Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fiftieth Post, a Recap of the Bus Tour From Walla Walla

Three wineries, five hours, one hangover, fifteen wine bloggers, some delicious wines, free lunch, and the U.S.A. losing to Ghana in the World Cup.

So describes Saturday, June 26 of this year. After an epic Friday, all most of us Wine Bloggers Conference attendees were up early to go on bus tours of local wineries. There were 15 buses and 15 bloggers per bus. Regrettably I do not recall my bus number. We started the morning attempting to go to Cougar Crest, then we got lost, then backtracked, and finally did find the winery.

Here you see winemaker Debbie Hansen unloading in the midst of Cougar Crest's vineyards
The wines poured were:

2007 Viognier - Light straw color, great florals and hints of apricot on the nose. Lively acidity, very palate friendly. It was a nice way to start the day's tasting. $20 per bottle. B

 2008 Grenache Rose - Lovely salmon color, smelled like flowers and strawberries. Dry, clean fruit and a nice finish. Very food-friendly.
$18 per bottle. B

2007 Cabernet Franc - My first experience with a Cab Franc from Washington. 76% Cabernet Franc, 15% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec.
Garnet in color with cherry, earth and mocha on the nose. Smooth, chalky mild palate that reminded me of fresh berry pie. Hints of spice..cinnamon across the finish. I liked it!
$36 per bottle. B+

After an informative but relaxing time walking around Cougar Crest Winery and tasting their delicious wines, our next top was Skylite Cellars. Their Syrahs made such an impression that I actually did an entire blog entry devoted to their wines and those of Robert O. Smasne.

You can find that entry here, along with descriptions of the wines I tasted and why I loved them so much. While not as big as Pepper Bridge, Skylite Cellars was incredibly cool and really gave the feel of being a small production winery with a specific focus.

One wine I do want to mention is the 2007 Riverhaven Cellars Syrah. Another small production (150 cases) wine from a relatively new producer. Dana Dibble of River Rock Vineyards produced this wonderful Syrah and was kind enough to pour it for us bloggers.

Dark ruby in the glass, a great nose of dark cherry and vanilla. Blackberries and hints of fig go with smooth tannins and a smoky finish.
$28 per bottle. B+

Finally the last stop was out at Pepper Bridge where we had our lunch and I took some of my favorite pictures of the afternoon. This was the one winery I was somewhat familiar with, having looked into some of the history of Washington wineries before I left on my trip.

The winemaker, Jen-Francoise Pellet spent a great deal of time explaining the sustainable viticulture practices at Pepper Bridge. You can't help but admire a winery so dedicated to making great wine but also taking care of the environment.

The wines poured were:

2009 Amavi Semillon - I found this wonderfully light and refreshing. 86% Semillon, 14% Sauvignon Blanc. It was at once ripe with notes of lychee and pear, and balanced with a deft touch of acidity. $20 SRP. B
2007 Pepper Bridge Seven Hills Vineyard - 52% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc. Great coloration, very ripe notes of red and black fruit. Grippy tannins and a streak of earthy richness that carried through to the finish. $ N/A. B+

2007 Pepper Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon - 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot. I loved the nose, it was reminiscent of cocoa powder-wrapped blackberries. A slight touch of heat tickled my nostrils. On the palate the wine was very strong, brawny even. The tannins hit fast and hard but devolved quickly into a fleshy mid-palate. I suspect this wine would be better after 2011. $ N/A. B-

2007 Pepper Bridge Vineyard - 48% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot. Smelling of ripe, non-threatening fruit up front, I was reminded of a summer fruit bowl with a dollop of vanilla cream on top. On the palate unfortunately, I felt the tannins up front too much, at the expense of the other elements. My notes show a nice depth of flavor with riper fruit and spice through the mid-palate. The finish was somewhat disjointed, leaving me wishing for a more elegant effect. $ N/A. B

Wrapping this up, we all piled back into the bus, hangovers gone, needing more wine. Luckily there was a wine dinner coming up that night, along with lots of other ridiculously fun things. As I keep saying, the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference was epic. I want to thank all three wineries for taking the time to pour their wines and share their passions with us bloggers. I had a wonderful time at all three places and was happy to expand my knowledge of Washington wine.

Beau Carufel

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