I don’t know how this happened, but I haven’t participated in Wine Blogging Wednesday since #7. I decided I should make up for some lost time by tasting two wines for #12, the theme of which is “drink local”.
I wasn’t sure how I would pick the closest. I am lucky enough to live just a couple of miles from Woodinville, WA, where a number of wineries have set up shop. Granted, you’ll mostly only find vanity vineyards there, as most of the grapes are grown in Eastern Washington, but I don’t think there are vineyards any closer. The tricky part was figuring out which Woodinville winery was closest.
In the end, I went with what was available. I didn’t want to get wine from Chateau Ste. Michelle or Columbia, because although that would be holding to the letter of the theme, it wouldn’t really be keeping with the spirit of it. I wouldn’t be discovering anything new.
I was a little cautious about what I might find though. A few weeks ago, P.’s parents were visiting, and we took them around to some of the Woodinville tasting rooms. At every tasting, they said, this is pretty good wine! And we said, eh, it’s OK. And then we took them to Chateau Ste. Michelle, where we picked up our wine club selections and tasted them, and they said, oh, this is much, much better. I know that mass-produced wine that is meant to appeal to the widest possible audience tends to be uninteresting and unappetizing, but mostly Chateau Ste. Michelle knows how to create quality wines, especially in their single-vineyards and limited editions.
In any case, I stopped by my local wine shop and asked about Woodinville wines. They had eight or so brands represented, and not a Columbia or Chateau Ste. Michelle to be found. I appreciated that, since you can get those wines in any grocery store in town. The little guys need some help.
Choosing a wine was a little tricky. I wanted a white and a red. The wine shop only had two whites, and both were Sauvignon Blanc. One was from the generic “Columbia Valley”, which basically means “grapes found throughout Washington, in one place or another”. The other was from a single vineyard in Red Mountain. I find many Sauvignon Blancs to be a bit bland, but I was willing to give it a shot. As for reds, he suggested a Cab blend and I asked about tannins. He admitted that yes, the wine would be a bit better if I laid it down for a few years. Huh. I explained that I needed to drink it a bit sooner than that. He said that my best bet from what he had available was a Claret.
The fifth vintage of this special wine from what many consider to be Washingtonâ€™s premier vineyard (one of the 25 best vineyards in the world according to Wine & Sprits), located in the Red Mountain appellation. Paul Gregutt (wine editor for Seattle Times & Wine Enthusiast) chose the 2003 vintage as one of his top Washington wines of the year. Blended with 5% Semillon, our Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and dry, showing aromas and flavors of apple, pear and anise. Excellent with shellfish or grilled halibut. (Release Date: June 4, 2005; 200 cases produced).
I wanted to like this wine. It sounds like it should be good. But really, it was kind of bland. Unoffensive, unobtrusive, but lacking in flavor. It was crisp and dry, although the aroma and flavors were hard to find. The finish was a little bitter. It was very pale in color and that paleness seemed to permeate the wine’s character. Probably it’s better with food. P. didn’t really like it much either, and mixed himself a margarita and wandered off.
Matthews Claret (Columbia Valley) 2002 ($25)
This wine from Matthews Cellars had a stronger aroma than the white. It had hints of blueberry and cherry, so I was eager to taste it. The winemaker’s notes are:
Winemakers in Bordeaux select lots for the ‘Chateau Grand Cru’ during and following fermentation. The leftover picks are often blended together and referred to as a Claret. These wines are typically aged in once or twice used French Oak barrels for a period of 12-14 months, rather than 22-24 months, as are premium ‘Grand Cru’ wines.
The lots chosen for the Matthews Claret resulted in a wine containing 52% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec. Blended in January of 2003, the wine was then placed in French Oak barrels previously used for aging the 2000 Yakima Valley Red Wine. Following the fourteen months in barrel, this wine was bottled unfiltered and lightly fined in order to soften any harsh tannin.
Huh. Nothing there about the taste. And oddly, there wasn’t much taste at all. It had a little spice and was a little chewy. I can’t really explain how it seemed chewy without having overwhelming tannins, but it did (although that was unfiltered might explain it). It had a nice long finish, which made me wish I had more taste in the actual, well, taste. Do I have to even say that P. didn’t really like it? I liked this one better than the white though.
Unfortunately, I didn’t discover any new and wonderful local wines, but I have plenty more to try, so I’m not giving up yet. I wonder if part of the problem is that both wineries seem to buy their grapes, rather than grow them, so they don’t have control over that part of the process. (In fact, I notice that Matthews Cellars also has a Klipsun Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. It would be interesting to see if it is very different from JM’s.)
Update: We had the red again last night. In fact, P. who is not much of a red wine drinker, went right past the white to the Claret, so it was pretty obvious which one he had preferred. It was better the second day, after a bit of aeration, and with food (I know it is summer and definitely not Thanksgiving, but I made some turkey breast, stuffing, and mashed potatoes). Still not a “wow that was a fantastic wine”, but definitely better than my original impression led me to believe.