By Chuck Hill
CHUCK'S CURRENT CHUCK'S CURRENT EARLIER REVIEWS
Wines of the Week Archive
Petit Verdot is a late-ripening, inky dark grape whose origins are cloudy, but it probably came north to France with the Romans. When fully ripened (which doesn’t happen every year in Bordeaux), it makes a deeply colored, tannic red wine that is often added to Bordeaux blends for color and to stiffen the mid palate. It tends to be a magnet for oak-based aromas and flavors when aged in new barrels. Modern viticulture and winemaking techniques often work wonders making Petit Verdot a standout.
With the season of deep and dark red wines coming on strong, I must mention the necessity of decanting and aerating the younger and more intense wines. A splashing pour into a decanter can be followed by returning the wine to the bottle using a funnel. Allow a further half hour of resting before enjoying a much more lively wine at your table.
Browne Family Vineyards
Owner Andrew Browne dedicates each varietal bottling of his Browne Family Vineyards to a member of his family. The Petit Verdot is “a tribute to my sister, Katie.” Winemaker John Freeman took the Petit Verdot by the horns in this warm vintage and tamed it with 70% whole-berry fermentation and lots of new French oak (50%) during aging. The resulting wine offers aromas and flavors of dark fruits, caramel, toasty cedar and hints of tar and coffee.
The crew at Tamarack Cellars in Walla Walla’s airport district produces excellent wine in small quantities that impress both consumers and wine critics for quality and value. Ron Coleman’s rich and earthy Petit Verdot offers aromas and flavors of dark plum, blueberry and cranberry with notes of tobacco, black pepper and spice.
Luke Bradford founded Cor Cellars in 2004 in Washington’s Columbia Gorge, and now operates the winery with his wife Meg Gilbert and their daughter Liv. He crafted his Petit Verdot from grapes grown in the Horse Heaven Hills at McKinley Springs Vineyard. My tasters rated it near the top for its bright notes of dried cherry and plum, spicy herbs and long, fruity finish.
Helix by Chuck Reininger has grown into its own popular brand that explores the potential of grapes grown in the vast Columbia Valley outside the home area of Walla Walla. Wines labeled Reininger are sourced from the Walla Walla AVA. This powerful Petit Verdot from the warm Wahluke Slope AVA offers intense aromas and flavors of blackberry and plum with sweet hints of balsamic, lavender and floral notes.
Columbia Crest winery is at the eastern edge of Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA, but the grapes for this exceptional wine came from Beverly Vineyard at Sentinal Gap just west of the Wahluke Slope growing area. The wine is ripe and juicy, showing aromas and flavors of blueberry, boysenberry and currant with notes of cedar, vanilla and caramel. The wine benefits from aeration and is a superb accompaniment to meats from the grill or elegant roasts of beef or lamb.
Canoe Ridge Vineyard
This wine is part of Canoe Ridge Vineyard’s winery exclusive program featuring selections that are only available at the winery tasting room, just west of downtown Walla Walla in the historic trolley engine house facility. Look for ripe blackberry and blueberry with toasty cedar, spice and hints of caramel and coconut – great for churrasco flank steak with chimichurri sauce.
Mike Thiede is a scientist by training and a farmer by choice. Mike and Lois Thiede cultivated orchards on the Wahluke Slope and, with the coming of Washington’s wine industry, added 35 acres of vineyards, eventually naming their Ginkgo Forest Winery after the nearby petrified-wood forest at Vantage. Mike’s Malbec offers aromas and flavors of blackberry, plum, toasty oak and notes of floral perfume and caramel.
Walla Walla Vintners
Gordy Venneri leads the Walla Walla Vintners crew in sourcing the best grapes in the Walla Walla and Columbia Valleys to craft superb wines for the winery’s eager customers. He leans on his Italian heritage to recommend a Florentine style T-bone or Porterhouse steak with this powerful Malbec. My tasters found blueberry and cassis within a cocoon of toasty oak, dried herbs, and hints of pepper and olives.
DeLille Cellars in Woodinville, Washington is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year – congratulations! This rich and flavorful Malbec comes from the venerable Red Willow Vineyard at the west end of the Yakima Valley. Aromas and flavors of plum, cherry and raspberry mingle with dark chocolate, earthy mineral and olive, with perfect balance and structure – a real treat!
“The inspiration for Nine Hats came from the nine internationally acclaimed winemakers who contribute their time and talents to develop the wines of Long Shadows Vintners.” In house Director of Winemaking Gilles Nicault worked with his team of winemakers to craft this tasty Malbec that offers aromas and flavors of blackberry and dark cherry with notes of baking spice and earthy mineral.
As mentioned above under the Helix listing, Chuck Reininger’s eponymous label is used for wines crafted from fruit grown in the Walla Walla Valley AVA. This Malbec from the renowned Pepper Bridge Vineyard offers dark fruits of plum, blackberry and cherry with spicy notes of pepper and dried herb. The finish adds vanilla and toasty caramel braced by a core of earthy mineral.
Wines from other areas
In 1981, Susana Balbo became the first woman in Argentina to earn a degree in enology. She worked as winemaker and consultant for almost two decades at wineries in Argentina and around the world before founding her own winery in 1999. Her Signature Malbec is a ripe and rich wine showing blackberries, plum and pepper with notes of floral perfume, barrel spice and mineral.
Santa Julia wines are named after Josť Zuccardi’s daughter Julia, honoring the family winemaking traditions begun more than 50 years ago. The family’s vineyards in the foothills in the Andes are at elevations above 3,000 feet, higher than any planting in North America. Look for aromas and flavors of dark cherry, plum and blackberry with notes of toasty vanilla, cocoa and earthy tobacco.
Susana Balbo’s line of Crios wines is aimed at the younger market with lighter, fresh versions of the popular varieties grown in the Mendoza province. This 100% Malbec Rosť from the Uco Valley offers a deep rose color and bright aromas of cherry and strawberry. The palate shows flavors of red cherry, raspberry and mineral with a finish of tangy acidity that balances the fruit-forward nature of the wine.
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