Washington State and California

This week we will try three wines from Washington State and three from California. The producers are all very well-known, additionally, some that we have worked with for many years, that provide consistent wines of quality; they include Pine Ridge Vineyards, Waterbrook Winery, Hess Family “Artezin”, Owen Roe Winery, and Orin Swift Cellars. Four of the wines are quite reasonably priced, $12.99-$13.99; while two of them, the Owen Roe Syrah and Orin Swift Red Blend, are a bit higher than the usual tasting price ($24.99 and $28.99), but delicious wines that deserve some attention.

Pine Ridge Vineyards was established in 1978, and today owns 225 acres of estate vineyards across five appellations in the Napa Valley. Their first vineyard was planted in the Stags Leap District, where today the winery sits along the historic Silverado Trail. Their winery was founded on the principles that a sense of place, balance, and meticulous craftsmanship create the best, most complex wines. For the tasting we will try the Chenin Blanc/Viognier blend, a refreshing and lively white that is $13.99.

Waterbrook Winery was founded in 1984, the fourth founding winery in the appellation, in the heart of Walla Walla, Washington. They source much of their fruit from premium vineyards and growers in the Columbia Valley, and are known for approachable, food-friendly wines of value that are varietally-correct. At this week’s tasting, we will sample two from their value tier, the Reserve Chardonnay and Rose of Sangiovese, both $12.99.

Artezin, part of the Hess Family of wines, is a Zinfandel-centric producer that works with growers in areas that are renowned for growing the expressive, richly-flavored grape; Amador and Mendocino Counties, and the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma. Their goal is to create graceful, lively wines of origin that express true varietal character (vibrant fruit, spice, pepper and jam flavors), mouth-filling, balanced Zinfandels. This week we will try the Mendocino County, which just received 90 points in Wine Spectator and “Smart Buys” designation, that will be $13.99 for the tasting.

Owen Roe’s founder and winemaker David O’Reilly was one of 12 children born in Ireland. He appreciates hard-work and the challenges presented by growing grapes and making wine. The first vintage of Owen Roe was 1999, and ever since their goal has been to produce wines with acidity and balance from superior sites in the Pacific Northwest. All of their grapes are hand-harvested, handled with minimal processing, small-lot fermented, and aged in French oak barrels. They employ as natural practices as possible in the vineyards. The Ex Umbris Syrah will be featured Thursday night, a wine that expresses great complexity, and is made in small-lots, generally selling out very quickly from vintage to vintage; it will be $24.99 for the tasting.

Orin Swift Cellars was founded by Dave Phinney, who “cut his teeth” working for the Robert Mondavi Winery. Although he started making wine (his first was Zinfandel) in the early 2000s, in the last few years his winery has gained recognition and his sales have started to soar. “The Prisoner” was his best-known label (he no longer owns it, but still consults on the project), although the demand for his other wines such as “Papillon,” “Mercury Head,” and “Abstract” continue to grow. Abstract is a bold red blend, predominantly made from Grenache with Petite Sirah and Syrah, that’s a real mouthful of fruit, and at 15.7% alcohol, it will certainly “warm you up.” It will be $28.99 for the tasting.

Delicious hors d’oeuvres provided by Peter Schmidt (Food and Beverage Director) and the Hotel Capstone (on the University of Alabama campus) will accompany the selection of wines. We hope you will join us to sample a tasty variety from California and Washington State!

The specific wines for the tasting are:

Pine Ridge Vineyards Chenin Blanc/Viognier 2011– California. A blend of 79% Chenin Blanc and 21% Viognier. The Chenin Blanc is sourced from the Clarksburg appellation in the Sacramento River Delta, while the Viognier comes from Lodi. The final blend aged in stainless steel. A fruity bouquet of fresh peach, green apple, pear and citrus fruit, and suggestions of jasmine flowers greets the nose. The palate is flavorful and lively with juicy fruit flavors, bright acidity, and a supple texture. Versatile, approachable, and food-friendly, this lively white will pair with a variety of foods. Tasting $13.99

Waterbrook Chardonnay Reserve 2010– Columbia Valley, Washington. Sourced from Canyon Ranch, Willard, Oasis, W&J, and Dionysis Vinyards. A blend of 95% Chardonnay and 5% Viognier; 69% fermented in barrel (21% new) and 31% in stainless steel tank, then aged for 12 months in tank and 5 months in stainless steel prior to bottling. Its fragrant, toasty nose offers oak, spice and vanilla scents with perfumed tropical fruits and citrus undertones. It is soft and rich on the palate with balanced acidity and a long, finish of citrus fruit with spicy, toasted note flavors that linger gently. An excellent value. Tasting $12.99

Waterbrook Sangiovese Rose 2011– Columbia Valley, Washington. 100% Sangiovese from Oasis and Canyon Ranch Vineyards, that aged in stainless steel for 3 months. Pretty hot pink in color with baby pink edges. Its mild, yet fruity nose offers scents of watermelon, pink roses, and strawberry. On the attack, juicy, tart and tangy berry fruits are abundant with citrus (pink grapefruit, lemonade) suggestions that carry into the bright, acidic, refreshing finish. Tasting $12.99

Hess Family Artezin Zinfandel 2010– Mendocino County, California. 89% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah, 1% Carignan that aged in second- and third-use French oak. A fruit-forward style with ripe berry fruit aromas with spices of black pepper, cloves and nutmeg. Lush, mouth-filling flavors of berry jam and baking spices are followed by a long, soft finish. 90 points Wine Spectator, Smart Buys– “A zesty Zinfandel that’s loaded with spice, offering aromas of dark cherry and licorice that lead to lively plum, toasty sage and anise flavors. Finishes with ripe, briary tannins. Drink now through 2017.” Tasting $13.99

Owen Roe Ex Umbris Syrah 2010– Columbia Valley, Washington. ‘Ex Umbris’ is Latin for ‘out of the shadows’. This signature Syrah gives-off dark, depthful scents of spice, smoky black and blue-berry fruits, and cracked black pepper. Dry and full-bodied on the palate, it offers textured fruit flavors, with spice and notes of cola and minerals. Bright acidity and firm tannins provide complexity and length, while hints of smoked bacon, cherry, and tobacco are present on the long finish. Ready to drink now (with an hour or two of decanting!), or will cellar nicely and improve with age. Tasting $24.99

Orin Swift Cellars Abstract 2010– Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties, California. A blend of Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Syrah, primarily from hillside vineyards. The cuvee, mosty comprised of Grenache, aged for 10 months in new and seasoned French oak. Its ripe, hot (15.7% ABV!), perfumed nose of spiced oak, black fruits, and red cherry. It is mouth-coating, full-bodied and very complex on the palate with bold berry fruit flavors, and pepper/spice, followed by a lengthy, sweet-fruit finish of juicy cherry and strawberry. (2009 = 92 Wine Spectator.) Tasting $28.99

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