Shana Speaks Wine

Wine Journalist, Copywriter, and Marketing Consultant

Drinking out loud. 

Filtering by Tag: Syrah

Walla Walla Washington Wines, Day 2 - Afternoon Revelry

Revived after a delicious lunch, I continued my tour with a stop at Mark Ryan.  Don't be fooled by the quaint vintage scooter in the front of the shop  - this place is gunning to be badass.

 

Mark Ryan's vintage scooter.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine. 

Mark Ryan's vintage scooter.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine. 

Case in point: the Numbskull BDX, Walla Walla, 2012.  Like the skulls on the label, the wine was bone-dry (come on, you can't say you didn't see that coming), with some grippy tannins.  It was lighter in body than expected, especially given the blend, but I think this will develop more nuances as it ages. 

Mark Ryan Numbskull.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

Mark Ryan Numbskull.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

The Lost Soul wasn't available for tasting but was substituted with the Wild Eyed, Red Mountain, 2012. The 100% Syrah had a plethora of ripe berries up front but was balanced with the spice one comes to expect from a Syrah.

Mark Ryan Wild Eyed. Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

Mark Ryan Wild Eyed. Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

The Long Haul, Red Mountain, 2012, was appropriately named, as it definitely needed some aging in order to reach its fullest potential. Delicious notes of leather, tobacco and spice were already coming through on this Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot blend but these only hinted at the potential heights this wine could reach.

Mark Ryan Long Haul.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

Mark Ryan Long Haul.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

Last in the lineup was the Dead Horse, Red Mountain, 2012.  Comprised predominately of Cabernet Sauvignon, there was a surprising restraint to the fruit with leather and smoke rounding out the glass.

Mark Ryan Dead Horse.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks WIne.

Mark Ryan Dead Horse.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks WIne.

Like G. Cuneo, another winery that takes its cues from Old World regions is Rotie Cellars, which, if not apparent from the name, models itself on Rhone blends. Here, I found some shining wines that exemplify the quality wines Washington State is capable of producing. 

For whites, I was drawn to the Southern White, 2013, a Viogner/Roussanne/Marsanne blend that pranced in my mouth with honeysuckle, peach, lime and zippy acidity. 

 

Rotie Cellars Southern White, 2013.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks WIne.

Rotie Cellars Southern White, 2013.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks WIne.

Their Southern Blend, 2012, was also a standout for me.  A traditional GSM blend (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre, if you want to spell it out), the raspberry and currant fruit blended easily with the savory gaminess in this wine. It had the slight edge over their Northern Blend, 2012, a Syrah-dominant red that hinted at black fruit along with minerality, cocoa, spice and again, a certain meaty quality.  There was a freshness to the Southern Blend that made it more accessible.

Rotie Cellars Southern Blend, 2012.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

Rotie Cellars Southern Blend, 2012.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

The Swordfight, 2012, was another gem in the lineup. 50% Mourvedre/50% Syrah, my nose immediately picked up sweet baking spices, cumin and black cherry.  Sipping through, there were noticeable tannins and a bright cherry on the long finish.  I could see this really shining with some food. 

Rotie Cellars Swordfight, 2012.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

Rotie Cellars Swordfight, 2012.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

My favorite of the group though, was an unusual one:  the Dre, 2012.  Made from 100% Mourvedre, which isn't often seen, there was a spicy n' sweet tension of white pepper and cumin, along with a Luden's cough drop cherry note to it.  Sounds weird but the complexity kept revealing itself with each sip. It needed aging time, no question, but overall I found it weirdly compelling. As a side note, I so love the rebel bad-boy element on display in some of these Washington State wine names and labels. 

Rotie Cellars "Dre" 2012.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

Rotie Cellars "Dre" 2012.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

Moving on, I arrived at Maison Bleue, another winery that is making a name for itself with Rhone blends.

The Maison Bleue lineup.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine. 

The Maison Bleue lineup.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine. 

My favorite was the Liberte, Syrah, 2011. Blackberry, overripe raspberry, spice, licorice and smoked meats made this a standout Syrah. 

Maison Bleue Syrah, 2011.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

Maison Bleue Syrah, 2011.  Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine.

The final winery of the trip was Spring Valley.  While I enjoyed their extensive lineup, what stood out the most for me were the bottle labels.  Featuring vintage photos of family members, they were a a unique tribute to the history of the winery. 

 

My favorite label - isn't she sassy? Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine. 

My favorite label - isn't she sassy? Photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine. 

In general, Walla Walla is producing some great wines, marrying their unique terroir with traditional blends, offbeat single varietals, and a cornicopia of Old World Grapes.  I'm eager to see how this region develops as I see it becoming a major force in the wine industry.

 

Keep tasting, friends... 

So You Think You Know Chianti?

Pop quiz: what do you think of when you think of Chianti?

This question was posed to a random group of wine enthusiasts and answers ranged from "Meh" to "why drink that wine when there are so many other great Italian options out there?"

More famous for its straw wrapping rather than the quality of the wine, Chianti was seen as an inferior wine choice to many of Italy's other famous varietals. Chianti winemakers have worked feverishly over the past few decades to rectify their reputation and present wines that are worthy of recognition. Through stricter regulations, more advanced vineyard management techniques as well as a passion to keep traditions alive, Chianti wines are trying to be seen as serious contenders on a wine list.

While Sangiovese is still the primary grape in Chianti, blends of native and international varietals lend unique characteristics to the wines.  By allowing other grapes into the wine, unlike a Brunello, the winemaker is empowered to find a balance in technique, terroir and varietals.

At the Consorzio VIno Chianti Seminar, held in April in New York City, we tasted through a series of 2010 Riservas.  I have to admit, I was skeptical about what I would find in the glass. I favor Barolos, Barbarescos and other Piedmont treasures and am somewhat biased in my Italian wine choices. So, how did Chianti measure up?

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Wine number one, a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Trebbiano immediately showcased notes of violets and dark berries.  A peppery spice also became apparent, along with the savory notes of tomato. On the palate, essences of white flower came through as well, most likely attributed to the trebbiano.  

The international varietals used in wine number two -  Sangiovese, Merlot and Syrah -brought to mind brighter fruits such as raspberry and overall there was a sharp contrast to the indigineous blend of wine number one.  Herbaceous tones of rosemary came forth but again there was a distinctly floral essence to the wine. Overall, there was a freshness that seemed to be lacking in the first as well as a softness and roundness that was absent in the first.

Through the murmers heard throughout the audience, the third wine illicited the most positive response out of all the wines tasted. Again, it was comprised of native varietals - Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Colorino. Sweeter baking spices, such as cinnamon and cumin jumped out immediately and the berries again were of the deeper blackberry profile. On the palate, cherry was the star player, with a bit of vanilla softness. The tannins were very noticeable and the finish resonated long after the wine left the mouth. 

The fourth wine, with Colorino and Merlot supporting the Sangiovese, was aged for 24 months in Slovenian oak.  This was one of the most floral Chiantis tasted but there was a slighlty persistent sour note, hard to identify, that permeated the wine.  Soft tannnins gave this wine structure and a soft mouthfeel.

Wine number five, the only one in the lineup to solely use Sangiovese, showed obvious traits of having gone through malolactic fermentation. Bright berries, soft tannins, sweet vanilla all rolled together into a plush mouthfeel that was balanced by the high acidity common to Italian wines.  

The last wine, with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon in the mix, showcased a whole baking rack of herbaceous spices.  Deep berries and ruby fruits were largely present on the palate along with balanced, structured tannins.  

 

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 Overall, I was positively surprised by many of these wines. There was a complexity to several of these that belied their infamous reputation, as well as an obvious thoughtfulness to vinification of the grapes. Many of these can stand proud on any wine list and I'm hoping more winemakers will follow suit.