Round Table: June ’09
May 31, 2009 by Wino
We are committed to not rating wines. That is totally up to you. However, we do want to tell you what wines taste like. Everyone has a unique set of taste buds, so how can we be objective? Group wisdom, my friends, group wisdom. The WINO Round Table is a wine symposium of sorts. We invite a diverse group of winos over to taste various wines, take studious notes, talk a lot, and then relax and finish off the rest of the wine. What we’re left with is an average of each taster’s flavor profile, and a variety of things you may pick up on when you try these wines. Have a look, and then go have a taste.
Set of four: $220, Single bottle of Coéo: $48
This Syrah delivers you to your grandmother’s kitchen with a complex nose belying homemade raspberry jam, smoke, leather, cherry menthol, tobacco, white pepper and clove. On the palate, very balanced with fruit, oak, and tannin. This is an elegant, Northern Rhone style syrah. The nuances are subtle, earthiness and spices are unique, and the balance very much plays to an old world palate. It has the mineral nature that is so common in Yakima Valley wines, and demonstrates a quiet wisdom that will get you to quit your bickering with a single look.
Instead of referring to the “nose” of this wine, the more traditional word “bouquet” is better applied. This wine has a bouquet like a Thomas Kinkaid painting, rose petals and rain-wet soil in spring along with pine needles and tree sap. Taking a step closer, it reveals layers of cherries in syrup and leather. On the palate, you get all the spice that you love in a Syrah, while the elegance persists with a light mouthfeel all the way to the exceptionally spicy finish. This has more concentration of fruit on the mid-palate through the finish with notes of nice tart cherry with a touch of vanilla. Give this bottle of wine instead of flowers. You won’t regret it.
If Syrahs were people, one from Red Mountain should keep his nose clean, because Red Mountain Syrahs are perhaps the easiest to pick out of a lineup. “Syrah Number Three, sir, I’m sure of it! I’ll never forget those big, dark eyes!” For this Red Mountain Syrah, winemaker Robert O. Smasne does a praiseworthy job of keeping it on the straight and narrow, by finding a healthy way for it to express itself. On the nose, cherry, ripe blackberry, vanilla and baking spices, along with clove, tobacco and black olives come rolling pell-mell through the olfactory. On the palate, you get a parfait of rich, pure fruit, cherry, raspberry and black pepper. Interesting texture, complete and balanced with a lasting finish of dark fruit preserves and great structure. Earthy, balanced and beefy while maintaining elegance and spice, this is a big Red Mountain Syrah with some manners.
In Latin, Coéo means “to come together” or “to form an alliance.” This Coéo Syrah does just that by blending the three single-vineyard Syrahs. It has a tight nose with hints of earth and mushroom. On the palate, the structure of Ciel du Cheval, the elegance of Minick Vineyard and the spice of Coyote Canyon are rolled together into a hybrid that is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s like when Link holds up the Tri-force (think “Legend of Zelda,” or just Google it). This has more black cherry than the other three, darker red fruits and berries, dark chocolate, roasting coffee, licorice, raisins and figs with a long finish, and it manages to combine the best characteristics of the rest like a champion breeder at the Westminster. It’s an alliance to be reckoned with.
2005 Red Wine
50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Franc
The Cab Franc really shines through on the nose of this blend with its notes of clove and tobacco. There are also layered aromas of mineral, wood, olive, red bell pepper, and a hint of cherry cough drops. With a fantastic smooth and velvety mouthfeel, it delivers rich flavors of cherry, fruit reduction, vanilla, sweet oak, black olive and caramel. It seems a little hollow at first, but opens up like a Matryoshka doll after a while revealing plum, ripe blackberry and prune. Like a Brangelina lovechild, this blend tastes just like you would hope for in a Cab Franc/Merlot hybrid.
White wines aren’t always for the weak of heart. This Gewürz has a nose tighter than Michael Jackson’s, while slightly musty and hinting at grapefruit. On the palate, though, this wine is worthy of Captain Ahab on the hunt for the Great White. It’s medium-to-full bodied and big with notes of zesty lime, tart sour cherries, candied ginger, white pears and peaches. It sports great acid balance, a nice mouth-coating texture, and an exceptional mid-palate that’s surprisingly fruit forward. It finishes with the hints of spice that we love in a Gewürz. Bigger than your average Gewürztraminer, it’s a real beefcake ready to take on any challengers.
2007 Muscat Ice
This ice wine smells like an exotic vacation poolside cocktail with tangerine, honey and a touch of fresh mint, but with the addition of a piney, woody smell that reminds you of the worn, trampled bunk houses of childhood summer camps. You are reminded of peach cobbler, the gummy orange-slice candy you used to love, and spicy candied ginger along with orange zest and clove with a touch of black pepper. At once sweet and lively while rich and voluptuous, this ice wine lacks only slightly in structure because of low acid, but makes up for it everywhere else. Technical note: While this wine comes in an elegant, svelte, graceful bottle worthy of the Glass Menagerie, be sure to have a sturdy tool set handy to get it open. It was too much for our poor wine key, and took a hammer, a flathead screwdriver and some pliers to chisel pry off the wax and gain access to the cork.
This is no ordinary Malbec. You could drink this wine for breakfast without compunction or guilt. (Well, maybe a modicum of guilt, but not much.) While a little green with hints of cherry, it smells a toasty with French bread and vanilla. On the palate, the French toast turns to blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, along with cardamom, fig and black walnut. Hints of leather, cola and red fruits follow up. This wine is elegant, smooth and balanced, and shows off its Yakima Valley fruit. Good morning, Malbec.
2006 Old Vine Cabernet
In literary analysis, you may hear mention of “flat characters” and “round characters.” The flatties are the one-dimensional characters that serve as mere placeholders in a story, while the roundies are primary characters that (if it’s a well-written story) have a depth of character that is revealed episodically throughout the narrative. If wines were a book, this Old Vine Cabernet is a protagonist in a classic. On the nose, you find olive, tobacco and sage, with notes of sherry and greens. This is a rich, chewy wine with tobacco, black cherry and mint. A Bordeaux-esque wine with ripe Washington fruit. Introducing the character to a nice Gouda cheese emphasizes the viscosity of the wine making it seem almost edible—a great juxtaposition. This wine shows a unique depth of character that you don’t typically find in a wine at this price point, revealing layer after layer of treasures like an archaeology dig in Mesopotamia.
Papa Loves Mambo (Proprietary Blend)
70% Syrah, 20% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
When you call something a “proprietary blend,” you’re claiming there is something super-distinctive about this particular concoction that you’ve mixed up in the lab (patent pending or no). The PLM delivers on that claim. On the nose, it’s gamey with cracked black pepper, green bell pepper and some earthiness, along with dark pitted fruits, tobacco and spice. It has a big, fruity attack with big structure. Not much by way of tannins, but the acid comes through in the pinch. While not the most balanced of wines, this is dangerously easy-drinking, juicy and smooth with some sweet oak, smoked bacon and black cherry. It’s a lip-smacker and a nice table wine, but the QPR is a low at $32.
Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards
2006 Cab Franc
Like the rowboat taxi told about in the story behind this winery’s name, this Cab Franc is a well-built, well-balanced vessel that will deliver you directly to the good times. The nose recalls chocolate-drenched strawberries with pepper packaged in a cigar box. Notes of cherry, mint and mineral with some tobacco, coffee and vanilla, this lush wine shows off the fruit from Wahluke slope, which boasts the highest temperatures in the state. The tannins give it a nice mouthfeel and a strong finish before the boat comes to collect you at dawn.
Des Voigne Cellars
2006 Solea Red Wine
70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc
A sniffy-sniff of Solea reveals a tight nose, but with head cocked at 45 degrees for better use of the power nostril, aromas of spice and fruit reduction come readily to the surface along with mineral components. Meaty and rugged, the wine moves to flavors of raspberry and dark cherry with black pepper. Along with a nice use of toasty oak and tanniny texture, it embodies the masculinity of Red Mountain all the way to the contented sigh of a satisfying finish.
Non-Vintage Subplot No. 23 Red Wine
30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 14% Syrah, 13% Malbec, 9% Petite Verdot, 4% Barbera, 3% Cabernet Franc
In a novel or a play, a subplot is a secondary storyline that moves along in time and under the surface of the main events. In the Subplot No. 23 Red Wine, however, an appropriate comparison could be made to Tom Stoppard’s use of two minor characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet to create an entirely independent story in the smash play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. In the same way, winemaker John Bookwalter uses wines from past vintages to create a fun new storyline that stands apart from its predecessors. True to the apparent theme of the night, the Subplot evinces cherries on the nose, but is followed up by dark fruit preserves and spice-box. Big fruit barrels in on the palate with plum, blackberry and cherry flavors, along with dark chocolate and baking spices. Good tannins and acid give it structure that will age well, a necessity for any play—er, wine—that hopes to maintain a long run on Broadway. And…scene.
Walla Walla Valley
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah
On the nose, you get the homey smell of candied yams or sweet potatoes that gives you the warm fuzzies, along with plum, charcoal and mineral notes of wet cement. At the same time, the nose is mood-alteringly bright and cheery (a welcome pick-me-up while working late into the night trying to put a magazine to bed). After a sip or two, you’re quickly struck with its clean, elegant style. Well-balanced with a sturdy backbone, it inspires you sit up in your chair and correct your posture, just short of stacking books on your head. Great mouthfeel, though a bit hot, with hints of crabapples and pie-cherries. At just twenty clams, this Claret has probably the best QPR in the bunch.
A bottle sporting tulips doesn’t prepare you for what you’re about to taste. A whiff and a swig finds you wagging your head from side to side muttering a breathy “Shazaam…” Dark garnet in the glass, this Merlot smells deep, robust, caramely, and announces the megafruit and 15.3% alcohol right away like a newsboy peddling the daily gazette. On the palate, it does not fail on that promise. Like an oak fence after the best plum fight you’ve ever been in, the wine delivers a rich, victorious mid-palate of barrel aged dark fruit. The acid profile shows up a little late in the game, but serves as the second of a one-two punch, followed up by a haymaker of tannins. This wine is like the life-of-the-party guy that says exactly what’s on his mind in no uncertain terms, intelligent and opinionated while entertaining and shocking in his politically incorrect delivery.
Everyone hopes that a sequel is as good as the original. The ’06 Merlot is like Shrek 2, bringing back the entire original cast and then some. While still a bit tight on the nose, it delivers the same flavors as its predecessor while exhibiting more balance and a sturdier structure. It shows colorful layers and nuance, and never falters from the attack to the finish. A little less showy than the ’05, this guy draws crowds by delivering those same big ideas from a place of developed equanimity. You’d never know this was a wine with 15.0% alcohol. If these two wines were the Hardy Boys, the ’06 would be the Frank to the ‘05’s Joe.