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TN: Pacific Northwest Wines


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Notes from a blind Cascadia (WA, OR,BC) tasting

Osake Granville Island Junmai Nama Genshu – brought as a curiosity and an example of local artisanal sake production. Now I do enjoy sake on occasion, but this had a rotting pear and acetone nose, and was hot and sour in the mouth. Think I’ll leave this for those who like it (assuming that any such exist).

2003 Nk’mp Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay – run by local Indians, who seem to share the annoying (to me, anyway) habit of insisting on unpronounceable Indian spelling. Particularly annoying as in the case of the local band, the Squamish. In a fir of native pride they erected a new sign to herald your entry to their lands (my office is situated there, so I get to see such things – repeatedly). The sign had a name starting with an S and running for about 25 symbols that looked totally irreproducible by the human throat/tongue. I asked a native client how they pronounced it, and he said “Oh, same as always – ‘Squamish’. The point was rather lost on me then and it still is in regard to this wine. In terms of marketing, I could see a New World wine having, say, a French sounding name as an attempt to sell more product, since selling product is the whole driving force behind a commercial enterprise. I guess no one has explained to the local bands that using an unpronounceable (looking, anyway) name might be counter productive, or else they are more interested in waving their ‘Indian-ness’ about than they are in selling wine and making money?

In any case, the wine itself was showing a nondescript fruit nose, and it was decently balanced with medium length. Forgettable.

2000 Sumac Ridge Black Sage Meritage – a 50% cab sauv, 25% merlot, 25% cab franc blend. Medium colour, showing a little age, with a slightly green nose (likely the franc), smooth, ready, a tad lean and little tannin.

1990 Blackwood Canyon Red Hills Cabernet Sauvignon – this winery is (was? I’d heard he was shut down but couldn’t confirm it) run by Mike Moore, a highly idiosyncratic chap who made wine kept in barrels for years – oxidised chards and other curiosities that he charged a whack of dough for. When I visited him many years ago when down in WA in an old car event (I thankfully positioned my car in the lead on the long dirt road to his winery) he was dancing about the barrel room with a pipette pulling samples from hither and yon as well as handing us bits of unpasteurised local cheese, some of it scary. My friend always said that he had been poisoned there and endured a week of stomach ills as a result.

This wine was picked up on that tour at a cost of $50 back in the early 90s, a hefty price for a Washington wine at the time. It had a hot cherry and raspberry nose, and was quite light in colour, almost like a pinot. Hot and lean in the mouth until a blast of sweetness at the end together with considerable terminal acidity woke the whole thing up. Very – unusual – wine.

1995 Ch. St. Michelle Merlot Columbia Valley – nice to have a mature merlot – cocoa and vanilla nose, good mouth feel, could almost pass as a Bordeaux petit chateau offering.

1998 Wineglass Cellars Elerding Cab Sauv – small WA producer that seems to always do a good job. Sweet and very smooth, with some white pepper and mint, and a tad of heat (14.5%). Sweet at end.

2000 Black Hills Nota Bene – dill in the nose, warm and soft on palate, the tannins resolved and ready to drink. As I taste this BC wine in various vintages, I am coming to the conclusion that the peak drinking plateau seems to be age 5-8 years.

2000 Pepper Bridge Walla Walla Cabernet – Bordeaux nose, nice flavour concentration, smooth, elegant and ready, if with slightly short finish.

1996 Leonetti Cabernet – slightly ripe nose, with excellent plumy fruit, slight heat on palate with some spice and less fruit than you’d have been lead to believe from the nose.

2002 Burrowing Owl Meritage – CF 45%, CS 25%, M 25% - leaner style than the Leonetti, dark wine with good concentration, and a long sweet finish, if a little on the simple side. Slight terminal bitter note was nice.

2002 Burrowing Owl Cab Franc – bell pepper and coffee nose, sweet entry, smooth and ready with a slightly high terminal acidity that makes it better with food than without.

1988 Ch. d’Arche Sauternes - obviously the ending wine wasn’t in theme. Good colour and a very good Botrytis nose and a good balance with enough offsetting acidity to make it all work. I can’t recall a better d’Arche!

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Blackwood Canyon is gone. They swung for the fences and often struck out, but when they connected there were some amazing wines, especially dessert styles.

I've had some very good older Chateau St. Michelle wines too - I'm not such a big fan of all of their newer reds though.

Thanks for the report

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