What a year for the books, eh? It started with late blossoms that extended the tardiness into late October in what was one of the latest harvests in recent memory. The fear of a repeat early killing frost like that in 2009 did not materialize. Instead, we had what appeared to be two extra Indian summers that allowed for full physiological ripening in most of the eleven AVAs. Most. Puget Sound fared the worst as the vineyards could only muster up grass, Bell peppers, and mold. Walla Walla Valley received more liquid sunshine than the real thing and part of the Yakima Valley kept the Eskimos happy. The extended growing season should break the even-year dominance by white wines, as the reds are expected to display ideal balance and finesse without the high alcohol levels.
Aside from the weather, 2010 witnessed the beginnings of a “changing of the guard.” Despite housing over 700 wineries, we lost more than a few of the smaller players in what could be a preview to 2011’s en masse winery closures/consolidations. It’s a buyer’s market, as evidenced by Precept Wine Brands recent purchases of Sagelands Vineyard and Canoe Ridge Vineyard (both wineries). Vineyards were not immune, such as David O’Reilly’s Outlook Vineyard being placed for sale. Well-reputed, older wineries such as Leonetti Cellar, Quilceda Creek, and Powers have successfully transitioned to their kids, while others have no exit plan. Bonair Winery’s Gail Puryear tragically lost his son to a mountaineering accident in Tibet, and wine bloggers subsequently lost Gail’s valuable insight from his blog. And, winemakers continued to change hats, as best exemplified by Kendall Mix moving from Corliss Estates to Goose Ridge Winery AND, this just in, Hillary Sjolund leaving DiStefano Winery to start her own brand.
In late June, Walla Walla hosted the WBC, affectionately known as the Wine Bloopers Conference. Oops, I meant Bloggers. Same diff. Tasting rooms from Woodinville to the Tri-Cities became normal places to enjoy wine without the annoying, pretentious, and poor-scribing leeches exhibiting their mooching behaviours.
The Washington wine news of the year occurred sometime in mid-September when someone (or team) impersonating a wine grapevine-version of Jack the Ripper cleanly dissected an estimated ton of bushvine mourvedre grapes from Grand Reve Vineyard off the slope of Red Mountain. The estimated loss to the vineyard of this half-acre bounty was $4000. The estimated loss to the winery (Syncline) was 750 bottles and $30,000. The estimated loss to wine consumers was a chance to sample a rarely-grown Rhone varietal.
And in this past November election, Washington residents had a chance to vote away the booze laws that were first set at the end of Prohibition. Just when I thought the people of this State were smart enough to manage their own alcohol consumption (like some 30 other States), UN-reasonable minds bought in to the scare tactics of the more well-endowed “no-no” campaigners and, FOR THE RECORD, the initiatives both died a sorry death.
I hate ties, but this was a gratifying one. Wine bloggers in this State are mostly a group of ‘kissing cousins’ that, in reality, only write for each other’s pleasure. The quality of fundamental writing would make a 3rd-grade English teacher belch. Syntax errors. Non-directional flow. Baseless conclusions. Incomplete descriptions. Spelling errors. And, worst of all, waiting two weeks to write about an event AFTER it has completed. Fools, they are.
However, there were two gems that stood out. First was Chris Cary’s blog, yakyakwine.com, and his August analysis of Paul Gregutt’s awkwardly titled book, claiming to be some authority on Washington wines, while the contents exposed his gross bias toward Walla Walla-area wineries. This was best exampled when Laht Neppur (Waitsburg) was given “Rising Star” status. Who? You mean the brewery? Laht Neppur has no wines for sale outside its tavern. L-O-S-E-R.
Second blog post came from a normally dormant (read: boring) wine blog in WinePeps (sic). Whatever got into the author…was she just tired of being so flaky?, she ripped the pubes off many so-called masculine wine drinkers by accusing a prominent Walla Walla Valley AVA winery of making a ‘faulty’ wine. While I found nothing scathing in her writing, the real entertainment value came from reader comments and their bliss-less attacks. Think about it, if it really mattered, wouldn’t some Baron from the winery have responded in kind? Take the Baron approach: “it doesn’t fuckin’ matter, dumbasses.”
On that note, let’s get to the winners.
Best place to buy Washington wine (mass): Costco. Name a better place that sells about one hundred quality wines (mostly Washington) for a lower price. And, each Costco has a few unique offerings that make it worth the trip. The cake-taker was finding Leonetti Cellar merlot ($68) at the Woodinville site and the sangiovese ($58) at Tukwila.
Best place to buy Washington wine (aficionados): Full Pull Wines. I’ve said enough about this wonderful little SoDo man-cave. Many of the winners here came straight outta Paul Zitarelli’s garage store.
Wine Blogger of the Year: Paul Zitarelli. True, his is not a “real” blog site, but Paul was, and still is, a blogger. He just changed the format and for anyone who has signed up, his posts are found in a regular email. Unlike “other” retailers, Paul’s Masterpiece Theater-savory prose on his offerings reliably rings true. His palate is diamond-cut sharp while his personality is soft and cuddly. Sorry Paul, I mean well when I say you’re a cross between Alistair Cooke and Fozzy Bear.
You know what, screw this “best”-whatever deal. Let’s go to another format. Your wineman has guzzled 143 bottles of wine since Dec. 11, 2009, 123 of which were wines produced from one of the 11 Washington State American Viticultural Areas. And that’s NOT including all the tasting room samples I have trudged through. I have now, single-handedly, supported 179 Washington wineries in the last three years; a remarkable 25% of all standing Washington wineries. A-Z, I have touched every letter like no other blogger has. Does that make me an “authority”? Hell no. But, you keep reading so I must be saying something right.
2010 Reference Standard from each AVA:
Yakima Valley: Adams Bench 2007 Red Willow Vineyard cabernet sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley: Rasa Vineyards 2007 Reserve syrah
Columbia Valley: Adams Bench 2007 “the V” cabernet sauvignon (Yes, I know. I have Quilceda Creek’s and Betz’s cabs but they’re in the cellar. This one’s ready NOW.)
Puget Sound: Hollywood Hill Vineyards 2009 Estate chardonnay
Red Mountain: Betz Family Winery 2008 La Cote Rousse syrah
Columbia Gorge: Syncline Wine Cellars 2008 pinot noir
Horse Heaven Hills: Rotie Cellars 2007 Southern Rhone blend
Wahluke Slope: Barrage Cellars 2005 Alias cabernet franc
Rattlesnake Hills: Masset Winery 2006 Petit Sirah petite sirah
Snipes Mountain: Upland Estates 2008 Ampeli muscat ice
Lake Chelan: Chelan Estate 2004 pinot noir
2010 WINES OF THE YEAR WINNERS
blend: O’Shea Scarborough 2008 Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc
Chardonnay: Arbor Crest 2006 Conner Lee Vineyard
Gewürztraminer: Dowsett Family 2008 Celilo Vineyard
Pinot Gris: Ross Andrew 2008 Celilo Vineyard
Riesling: Januik 2008 Bacchus Vineyard
Sauvignon Blanc: Guardian Cellars 2009 Angel
Rosé (DeLille Cellars) Doyenne 2009 (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault)
blend: Betz Family Winery 2007 Clos de Betz
Grenache: Maison Bleue 2008 Le Midi
Merlot: Cooper Wine Company 2008 Columbia Valley
everything else: Beresan 2007 Walla Walla Valley carmenere
(look in the AVAs for the remainder)
From instinct/one ounce tastes
Cabernet Sauvignon: Quilceda Creek 2007 Columbia Valley
Malbec: Hestia Cellars 2008 Andrews Ranch Vineyard
Mourvèdre: Dusted Valley Vintners 2008 Stone Tree Vineyard
white: ($16 at Costco Tukwila) Arbor Crest 2006 Conner Lee chardonnay
red (>$35): ($60 at winery) Betz Family Winery 2007 Pere de Famille cabernet sauvignon
red (<$35): ($22 at Full Pull Wines) Fall Line 2006 Artz Vineyard red wine
Best non-Washington wine: Catena 2007 malbec (Argentina)
Worst non-Washington wine: Tedeschi Vineyards NV Ulupalakua Red (Maui)
As a reminder, all wines were purchased from local retailers/wineries in the last 13 months so every single one of you 206ers had a chance to acquire them.
As always, I want to thank each and every one of you readers for spending your valued time reading my posts. I know the posts do not appeal to all readers, all the time. That’s the point. Still, the team at WAwineman thanks you for sticking through it all. I hope you were rewarded with some dazzling posts that enriched your consumption of Washington wines. I’ve just been told that the Harrison Hill post was the clear reader favorite for 2010. Thank you. Thank you very much. I invested a lot of time in researching the information and I did it for you readers, the most intelligent readers in the wine blogosphere!
Looking ahead to 2011, you can expect more happy trails, bitter tales, and snarky wails. The next review will set the table for another gratifying year of buying and glugging Washington wine. The cellar door will be wide open as we share thoughts on “ageability” of some modern classics and there will be more roadtrips coming as we continue to explore the state of Washington wine, 2011.
Hope you had a great 2010 because 2011 will be even better. You can count on that from your WAwineman…drinker of the people, and still uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth. Happy New Year!