Woodinville Wine Honors (6th vintage, 2014)

Still the longest running honors gala in the heart of Woodinville, whatever that means!

2014 was another of change for the better. The first honor for Washington wine was a Chester Kidder 2009 red wine being served at a state dinner for France’s president at the White House. A big, fat California winery (Canvasback by Duckhorn) setup roost on Red Mountain in what should be the first of many Cali ex-pats arriving on our musty shores. Speaking of California influences, Force Majeure hired a winemaker from Bryant Family Vineyards that put more prime Red Mountain acreage in the hands of non-natives and former residents. And more graduates of the wine program at South Seattle C.C. took up space in the warehouse district. Now, why Betz Family Winery buying an estate vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley made such news with other wine floggers is the real puzzle there. Who gives a flying fcuk?? And, we seal up the year with vintage news that 2014 will be the best since the unanimously heralded 2007 vintage, and may even surpass that and 2005 to own the latest “best vintage ever in Washington” moniker. And the beat goes on…

The best news within city limits is that most of the wineries have finally depleted their stock of 2010 and 2011 so we can look forward to better wines at your favorite tasting venues in an industrial setting. The 2012 reds are showing well now. Not great, but good enough. No one worked harder to get tourists and wedding parties into the warehouse district to buy up all the flat stuff so that the locals who snuck in on Seahawk Sundays could enjoy the new releases in peace. We high-fived some fans at a tasting room with a flat-screen tv and we all know that a delicious red goes well with a Seahawk victory! Is there a better combination of witnessing Jim Harbaugh go down in flames (twice!) and drinking the blood (red blends) of those fallen 49ers? We think not!

To the awards…

Best tasting room experience: Bunnell Family Cellar/Upland Estates. Finally, someone got the message that a really dandy lineup of wines deserves a well-manicured plate of charcuterie. The lethal Bunnell syrahs and Upland Estate whites are a fine match with the selected cheeses and cured meats and the staff is congenial and upbeat. Everyone else just fell a step behind…

Rookie of the Year: Ambassador Vineyards. Always the most competitive category, it seems. The tasting room is as big as the wines, whose grapes hail from Red Mountain’s former La Coye Vineyard. That means the wines will be bold and the staff attentive and knowledgeable (and pretty, too). The gals may not all be from Benton City but they have that small-town friendliness that makes walking in a fun and comfortable experience. Of note, the other finalists are neighbors– W.T. Vintners and Savage Grace Cellars. Watch out for these two as they develop their lineup of alternative headline wines that eschew the fighting Bordeaux lineage. Their ode to Rhones, Burgundies, and obscurata fully rounds out the varieties available in the warehouse district and makes for wonderful exploration of Washington’s ideal climate for grape growing.

Winery of the Year: Pondera Winery. Ever since their entrance a couple years back, this winery/art gallery has upped their game with each vintage and now sports a lineup of wines every bit as colorful as the artwork hanging on the walls. Strong and sturdy are the reds with the malbec as its biceps, get their wines now as they are underpriced. Really underpriced.

Red Wine of the Year: Pondera Winery 2010 Stillwater Creek malbec. Fine, fine… yes, it’s from the 2010 vintage (cool year) but the vineyard is sited in a warm zone so the grapes performed well and this is the result. Read the earlier review…

White Wine of the Year: Guardian Cellars 2013 Angel sauvignon blanc. Like seriously, this is one heckuva wine, year after year after year. Is it a felony that we, the wanted, hired a confidential source and another informant to draw a chalk line to other wineries’ sauv blancs but our rookie’s palate was tainted by the gun metal wine in those mini-kegs (a misdemeanor in our P&Ps), some 50 (five-O) or so, sprouting around the warehouse district so she had an alibi and besides, she’s an angel, too.

Washington Wine of the Year: Cooper Wine Company 2012 Estate carmenere. Those big, bold, complex, nuanced, and elegant wines that you remembered from yesteryear… yeah, they’re all back and in this one package of rapturous delight. Don’t let the carmenere listing scare you as this is representative of what’s going on in the Red Mountain AVA. THIS is what carmenere should taste like at its best. It ain’t a cheap bottle but holds its value well and you will be proud to serve it at your own state dinner with a spicy prime rib or grilled porterhouse.

Merry F’N Christmas, winos! I gotta get on the next plane out of here…

Next week, we will feature Sean Sillyvain’s Top 100 wines of 2015.

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Cooper Wine Company 2012 Estate carmenere

I can’t dine in peace no more.

I was happily defrocking a prime rib at my favorite steakhouse with Chucky Smith (yeah, thee Chuckster of his eponymous winery) the other night when some good-looking black dude came by our table to interrupt our conversation. I thought to myself, “He’s such a star to get this kind of notoriety” but instead of acknowledging the wild-haired one, this gentleman wanted to thank me for all the laughs provided on this Washington wine blog, shook hands, then went back to his private dining room. The maitre’d later told me that was Russell Wilson. Even the Chazz jabbed in with a “I can’t take you anywhere, asshole.”

Anywho, we came up on the topic of wine blogging and what a pestilence it is. You see, Chuckles is the grand master of marketing in these parts so he just doesn’t get why these no-neck nobodies think wineries should embrace such amateurish, half-witted scribes whose main goal is ultimately to scam free wines out of wineries in exchange for coerced flattery.

So, I played the derp’s advocate and mentioned these delusions that wine bloggers are motivated by.

First up, wine bloggers think social media is the end-all for marketing. Go on Twitter, agree with everything everybody is saying, blanket-follow every halfwitted, so-called “wine expert” (especially the ones that appear intellectual while holding a plastic wine glass) then start tallying up all the followers. Then, when you get to some 4,000 or so hoodrats, go throw an illusionary wine tasting so that six of them have to go buy a bottle and participate in the hype-up lovefest. Yep, that’s called “increased sales.”

Next, write a string of superficial wine reviews but do NOT disclose you blackmailed the winery into supplying the free wines for review. That would be bad for business, even though you would be violating a Federal Trade Commission ruling that all wine bloggers advocating a specific wine MUST reveal whether she/he received the product for free. Regurgitate everything the tasting manager or cellar master told you, including verbatim on the tasting notes, so as to make yourself look like you know something about reviewing wines. The key is to copy, copy, and more copy. And use key words that these desperate wineries need, like “exceptional” and “excellent” so they market their products while doling credit (and hence, more exposure) to your worthless pico-blog. And, don’t forget to throw in “one of Washington’s best” whatever– wineries, winemakers, vineyards, wines, blends, name your varietal, etc. Use it for at least your first fifty reviews. Why be original? Nobody wants to know what you really think of the wines because then that would be exposing what an idiot you iz.

Follow that up with spin doctoring all your inconsistencies. Call yourself an “independent wine blogger” even though all your reviews were on free wines provided by the Wine Consortium that dictates who gets the free press. Additionally, send emails out to the various regional wine alliances and find out who really wants to pay to play your game. You’ll find out quickly that in crevices such as Walla Walla and Lake Chelan, there are anxious groups willing to buy in to your shenanigans so they can unload either copious amounts of unsold assjuice and/or find a new vein of suckers to buy that grossly overpriced horse’s sphincter of a wine.

Then, if you are adept at thinking you know how to spot a quality wine, develop some rating system to slot your picks. Here’s where it is especially valuable to revolt against the system of 100 points by poo-pooing it in favor of those instant marketable descriptors such as “exceptional” and “excellent.” Better yet, design a complex “star” rating, say like a 5-star scale, then proceed to rank ALL your donated wines from three stars (“good”) and up. And, if you have some old white guy in your tasting group, then really go out to the perimeter and conjure up something where your rating is tied in to the cost of the wine (even though you never paid for it, you can IMAGINE you did!) and slap on some sabermetric-sounding term like “QPR.” Ooo, so edgy and hip!

Here’s where a wine blogger implies credibility. Go sip as many wines as you can. Keyword: sip. After all, wine bloggers are not professionals. They cannot handle drinking even a magnum in one sitting (unless it’s open bar at some gooberhead’s wedding), so why limit your review to just one wine when you can AK-47 a winery’s entire lineup for under two ounces? Bonus points if you’re at a tasting room and decide to glurg the wine like a mouthrinse then barf it back into a spit bucket, phlegm and all. You’re a true wine blogger if you create a saliva rope from your cleft lip to the spit bucket.

An effective secret of wine bloggers is to suck up to the status quo. Re-tweet everything a wine blogger with a higher “follow” count until you get there yourself. And, if you’re a female, slap a profile pic showing some cleavage and heavy make-up to cover your psycho personality, then go ahead and sleep with a few of your followers. Word spreads quickly that you’re easy, just like the chlamydia you’re harboring.

When you have built up enough false confidence, go out and attend wine events like Tasteless Washington. Your goal should be to seek out and get on the Wine Consortium’s preferred list so you can A-list it at all events and score oodles of free wine that were donated for “marketing purposes.” This is where you need to be secure in your bisexuality because you will be sucking a lot of crusty sex organs to climb that final rung to the top.

And, once you are there (and you have your full cache of antivirals), you can unveil your sham by defending the 100-point system, have your picture taken with about twenty different donated bottles of wine, take pictures of decades-old wine that no one else has (or wants because it was made when the winery was shitty), and, why! even bother reviewing wines anymore? Just let others blog and link the site. Also, it helps to roll with the local waiters disguised as “wine experts” aka smelliers. Find out what wines they are paid to push and join them. Remember– pay to play.

Finally, keep your pay-to-play viable by only blogging about your inner circle of wineries that lavish your bullshit. When you do find a new, potential player, flex your social media credentials so they get on board. If the winery asks for hard numbers on how much wine your influence has sold, flip ‘em bullshit and explain the theoretical and yet-unrealized-and-never-to-be possibilities on how creating vibe on social media platforms leads to new club memberships and instant sell-outs. If the winery continues to insist on hard numbers, then act like a total flake and remind them how well-connected you are to Washington’s Founding Winery and if they want to be a big-boy, they need to run with the big boys and you are the key insider to help them.

Mediocrity at its best.

Notice, not one mention was stated about formal training in an accredited setting because there isn’t any.

Wine is, and always has been, a subjective experience completely unique to the individual. Wine is a component, a commodity like any other agricultural product. In the hands of Mother Nature every year, nothing is predictable about wine. Correct that. There is one element that is predictable about wine. Wine is the indelible taste-sensory marker that defines the moment, the event, the atmosphere when you indulged in it. Whether it’s from a two-dollar scathy red made by a neighbor or a two-thousand dollar monster, the wine’s taste profile, when tasted again, transports the individual, via fiber optic cable, back to that time reminiscent to that first experience. And, let’s hope the memory was a pleasant one as most are when wine is served.

To the winery…

Cooper Wine Company has been on a roll as of late. Of course, those of you new to the terroir here or just bored from reading the same crap from all the other wine bloggers may have never heard of this Red Mountain winery. Why not? Well, first of all Neil “the Godfather” Cooper, owner and bull mastiff of his eponymous winery, never had a budget for advertising his wines. No full page spread in Wine Spunktator. No wine ratings anywhere outside of this blog and the lone wolves at those wine-note storage sites. He’s seen the wine writers in this state drive right on by his tasting room. They’re all “fixed.” The Godfather don’t pay-to-play. Ever.

How does the Godfather do it? Read the first-ever review of his wines (you go find it as I ain’t linking nothing here) to get the 4-1-1 or go to the winery website. Basically, (1) it starts with solid knowledge of the landscape. Own the land. Make sure that land is in a high-visibility area like on the corner of Sunset Road where you MUST pass by to access the other great wineries on Red Mountain. (2) Have a fun, attractive personality that people gravitate to. Name anyone more authentic than the Godfather–nope, can’t do it. (3) Have beautiful offspring and a dog so attractive and magnetic that you don’t matter. (4) Maintain a fun Facebook presence that’s just enough to keep followers engaged and your winery in their conscience on a daily basis. (5) Host fun events at the winery that the majority can attend with interest. (6) Connect with out-of-state groups to extend sales of your growing winery. (7) Be at the level of your membership. You attract what you show, and that should be good enough. Putting up a smoky fa├žade may get you one sale but it won’t regenerate sales. Be honest. Be forthcoming. Be fun. Love people just because. (6) Have some smarts about what you are accomplishing. (7) It’s a business so run the business end like it requires. (8) Have a wide enough curb to house all the wine bloggers, internet experts, and other fast-talkers you will be kicking to. (9) Keep your wine clubbers involved and interested. (10) Have sensible plans for future expansion.

Speaking of expansion, let’s look back at a pre-quel at the Cooper Wine Company site. The location’s original winery was known as Seth Ryan Winery and was nothing more than a lazy excuse to make wine. The wines made there were… exasperating. This was before the acclaimed designation of AVA status on April 10, 2001. Seth Ryan Winery started in 1992 and the first estate plantings on its 10-acres were cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and chardonnay in 1997. A second planting in 2004-5 added malbec, petit verdot, carmenere, tempranillo, syrah, gew├╝rztraminer and viognier. The passing of a key family member and general apathy led to the sale of all holdings (except the finished wines). And, that leads us to the current investment group headed by the Godfather. With the exception of a token wrasslin’ experience, noted on an earlier review of a Charles wine, the Godfather has nurtured a solid multi-state and multi-national following with a bustling two-tiered wine club that has added products to its pipeline beyond wine. And, the acreage is multiplying… to some 75 acres of prime Red Mountain dust. That means more Cooper wines, bitches! Bitches love Cooper wines…

Coop’s recently been dabbling in his area’s oldest carmenere vines right there in his vineyard. As you longtime readers of this blog know, no other blogger knows Washington carmenere like this one. Any and every Washington carmenere that has made it to the wet side has been exposed to the masses right here, way before it was chic to advocate carmenere. There are wrinkled herpderps that, to this day, refuse to acknowledge carmenere as the sixth noble grape of Bordeaux. Not here. Carmenere, when done right, is as magical a wine as any left-bank cabernet or right-bank merlot. The key is finding a worthy source and Red Mountain is as safe a site for Bordeaux varietals to thrive in as there is.

The next step was to find a compadre to maximize the potential of his estate carmenere. He found one in Steffan Jorgenson of Elqui Wines (Chile). This world-championship contending duo is now known in WWE terroir-tory as “The Kings of Carmenere!” Watch out, Rock-n-Sock…

To the wine…

First off, to fully enjoy this majestic, masterful partnership between nature and man, pair this with a slab of spiced USDA Prime beef. This wine has been independently referred to as the best ever wine to come out of Washington so treat this with the utmost respect. You will be rewarded with “So that’s what all the hoopla was about! F- yeah!” This carmenere releases all its nuances about an hour after opening and in the area of 60 degrees F. Horror-movie quality black in the Riedel, reach for scents of blackberry pie, cedar, raspberry, black and green peppercorns, plush deep red cherry and off-road dust that lead to a lengthy profile of cherry tart, mushroom, rustic wildness, red berries, blueberries, liquorous black fruits, crushed black pepper, black licorice, cumin, redwood, roasted almonds, star anise, Stanfield soulberry, and faint bell peppers that is the hallmark of carmenere.

Alcohol: 14.1%. Estate-grown Red Mountain AVA. Perhaps also the best-ever front label for a wine. About 100 cases. Power: 4/5. Balance: 4/5. Depth: 5/5. Finesse: 4/5. Rated: 97. Value: $90. Paid: $80. Music pairing: “If You Don’t Give A Doggone About It” by The Godfather of Soul. This is WAwineman… uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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Montes Wines 2010 Purple Angel carmenere (Chile)

Only a jakknob wouldn’t love a good carmenere…

Tasted at 60-68 degrees on the IR temp gun. Bullseye black garnet and carmine with aromas of black pepper, bell pepper, and blackberries smoking over the Riedel like dry ice. Full, thick, and attractively complex with blackberries, herbal peppers, black licorice, black pepper, raspberries, black plum, soft tannins, and dark, spicy chocolate on a lengthy finish. Wonderful match with enchiliadas topped with New Mexico red chile sauce.

Alcohol: 14.5%. D.O. Colchagua Valley (Chile). 8% petit verdot. Aged 18 months in new French oak. One of Chile’s finest carmeneres. Power: 3/5. Balance: 3/5. Depth: 3/5. Finesse: 3/5. Rated: 92. Value: $40. Paid: $41. This is WAwineman… uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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Bodega Norton 2010 Privada red wine (Argentina)

Tasted at 60-65 degrees on the IR temp gun. Color: another stainer of garnet-magenta. Nose: smoky plum, black plum, black currant, black cherry. Mouthfeel: full-bodied. Tail trail: 9 seconds. Flavors: wild blackberries, white pepper, sweet oak, dark chocolate. Bold, smooth, and manly. A fit with steak and pasta.

Alcohol: 14.8%. Mendoza, Argentina. “Privada” means private reserve for only family and closest friends. 40% malbec, 30% merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon. Power: 2/5. Balance: 2/5. Depth: 3/5. Finesse: 2/5. Rated: 89. Value: $20. Paid: $17. This is WAwineman… uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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Mastrojanni 2008 Brunello di Montalcino (Italy)

Tasted at 65-68 degrees on the IR temp gun. Color: brick red. Nose: red cherry, red licorice. Mouthfeel: medium-bodied. Tail trail: 8 seconds. Flavors: acerola cherry, mid-Atlantic tobacco, oregano, thyme, cranberry, red plum. Hummed with marsala from Pasta Nova.

Alcohol: 15%. DOCG. Extended maceration. Aged 3 years in Slovenian casks and French barriques. Power: 3/5. Balance: 2/5. Depth: 2/5. Finesse: 3/5. Rated: 90. This is WAwineman… uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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Aspenwood Cellars 2010 Red Willow Vineyard syrah

Stole the show at a recent blinder…

Tasted at 61-68 degrees on the IR temp gun. Color: dark garnet stainer. Nose: cedar, smoke, blueberry, black licorice, raspberry, dark cherry, forest drought. Mouthfeel: full-bodied. Tail trail: 10+ seconds. Flavors: cherry, blueberry, cola, sweet/soft tannins, black pepper, tobacco leaf, saline. Oustanding with chicken parm.

Alcohol: 15.0%. Red Willow Vineyard. Yakima Valley AVA. From an iconic vineyard, a fabulous wine. Power: 3/5. Balance: 3/5. Depth: 3/5. Finesse: 3/5. Rated: 92. Value: $40. Paid: $32. This is WAwineman… uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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Corliss Estates 2003 Columbia Valley syrah

Still in prime form.

Tasted at 62-67 degrees on the IR temp gun. Color: black with garnet rims. Mouthfeel: full, dense. Nose/flavors: dark roast, charred pork tips, cherry, plum, scarred bark, cocoa nibs, black toast. Great with eggs and hash followed by chocolates made with Italian red wine then single malt whisky.

Alcohol: 15.3%. Columbia Valley AVA. 1764 bottles. Power: 3/5. Balance: 3/5. Depth: 3/5. Finesse: 4/5. Rated: 93. Value: $45. Paid: forgot. This is WAwineman… uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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