Washington Wine Club – January 2014

2010 Baer Winery, Callisto
As longtime club members may remember, Baer Winery in Woodinville was founded by Lance Baer in 2000, and our dear partner Bear loved the wines from the very first release. Soft and approachable, they were always delightful and ready to drink. After Lance’s death in April, 2007, his father, Les, and his sister, Lisa, chose to continue the winery, and hired Erica Orr, a veteran of Chateau Ste. Michelle, as consulting winemaker. The original two main releases from Baer have been the elegant Cabernet-based Arctos and the Ursa, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot that is styled to resemble a rich “right bank” Bordeaux and, true to Lance’s style, is meant to be enjoyed upon release. Now Erica has added a new Cabernet, the Callisto, into their mix of heavenly wines. The Callisto is their most limited wine (only 187 cases produced), and it is clearly meant to be their flagship wine. Like all Baer wines, it is made completely from hand-selected Stillwater Vineyard grapes and aged in French oak for 19 months. It is a dense and complex blend of red fruit flavors, herbal notes, spices (savory, sage, and thyme), and firm tannins, with rich dark berry aromas. The oak adds undercurrents of espresso, caramel, and vanilla. We recommend waiting a year or two for all the components to come together, and it could be aged three or four more years to develop further. It would pair well with grilled meats, hearty cheese and rustic bread, but is a great wine just to enjoy on its own. It is $49 and there is a bit more available.

2011 Robert Ramsay Cellars, Red Mountain Counoise
Like so many other pioneers in the Washington wine industry, Bob Harris, the owner and winemaker at Robert Ramsay Cellars in Woodinville, started off making beer, then hard cider, and finally home-made wine. In 2001, he made the leap from hobby winemaker to professional by helping to found Coeur d’Alene Cellars. When his day job making software took him to the Puget Sound, Bob stayed in the wine industry by starting Robert Ramsay Cellars. While he is known for his Mourvedre, we are delighted that he has turned his talents to another interesting southern French red grape. Counoise is mostly grown in the Rhône valley, particularly in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, to add peppery flavors and acidity to the wines. There’s not much of it, only 1500 acres planted there, but it does play a stellar supporting role in the great wines of Château de Beaucastel. Bob approaches the grape as he would a powerhouse combination of Syrah and Mourvedre, a deep, dark and earthy wine made to go with steak. The wine leads off with a taste of star anise that is followed by a meaty and chewy mouth feel. It is definitely heavier than the Syncline Counoise we put in this club two years ago, but it still captures the savory nature of the grape quite well. It’s ready to drink but also very limited, as Bob made only 133 cases, although we do have a few extra bottles at $32.