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
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
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
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 -
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,
Will, Betz Family Winery, Cadence
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
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,
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
""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
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
suave, and sophisticated offering. Highly recommended for
Buty Rediviva of the Stones - 2002
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
Their red wine, Rediviva of the Stones, is delicious at release
but will age for ten years or more.
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.
sensuous flavors of Marionberry jam, it has a finessed complexity
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
of well integrated tannins. Unusual and quite rewarding.
Read more about Rediviva of the Stones
from the wine makers here.
Cabernet Sauvignon Artist Series 02
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,
Cabernet Sauvignon "Champoux Vineyard" 02
and the Meritage
01 $39/$35.10 are
highly recommended for
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.
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:
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
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.
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
Highly regarded winemaker Chuck Reininger's small amount of second
label wine made from grapes that did not quite make the cut for
Tyrus Evan Syrah Del Rio
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
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.
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"
& Spirits Magazine in 2003
Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas
Reininger Helix Red Wine 02