Here at Avalon Wine, we tend to divide the red wine world into two parts-
Oregon Pinot noir, and everything else. Whether our prejudice for Oregon
Pinots makes sense or not is subject for another article: our focus
in this article is on the glorious bounty of new red wines releases coming
out this winter.
This month, we feature a number of limited reds
made from the Champoux Vineyard in Washington State. Some of the highest
rated wines made in Washington use fruit from this vineyard.
Most of the wines in this article are small
"insider" wines, and you may not have heard of the wineries
or winemakers. And then there's the Washington Wine Icons, like Chris
Camarda (Andrew Will) and Rick Small (Woodward Canyon), who turn out
excellent wines, vintage after vintage. Both winemakers have new releases
this winter, and we feature the amazing Andrew Will Sorella 03, a wine
that is already drinking beautifully, but has the potential for ten or
more years of aging.
We have savvy wine customers
who keep a standing request for info on anything made with Champoux
Vineyard fruit- they want to know! The vineyard generates the
kind of loyalty seen in Washington's cult wines - and indeed,
the vineyard is partially owned by cult favs Quilceda Creek,
Andrew Will, and Woodward Canyon wineries. If there were a candidate
for a Premier Grand Cru Classé vineyard in Washington
State, this would be it.
Champoux Vineyard was planted
in 1972, and the age of the vines, impeccable management, and a
unique terroir combine to grow grapes that make terrific wines.
Several new wines have just been released using Champoux fruit,
and we still have a few that were released late last year.
Here's an opportunity to try
a range of wines made from Champoux Vineyard fruit:
Sorella, named in honor of owner/winemaker
Chris Camarda’s sister,
is always a blend from Champoux vineyard; 50% block 1 & 2 Cabernet
Sauvignon (30+ year old vines and the heart of the wine), 23% Merlot,
17% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Petit Verdot. The 2003 Sorella stands out
as a brooding, complex wine with the perfect combination of power and
The Sorella is Andrew Will winemaker Chris
Camarda’s best wine
and the 2003 is exceptional. Smaller yields and a long hang time added
to the complexity of the fruit. Warm weather and cool nights helped make
for some incredibly intense yet balanced wine.
Deep blackberry and coffee/chocolate/mocha notes, leather and licorice
flavors form the core of this wine with dark cherry, almost violet highlights.
Cedar and toasted oak notes echo in the background. Silky tannins and
a supple texture turn this muscular wine into an elegant beauty.
“Good full ruby. Sexy aromas of deep
black raspberry , minerals and dark chocolate. Rich, lush and sweet,
with a captivating minerality supporting the black fruit and chocolate
flavors. Really sappy and full in the middle, and impressively long
on the aftertaste.”
-- 93 points, Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar.
Food Pairings for Sorella
The 2003 Sorella is great
paired with braised lamb with Moroccan spices layered over saffron basmati
pilaf folded with mango chutney and drizzled with a little yogurt raita.
This wine calls out for a food with complex flavors to pair with it.
Not that it wouldn’t go perfectly with
a Pepper Crusted Beef Tenderloin or a Prime Rib, I’m thinking something
with Moroccan spices (cumin, coriander and cinnamon) to play on the depth
of the wine.
The 2003 Andrew Will Champoux Red Wine is a blend of old vine Cabernet
Sauvignon (59%), Cabernet Franc (21%), Merlot (15%), and Petit Verdot
(5%), all from Champoux Vineyard. Average age of the vines is over 23
From a very ripe vintage, a complex nose of black plum, black cherry,
and cassis is complemented by rich, viscous, multifaceted flavors, with
hints of toasted espresso bean, fresh turned earth, white pepper, anise,
meaty smoke, and just a skoosh of jasmine, all entwined around a strong,
silky core of tannins. Acidity is fresh and exquisitely balanced, boding
well for long aging. The 2003 Champoux is a lovely experience to drink
now, and has all the hallmarks of aging well for continued great tasting
experiences through 2010. -jy
Wine Advocate gave the 2002 vintage a rating of 93 points.
"The 2002 continues a tradition of "Dedication
Series" Old Vine Cabs
that started in 1981. Each year, Rick's finest offering is bottled with
a label featuring a different Walla Walla area pioneer, and "...every
year it's one of the most-anticipated releases in the Walla Walla Valley" -- Wine
Press NW Magazine.
Made from grapes sourced from the oldest section
of the famed Champoux Vineyard, the 2002 vintage was warmer than 2001
and this wine reflects that. Flavors of ripe black fruits and cassis
marry with spicy oak and vanilla. The color is dark purple and the flavor
is concentrated, rich and long; the texture is supple and silky, but
still the wine has fantastic grip. This red wine will benefit greatly
from additional cellaring and, with proper storage, should last for fifteen
years or more from vintage.
Rick Small's Old Vine Cabs, vintage after vintage, show a range of flavors,
from classic, wonderfully ripe black cherry, plum, and cassis, to smoke,
vanilla, and velvety tannins. Usually, when aged, his wines acquire fascinating
flavors of oolong tea, lychee, tobacco, herbs, and cedar, all passing
rapidly across the plate in a tempest of evolving flavors and textures.
Very limited top of the line Cab from Charlie Hoppes, a world class
cellar selection. 2003 was an exceptionally hot year in Washington State.
This vintage of Charlie's coveted Champoux Cab was made from a smaller
harvest of tiny, intensely flavored berries. Charlie uses words like "intense" and "lush", "great
length" and "richness of character" to describe this wine, considered
by many Fidelitas loyalists to be his best wine.
We sent this stunning Cab Franc to Avalon's December NW Big Reds Club.
Chris Camarda (winemaker at Andrew Will) says the Champoux
the best Cabernet Franc in the US, and this wine shows us how he comes
to believe that.
Aromas of crushed Bing cherries mingle with hints of tobacco and cinnamon.
This mouth filling wine has a voluptuous well rounded texture. The flavors
of black currant and dark chocolate complement the distinctive creamed
cherry core of Champoux Vineyard Cab Franc. The delicious lengthy finish
is supported by powerful rich soft tannins.
Made by Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas fame. A wine with a huge scent of sweet
plum, blackberry, and cherry fruit, floral notes of black violets mingle
with hints of eucalyptus, cedar, anise, and tar. Flavors are of restrained
fruit, licorice, tar, white pepper and spice, with a long finish of caramelized
sugar, smooth tannins, and a hint of incense cedar needles. This is a really
good value at $28, and compares well in quality to winemaker Charlie
Hoppes' Fidelitas "Optu" Meritage
02 ($35). -jy
What an interesting and satisfying wine. The nose
is full of big, black cherry fruit, hints of caraway and forest, and
a hint of oak tannin. The flavors are of black raspberry, licorice, tobacco
leaf, and typical Super Tuscan style fruit. there's cocoa and bittersweet
chocolate on the finish, with a hint of toast and smoke.
An unusual combination of grapes makes for a lovely food wine. A fine
grained dry finish with a hint of spice is refreshing rather than cloying.
Calls for a big grilled meat dinner like Osso Buco. - jy