In this age of wine as a second profession, you just never know when you’ll flip through a magazine and discover an old friend who has started a winery. It was in a 2008 Seattle wine magazine that I learned how Denise Slattery, my San Francisco neighbor circa 1987, is a now winemaker in Walla Walla.
She collaborates with husband Steve Michener as well as Tim Boushey, and they are called Trio Vintners. (Now that Boushey has moved to the west, Trio is actually a duo.) As graduates of the Institute of Enology and Viniculture at Walla Walla College, their cellar and tasting room is among the “incubator wineries” run by the Walla Walla Port Authority at Walla Walla Airport. Who knew?
Then, at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa, Ca last summer, we voted on where to hold the 2010 event, and Walla Walla won. The blogfest is coming up, June 25th, and after 20 years, I’ll finally get to see an old friend who used to get me into great sales at Joe Boxer.
Eager to try her wines in advance of my visit, I asked Denise to ship some releases to Southern California for Christmas. Over those holidays and into Easter I tasted through the mix to get a grip on what Denise and Steve are doing and I have to say, they’re doing well. They use sangiovese, syrah, and zinfandel and lesser-known varietals like carmenere, mourvedre, grenache in wines with little-to-no oak, high natural acids and “alcohol levels you can live with.”
Low alc, hi acid, I’m there.
The 2007 Riot was my favorite and not because the name is a play on “trio” concocted by their sons. The 52% sangiovese, 36% syrah, and 12% mourvedre sourced from vineyards across the Columbia Valley make this a round, satisfying blend with ample complexity. Dark purple in color, it has smoke and warm black fruit aromas that continue on the palate where luscious plum and blueberries unfold in a rich, plush mouthfeel. There is super balance of fruit and oak, and even some acidity on the long, dark, juicy finish. Drinkable with food or without, and the 14% alcohol I can definitely live with.
Trio’s 2006 Rizzini Vineyard Syrah weighs in at 14.3%, muscles and all. Its fruit is as opaque red as its color. Stewed ripe raspberry, plum and white pepper on the nose, black berries, spice and more plum in the rich, full body, it finishes long and plumy with a note of tree branch, and again – some acid. Well-balanced and powerful, it’s great with enchiladas.
The Trio 2007 Walla Walla Valley Tempranillo is deep purple in color and the earthiest of these three. Smoke and warm dust jump from the glass, along with ripe plums and black fruits that meet on the soft palate with licorice and sweet oak. It finishes long and dark, like a forest at night. 9% Carmenere and 8% Sangiovese contribute to its woodsy effect but the 14.1% alcohol won’t make you howl at the moon.
More about Denise and Trio Vintners later this summer after the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference. I can’t wait!