A Wine Tasting

Washinton State Wine Tasting with Greg Gorman and Friends
Friday, April 7th, 2006
Woodinville, Washington

At 10:30AM, our ride was waiting-a good idea if you are going to spend an entire day “tasting” wine. Yeah, you’re supposed to spit…but with great wine, there is the real temptation to swallow.

Off in the van to the first stop. I grab a quick shot of me and check out Greg on the phone-a common theme throughout the day.

We pull into out first stop-Betz Family Winery

This is Bob’s new location. Over the past 24 months they’ve been working to build their own winery right in the heart of Woodinville Wine Country, and they’ve just moved in. It’s a great location.

George Jardine (left) grabs a shot of Bob Betz (right) in one of what would be a multitude of “photo ops” during the course of the day.

The setup, left to right: (notes by George Jardine)
1) ’04 “Besoleil” GSM, (Heavy on the Grenache)
Bob described this wine as being “young and angular” and having nice black pepper spice on the palate.

2) ’04 “La Serenne” Columbia Valley Syrah
Bob says his Syrah is “all about texture” and is looking for roasted coffee, bbq and chocolaty notes in the wine.

3) ’03 “Clos de Betz”
59% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc
From the web site: “A Merlot “chocolatiness” mingles with black cherry, plum and leather aromas. There’s also a hint of camphor and Asian spice in the aroma.”

4) ’03 “Père de Famille”
76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 8% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot
From the web site: “A huge currant, black cherry aroma emerges, carrying along spice, minerals and leather. It’s thick and rich, with plenty of youthful tannin, yet finishes with a ripe lushness and sweet black cherry, tobacco flavor.”

Bob pouring one of MANY glasses.

Left, George is taking copious notes (thanks George) and right, Bruce inspects the color-he’s trying to determine the correct Photo RGB chromaticities.

Left, the vats, right, Bob talks passionately about the wine making process. Bob holds the degree of Master of Wine (or MW), a rare designation awarded by the Institute of Masters of Wine in London. Since the Institute’s inauguration in 1953, only 260 people worldwide have passed the exams necessary to be awarded the title.

One of the barrel rooms.

Graham Nash (yes, that Graham-he like his wines) shoots some shots, left and then checks to see what it looked like.

Bob talks about one of his inventions-a low volume crush machine to gently and in a very controlled manner, crush the grapes. No, the family doesn’t use the old stomp method-this is a lot better (and doesn’t make your feet purple).

Bob shows Karl Lang the Washington State grape growing regions where Bob get his grapes. Washington State wine regions include six federally recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), commonly known as appellations; three of them share territory with Oregon State. Most of Bob’s grapes come from Columbia Valley.

Bob’s wife Cathy helps pour.

We adjourn into the other barrel room to discuss barrels.

From left to right: Graham Nash, Cathy Betz, Bob Betz and Greg Gorman.

Mac Holbert, left and Karl Lang, right “chimp”. In the middle is Marita Holdaway of the Benham Gallery in Seattle. Mac and Graham were in town for Mac’s show opening. See the PSN article Print Show by R. Mac Holbert-Seattle

Bob and Cathy wave goodbye.

Then, it’s back into the van for a trip to our next stop-brunch at the Barking Frog. Which is a good thing-the last time Greg organized a Washington wine tasting, we forget lunch and had to stop at MacDonalds for a bite (otherwise we would have been blotto).

Left to right, Graham, Greg and Matthew S. Loso, Winemaker, Matthews Cellars.

Left, we sit at the big fire-pit table. Right, my Kobe Beef Burger (with cheese, a LOT better than a Big Mac!)

Then it’s off in the van to our next location-Ross Andrew Winery.

George (right) and Henry Wilhelm of Wilhelm Imaging Research grab even more shots. It was a foto-frenzy of wine drinking (uh tasting) and photography.

Ross Andrew Mickel, Winemaker of Ross Andrew Winery, greets us. And shows us his spread-I guess he didn’t get the brunch memo huh Greg. We had just eaten.

Wine display in the Ross Andrew Winery.

Ross does his pour – ’02 Ross Andrew Columbia Valley Cabernet
83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot. This Cab has been in the bottle for 18 months.

Ross works with Bob Betz where he is assistant winemaker. Ross’s location is Bob’s old “garage” where Bob had been making wine until he moved into his new location. Ross is practicing the real “Garagiste” (garage) wine making style.

Left, in the barrel room, right, Ross does a “barrel tasting” of ’05 Merlot. It’s been in the barrel for 6 months and racked once.

Another barrel taste – ’05 Alder Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon. I love the chem beaker.

Left, Ross talks about his wine making, right, George takes more notes. It should be noted that all wine notes in this story are George’s notes. Did I mention George took copious notes?

Graham, middle, takes a sniff, Larry Bacca, center, asks a question while Bruce looks on.

The 05 Alder Ridge Cab…ok, there wasn’t much left.

Next stop was fun-we got to drink wine that we couldn’t buy because it’s already sold out. Mark Ryan, Winemaker – Mark Ryan Winery

Wines by Mark:

1) ’05 “Viognier” (sold out)

2) ’04 “Wild Eyed” Syrah
The Wild Eyed Syrah is a blend of Kiona, Hedges and Ciel du Cheval vineyard Syrahs, co-fermented with 5% Viognier.

3) ’04 “The Dissident”
Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah blend

4) ’03 “Dead Horse” (sold out)
63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Syrah

I really love Mark’s naming conventions…

Wild Eyed close up.

Mac and Graham get entranced by a mirror to shoot.

We got another barrel tasting: ’04 “Long Haul” barrel sample. A Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot blend, “with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon” This wine was my favorite of Mark’s, showing monster red and black fruits, with a beautiful richness on the mid-palate. Quite ready to drink right out of the barrel! – George Jardine

Karl lining up a shot with his “big lens” (you know what they say about photographers with big lenses).

Barrel close up of the ’04 Dead Horse.

Graham, Mark & Greg.

Henry making a call. I wonder if he’s doing “accelerated fade testing on the leg” and of course, Greg on the phone. I actually had a couple of important calls too. Really…

Graham meets Mike Januik, Winemaker – Januik Winery. Mike will be moving his winery soon too. We saw the drawings, real nice-Garagiste wine making must be paying off.

Greg helps George shoot bottles.

Mike and Graham talk barrels.

We all circled Mike while he poured and we tasted:

1) ’04 Cold Creek Chardonnay
From the website: “Made from one of Washington State’s premiere vineyards, this Chardonnay was made in the traditional Burgundian style. It was fermented in new French oak barrels and aged sur lie for ten months. The finished wine has great structure, concentration, and classic Chardonnay characteristics-pear and citrus flavors along with a remarkably creamy texture. Layered with hints of vanilla and mineral flavors, the finish is fresh, balanced and lingering.”

2) ’03 Columbia Valley Merlot
From the website: “This Merlot is a blend made from some of the very best vineyards in Washington State, including Seven Hills Vineyard, Conner Lee Vineyard, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, and Klipsun Vineyard. The blend, which includes 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot, was aged for 18 months in mostly new French oak barrels. This wine has great length on the palate and is highlighted with intense chocolate, black cherry, and vanilla flavors.”

3) ’03 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
From the website: “This wine is blended from a remarkable collection of Columbia Valley vineyards which include: Champoux Vineyard, Klipsun Vineyard, Red Mountain Vineyard, Seven Hills Vineyard, and Ciel du Cheval Vineyard. The wine is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot.Wines from each of these vineyards contribute in their own unique way to create a wine with great structure and length. Aged in predominantly new French oak barrels for 20 months, this wine is concentrated with intense black fruit and mocha flavors that are well-integrated with rich, supple tannins.”

4) ’03 Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
From the website: “Walla Walla’s Seven Hills Vineyard once again produced a Cabernet Sauvignon which we considered deserving of a single vineyard designation. Aged in new French oak barrels for 20 months, this is a wine which is both rich and elegant. Its beautifully perfumed nose is enhanced by 10% Merlot, and the wine is packed with currant, spice, and toasty vanilla flavors that add to its long silky finish.”

5) ’03 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
From the website: “Like its predecessors, this wine is made from what is arguably Washington State’s best vineyard for this variety. Aging for 20 months in new French oak barrels added to what was already a very lengthy finish. Racking the wine every three months created very pliant tannins that nicely complement the cassis, ripe currant, and dark chocolate flavors on the palate.”

6) ’03 Columbia Valley Syrah
From the website: “Made with exceptional Syrah grapes from the Lewis Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, this wine has all the classic characteristics of the best Syrahs. It begins with subtle oak accents that are complemented by plum, spice and cassis. On the palate it is quite supple and finishes with great length.”

My fav? 03 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. I ordered a lot of Mike’s wines.

Mike’s vats.

Graham, Mike Januik and Greg pose for a snappy.

Then it was out of the garage and back into the van to the next stop. Boy I sure was glad we had a driver by that time. I shouldda spit more…

Next stop, Baer Winery. Greg gives Lance Baer a hug.

Lance greets Graham.

George shooting.

Lance shows Graham a “real garagiste” and decorative etched bottles.

Lance talks about the background of his wine naming.

We tasted:

1) ’04 “Shard” 100% Stillwater Creek Vineyard Chardonnay
From the website: “Working with a blend of two French Chardonnay clones, we pressed the whole grape clusters directly into a tank and then chilled the aromatic fresh juice overnight. The naturally clear juice was then moved to a custom 80-gallon stainless steel barrel for fermentation. Three months later, the completely dry Chardonnay was siphoned into new French oak. After resting and gaining complexity for 15 months, the wine was bottled. A unique creation, this wine was never racked, fined, or filtered. Created in a style that I personally prefer, this unique wine avoids the excessive fatty oak and butter often found in other American Chardonnays. This drink is a lean, mean, food-friendly machine.”

2) ’03 “Ursa”
50% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon,1% Malbec
979 Cases Produced
From the website: “Ursa is designed as a more feminine expression of a red wine blend – beautifully aromatic with velvety tannins. This new vintage takes even further steps toward our definition of refined balance and mouthfeel. Blending lush, warm Merlot with seductively floral Cabernet Franc creates an elegant wine that pairs particularly well with food. Expressive and approachable, this is a fine wine that may be enjoyed now or cellared for up to 10 years.”

3) ’03 “Arctos”
72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot ó3% Malbec
217 Cases Produced
From the website: “This is the first wine we proudly offer with 100% Stillwater Creek Vineyard fruit. Big and rich, Arctos matches well with hearty cheese and rustic breads or as a satisfying accompaniment to grilled meats, and will easily age for 15+ years.”

Opening another bottle. Notice the wine in the decanter? Well, that was a special barrel “decanter blend” where Lance grabbed wines from 4 barrels that will become the ’04 Ursa, 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Franc. This was my most favorite tasting because it was so spontaneous and the odds are REAL good that nobody aside from our group will ever get exactly the same blend. When it bottles, the ’04 Ursa will be great, but different from what Lance blended on the fly that day. This was a special treat! Thanks Lance.

George taking MORE NOTES!

Greg shows a group shot of Matt, Eric Dunham, Winemaker – Dunham Cellars and Greg from a special dinner.

Left, the Vino Paparazzi line up to shoot and then shoot Greg, Lance and Graham.

My shot of the trio.

Ah, no, don’t bother to try to get the credit card number-I used the Mosiac filter on it. But Lance got the number…

Baer barrel. Notice the thingie with the letters? It a band-aid used as a label. Hey it sticks on real good and you can write on it.

Back in the van Karl shows a shot he just did on his laptop and we’re off to the final stop of the day, Matthews Cellars.

When we get there, Dan Steinhardt of Epson has arrived in a cab just in time for the last tasting and dinner. Graham give Dano a hug.

Dano looks through the glass. No, I have no idea what he was looking at. He was supposed to be sober-he had just come from biz meetings.

Greg points out the label on the back of Dano’s vest The Photographer. Well Dano used to be a photographer until (he claims) I drove him out of the photo biz here in Chicago in the early 80′s.

The troups come into the tasting. Greg on the left. On the right, George shoots me shooting him. We do that alot.

Bruce up close and Becky (my wife) and Graham.

Becky says “No Pictures!”. Right is Steve Gorman, Gorman Custom Framing (Greg’s brother).

Mac Holbert comes in, left. Mac was told he couldn’t have alcohol due to meds so he really was the only one of the group that tasted and spit. On the right, Larry Baca is a consultant specializing in creative market development strategies for new companies and products.

Henry Wilhelm comes trooping in followed by Karl Lang.

George now finds a new subject-FOOD. We couldn’t eat any until George got his shot.

Left, Matt’s barrel room. Right, Matt tells us about his new thing-cement wine vats which he claims maintain a more consistant temp. BTW, I didn’t screw up the white balance (too bad) that blue light is a UV light (blacklight without the black on it). I’m not real sure why he has that.

Looking into a wooden vat.

Stainless steel vats outside. Right, Mac decides to shoot a basket ball hoop. I don’t know why, so I shot him.

Out on Matt’s deck. Left, Dano regales us with a funny story (he’s good at funny stories). Right, Eric pours some of his ’02 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and his ’03 Columbia Valley Syrah.

Getting ready for dinner…


Braised Beef with Port Syrup on Gruyere crackers
Grilled Prawns in Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
Fresh Mozzarella Crostini with Tomato Basil Relish
2005 Matthews Sauvignon Blanc, Klipsum Vineyard

Seared Scallop with Wilted Spinach, Arugula Pesto and Harissa Sauce
2005 Matthews Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Lachinni Vineyard

Bibb Lettuce with Tomme de Chevre, Mint Marinated Strawberries, Toasted Almonds and Citris Champagne Vinaigrette
Matthews Private Cellar Section

Olive Oil Poached Halibut with Grilled Peavines and Smoked Tomato Nage
2002 Matthews Columbia Valley Red Wine

Roasted Lamb Rack with Herbed Polenta Cake, Sauteed Spring Vegetables and Lavender Jus
2004 Matthews Syrah, Hedges Red Mt. Vineyard

Orange Frozen Parfait with Grand Marinier Syrup and Muscat Grapes
2003 Matthews Semillon Ice Wine, Klipsun Vinyards

Greg on the phone again, talking to his friend from Wine Spectator, left and right, George is still shooting food.

Matt talks about dinner, the wine and the day. Many, many thanks Matt!

Henry shoots, left and George “Chimps”, right.

George gets a pour from a magnum of Dead Horse-seems Mark has more laying around than he told us.

Roasted Lamb Rack being plated by the chef of the Barking Frog Bistro.

Hey, everybody look UP. Well, except Karl, who is shooting, what else?

The “Children’s Table”. There wasn’t enough room at the big table so some had to go to a second table. However, it was at this second table that some stunning bottles were opened and passed around including a a ’95 Insignia and an ’88 Rothschild. I got a taste of the Rothschild. Kinda wish I was at THAT table…

Karl sees me…

Corks (not all from that night, well, I don’t think it was all from that night. I don’t know, they could all be from that night).


Ok, get ready for some, uh, purple tongue shots…

Bruce and Steve

Henry and Dano

Becky and Graham

Greg and Eric

Billy and Lance

Ross and Mark

Mark’s girlfriend and Matt

George and Larry

Marita and me (sorry)

Back into the van to the hotel. George hates flash.

Back at the hotel.

Becky and I on the way to our room. Ok, who thought really big mirrors on opposing walls was a good idea. Don’t they know we’ve been wine tasting?

This Washington State Wine Tasting was organized by Greg Gorman and Matthew S. Loso and attended by the members of the Pixel Mafia. Our sincere thanks to Greg, Matt and all the winemakers who took the time to meet and pour. It was a special treat (and something they usually don’t do).