Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

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Brandon R
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Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#1 Post by Brandon R » November 27th, 2018, 9:36 am

I bought a few bottles from Full Pull Wines recently and, in entering them in CellarTracker, I decided to look at that particular wines' notes. Noting one that was lower than I anticipated (an 80, no biggie, this was an inexpensive wine), I decided to read a little more. I found the TN interesting in that it's partially an rant against Washington State wines. I then clicked on this user's other TNs and noted two other Washington wines he/she drank (oddly enough, as much as he/she appears to hate Washington wine, two of the three he/she liked!). There was a similar mini-rant in another one. I find it mildly annoying when one goes on an editorial journey in public TNs but, hey, that's what one can do with an outlet like CT. My question is more around how this community feels about the rants. Here are the excerpts:


This wine embodies the traits of a typical Washington red: gooey, syrupy texture; too much alcohol; and indistinct bouquet and varietal character for too high a price. Mediocre. Washington needs to be itself and stop pretending to be Napa, Bordeaux, or worst of all, the southern Rhone. Northwest reds have driven me to buy more reds from France, Italy, and Spain. They are better made, easier on my system, more varied, and aside from the grotesque prices in Bordeaux and Burgundy, are better deals. It is ludicrous to be asked to pay $30 to $60 for a NW "GSM," when for under $15 you can get the real thing, and it's twice as good. Washington wines suffer from a pandering press, parochial boosterism, and vintners' indistinct vision and impatience. The French, e.g., have been making wine for centuries and it shows.


That's actually the entire TN for that particular wine (the one I bought). Here's part of another, in which he/she actually likes the wine but still manages to insert a jab:


This luscious red is a standing reproach to the scads of Washington vintners who are desperately trying to prove that nothing enhances a Bordeaux blend like - Syrah! Right. With no Syrah - none - not any - Matthews has created not a faux Bordeaux, but a delicious meritage, worthy of your next porterhouse, hanger or flatiron, rack of lamb, or pheasant. It combines the five traditional Bordeaux varietals, all five, into a wine that you will not confuse with a Ch. Leoville las Cases. But then, why would you want to? This deep, dark, full wine Brings It - at a fraction of what you would pay for a lesser wine, like a Leonetti current generation Merlot, or a Betz blend, not to mention any number of chronically overrated and wildly overpriced wines. Did a sacred cow just get tipped? Oh well.


I don't agree with what is posted. I drink a lot of, and thoroughly enjoy, Washington reds. The majority of my cellar is Washington, Oregon, and California with WA being the highest percentage. While there are certain wines that display the, "....gooey, syrupy texture, too much alcohol...indistinct bouquet and varietal character at too high a price...", I find that to be the vast minority. Many times, Washington is where I go specifically to find relative bargains in domestic reds. Anyway, I'd appreciate hearing this group's thoughts on the subject.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#2 Post by rfelthoven » November 27th, 2018, 11:13 am

From my experience his/her overall impression of Washington reds across the state's entire portfolio (as a proportion) probably isn't too far off the mark. However, for that reason, I've tried to find producers who make wines in a bit leaner and more terrior-driven style. I think to cast the entire industry in this style of winemaking is just lazy. He/she should take the time to find the right producers for his/her palate, because they are certainly out there. But the criticism seems to go well being just winemaking, and into site selection and varietal choice, etc. Certainly these things take some time to work out and I think a lot more thought and planning has gone into this over the last decade or two than in the past. I am not a big fan of WA reds but I will admit there are many that are outstanding (just not as a proportion of overall production, IMHO).
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#3 Post by dsimmons » November 27th, 2018, 12:18 pm

I am a big fan of WA red wines but everyone is entitled to their views and individual preferences vary significantly. I view most rants against wines that I like as just that... rants. They don't change the reality of what I prefer. It is a bit bothersome when a person starts "preaching" that their preferences are superior to yours.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#4 Post by Josh Grossman » November 27th, 2018, 12:22 pm

As a gross generalization, I find them to be less gooey, syrupy, and with too much alcohol than many of their Napa brethren but not needing fifteen years to come around like their French and German ancestors. I'm still finding exactly what I like but I seem to like cool climate grapes from a cool climate, (77% of my cellar is from France, Germany, and Italy). I do get many of the wines I intend to drink in the near term from WineBid and it seems to have a disproportionate amount of Californian wines--but in terms of new wines the only thing I'm buying from Cali is Mike Smith wines, Arcadian, Outpost (though not sure I'll continue after the sale), and some North Coast stuff that I'm still experimenting with. I'm buying tons of wines from Washington and Oregon though. As another gross generalization, I really believe that in many years, California is too hot to grow cool climate grapes--and it's only getting hotter. Right now I think Oregon and Washington are the sweet spot in terms of climate, price, and terroir. Once many of the vines get older (assuming it also doesn't get too hot and I start looking to Okanagan) I think Washington will be making wines on par with the best of the best. Some are damn close already. I love Full Pull almost as much as Envoyer, Down to Earth, and Fass Selections.

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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#5 Post by Josh Grossman » November 27th, 2018, 12:28 pm

Also have to think you're BRR on the last post on this thread. It's cool that you're into polyamory, but we are all a bit hurt and it feels like we are just the mistress:
https://www.cellartracker.com/forum/tm. ... &mpage=124

neener [rofl.gif]

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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#6 Post by Brandon R » November 27th, 2018, 12:50 pm

Haha....nice work, Josh. You're a regular sleuth! Nobody wanted to discuss in that other thread! CT happens to be far more Washington-oriented than WB, so I found this to likely be a very different take.
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#7 Post by Brandon R » November 27th, 2018, 12:53 pm

Back to the original topic, I think there are a few clear wineries that can be quite polarizing in their style. Take K Vintners for example. Their scores lately have been through the roof, and from several different publications. That said, they're (generally) made in a bigger, riper style. To me, though, they're the exception to the rule. I like them, but can totally see how some would taste syrup and booze. I'd love to have that author taste a Cadence red and tell me what he/she thinks.
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#8 Post by Jim Hartten » November 27th, 2018, 1:09 pm

My long time favorite WA red producer is Woodward Canyon which produces medium weight cabs that can trend towards Bordeaux. The chard can be good as well. I also think the Matthews Claret can be a decent drink if you can source at around $30. [cheers.gif]

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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#9 Post by Josh Grossman » November 27th, 2018, 1:22 pm

Brandon R wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 12:50 pm
Haha....nice work, Josh. You're a regular sleuth! Nobody wanted to discuss in that other thread! CT happens to be far more Washington-oriented than WB, so I found this to likely be a very different take.
It's good to spice things up and we know we are more ggg than those prudes; just buy us dinner and break the nice stuff out of the cellar every now and then. As another gross generalization, something I dislike about Washington is that there seems to be many more vintners that buy their grapes from winegrowers that are far away. It seems many "wineries" are located in Seattle--but getting their grapes from Yakima Valley. It leads me to believe that they aren't as involved with the growing of the grapes as I'd like and that the grapes aren't being picked early in the morning and into the fermentation tanks before it get's too warm in the afternoon. You would think this industrial area outside of the suburbs of Seattle was as good terroir as Margaux and Morey by the amount of wineries: https://www.google.com/maps/@47.7629619 ... 279,18.09z

Nope, the grapes are just being trucked in from far away. I suppose I could open a Washington winery here in Ohio?
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#10 Post by dsGriswold » November 27th, 2018, 1:26 pm

Brandon, you should pm the poster and suggest they just do a regular TN and come over to WB for the ranting, they would feel at home over here. CT is a feel good site where ruffling feathers is frowned upon. I personally gravitate to the cool vintages, but bought many jammy versions in the past which are enjoyed by others. I just open an OR PN for myself and anyone liking something more acid, thin and restrained AFWE style.
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#11 Post by Matthew King » November 27th, 2018, 2:43 pm

I don't own a single bottle of wine from Washington. I too -- no doubt unfairly -- have painted with too broad a brush that the wines are a bit big and '90s Aussie-like for my palate, based on some fruit-bomb Syrahs I had a decade or so ago.

I would appreciate any recs for lower-alcohol, rocky and savory Syrah from newer producers in Washington. If it's any help, for New World syrah I enjoy Rhys, Enfield, etc. TIA [cheers.gif]
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#12 Post by G. Bienstock » November 27th, 2018, 2:53 pm

Matthew King wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 2:43 pm
I don't own a single bottle of wine from Washington. I too -- no doubt unfairly -- have painted with too broad a brush that the wines are a bit big and '90s Aussie-like for my palate, based on some fruit-bomb Syrahs I had a decade or so ago.

I would appreciate any recs for lower-alcohol, rocky and savory Syrah from newer producers in Washington. If it's any help, for New World syrah I enjoy Rhys, Enfield, etc. TIA [cheers.gif]
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#13 Post by Brandon R » November 27th, 2018, 3:06 pm

Matthew King wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 2:43 pm
I don't own a single bottle of wine from Washington. I too -- no doubt unfairly -- have painted with too broad a brush that the wines are a bit big and '90s Aussie-like for my palate, based on some fruit-bomb Syrahs I had a decade or so ago.

I would appreciate any recs for lower-alcohol, rocky and savory Syrah from newer producers in Washington. If it's any help, for New World syrah I enjoy Rhys, Enfield, etc. TIA [cheers.gif]
Reynvaan

I constantly see TNs when people try Reynvaan Syrah for the first time that they'er not, "concentrated" enough or are perceived as, "thin." I find them to be very concentrated (just not purple and thick), lithe, acidic, very savory, and great. I was impressed by the Syrahs from Elephant Seven, a newer winery, and might fight your bill.

After looking at the very recently published writeup on Washington by Stephen Tanzer on Vinous, this was one TN for the 2015 Reynvaan Syrah Foothills Estate Reserve:

(25% new oak): Dark medium ruby. Rather Hermitage-like aromas of blackberry, licorice pastille, violet and slate. Less high-toned, aromatic and open-knit than the Syrah In the Hills, with its dark berry and spice flavors complicated by saline oyster shell and slatey mineral notes. Rather brooding and backward in the early going but still glossy and smooth--and not particularly oaky. Finishes firmly tannic but not dry, with lovely savory length and noteworthy vibrancy and lift. In a distinctly Old World style, and not particularly sweet. (Matt Reynvaan also showed me an early barrel sample of a component of the 2017 Foothills Reserve. With its knockout scents of dark raspberry, gunflint, iodine and mocha; its superb concentration and sweetness--and flavor of bloody rare steak; and its compellingly long, sweet, vibrant finish, this was one of the most exciting lots of Washington Syrah in an Old World style that I have tasted to date. Stay tuned.) (14.2% alcohol) 93 pts
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#14 Post by Brandon R » November 27th, 2018, 3:10 pm

Josh Grossman wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 1:22 pm
Brandon R wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 12:50 pm
Haha....nice work, Josh. You're a regular sleuth! Nobody wanted to discuss in that other thread! CT happens to be far more Washington-oriented than WB, so I found this to likely be a very different take.
It's good to spice things up and we know we are more ggg than those prudes; just buy us dinner and break the nice stuff out of the cellar every now and then. As another gross generalization, something I dislike about Washington is that there seems to be many more vintners that buy their grapes from winegrowers that are far away. It seems many "wineries" are located in Seattle--but getting their grapes from Yakima Valley. It leads me to believe that they aren't as involved with the growing of the grapes as I'd like and that the grapes aren't being picked early in the morning and into the fermentation tanks before it get's too warm in the afternoon. You would think this industrial area outside of the suburbs of Seattle was as good terroir as Margaux and Morey: https://www.google.com/maps/@47.7629619 ... 279,18.09z
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#15 Post by C. Keller » November 27th, 2018, 3:14 pm

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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#16 Post by C Wagner » November 27th, 2018, 3:25 pm

I don't totally disagree with the tasting notes you reference.

The one thing I will say is that the quality of the vineyards and the winemaker varies greatly in WA. Also, it wasn't all that long ago that Washington wines were predominately known for their high production (but fairly reasonable QPR) grocery store plonk.

My wife is from a growing wine region in WA and her father formerly worked in the wine industry there. I've spent quite a fair amount of time talking to a number of the vineyard owners/winemakers there. It amazes me how many seem to view this more as a commodity to appease the masses, yet their production is clearly on the smaller side. There seems to be a fear amongst these folks to go against what their "conventional" logic tells them.

I, personally, have found that a not insignificant number of farmers have decided to switch over from another crop (apples, cherries, potatoes, wheat, etc.) to wine grapes and have continued to farm in a style similar to these other crops, ie maximize crop weight, ripeness, etc. There seems to be a learning curve in growing wine grapes of quality that many of these farmers might not be prepared for or even expecting.

One thing that has long struck me as odd is the number of these folks who are not even that interested in wine themselves. One of my father-in-law's friends who owns a winery doesn't even like wine. He's a mass-market American beer fan, not that there's anything wrong with it.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#17 Post by John Morris » November 27th, 2018, 3:38 pm

I had the good fortune to taste a large line-up of Cayuse wines recently (OK, technically, they're Oregon, but still Walla Walla Valley). They were excellent and balanced.

But the prices!?#*? Completely outlandish. Many times what you'd have to pay for equivalent quality in a Rhone.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#18 Post by Scott Tallman » November 27th, 2018, 4:39 pm

Brandon R wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 3:06 pm
Matthew King wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 2:43 pm
I don't own a single bottle of wine from Washington. I too -- no doubt unfairly -- have painted with too broad a brush that the wines are a bit big and '90s Aussie-like for my palate, based on some fruit-bomb Syrahs I had a decade or so ago.

I would appreciate any recs for lower-alcohol, rocky and savory Syrah from newer producers in Washington. If it's any help, for New World syrah I enjoy Rhys, Enfield, etc. TIA [cheers.gif]
Reynvaan

I constantly see TNs when people try Reynvaan Syrah for the first time that they'er not, "concentrated" enough or are perceived as, "thin." I find them to be very concentrated (just not purple and thick), lithe, acidic, very savory, and great. I was impressed by the Syrahs from Elephant Seven, a newer winery, and might fight your bill.

After looking at the very recently published writeup on Washington by Stephen Tanzer on Vinous, this was one TN for the 2015 Reynvaan Syrah Foothills Estate Reserve:

(25% new oak): Dark medium ruby. Rather Hermitage-like aromas of blackberry, licorice pastille, violet and slate. Less high-toned, aromatic and open-knit than the Syrah In the Hills, with its dark berry and spice flavors complicated by saline oyster shell and slatey mineral notes. Rather brooding and backward in the early going but still glossy and smooth--and not particularly oaky. Finishes firmly tannic but not dry, with lovely savory length and noteworthy vibrancy and lift. In a distinctly Old World style, and not particularly sweet. (Matt Reynvaan also showed me an early barrel sample of a component of the 2017 Foothills Reserve. With its knockout scents of dark raspberry, gunflint, iodine and mocha; its superb concentration and sweetness--and flavor of bloody rare steak; and its compellingly long, sweet, vibrant finish, this was one of the most exciting lots of Washington Syrah in an Old World style that I have tasted to date. Stay tuned.) (14.2% alcohol) 93 pts
The Foothills is a great place to start.

If you can find older vintages of Waters Forgotten Hills Vineyard, try that. Really funky and unique without being OTT. Gramercy Cellars bought the vineyard a few years back and is now producing a FH bottling. Have yet to try, but Gramercy makes really good Syrahs and would expect theirs to be as good or better than Waters.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#19 Post by Gray G » November 27th, 2018, 4:54 pm

C. Keller wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 3:14 pm
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#20 Post by Dave H. » November 27th, 2018, 5:41 pm

I like Washington wines, but last time I tasted at a bunch of places in Walla Walla it felt like a lot of wading through chocolately oak to find the wines I thought were really compelling. No more a “minefield” than anywhere else, but I find the freshness and zip that I gravitate toward in reds far more common in California and typically at better prices.
I do like Washington, though, and would happily drink a glass of Gramercy, K, Kerloo, Rasa, Maison Bleue etc. etc. any day if someone handed one to me.
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#21 Post by Albert R » November 27th, 2018, 6:22 pm

We spent 10 days in Washington Wine Country this past summer and we really enjoyed it. Washington definitely does not get enough print here. A few of our favorites were Rotie (Syrah from the Rocks District...Wow), Cooper and Hedges.
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#22 Post by Brandon J. » November 27th, 2018, 7:00 pm

One point that isn't really brought up much is....Washington is REALLY young in the wine scene. These guys are for the most part, at least 20 years behind California and of course centuries behind Europe.

The misses and I dove heavily into Washington this year and learned that we really don't care for most of the wines. MOST really are overoaked, out of control alcohols and no sense of place. While there are some outliers, they're frequently overpriced. I can't personally justify spending $80+ dollars on a bottle of Reynvaan, Rasa, Kerloo because I can buy the real deal for LESS in most cases (N. Rhone, BDX etc).

If you like bigger, in your face wines, the state is gorgeous and fun to visit. Just not for me!
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#23 Post by S. Rash » November 27th, 2018, 7:26 pm

I love WA wine. You just need to taste and find what you like. My go to is the Intrinsic Red Blend ‘16 which has an amazing QPR. I am a big fan of K Vintners, Gramercy Cellars, and Sleight of Hand.
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#24 Post by Randy Bowman » November 27th, 2018, 7:54 pm

Until about seven years ago most Napa wines were a minimum of $25.00 more than a comparable WA wine. Leonetti and then Quilceda Creek were exceptions. Waaaaay back in the day, when we were young and discovered Silver Oak, we narrowed our purchases to similar wines until we had our first Leonetti Cab. It was different than the Silver Oak in profile and body, (slightly heavier), but it was outstanding. We were paying $40 a bottle for either one, but the Leonetti was hard to come by. When we opened our store, we included Leonetti, QC, DeLille, K-Vintners, Januik, Owen Roe, Sineann, Tamarack Cellars, Three Rivers, Walla Walla Vintners and Woodward Canyon. We added Cayuse, Horsepower and Reynvaan. Didn't care if we sold them because we knew we would enjoy them. A fair number were sold on line to people in WA, so the WA natives like some of their wines. We've also held back bottles to monitor aging. To date, every WA wine, Cab, Syrah, Merlot, Zin and Blend have aged beautifully. K Vintners for example makes some powerful Syrahs. The older Syrahs we've opened could be mistaken for Northern Rhone.

WA vintners are doing a stellar job and producing some outstanding wines. There are a good number of winemakers in CA and elsewhere trying their hand at a WA wine. Rudius made a Walla Walla Syrah in 2013 and it's gorgeous. The WA wine prices are rising on the same level as other regions. There will always be wines that are hype priced for a variety of reasons.
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#25 Post by Kris Patten » November 27th, 2018, 8:00 pm

Washington in general is a very young wine industry, for many in the 70s and 80s and even 90s owning a vineyard or making wine was a side job. Until 2000s when wineries exploded in WA we had about 200, now in 2018 we have almost 1000.

People are still finding their way, finding the right place for grapes, brix at harvest, cooperage, etc....for an industry that really took off 17 years ago, some fantastic wines are coming out of WA for such a relatively young region. Some of the oldest vineyards only go back to early 70s, where a region like California has wineries going back to 1800s and I won't even get into Europe where they make our history look like a newborn.

The fact that we don't have phyloxerra, and have great grape growing weather it will only get better.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#26 Post by Matt Mauldin » November 27th, 2018, 9:34 pm

Matthew King wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 2:43 pm
I don't own a single bottle of wine from Washington. I too -- no doubt unfairly -- have painted with too broad a brush that the wines are a bit big and '90s Aussie-like for my palate, based on some fruit-bomb Syrahs I had a decade or so ago.

I would appreciate any recs for lower-alcohol, rocky and savory Syrah from newer producers in Washington. If it's any help, for New World syrah I enjoy Rhys, Enfield, etc. TIA [cheers.gif]
Try Gramercy.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#27 Post by john stimson » November 27th, 2018, 9:49 pm

The CT poster's complaints would have rung more true 10-15 years ago, but things have improved a lot since there, and as noted you need to be selective and find the folks who really know how to make wine.

With regard to trucking grapes across the mountains, realize that some of the very best winemakers in the state do this (Cadence, Andrew Will lead the list), and manage to do very, very well.

Lastly, price is an issue. Certainly the wines are more affordable than California, but to be honest, you can often get "the real deal" from europe for the same price or less than a Washington wine of the same style (think Syrah, GSM, etc). I am very familiar with many Washington wines, and know a number of the winemakers well. I enjoy many of the wines very much, but have to admit that most everything I buy these days comes from Europe.

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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#28 Post by Kris Patten » November 28th, 2018, 5:14 am

Matt Mauldin wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 9:34 pm
Matthew King wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 2:43 pm
I don't own a single bottle of wine from Washington. I too -- no doubt unfairly -- have painted with too broad a brush that the wines are a bit big and '90s Aussie-like for my palate, based on some fruit-bomb Syrahs I had a decade or so ago.

I would appreciate any recs for lower-alcohol, rocky and savory Syrah from newer producers in Washington. If it's any help, for New World syrah I enjoy Rhys, Enfield, etc. TIA [cheers.gif]
Try Gramercy.
Add Savage Grace and WT Vintners to that list.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#29 Post by Gray G » November 28th, 2018, 5:51 am

Betz

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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#30 Post by Gray G » November 28th, 2018, 5:57 am

What is "interesting" about Washington winemaking is that many wineries are located in and around Seattle, even locate on islands in the Puget Sound (Andrew Will)

Non-estate wine is par for the course and shipping the grapes hundreds of miles is a big part of the equation as are many other factors in the beautiful PNW.

[bye.gif] [bye.gif]
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#31 Post by Scott G r u n e r » November 28th, 2018, 7:51 am

Still a lot of oak and jam in woodinville, IMO. Still a lot of blueberry syrah. And he/she isnt wrong about some of the pricing and value concerns. Feel the trend of mixing syrah into bordeaux blends has been waining, but could be wrong. Matthews has been extremely hit and miss for me too... mostly miss to be honest.

Why the person is so *angry* about it is a valid question. As they said themselves, plenty of other styles and values elsewhere if these wines dont suit them. Seems they are awfully proud of their prose tho.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#32 Post by Brandon R » November 28th, 2018, 8:24 am

Gray G wrote:
November 28th, 2018, 5:57 am
What is "interesting" about Washington winemaking is that many wineries are located in and around Seattle, even locate on islands in the Puget Sound (Andrew Will)

Non-estate wine is par for the course and shipping the grapes hundreds of miles is a big part of the equation as are many other factors in the beautiful PNW.

[bye.gif] [bye.gif]
Discussed earlier in this thread, FYI.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#33 Post by Brandon R » November 28th, 2018, 8:30 am

Interesting comment with regard to fruit growers converting to growing wine grapes with the same mentality. I hadn't really heard of that much. I know the folks that (briefly) had Ellanelle Winery were apple famers, but I liked their wine. There is still also a pretty large amount of acreage dedicated to table and juice grapes (concords) where the focus is indeed, and will always be, yield, sugar, and ripeness. It would be interesting to see if any table/juice grape growers also have wine vineyards.

I won't argue at all that the best WA wines generally come from a relatively small handful of top vineyards where there is undoubtedly a focus on farming specifically for top-tier wines, so that's often where i start. I think examining vineyard sources is a great place to start, whereas "Napa Valley" generally produces great wines regardless of vineyard site. Off the top of my head: Champoux, Ciel du Cheval, Taptiel, Seven Hills, DuBrul, Upland, Armada, Paciencia, Evergreen (for whites), Kiona. There is a TON of acreage, though, that is meant for wines produced by the likes of Columbia Crest, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Waterbrook, and other large production sites that certainly adds to the negative perceptions, and I think those lag behind their California (and certainly European) brethren.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#34 Post by larry schaffer » November 28th, 2018, 8:43 am

Brandon J. wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 7:00 pm
One point that isn't really brought up much is....Washington is REALLY young in the wine scene. These guys are for the most part, at least 20 years behind California and of course centuries behind Europe.

The misses and I dove heavily into Washington this year and learned that we really don't care for most of the wines. MOST really are overoaked, out of control alcohols and no sense of place. While there are some outliers, they're frequently overpriced. I can't personally justify spending $80+ dollars on a bottle of Reynvaan, Rasa, Kerloo because I can buy the real deal for LESS in most cases (N. Rhone, BDX etc).

If you like bigger, in your face wines, the state is gorgeous and fun to visit. Just not for me!
Great point - and one that is similar to those of us making wine south of San Francisco as well champagne.gif

Just as with any region, there is bound to be a plethora of styles averrable - but it is often 'defined' either by the largest producers OR by those that score big points. The former - folks like Chateau St Michelle, Columbia, etc - have been producing wonderfully elegant, balanced, and great QPR wines for a very long time. They are not 'showy' at all and therefore fall under the radar. The latter - folks like Charles Smith, Cayuse, Qulliceda Creek - have made wines in a bigger, bolder style that has attracted notice.

I for one have always dug what folks like Chateau St Michelle, Dunham, L'Ecole 41, and others have done - but YMMV.

My guess is that we are still a few decades out from seeing what the 'real potential' is up there. There has been so much 'outside investment' in places like Red Mountain that it'll be interesting to see what happens.

Pricing certainly is an issue - with a region that is relatively 'unknown' to many, it's difficult to fathom spending $50+ on a new producer. This is similar to the Paso region - but in that region, you have more eyes on it, more reviewers touting it, and more folks on boards like this pumping them up . . .

Cheers.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#35 Post by Brandon R » November 28th, 2018, 9:26 am

Good point, Larry (and others) - lots to see as the years go by and wineries and vineyard managers hone their crafts. I think there is a lot of potential in unexplored areas in the state as well. Frankly, AVAs like Red Mountain and Wahluke Slope are so stinking HOT in the summers, they might not be as ideally suited (certainly in the future as the planet warms) for reds as once was thought. In some cases, maybe they're already too hot and account for some of the characteristics many find undesirable (especially in years like 2015-2017). There very well may be other sites not even under vine that ultimately would produce better grapes. That said, some of the most "sought after" [highly rated] wines from Washington are made from Red Mountain grapes (Quilceda Creek, for example).
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#36 Post by Gray G » November 28th, 2018, 9:33 am

Brandon R wrote:
November 28th, 2018, 8:24 am
Gray G wrote:
November 28th, 2018, 5:57 am
What is "interesting" about Washington winemaking is that many wineries are located in and around Seattle, even locate on islands in the Puget Sound (Andrew Will)

Non-estate wine is par for the course and shipping the grapes hundreds of miles is a big part of the equation as are many other factors in the beautiful PNW.

[bye.gif] [bye.gif]
Discussed earlier in this thread, FYI.
oops, thanks
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#37 Post by Scott E. » November 28th, 2018, 11:18 am

Although I still purchase several bottles of QC's CVR red blend every year (great QPR IMO), I just can't get excited about the Cabs and Bdx blends in general (I've tried a bunch over the years). They don't seem to have the same depth and complexity when compared to Napa. OTOH, WA Syrah has been fantastic and I rarely buy Cali Syrah anymore. I really like the Rocks AVA but there are other fine examples produced outside this area. I still purchase Reynvaan (getting pricey), K Vintners, Gramercy and Two Vintners. Cheers!
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#38 Post by Richard Malloy » November 28th, 2018, 11:19 am

I have to confess that my largely uninformed and likely outdated opinion of WA wines is much like the TNs you quoted. I don’t know why that person seems to have such a large axe to grind over this, but it’s not necessarily a negative thing. I have no axe to grind, because who cares? It’s WA wine, what do you expect?

I don’t like having uninformed, outdated opinions, but I’m not going to spend Rhône money on WA wines - give me a reason to look your way!

For example, I now spend a large chunk of funds formerly allocated to Burgundy in Oregon. I’m finding quality there because I first found value there. But if OR was priced at Burgundy levels, my purchases would be very rare.

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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#39 Post by dsimmons » November 28th, 2018, 12:40 pm

WA wines represent 12% of my cellar and I have enjoyed them greatly for many years. I have been buying Quilceda Creek since 1999, Cayuse since 2007 and Betz since 2006. In addition I have spent a little time around Seattle and a lot of time in Walla Walla tasting wine and have enjoyed wine from many of the wineries listed above.

For my tastes WA is the real deal and I believe more fairly priced than comparable wines from other regions. In addition, I believe that WA wines are more consistent from year to year than many other regions. Again for my tastes, Quilceda Creek, Cayuse and Betz compare very favorably to comparably prices wines from anywhere in the world. And finally, if you compare the average rating in CT I am pretty certain it would substantiate that I am not alone.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#40 Post by Brandon R » November 28th, 2018, 1:09 pm

Don, I follow your TNs with interest on CT as I see you drinking lots of Washington wines.
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#41 Post by john stimson » November 28th, 2018, 1:30 pm

Brandon R wrote:
November 28th, 2018, 8:30 am
Interesting comment with regard to fruit growers converting to growing wine grapes with the same mentality. I hadn't really heard of that much. I know the folks that (briefly) had Ellanelle Winery were apple famers, but I liked their wine. There is still also a pretty large amount of acreage dedicated to table and juice grapes (concords) where the focus is indeed, and will always be, yield, sugar, and ripeness. It would be interesting to see if any table/juice grape growers also have wine vineyards.

I won't argue at all that the best WA wines generally come from a relatively small handful of top vineyards where there is undoubtedly a focus on farming specifically for top-tier wines, so that's often where i start. I think examining vineyard sources is a great place to start, whereas "Napa Valley" generally produces great wines regardless of vineyard site. Off the top of my head: Champoux, Ciel du Cheval, Taptiel, Seven Hills, DuBrul, Upland, Armada, Paciencia, Evergreen (for whites), Kiona. There is a TON of acreage, though, that is meant for wines produced by the likes of Columbia Crest, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Waterbrook, and other large production sites that certainly adds to the negative perceptions, and I think those lag behind their California (and certainly European) brethren.
While the farming comments are somewhat true historically, and grapes might have been grown more as farm crops, for a long time now most wineries that are any good at all have a high degree of control over how the grapes are grown, yields, canopy management, fruit dropping, etc, even with regard to vineyards that they don't own and are just sourcing grapes from. They are in the vineyards frequently (weekly or more often) over the growing season.

The other knock against WA wineries historically (10-15 or more years ago) was a tendency to make all wines in the same manner (eg handle a Syrah in the same way that you were handling your Cab., including harvesting your grapes in the same way/same time.) This I think in most any cases, in even the average wineries, is long gone and no longer a legitimate complaint.

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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#42 Post by Ron Slye » November 28th, 2018, 1:40 pm

John Morris wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 3:38 pm
I had the good fortune to taste a large line-up of Cayuse wines recently (OK, technically, they're Oregon, but still Walla Walla Valley). They were excellent and balanced.

But the prices!?#*? Completely outlandish. Many times what you'd have to pay for equivalent quality in a Rhone.
John -- can you give some recommendations on comparable N Rhone wines to look for?

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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#43 Post by Bryan Carr » November 28th, 2018, 2:01 pm

I think, like most regions, you have to be choosy, and that while the WA wines that I love I love a TON, I'd say that in general it IS fair to say that the state makes big, syrupy, boozy wines on the whole. That's not the style I like, and I choose the producers I buy from carefully to suit my palate, but if you were to throw a dart you'd probably not hit Reynvaan or WT or Cadence or Rotie or K. Not sure why this guy keeps subjecting himself to WA wine if he so vehemently hates it. I stopped drinking Zinfandel because I don't like it but I don't go all over CT trashing it. Dude has an axe to grind for sure.
Brandon R wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 12:53 pm
Back to the original topic, I think there are a few clear wineries that can be quite polarizing in their style. Take K Vintners for example. Their scores lately have been through the roof, and from several different publications. That said, they're (generally) made in a bigger, riper style. To me, though, they're the exception to the rule. I like them, but can totally see how some would taste syrup and booze. I'd love to have that author taste a Cadence red and tell me what he/she thinks.
Out of curiosity, have you had any of their more recent vintages (2013+)? The winemaking has taken a hard left turn toward lighter wines in recent years. I think at least their $40+ syrahs (powerline, hidden, klein, royal city, etc) tend to be some of the lightest and most elegant in the region outside of some of the more culty names like Reynvaan, newcomers like WT, or iconoclasts like Savage Grace. Their lower tier and Wines of Substance wines definitely still tend towards a big ripe style for sure.

I do agree with lots of folks here that the price really can be an issue, I think in general WA wine is expensive. There are definitely lots of good wines in WA, but for my palate there isn't much if any wine made in WA below $20 retail that is worth drinking, and you can definitely do way better dollar for dollar elsewhere for the most part. What I will say about WA wine is that if I buy a WA wine that's ~$15-30 with a normal-looking label and grapes I recognize it is VERY likely to be drinkable and most palates will find it enjoyable if not exactly profound. I feel like that's definitely worth something, and not something I'd say about most of the world.

I think The Rocks is definitely a pretty unique and special thing but you definitely have to pay for it. With Northern Rhone prices going up in the last few years good deals on funky Syrah are harder and harder to find, so this may balance out in the long term, but as it stands, Rostaing Cote Rotie Ampodium is still cheaper than every Rocks wine except Two Vintners Some Days Are Stones and Rotie's Northern Blend as far as I can tell. Christophe Baron wines are $100+ and outside of BDX, Burgundy, Napa, and Guigal, that will buy you some of the best wines in the world (lets not even get into Hors Categorie...).

All this sounds like I love to trash WA wine, when in fact it's the majority of our cellar and what we drink a lot of. We came up drinking WA wine and feel a definite affinity for the region, but we've started assessing the value proposition it represents and are trying to think a little more critically about it and you all get to be the beneficiaries of my internal monologue word vomit.
Last edited by Bryan Carr on November 28th, 2018, 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#44 Post by Bryan Carr » November 28th, 2018, 2:15 pm

Ron Slye wrote:
November 28th, 2018, 1:40 pm
John Morris wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 3:38 pm
I had the good fortune to taste a large line-up of Cayuse wines recently (OK, technically, they're Oregon, but still Walla Walla Valley). They were excellent and balanced.

But the prices!?#*? Completely outlandish. Many times what you'd have to pay for equivalent quality in a Rhone.
John -- can you give some recommendations on comparable N Rhone wines to look for?
Ron, keep in mind that New Yorkers have much better access to N Rhone stuff then us Seattle plebs, but in my limited experience there are a few that are wonderful for less than Cayuse (though not "many times" less).

I love Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie Ampodium and it's usually ~$50, very elegant and meaty.
Clusel Roch Cote Rotie is affordable and pleasurable in the same way if less profound.
Balthazar Cornas used to be much cheaper and is delish, but it's upwards of $80 these days.
I recently had a 2013 Reynvaan Contender ($75) and a 2013 Gilles Barge Le Combard ($55) side by side and they were surprisingly similar.

I don't have as much luck with St. Jo or Crozes Hermitage so no recs there unfortunately. It does pay to keep in mind though that Clape Cornas is "only" $90.

I do love all the Baron and Baron-adjacent wines however. I don't think there's a Northern Rhone wine that is 1:1 100% comparable.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#45 Post by Brandon R » November 28th, 2018, 2:55 pm

john - noted. I wasn't the one who asserted wine grapes are (or were) grown like other crops. I agree with you: by and large, most Washington wineries are quite involved in vineyard management. Some of the best are deeply involved. Non-Washington folks who only dabble seem to get hung up on the notion that Western Washington-based winemakers have nothing to do with and little knowledge/control of/over their vineyard sites. That's patently untrue.

bryan - I have had some of the post-2013 K Vintners Syrahs and really like them, as I think I mentioned. I wouldn't classify them as light, but could see elegant. To me, they strike a fine balance between those wanting definite fruit but with some Syrah typicity but are turned off by the (sometimes) aggressive gaminess/savoriness from Rocks Syrah.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#46 Post by Bryan Carr » November 28th, 2018, 4:08 pm

Brandon R wrote:
November 28th, 2018, 2:55 pm
bryan - I have had some of the post-2013 K Vintners Syrahs and really like them, as I think I mentioned. I wouldn't classify them as light, but could see elegant. To me, they strike a fine balance between those wanting definite fruit but with some Syrah typicity but are turned off by the (sometimes) aggressive gaminess/savoriness from Rocks Syrah.
I think that's definitely a fair assessment, I think "light" is an overstatement on my part, perhaps more in a relative sense on the scale of WA Syrah, but yes not light in an absolute sense.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#47 Post by Scott Brunson » November 28th, 2018, 6:50 pm

We did a "High End WA" tasting at the 2nd CellarTracker Charleston Offlineorama.
So much sweet red fruit.
So much vanilla.
It was not well-received by the majority of the tasters.

I am a big fan of Betz and Cayuse, but have not been very impressed with many others.
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#48 Post by Albert R » November 28th, 2018, 6:57 pm

The vanilla is an issue for me and that's why I tend to stick with the Syrah(s).
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#49 Post by Brandon J. » November 28th, 2018, 7:10 pm

I forgot to mention something I found very interesting when we visited Walla Walla.

Among the 30+ wineries we visited, there were four different winemakers who had a very interesting observation about the region:

It's an incredibly wealthy town, many people have money from agriculture and aspire to make wine. There's a college there where people can take viticulture courses and they just churn out students who go throw a ton of money at land and new facilities.

That's a highly summarized statement but seemed to ring true. It's become a "thing to do" up there, and many are not taking the time to really learn the craft. This dilutes the industry in an interesting way. Lots of opportunity, they just haven't grown up yet!
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Re: Thoughts on Washington reds in general (via TN rants on CT)...

#50 Post by GregT » November 28th, 2018, 8:17 pm

I find it mildly annoying when one goes on an editorial journey in public TNs
Why?

Isn't the entire point of a public TN to proclaim your opinion? Some people like to play the careful professor, some the serious critic, some the happy wine lover, and some the highly opinionated guy. I never knew there was some kind of protocol regarding the tone of a TN.

As for the accuracy or reasonableness of an opinion, the more extreme, the better. The writer obviously had a small percentage of wines from both Washington and France, but given that as others stated, WA is a very young region and in terms of types of wine, far far smaller than France, it's not really a great comparison.

However, there isn't one single WA style. There are a lot of them that are modeled on big huge Napa wines, but Napa itself isn't all big huge wines. And there are increasing examples of wines from WA that . . .

Well let me put it this way - Chambers Street would sell them.

It's an uninformed opinion, but I've had plenty of gooey WA wines in the last few years.

As well as really good, interesting, and delicious wines. The writer just needs to look around a bit more.
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