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Isenhower Cellars Wines

2009 April 26


Yesterday was actually a very busy day for Sheri and me. We started off the day with a scare that our storage unit may have been one of those burned up or smoke damaged by a big fire last Thursday at our storage place in Edmonds. Luckily all our camping equipment and all my winemaking equipment was untouched. After stressing over that, we thought it would be nice to walk down to our local wine merchant, Arista Cellars, and meet Brett Isenhower from Isenhower Cellars located in Walla Walla, Washington. A pleasant personable guy, Brett is obviously passionate about his wine. He was pouring and dicussing his latest releases including:

  • 2008 White Paintbrush Roussanne, Columbia Valley
  • 2007 The Last Straw Red Wine, Columbia Valley
  • 2007 Cabernet Franc, Weinbau Vineyard, Columbia Valley
  • 2007 Merlot, Columbia Valley
  • 2006 River Beauty Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills
  • 2006 Batchelor’s Button Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley

I found the Roussanne quite interesting. Brett said that since the Roussanne grape isn’t normally that acidic, there was no secondary malolactic fermentation of this wine and no oak. It had subtle aromas of honey and apricot and a rich mouthfeel with a very pleasant crisp clean taste different from the typical Sauv Blancs and Pinot Gris. It had a lingering minerally finish of graphite and limestone with low acidity. ($15)

2007 Isenhower Cab FrancThe Last Straw is a blend of 7 different varietals with a dark garnet color, loads of red fruit, full-bodied with a long finish and firm tannins. ($18) It probably had more complexity than the puny little glasses would allow me to experience, but it might also have been me rushing to get to the stuff I really wanted to taste.

I liked the Cabernet Franc with its ruby color and lighter body. It had none of that typical green pepper smell but more ripe cherry and spice on the palate and a long steely finish. I bought a bottle for just $20 and it will be interesting to compare this with some of the other Cab Francs I’ve collected recently.

First off, I’ll admit that I’m not a big Merlot fan because too many are just fruit bombs, so I didn’t even bother to take notes. That’s a shame because the Isenhower Merlot did have a lot more than just fruit going for it. I wouldn’t turn it down, nor would I rush out and buy a bottle either. For a Merlot, it was better than what I expected. ($20)

2006 Isenhower SyrahThe Syrah for me was almost a foregone conclusion. There’s almost no Syrah made with fruit from Horse Heaven Hills that I don’t like and the Isenhower Syrah is no exception. Dark purple in color, it was initially a little closed but eventually revealed blueberry, white pepper and faint lavendar aromas. On the palette I got blackberry and smoke with a medium finish and firm tannins. Both Sheri and I liked this Syrah and I also bought a bottle of this one for $28.

The final taste was the Cabernet Sauvignon blended with 10% Merlot. It had a medium garnet color and a fragrant nose of cedar and cherry. For $30, this wine was amazingly complex with flavors of blackberry, tobacco, black olive and cocoa and smooth medium finish. If not for the fact that my cellar is already overflowing with too many big Cabs, I would have purchased this wine also.

Many of Brett’s wines occupy that $15 – 30 range that is increasingly popular in this new economy. His wines have a great quality to price ratio that so many of us are looking for. Give them a try and support Washington wineries. Thanks to David Arista for reminding me to drop by on Saturday and for hosting these tasting events.

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