Charles Smith’s Wine Journey:
“Growing up just outside of Sacramento, California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Charles Smith began craving worldly travel at a young age due to his Welsh mother and French father. As soon as he had the chance, Charles decided to move to Denmark (for a “hot piece of a**” i.e. a lady friend he met in the states). While in Scandinavia, Charles spent the next nine years managing rock bands and concert tours throughout Europe, including the famed Danish duo, The Ravonettes. Wining and dining while on the road became a catalyst for his passion of wine, which ultimately triggered the career he has today.
In 1999, he moved back to the United States, specifically to the Pacific Northwest, opening a wine shop on Bainbridge Island, just across the Puget Sound from downtown Seattle. On a road trip in late 1999, he passed through the small town of Walla Walla and met a young Frenchman and winemaker. The two men discovered their common passion for great Syrah and Charles was eventually convinced to move to Walla Walla and make his own juice. In 2001, Charles released 330 cases of his first wine, the 1999 K Syrah. The Walla Walla Valley was now his home.
After a devastating freeze in 2004, Charles brought to life a label he had once in a dream: House Wine. Low and behold, the label concept had never been created or trademarked, so Charles launched the legendary brand before selling it to Precept Brands in 2006. That same year, Charles started a second brand, Charles Smith Wines. The brand was themed as “The Modernist Project,” which focuses on the way people generally consume wine today: immediately. The intent was (and still is) to create wines to be enjoyed now, but with true typicity of both the varietal and the vineyard.
A self-taught winemaker, Charles is a true artisan and a pioneer in the wine world. In 2008, K Vintners was recognized by Wine & Spirits magazine as one of the “Best New Wineries of the Last Ten Years,” and as “Winery of the Year” in their annual buying guide. In 2009 Food & Wine magazine awarded Charles “Winemaker of the Year” and in 2010 Seattle Magazine recognized Charles as their “Winemaker of the Year.””
From Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate:
“In the top tier of producers in Washington State, wild man Charles Smith fashions singular, exotic wines that never lack for richness or texture. While his wines can push the limits in some vintages and be slightly controversial, there’s nothing controversial or over the top with these 2010s and 2011s and they have beautiful purity of fruit, clean, integrated acid profiles and solid underlying structure. In almost all cases, given the quality, they represent incredible values. While this was a slight marathon tasting, when the wines are this good, it’s always easy to keep your motivation. Focusing on low-yields in the vineyards, the winemaking here is straight-forward with almost all of the wines seeing some whole cluster fermentation, time on lees and aging primarily in neutral French oak.”
Wines for the tasting include:
Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2012– Evergreen Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington (90 points Wine Advocate). “This wine kicks ass with tons of complexity, showing notes of white peach, Linden leaves and slate. Lovely focused acidity, finishing very long with mandarin orange and lots of minerality.”- Charles Smith. Pair with spicy Thai dishes or grilled seafood.
Jen’s note- Floral nose/bright and approachable. Apricot/tangerine. Minimal sweetness. Good* with green apple on finish. $12.99
Eve Chardonnay 2012– Ancient Lakes, Columbia Valley, Washington. Vineyards: Evergeen, Ancient Lakes, Ryan Patrick, Roza Hill. “This is really good. Pure, focused, with great balance. Layers of tangerine, Asian pear, apple blossoms and minerals. The finish is long and so satisfying.” —Charles Smith. Pair with buttery crab bread pudding.
Jen’s note- Green apple/subtle nose- pear and orchard fruit undertones. Dry entry- no oak, some malolactic. Crisp/refreshing. Good. $12.99
The Velvet Devil Merlot 2011– Columbia Valley, Washington. Vineyards: Upland, Milbrandt, Art Den Hoed, Roza Hill, Purple Sage. 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. “Classic Merlot aromas of dark cherries, cedar, pipe tobacco. Anise, stone and cherry blossoms. Yeah, believe it! Super smooth….a true Velvet Devil.”- Charles Smith. Pair with beef Bourguignon or roast duck.
Jen’s note- Pretty dark purple color. Deep/ripe berry fruits- berry pie. Juicy and full. Spicy/friendly. $12.99
Boom Boom Syrah 2012– Columbia Valley, Washington. Vineyard: Milbrandt’s Arete Art Den Hoed. 97% Syrah, 3% Viognier. “Aromas of fresh picked herbs and wet earth. Rich black cherry and tobacco are followed by hints of lavender on the finish. An explosive dark cherry bomb!”- Charles Smith. Pair with roasted leg of lamb with rosemary or dark cherries.
Jen’s note- 3% Viognier. Deeper nose- black and blue fruits with chocolate/coffee notes/candied fruit. Tart fruit/young, will settle. $16.99
Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon 2011– Columbia Valley, Washington. Vineyards: Northridge, Milbrandt, Upland, Purple Sage, Art Den Hoed. “Classy and refined, it’s just damn amazing. Casiss, pencil lead, fresh herb and crushed granite.It is satin smooth and elegant, further defined with a super long finish.”- Charles Smith. Pair with Herb crusted lamb, pasta with roasted tomato sauce.
Jen’s note- Plummy/deep nose- dark fruit and spice/cedar. Sweet plum notes- friendly/approachable. $18.99