Updated Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 03:53 PM
HERE'S A QUICK look through a wonderful collection of new releases from wineries — one old, one new, one Bleue (sic) — that offer superb value and exceptional quality.
Spokane's Arbor Crest winery celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, and reliably produces value-priced wines that are full-bodied and flavorful. The 2011 Bacchus Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($10) is a perennial favorite, in this new vintage intensely scented with grapefruit and pineapple. Also highly recommended are the winery's 2010 Five Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($20); 2010 Conner Lee Vineyard Cabernet Franc ($22); and 2010 Four Vineyards Merlot ($18), the Pick of the Week. Though prices have risen slightly, the quality speaks for itself.
At the very high end, Arbor Crest's 2009 Dionysus Meritage Blend ($48) shows deep, dark and rich fruit and barrel flavors, without excessive alcohol. The length is superb.
Kaella is a new winery, based in Woodinville, under the guiding hand of owner/winemaker Dave Butner. He is another graduate of the Boeing Wine Club, which has turned out a number of quite successful professional winemakers. With these three releases, this young winery is off to a great start. Sourcing fruit from Ciel du Cheval vineyard helps. Though only 75 cases of each of these wines were made, the sophistication and craft implicit in the winemaking suggests that even if they are already gone, future releases will be well worth a look.
The Kaella 2010 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Sangiovese ($25) is especially impressive. Full-bodied and authoritative, this is styled to keep all the leafy tartness of the grape intact. Tangy red and purple fruits abound, with zippy acidity and tongue-tingling phenolics. The Kaella 2010 Meritage ($30) is even better, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot sourced entirely from the Conner Lee vineyard. Here, super juicy black cherry fruit is set against generous acidity. Vibrant and full, long and fresh, this could age gracefully for a decade or more.
Maison Bleue is a winery that has commanded my attention from its very first releases almost five years ago. With a focus on single-vineyard, Rhône-varietal wines, and a rare gift for capturing perfect aromatics and immaculate fruit flavors, each new vintage seems to bring the wines into sharper focus, with more detail and, at times, astonishing complexity. As I tasted new releases with winemaker Jon Meuret-Martinez, I learned that he will open a tasting room in Walla Walla this spring (aiming for Cayuse weekend in early April), and plans to move the whole winery to the valley by 2014.
Maison Bleue's 2011 Au Contraire French Creek Vineyard Chardonnay ($25); 2011 Notre Vie Arthur's Vineyard Viognier ($25); 2011 Boushey Vineyard Petite Joie Marsanne ($35); 2010 Boushey Vineyard Liberté Syrah ($40); and 2010 Boushey Vineyard Le Midi Grenache ($35) are all wines I would love to have in my own cellar. If you're not on this mailing list yet, I wouldn't wait any longer.
Pick of the week
Arbor Crest 2010 Four Vineyards Merlot; $18
THIS PURE merlot draws grapes from Bacchus, Conner Lee, Dionysus and Klipsun vineyards — an all-star lineup at any price. Sappy, spicy and loaded with black fruits, it delivers plenty of flavor across a thick mid-palate. (Distributed by Odom)