Andrew Will Winery
"Andrew Will Winery reduces offerings to concentrate on intense Bordeaux blends"
By Christina Kelly
Chris Camarda, whose Andrew Will Winery produces some of the highest scoring Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends in Washington state will be reducing his offerings in the next few years to concentrate on blends from some of Washington's finest vineyards.
In the next two to three years, Camarda plans to reduce his inventory from about 11 different varieties to three or four. He will discontinue bottling single vineyard varietals, such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon after the 2001 bottling. Instead, he plans to "zone in" on the types of blends he prefers, such as his Sorella (Italian for sister) and his Champoux Vineyard Red Wine.
"I don't want to make just one wine from each vineyard anymore," Camarda said in a recent interview. "I want to put the emphasis on the vineyard because that is what makes the wine special. The blends are much more interesting to me. In the end, it's not a Merlot or a Cabernet Sauvignon-it's the blend we develop from our sources."
The result will be fewer wines, but Camarda says the wines will be better than ever, as he and his wife Annie focus on blending Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. He may add some Syrah to the mix and plans to add his own fruit on 30 acres planted in Zillah, WA.
When Camarda started his winery on Vashon Island, near Seattle, in 1989, he admitted he was "just making wine" because he wanted to be in the industry after spending years working in the culinary arts and managing restaurants in the Seattle area.
"Now, more than 10 years later, we can follow our road map, see how we've evolved and how our wines developed," Camarda said. "We're ready to zone in on what we've got, from the state's best vineyards, rather than go through the vineyards every year, trying to pick the best block of Cabernet or Merlot."
By producing only Bordeaux-style blends, Camarda will not be so dependent on one particular grape for a wine. If Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are not as good next year, he can focus on Merlot and other varietals to blend with the Cabernet. He says it will require more skill and free-up space in his ever-growing Vashon Island compound.
His skills are highly praised, as is his wine. In the just published sixth edition of Robert Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide, the wine critic lists only four Washington wineries as "outstanding." Andrew Will is one of the four, which includes Quilceda Creek, Leonetti and DeLille Cellars.
Parker calls Camarda "one of America's finest producers of Merlot. (His) wines have virtually perfect tannins. They are present but buffered by the loads of dominating sweet fruit.
"Furthermore, what is amazing about Chris Camarda's wines is that they are concentrated, yet graceful," Parker continues. "Camarda's (wines) blend power with elegance, concentration with finesse, and super sweet fruit with definition. (He) is a brilliant winemaker."
It is big praise for a man who plans to eliminate some of the highly touted wines of the past. Yet, Camarda says the new focus will produce even better wines.
If his 2000 Champoux Red Wine is any example, Camarda has little to fear. The wine is fabulous, with 62 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 19 percent Merlot and 19 percent Cabernet Franc. In a recent tasting, this wine came across as rich and dense, with layers of plum, currant, herb and blueberries. It has just enough oak to add to the wine, rather than detract. Although drinkable now, it should be cellared and after several years, you'll have a hidden treasure waiting to impress your taste buds.
Andrew Will Sorella, another Bordeaux-style blend that Camarda calls his prototype, is also outstanding. The wine is wonderful now, but with a few years in the cellar, will knock your socks off, in a subtle way, of course.
Incidentally, Sorella, meaning sister in Italian, is a tribute to Camarda's sister, who died from cancer in 1995. The label is a portrait of his sister, painted by Seattle artist Randy Hayes.
Camarda can make this move because of his relationships with some of Washington's best vineyards, which include Klipsun, Pepper Bridge, Ciel du Cheval, Seven Hills and Sheridan. The fruit, under Camarda's touch, produces subtle wines that never overwhelm with power, making them very food friendly. He has captured the intensity of the fruit without producing such bombs that explode and overtake a meal.
The change will enable Camarda to spend more time with his two children, Will, 15, and Luci, 12. (The winery is named for Will and the Camarda's nephew Andrew). Both children were adopted from South Korea and have lived with the Camarda's since infancy. Camarda says the kids are more involved with school activities and growing more independent every day.
Since the winery is located on an island (and not open to the public), life revolves around the state ferry system. While Annie provides much of the Camarda transportation system for their children, Chris says he hopes to have more time to help out. He recently took his daughter to a concert in Seattle and said it was a great father/daughter experience.
The Camarda's live on several acres, surrounded by trees, flowers and a recent acquisition from South Korea-a Changsung. The Changsung, which looks like a totem pole, is a guardian spirit, in honor of his children. Life on the compound includes a couple of dogs, critters from the woods nearby, and a sitting area to enjoy in spring and summer.
Single-vineyard wines from Andrew Will will still be available for the next year or two. Barrel tasting reveals they will be as great as those in the past. But Camarda wants his consumers to experience his love of blends and those currently on the market are just a taste of what is to come.
It is his attempt to express in the glass the spirit of a particular season and a specific place. It is showmanship at its best. And that thought, makes Camarda smile.
In the just published sixth edition of Robert Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide, he lists only four Washington wineries rated as "outstanding"- Andrew Will is one of them, the others being Quilceda Creek, Leonetti, and Delille Cellars.
Parker goes on to call Chris Camarda "one of America's finest producers of Merlot"- high praise for Chris and his small winery on an island off the Seattle coast, and well deserved.
All of us at Avalon adore Chris's wines and value him for his fearless winemaking. He handcrafts wines in ways that require a great deal of skill and allows little room for error. In a world of overly extracted wines softened and made more appealing by toast, oak, and other such manipulations, Chris's wines stand out as true expressions of the nature of the fruit.
Andrew Will is a small winery in the Seattle area producing limited quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Owners Chris and Annie Camarda named the winery after their son Will and their nephew Andrew (son of co-founder Tommy Martino) when beginning the operation in 1989. The winery is in a residential neighborhood on Vashon Island and is never open to the public.
The 2000 crush stated on September 18 and ended on October 17th. The extremely even growing season and theperfect ending made for fruit which had ripened perfectly. Looking backward,, trying to understand the reason for the balance and concentration that these wines possess in spades, we can see that the evenness of the fruit set, the great spring and heat of summer contributed greatly. In addition, we had just the rioght amount of cooling in August and September, conditions that delivered what is perhaps the best fruit we have ever had.
The other vintage which comes to mind when I think of these wines is the 1997. The structure and depth of those wines is matched by this vintage. An almost liqueur-like concentration in these Merlots separates this vintage from 1997, and while they are powwerful and structured, the wines have an immediate appeal.
I think it is the balance in the last weeks before harvest that adds so much or little to each vintage. If the weather stays too hot, the fruit cannot ripen gradually but goes into a state of almost hyper-ripeness. The wines made from these vintages are usually fleshy and are great for immediate drinking while better vintages age.
Repeatedly, we read about waiting to pick since that implies that the fruit wil ripen if only one waits. This model is based on conditions in Europe and is much different from the situation in California and Washington. The more we are able to focus on what each vineyard needs to produce perfect fruit, the better wine we will make. Each year our techniques get better, but without fruit which is flavorful and balanced, we can make fresh, exhuberant wines, but not wines which are unforgettable.
About the Winery
As winemaker, Chris brings experience gained in the culinary arts working at Seattle area restaurants for 20 years. His gentle sense of humor reveals that he "finally found some use to the chemistry classes I was forced to take in high school."
come from some of the best vineyards in Washington State: Klipsun, Ciel
du Cheval, and Pepper Bridge.Robert Parker,
in his Issue #110 of hisnewsletter, Wine Advocate, wrote that:
Parker continues to comment that "Andrew Will's wines have virtually perfect tannins. They are present but buffered by the loads of dominating sweet fruit. Furthermore, what is amazing about Chris Camarda's wines is that they are concentrated yet grateful. Camarda's (wines) blend power with elegance, concentration with finesse, and supersweet fruit with definition. Chris Camarda is a brilliant winemaker."
Chris Camarda also produces white wines under the Cuvée Lulu label.
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