fees? I think we know. We think we're getting a deal and then you get the tab. Whamo! Hidden fees are wrapped up in cable packages, airline tickets. credit cards and hotel rooms. Hidden fees are a slap in the face come the final tab. 

What about hidden driveways? Those can't be good either. Why hide your driveway? Perhaps there's something nefarious happening at that residence? What I don't understand is why they hide the driveways and then they put out a sign that says basically "Hey, we've hidden the driveways." I always make a game of it to see if I can find them. I usually do pretty well.  

There are likely a few good things that are hidden, a "hidden gem" for example connotes a pleasant surprise and the show "Hidden" on the BBC back in 2011 is one we'll have to withhold judgement on. I think we can probably draw some conclusions given that it's no longer on the air. It's really hidden these days. 

Today's Friday Find gives "hidden" a positive connotation. The Hidden Horse Red Blend No. 11 from Two Mountain Winery is a bit of a "hidden gem" at the $12-15 price-point. A table wine from one of the most consistent producers in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA, it's a non-vintage blend of the Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. This wine is a fruit forward, blackberries, dusty black cherry and mocha. A fair amount of new French and American oak gives it all sorts of chocolate and coffee character but the wine is balanced, it tastes nice and if you're cooking something hearty for this winter weather, you can feel good about supporting a small producer in the Yakima Valley at a really smart pricepoint.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Celebrate Community: Taste Washington 2014

from Marty Sparks

One of America's greatest wine tastings is slated for the last weekend in March.  Taste Washington returns to the Century Link Field Event Center for another smashing weekend celebrating everything Washington Wine related.

Last year I spent some time with three winemakers to understand their motivation for attending Taste WA. Was it about gaining market share?  Driving sales numbers?  Expanding their bottom line?  I learned that it was much more about being part of a community than it was about bottom line. Dreams, friends and sharing good times are three recurring themes you will hear many winemakers mention when you ask why they started making wine.  I would be interested if you hear even one say they got into the wine-making business to make money.  Most are following a passion.

Passion and excitement is exactly what I found when I talked with David Barringer from Naked Winery in Hood River, Micah Nasarow from Cedar River Cellars in Renton and Kevin White of Kevin White Winery in Woodinville.  When I approached each of them to discuss brand impact that Taste Washington had for them; I was expecting to hear about clear, measurable, goals expressed as numbers and objective targets.  Instead, I heard their reasons for attending Taste WA were focused on community, friends, fun and sharing their love of wine.  What a great reminder that wine, and the Washington wine industry, while a business is also a community and one that acknowledges a collective appreciation for the great wines and great people producing those wines in Washington.

David Barringer has been making wine since 2002.  His first vintage was comprised of about 200 cases of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay.  Today Naked Winery produces over 10,000 cases of wine with eight primary bottlings and several others made in small lots so David can do some experimenting.  David’s main growth strategy is simply through word of mouth and people sharing their experiences.

With a winery name like “Naked Winery” you can imagine that David has a light-hearted approach to his business.  He wants to keep the fun in people’s wine experience so they can relax and avoid being intimidated by “the rules” of wine tasting.  David’s primary goal for attending Taste WA was to expose more people to his wines and Naked Winery’s fun approach to sharing wine with people you love.

Micah Nasarow’s first vintage with his Cedar River Cellars brand was 2009.  He released slightly less than 200 cases of two wines that year: Bella Bella Syrah and Ava’s Crush Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both wines are named for his daughters.  Micah and his wife Heather are very committed to their neighborhood and that is a big reason they selected the name of their winery.  They are proud to be members of the Renton community and are very active in supporting the local arts and restaurant scene.

The Cedar River Cellars 2011 vintage features 6 wines: 2 whites and 4 reds at a production level of roughly 350 cases.  Micah is growing his winery slowly.  He moved out of his garage into a bigger dedicated space in 2013.  He is continuing to invest his money in new equipment and more grapes at a moderate pace.  His focus is on single varietal wines made from quality grapes sourced from lesser known vineyards. 

Taste WA 2013 was the first year that Micah attended the event as an exhibitor.  He wanted to be there as part of the Washington wine community.  His primary objective was to see some old friends and make some new ones.  Cedar River Cellars is growing with a personal touch. Most of Micah’s growth strategy is focused on participating in events where he can interact with people.  He is also very focused on building strong relationships in Renton and with Washington Wine lovers.

Continuing the theme, Kevin White also attended Taste WA to be part of the Washington Wine community.  He is happy and honored to be considered part of our state’s vibrant wine industry.  Kevin says “My brand is my passion!”  He is certainly standing behind his brand, there is no mistaking it when his name is on every bottle!  Attending Taste WA gave Kevin the opportunity to share his wine with more people.  He was very happy with the positive response that he received and for the number of people he was able to introduce to his wines.

Kevin definitely achieved some notoriety and momentum early. He has sold out of all his fabulous 2010 and 2011 wines.  His 2012 will be released in June of this year.  His production level is still below 500 cases.  Keep your eyes open for Kevin’s wine this summer. They won’t be around for long and they’re worth snatching up.

If you needed to be convinced that Taste Washington is not your average wine event, here you have it. The passion comes through in sharing their wine and being part of our vibrant Washington wine scene. Taste WA is an excellent time to come together as community and celebrate our fabulous wine industry and the people that are pouring their heart and soul into their “business.”  Forget about fancy marketing plans and sales growth projections.  Bring on the family, fun and community! (No children under 21 though please.) 

David, Micah and Kevin will be at Taste WA again this year sharing their love with the world. Hundreds more of our state’s awesome wineries, vineyards and restaurateurs will be joining them. Taste WA is an excellent opportunity to taste and explore the great wines being produced in Washington state.  It is also a great opportunity to make personal connections with many of our finest winemakers.  Many will be on hand to personally greet you and share their stories.  Get on down to Taste WA March 29 and 30th and be part of one of our state’s fastest growing and best communities. Get your tickets here.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Well Established Second Generation at Ponzi Vineyards

Given the relative youth of American wine making and certainly the establishment of wine here in the Northwest, when someone tells you about the second generation of a Willamette Valley wine making family, you expect them to tell you about someone who's just getting their feet wet. Well, that's certainly not the case at Ponzi Vineyards one of the Valley's pioneering labels established by Dick and Nancy Ponzi in 1970.

Luisa Ponzi, the Ponzi's youngest daughter took up the reigns of the family operation two decades ago and with the 2013 vintage in barrel she marks her twentieth vintage at one of the Valley's flagship wineries. Luisa left Oregon in the early 1990s and headed to Burgundy hoping to learn some of the secrets of crafting the greatest Pinot Noir and Chardonnays the world has ever known. As the first American woman to complete the enology and viticulture program in Beaune, Luisa sought a different source of influence, as largely the American wine movement had grown north from California.

She returned to Oregon and has been at it ever since at the Ponzi label. Her lessons and passion not just applying in the cellar but in the vineyards as well.  Ponzi brought a fresh approach back with her from Burgundy as well as recipes for success in cool climate Pinot Noir production. Rootstocks, vine spacing, trellising, Ponzi played with all of it in an effort to dial it in towards perfection. Twenty years on the vineyards located in the Chehalem Mountain AVA and they are really starting to shine.

Pinot Noir, certainly but Ponzi Vineyards has come to develop a renown for the Chardonnays that Luisa makes. Well suited Dijon clones and an excellent climate are at play but it's clear that Luisa's love for the Chardonnay grape and her belief in it's potential in the Willamette Valley make a difference.  Luisa's take: "There is most definitely an Oregon style of Chardonnay emerging and it does mimic what we have seen with the Pinot Noir; emphasis on fresh fruit, bright acidity and depth of texture.  The differences I see are in the transparency and/or delicacy of the Chardonnay fruit.  I see terroir expression much more clearly with Chardonnay over Pinot, the impact of viticulture decisions are also more transparent and the decisions of the winemaker can more powerfully impact the wines." Perhaps like Burgundy, also renowned for it's Pinot the Willamette Valley will come to be known ultimately for it's Chardonnay? "With Pinot, I feel the spectrum is smaller for style types before the quality drops off. Of course, the best Chardonnays are made, as with Pinot, when one is respecting the fruit and the vintage."

What is definitive is that the Willamette Valley, and the Oregon wine industry have changed so substantially over those years. "Twenty years ago we were a pretty tight knit group of wineries; teaching and learning from each other out, socializing together and selling our wines together.  These things still occur, and I believe we are still one of the most collaborative wine industries in the world, but now there are diverse and numerous groups discussing issues, etc.  I meet people every day whom have labels or wineries in the Willamette Valley whom I have never met or heard about.  I take that to signify that making wine here has become a legitimate success!"

Reliably though through those twenty years, somethings have stayed the same. "The most reliable thing vintage to vintage is that I will most certainly learn something.  It never fails to amaze me…it could be something small like a new technique that a visiting intern mentions or something big like what do you do when six inches of rain falls in twenty four hours!"

In the 2012 releases Luisa is continuing to break new ground with Chardonnay as Ponzi Vineyards releases two single vineyard Chardonnays, the Avellana and Aurora. Giving both Ponzi and Willamette Chardonnay fans a look at how that terroir indeed plays out in the hands of an experienced winemaker.

2011 Reserve Chardonnay Impressive bottling. While there are plenty of examples of wonderful steel fermented Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley, Luisa shows what texture can do for a wine. Adept use of largely neutral oak and maloactic fermentation particularly for a high acid vintage, result in a remarkably complete wine. Aromatics were a bit shy at first and a largely tropical fruit palate gave way within an hour to rich aromas of lemon zest and dried spices. The palate was juicy, with layers of lemon creme. $30

2011 Ponzi Willamette Valley Pinot Noir A blend of several vineyards and "sub-appellations" throughout the Willamette Valley. Dried violets and spice aromatics lead to a palate of bright currant, cherry, cola spices and bramble berries. This cool vintage wine has great crisp acidity and texture. Classic fresh fruit flavors and elegance in it's structure. $35

2011 Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir Fruit forward aromatics of plum skin, early season blackberry and white pepper spice. Palate is fruit dominant with prominent bramble berry flavors and notes of cola and fennel. Even at this entry-level bottling expect the 2011 vintage wines to continue to evolve and improve. $25

2011 Ponzi 40th Anniversary Pinot Noir Reserve Pretty wine. A fair bit of new French Oak makes for aromatic notes of mocha and cedar, ripe blackberry and cola. The wine has a little bit darker fruit emphasis and a more luxuriant palate given the oak influence and a fleshier mouthfeel. Baking spices, mocha and black cherry flavors and a velvet kissed finish. $60

These wines were provided as samples by the winery.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Playing Favorites; Anderson Family Vineyard Chardonnay

Early in my wine drinking career, an unpaid career by the way, I was always one to steer away from Chardonnay. (The rhyme was incidental.) I never found it to my liking and at the time I probably didn't use terms like "flabby" but as I think back on my uninitiated palate, that's probably why. I had yet to experience the outstanding white wines of Burgundy or the gems being created from Chardonnay right here in our Northwestern backyard.
Chardonnay was buttery round and well, flabby. It was boring to me, and largely that style is still boring to me. What has changed is that when I taste it these days, I can tell if it's well made in that style, but that doesn't mean I like it. I don't.

Oregon Chardonnay is really on the rise right now. And it should be, it is damn good and with the growing conditions, Oregon is making Chardonnays that are "anything but California" in style. That means balanced and high in acid. You're seeing amazing examples of wines done in steel as well as judicious use of neutral oak and even lees. I discovered Oregon Chardonnay as a wine to take seriously back in 2010. At the time I was writing for the Oregon Wine Blog (the site has since been changed to WestToast) and while sometimes I read some of the older things I've written and cringe, this particular piece has held up fairly well.

Anderson Family Vineyard is a winery outside of "downtown" Newberg that continues to fly under the radar, and I think that probably suits Cliff and Allison Anderson just fine. I came upon them four years ago very simply, I was scanning the Willamette Valley Vineyards brochure, arranged alphabetically of course, and, they were towards the top of the list and may have been the first one, that at the time I hadn't heard of. Most of the fruit from the vineyards goes to other producers like Boedecker, Bergstrom, White Rose and my man John Grochau of Grochau Cellars. They do hold a bit of wine back for themselves and make estate Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The Anderson's site is unique, it's steep and while most of the Willamette Valley falls into a couple different kinds of soil types; Willakenzie which is mostly sedimentary and Jory which has lots of "balsaltic" elements to the soil the Anderson's site is particularly rocky.  The Anderson's site is within the Dundee Hills, where clay Jory soils are so prevalent they're known as the Red Hills. What makes the Anderson's site unique, is both it's steepness but also that steepness is the result of a kind of ancient landslide of basalt rock. So, in addition to those Jory soils you have large, chunky rock present in the soils. The steepness combined with the presence of large stones makes for one well drained site. The pedigree of wines grown in rocky soils, whether it's in Walla Walla Valley or Chateauneuf is hard to argue with.

There are a variety of other things that make the Anderson Family wines well curated and cared for (I wrote about most of them in that old piece). Cliff holds onto barrels for a very long time, and they hold the wines back quite awhile before bottling. As I wrote those years ago, it's about patience. And as I concluded it makes for some special wines.

When someone asks me for an under the radar producer to visit in the Willamette Valley, Anderson Family is always one of my first recommendations. Irrespective of if I go alphabetically or not. They are only open on a few occasions (twice a year) and so an appointment is necessary. The last time someone I sent visited Cliff and Allison sent them back with a bottle of their 2010 Chardonnay. It had been a few years since I'd visited with them or their wines.

2010 Anderson Family Vineyard Chardonnay The 2010 and 2011 vintages may just be the Willamette Valley's greatest opportunity in terms of producing fine Chardonnay. Aromas of lemon, honeysuckle and crushed stone. Depth of flavor with intense lemon meringue, and wet limestone. The palate is both light and lively and packed full with layered flavors. How'd they do that? The wine's acidity adds zing to the elegance as opposed to making for a strictly angular (which can also be a good thing) wine. A real beauty. The $85 Bergstrom Sigrid it should be noted uses fruit from Anderson Family Vineyard for that Chardonnay which has become one of Oregon's most renowned (and expensive). From their website: " well as two of Oregon's greatest Chardonnay sites, Temperance Hill and Anderson Family Vineyard." Well I've never had that Chardonnay and I'm sure it's quite good, the thing is the Anderson Family Vineyard Chardonnay is only like $30-35.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Friday Find, February 7th

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this", and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending, we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

File this under: I Didn't See That Coming.

There's been a lot of that lately. It's like 19 degrees or something outside. The Seahawks, underdogs in Superbowl 48 went in and blew out Peyton Manning's Colts, er sorry, Broncos. And now this? 

Provincialism is a funny thing.

Zdenek Stybar of the Czech Republic got off his road bicycle and decided three days before the Cyclocross World Championships that he'd give it a go. Stybar, was a four time world champion (including his Junior and Under 23 titles) of the sport and so initially you may not see what the big surprise is all about. Here's the thing, over the past two seasons Stybar has stepped away from the sport and moved almost exclusively to road racing full time, seeing some big time success with stage wines, though nothing like his previous domination. While the sport of cyclocross has it's roots as an over-winter training for professional road racers, it has become a thing unto itself. With riders exclusively trained in the discipline becoming stars in their own right. Here in America, much like professional road cycling, it's a niche sport, but within a niche sport. In Belgium? It's huge, it's the national sport and they see crowds at their cyclocross races that rival what we see at NFL games. Seriously.

There is no bigger star in Cyclocross than Belgian national champion Sven Nys. He is the Peyton Manning if you'll excuse the example, of the sport. He wins a lot, and much like Manning he's not won as often on the biggest stages. He has two world championships, many predicted a bunch more. So when the final lap came around for this year's race in Hoogerhide it was Stybar and Nys locked in a battle. Stybar won. Many who follow the sport, myself included said it was kind of a bummer that Stybar won, in terms of growth of cyclocross as a discipline that deserves equal consideration to road racing. The rainbow striped jersey, worn by the world champion over the course of the season will likely spend a lot of time in the closet as Stybar once again gears up for a road season. Such whining does not take away from the impressive victory over the sport's reigning champion but maybe it just wasn't the result I saw coming?

Today's Friday Find has a lot in common, both in terms of something I didn't see coming an a little bit of provincialism here in the Northwest wine corners. Last year the announcement of the sale of Columbia to wine giant E&J Gallo was bemoaned here in Washington wine country. We've always seen the Washington industry as a little different and so seeing a California giant, the likes of Gallo come in was not something we were necessarily happy about. Even me, if I'm being honest I was not thrilled with the idea. 

The first Gallo-Columbia wines have been released and I was contacted by them to see if I'd like to try the wines. I said sure, smugly certain that I would not like them, that they'd some how become California-ized. I didn't see that coming. The 2012 Columbia Winery Columbia Valley Chardonnay is very, very good and when you consider the $14 price-point means that you'll likely be able to find it on "sale" at many retail outlets at around $10, it's super. ( I don't care for the new label design though.) The wine is fruit driven and bright. It underwent fermentation in stainless steel, and while there's a texture given that it was left "on lees" for nine months, it's not creamy, but rather layered. This is not a California version of Washington Chardonnay. Not in the least. The acidity is ample and it tends way more towards a minerality and fruit than perhaps the anticipated baked apple pie with butter on butter. It's really nice, and finding it should be a breeze. Northwest wine loyalists, please forgive me, but it's really, really good.  

Monday, February 03, 2014

Washington Old Vines: 40 Years of Cold Creek Vineyard

Everybody in the Northwest knows about the important role that Chateau Ste Michelle has played in the growth and development of the Washington wine industry. As the oldest winery in the state dating to a 1934 CSM founded the industry in Washington. They've since grown to such a size, and are so well distributed that they are often the first, and in many cases only Washington wine that folks from other parts of the country will come into contact with. True story, I was at an occasion in my hometown of Pittsburgh and this woman shared that she was going to Napa and was excited to visit Chateau Ste Michelle. I told her that would be difficult since it was located outside of Seattle, she simply refused to believe me. No way! was her reply.

Ste Michelle has helped in the explosion of the state's talent pool as well. Giving winemakers like Bob Betz, Kay Simon and Brennan Leighton, just to name a few, a place to start in Washington. In addition, CSM has also been at the forefront of a lot of the vineyard planting and cultivation and so it should probably come as no surprise that the winery recently marked the 40th anniversary of the planting of one of their signature sites, Cold Creek Vineyard. Planted in 1973.

The site was selected for the winery by Walter Clore, the father of Washington wine, in what was and still remains a remote location. Planted originally to 500 acres, at the time doubling the state's vineyard acreage it was originally a little bit of everything. Today the vineyard specializes a bit more, with a focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay and Merlot. The vineyard has since grown to 811 acres and there remains quite a bit of variety, include Muscat.

Clore chose the site because it had sufficient heat to ripen wine grapes, and at the time they just planted it with everything. It is indeed one of the warmest sites in the entire state, resulting in concentrated, intensely flavored wines. CSM's Bob Bertheau appreciates the site for it's consistency, based on that reliable warm weather, but also it's concentration. I showcase the warmer, more continental site of Cold Creek  as one of "power and concentration" due to the older vines and more diurnal temperature fluctuations during the growing season which I believe adds to the intensity of color and tannins." 

In addition to the heat units, the vineyard's gravely soils and older vines lend to that signature intensity. The concentration of the site and the intensity of the flavor has given it a longevity and a sort of youthful character in Bob's experience. "We have longer history of the ageability of Cold Creek, and I have had Cold Creek Cabs from the late 70's that are still holding up beautifully and taste 10 years younger than they are.  At a dinner in Boston where a Cold Creek Cab from '78 was presented blindly to a table of winemakers and bottle shop owners.  Most thought it an Old World Cab about 20 years old...........when it was Cold Creek and 30 years old."

Bob uses the fruit from Cold Creek certainly in the single vineyard bottlings, but also in the winery's highest tiered wines Cold Creek, along with the winery's other signature vineyard, Canoe Ridge make up the preponderance of the Ethos and Artist's Series labels.  As an ambassador for Washington wine, Ste Michelle also has in these single vineyard bottlings an opportunity to potentially expose relatively new wine drinkers to the idea of the importance of site, and perhaps terroir. "Even though we make great blends from the larger Columbia Valley appellation, the high tier wines I get to make from (these) vineyards are the most intense and stylized and are a great educational tool to show what different sites can mean to different varietals in different vintages."

2010 Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Merlot- While Washington Merlot can sometimes be diminutive, particularly in a cool vintage that is anything but the case when it comes to Cold Creek. The wine is certainly concentrated and influenced by the use of new oak. Aromatics of mocha and black plums, and a palate loaded with ripe blueberry and generous dusting of cocoa powder. $30 approx.

2010 Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Cabernet- A cool vintage Cabernet from one of Washington's warmest sites results in a balance of power and restraint. Aromatics are very fruit forward, dark fruits with hints of coffee and barrel spice evident from the use of new oak.  The wine is comprised of layers of blackberry and the darkest of ripe cherry, finishes to chocolate and dusty herbal notes. $35 approx.

2012 Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Riesling-Outstanding in a word. Ripe and aromatic Riesling with great acidity that balances a fantastic wine. Aromas of late season peach, apricot and lemon skin. On the palate there's a balance between rounded fruit flavors and a clean crisp finish. Outstanding with food, or frankly, without. $20 approx.

These wines were provided as samples.