Tasting Notes: Estate Planning

For Washington

Category: Tasting Notes

 

For Washington’s hottest Syrahs and Rieslings, look for estate winery Milbrandt Vineyards on the label

Back in 1997, Butch and Jerry Milbrandt of Mattawa weren’t the first wheat farmers to start growing grapes for local wineries, but they quickly became two of the best. The 50-some wineries for which they have grown fruit include some of Washington’s biggest names in wine: Chateau Ste. Michelle, L’Ecole No 41, Seven Hills, Charles Smith.

Today, with 13 distinct estate vineyard sites—almost 1,600 acres—under the brothers’ care, Milbrandt Vineyards can also lay claim to being the largest estate winery in Washington state. “Economy of scale,” younger brother Jerry Milbrandt explains. In 2007, the brothers started bottling their own for the simple reason that Butch wanted to make “the best wines in the world.” They were joined by the highly respected Gordon Hill, former winemaker of Chateau Ste. Michelle. They released 25,000 cases and expect to do 33,000 cases this year. Not bad for two self-styled “podunk farmers from Quincy” who’ve dabbled in everything from retail to realty while steadfastly maintaining—and expanding by tenfold—the original family farm. Now that their favored crop has soared in such a fashion, Butch and Jerry have become committed estate vintners on a grand scale. Jerry sheepishly admits, “I can’t do anything small.”

Even the most seasoned of wine connoisseurs aren’t always aware that estate winemakers—vintners who make and bottle wine from their own vineyards—are rare birds indeed. The majority of Washington winemakers may make their own wines, but they don’t actually grow their own grapes, instead buying their fruit from a variety of sources.

“When we started out, we had vast farming experience, but didn’t know much about grapes,” says Jerry. He and Butch had grown wheat and alfalfa since they could walk, but grapes were a different beast entirely. “Ste. Michelle asked us to take on some substantial acreage. We learned from guys with 25 years of experience.” After learning to care for the Ste. Michelle vineyards, the brothers were asked by other winemakers to plant additional vines, and they did—on their own land.

Wahluke Slope, the American Viticultural Area (AVA) under which the bulk of Milbrandt’s acreage falls, is one of the warmest places in Washington state—a distinction that is shared with Red Mountain, another celebrated Washington AVA. Syrah and Riesling do especially well on Wahluke Slope, which is thought to be one of the largest alluvial plains in the United States. “All the water from the ancient floods eddied down and created this large gravel bed, which is great for vines to struggle in,” explains Butch. “Winds blow through this southern slope, making the skins tougher and giving the fruit intense color.”

The Syrahs from Milbrandts’ Clifton Hill vineyard, used in their own label, are poised to become the Next Big Thing. Family characteristics include a heady blackberry perfume, a lighter-than-most full body with softer tannins and a deeply saturated garnet hue.

The justly celebrated Milbrandt Rieslings are approachable wines that are easygoing on the palate and the wallet. The fruit comes from Evergreen Vineyard, a cooler, high-elevation site that produces wines with lush stone fruit and floral aromas, crisp acidity and an elegant mineral edge. Milbrandt bottles these great, friendly whites under its own Traditions label as well as for Charles Smith Wines’ “Kung Fu Girl” and for Flying Fish restaurant’s house label.   

SUMI'S WINE PICKS:
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1127 December 2008 2008-03-26 11:07:00.000 Tasting Notes: Dessert Whites Luscious, sweet wines to complement tasty holiday desserts Category: Tasting Notes

 

Luscious, sweet wines to complement tasty holiday desserts

Alicia Gelles, the daughter of Klipsun Vineyards owners Patricia and David Gelles, wasn’t planning on making a dessert wine. Gelles, 29, lives in Santa Cruz, California, but she often visits her parents and had always hoped to make wine from their prestigious grapes. “She had been wanting to make a big red wine for a long time,” says her father. But last year, when Klipsun had some late-harvest Semillon available, the younger Gelles opted instead to make the first-ever eKlipse Cellars wine, using Klipsun’s grapes, a sweet one. 

She and her parents researched which local winemaker with whom to collaborate on this project, and decided to work with Efeste’s Brennon Leighton, former white-wine maker for Chateau Ste. Michelle—a good choice since Leighton has more than a little experience with sweet whites. He had a hand in making Chateau’s award-winning Single Berry Select dessert wine, known for its luscious, rich honey-like flavors. 

Late harvest is just one style of sweet wine that is a perfect complement for the dessert course after a holiday meal or ideal for serving with fruit and cheese. Most late harvest wines are created from white or red grapes that are left on the vines and picked before they freeze, but weeks past regular harvest. These shriveled, almost dried up berries have concentrated and intensified sugars and fruit flavors, just like a raisin does. 

Another type of late-harvest wine is ice wine (or Eiswein). This common German dessert wine style is created when grapes are left on the vine until they freeze and are then harvested in the chilly early-morning hours to retain the ice. When the juice is pressed from the grape, the ice crystals are separated out, concentrating the juice and leaving less water present. The juice is then fermented until the alcohol level is about 10 percent, leaving a high level of residual sugar in the wine. 

The most difficult method of achieving a luscious sweet wine is when grapes are infected with the “noble rot,” or Botrytis cinerea, from the Latin for “grapes like ashes.” The blue-gray fungus causes grapes to shrivel up and lose water, thereby concentrating sugars, minerals and flavors when pressed and fermented into wine, referred to as late-harvest botrytized wine. It doesn’t sound appetizing, but winemakers who love this sweet wine hope every year that weather conditions will be just right—a dry period after a few weeks of wet weather to create the right humidity in the air for the fungus to take hold.

Often, only some of the grapes are infected and must be separated by hand from the non-infected grapes. The resulting wine, crushed from these concentrated little berries, is a rare libation and has been coveted in Europe for centuries. In Washington, these wines are rare as well—Chateau Ste. Michelle, for instance, only makes its award-winning Riesling Single Berry Select every few years when conditions are perfect; the resulting rarity is reflected in its price, $200 per 375 ml bottle. Though winemakers must be patient for the opportunity to make these wines, to those who appreciate their luscious, honey-like tastes and decadent, velvety mouthfeel, they’re well worth the wait.

SHANNON'S WINE PICKS
2004 Mount Baker
Vineyards Late Harvest
Viognier
($20, 350 ml)
A beautiful yellow-gold color, this wine has fresh cooked peach, honeysuckle, orange zest and almond aromas that give way to bright acidity balancing a mouth-coating lushness and flavors of orange, candied pineapple and sultana. Pairs with: Pear and goat cheese tart.

2007 Kiona Ice Wine
($27.95, 375 ml)
Kiona Vineyards and Winery in B http://seattlemag.com/files/image/main/large/tasting1.jpg Washington Wines
141 April 2008 2008-03-21 17:30:47.000 Video: Get Wet Vaudevillians take the stage (and ceiling) at the Moisture Fest (and we have proof). Category: Arts + Events Articles

 

Through 4/13 // Celebrate spring spectacular-style with the “comedy/varieté” performances at the 2008 Moisture Festival. Taking over Hale’s Brewery Warehouse every spring since 2006, this blend of bizarre and beautiful features everything from jugglers and clowns to acrobats, musicians, burlesque dancers, comedians, aerialists and can-can girls in a lively and loving homage to the long-gone theatrical genre of vaudeville. Times and prices vary.
 

Heather Fassio Arts + Events Articles
129 April 2008 2008-03-21 17:26:21.000 Video: Dante Marioni Blows Glass Dante Marioni is the quirky son of Seattle’s blown-glass scene. Category: Arts + Events Articles

 

3/20-9/21 // Dante Marioni is the quirky son of Seattle’s blown-glass scene—he studied under such icons as Dale Chihuly and Lino Tagliapietra—known for his mastery of Venetian glassblowing techniques and for his mischievous machinations of shape and hue. His exquisite creations, many of which embody a Dr. Seussian whimsy, are on view in this elegantly playful midcareer survey, aptly titled Form, Color, Pattern. Times and prices vary. Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St., Tacoma; 866.468.7386; museumofglass.org.
 

Heather Fassio http://seattlemag.com/files/image/main/large/08apr10.jpg Arts + Events Articles
128 April 2008 2008-03-21 17:25:09.000 Video: Alternative Comedy Acts in Action! We wrote about Seattle's new alternative comedy acts. Now you can hear them too in our web exclusive. Category: Arts + Events Articles

 

We wrote about Seattle's new alternative comedy craze in our April 2008 issue Now you can hear it too, in our web exclusive.
Comics featured in Seattle magazine's What're You Laughing At?
 
 
 
Other alt comics we love

Heather Fassio http://seattlemag.com/files/image/main/large/08apr15.jpg Arts + Events Articles
127 April 2008 2008-03-21 17:24:13.000 Video: Spring Awakening Spring styles are flirty and our stylists will tell you all about it in our web-only outtakes. Category: Arts + Events Articles

 

Hair, makeup and nails by Gene Juarez Team Artistic

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591 2008-03-11 12:05:19.000 Tasting Notes: Novelty + History A new Woodinville tasting room highlights the talents of one longtime Washington winemaker. Category: Tasting Notes

 

The history of Washington wine is at work in Mike Januik’s wines. As head winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle from 1990 to 1999, he had access to fruit from some of the state’s best vineyards. After almost 10 years on his own, he still does, but now he’s pouring them just down the street from Ste. Michelle at the sleek new Novelty Hill/Januik Winery tasting room. “I’m lucky enough to work with two of the best Chardonnay vineyards in the state—Elerding Vineyard in the Yakima Valley and Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Cold Creek Vineyard. If those vineyards weren’t available to me anymore, I’m not sure if I could replace them.” 

Luckily, he won’t have to anytime soon. Januik has been making acclaimed wines under the Januik Winery label—which he and his wife Carolyn own—since 1999, and for the Novelty Hill label since 2000.  Among other accolades, he has been called “a magician with Merlot” by Wine Advocate, and his 2003 Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon was one of only four Washington wines on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines list in 2006. His history with Chateau Ste. Michelle and his longstanding reputation for making delicious, delicate, well-balanced wines, from Sauvignon Blanc to Chardonnay to Bordeaux-style blends, has earned him his access to great sites. Nearing harvest, Januik visits the vineyards—Red Mountain’s Klipsun Vineyards, Weinbau on the Wahluke Slope and others—about once a week. “I go through the vineyards, and although of course we measure pH levels (the acid/alkaline levels) and Brix (the level of sugar in the grapes), we pick on taste.”

In the past year or two, making wine isn’t the only thing on Januik’s mind. He and his partners (Novelty Hill’s owners, Tom Alberg and his wife Judi Beck) have focused on building the snazzy new Novelty Hill/Januik Winery and tasting room just down the road from Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville. The new room, which opened last fall, was designed by forward-thinking Seattle architecture firm Mithun, known for sustainable design, in collaboration with landscape designer Katherine Anderson, whose design includes a bocce ball court, firepit and several different levels of gardens. Its huge cement walls and hand blown-looking chandeliers would be as at home in Napa as it is Woodinville, taking the local wine country touring—and winemaking—experience to a higher level of contemporary rustic elegance.

For Januik, the copious new facility “makes everything easier,” he says. “The new, up-to-date facility means we save about 25 percent more energy and have better process control.” He might even receive an alert from the winery computer in the middle of the night if temperatures in his fermentation tanks drop or rise unexpectedly. But technological advancements aside, in general, he’s more excited about keeping things the same than about all the changes at the winery. “I’m happy with what we are doing, and with the great vineyards we are working with,” says Januik. “The wines from Cold Creek and Champoux vineyards that we made back in [the late ’80s and early ’90s] are aging very well; it will be exciting to continue to see what happens and build that history.”

Shannon’s Picks

Novelty Hill 2005 Stillwater Creek Sauvignon Blanc, $18
A bit of Semillon has been added to this wine to lengthen the finish, but the Sauvignon Blanc is what gives it its fresh, bright tropical fruit flavors. Fermented sur lie (on the lees of pulp and yeast) in a barrel for seven months to impart a creamy mouthfeel, the bright acidity balances the softness.
Pairs with:  Slow-cooked marbled chinook salmon with Chardonnay-butter sauce.

Novelty Hill 2006 Stillwat Shannon Borg http://seattlemag.com/files/image/main/large/gen184.jpg Washington Wines
232 February 2008 2008-02-21 10:51:00.000 Seattle Salon Gone Wild! The Rise of Salon Seven (Downtown) 1520 Seventh Ave.; 206.903.1777; (new location in Pacific Place, opening in March); (Bellevue) 101 Bellevue Square; 425.289.1777; 7salon.com Category: Beauty Articles

 

When Rodger Azadganian opened the doors to über-hip Salon Seven’s 10-chair salon five years ago, he did so with the goal of raising the hair bar, so to speak, in the Northwest and turning Seattle into a style hub. Seven’s precision cuts and attention to detail made quite an impact, and two years ago, Seven opened a second location at Bellevue Square. Though home to 36 chairs, the Eastside Seven has managed to maintain the boutique feel we fell in love with in the first place (and of course, the cuts are still stellar).

Next month, Seven will relocate its second salon from Downtown to Pacific Place. While it will have nearly five times the chairs of a boutique salon’s standard of 10 or less, it still has that boutique feel. As Azadganian puts it, “Seven’s always had the same culture. Our philosophy is based on individuality, and our focus is on not losing the individual.” 

The new supersize salon will have 49 chairs, and each stylist is undergoing an intensive training program with principal educator and legendary stylist Graham Breakwell. “Graham worked with Vidal Sassoon. Our specialty is looking at face and bone structure, and that’s what Vidal did in the ’60s.  We’re creating an evolution with that idea. We train in face shapes and work like tailors,” says Azadganian.

What else is new? We hear that two rising stars shine among Seven’s team. Azadganian touts Ezekial Corley (cuts, $60; color, $65; partial foil, $115; full foil, $135) for foil highlights and Michael Quinn (cuts, $60; color, $65; partial foil, $115; full foil, $135), who dresses like a rock star, for musician-quality, precision styles.

If you’re hoping for some all-encompassing pampering, look elsewhere. Seven is a straight-up hair salon; no spa extras here. But its unique salon experience includes an in-house espresso and chocolate bar and a sound system of the highest quality—with a full-time DJ on staff, of course.

 

 

Liz Gallagher http://seattlemag.com/files/image/main/large/08feb10.jpg Beauty Articles
792 February 2008 2008-02-15 12:08:00.000 Tasting Notes: Pearly Whites An oyster