TN: HdR Seminar #2: Washington Wines


This was the second seminar on day 1 of Hospice. It may have been ill served coming right after a great CdP seminar but so it goes. The general comments I heard that the wines were not as impressive but at least one person told me they liked them more. Each to their own. Patrick Comiskey did a great job as the moderator with the owners or winemakers of the wineries presenting their wine also up on the dais. Patrick did an amazing job. I loved listening to the history of the area going back 15,000 years. This is an area I don’t drink a lot from and what I do is even less often a Rhone varietal. I truly enjoyed learning about the wines and the region and that made it well worth attending. I wish I could tell if the wines were at an awkward stage or that it is a style that I like less than others. I have had some Cayuse and Force Majeure Collaboration wines which seemed more ripe and exuberant than these. Still, a great opportunity to try these wines.

The wines were served with more than adequate pours in separate riedel tasting glasses. They had been filled presumable in the half hour or so leading up to the event. We had about an hour to sample the wines.

  • 2015 Rôtie Cellars Southern White - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Wispy silvery green/gold in color. The nose is nice. Floral with orange blossom. With air a lot of peach appears on the nose. Also a slight green note, maybe sage which is actually very nice. Slightly oily texture. Sweet peaches on the palate. Good acidity. Heavy peaches on the finish. I might like a tad more acidity, but a lovely wine to start a tasting with. (89 pts.)
  • 2014 Rôtie Cellars Northern Blend - USA, Washington
    Purple in color, ruby at the rim. This one left me wanting a bit. Perhaps its the vintage. The nose has bell pepper, boysenberries and black olives. On the palate, black raspberries, slightly bitter. No real tannins to speak of and not the best balance. Slight bitter and slight heat on the finish. Perhaps in need of more time? (86 pts.)
  • 2014 Tenet Wines Syrah The Pundit - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Inky purple in color. The nose has slight leather, cedar, spice and black raspberries. Nice texture. Black raspberries and black olives on the palate. Firm tannins. Some heat/warmth on the finish. It has a cooler climate feel to it although i don’t know if that is true. Probably my wine of the tasting, but I doubt that was in the majority. (91 pts.)
  • 2013 Tenet Wines Tenet GSM - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    40/35/25 GSM Blend. dark purple in color, ruby at the rim. The wine is very tight and in need of time/air. With air, cherries show up. Someone mentioned high toned which I take to be an acidic, high tension, almost va style of wine. I did not get that here personally. Its softer ont he attack but then a wall of tannins show up. Sweet fruit on the palate, mostly black cherries. There is some complexity. This has lots of potential for a few more points, but it needs a few years in the cellar - minimum IMO. (90 pts.)
  • 2013 Gramercy Cellars Syrah John Lewis Reserve - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    I wanted to like this one more, but I think its more stylistic. I did enjoy it, but it is really not my favorite style of wine. Purple/ruby in color with some dark brown notes. Very nice nose with black raspberries, herbs, roasted herbs and slight black olives. Thinner in texture (I assume due to lower alcohol). Black cherries on the palate with firm tannins coming out with air. There is a sort of moldy grass note on the finish which I did not like. This is a wine though that seemed like the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Especially with lower alcohol Syrahs, I find that they need time to integrate so there is plenty of potential here. And of course, others liked it more. (89 pts.)
  • 2013 Gramercy Cellars Syrah “Lagniappe” - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Purple in color, some ruby swirls. The nose has spice, and light cherries. On the palate, sweet/ripe cherry fruit. Light tannins. A nice acidity. Slight tannins on the finish. (88 pts.)
  • 2013 Force Majeure Syrah Force Majeure Vineyard - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain
    Purple in color, slightly inky. The nose has the “rubber” note often found in Washington Syrahs, not a bad things, but distinctive. Also some black raspberries. Very tannic. Not green but not ripe fruit either on the palate. Slightly bitter. A bit hollow in the mid-palate. The wine seems to be closed down right now. It seems like everything will be there, but just not giving it up today. A fine wine to drink, but one gets the impression that in five years it will be much better. (89 pts.)
  • 2013 Force Majeure Grenache Force Majeure Vineyard - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain
    From sandy soils. Ruby in color. The nose is slightly candied cherries. Nice texture. Good depth. Tight complexity. Firm tannins. Nice black cherry fruit. Finishes with some menthol. Warming on the finish. A bit candied fruit, but nice expression of Grenache. (90 pts.)

I got to meet Patrick Comiskey in line later in the day. A very nice gentleman who is a walking encyclopedia of wine knowledge. Listening to he and Jeff king geeking out about Viognier in the mid-1980’s was a true pleasure.
Posted from CellarTracker

Patrick is, indeed, a class act. His book on the Calif Rhone movement is due to come out this Fall & it should be a good one.

How was attendance at this yr’s HdR, Leron. Or have you been in the past?? I was put-off going because
of the large jump in the price. Plus I was just out there for NEB#6.

Hi Tom,

It was my first and the crowd seemed to have a lot of both newbies and veteran attendees. Your name came up often with people wondering where you were. You were missed.

I am looking forward to Patrick’s book.

Leron. :wink:

I really like Gramercy’s Syrahs, but they need time so not surprised by the showing here as those wines were recently released. Also, a letdown was inevitable following CDP. WA produces some very nice wines with Rhone grapes, but for me they don’t reach the heights of the best examples from CDP, N Rhone, etc.

As Loren has indicated, tastes differ. I thought these Gramercy Cellars Syrahs (particularly the John Lewis), and the wines they poured in the second tasting (I missed their table on Friday), were excellent. Indeed, they were one of the domestic producers who most stood out for me.


Same here, Al. The Gramercy “John Lewis” Syrah was by far my favorite wine of this seminar and one of the best domestic Syrahs I tasted at HdR. But stylistically it was more in my wheelhouse than some of the bigger, riper Washington bottlings.

Tom, as far as attendance, the seminars seemed to be well-attended. The Friday ones looked to be nearly full and while the Saturday seminars always have more empty seats - the result of too much Friday late-night partying - they had a decent number of attendees. The afternoon tastings did not strike me as being as crowded as in some past years, but I heard that the event was sold out so perhaps they capped attendance at a lower number than in the past.


You were certainly missed - but the show had to go on [snort.gif]

I don’t believe there was a large jump in the price for consumers at all this year versus previous years if you purchased the entire package - IIRC, it’s always been in the $900-$1000 range, including all tastings, seminars, lunches, and the ending BBQ dinner.

There were a couple of huge differences this year, though - first and foremost, producers were not given the choice of pouring at either Fri night or Sat . . . we had to pour at both.

But the biggest change was the cost to the PRODUCER - our tab was about $1000 to pour at both of these tastings . . . and this did NOT include access to anything else other than the two grand tastings.

To me, the attendance on Saturday appeared to be on par with previous years, which is to say busy but not crowded - but it really seemed that the ITB folks outnumbered all others by far. The crowds were biggest at first at the ‘usual suspects’ - Saxum, Alban, etc - but they poured out pretty quickly and so folks moved on to French producers and then eventually made it to other domestic ones.

There was not much food at the Grand Tastings - not a problem if you had attended one of the lunches (unless, of course, you were consuming wine during these champagne.gif ) but otherwise a big challenge for many. I was serving my bread - and it became quite popular :slight_smile:

I’m looking forward to the ‘more intimate’ Rhone Rangers tasting in SF in early June and to do smaller tastings in other locations as well.


Hey Larry, sorry I missed your wines at HdR but that was partly because I’m planning to go to the Garagiste event in Oakland next month so I figured I’d be able to taste them then - and hopefully some of your bread too [basic-smile.gif] Unfortunately I’ll miss the Rhone Rangers tasting this year as it conflicts with a bottling day.

As always, there were way too many good producers pouring at HdR and not nearly enough time to get to all the ones I’d hoped to.

Greg Harrington says something to the effect of his mission/dream in life is to make wines that taste like dirt, so he’s probably mildly aroused right now that you tasted moldy grass. I opened a 2013 Gramercy Lower East Syrah last month and winced initially, saying “This tastes like mud!” Then I remembered that’s what he’s going for. Gosh, if Gramercy and Force Majeure average in the high 80s for you, I’d love to know what really lights your fire.

One of the great things about this event and wine in general is that there are always new things to explore and learn. In terms of Washington Rhones, I have liked the Cayuse and Force Majeure Collaboration wines very much. I do tend to like middle of the road wines, not too much, not too little ripeness, alcohol, fruit and yes, dirt.

Glad to hear so many people liked the Washington wines. Something for everyone.

I don’t believe there was a large jump in the price for consumers at all this year versus previous years if you purchased the entire package - IIRC, it’s always been in the $900-$1000 range, including all tastings, seminars, lunches, and the ending BBQ dinner.

The weekend pass costs over recent years: $595 in 2004, $695 in 2005, $795 in 2006–2012, $995 in 2016.


BTW, one of the highlights was seeing Al again (we had met once before) and meeting Kevin and others. Loved talking to them and it was great that we had differing tastes and opinions in wines yet there is also some common ground. It seemed every seminar I ended up sitting next to someone whose posts I had read at some point. I am sure there were others I “knew” from the Boards. They need to write the names on the name tags larger for us old guys so we can read them more easily.

It was great seeing you, Loren. One of the enjoyable aspects of HdR is getting to know the people who come frequently, both consumers and ITB folks. There were a number of regulars who didn’t make it this year, hopefully they be back in two years.


Are they going to an every-other-yr schedule, Al??

That’s the word we’ve heard, Tom - they’ll have the big Paso event every two years.

Is the BlackberryFarms event still going on as well???

It’s happening this coming weekend. As far as I know it’s set to continue in the future.

Yes, someone indicated the Blackberry Farms event would continue, I think yearly.