Release Weekends in Woodinville
Spring is in the air. Is it because the crocuses are blooming next door? No, even better; new wines are blooming. For the past several weekends, several wineries in Woodinville, WA were offering their latest releases. Among these were JM Cellars, Page Cellars, Alexandria Nicole, William Church and Woodhouse. Obviously I can only visit a few so the ones I visited were Betz Family Winery, Mark Ryan and Efeste. Why? Well, mainly because I have had these wines in the past and I’m drawn to the unique style of each of the winemakers at these places. They also have had highly-rated wines in the past so part of it is their reputation. Bob Betz is one the foremost advocates of Washington wines and his two signature wines are always great, Mark Ryan produces wines that consistently receive high marks in the press and Efeste is an up and coming winery that is doing some unique things. And finally, some of these wineries are not usually open except by appointment so release dates are generally festive and fun times to visit. These weekend releases generally lead up to the Passport to Woodinville Weekend on April 18 and 19. And unlike previous years when Passports have sold out within days of going on sale, if haven’t already bought your Passport, tickets are still available at their website.
I have already written about Efeste’s wines and the unique methods they are using for future releases, but I didn’t really say much about their current releases. Efeste released a feral 2008 Sauvignon Blanc which has wonderful grapefruit flavor and minerally nose due to the indigenous yeasts, but this white wine was overshadowed by their fabulous red wines. Most notable were the two Syrahs, the Ceidleigh and the Jolie Bouche. The 2006 Ceidleigh Syrah ($29) is produced with 100% Red Mountain fruit mostly from Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun vineyards. Because of the unique microclimate of Red Mountain, this wine has a more structured character and less fruit-forward intensity found in most other Columbia Valley Syrahs. I liked it enough to buy two bottles. The 2006 Jolie Bouche Syrah is made from 75% grapes from Dick Boushey’s vineyard and 25% from Ciel du Cheval. The cooler temperatures and longer hang times of Boushey’s fruit offers a distinctly old world elegance and depth of character with new world boldness. Not surprising that Boushey’s fruit is also found in Baer, Betz Family, Chinook, DeLille, Forgeron, Long Shadows, McCrea, Three Rivers, Widgeon Hill and Wine Glass wines. Also worth mentioning since I did buy two bottles, is the the 2006 Final Final Cab-Syrah blend.
Betz Family Winery released their Père de Famille and Clos de Betz last weekend. Attendance was by invitation only and limited to those who actually purchased wine. Both wines are Bordeaux-style blends with the Père de Famille being dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon and the Clos de Betz being more of a Merlot blend. The 2006 Clos de Betz ($44) is the fruitier and more approachable of the two with lots of blue and black fruits and hints of cocoa. The 2006 Père de Famille ($53) is a much bolder, lush wine with complex flavors of dark fruits, spice and wood. Two bottles of each came to just under $200 and make a great addition to my cellar. I could drink them now or they should keep for several more years.
Last but not least, I visited Mark Ryan Winery, spoke briefly to owner and winemaker, Mark Ryan McNeilly, and sampled several new releases including their 2007 Columbia Valley Chardonnay, 2007 Black Love Lachini Vineyard’s Pinot Noir, 2007 Dissident Red Wine blend and a barrel sample of the forthcoming 2007 Wild Eyed Red Mountain Syrah. All of these were wonderful wines, but the 2007 Dissident ($28) and the 2007 Wild Eyed ($43) both were exceptional to me and I ended up with 2 bottles/futures of each. The 2006 Wild Eyed received a Wine Spectator rating of 94, so I have high hopes for this release. A special shout-out to the folks at Mark Ryan who were grilling up the sliders. The yummy little burgers were great for those of us who didn’t get breakfast or lunch that day.
There are still several weekends before the Passport to Woodinville Weekend and many of the area wineries have events planned. Edmonds Winery releases their 2008 Gewurztraminer and DiStefano is having their Custom Magnums Event this weekend. The following weekend, March 28 and 29, Hollywood Hills is releasing their 2008 Estate Grown Pinot Noir Rose and 2008 Horse Heaven Hills Roussanne. On April 4 and 5, Matthews Estate is releasing their 2005 Matthews Red Wine. And finally, after all the Passport hoopla, DeLille Cellars is having a barrel tasting of the upcoming releases, DeLille 2007 D2 and Doyenne 2007 AIX, on April 25 and 26. More information on these events can be found on the winery’s websites.