Ad: Lodmell Cellars 2005 merlot

Another WAwineman classic, 1st posted on December 24, 2009:

Two wine bloggers…er, donkeys escaped a living nativity scene in Colorado; Sean of Washington Wine Report was suspected of torching a 43-foot high straw goat in Stockholm, Sweden; a couple of California wine bloggers were arrested after Missouri troopers found 20 pounds of marijuana, some of it gift-wrapped, in their car; the Seattle Wine Gal was arrested for calling 911 30 times over six months because NWTomLee refused to eat his dinner; and the WAwineman was suspended from school for a day for wearing a Santa suit and handing out candy canes. Sometimes, real odd news needs an infusion of real wine bloggers to make it sound believable.

Tonight’s winery spotlight shines on…Lodmell Cellars! I had the pleasure of sitting down with Kristie and Randy Kirlin, partners in the winery, and strolled through an enlightening tasting session. Kristie’s brother, Andrew, is the vineyard manager and winemaker since 1995 when the first 15 acres of grapes (Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) were planted on the family’s vast wheat farm in Prescott, about 40 miles northwest of Walla Walla. The land was settled by Andrew’s great grandfather back in 1880 and, to give you an idea of how large their holdings are, the vineyard is strategically planted on “virgin” soil (with full water rights), along the Snake River. Andrew graduated from Whitman College in 1986 and returned to the farm in 1989 after gaining “big city” work experience. He got in touch with his inner-vigneron and self-taught making wine with his first homemade batch in 1993. Through his selling grapes to other more well-known Walla Walla winemakers, Andrew fine-tuned his skills to where his wines stand today. The first vintage was this 2005 harvest of Estate Merlot that was produced in rented space at Bergevin Lane Winery. The “intangibles” factor is strong in that, there are a lot of family memories that are represented in this wine, both gratifying and not-so. The winery was bonded in 2006 and a year later, moved into the “center barn” over at the new Walla Walla Regional Airport Wine Incubator Complex that also houses Adamant Cellars, Trio Vintners, Kontos Cellars (another wheat farm family), and Cavu Cellars. Although there are 3 years remaining on the lease, there are no definite plans on where their next location will be for the winery; however, under consideration is a tasting room in the Woodinville/Seattle area. Current production stands at 700 cases, with a goal being 1000 cases. Also in 2006, another 15 acres were added to the vineyard, this time the plantings included Semillon, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc.

I did a quick Q+A with Kristie:
Q: What’s the utilization plan for the Cabernet Franc?
A: The Cab Franc will be used for blending.

Q: What will be new for 2010?
A: Cabernet Sauvignon is coming. We just released ‘Sublime’ that was aged for 36 months in French oak; a Semillon, which is a rare find in this State; a Sauvignon Blanc (2nd vintage); and a rose (‘Saignee’, 2nd vintage).

Q: What has been more difficult: making wines or managing the vineyard?
A: Making wines.

Q: The recommended food pairing for the Merlot is “elk medallions”. Where does one get such?
A: They serve it (in Walla Walla). It’s “hunter’s” land out there.

Pick one–
Q: Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast or Wine Advocate?
A: Wine Advocate. But, I prefer Wine Press NW.

Q: Macy’s, Nordstrom, or Neiman-Marcus?
A: Nordstrom.

Q: Bugs Bunny, Smurfs, Thomas the Train? (Kristie has two girls, 10 and 13)
A: Oh, Bugs Bunny!

Q: True/False: I can pick out the Walla Walla AVA wine in a blind taste test of 10 wines.
A: True.

Finish the sentence–
Q: “When you taste our wines, we want you to think about…”
A: “…what nature has provided us.”

Q: “I ‘own’ Andrew whenever we play a game of…”
A: “cribbage.”

Q: “If we didn’t make wine, my favorite Washington State wine from this year’s RELEASES is…”
A: “I don’t think I’ve had one. Oh wait, that dark yellow label (snap fingers)…”  (Woodward Canyon 2007 Charbonneau red wine)

08 Semillon: 96 cases. $20. Spring Creek Vineyard. 25% Sauvignon Blanc. Alcohol: 14.9%. Slightly paler in color than L’Ecole No 41. Soft front palate with a moderate finish. European-style that has demand on the east coast.

Quickies from the rest of the portfolio–

08 sauvignon blanc: 126 cases. $18. Spring Creek Vineyard. 100%. Alcohol: 14.8%. Another soft-starter that has been compared to New Zealand/Argentinian styles. Nice back-end of orange/pear/peach.

06 chardonnay: 90 cases. 22 months in barrel. $18. Spring Creek Vineyard. Alcohol: 12.1%. Yet another softly composed wine with a stony citrus kiss.

08 ‘Saignee’ rose: 96 cases. $18. Estate fruit. 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Alcohol: 15.4%. Strawberry and cherry cola on the front, but tasted above 60 degrees to expose the alcohol “heat” in the spine. Strong color extraction.

06 ‘Sublime’ red wine: 164 cases. 36 months in barrel. $24. Alder Ridge and Rock River Vineyards. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot. Alcohol: 14.8%. Bold black and red fruits up front that are sustained. Moderate grip and well-balanced. *Best Buy*

Color: black down the middle, reddish-purple on the edge. Nose: blackberry, dark plum, slight lift of black pepper. Mouthfeel: on the lighter side. Tail trail: 4 seconds. Flavors: black fruits lead off and reach base, some toasty wheatbread, and brought home with a loaded pawlonia box of your father’s cigars.

Columbia Valley AVA. 100% Andrew Lodmell-crafted. Aged 30 months. 200 cases. Estate fruit. 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc. Alcohol: 14.4%. Rated: 90. Retail: $33. Value: $33. *Best in show*. Don’t expect a 2006 vintage as a hailstorm knocked off all the grapes. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

Special thanks also goes to Pennie Pickering at the Washington Wine Commission for assistance.
Merry Christmas Eve all! And get ready for the Woodinville Wine Honors, Christmas Night starting at 6pm. Roll out the red carpet for this 3 hour extravaganza! A-Listers only!

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