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New Wines, Reduced Prices, Insane Scores from Washington State's Finest: Gramercy, Leonetti, Quilceda Creek and Andrew Will

New Wines from Washington  

I have been meaning to do a newsletter on this for a while.  I adore the wines from Washington State and the producers below represent a majority of the better ones coming out of there. For the price, these destroy comparably priced ones from California any day of the week. They are more refined and can age just as long.  Below is a lineup from Gramercy, Andrew Will, Leonetti and Quilceda Creek. It doesn't get much better!
 
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Andrew Will

“Since day one, this has always been a working winery, with no fancy tasting rooms or emphasis on Disney-like public tours, just outstanding winemaking year in and year out, and a singlemindedness to produce superb, age-worthy wines from some of Washington’s finest vineyards sites. The two original vineyards that Chris started with all the way back in 1989: Ciel du Cheval Vineyard and Champoux Vineyard, are still two of his principal grape sources for his superb, claret-styled reds that must be ranked at the very summit of Washington state wines and amongst the very finest wines to be found —-- John Gilman, View From The Cellar #47

Winemaker Chris Camarda launched Andrew Will Winery (Named after Chris’s son Will and nephew Andrew) with their inaugural 1989 vintage, working out of a humble 60’ by 10’ winery, and he has spent the last two decades producing some of Washington’s most well respected wines. Structured, elegant, and age worthy, they are a singular voice that has never adjusted to chase scores or suit trends. Although always a focus, Chris’ attention to terroir has only intensified over time. Since 2001 he almost exclusively produces single vineyard blends as he feels this shows the terroir more clearly than a single varietal bottling. Currently he only sources from four vineyards that he feels provide the finest fruit: Champoux, Discovery, Two Blondes, and Ciel du Cheval. All of the wines are treated more or less the same in the cellar; 25-35% new oak barrels, aged for around 21 months, followed by a year of aging in bottle. Production is around 4,500 cases.

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2016 Andrew Will Involuntary Commitment
Regular Price: $24.99
Sale Price: $22.99 
61% Cabernet Franc, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17% Merlot from Two Blondes and Champoux vineyards, aged 11 months in neutral French oak

91 Points Wine Enthusiast: This neutral French oak-aged blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot is a side project from the folks at Andrew Will. Its aromas draw you into the glass, evoking savory herbs, cherries, tangerine peel, fresh tobacco, green pepper and black olives. The palate brings pure, textured, seamless fruit and savory flavors that sail into the distance.

2016 Andrew Will Cabernet Sauvignon “Black Label” Columbia Valley
Regular Price: $39.99
Sale Price: $36.99
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Two Blondes and Champoux Vineyards. The 2016 vintage was an easy growing season which resulted in high yields. Aged 14 months in 255 new French oak. 2,250 cases produced

93 Points JS: Pretty blackberry and blueberry aromas with black licorice. A full body, firm and silky tannins and a fresh finish. Integrated and tight. Needs two or three years to come together. Better in 2020.

2014 Andrew Will Red Blend Two Blondes Vineyard Yakima Valley 
Regular Price: $69.99
Sale Price: $64.99
44% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc. Aged in 35% new French Oak barrels for 18 months and an additional year in bottle prior to release.

93 Points JS: Beautiful violet-like florals with wet stones, red plums and cocoa powder. Boysenberry, too. The palate has a succulent, smooth and even-handed feel, offering up deep plum flavors in an effortless, flowing mode. A class act. 56% merlot, 20% cabernet franc, 15% cabernet sauvignon and 9% malbec. Drink or hold.
 
2014 Andrew Will Red Blend Champoux Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills
Regular Price: $78.99
Sale Price: $71.99
44% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot/Malbec, from the Champoux vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills; the vines are 27 years old on average. The wine spent 18 months in barrel; 750 cases produced.

94 Points+ WA: More fresh and lively than the Ciel du Cheval, the 2014 Champoux Vineyard has sensational purity in its lifted bouquet of cassis, black raspberries, violets and spring flowers. There's a touch of graphite that develops with time in the glass; it has fine, polished tannin and an elegant, silky texture. It doesn't have the heft of the Ciel du Cheval but shines for its purity and elegance.

2013 Andrew Will “Sorella” Champoux Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills
Regular Price: $91.99
Sale Price: $85.99
78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% PV/Malbec. Aged for 18 months in 35% new French oak barrels and an additional year in bottle prior to release.

94 Points+ JG: The 2013 vintage of Sorella is once again based primarily on cabernet sauvignon, which is a strength in this hot summer, as this grape tended to ripe later and really had a chance to develop more complexity over the last few weeks of hang time. The Sorella blend this year is seventy-eight percent cabernet sauvignon, ten percent merlot, six percent cabernet franc and the remainder a mix of malbec and petit verdot. The bouquet is deep, pure and nicely reserved in profile (a rarity in the 2013 vintage), offering up a complex constellation of cassis, dark berry, espresso, a touch of tobacco leaf, dark soil tones, cigar smoke, currant leaf and a discreet framing of spicy oak. On the palate the wine is full-bodied, focused and rock solid at the core, with ripe, well-integrated tannins, excellent balance and grip and a very long, nascently complex and very classy finish. This does not share the touch of opulence of the other Andrew Will 2013s, as this has the sophisticated structure and purity that was the hallmark of the previous vintage here. By the way, this also is listed at 14.5 percent octane, but carries its alcohol very well indeed. A great wine in the making


Leonetti Cellar
“...made by Chris Figgins and a benchmark estate, Leonetti Cellars produces seriously rich efforts that have a perfect blend of power and finesse, with gorgeously managed tannin, seamless textures and awesome purity.” —Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Advocate

“Leonetti Cellar is unquestionably Washington state’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon producer.” —Robert Parker, Wine Advocate

Founded by Gary and Nancy Figgins in 1977, Leonetti Cellar (named for Gary’s grandparents) became the first bonded winery in Walla Walla. Almost immediately their exceptional wines set the standard for Washington and over the past three decades they have vigorously worked to maintain that excellence. Using only estate fruit they produce four wines: Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Reserve blend. The wines are bold and expressive but also balanced and structured. Although delicious on release, the wines age beautifully. All of the wines are aged in a mix of old and new French oak for 15-22 months and total production is around 5500 cases. In 2001 Chris Figgins assumed the role of head winemaker and, following Gary’s retirement in 2011, now runs the entire estate. He won’t be changing things anytime soon as Leonetti remains strongly rooted in family tradition and the goal is and always has been to simply produce the greatest wines possible.

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2016 Leonetti Merlot Walla Walla
Regular Price: $104.99
Sale Price: $96.99
95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc, sourced from Seven Hills, Loess, Leonetti Old Block, Mill Creek and Upland vineyards. Aged 15 months in new and once-filled French oak barrels and neutral oval botti. 1,881 cases produced

95 Points JS: Intense aromas of blueberries, blackberries and black olives with some graphite follow through to a full body. Ultra-fine tannins and a savory finish. Needs time to soften but already shows class and finesse. Drink in 2020 and onwards.

2014 Leonetti Sangiovese Walla Walla
Regular Price: $94.99
Sale Price: $87.99
95% Sangiovese and 5% Aglianico, sourced from three vineyards: Serra Pedace, Mill Creek Upland, and Seven Hills. Aged 22 months in neutral puncheons and oval botti.

92 Points WA: One of the best examples of this variety, the 2014 Walla Walla Sangiovese (it includes 5% Aglianico) offers textbook Sangiovese notes of black cherry, spice, sappy herbs and a hint of rose petal. Medium to full-bodied, silky, and seamless it has beautiful polish and elegance, and while I’d happily drink bottles today, I suspect it will keep for a decade or more.

2014 Leonetti Cabernet Walla Walla
Regular Price: $131.99
Sale Price: $124.99
81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot, sourced from four sites: Seven Hills, Mill Creek Upland, Leonetti Old Block, and Loess vineyards. Aged 22 months in new and second-use French oak.

94 Points WA: Blackcurrants, black raspberries, graphite, leafy herbs and even a hint of bay leaf all emerge from the 2014 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon, and it's deep, rich and beautifully concentrated in the vintage. Made from 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot and 8% Merlot, it opens up nicely with time in the glass, has ample tannin structure and a great finish. Give bottles short term cellaring and enjoy through 2034.

2014 Leonetti Cabernet Reserve Walla Walla
Regular Price: $199.99
Sale Price: $184.99
79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Malbec, and 8% Petit Verdot., sourced from four sites: Leonetti Old Block, Serra Pedace, Mill Creek Upland, and Loess vineyards. Ages 22 months in new and second-use French oak barrels and neutral puncheons

96 Points WA: Even deeper colored, the 2014 Walla Walla Reserve checks in as a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Malbec, and 8% Petit Verdot. Its vibrant purple color is followed by sensational notes of crème de cassis, graphite, lead pencil shavings and hints of damp herbs. Rich, full-bodied, gorgeously concentrated, tannic and impeccably balanced, it's unquestionably one of the gems in this vintage. It needs to be forgotten for 4-5 years and will keep for two decades or more. 

Gramercy Cellars

When asked for a list of under the radar wine regions that people should be investing in -- sorry to sound like a Buzzfeed article -- Washington state is always at the top of my list and from Washington: Gramercy Cellars. I am therefore extremely proud and vindicated to see such fantastic scores just come out from the Wine Advocate and Jeb Dunnuck. Insane scores that had me to do a triple take.

Gramercy Cellars is not that old but to me, they represent a new wave of Washington Cab and Syrah producers; ones focused on creating the true uniqueness that the region has to offer, forfeiting the usual and cliche modern style that tends to taste like Napa Cab and Syrah. Washington is all about finesse and balance. Those bored of Napa fruit bombs should come North. It would be a mistake -- and I have done so myself -- to think that Washington Cab resembles Bordeaux and Syrah resembles Cote Rotie. To make such an analogy truly strips Washington of its place as a unique region that can compete with the rest. Gramercy Cellars is definitely leading the way.

The lineup are a handful of new items that have received unbelievable scores. These are cellar worthy wines that can stand the test of wine and metamorphasize into sagely beasts. A must for any serious wine collection


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2014 Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 
Regular Price: 56.99
Sale Price: $51.99
96 Points Wine Advocate: "Checking in as a rough blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc and a splash of Petit Verdot, the inky colored 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon offers classic Cabernet notes of black currants, lead pencil shavings, tobacco leaf and damp earth. Beautifully layered on the palate, with full-bodied richness, solid mid-palate depth and a touch of graphite on the finish, this is a sensational Washington state Cabernet Sauvignon that will have 20-25 years of longevity"
 
2015 Gramercy Cellars Syrah "Lagniappe" Columbia Valley 
Original Price: $64.99
Sale Price: $59.99
98 Points Jeb Dunnuck: "Always one of my favorite releases from this estate, the 2015 Syrah Lagniappe is 100% Syrah (mostly from the Red Willow Vineyard in Yakima, with 5% from the Forgotten Hills Vineyard just south of Walla Walla). Deep ruby/plum-colored and loaded with Côte Rôtie-like (Côte Blonde?) notes of black raspberries, crushed flowers, tapenade, and crushed flowers, this beauty is medium to full-bodied, seamless, and silky on the palate, with incredible finesse and elegance. It's going to benefit from 3-4 years of bottle age and knock your socks off over the following decade or more. It’s unquestionably one of the wines of the vintage."

2015 Gramercy Cellars Syrah "John Lewis" Walla Walla
Original Price: $89.99
Sale Price: $85.99
98+ Points Jeb Dunnuck: "Another tour de force, the 2015 Syrah John Lewis offers more lavender, violets, and minerality, as well as incredible black and blue fruits. This peppery, meaty, rich, full-bodied effort has building tannin, awesome purity, and integrated acidity, and it's certainly one of the finest Syrahs in the vintage. It's more tannic than the Lagniappe Cuvée and is going to benefit from short-term cellaring, with two decades of overall longevity. Bravo! This vintage comes from a single block in the Les Collines Vineyard, in Walla Walla, isn’t destemmed, and spends 19 months in 7% new French oak puncheons. The team of Greg Harrington and Brandon Moss continue to keep Gramercy Cellars near the top of the hierarchy in Washington State. While they started out with a focus on Syrah, today they produce a brilliant lineup of both Rhône and Bordeaux blends. The 2016s, which were tasted from barrel, were surprisingly fresh and lively, and I suspect harvested on the earlier side. It will be interesting to see how these come together in bottle. The 2015s are a step up and are some of the finest I’ve tasted from this team."

Quilceda Creek

“My hope for the future is that many others will emulate this impeccably run winery, which is turning out compelling wines of irrefutable richness and complexity… Of all the producers profiled in this book, Quilceda Creek may be the only one that still remains below the radar of even the most knowledgeable wine enthusiasts. These are prodigious, world-class wines.” —Robert Parker, Wine Advocate

In 1974, while working as an engineer at Scott Paper, Alex Golitzin began making wine as a hobby. Under the guidance of his uncle, the legendary André Tchelistscheff of Beaulieu Vineyard, he produced a single barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon. He continued producing a barrel each year until Tchelistscheff encouraged him to take it further. Golitzin listened, and in 1979 he bonded his winery under the name Quilceda Creek. For the first decade, Alex needed to keep his day job while producing the wines in a shed using mostly scavenged equipment. Thanks to strong support from Robert Parker, though, their reputation for producing superlative wines began to grow and soon he was able to focus on the winery full-time. His son Paul joined the team in the late 1980’s and took over as head winemaker in 1993. Paul has not only continued his father’s work, but propelled the winery to even greater heights, including several 100 point scores from Parker and claiming the #2 spot in the Wine Spectator top 100 twice within 10 years. Things show no sign of slowing down and now nearly every critic recognizes Quilceda Creek’s place in the top echelon of American wine. Renowned for their concentration, complexity, age-ability, and balance, these wines share qualities with the greatest Cabernets of California, yet they possess a distinctive character that could only be from Washington. Quilceda Creek is a seminal, iconic winery, and though they have come far from their humble beginnings, the goal remains the same:


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2015 Quilceda Creek CVR Columbia Valley Red 
Regular Price: $78.99
Sale Price: $72.99
93 Points Jeb Dunnuck: "The 2015 CVR Columbia Valley Red Wine checks in as a blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It's a great introduction to the estate and offers a creamy, full-bodied, elegant, seamless style that just begs to be drunk. Crème de cassis, kirsch, violets, and incense notes all emerge from this sweetly fruited, pretty, elegant red that has incredibly sweet tannin.

2014 Quilceda Creek Red Blend “Palengat” Horse Heaven Hills 
Regular Price: $78.99
Sale Price: $72.99
Sourced from Champoux, Palengat, Lake Wallula and Wallula Gap Vineyards which are located in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Aged in 100% new French oak for 20 months, it is a blend of 58% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Cabernet Franc

96 Points WA: A blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, the sensational 2014 Palengat Vineyard is loaded with notions of chocolate covered plums, licorice, roasted herbs, and graphite/lead pencil shavings. Up there with the of the top vintages of the cuvee, this full-bodied, rounded and hedonistic 2014 shines in the vintage, has no hard edges, gorgeous purity, and plenty of ripe, sweet tannin. It’s a serious mouthful of a Cabernet and will drink nicely for 10-15 years.

2015 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
Regular Price: $209.99
Sale Price: $194.99
100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 20 months in 100% new French oak.

99 Points JD: The flagship is the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon mostly from Champoux with the balance from Palengat and Wallula vineyards. Crème de cassis, graphite, black licorice, unsmoked tobacco, and hints of chocolate and emerge from this beauty and it continues to gain depth and nuance with time in the glass. Full-bodied, deep, and layered with an incredible purity and elegance on the palate, it's already accessible but has more than enough tannin, depth, and balance to evolve for two decades or more.

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