Monday, August 17, 2009

A Great Summer Afternoon on the Lawn

Friday afternoon at the winery (what a way to end the week):

Enjoying fresh watermelon from the garden...

A game of bocce...

A very serious game of bocce (the tape measure came out)...

Sipping 21 Grams...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wines of the Week - 2008 Viognier

Wines of the Week
Published July 24, 2009
The Mystery of Viognier
By Chuck Hill
Part 2 of a Series

Viognier is enigmatic. It offers peach, apricot and tropical aromas and flavors that liken it to Riesling, yet its complexity bends to more contemplative and elusive notes. Most examples have a chewy finish of white wine tannin - and, in some cases, barrel tannins - that demand food accompaniment for optimum enjoyment on the palate. While we have done our tastings with vegetarian fare, it was obvious early on that this varietal is capable of pairing with seafood, lighter meats and even charcuterie. Be bold and try our recommendations with a diverse selection of summer comestibles.

Waters Winery
2008 Viognier
Columbia Valley

It is certainly no mystery why this Viognier is a lip-smacking, fun-loving, thought-provoking delight. Founder Jason Huntley and winemaker Jamie Brown bring a rich symbiosis to the creation of each "old world" style wine that expresses the time and place of their origin. The nose intrigues with green apple and pear, complemented by honey and herbs. The palate is crisp and bracing with mineral, apple and citrus flavors.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thoroughness in the Production Area

Hi there. I'm Sean, the assistant winemaker at Waters. I needed to clean a tank today to prep it for some wine, so I threw on my red rain slicker, covered my boots with trash bags and climbed inside. Below is a better view of the tank

I cleaned and now its all ready to be loaded up with juice that will eventually be bottled to be enjoyed by you!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Overlake Golf and Country Club Wine Dinner

On Saturday, July 11th, Jason and his wife Kirschten had the pleasure of hosting a dinner in the Tasting Room for ten guests from the Overlake Golf and Country Club in Medina, WA.

Guests began the evening in the rocking chairs in the breezeway with a canape crostini with Monteillet goat cheese and local rainier cherry relish. The remainder of Chef Andrae Bopp's courses were served in the Tasting Room. Over 75% of ingredients for dinner were purchased that morning at the local farmer's market.

Chilled Arugula Veloute with Tomato Cream and Bacon Croutons
Paired with 2006 Forgotten Hills Syrah

Second Course
Local Summer Squash "Pasta" Salad with Walla Walla Sweet Onion and Local Basil
Paired with 2007 Interlude

Maple Braised Thundering Hooves Oxtail with Local Sweet Pea Risotto
Paired with 2006 21 Grams

Local Apricot Souffle
Paired with 2006 21 Grams

The evening's festivities ended at a reasonable hour, as the members had an 8am tee Sunday morning at Wine Valley Golf Club. Prior to dinner, the guests enjoyed a warm round of golf at the Walla Walla Country Club.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

2007 Single Vineyard Syrah Tasting

Jason and Sean tasting 2007 Single Vineyard Syrahs for
tasting notes for the upcoming 2009 Release Booklet.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Swordfern Wines Blind Tasting #12: Single-Vineyard Syrahs from Waters

Using the word “terroir” in mixed company can be a dangerous proposition, especially if you pronounce it with the throat-clearing French ‘r.’ My friends’ snoot alarms tend to go off when I use wine-related words that a) are French; and b) don’t have an easy translation. But there is no getting around it; terroir is an essential element of any good wine discussion, so let’s just dive into it.
The best definition I have heard for terroir is “everything outside the control of the winemaker.” Now some Frenchies include aspects of the winemaker in terroir (like yeast choice), and there is probably a French public-access TV show dedicated entirely to this debate, but for now, let’s stick with excluding all actions of the winemaker. So what does that leave us with? Soil + Climate + Topography = Terroir.

Terroir is important to Europeans. They hold expectations that their wines will show a sense of place. Those French wine labels that drive you insane; the ones with Appelation Blahbityblah Controlee in big letters and nary a mention of an actual grape varietal: those aren’t there to frustrate the American consumer (although that may be a welcome side effect). They are there because most Europeans are less interested in what’s in the bottle and more interested in where’s in the bottle.

So what the hell does this have to do with Blind Tasting #12? Well, my hope for this tasting was to explore Washington terroir, and to do so by keeping the varietal, vintage, and winemaker the same, and differing only the vineyards. Fortunately for me, Waters Winery in Walla Walla produced four single-vineyard Syrahs from 2006 grapes. And even better, they used little to no new oak when aging these wines (new oak tends to be an enemy of terroir-expression).

2006 Waters Winery Syrah Columbia Valley
Rating: 4
Of the four, this is the only one that is not labeled as a single-vineyard, but this is 100% Syrah from Minick Vineyard in the Yakima Valley.
This was the prettiest wine of the night, with a floral, citrus-infused nose that also showed hints of earth, meat, and forest. Flavors of black licorice, dark fruit, and peaches; big acid; not too much in the way of tannins; and a pleasantly spicy finish. A lovely, well-rounded wine.

2006 Waters Winery Syrah Loess Vineyard
Rating: 4
Loess (pronounced like the first three letters of “lust”) Vineyard is owned by Leonetti, one of Washington’s most renowned producers, and they don’t part with very much of their fruit.
I absolutely loved this wine; especially the nose, which evoked the life of a truffle-hunting pig, with musty aromas of mushroom, dirt, cabbage, and charcoal. Great acidity carried flavors of blueberries and meats, and there were some brawny tannins that make me think this could stand to age for a few more years.

2006 Waters Winery Syrah Forgotten Hills Vineyard
Rating: 4+
Forgotten Hills (one of Waters’ estate vineyards) is currently under the radar, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in five years, we talk about this vineyard in the same conversation with Boushey and the Cayuse estate vineyards, as one of the top Syrah vineyards in the state. This is the second Syrah I have tasted from Forgotten Hills (the first was from JLC) and both have been absolute funk factories on the nose.
On the first pass, the nose was more traditional Syrah: blackberry, black pepper, and an herbal component. But on the second pass, after a few hours open, the true colors of Forgotten Hills began to emerge: loads of bacon, olives, and cabbage. The palate had delicious, rich cherry fruit and a toasty finish.
I was tempted to give this wine a 5, because it was so, so good on my second glass. But there just wasn’t enough of it left on that second pour, so I hope to pick up another bottle to keep all to myself (okay; maybe I will share with 1 or 2 others). Hence the 4+.

2006 Waters Winery Syrah Pepper Bridge Vineyard
Rating: 3
Pepper Bridge is an old, Walla Walla warhorse vineyard first planted in 1991.
This might be getting a raw deal, because the other three were so good, but to me, the Pepper Bridge didn’t bring the same level of complexity as the other wines. The nose was the most muted of the four, with hints of candied cherry and menthol. On the palate, more cherries and some nice minerality, but this finished hot. The alcohol seemed a bit out of whack, and I would try drinking this colder if I had another bottle.

About Swordfern Wines

This site is dedicated (mostly) to the wines of Washington state. Hi. I’m Paul Zitarelli. That’s me in the picture. I’m the one that’s neither female (my wife Kelli) nor feline (our cat Smoke Bomb). I am a native of the Philadelphia area who moved to Seattle in 2004 and quickly fell in love with the burgeoning wine industry in this state.
As a 2nd-year student in the full-time MBA Program at the University of Washington, I am working on a business plan to sell Washington state wines through an e-mailing list. If you’re interested in hearing more or reserving a spot on the mailing list, please contact me.
I also work Mondays at Cellar 46 on Mercer Island, from 12-6. Stop by and get the special 0% blog-reader discount!
Swordfern Wines was inspired by a number of other sites, most notably Sean Sullivan’s Washington Wine Report, Kori Voorhees & John Sosnowy’s Wine Peeps, and Catie McIntyre Walker’s Through The Walla Walla Grape Vine.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Garagiste's Review of Waters' Syrah

An excerpt from Garagiste's January 12th email to its mailing list:

Waters #2

This winery is performing at a very high level and they are attempting to do something not only unique but quasi-revolutionary in a domestic market severely in need of quercus recalibration. If they can extract this amount of medium-weight varietal tone and terroir (without slathered new oak) then what about everyone else? A new wine for us (it was not available the first time we offered the 2006s), the 2006 Syrah has really turned out beautifully and it's getting better the longer it sits in bottle. It has rightfully been called "smokey, bloody, and laden with bacon notes" by an esteemed colleague (who shall remain nameless to protect his reputation as an astute Francophile and anti-domestic palate - the wine was served to him blind and he still hasn't forgiven me). For the investment, this has to represent one of Washington's finest cool-toned renditions of the grape.


2006 Waters Winery Syrah (Minnick Vineyard)
Wine Advocate: "The lineup of Syrah begins with the 2006 Syrah. The fruit was sourced from cool-climate sites and was aged in seasoned oak. The nose delivers aromas of smoke, blue fruits, and pepper. On the palate, it reveals an elegant personality with good grip and intensity. It should develop for another 2-3 years and drink well from 2011 to 2018. 90pts"

2006 Waters Winery Syrah "Forgotten Hills" Walla Walla Valley
Tanzer: "Good deep ruby. Expressive aromas of smoked meat and brown spices. Conveys a strong cool-climate character with its musky spices, rocky minerality and firm grip. A saline suggestion of extract contributes to the impression of density. Finishes long and aromatic. 90pts"

In case you missed the first review on our single vineyard Syrah, here it is:
An excerpt from Garagiste's October 31st email to its mailing list:


This winery is pushing the envelope and they are doing it with a yin-yang of subtlety, power and varietal freshness.

As one of the most exciting new entrants in the Northwest, Waters refuses to slather anything with 100% new oak (or new oak of any kind) and their calling card lies within the walls of the Northern Rhone. The Central Coast may get all the domestic Syrah press but this entity is going to get noticed and it's going to come in a big way - think Cornas or the southern tier of St. Joseph meets the New World and it won't take long to realize they are on to something special. The past vintages were a step in the right direction (you can read Tanzer's comments on the 2005s or the WA) but this set is going to make them stars. If nothing else, it's not everyday that Gary Figgins (Leonetti) gives his fruit away - very telling indeed...

All of these are EXTREMELY LIMITED and worth the difficult effort to obtain (at this point, they are not distributed outside of Washington State).

2006 Waters "Loess Vineyard - Leonetti Estate" Syrah
No new oak and incredible fruit from Leonetti - quickly becoming a NW cult wine....

2006 Waters "Pepper Bridge Vineyard" Syrah
No new oak again and more of a northern CdP in style - If Janasse were made from Syrah (instead of Grenache) and you mixed it with tannic, glorious levels of the very best that Pepper Bridge can dole out, it is this wine...

2006 Waters "Forgotten Hills Vineyard" Syrah
Simply fabulous - Cornas dipped in full-bore domestic Syrah with no new oak. This is going to turn heads, especially from rival winemakers...

Garagiste is a small, independently operated purveyor of wine, wisdom and esoteric tidbits of travel and culture. Our passion is for small growers/producers around the world with an artisanal and often organic approach to farming. Most of our wines are not yet available in the US and few have heard of them - if you are looking for Parker scores this is not the place. If you are looking for the best wine and underground foodstuffs in the world, this is the place. We rarely, if ever, offer domestic wine - our specialty is outside of the US. While we operate within the three tiered system and do not grey market (ever) we cannot be strong-armed, bought or talked into carrying a wine. We are a 100% independent, pro-consumer advocacy purveyor and we have gained an international respect for our frank and open discourse on topics many would rather brush under the rug. We are not very popular with other retailers, we are very popular with consumers.

Garagiste specializes in artisan, often undiscovered/unscored, biodynamic or organic wines- wines that veer toward a road less traveled. These are wines that speak of a specific place, usually have very little oak and also have high acid and lean, medium weight (even the reds) - they can be among the best, least expensive and most interesting examples/curiosities of their kind. The US market does not typically know what to do with wines such as these but that is exactly why we started Garagiste nearly a decade ago - to give the consumer another choice and another voice of reason in the wine-world - to bring the small winemaker and the consumer closer together. Our passion is our story that we tell everyday.