William Church Winery 2006 malbec

Another WAwineman classic, 1st posted on February 13, 2010:

A 21 year-old spud from Lewiston, ID did the typical redneck ritual on his wedding night by getting arrested twice. It wasn’t enough that he was arrested earlier for disorderly conduct (from likely drinking California wines), he had to slap and choke his new bride (and this was not in the bedroom) like she was in a cage match. Next up, he marries Gina Carano and gets his colon cleansed. This is why I’m not at the Olympics…a photographer accidentally activated a water spray onto the luge track during the final women’s run, just before the eventual bronze medalist started her 4th run. That probably cost her a fraction a second needed to claim the silver medal. If you have dealt with media types like I have, I can say that these arrogant s.o.b.’s need to be castrated and have gastric staples implanted to prevent their asinine sport-altering behaviors. Don’t go to Prague for surgery… a 66 year-old Czech woman took 5 months to discover the source of her abdominal pain—doctors left a foot-long medical tool following gynecological surgery. Any media folks in need of surgery…I know a great surgeon in Prague!

Did anyone else notice the recent Wine Spectator review “Rating the Year in Wine”? The editors broke down all the wines they tasted and found some rather amazing results that confirmed what we Washingtonians (and WAphiles) know about our home wines. Even an uneducated wino like me figured this out. They sampled 579 WA wines and 44% of those wines scored at least a “90” on their scale and that 44% averaged a retail price of $42. No other region came close to quality-and-price. The Italian Piedmont region had 47% of its 745 wines score at least a “90”, but at an average cost of $82! The Loire, France region averaged $45, but only had 16% score at least a “90” AND none scored above “94”. South Africa averaged $40 but only 24% scored “90-94” and none above. Forget Bourdeaux as the average price was $121 and only 46% scored “90” and up. The quality of Washington wines stands with the best wine regions of the world and are the most reasonably priced anywhere. Wine Spec’s data says that, and you all know how much we dislike Wine Spec as the “evil Californicators.”

As for malbec, the grape, some local pundits claim this as the next “emerging” grape of Washington State. I have sampled the malbecs made by Woodinville locales and I have to disagree. Making a malbec for the sake of “it’s different than other reds” is actually quite disrespectful of the grape itself. That is interpreted as “I just want to try something different,” versus “Washington makes a really good version of malbec.” That’s like saying “I want to date my sister because I’m bored with all the other women out there.”
Malbec, as the recent USDA 2009 Grape Release figures show, is not cheap to grow. At $1473 per ton, malbec stands as the most expensive of all the varieties grown. The average grape per ton drew $989. Perhaps, this is Washington’s version of Oregon pinot noir. And why not? After all, anyone find a cheap Washington malbec (that is drinkable) out there? I have found the average price to be around $30 at tasting rooms. Sounds like pinot noir to me. The only problem is, most malbecs I sampled don’t come close to tasting like a decent Oregon pinot noir. And, therein lies my dilemma with Washington malbec. Why should the average joe like me go and blow three Hamiltons for a so-so red wine when I can get change back AND procure the best of another varietal like…riesling (Eroica), sauvignon blanc (Angel), or pinot blanc (Meadow)? And, don’t get me started on red wines because the list is much longer in terms of quality for under $30.

You can read about William Church Winery from other bloggers like Sean Sullivan’s Washington Wine Report. I can’t add anything more to that. And the owners, Rod and Leslie Balsley don’t know me (yet) even though they are extremely supportive of the local wine bloggers, so my views and experiences are similar to that of  anyone walking into their winery for a Saturday tasting.

This is one of the few wineries where ‘wine tasting etiquette’ is in play. You can pay your fee, drink the wines, eat the snacks, and leave. You can even recapture your tasting fee as a discount off a bottle purchase. No problems. But, if you want that extra pour from an “under the counter” bottle, or a barrel sample, then you need to step-up your game. One way is to research the winery before going. Information is knowledge, and knowledge is what opens doors to opportunities. Engage with those who are pouring that day. You never know as it may be the owners and/or winemakers themselves, which is quite often the case in the Woodinville warehouse district. Be polite and ask questions. Tell them about the positives of the wine you were poured. Look around the room. Do you see barrels? Ask what’s in them. Why they chose that brand of barrel. What’s releasing soon? When all else fails, tell yourself, “this is my favorite winery and these are my friends.” Your brain will dictate what will spew out of your mouth hence.

Tonight’s food pairing was homemade hamburger. The best part was throwing in chopped onions and gravy mix onto the charred pan. Phreakin’ A! All I can say is, were you there when they took pre-orders of this wine at a minimum of 3 bottles per order ($90)? I was, and it was clearly a wine to be reckoned with. Age has made this slightly better. I have one more remaining.

Color: shadowy garnet. Nose: thick with blackberry, sweet oak, high notes of mint. Mouthfeel: full. Tail trail: 8 seconds. Flavors: dark plum, lovely tinge of spice, blackberry, purple produce. Balance: lovely. Power: medium. Depth: several layers deep. Finesse: elegant after a couple years of rest. I cannot imagine this getting better with age.

Wahluke Slope AVA. “Connie’s Vintage”. Consulting winemaker: Matthew Loso. Alcohol: 14.5%. This wine stands with the very best (of any version) to be found in Woodinville, and it’s only 30 bucks. A superb value. Music pairing: The Stray Cats “Rock This Town.” Rated: 93. Value: $45. Paid: $30. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

72hr post: color has softened toward magenta. Mouthfeel has added that “briny” seawater quality that I read about in other wines and finally experienced with this wine. Grip holds up. Flavors of black fruits still around but that trademark whip of spice has disappeared. Kind of like biting blackberries and plums out of a barrel in the tropical ocean.

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