Friday, August 28, 2015

Forgeron - A Tasting and a Tour!

Well, I'm back home from vacation, and since its so hard to do blog posts and drive, I'll have just a few more posts to write about my wonderful vacation tasting wines in Walla Walla!  Tonight I've decided to do a review of my experience at Forgeron Cellars, a winery located in a former blacksmith shop in Walla Walla at the corner of Third and Birch Streets.  I first discovered Forgeron on a road trip to Walla Walla back in 2012 and I've been a fan ever since!

This is where the action starts, this week this area was probably humming with activity.
The destemmer is on the right, while the wine press is on the left under the roof.

Jessica was kind enough to do the tour for me, which is apparently offered in Walla Walla at 1:00 pm each Saturday, so next time you are there call ahead and ask to be part of the tour!  We talked quite a bit about harvest (just about everyone was talking about it), which was exceedingly early this year with many vineyards beginning to harvest this week!  Jessica showed me where the grapes come in, the destemmer, press, and then the giant stainless steel tanks where the wine is fermented and ready to be barreled.

This is the destemmer which removes stems and other debris before the grapes are crushed.

The giant stainless steel tanks where the wine is fermented.
Once in the barrel, the wines are separated as the white wines are cold fermented at about 10 degrees cooler than the red.  Each barrel contains about 25 cases of wine and Forgeron makes approximately 7,000 cases per year.  Most of their barrels are French oak with a minority of American oak, but like most wineries, they also utilize a number of neutral barrels in part of the aging process.  Chardonnay, for which Marie-Eve Gilla is most widely known, is aged in barrel for approximately eight months, Syrah and Zinfandel are aged about 14 months and Cabernet and Merlot are aged 16 months.

This is the barrel room for the white wines, if I recall correctly.
Each barrel is coded and labeled with its contents.

Now to the wines we tasted!  I started with the 2012 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which I had a glass to nurse on the tour.  It was a classic, smooth and very dry Cabernet with lots of dark ripe fruit and spice.  This particular vintage has about 10% Petit Verdot, which adds a bit of complexity to the wine.  Then we tasted the 2012 Zinfandel from the Alder Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills.  This was a classic Zin, with lots of ripe berry fruit and some lovely floral notes that make this a wonderful, food friendly wine, ideal for pizza night!

The tasting room, located at the front of the winery building.  My tour guide, Jessica is on the right.

The final wine we tasted was the 2012 Facon Rouge, a classic Rhone GSM blend that I reviewed back in June (see the review here: 2012 Facon Rouge).  I really enjoyed it then, and at the tasting I still enjoyed it and learned a bit more about it.  Jessica informed me that this is one of their only wines that use whole cluster fermentation, where everything, grapes, stems and all are fermented, providing for some much more intense earthy notes.  So that was my tasting and tour, I also was lucky enough to pick up a few bottles of the Zinfandel and 2014 Rose of Sangiovese which will be the topics of future posts.  Cheers!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Tasting at Doubleback

Friday I had the opportunity to enjoy a tasting at Doubleback Winery's tasting room on Main Street, this is one I've been wanting to do for a while, since I saw the tasting room on my last trip but couldn't get an appointment.  Though a tasting wasn't in the cards then, I did order some wine from their website so I guess there was a trade off.

For those unfamiliar, Doubleback is the winery venture started by former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe in conjunction with famed Walla Walla winemaker Chris Figgins.  Before we get too far, I have to thank Hanna, who did a wonderful job leading me through the different wines.  The tasting was great, and I had a chance to learn a few things and of course taste a few things!  We tasted the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is the signature wine and although it could use a few more years in the cellar, it was tasting phenomenal right now!  It had great notes of leather, blackberry and cherry, and was a lovely big, bold Cabernet.  We also tasted the 2013 Stolen Horse Syrah, which was a great earthy Syrah that I liked very much.  Finally we tasted the 2013 Bledsoe Family wine, which is now a vintage wine as opposed to the non-vintage blend of previous years.  This is a fun one just because of the bottle, a 1-liter with a flip top cap, and a price that makes this an nice everyday red (just $38 for the liter).  Hanna mentioned that the idea for the bottle came to Mr. Bledsoe in a dream, which is a testament to his creativity that goes beyond what's in the bottle.

Perhaps the highlight of the tasting for me was the barrel tasting of the Cabernet from the Healy Vineyard and the McQueen vineyard.  The wine from these two vineyards are blended together to make the signature Cabernet Sauvignon, in this case for the 2014 vintage.  The wine from Healy was really impressive, with a lot of bold fruit, but a little on the soft side.  If I can remember correctly, Healy sits at a slightly lower elevation, while the McQueen vines are higher up, resulting in vines with quite a bit more stress, which shows up in the wine.  The McQueen fruit will really provide the backbone for the blend, providing some much needed structure to the softer Healy side.  Just a fascinating look at a deconstructed wine, or perhaps a pre-constructed wine before it comes into being.  Overall a super fun and informative tasting!

As I publish this post, I will be beginning my trip back home (man, vacation is hard work!) so you might not see another post for a little while, but never fear, I have much more to share from my trip to Walla Walla and the celebration of Washington Wine Month!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

First Stop in Walla Walla

So as I came into town driving a motorhome, I realized that once I park in the RV park near downtown, I would only be able to visit some of my favorite tasting rooms outside of town on US 12 either on the way in or on my way out, and given that tasting before getting on the road for 550 miles is probably not advisable, I decided to stop on the way into town.  So my first stop was to L'Ecole No. 41, which has been a favorite for more than a decade, ever since my first trip to Walla Walla in 2002.

This was a rather special time as I've since learned that they schoolhouse just celebrated it's 100th anniversary.  It's always fun to see Jaime and Ben and enjoy a nice tasting of some of their wonderful wines.  Their tasting room is such a fun treat as well, keeping with the schoolhouse theme.

And of course there were the wines, we had a chance to taste some wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and of course some Perigee, which has been a long-time favorite.  I was also able to pick up some library wines for some future Cellar Saturday posts, as well as to complete my collection of Perigee, as I think I only have them going back to the 2005 vintage and was missing the 2002-03.

Next I walked next door to visit Woodward Canyon, which is a treat.  Their tasting room hasn't changed a bit since I first visited, it's quite cozy and perfect for getting a nice sense of the wines and the focus on quality.  I had a chance to taste the Dolcetto all the way to the 2012 Artist Series Cabernet, which has long been one of my favorites.  And of course they also display the painting that is featured on the label of the current Artist Series Cabernet.

So that was my first stop as I got into town, more to come!