Today we feature three great wineries – some old, some new and all with one thing in common: the pursuit of quality fruit and the creation of delicious wine made with passion. Here are our profiles, along with a wine recommendation for each – cheers!
Robert Ramsay Cellars is a small craft winery devoted to creating wines that people enjoy. They specialize in Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and red blends built on fruit from Horse Heaven Hills, Snipes Mountain and Boushey Vineyards. Winemaker Bob Harris named the winery after his great-uncle Mason Ramsay, rancher, shop teacher, friend and mentor to many, nurturer of the creative forces hidden within his students. Bob patiently stewards wines from pick to pour, lovingly crafting jewels that are classic, complex, and a joy to drink.
Bob likes to say he fell in love with a bottle of Cote Rotie when he was 21. The rest of the story, as the say, is history. In 2001, after making beer and then hard cider his affinity for fermentation led to the leap from a hobbyist maker of wine to the business of making wine on a production scale, and Bob’s first winery Coeur d’Alene Cellars was born. Almost a decade later with his newest venture, Robert Ramsay Cellars, he plays roles from winemaker to bottle washer helping to make the wines everything they can be.
“Blending decisions are everything,” says Bob. Blending the right amount of each varietal is the to key to what makes Robert Ramsay Cellars wines special. Focusing on Syrah, Mourvedre and Cabernet Sauvignon, Robert Ramsay Cellars makes wine that people identify with. “As with most small wineries, I have a day job making software,” Bob added. “The problem with software is that no matter how good a product you make, people complain. With wine I get to be creative, care about what I make, and when people drink it, they smile. Making people happy is a wonderful thing to be part of.”
The winery is located in the Warehouse district in Woodinville.
This is a new world wine with the tradition of the old world. The wine combines the subtlety of earth, spice and dark fruit with the generosity of bold, succulent and bright fruit flavors. Both complex and smooth with a long finish, this wine will be comfortable in the cellar for some time to come…if you can wait that long. It is quite enjoyable now.
Police officer Jerry Riener was driving a boring stretch of a two-lane highway in the late 1990s and walked into what he would soon learn was a winery. It wasn’t grapes, the smell of fermentation and rows of toasty French oak barrels that he noticed at first. It was the big shiny equipment and the forklift that caught his attention. As a youth Jerry spent time on his uncle’s wheat farms in the Midwest and was always fascinated by the agricultural machinery.
Soon Jerry was volunteering 40 hours a week for longtime Woodinville winemaker Matt Loso, learning the intricacies of harvest, fermentation, racking and cleaning many tanks. His University of Washington chemistry degree was put to use as he worked on the scientific components of winemaking. The frosting on this cake was permission to make a barrel of his “own” wine inside the winery.
Jerry continued to help a number of wineries in Woodinville by doing everything from assisting winemakers with construction projects to making wine. Upon meeting Mark Ryan McNeilly in 2001, he was soon helping Mark expand his winery and move locations. In 2003, with no intention to venture out on his own, Jerry made two barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon inside Mark Ryan Winery.
Mark encouraged Jerry to start his own winery and offered him an existing contract with Conner Lee Vineyard – the fruit source for his Gun Metal blend; as well Mark offered the Gun Metal wine name; a name perfect a cop-turned winemaker.
Guardian Cellars is now producing 3,000 cases with seven different wines and sourcing fruit from Red Mountain, Stillwater Creek Vineyard, Stone Tree Vineyard and Conner Lee Vineyard.
The newest vintage of Angel is bright and crisp with notes of peach, melon, honey and green apple. The 2010 vintage is a blend of 80% fruit from Klipsun Vineyard and 20% from nearby Spring Creek Vineyard. Fermenting on new French oak for roughly 7 weeks imparts just a touch of creaminess creating the foundation for a lovely rounded mouth-feel. Angel Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect summertime pal for the porch. 300 cases produced.
“You’ve come a long way baby” doesn’t even begin to tell the story of Waterbrook Cellars. After my visit this past week to their 75-acre winery site with its state-of-the-art winemaking facility and 5,000 square foot visitor’s center built in 2008 in Walla Walla, I was simply blown away.
My first encounter with Waterbrook was back in 1995 after the winery had been around for more than 10 years; it was bonded as the fourth winery in Walla Walla in 1984. The visit was at the home of the founders and previous owners (Rindals) in their gorgeous backyard garden with a handful of media and we tasted through the lovely wines along with them.
Their first tasting room didn’t open to the public until 1999. The awards garnered along this road are too many to mention and do include some impressive stats including: Top 100 Wines of the Year 2009 and 2010 by Wine Spectator, Top 5 Value Winery in America by Parker’s Wine Bargains and Best Buy by the Wine Enthusiast.
Winemaker John Freeman has led the winemaking team at Waterbrook since 2005. His winemaking philosophy is simple – make the best wine possible. He strives to produce wonderfully structured wines with silky texture and harmonious balance to complement a variety of cuisines.
Tasting through some of the outstanding Waterbrook Icon small lot wines in the barrel room you realize that while this is a winery giant, the finesse of hand-crafting and creativity is prevalent through-out. The Icon series currently includes 2008 Rhone Red, Malbec and Barbera.
Each course at the winemaker dinner I attended was paired with two wines to see which we preferred and I must say I had a difficult time choosing between the crisp, lightly oaked Pinot Gris and the luscious and tropical Melange Blanc. This beautiful sunny wine country day was a perfect setting for the 2010 Sangiovese Rose which packs a fruit punch in a delicate way and sports a gorgeous color.
I’m impressed with the Waterbrook success story overall. From its history to its current rendition, the wines have remained approachable, affordable and food-friendly. The grapes have always been sourced from outstanding sources and the attention to detail is consistent. Its summer so pick up a bottle of the outstanding Rose.
This is a crisp wine with rose bud and watermelon aromatics. This dry Rosé has bright flavors of strawberry and melon with balanced acidity and lingering raspberry notes on the finish. Did I mention that it was delicious and I can’t seem to get enough of it?! This is one of the wines that will be at my 4th of July BBQ.