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News & Reviews 2013

INTERNATIONAL WINE CELLAR REVIEWS NOV/DEC 2013

By Stephen Tanzer

2012 NORTHERN WHITE (91 POINTS)

Good full yellow. Yellow fruits, wild herbs and honey on the nose, lifted by floral and spicy high notes and complicated by a toasty leesy quality. Intensely flavored, vibrant and classically dry, boasting terrific grip and lift to its slightly candied flavors of lemon drop and vanilla. Finishes juicy and brisk, with palate-staining length. This boasts a lot of personality and flavor appeal, not to mention volume and cut: I can't recall ever tasting a more impressive 100% marsanne bottling from Washington.

2010 SOUTHERN BLEND (91 POINTS)

(75% grenache, 15% syrah and 10% mourvedre) 
Good bright red-ruby. Complex, musky aromas of raspberry, redcurrant, mocha, olive and smoked meat, plus a superripe candied note. Supple and fine-grained; tactile yet smooth, with a restrained sweetness to the red fruit and spice flavors. Finishes with suave tannins, and subtle lingering perfume. Nothing out of place here.

2010 NORTHERN BLEND (91 POINTS)

(95% syrah with 5% viognier)
Medium-deep red. Enticing high tones to the aromas of cherry and smoke. Supple and sweet on the palate, with lovely inner-mouth perfume to the red fruit and spice flavors. Finishes with suave tannins and sweet but cool notes of raspberry and garrigue. (Another sample of this wine was considerable drier and more reduced, with its sweet fruit in deep retreat; my score is obviously for the first bottle.)

This summer Stephen Tanzer reviewed our 2010 Northern and Southern Blends, as well as our 2012 Northern White. Read here his thoughtful reviews and kind words about all three wines. He enjoyed the Northern White in particular, stating, "I can't recall ever tasting a more impressive 100% marsanne bottling from Washington."

SEATTLE WEEKLY | OCT 22, 2013

WASHINGTON STATE’S SYRAHS AND GRENACHES MAY BECOME ITS STANDOUT WINES.

At a recent dinner event, I got into a conversation with several members of the Washington Wine Commission. One topic we discussed was how, unlike our West Coast neighbors, Washington has yet to find those few grapes that define the region—you know, the way that pinot noir does the Willamette Valley or cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay do Napa Valley. Instead, Washington growers seem more interested in experimenting with just about any grape variety they can get their hands on. While it’s interesting to see how the local terroir handles barbera or tempranillo or auxerrois, one of the most exciting discoveries has been that Washington can make some really amazing wines modeled on those of France’s Rhone Valley.

Leading that charge is Sean Boyd of Rotie Cellars. The name hints at the kind of wines he’s making: The Cote Rotie is a small region in the northern Rhone Valley known for its syrah-based wines, and indeed Boyd makes his Northern Blend in the classic Cote Rotie style, adding a small amount of viognier (yes, a white grape) to enhance the aromatics and, paradoxically, darken the color.

A quick word about the Rhone: It’s generally divided into north and south, with different grapes pre-eminent based on where you are. In the north, red wines are largely or totally made from syrah, while the whites are largely viognier. The best-known appellations are Cote Rotie, St. Joseph, and Hermitage. Down south, grenache is the dominant red grape, but plenty of syrah and mourvedre are grown as well, while roussanne and marsanne are the central white grapes, with viognier factoring in too. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the best-known region in the southern Rhone, but wines from Vacqueyras and Gigondas are similar in style and often match in quality.

Both Rotie’s whites are aromatically expressive and bright, but with a nice backbone of acidity and minerality that reins in the fruitiness inherent in Rhone varietals. In particular, the Northern White Blend is the best Washington viognier I’ve tried, showing fragrant white flowers and luscious stone fruits on the nose, but delivering a balanced and complex taste with a refreshing zing of acidity on the finish. It’s that devotion to balance and acidity that defines all Rotie’s wines.

When it comes to reds, syrah has a long history in Washington, but it’s typically made into rich, jammy, fruit-forward, high-alcohol wines that have more in common with Australian shirazes than the wines of France. Boyd has consciously broken with that tradition, making complex, elegant, high-acid red wines that are wonderfully food-friendly. His Northern Blend showcases Washington’s ability to achieve a wonderful ripeness without sacrificing acidity and complexity, with notes of blackberry, bacon fat, and chocolate leavened with a nice dose of spices and a bracing hit of rocky minerality.

Even more exciting to me than well-made Washington syrah is the potential of grenache. While it has until now gone largely unnoticed in this state, grenache is currently being buzzed about as a potential “grape of the future.” As a counterpoint to the rich and luscious fruits of the Northern Blend, Rotie’s Southern Blend shows brighter red fruits coupled with dusty, leathery, and briny notes which would be right at home in the southern Rhone. With those flavor components, it’s one of my favorite reds for grilled meats, especially lamb.

Beyond bringing Rhone varietals into focus, Boyd is one of the founders of Proletariat Wines, one of the local pioneers in keg wines. These allow bars and restaurants to avoid one of the traditional perils of glass-pour wines: An opened bottle of wine goes bad really quickly. Keg wines are kept fresh with inert nitrogen, so the wine can be served for weeks on end without any spoilage or waste.

In short, it’s winemakers like Boyd who push forward the frontiers of Washington wine. Paradoxically, this is sometimes done by looking back at Old World wines and figuring out how they can be recreated locally. Of course, the goal isn’t to make a perfect clone of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but to understand what makes those wines great, and then to apply those grapes, materials, and techniques to the outstanding and unique local conditions of eastern Washington.

Leading that charge is Sean Boyd of Rotie Cellars. Boyd has consciously broken with that tradition, making complex, elegant, high-acid red wines that are wonderfully food-friendly.

THE OREGONIAN | RHÔNE WAVE BREAKING

The following is an excerpt from the Oregonian (September 2, 2013) Read the full article

ROTIE CELLARS

If anyone in Walla Walla is obsessed with the Rhône, it's Sean Boyd, owner/winemaker at Rôtie. Boyd makes four red and white blends, designated "Northern" or "Southern" depending on the grape blend. His 2011 "Northern Blend" Washington State Red ($40), for example, is styled after a red from the northern Rhône's Côte-Rôtie, where syrah is co-fermented with a bit of white viognier to bring freshness to the aroma. It's a wine that needs decanting to open up, and then reveals gorgeous raspberry and red current notes and will take on more black-olive notes with age. My notes for his Southern Red ($40) blend say: "Ripe strawberry drizzled with balsamic and sprinkled with white pepper; I just want to crawl into the glass."

If anyone in Walla Walla is obsessed with the Rhône, it's Sean Boyd, owner/winemaker at Rôtie. Boyd makes four red and white blends, designated "Northern" or "Southern" depending on the grape blend... My notes for his Southern Red blend say: "Ripe strawberry drizzled with balsamic and sprinkled with white pepper; I just want to crawl into the glass."

Wine Advocate | Issue #207

“These knockout wines are made by Sean Boyd and offer classic, fresh profiles that deliver brilliant levels of fruit and texture. During my tastings with Sean, he also opened bottles of his 2007 Southern and Northern Blends, both of which were aging beautifully and showed youthful, still fresh fruit.” -Jeb Dunnuck

  • 2010 Dre | 94+ points

  • 2010 Little g | 95 points

  • 2011 Little g | 93 points

  • 2010 Homage | 95+ points

  • 2010 Northern Blend | 94 points

  • 2011 Northern Blend  | 92 points

  • 2010 Southern Blend | 92+ points

  • 2011 Southern Blend | 90 points

  • 2011 Southern White | 92 points

  • 2012 Southern White | 92 points

  • 2010 Swordfight | 94 points

  • 2010 DRE | 94+ points

More reserved than the Homage, the 2010 Mourvedre Dre is a 100% Mourvedre that was aged in neutral oak for 12-16 months. It exhibits a thrilling array of blackberry and blueberry styled fruit to go with notions of ground pepper, wild herbs, roasted meat, licorice and pan drippings on the nose. This is followed up by a full-bodied, concentrated wine that has a seamless, elegant texture, racy acidity and fine, polished tannin that doesn’t emerge until the finish. Like the Homage, this isn’t for those lacking in patience and needs 3-5 years of bottle age. I believe it will be very long lived and, as with the Homage, 12 to 15 years or more of evolution is not out of the question. If drinking anytime soon, a lengthy decant is recommended, as this didn’t start to fully shine until the second day. Drink 2015-2025.

2010 LITTLE G (95 POINTS)

Also silky and almost Pinot Noir-like in its elegance and texture, the 100% Grenache 2010 Grenache Little g is loaded with juicy, wild berry and kirsch-like qualities that are intermixed with lovely white pepper, freshly snipped flowers, red licorice and underbrush on the nose. Pure silk on the palate, with a medium-bodied, seamless texture, juicy acidity, sweet fruit and fine tannin on the finish, this perfectly proportioned 2010 should be given 2-3 years of bottle age and then consumed over the following decade. Elegance and seamlessness are the buzzwords here. Drink 2015-2025.

2011 LITTLE G (93 POINTS)

More open-knit than the 2010, with a sexy, supple profile, the 2011 Grenache Little g had just been bottled at the time of this tasting. Made from 100% Grenache and possessing a light ruby, transparent color, it offers up lovely kirsch, rose petal, licorice and underbrush to go with a medium-bodied, voluptuous and sweetly fruited palate that has no hard edges, building richness and a seamless, elegant finish. Already superb, it should drink nicely for 7-8 years. Drink now-2019.

2010 HOMAGE (95+ POINTS)

The ripest of the lot is the 2010 Homage. A blend of 70% Mourvedre, 20% Cinsault and 10% Grenache, it displays a bright, lifted array of bramble-laced black and blue fruits, leather, sappy underbrush, peppered meats and licorice on the nose. Up-front and gorgeously fruited on the palate, it has loads of texture, yet manages to stay fresh and elegant, with juicy acidity, very fine, silky tannin and a brilliant finish that certainly doesn’t lack for length. This needs a long decant if drinking anytime soon and should have 15-20 years or more of longevity. Drink 2016-2025.

2010 NORTHERN BLEND (94 POINTS)

Stepping things up a notch in concentration and richness, yet still holding onto the polish and elegance shown by all of Sean’s wines, the 2010 Northern Blend is a co-fermented blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier that was aged mostly in neutral barrel before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Deep ruby/purple, it is deep and dense aromatically, with smoky black fruits, bacon fat, dark chocolate, wild herbs and crushed rock-like minerality all emerging from the glass. Medium to full-bodied on the palate and simply impeccably put together, with a concentrated, rich palate weight that’s carried by a seamless texture and a lively, energetic feel, this thrilling, age-worthy Syrah should be given 3-4 years in the cellar and then consumed over the following 10-12 years. Drink 2016-2025.

2011 NORTHERN BLEND (92 POINTS)

Similarly styled, with a firm feel, the 2011 Northern Blend (95% Syrah and 5% Viognier) opens with beautiful black and red raspberry styled fruit, pepper, game, sappy underbrush and assorted floral qualities to go with a medium-bodied, pure and oh so precise texture on the palate. Detailed, energetic and lively, it makes the most of the cool vintage and is perfectly balanced and a superb drink. It will benefit from 1-2 years of bottle age and shine for 7-8 years, possibly longer given its overall harmony. Drink 2015-2021.

2010 SOUTHERN BLEND (92+ POINTS)

Coming from the sandy soils of the southern slopes of Horse Heaven Hills, the 2010 Southern Blend is a blend of 75% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre aged in used French oak barrels. Deep ruby in color and almost opaque, it displays superb Grenache flair with loads of kirsch, licorice, white and black pepper, exotic spices and floral qualities that give way to a medium-bodied, fresh, focused palate. Very lively, energetic and elegant, with integrated acidity, solid concentration and ripe tannin, this knockout southern Rhone blend can be enjoyed now, or cellared for 5-7 years. Drink now-2020.

2011 SOUTHERN BLEND (90 POINTS)

Looking at Sean’s 2011s, the 2011 Southern Blend is a blend of 65% Grenache, 23% Mourvedre and the balance Syrah and Cinsault. Showing the cooler nature of the vintage, it has fresh, almost crunchy styled characteristics of mulberry, raspberry, white pepper and sappy flowers to go with a medium-bodied, racy and firm feel in the mouth. Certainly on the leaner side of the spectrum, it nevertheless has beautiful purity of fruit and the acidity stays nicely integrated. Enjoy it over the coming 5-7 years. Drink now-2020.

2011 SOUTHERN WHITE (92 POINTS)

Incredibly perfumed and fragrant, the 2011 Southern White, a tank fermented blend of 50% Viognier, 30% Roussanne and 20% Marsanne (no malo), is light gold in color and exhibits a great bouquet of ripe pear, mango, exotic flowers and striking minerality. There’s big fruit here, and it shows its Viognier component at first, yet it turns more citrus and mineral driven with air. Full and fleshy on the palate, with a mouth-filling, voluptuous texture, outstanding balance and a clean, beautifully fresh finish, this straight-up delicious white will be versatile on the dinner table and drink well for 2-3 years, possibly longer. Drink now-2016.

2012 SOUTHERN WHITE (92 POINTS)

More soft and supple, yet no less pure, the 2012 Southern White is comprised of 70% Viognier, 15% Roussanne and 15% Marsanne. Beautifully pure white peach, honeysuckle, white flowers and vanilla cream-like characteristics all emerge from the glass. On the palate it is medium-bodied, perfectly balanced and has no hard edges. It has the acidity to evolve gracefully, yet I’d still lean towards drinking bottles over the coming year. Drink now-2014.

2010 SWORDFIGHT (94 POINTS)

Available only as a 3-pack and a collaboration between Spencer Sievers and Sean Boyd, the 2010 Swordfight is a blend of 75% Syrah and 25% Mourvedre that comes half from Phinny Hill Vineyard (Horse Heaven Hills AVA), 25% from Alder Ridge Vineyard (Horse Heaven Hills AVA) and 25% from the SJR Vineyard (Walla Walla Valley AVA). Deep, rich and layered, with notions of black fruits, melted licorice, smoked herbs and pepper, it is a medium to full-bodied, serious effort that’s loaded with fruit, has gorgeous mid-palate depth and a firm, lengthy finish. Give it 2-3 years of bottle age and enjoy over the following decade. Drink 2015-2025.

“These knockout wines are made by Sean Boyd and offer classic, fresh profiles that deliver brilliant levels of fruit and texture. During my tastings with Sean, he also opened bottles of his 2007 Southern and Northern Blends, both of which were aging beautifully and showed youthful, still fresh fruit.”