Olsen Estates 2007 syrah

Another WAwineman classic, 1st posted on Aug. 20, 2010:

Think I will celebrate with an Extra Value Meal number 1 after Frenchies were galled to see their Gallic champion, Asterix, enjoying a McDonald’s burger and fries after tying nemesis Cacofonix the bard to a tree. Other ads feature Cinderella and that “ghost” masked-dude from the movie, “Scream.” Next up, the Hamburglar is seen manning the spanking machine in a crowded English tea room. Germany has Paul the octopus…Australia, not to be outdone has Dirty Harry, the saltwater crocodile that has followed through on its Spain-picking the World Cup with predicting the winner of the Prime Minister’s race. The croc bit off the carcass of Paul Gre-guttless, oh wait, sorry, a chicken carcass…same smell, dangling beneath a caricature of one of the candidates. And, thieves in Mexico attempted to hijack a truck containing glee-bes (aka fluffy bloggers of WA wines), oh wait…got mixed up again…peanuts! 17 tons of peanuts. Hey, honest mistake.

This one’s a hurry and get it now before it literally disappears. Olsen Estates is rumored to be up for sale…beautiful tasting room and, I’m sure, most if not all of the 765 estate acres between Prosser and Benton City. The list of wineries for sale is growing every day. Add Glacier Peak Winery in Rockport (5 acres for $529k), along with E.B. Foote (lease is up), and Berghof Keller in Leavenworth (2.14 acres, $789k) to the growing list.

The roots of the Olsen family in Prosser go back just over 100 years, and have been caring for wine-grape vines since 1980. Dick Olsen has been associated with the Washington Wine Commission since its founding and served  for 10 years. The family has survived two World Wars, the Great Depression, two non-winning campaigns in southeast Asia, disco, and a host of recessions, but it appears, this current, prolonged recession hit the family’s finances at the worst time.

A look at the pictures on their website of the tasting room and property tell a story of visions of grandeur in a brief period when a business could do no wrong and the local wine industry was white hot with skyrocketing land prices and the entrance of many hundreds of new wines. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming big. It’s the “leveraging big” part that is something I cannot stomach too well. Huge gambles are made and lost in every industry and the Washington wine industry is not immune to financial wreckage. Kyle Johnson is the winemaker and fronts an interesting lineup of wines. While, yes, I do speculate on the reasons for the sale of this winery, the evidence leans toward such a scenario, which is quite saddening.

There are three tiers: a $45 Heritage Series, a premium line of Olsen Estates wines (but no cabernet varietal), and a value line called Olsen Hills. This is the first winery I know of that bottles red wines but does not include varietal cabernet sauvignon, the workhorse cash-flow producing red wine. All of their wines are estate-bottled, which hints at, perhaps planting too many young vines too soon. Also, I have never heard of this winery until this year (Olsen Estates opened in 2006). Their wines were none to be seen in local supermarkets or wine shops, until a couple of Costcos earlier this summer stocked this wine. Sounds like an absent marketing plan really stuck the dagger in this winery.

Food pairing was light appetizers of Beecher’s Flagship cheese while stoking the coals for a recent ribeye grill session. The wine held up decently but not an optimal choice for a blue summer afternoon.

Tasted at 61-68 degrees F on the IR gun. Color: muddied grape juice. Nose: earthy, purple flowers,  beefy. Mouthfeel: medium. Flavors: forest ferns, blackberry jam, black cherry, black plum, melba toast, black pepper, and dark-roasted coffee on a premature finish.

Alcohol: 14.8%. Yakima Valley AVA. 850 cases. Beautiful label. Rated: 89. Value: $14. Paid: $18. Music pairing: “Last Dance” by Donna Summer. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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