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This and That from Washington State

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Mar 14, 2008 11:17am ET

Tidbits picked up along the Washington wine trail, where I have logged about 400 miles this week:

Quilceda Creek, once basically a single-wine winery (one of the state's flagship Cabernet Sauvignons), has added another bottling to its portfolio. Palengat Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a 5-acre high-density vineyard the Golitzin family purchased next door to Champoux Vineyard (which makes up most of the flagship Cabernet blend) in Horse Heaven Hills.

They made 1,050 cases of the 2006 vintage, to be released next year. A blend of 81 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 14 percent Cabernet Franc and 5 percent Petit Verdot, it's the most supple wine I tasted (non-blind) with Alex and Paul Golitzin, who showed me the 2006s recently bottled.

Palengat (the maiden name of Alex's wife Jeanette) joins Galitzine (the original spelling of the family name), a Bordeaux blend made from their own vineyard on Red Mountain, which debuted with the 2004 vintage, and a separate bottling of Merlot in the Quiilceda Creek lineup.

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Add the Novelty Hill/Januik winery to the must-visit list when you're touring the wineries in Woodinville. The low-slung concrete and glass building, which opened last year right around the corner from Chateau Ste. Michelle, has won architectural plaudits. It has a spacious and inviting tasting room, and the wines are darn good.

Mike Januik makes the wines for Novelty Hill, owned by Tom Alberg, and his own label called Januik. The Novelty Hill wines, which represent about two-thirds of the total production, come mostly from Alberg's Stillwater Creek vineyard in Royal Slope (Frenchman's Hills) and Januik's from grapes purchased from independent vineyards in Wahluke Slope, Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills.

* * *

Red Willow is a legendary name in Washington wine history. The Yakima Valley vineyard was the source of David Lake's best Cabernets at Columbia Winery in the formative years of the 1980s, when Lake convinced the vineyard owner, Mike Sauer, to plant Syrah on a steep hillside that reminded the winemaker of Hermitage. Sauer even built a little stone shrine at the top of the vineyard, just like the one at Hermitage in France. Lake made Washington's first Syrah in 1988, started a chain reaction that has resulted in Syrah being the state's third most-planted red grape and its brightest light for the future.

Now a corporate winery, owned by the giant Constellation, Columbia decided in 2007 not to take the old-vine grapes from Red Willow any longer. Hearing of this, Bob Betz of Betz Family Winery and David O'Reilly of Owen Roe winery swooped in.

I tasted barrel samples of these wines at both wineries. At Betz, the Syrah from the original block, planted in 1986, has a suppleness, a depth and purity of fruit that's markedly different from the wines from Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills vineyards. The Cabernet, from 1973 plantings, has an elegance, a refinement and a prodigious length that will make it special. Betz is still deciding whether these will be separate bottlings or go into one of his existing blends.

At Owen Roe I tasted a Merlot that was tangy with juicy blackberry flavors, very long, and a Cabernet Franc that was remarkably silky and bursting with floral and white pepper aromatics, both from Red Willow fruit.

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And speaking of Owen Roe, winemaker David O'Reilly is settling into his new winery in a former dairy plant in Sunnyside, closer to the Yakima Valley vineyards he makes most of his Washington wines from. O'Reilly is unusual in that he makes wines in both Washington and Oregon, until recently all of them in a winery near Champoeg in Willamette Valley.

O'Reilly and his business partner Jerry Owen bought the winery from Apex Cellars last spring, but the sale is still pending until some environmental issues are resolved. "We're leasing the building for now," explained O'Reilly, who made the 2007 Washington vintage there.

The winery has plenty of room for expansion. Its 200,000 case capacity is far more than the Owen Roe and O'Reilly brands make. O'Reilly plans to rent out some of the space for custom crush operations and to provide a home for more grapes. "Growers offer us grapes, but I couldn't buy them if they didn't fit into what we planned. There just wasn't space," he said. "Here we can buy them and make them into a second label."

These new wines, which he would like to bottle in milk bottles in reference to the building's earlier incarnation as a dairy, would only be available in the Pacific Northwest so that the bottles could be refilled.

Brian
costa mesa, ca —  March 14, 2008 7:18pm ET
Harvey, did you sample any '05 Dubrul Merlot or Cab from Owen Roe? If you did what were you impressions as compared to previous years?
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  March 14, 2008 8:18pm ET
So Harvey, when do we get reviews of the 04 Galitzine and the 05 QC Cab? Just curious. Any "Bottle Tasting" notes that we might anticipate, like with Suckling's reviews of Bordeaux?
Harvey Steiman
San Francisco, CA —  March 15, 2008 4:15pm ET
Addendum: Andrew Rich wrote to say he "swooped" in to get some of the old-vine Columbia Syrah grapes too.
Doyle Souser
Camarillo, CA —  March 16, 2008 1:25am ET
We visited the WA wine country in Summer '07, and really enjoyed getting to know the area. Of all the wineries in Washington, we really enjoyed the Novelty Hill '04 Columbia Valley Syrah - very tasty - we thought it rated better than the WS rating of 88 - would certainly buy again at a reasonable $22/bottle. You're right, the architecture of the winery in Woodinville is very contemporary, and the wines superb. WA is certainly carving its own niche in the wine world!

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