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Northwest"Big Red" Wines
"Must Have" New Releases
Avalon's Picks for Spring 2005
by Jean Yates

Here are our choices for the "must haves" of the first four months of 2005, both the best values and the highest rated Northwest wines for wine collectors developing a world class cellar.

Both value priced and highest rated Northwest "Big Red" wines are in shorter supply than usual this winter. The 2003 vintage was generally smaller across most of Oregon and Washington, so there is less wine. The generally high quality of wine from the Northwest has led to increased demand- many new wine lovers are discovering, and demanding, Northwest wines. The bargains are still there, and the highest rated wines are still priced well below similar offerings from California, but the best go quickly.

Bob Betz, MW, pouring samples of his new 2002 Wines,
February 2005











Watch this article over February, March, and April, 2005. New wines will be added as they are released, including offerings from Owen Roe, Januik, and Cayuse.

The "Must Have"
Highest Rated NW Big Reds

Wines that have that little "something extra" combine artisan winemaking skills, a vision of the wine that goes beyond the "international style" of soft, fruity and boring, and a dedication to expressing the full varietal character of the grape. These wines are often rewarded with high ratings from famous wine writers like Harvey Steiman (Wine Spectator) and Robert Parker (Wine Advocate) - but some of our best Northwest wineries make such small amounts of wine that they fall below national view.

Here are the "Must Haves" of the new Northwest Big Red releases- wines with that extra element of style that pulls the wine into the ranks of the best around. It is a given that the wines have great balance, are free of the bacterial contaminants that are all too common in even expensive wines today, and provide outstanding representations of varietals, vineyards, and vintages.

Bob Betz, MW -
New 2002 Releases from Betz Family Cellars

Steven Tanzer, The International Wine Cellar, put Betz Family Wines in a short list of Washington Superstars:

“The superstars in my tastings this year (2003) which were conducted mostly in Washington, will come as no surprise to wine lovers who track this states wines, are: Andrew Will, Betz Family Winery, Cadence Winery, Cayuse Vineyards and Quilceda Creek Vintners.”

Only three years after the release of his first wines, Betz was named Artesian of Year for 2003 by Wine & Spirits Magazine.It is high praise indeed for such a short time as a small winery, and one that has Betz glowing with the pride of a newcomer, albeit nearly 30 years in the business. Bob worked for Chateau Ste Michelle for over 20 years and is one of the few Americans who hold the covetted and hard to obtain "Master of Wine" certification.

In addition, a recent book published in England, with a global analysis of the wine industry—The Wine Report 2004—named Betz Family Winery to first place in its list of “Up and Coming” wineries from the Northwest, and placed the winery's Betz Cabernet Sauvignon Pere de Famille second to Quilceda Creek as best Cab in the Northwest.

Bob released his Betz Cabernet Sauvignon "Pere de Famille" 02 $52/$46.80 in mid-February. The Pere de Famille is his flagship wine, and the 2001 vintage received 94 points from Wine Spectator: "Rich, densely packed and powerful, a lively mouthful of plum, blueberry and exotic spice flavors that last and last on the aristocratic finish. Has power to burn and plenty of grace to balance the scales. Best from 2006 through 2015." H.S. Wine Advocate gave the current 2002 vintage 92 points, Tanzer gives it 93+ points.

Bob has also released his Clos du Betz 02 $32/$28.80. Tanzer gives the wine 91+ points, and Wine Spectator gives it 88 points. Bob describes the wine this way:

""We shifted the Clos de Betz vineyard and variety mix a bit in 2002, and increased its hedonistic personality. There’s more Merlot (57%) than the past two vintages, and it shows in the plum, black cherry and bittersweet chocolate notes in both aroma and flavor......It’s soft, supple and fleshy up front, with a silky mid palate. But the finish shows power and length, a full lingering finale, evidence that this has some real cellaring potential. Yet even now it’s very satisfying, with layers of complex fruit, saddle leather and earth."

Avalon recommended these two wines for the serious collector- they are made with a rare degree of attention to detail, by a winemaker with a profound knowledge of wine making. The Pere de Famille Cabernet will benefit from several years of aging, although when tasted in February, 2005, this lovely wine was showing lush, intense flavors, concentration, and a long finish. More reminiscent of a fine Bordeaux than a soft Washington red, the wine has more structure and depth than it has fruit forward softness. Lovers of simple, juicy, soft reds may want to forgo this complex, suave, and sophisticated offering. Highly recommended for Bordeaux aficionados.

Buty Rediviva of the Stones - 2002 Vintage released

Nina and Caleb Buty are two of the more low key winemakers in Walla Walla, quietly creating three wines each year that attract a cult follwing for their complex, sensuous, finely articulated qualities. Made in tiny amounts, the prices continue to be quite reasonable for these intensely personal creations. Their red wine, Rediviva of the Stones, is delicious at release but will age for ten years or more.

The Buty Rediviva of the Stones 02 $40/$36 is a classic example of their winemaking style- 86% Syrah & 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. Caleb and Nina say of the 02:

"Walla Walla wine from the stones offers a silky texture, intense fruit concentration and earthy richness unlike anywhere else in Washington. The wine is suave and bordering on sweet it is so rich. The perfect 2002 vintage offers generous perfume. Flavors of Blue Mountain marionberry, licorice, black cherry and roses fill the nose and echo on the smooth palate. Aromatically intense with velvety texture and rich as a young wine now, we are confident this wine will have a long life in your cellar."

Since the Rediviva has not yet arrived at Avalon, a description of the previous vintage will provide an indication of what to expect from the 2002. The 2001 vintage of Rediviva of the Stones was highly perfumed with intense scents of sweet violets. Medium bodied, with distinctly smooth and sensuous flavors of Marionberry jam, it has a finessed complexity of flavors and textures. Fruit centric flavors of marionberry, black cherry and persistent roses fill the nose and palate.

All of the Buty wines have an unusually clear expression of fruit, spice, mineral, and tannins, each flavor articulated within a swirling core of well integrated tannins. Unusual and quite rewarding.

Read more about Rediviva of the Stones
from the wine makers here.

Woodward Canyon's
Cabernet Sauvignon Artist Series 02

A particularly nice Cabernet was made by Walla Walla master winemaker Rick Small in 2002. The Artist Series 2002 is more approachable than in previous years, with a big ripe black cherry/mocha/espresso bean hit in both nose and flavor. The finish is smooth and robust, with a hint of exotic incense and herbs that lingers most pleasantly. This is a good choice for wine collectors who want to try Woodward Canyon wines but don't want to wait for the wines to age- Rick's wines can take time to come into their own, but this ripe and juicy offering, while quite ageable, is drinking well right now.

Charlie Hoppes' Cellar Selections - His Best Wines

Charlie Hoppes's own winery, Fidelitas, is a favorite the staff at Avalon Wine. Charlie is also the winemaker or consulting winemaker for Canyon del Sol and Goose Ridge wineries. He has been the winemaker/consulting winemaker for Zefina, Ryan Patrick Winery, Three Rivers, Alder Ridge, Six Prong, Saint Laurent and Gamache Vintners among others. He is famed for his focus on the vineyard:

"Great wines begin in the vineyards,” Hoppes said. “That’s the best beginning a winemaker can have. After that, it is a combination of being patient and letting the fruit hang as long as you can—and knowing when to pick. Lots of people let it hang too long. There is a balance and a gut feeling of knowing, after tasting, when you’ve got it right.”

Charlie has "gotten it right" so often, his wines are some of the most in-demand Avalon sells. Three of his wines for Fidelitas, the Cabernet Sauvignon 02 $45/$40.50, the Fidelitas Cabernet Sauvignon "Champoux Vineyard" 02 $57/$51.29. and the Meritage 01 $39/$35.10 are highly recommended for cellaring.

The Fidelitas "Optu" Meritage 02 $45/$40.50 will be released in Aoril, 2005, and is highly anticipated. It will be an April selection for Avalon's Big Reds Wine Club.

The "Big Red"
Best Buys Under $30

Most Northwest wineries who offer introductory level "best value" wines are now releasing 2003 vintage wines. The crop was smaller than in 2002, and demand has risen- popular wines like K Vintners' "House Wine" and Owen Roe's "Abbot's Table" have found huge numbers of customers across the country, leading a pack of second label "Big Reds" from large and small producers. The result? More wineries offering well priced reds, but increased demand for them.

Some of our favorite Big Reds are sold out until spring - Fidelitas Red Table Wine 03 (April), Owen Roe Abbot's Table 04 (August), Sineann Red Table (October), Januik Red Table (July and a very small release),

Red Table wines under $30 from the 2003 vintage are now out, but very limited:

  • Owen Sullivan Red Table Wine 03 $21/$18.90
    Blockbuster big, as usual for Bill Owen, but very limited this year. Dark, approachable, easy drinking with massive Bill OWen style.

  • Bergstrom Red Wine 03 $18/$16.20
    Josh Bergstrom's blend of Cab, Merlot, and Syrah from Del Rio shows his skill goes beyond Pinot noir- and is another example of really lush, huge wine made from the Del Rio Vineyard fruit. At under $20, with Josh's reputation for wine making, the wine sells out in a few weeks each year.
  • Bergevin Calico Red 03 $19/$17.10
    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED- If you buy just one good value red for your house this winter, this is it, imho. If you like Owen Roe's Abbot's Table, this is the wine for you. Just a big, plush, super full bodied wine that can be sipped with cheese and crackers or served at dinner, a real crowd pleaser. What a value from this new Walla Walla winery, all of whose offerings are impressive for their quality and reasonable price.
  •  K Vintners "House Wine" 03 $12/$10.00
    After some fits and starts with different blends offered as the 2002 wine, the 2003 version is a big black juicy bomb.
  • Reininger "Helix" 02 $22/$19.80
    Highly regarded winemaker Chuck Reininger's small amount of second label wine made from grapes that did not quite make the cut for his elegant reds.
  • Tyrus Evan Syrah Del Rio 03 $28/$25.20
    Southern Oregon? Yes, Southern Oregon. Don't let your prejudices keep you from some beautiful, big, juicy yet quite complex Syrah. Del Rio Vineyard is managed like a NASA control room by career farmer Rob Wallace. Wine maker Ken Wright may not be as well known in "Big Reds" circles as he is in the world of Oregon Pinot noir (where he ranks squarely at the top of the heap), but he shows real skill with this remarkable wine. It's so nice to find a really big and complex Syrah that is not over $30!!!
  • Griffin Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 99 $20/$18
    This wine from Southern Oregon was $35 but is now only $20, and is drinking quite well. It's a quite nice Cab for the price.



    Woodward Canyon Tasting Room, Winter 2004
    The Woodward Artist Series 02
    was released in February 2005






    Betz Family Winery was named
    "Artisan Winery of the Yea"
    by Wine & Spirits Magazine in 2003




















    Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas


    Reininger Helix Red Wine 02