Spring 2017 Compass Wines Newsletter 

 

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They say spring is in the air, but it is snowing as I write this. I will take their word for it as I did see some sun peeking through the clouds a while ago, some frogs were singing a couple of days ago and the Red Winged Black Birds have made their presence known with their unmistakable chortling and chirping. 
This newsletter is a tad bit late this time as I took a nasty fall on my bike in January and had to take some time off. The ladies ran the shop beautifully in my absence and for that, I give them great thanks. However, I would never ask them to take on the task of filling these pages, so this had to wait for my return. I am nearly back up to speed, but no vintage bike race for me in April, so you will all be subjected to my drivel once again. 
Winter has been a hard one out here, but not nearly as nasty as some other parts of the country. We had more snow than usual, but nothing catastrophic, we have had lots of rain, but not like the poor folks in California and we did get pretty cold in the vineyards, but not like some of the ‘bad’ winters. The temps did hit the -10 degree area in a few spots, but luckily, there was a heavy layer of snow to protect the vines and especially the roots. Nature for sure did some extra pruning of the vines, but no one who I have spoken with has any real concerns about damage. Maybe just a bit more winter die off than a normal winter, specifically on Walla Walla Syrah, but a slightly reduced crop is probably not a bad thing. 
Spring release season is fast upon us, as is typical this time of year, but everyone seems to be jumping the gun on pink wines this year. I don’t think I have ever seen so many offerings this early before. What we have tasted so far has been fabulous, so this looks to be the year of the Rose. We are starting to bring them in already so come in for a look-see or give our ‘Pink Princess’, Sandy a call. 
Alberto Brini from Il Conventino was just here for a fabulous tasting of his Tuscan treats from Montepulciano with the fantastic Italian foods from Ciao in Coupeville. Stunning wines, delicious foods and a great time was had by all. Those of you who made it had a blast and those of you who didn’t, need to make sure you do next time!
The annual Taste Washington event is right around the corner on the weekend of March 25th and 26th. We will be manning the ded.reckoning booth once again, and also have the Soy Copper USA booth going strong with a fantastic selection on hand, ready to take home. There will be some special show pricing on the copper again this year so leave some room in that goodie bag or we can of course, ship it to you.
Once again, I will be spearheading the ‘Washington vs. the World’ smack down tasting on Sunday morning at the Four Season’s Hotel. Five fantastic Washington winemakers will be with me, plus the executive wine writer from Food and Wine magazine, Ray Isle. We will be pouring 5 standout Washington wines against 5 of the best wines in the world to see how we stack up. I think this is the 5th time I have done this event and it is a blast every time. We do have tickets to Taste Washington’s Grand Tasting in the shop, but you will need to contact Taste Washington directly for tickets to this one. 
Bring on the sun!

Doug, Will, Laura, Sandy, Ally and Brandi.

 

Leyda, Leyda Valley Pinot Noir 2015 was $12.99, now $9.99

Finding Pinot Noir which actually tastes like Pinot Noir and not just another red wine is always one of the toughest tasks in the $10-$15 range. I like my Pinot to be more on the delicate, stylish and elegant side of things, rather than the fat and ripe style favored by many. If I want a big and juicy wine, I will lean on a Rhone varietal or a Zin, not a Pinot Noir. For the style which I prefer, Burgundy is the natural choice, but finding one for 10 bucks is like finding a cheap Ferrari. What makes Burgundy so special for Pinot Noir is the cool climate, so naturally, finding a cool climate which grows Pinot Noir in an area where real estate is a tad more reasonable than Beaune is the key to finding an elegant, affordable example. Enter the Southern Hemisphere. In New Zealand, Tasmania and the Cape of Good Hope, the climate is perfect in many spots for Pinot Noir, but maybe still bit on the pricy side in terms of acreage. So zip around the corner to South American and Bingo! Some cool spots to grow fruit and land values which are conducive to affordable wines. In the higher elevations of Chile and along the coast, there are a series of valleys which have temperatures and heat units which are perfect for growing Pinot Noir. The Leyda Valley is one of these. Only about 60 miles long, and only about 8 miles from the coast, the elevations here range from about 150 feet to over 3000. The maritime weather patterns allow for a combination of cooling breezes, mist and sunny days, which are all the earmarks for great Pinot Noir, which also maintains a sense of elegance. Bright ruby red, with notes of strawberry, fresh mown hay, wintergreen and a hint of tarragon. Crisp acids remind me of red currants and citrus. Mouthwatering and oh so refreshing, this will pair perfectly with the classic dishes of lighter red meats, salmon and poultry. A delicious bargain which one needs to stock up on big time as we just don’t see Pinot like this at this price very often.

 

 

Domaine Les Clos Des Lumieres Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2016 $8.99

This winery name may ring a bell for some of you and not because it sounds like the talking candlestick in ‘Beauty and the Beast’, but rather because we have used the Grenache Blanc version of this wine in the newsletter a few years back. This time, we are going with the traditional white Rhone blend. In a wine like this, the varietals don’t really matter. It is a case of the ends justifying the means. So yes, this has some Grenache Blanc in it, plus some Bourboulenc and Clairette, but I defy any of you to be able to pick them out of the scrumptious and mouthwatering bounty of tropical fruit goodness which resides in the glass. Mango, pineapple, papaya, guava, passion fruit and citrus all whipped together with lip smacking acidity with a bright and tingly finish. Fantastic all by itself, it is a perfect brunch wine for spring weddings, Easter and all those upcoming graduation parties out in the garden. Dry, but just enough fruitiness to take care of just about every white wine drinker in the room. This is one of those wines which is really hard to find fault with. They only make about 250 cases of it, so how they can get it over the pond for this price is anyone’s guess. A fantastic value year in and year out, but this vintage is in my book, the best yet for them. Stock up on this one for summer as well. I can only imagine what an icy cold glass of this on a sweltering day will taste like. Maybe even a white wine sangria is in the offing here in a few months. In the meantime, grab a plate of briny oysters or a bucket of garlic laden steamed clams and let this one rip. Heaven’s its tasty!

 


Bodegas Salentein Portillo Malbec, Valle de Uco 2015 was 10.99, now $8.99

Across the Andes mountains from the Chilean coast, where the Leyda Pinot Noir comes from, is the famed Uco Valley of Argentina. Southwest of the most famous grape growing area in Argentina, Mendoza, the Uco Valley is becoming known as one of the top spots for growing sophisticated Malbec. The altitude ranges from roughly 3000-4000 feet, so the temperature swings between night and day can be really extreme. This is tough going if you are camping or back packing, but pretty awesome for growing grapes. The heat of the day causes the fruit to ripen, then the coolness of the night gets the vine to shut down, so natural acids remain and the fruit avoids becoming over ripe. The Malbec grown in area like this tend to be more complex with much more character than is typical. The down side is that it is more costly to farm like this so the wines are typically more expensive. Not so on this one. The bright berry and plum fruit, with chocolate undertones which one expects of Argentine Malbec are here in spades. But it also has spices like cinnamon, clove, allspice and just a hint of mint and dried lavender. We stepped up and bought this in big chunks and by doing so, were able to drive the price down by roughly 20%. This is one to stock up on in a big way. Inexpensive Malbec is not hard to find, but finding one with this much complexity for this price is a different story. Big time value here.

 

Leaping Lizard California Chardonnay 2014 $9.99

Who doesn’t like buttery, oaky and vanilla laden California Chardonnay? If there was one category of wine which never seems to go flat, it is California Chardonnay with some oak on it. The various un-oaked wines seem to go in and out of fashion in the same way that bell bottom jeans, disco and neon colors do. Here one day, but gone the next. Oaky California Chards are like Levi 501’s, classic rock and black leather. It seems like they never go away, and for good reason. There are always scads of people who appreciate them, so any intelligent marketing genius understands that to take them away, would be a really bad thing to do. The one thing that does seem to change with the times is the price of these Chardonnays. Oak barrels, from which these wines get their distinctive character, are continuing to go up in price all the time, so thus, the wines do too. That being said, there are some values to be had, if one looks in the right places. Leaping Lizard is not a brand you have probably seen before. It was a custom label made for a concern in California by a large producer of these styles of wines. Well, they did not buy all the wine which they committed to, so the producer wanted to find a home for it. Find it they did, with us. By purchasing this way, we can nail down some pretty snappy deals. Let the original folks who ordered it pay for all the custom labels and such, and we can then sweep in and pick up the pieces for a song when they drop the ball. Butterscotch, vanilla bean, ripe pineapple, pears and melon, with just enough oak to make its presence known but not be overpowering. Dry, but with a ripe, creaminess which appeals to so many people. A fabulous bargain here. We have one pallet of this, and then it is gone. Have some spring weddings or Easter parties coming? This would be the cat’s meow.

2016 pink wines
As I write this, we are tasting and ordering all sorts of new rose wines from all over the planet. This vintage in France and Italy looks to be particularly tasty so give us a shout for all the new selections as they roll in or just let us fill a box for you.  Spring is right around the corner!

 

 

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