Here are the "Best Buy" wines ($15 and under) reviewed in our Recent Releases section of the Summer 2009 issue of Wine Press Northwest. Wines are categorized by variety and style.
Best Buy reds
DavenLore Winery NV Recovery Red, Washington, 120 cases, 14.9% alc., $15
Recommended. This scenic Prosser, Wash., winery - a project of Gordon Taylor and Washington State University soil scientist Joan Davenport - priced this blend for consumers waiting/hoping for the economy to rebound. The assemblage of Merlot (75%), Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot is an easy drink of blackberry syrup, first-pick Bing cherries, cola, nutmeg, chocolate and tea.
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Hester Creek Estate Winery 2007 Merlot, Okanagan Valley, 2,100 cases, 14.2% alc., $17 CDN
Excellent. An era of transition seems to have ended at this storied winery in Oliver, B.C., and here's wine that's done well in U.S. competitions this year. It also will fare well at the dining table with its Old World style. Cranberry, white strawberry with the leaf, Red Hots candy, root beer and green peppercorn notes feature bright acidity and sandy tannins.
Lone Canary Winery 2007 Barbera, Wahluke Slope, 440 cases, 14% alc., $15
Recommended. Spokane's Mike Scott continues his tradition with the Milbrandts' Northridge Vineyard, and it's one of the Northwest's largest productions of this food-friendly Italian variety. Black cherries, plums, rhubarb and cola tones surround chewy tannins that gain favor on the second pass. Try with meats braised with a blackberry reduction sauce.
Mission Hill Family Estate 2007 Five Vineyards Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, 13% alc., $17 CDN
Outstanding! Whiffs of dried strawberries, spicy cherries, Bull Durham tobacco and mahogany create wonder. It's Bing cherries and fresh-picked strawberries on the palate with a bite of seed adding just a bit of tannin, giving way to a finish of pie cherry acidity. Its low alcohol also makes it easy for food applications, including salmon, chicken or cheeses.
Mount Baker Vineayrds & Winery 2006 Barrel Select Cab-Merlot, Yakima Valley, 52 cases, 14.2% alc., $14
Excellent. Here's an interesting project by owner Randy Finley, a 50/50 blend of his Propietor's Cabernet Sauvignon and his Propietor's Merlot, which he offers at a bargain price. It's a spicy nose of black cap raspberry, cherry, pomegranate, mint, tobacco and Graham cracker. The basket of mountain berries - black, blue and razzy - pleases the palate, and supple tannins are ushered out by chocolate and star anise.
Sagelands Vineyard 2005 Freddie's Blend Red Table Wine, Columbia Valley, 2,990 cases, 14.1% alc., $15
Excellent. Frederique Spencer blends in Merlot (56%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), Malbec (10%) and Petit Verdot, a collaboration primarily of the estate Canoe Ridge Vineyard with support from Andrews, Elephant Mountain, Pepper Bridge and Dovel. It features Rainier cherries, blueberries and leather tones in an easy-drinking style with a plush finish of warm oak.
Sagelands Vineyard 2006 Select Merlot, Columbia Valley, 336 cases, 14.1% alc., $14
Excellent. Lots of chocolate, cherries and loganberries - with a pinch of spearmint and rub of saddle leather - are recurring themes in this juicy and lively drink that should be best enjoyed within two years.
Snoqualmie Vineyards 2007 Naked Merlot, Columbia Valley, 4,500 cases, 13.7% alc., $12
Recommended. Organically grown grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills bring hints of cherry cough syrup, grape candy, cinnamon oil and cigar box amid a structure of assertive tannins.
Waterbrook Winery 2006 Merlot-Cabernet, Columbia Valley, 3,965 cases, 13.5% alc., $12
Recommended. A pair of Horse Heaven Hills sites - Alder Ridge and Destiny Ridge - contribute to this 60/40 split focused on soft and ripe tones of black cherries, blackberries, malted milk, cola and brown sugar.
Airfield Estates 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, 1,830 cases, 14.1% alc., $12
Excellent. Either you like oaky Chardonnay or you don't. Those who don't, will enjoy this product from 12-year-old vines that soars with aromas of apricot, apple, pineapple and a hint of butterscotch. And the flavors match. Citrus integrates with the orchard fruit for pleasing length to be enjoyed on its own - or with white fish prepared with lemon, butter and capers.
Airfield Estates 2008 Gewurztraminer, Yakima Valley, 317 cases, 13.3% alc., $14
Excellent. Alluring and perfumy is this nose that features peaches, apricots, banana and Circus Peanuts candy. It's a sweet and peachy entry with more orange on the midpalate. Despite the residual sugar (1.3%), there's enough acidity to match with spicy Asian food.
Airfield Estates 2008 Pinot Gris, Yakima Valley, 818 cases, 14.5% alc., $15
Excellent. Estate fruit and the eschewing of barrels are common threads with Marcus Miller's whites. Think of peaches and pineapples with this Pinot Gris as it lifts off with apricot and baby powder aromas. The landing is similar in a package of pleasing juiciness and balanced acidity. Enjoy with sweet and sour pork or chicken.
Airfield Estates 2008 Riesling, Yakima Valley, 510 cases, 14.1% alc., $14
Excellent. The Miller family established the vines for this in 1978, making them among the oldest in Washington. Sectioned yellow grapefruit, spun honey, canned fig, petrol and diesel waft from the glass. Cling peaches, baked apples and honey sweep through the lips along with candy corn. Next comes late tangerine acidity to balance the residual sugar (1.7%).
Airfield Estates 2008 Thunderbolt White Wine, Yakima Valley, 428 cases, 13.5% alc., $14
Excellent. This young outfit in Prosser, Wash., has rapidly established a reputation for deliciously affordable whites. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc (95%) and Semillon makes it a clean and mean drink with apricot, peach, honeysuckle and grassy flavors with bold orangy acidity. Food suggestions include Greek and Caesar salads, white fish and grilled asparagus.
Arrowleaf Cellars 2007 Gewurztraminer, Okanagan Valley, 1,250 cases, 12.7% alc., $15 CDN
Excellent. The Zuppigers' 20-year-old vineyard north of Kelowna and a site in Carr's Landing provide a balanced expression of apples, peaches, jasmine, jicama and lemon in the nose. In the mouth, it's still peachy with firm nectarine on the midpalate and enjoyable crispness in the finish with yellow grapefruit.
Arrowleaf Cellars 2007 Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley, 585 cases, 13% alc., $15 CDN
Excellent. Manuel Zuppiger and our 2005 Winery to Watch in B.C. do well with this variety, and it opens with classic starfruit, Fuji apple and sweet pear aromas. There's a lot to like on the palate, too, with more of the same apples and pears. Lemony acidity provides balance, and it finishes with sugared (1% residual) yellow grapefruit.
Camas Prairie Winery 2008 Chardonnay, Washington, 200 cases, 12.8% alc., $14
Recommended. It's tradition for Stuart Scott to take Chardonnay from Wyckoff Farms in Grandview and turn out inexpensive wines for the college town of Moscow, Idaho. Notes of apple, citrus, pineapple, coconut and timothy hay are releasd in gentle fashion.
Camas Prairie Winery 2008 Champoux Vineyard Domestic Goddess, Washington, 180 cases, 11.8% alc., $13
Recommended. This longtime Idaho winery produces two Orange Muscats off this famed Horse Heaven Hills vineyard, and this one weighs in at 7.4% residual sugar. It's heavily peachy with tasty notes of pink grapefruit, pineapple and Honey Nut Cheerios.
Camas Prairie Winery NV Champoux Vineyard Late Harvest Orange Muscat, Washington, 100 cases, 10% alc., $15
Excellent. Stuart Scott routinely wins accolades with this dessert wine, which he drops into 375-milliliter bottles. Rub a sliced apricot across your face, and you'll get the sense of this, which includes accents of anise and Limoncello. Its pleasingly light viscosity showcases the sweetness (11.5% residual sugar), but there's ample acidity, too.
Challenger Ridge Vineyard & Cellars 2007 Pinot Gris, Yakima Valley, 163 cases, 14.2% alc., $13
Recommended. Equal bits of Viognier (7%) and Sauvignon Blanc (7%) add roundness and acidity to this oak-influenced release with starfruit, butterscotch gooseberry, pear and dusty apple notes. It's just a tich off-dry (0.9%) and finishes with some fig and orange.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2008 Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, 89,000 cases, 12% alc., $10
Excellent. There's a warm spot in Bob Bertheau's heart for Muscat Canelli, and he shows why here. A portion (16%) goes into this wildly aromatic production that carries tropical notes along with Granny Smith apples, apricots, jasmine, honeysuckle, baking spice and cupcake sprinkles. Balanced sugars allow this to also be enjoyed with Asian cuisine.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2008 Riesling, Columbia Valley, 669,000 cases, 12% alc., $10
Excellent. Indeed, this ranks among the world's more famous Rieslings because of the price, quality and quantity - the largest production on the planet. The inviting nose is reminiscent of ambrosia salad featuring pear and apple, joined by jasmine, river rock, vanilla and cotton candy notes. More apples, pears, jasmine and some peach hit the off-dry palate in a juicy manner. Residual sugar registers at 2%, but it's balanced by late acidity, capped with a squirt of grapefruit. Drink as an aperitif or serve with a cheese plate, crab or chicken.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, 105,000 cases, 13% alc., $10
Outstanding! Australian winemaker Wendy Stuckey heads up the white program, and one wouldn't expect her to make this Sauv Blanc in a New Zealand-style. Rather, it's focused on Cameo apple and Barlett pears while also a bit tropical in the mouth-watering aromas. There's a delicious entry of more pear along with juicy fresh-cut pineapple, and the great acidity just keeps on going. Suggested fare includes clams, halibut, oysters and herb-accented chicken.
DavenLore Winery 2008 Riesling, Yakima Valley, 72 cases, 13.4% alc., $15
Excellent. One might appreciate the way Gord Taylor in Prosser, Wash., describes the aging potential of this dry-style Riesling - "0-2 years." There are hints of sweetness in the nose with pineapple and passionfruit mingling with lemon-lime, grapefruit and alder smoke. It spotlights bright lemony citrus and a bit of orange pith, a combination meant for suggested fare as stir fry, hot wings or seafood.
Dirty Laundry Vineyard 2007 Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley, 687 cases, 13.3% alc., $17 CDN
Excellent. Hired gun Philip Soo, also consulting winemaker at Cassini and Noble Ridge, dialed in the right amount of oak for this Summerland, B.C., winery. Tangerine, pineapple, dates, melon and delicate apple blossom are not lost in the nose or across the palate. Pears and apples strike at the balanced midpalate before a dry finish that bodes well poached seafood or white meat.
Eaglemount Winery 2007 Riesling, Washington, 150 cases, 11% alc., $14
Excellent. This new winery on Discovery Bay near Port Townsend offers up an off-dry Riesling (4% residual sugar) that's akin to 7UP for grown-ups. Passionfruit, dried apricot, gooseberry, vanilla bean and margarita mix aromas swing into flavors for more of the same with some honeysuckle, honeydew and peach. A nice delivery of citrus gives it the balance of a surfer.
Flying Fish 2008 Riesling, Washington, 15,000 cases, 12.8% alc., $13
Outstanding! Gordy Hill, Mattawa's Wahluke Wine Co. and the Milbrandts' Evergreen Vineyard share in the credit for this wine that will make you feel good to be alive. Aromas of lemon-lime, ripe papaya, pineapple, petrol, sugar cane and jicama transcend into a bright entry of orange, tangerine and more pineapple. The sugar is balanced and the flavors linger. A portion of the proceeds sail off to the Ocean Conservancy, a bit ironic considering that suggested food pairings include grilled seafood.
Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery 2007 Larch Tree Hill Riesling, Okanagan Valley, 4,365 cases, 12.5% alc., $14 CDN
Excellent. This second label for Mission Hill continues to expand and gather respect, especially among those searching for value. Notes of pineapple, citrus, beeswax and straw in the aromas reach more toward citrus and apples on the balanced entry to the palate. A small herbal component is brushed aside by the lemony finish that bodes well for fresh oysters. The residual sugar is 1.2%, and the enclosure is screwcap.
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2008 Classic Auxerrois, Okanagan Valley, 2,300 cases, 13.3% alc., $14 CDN
Outstanding! Given that the previous vintage earned a Platinum from us in 2008, this comes as no surprise. Showcased are clean and crisp aromas of a caramel-covered Pink Lady apple, lemon, gooseberry and a slice of pineapple upside-down cake. Its supreme balance makes this easy to drink and pick out the pineapple, apricot and vanilla bean flavors. It's also a remarkably adaptable food wine, serving as past Match Maker.
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2008 Classic Dry Riesling, Okanagan Valley, 2,000 cases, 13.4% alc., $14 CDN
Outstanding! These wines are among the best and most-affordable in the Northwest, not just British Columbia. Think of spicy tropical fruit, Granny Smith apples, pink grapefruit, rosewater, lemon, a touch of herb and some minerality. The slightly off-dry palate pinpoints spicy citrus along with more rosewater and fresh-cut pineapple.
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2008 Classic Riesling, Okanagan Valley, 3,100 cases, 13% alc., $14 CDN
Excellent. If you seek simple pleasure in Riesling, here's a destination. Peach pie, pineapple ice cream, juicy Rainier cherries and grapefruit aromas play out in a pleasant balance of sweetness that's capped by a twist of lemon.
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2008 Dry Rock Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Okanagan Valley, 650 cases, 13.4% alc., $16 CDN
Excellent. At a decade old, these vines are producing some of the best whites in the province. And here's a fine example of Sauvignon Blanc, keyed from the onset with aromas of tom cat, muskmelon, grapefruit, apricot, diesel and grassiness. There's lots of smoothness with melons, sectioned yellow grapefruit with the pith and gooseberries filling the mouth.
Gilbert Cellars 2007 Riesling, Yakima Valley, 273 cases, 12.9% alc., $15
Excellent. Justin Neufeld took over the winemaking reins at this multi-generation winery in Yakima and produced an accomplished Riesling with this his first vintage there. Fruit from Olsen Vineyard allowed for scents of pear, apple and apricot fuzz as well as jasmine and petrol. Peachy flavors and citrusy acidity make for a dry feel on the finish to balance the residual sugar (1.3%).
Gray Monk Estate Winery 2007 Gewurztraminer, Okanagan Valley, 3,300 cases, 12.5% alc., $17 CDN
Excellent. Sites in Kelowna and Kaleden, British Columbia, come together at this second-generation destination winery that's well-known particularly for its skill with whites. Aromas of grapefruit, kumquat, jasmine and jicama give way to on citrus across the palate in broad and dry style. There's tasty drinkability here, and the finish of a lemon tart gives it depth.
Kyra Wines 2008 Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, 430 cases, 12.5% alc., $13
Outstanding! No surprise here as Kyra Baerlocher earned our top rating two years ago for this variety and received double gold earlier this year at the Seattle Wine Awards. There's a beautiful display of orchard fruit, honeysuckle and Sprite aromas. Next comes a sweet entry of more lemon-lime on the palate with peach and citrus flavors. It's very clean, fun to drink cold with the sugar at 1.7%, and yet it finishes dry.
Kyra Wines 2008 Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, 200 cases, 13.3% alc., $14
Excellent. Moses Lake's first winery keeps giving folks more reasons to pull off Interstate 90. Pleasing citrus and gooseberry aromas include melon, a bit of butterscotch and a hint of grassiness. Inside, it's strongly flavored with sweet peaches and honeydew melon, but a good whisk of citrusy acidity and a hint of pith provides balance. It's easy to envision this with vegan entrees or seafood at Tsunami Sushi in Moses Lake.
L'Ecole No. 41 2008 "Walla Voila" Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, 1,504 cases, 13.5% alc., $15
Recommended. Willard Family Farms committed to these Rattlesnake Hills vines in 1979, and this famed winery in Lowden, Wash., has been creating this wine since 1987. It's barely off-dry and brings notes of pears, peaches, lemonade and coconut with ample acidity.
Merry Cellars 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Wahluke Slope, 175 cases, 14.4% alc., $14
Excellent. Terroir-driven Patrick Merry turns his attention to the Milbrandts' Northridge Vineyard. It's a delicate nose of Granny Smith apple, pineapple, lemongrass, almond and citronella. A succulent entry packs more pineapple, nectarine and lemon with some roundness in the balance and Limeaid in the finish.
Michael Haddox House Wines 2008 Chardonnay-Pinot Gris, Yakima Valley, 13.9% alc., $15
Excellent. Once the winemaker at Glen Fiona, Michael Haddox has left the Winemaker's Loft in Prosser, Wash., and here's a second label for his new operation in Kennewick. Behind the aromas of Gala apple and pear, it smells akin to an Arnold Palmer - the popular mix of sweet tea and lemonade. A summertime drink, it's a bit off-dry with Barlett pear, pleasing crispness and a lemony finish with no bitterness.
Mount Baker Vineyards & Winery 2007 Madeleine Angevine, Puget Sound, 215 cases, 11.4% alc., $12
Recommended. This estate near Bellingham, Wash., even supplied the Siegerrebe (21%) in this aromatic maze of peaches, petrol and apples. What follows is a balanced drink of pears and lemon bitters that should fit in nicely among offerings of cod, crab or shellfish.
Northwest Cellars 2008 Adagio White Wine, Columbia Valley, 448 cases, 13.5% alc., $15
Outstanding! What began as a specialty label operation in Kirkland, Wash., has evolved into a business with special wines behind the label. Bob Delf's cadre of winemakers presented him a fragrant blend of Chardonnay (61%) and Sauvignon Blanc with grapefruit, tutti fruity, rosewater and powdered sugar aromas. Yellow grapefruit and creamy orange soda flavors strike a clean balance and create a finish of orange icing on a bundt cake.
Sagelands Vineyard 2007 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, 5,994 cases, 14.1% alc., $12
Excellent. Fruit from Snipes, Franklin and Anderson vineyards in the Yakima Valley were blended with the estate Canoe Ridge Vineyard to produce aromas of Fuji apples and juicy pears. There is vanilla and just a bit of toast from oak. Apples return in the form of flavor, with Anjou pear and coconut. Zippy orangy acidity mingles with a bit of pith in the background.
Sagelands Vineyard 2008 Snipes Vineyard Gewurztraminer, Yakima Valley, 433 cases, 13.5% alc., $14
Recommended. Inviting notes of apples, pears, anise and a beguiling sense of bubblegum powder highlight this fruity but not cloying drink. Next year, this release will feature the Snipes Mountain AVA. Pairing ideas include seafood, salads or a fruit/cheese plate featuring Gruyere.
Sagelands Vineyard 2007 Minick Vineyard Pinot Gris, Yakima Valley, 334 cases, 13% alc., $12
Recommended. Dried apricot, fresh-cut apple, candy corn and orangy citrus accents from this 20-year-old, 200-acre site make for a worthy drink regardless of price.
Sagelands Vineyard 2007 Snipes Vineyard Riesling, Yakima Valley, 391 cases, 12.5% alc., $14
Recommended. At an elevation of 1,300, these grapes are among the loftiest spots in the valley. Pleasing minerality, jasmine, Rainier cherries and nice sweetness (2.5% residual sugar) make this a fun wine for an evening with an attractive friend. Enjoy with roasted pork, a steamy bowl of pho or a fruit and cheese plate.
Six Prong 2007 Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills, 606 cases, 13.7% alc., $10
Recommended. The estate Alder Ridge Vineyard produced this easy drink that features canned pineapple, Uncola, butterscotch and lemon bitters. Pair this with grilled shrimp or halibut.
Snoqualmie Vineyards 2008 Naked Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, 7,200 cases, 13.5% alc., $12
Outstanding! More parcels of organic grapes are opening up, and this fruit hails from the Horse Heaven Hills. It made the short trip to Prosser, Wash., where Joy Andersen seems to have passion for this program. Apricot preserves, apple and lemon taffy aromas evolve into flavors of peaches and more taffy. Yellow Gatorade on the midpalate and tangerines in the finish make this drink both a fruit bomb and a partner for poached scallops with lemon butter.
Snoqualmie Vineyards 2008 Naked Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley, 2,600 cases, 12% alc., $10
Excellent. It's not just a crowd-pleaser but also embraced by the green movement because the grapes are organically grown. Aromas conjure up thoughts of a can of cling peaches with some jasmine, honeydew melon and tangerine. There's more of the same on the palate, and its structure as off-dry (2.6% residual sugar) makes for brisk sales in the tasting room as well as companion to Asian food.
Snoqualmie Vineyards 2008 Naked Riesling, Columbia Valley, 17,400 cases, 12% alc., $10
Outstanding! Harvest began Oct. 15, which is 10 days later than normal at her organic site in the Horse Heaven Hills. That didn't seem to slow down Joy Andersen's track record of consistently delicious Riesling. Perfumy notes of dried papaya, apricot, pineapple and honey are nailed again on the palate with bright citrusy acidity. It's wonderfully delicious, a real drinker and built for patio consumption at 3.1% residual sugar.
Two Mountain Winery 2008 Riesling, Rattlesnake Hills, 327 cases, 13% alc., $15
Excellent. The Rawn brothers made this seem as though they picked this fruit off an orchard tree rather than estate vines. A perfumy nose of lime, tangerine and peach turns in a lip-smacking style on the palate of the same fruit. There's considerable sweetness (1.7% residual sugar), but the acidity balances it out in delicious fashion for brunch or the patio.
Upland Estates 2007 Gewurztraminer, Yakima Valley, 115 cases, 13.2% alc., $14
Excellent. Historic vines on Snipes Mountain for this young estate winery in Outlook combine to produce an excellent deck wine. Dusty pears and Red Delicious apple aromas are met by hints of candy corn and lemon rind. The drink is pleasant and quaffable with a big entry of apricot, juicy white peaches and some honeysuckle (1.6% residual sugar). A twist of lime makes for a persistent finish.
Waterbrook Winery 2007 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, 24,181 cases, 13.7% alc., $12
Recommended. This Walla Walla winery observed its 25th anniversary this year, and at this price, everyone can join the celebration. Six vineyards contributed to this quaffer that's focused on tropical tones of mango, pineapple, lemon custard and some orange peel.
Waterbrook Winery 2007 Melange Blanc, Columbia Valley, 3,935 cases, 13.5% alc., $15
Excellent. John Freeman blended Gewurztraminer (30%), Riesling (26%), Viognier (10%), Chardonnay (10%), Sauv Blanc (10%), Pinot Gris (7%) and Muscat Canelli (7%). That bit of Muscat makes this a showy little wine by imparting Juicy Fruit gum aromas to join those of apple and LemonHead candy. It's a might juicy drink with lemon/lime flavors, a bit of grapefruit and more apple. Tartness rather than bitterness balances the residual sugar (1.3%), setting up a wonderful farewell.
Whidbey Island Winery 2007 Roussanne, Yakima Valley, 200 cases, 13.4% alc., $15
Recommended. Crawford Vineyard in Prosser, the unofficial vineyard of this and several other island wineries in Washington, also contributed the co-fermented Viognier (20%). That accounts for the orangy aromas that also include apples, peach and banana cream pie. Apricot and peach flavors are joined by tarragon in a tart structure that will pair well chicken or pasta in an Alfredo sauce.