Washington Wine Club – December 2013

2008 Corliss Estates, Columbia Valley Red Wine
This is the fifth consecutive vintage of this wine we’ve put in the club, and by now most club members are familiar with the Corliss story. Corliss Estates was founded in 2001 in an old bakery in downtown Walla Walla by a couple of Seattle real estate developers, Michael Corliss and Lauri Darneille, at the height of the wine boom there. With abundant financial resources available, their goal is to produce wines that can age at least 10 to 20 years and that can eventually compete with Quilceda Creek as the top Bordeaux-based blend in Washington. The 2008 Red Wine is a blend of 34% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot, and 5% Malbec, and is sourced from top Washington vineyards, including Stillwater Creek, Weinbau, Bacchus, Stonetree and a few on Red Mountain. A full 70% of the grapes are aged in new French oak for an amazing 33 months. The nose is complex and layered, and the wine is full-bodied, soft, and plush, with lots of dark fruit flavors and spices. The dominance of Merlot and Cabernet Franc in this year’s blend makes it a very complex wine and clearly differentiated from the more powerful and wonderfully age-able 2008 Corliss Cabernet. 2008 was a cooler year, which has produced elegant wines that can benefit from a bit of time, say another three years or so for this beautiful wine. It is $65 and completely sold out, since most of the 534 cases produced are sold to the Corliss mailing list. We do have in stock the 2008 Corliss Cabernet, sourced mostly from older blocks at Dionysus Vineyard, at $75, and a few bottles left of the 2007 Corliss Red Wine (also $65), which is drinking beautifully now.

2010, Wautoma Springs, El Prat
This wine is the discovery of the year in our shop. It was highly praised by Andy Perdue, the new wine writer at the Seattle Times, who put it at #11 on his Top 100 list. A regular customer liked the description and asked if we could get some so that he could try it. Although this tiny winery is not distributed in Western Washington, the winemaker, Jessica Munnell, was impressed by our request on behalf of a customer and sent us some bottles to try via her agent, Big John Caudill. (He’s a hardcore Seahawks fan, so he delivers on the morning of Seahawk Sunday home games.) The customer loved the wine and has ordered more cases, we loved it, and our customers at the post-Thanksgiving tasting bought every bottle we had at the time.

Although this is the very first wine made by Wautoma Springs, it is not surprising that the wine is outstanding, since both Jessica and her husband, Juan Muñoz-Oca, are very experienced, having started at Chateau Ste. Michelle in 2001. Jessica is now the winemaker for the big producer Mercer Estates, and Juan is the head winemaker for Columbia Crest. The 60% Cabernet in the blend comes from their own Wautoma Springs Vineyard, which is right next to Chateau Ste. Michelle’s highly regarded Cold Creek, and the 40% Malbec comes from the very warm Stonetree Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope. The berries of the Malbec shine brightly in the blend, and the Cabernet, from vines planted in 1998, adds both structure and depth of flavor. Simply put, it is the best $25 Washington wine we’ve ever tasted. It’s ready to drink, will work with almost any food situation, and we have plenty in stock and can get more, although Jessica made only 241 cases in 2010.