Exploring 4,000+ wineries from Mexico to Canada via my BC2BC wine tour has brought many amazing discoveries and revelations. Ruta del Vino Grande is located along the western wine regions of North America, which extends about 2,000 miles from Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California to the Okonagan Valley in British Columbia. Each region expresses itself in unique and dynamic ways, wine making styles vary while Mother Nature adds the key ingredients. So far, one of the “standout regions” for me has been found in the Walla Walla AVA of Washington State, as noted in several previous articles. I’ll feature two more Walla Walla wineries before I move on to the Spokane and Columbia River wine regions. The most striking feature of wines from Walla Walla is the high quality of the product, mostly handcrafted in smaller artisan or boutique wineries. Fjellene Cellars is owned and operated by Matthew Erlandson. Matt has a keen focus on crafting artisan wines with an intense effort to “produce single vineyard wines that show place and represent the terroir from which they came.” I spoke with Matt at a recent tasting where he told me that his style reflects wines that are “varietally correct, while retaining natural acid and low alcohol levels.” He crafts elegant wines that are food-friendly, while using sustainable farming practices. I fully respect his approach to making a limited amount of artisan wines that are single vineyard in origin, via fruit that expresses varietal characteristics developed in that distinct wine growing region. Another positive attribute is found in Matt’s drive and passion for creating the best possible wine from Walla Walla fruit with a total annual production of less than 800 cases. 2010 Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from a single vineyard and specifically block # 2 in the Les Collines vineyard of Walla Walla. Matt describes it best; “crisp and refreshing wine, starting with a striking nose of pear, melon, anise and lilac, the palate offers fresh and vibrant citrus and melon fruits, accented with stony minerals and fig.” Created via stainless steel fermentation, 13% alcohol, limited to 125 cases. 2010 Rosé hasn’t been released as yet, contains 100% Syrah, single vineyard fruit grown by Art Den Hoed of Columbia Valley, stainless steel fermentation, 12.1% alcohol, and limited to 150 cases. 2008 North Blend is an excellent blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot, two varietals that perform well above average in the Walla Walla AVA. The winemaker notes; “the nose shows signs of red fruits, leather, black olive and tobacco, while the balanced mouth feel offers minerality, wet stones, raspberry with hints of black pepper and spice.” Single vineyard fruit from Waliser Vineyard, aged in 100% French oak barrels (25% new) for 20 months, limited to 96 cases. 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon with 20% Merlot is another dynamic wine crafted with single vineyard fruit from Waliser Vineyard. “Big, chewy wine with great balance, moderate tannin structure and complex layers of fruit, aromas of cherry, blackberry, rose petals, with hints of coffee and black licorice.” This dynamic blend is aged for 20 months in French oak barrel aging (25% new) with14.3% alcohol, and a limited production of 122 cases. South Blend is a superb blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 13% Cabernet Franc, sourced from 75% Walla Walla fruit and 25% Columbia Valley grapes. "This rich wine is deep ruby in color with aromas of raspberry, cassis, plum, mulberry, crushed roses and sage. The dark fruit is penetrating, laced with licorice, earth, mocha and Swiss chocolate. A delightful blend that exhibits a noteworthy finish via hints of roasted nutmeats, orange peels and toffee. Aged in new French oak barrels (25% new) for 20 months, 14.1% alcohol, with 192 cases handcrafted. Furthermore, Matt makes a dynamite 2008 Merlot and a stunning 2009 Reserve with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Syrah. Fjellene Cellars is another fine example of "world class wines" artfully crafted in Washington State within the Walla Walla AVA. Serious wine lovers might explore this region to discover the many "bottled treasures of delight and time capsules of pleasure." Fjellene is located at 11050 Merlot Drive, Walla Walla, WA 99362. Web: http://www.fjellenecellars.com
BC2BC-6 Walla Walla Wine
Cougar Crest Estate Winery Walla Walla, Washington is home to some dynamic wineries and wines. Another prime example of that revelation can be found at Cougar Crest Estate winery with consistent production of excellent wines with some of the highest ratings in Washington State. They craft thirteen premium wines under the Cougar Crest Estate winery label and nine quality wines under their Walla Walla River label. Deborah and David Hansen began this artisan winery project in 2001, with Deborah behind the wheel as the designated winemaker. They own two distinct vineyards in the Walla Walla Appellation, totaling about fifty acres. Their Cougar Hill vineyard produces superior fruit of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Tempranillo. Soils here contain loam, gravel, river rock and volcanic ash. Golden’s Legacy vineyard is home to their Viognier and Syrah grapes. Soils here are loam; gravel and round river rock, allowing the roots to dig deep into the earth for nutrients and moisture. The Hansen’s understand that it takes superior fruit to make “world class” wines. And, they do achieve that goal. Every wine that I’ve tasted from Cougar Crest is of excellent quality. It seems that Deborah has been able to master the craft of framing her flavorful, layered wines with just the right amount of distinct oak flavors. Their vast portfolio of wines does offer something for everyone. The 2009 Estate Viognier is delicious. The winery articulates it well, “floral notes of orange blossom and honeysuckle, white peach, melon, and star fruit aromas envelop your senses.” I’ve tasted Viognier from Baja California to British Columbia, and this varietal seems to excel under the conditions of the Walla Walla AVA. The 2007 Merlot is remarkable, further enhanced by Deborah's distinct art of oak framing. This deeply flavored Merlot shows “classic varietal characteristics of black cherry, olive and red currants, with balanced acidity and supple tannins that complement the rich mouth feel. The finish languishes with toast, vanilla and mocha notes.” 2007 Estate Cabernet Franc is a “rock star” ~ one of the best Cab Francs I’ve enjoyed in many moons. “Fully ripe fruit provides dynamic flavors of red currants, violets, herbs, pepper and spice that compliment a rich mouth feel. Long finish with tobacco, caramel, and toast aromas.” They currently offer three stunning examples of Washington Syrah via 2005 Stellar Vineyard Syrah, 2006 Legacy Syrah and 2007 Estate Syrah, all under the Cougar Crest label. They also have a delightful 2006 Walla Walla Valley Syrah on their Walla Walla River label. Serious Syrah lovers should explore these dynamic delights and discover the magic within these bottles. The biggest surprise for me was in discovering the 2007 Walla Walla Valley Tempranillo, one of my current, favorite varietals. This “bottled treasure of delight” features a “rustic earth character with pomegranate, red currants, and toasty hints of roasted walnuts. Smooth and balanced, it lingers on the palate, reminiscent of olive and green tea.” Other surprises were the 2008 Walla Walla Valley Barbera, and 2008 Walla Walla Valley Sangiovese. Most wine lovers should find many amazing wines to explore among their diverse portfolio of wines. Tasting wine at Cougar Crest gives wine lovers a rare opportunity to explore a diverse range of excellent wines in one location. Cougar Crest has two locations; the winery facility at; 50 Frenchtown Road in Walla Walla or (509) 529-5980 and a downtown Spokane location of 8 N. Post Street or (509) 294-4214. They have a user-friendly wine club that offers membership discounts, and they do ship throughout the US. Next time you feel like exploring some of the best Washington State “Time Capsules of Pleasure” ~ I suggest a visit to Cougar Crest Estate winery. Please visit their informative web page at: http://www.cougarcrestwinery.com
Mexico’s Wine Culture in 2011
Exploring 4,000+ wineries from Mexico to Canada via my BC2BC wine tour has brought...