Andrew Will Wines
Andrew Will wines age beautifully. Here's the San Francisco Chronicle's Jon Bonne on Andrew Will:
"...an Andrew Will Washington State Cabernet Franc was flat-out gorgeous, full of life and aromatic lift: dried orange, perfumed tobacco and plenty of racy red primary fruit left to go. Winemaker Chris Camarda has a knack for ageable wines -- we tried a 1994 Cabernet last year that was just coming into its own -- and the '96 Franc was still plenty youthful, certainly holding its own with contemporaneous Bordeaux. Would that I could say that for many Cabernets." - Jon Bonne, SF Chronicle.
More About Andrew Will Winery
Wine & Spirits Magazine says that Andrew Will Winery is "America's best Washington State producer"
In Robert Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide, he lists only a few Washington wineries rated as "outstanding"- Andrew Will is one of them, others being Quilceda Creek and Delille Cellars.
Parker goes on to call Andrew Will owner and winemaker 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 allow 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 single vineyard "Red Wine", each wine expressing the unique terroir of the particular vineyard. Owner Chris Camarda named the winery after his son Will and his 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.
"Andrew Will Winery reduces offerings to concentrate on intense Bordeaux blends"
By Christina Kelly, Avalon Staff Writer
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.
Over the last two to three years, Camarda has reduced his inventory from about 11 different varieties to three or four. He discontinued bottling single vineyard varietals, such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon after the 2001 bottling. Instead, he "zoned 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 is fewer wines, but Camarda says the wines will be better than ever, as he focuses on blending Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. He may add some Syrah to the mix and use his own fruit from his "Two Blondes" Vineyard to make a Two Blondes Red that has a rapidly increasing following.
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 20 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."
Variations from Vintage to Vintage
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.
The Champoux Vineyard Wines
If his 2008 Champoux Red Wine is any example, Camarda has little to fear. The wine is fabulous. 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's 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 Champoux Vineyard (he is part owner) 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 and Luci. (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.
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.
Chris lives 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.
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.
About Chris Camarda
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."
Chris's grapes come from some of the best vineyards in Washington State: Klipsun, Ciel du Cheval, Champoux, and Sheridan, along with his own Two Blondes Estate Vineyard.
Robert Parker comments on Chris's wines, saying 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."