I’ve gotten pretty good at strategy when it comes to trade shows – having attended them for the past 13 years as either a buyer for restaurants or retailers, and the RNDC show was no exception.  I had a long way to drive back so I wasn’t about to screw around or get hammered – that is amateur hour (the newfound arrogance in my attitude is making me act a little like Dolph Lundgren right now, only shorter). 

You know me, I have to scope out the Washington State wines, but spreading the love to its southern neighbor, Oregon, I found some great wines from there as well.

Cloudline Pinot Noir Oregon 2008.  Grade=Outstanding.  This tasty little number from the folks at Domaine Drouhin is a terrific intro to Oregon PN, showing off nice notes of Bing cherry, mulberry, sandalwood and cherry cola notes.  Light-bodied with silky tannins.

Novelty Hill Merlot Columbia Valley 2006.  Grade=Outstanding.  The wines of Novelty Hill have done really well in our stores, and you can taste why with this Merlot.  Rich, full-bodied, with loads of cherry and plum notes, some hints of eucalyptus, dried herbs, light mocha and mineral, the tannins stretch out to saturate the palate with dark fruits and a creamy spice finish.

Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007.  Grade=Amazing.  This Washington State Cab truly kicks ass!  For the money, nothing compares; it has a truckload of juicy blackberry, black currant, baking spice, baked earth and cigar box notes, a bit of pepper and undertones of mint and licorice.  Complex, rich and satisfying.

Van Duzer Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 2008.  Grade=Outstanding.  A beautiful PG from one of my favorite Oregon producers, this shows off a lot of crisp apple and pear, hints of citrus rind, a lot of mineral character and a slightly creamy texture on the finish.  The second time around is just as nice as the first.

Van Duzer Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2007.  Grade=Outstanding.  This seemed slightly less complex than when I first tried the 2007 a few months back.  Still it was an impressive PN with all its cherry-berry-baking spice glory.  Roasted hazelnuts and cola tones resonated throughout its light-bodied, velvety finish.

Van Duzer Pinot Noir Homestead Block 2005.  Grade=Amazing.  This single vineyard PN is powerful yet graceful on the palate, a stunning example of why winemakers make single vineyard wines.  This 100% Pommard clone exudes Burgundian sexiness with its notes of pomegranate jam and Baked Alaska.  Hints of cinnamon, white pepper, sandalwood and red tea notes intermingle with a lot of red berry fruit dynamism. 

Van Duzer Pinot Noir Dijon Blocks 2007.  Grade=Amazing+.   This cuvee of three different Dijon clones shows amazing depth and breadth with its red and black cherry aromas and flavors and nuances of allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, undertones of roasted nuts, baked pumpkin, cola nut and dried thyme and marjoram.   The finish is lush, voluptuous and enveloping.

Three Rivers River’s Red Columbia Valley 2006.  Grade=Outstanding.  I was surprised to see the 2006 on the table when I have the 2007 in the store, but this red blend from Washington State is all Bordeaux with hints of black fruits, baking spices and mineral.  Still shows very well.  (The winery is currently shipping 2008.

Kiona Cabernet Sauvignon Washington State 2003.  Grade=Outstanding.  Yeah, I know what you are thinking – this is a 7 year old Cab.  This is the current vintage; the winery likes to age these guys awhile and release them only when they are ready to drink.  With a touch of Merlot and Cab Franc, this full-bodied red exudes a lot of classic Bordeaux charm, yet still possesses loads of New World themed cassis, blackberry, cedar and smoky oak tones.  Incredible value.

Kiona Riesling Washington State 2008.  Grade=Average.  This spicy Riesling is pretty good, yet I have several its equal at a much more reasonable price.  It shows off spicy stone fruit characters with a hint of Rainier cherries, orange blossom and white flowers.  Finishes slightly sweet.  Just wish it were a shade less pricey.

Kiona Late Harvest Riesling Washington State 2008.  Grade=Outstanding.  Here we have a beautiful Auslese-style Riesling, with spicy golden cherry, pear, apricot, white peach and nectarine notes and a splash of mineral and white flowers.  It finishes wonderfully.

Kiona Ice Wine Washington State 2006.  Grade=Amazing.  This 100% Botrytised Chenin Blanc is creamy, with fleshy baked pears, vanilla custard, lemon meringue and orange peel, with enough acidity to keep this sexy beast resonating for hours.  A delicious dessert wine.

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