In anticipation of two impending forces in our lives (the coming holidays and our daughter-to-be-born sometime in February), Mrs. BRR and I decided to drop off our son with the grandparents and continue onto a quick overnight in Walla Walla. We had a great trip and, partially thanks to some recommendations on this forum (see Travel & Ent thread), we tasted some truly special wines. So, what follows is mostly my impressions and scores instead of true tasting notes.
We drove directly from the grandparent’s place near Yakima down to Milton Freewater, OR , to meet Leslie with Ellanelle Wine Company. She was pouring the one wine they produce: a Walla Walla, OR Cabernet Sauvignon at Petits Noirs, a fantastic chocolate shop downtown M.F. (Lan and James are warm hosts, and they do some fine work with chocolate!) I first tasted the 2008 while stopping in a Full Pull to pick up an order. For $35, it’s a friggin’ steal.
2009 Ellanelle Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley OR ($35)
(Served quite cold, as it was a chilly 34 when we arrived) Lovely floral topnote soaring above the currant and dusty black cherry. Quite tight and obviously in need of time. Long, palate saturating finish. Remarkably packed, but quite light nonetheless. 92 points
We then headed back North to toward Walla Walla and stopped at Waters Winery. It was so hard not to stop in wineries like Sleight of Hand, Amavi, Pepper Bridge, etc. but we had an itinerary and we were stickin’ to it.
2011 Waters Winery ‘Prelude’ Columbia Valley ($30)
(63% Roussanne, 37% Viognier) Mouthwatering aromas of peach skin and quite mineral-driven. Bright flavors of white peach, gravel, lemon. Very nice, and likely awesome with food. 90 points
2010 Waters Winery ‘Tremolo’ Walla Walla Valley ($40)
(92% Syrah, 8% Grenache) Oddly, I smell the Grenache more in this. Meaty, cranberry, and quite bright with great acidity and a pleasant tartness. 86 points
2010 Waters Winery ‘Loess’ Syrah Walla Walla Valley ($45)
(97% Syrah, 3% Viognier, co-fermented) Slightly lighter in appearance, but quite deep in flavor. A more warm-climate Syrah. Chocolate, briary red fruits. Very good. 88 points
2009 Waters Winery ‘Forgotten Hills’ Syrah Walla Walla Valley ($60)
(100% Syrah, from a block planted in 1996). Wow, knockout nose with immense spice. Long and gorgeous in the mouth with excellent balance between the deep core of great meaty/game and (again) briary blackberry and peat. 93 points
2009 Waters Winery ‘Interlude’ Columbia Valley ($30)
(55% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Petit Verdot) Merlot definitely showing through, and quite a contrast from all the Rhone varieties earlier. Herbs dominate, with cherry and spice. Good, but not for me. 85 points
2010 Waters Winery ‘Capella’ Walla Walla Valley ($40)
(60% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot – in homage to Cheval Blanc, apaprently) Slightly funky on the nose (bretty?). Red fruit, earth, leather. 88 points
2009 Waters Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley ($50)
(86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot) Great acids keep this solid cab lively. Well-structured and age-worthy. Good varietal typicity shows through – currant, tobacco. 89 points
We stopped in for a quick lunch at Graze and, while our Panini were quite good, it wasn’t remarkable. Quick jaunt out to the airport area to Buty. I love their wines, but we were the only two in the tasting room, and the man and woman pouring, after quickly describing what they were pouring, stood there and watched us taste, silently, doing nothing. It was uncomfortable. Onto the wines:
2011 Buty white Bordeaux blend ($25)
(60%Semillon, 19% Sauvignon Blanc and 21% Muscadelle) Mouthwatering acidity. Great citrus fruit to balance the acid and mineral/gravel . Just declicious. 92 points
2010? Buty Chardonnay Conner Lee Vineyard Columbia Valley ($30?)
Heavy slate / chalk note on both the nose and the palate. Decent fruit, but nothing I haven’t had before, honestly. Well-made, but unexciting. 86 points
2009 Columbia Rediviva Horse Heaven Hills ($40?)
(Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah) Deep, dark and beautifully extracted. Dark fruit compote, but not heavy or gloppy in the least. Powerful yet suave. 93 points
2009 Rediviva of the Stones Walla Walla Valley
(Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon) Sappy fruits, pepper. Great fruit and a long finish. Not terribly complex. 90 points
Mrs. BRR, being pregnant (and being quite a sport at this point) decided to rest and I headed over to Gramercy. The tasting room just West of downtown is a place I could’ve stayed for a long time since the black leather sofas were surrounding a large flatscreen on which the Alabama/Texas A&M? game. Talk about a man cave! I was a little disappointed by the choice of wines being poured, but they were very good nonetheless.
2009 Gramercy Cellars ‘Inigo Montoya’ Tempranillo Walla Walla Valley ($42)
(97% Tempranillo, 3% Syrah) Leather, briary raspberry and peppery red cherry. Extracted. Probably the best domestic Tempranillo I’ve ever had (though the sample size is small). 91 points
2010 Gramercy Cellars Syrah Walla Walla Valley ($55)
Great varietal character with smoked meat, black fruit. Pepper, spice and leather. Great depth. 90 points
2010 Gramercy Cellars ‘The Third Man’ Columbia Valley ($50)
(80% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, 5% Syrah) Very juicy style, and absolutely delicious. Very well-fruited, and larger-scaled than some GSMs I’ve had. Long, bright finish. 93 points
2009 Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley ($50)
(77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, 9% Merlot) Currant, mint, minerals, all with exceptional balance (and I looked, only 14.2% alcohol). Tobacco. Very good Cab. 92 points
I had to stop by one of the pioneers of the Walla Walla Valley: Seven Hills. They’ve been so consistently great, and I missed them on my last trip. Also, good prices relatively to the rest of the Valley, too.
2011 Seven Hills Winery Viognier Columbia Valley ($20)
A more fruit-forward, luscious interpretation of the variety. Peach, apricot, lychee – just a good ol’ mouthful of fruit and a nice acid balance. I love it, but fans of a traditional Rhone-style Viognier won’t be fans. 90 points
2010 Seven Hills Winery Riesling Columbia Valley ($15)
Petrol-laced pear and peach. A funny off-note. Sweet-ish. 82 points
2010 Seven Hills Winery Merlot Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley ($30)
Always one of the best QPR Merlots in Washignton, if not the country, in my opinion. Just a great nose full of red cherry, earth. This ages very well, too, as I had a 2000 a few years ago that was absolutely dynamite. 93 points
2010 Seven Hills Winery Carmenere Walla Walla Valley ($30)
A unique wine for Washington. Warm, round, plump, easy to drink. 86 points
2010 Seven Hills Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley ($45)
Brawny, big and muscular, with nice blackberry, olive and currant notes with an underpinning of mineral. Well-structured and needs time. 92 points
I was thoroughly wine-d out, so we lounged in our enormous room at the Walla Faces Inn. These are six lovely suites right on Main Street above Walla Faces’ tasting room. Highly recommended. After asking at three tasting rooms, remarkably, there was a very luke-warm response to The Marc, where were intending to eat dinner. So, we went to Brasserie Four instead. It was good, but not excellent. I had a very good vichyssoise to start, and braised lamb shank. Mrs. BRR had a fennel and beet salad followed by what she said was an excellent Beef Bourguignon. Sunday morning, however, we had what I considered the best meal of our weekend: breakfast at Bacon and Eggs. We’ll definitely go back next time.
The highlight tasting of the weekend, perhaps not surprisingly, was the appointment graciously scheduled with Billo at Rasa Vineyards. All I can say is that Board-O was right: I was amazed. Every single wine was exceptional, and Billo has quite a story to tell.
2010 PB Wines Cabernet Franc ($29)
What a nose. A mélange of dark fruit, plum, Crhsitmas spice and minerals. Zero trace of alcohol. Long, detailed finish. 92 points
2009 Rasa Vineards QED ($50)
(71% Syrah, 14 Grenache, 12% Mourvedre, 1% Viognier) I was amazed when Billo told us how many blind trials go into deciding on the final blend for QED. Darker profile than so many GSMs, but not so much that it isn’t clearly a GSM. Floral, spicy, so dense, but still light. 91 points
2009 Rasa Vineyards Principia Reserve Syrah ($85)
(100% Syrah) Very dark. Brooding, highly complex nose. Rocks, spices, black raspberry, light soy, meat, and an undeniable streak of mineral under everything. Huge in the mouth with great lift. Inner-mouth energy. 94 points
2009 Rasa Vineyards ‘Plus One’ Cabernet Sauvignon Kiona Vineyards Red Mountain ($75)
(their first single-vineyard Cab) An exceptional effort from this vineyard. Very clearly a Cab, with currant, anise, blackberry. Very fine yet stiff tannins. So deep and broad. 94 points
2009 Rasa Vineyards ‘Creative Impulse’ DuBrul Vineyards ($95)
(71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot) One of the most memorable wines I’ve had in quite awhile. Power, but still so elegant. Wow, what a mouthful! Textbook DuBrul nose of olive/tobacco currant jam. Effortlessly long and pure. Wow. 97 points
2009 Rasa Vineyards ‘In Order to Form a More Perfect Union’ ($95)
(41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc) Slightly more subdued nose than the prior wine. Black cherry, slight cedar, blackberry, sappy, juicy. Bright and complex. 93 points
2011 Rasa Vineyards ‘Composer’ Riesling ($30)
Easily the finest WA Riesling I’ve had. His equivalent of a Kabinett. Close your eyes, and you’re sipping something from the Mosel. Very light color. Minerally, with apricot, white peach, jasmine. Such a great, complex nose. Pear spice on the very bright, dry palate. 93 points
2011 Rasa Vineyards ‘Lyricist’ Riesling ($30)
An Auslese equivalent. Orange and peach, sweet, and not at all cloying. 88 points
Finally, another appointment at Rotie Cellars. Excellent, unique wines.
2011 Rotie Cellars Northern White Washington State ($28)
(100% Marsanne) I think Maison Bleue sets the bar for this variety in WA. But this is pretty darn good. Very dry, very austere, but minerally (yes, again) white peach. 87 points
2010 Rotie Cellars Southern Blend Washington State ($40)
(75% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre) Very light color. Christmas spices (think clove, cinnamon), cranberry, rhubarb. Long finish – likely great with food. 89 points
2010 Rotie Cellars Northern Blend ($40)
(95% Syrah, 5% Viognier – their Cote Rotie look-alike) 1/3 stem inclusion. Game, mushroom, bright red, juicy fruit. Herbs, but just a touch. 91 points
2010 Rotie Cellars Homage Washington State ($60)
(70% Mourvedre, 20% Cinsault, 10% Grenache – their Chateauneuf du Pape) Wow, great aromas. Deep plum spice cake, brightly lit by nice acids. Again, long, finely tannic finish. 92 points
We had a great time and tasted some great wines. The overall quality (and, unfortunately, but understandably, the prices) was very high.
Nice notes. Rasa was the highlight for us, followed by Leonetti and Gramercy.
Just one more sip.
Great notes, BRR!
Be careful coming back over the pass.
"People in Seattle are always so polite, which makes me feel like I always have to be polite, as well. That's so rude."
Yeah, we stopped back by my folks and stayed for a few hours and had dinner. Little did we know, it had started snowing. It snowed, hard, all the way from Yakima almost to North Bend. My wife was following the pass report on her phone and they closed I-90 Westbound about 10 minuted behind us! It was pretty bad - thank goodnes for all wheel drive.
Sounds like you were on a mission with this trip. I really liked the wines I tasted at Rotie last year.
"One barrel of wine can work more miracles than a church full of saints." - Italian proverb.
I was indeed on a mission!
All of the wines at Rotie were good, and I'm certainly excited to taste them again in a non-winery setting. I think that, out of all the wines I tasted, their lineup seems to be the most food-friendly of the bunch.
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