France and Italy are both often revered as two of the most enchanting and romantic destinations on earth. Exquisite wines, sumptuous eats and breathtaking sights – all of which are offered in abundance – set a magical stage for charming visits through vineyards, candlelit tours across canals, and more.
While many may only experience the regality of these destinations during the occasional holiday abroad or vicariously through friends or photographs, Carolyn Lakewold and her husband Fred Goldberg are reminded of the region daily right here in Thurston County at their Bordeaux-inspired Tenino winery, Donedei Wines.
While Carolyn was teaching at South Puget Sound Community College and working as an NCAA Champion Fastpitch coach, she and Fred traveled to France and Italy often. Both interested in food and wine, they would focus their trips around visiting wineries and experiencing great meals. Because of this, it comes as no surprise that Carolyn and Fred both became well educated about identifying different varietals, understanding what makes some wines better than others, and knowing why fish pairs better with a buttery Chardonnay than a hearty Syrah.
When Carolyn decided to take a break from her teaching career, Fred knew she would find herself wanting something to keep her busy, so he suggested she offer-up her knowledge to a local winery. Carolyn started volunteering at McCrea Cellars in Rainier, WA, shortly after. Here, Carolyn learned the ins and outs of winemaking, shadowing winemaker Doug McCrea. Assuming she could occasionally volunteer a few hours to keep busy, Carolyn anticipated that her time with McCrea Cellars would not exceed six months. However, six months soon turned into one year, and one year turned into two. Carolyn had no idea that the time she spent at McCrea Cellars would inspire a career switch and the start of her own business, but it did.
After her time at McCrea, Carolyn headed back to Europe and shadowed a few more wineries around Tuscany, Italy, before opening her own winery at the couple’s property in Tenino in 1997. Donedei (meaning “Gift from God”) celebrated its first crush the following year and introduced their first commercial release, a Merlot, in 1999, followed by their Cabernet Sauvignon in 2000. Since their debut, Donedei Wines has not added additional varietals to its repertoire, instead focusing on producing only quality, handcrafted Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons made in the traditional Bordeaux style.
Carolyn starts their wines by first sourcing the best grapes in the region. Most of Donedei’s grapes come from Ciel Du Cheval, a vineyard located at one of the state’s most renowned viticultural areas, Red Mountain. Once the grapes arrive at Donedei, they are then hand sorted and hand picked. The grapes are then ready to be turned into wine and are gently crushed to create the Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons Donedei is celebrated for.
“I love the creativity of it,” explains Carolyn. “It’s a challenge everyday. It makes you think. It makes you become a chemist. It makes you become a chef, and it makes it fun to come into work everyday.”
Carolyn clearly loves her job – and people love her wine. So much in fact that Carolyn is often asked if she plans to grow her business. To answer that question, Carolyn says she’s not interested in increasing production or growing to become bigger. “It’s about doing it right,” she says. “Doing it where I can be absolutely proud of every glass poured. We’re committed to that philosophy.”
Thirsty yet? Donedei’s wines can be found throughout the region at Thurston County-area stores like the Wine Loft, Ralph’s and Bayview Thriftway and Haggen, to name a few. You can drink a glass at several Olympia restaurants likeGardner’s, Waterstreet Café and Bar, Dockside Bistro and many more.
Donedei opens its doors to the public two days per year. During the month of December, Donedei will be celebrating its Holiday Open House on Saturday, Dec. 6 and Sunday, Dec. 14, from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. During both days, Fred will be manning the barbecue building, dishing-up locally sourced sausages and other meats to pair alongside Donedei’s delightful wines. The event (and food) is free to the public and serves as a great opportunity for the community to stock up on wine for the holidays, as well as for Carolyn to say “thank you” to all of those who have supported her throughout the years.
Link to the article in Thurston Talk: http://www.thurstontalk.com/2014/12/03/donedei-wines-taste-france-thurston-county/
Donedei is only open to the public two days a year.
You are invited to join us at the winery for this great opportunity! Tastings, artisan foods, and holiday pricing will be available.
Open House Sunday December 14, 2014
Gibbons Lane Winery
12035 Gibbons Lane
Tenino, WA 98589
Donedei has lost one of our key wine family members. Mike Murphy died very suddenly in June. Mike had worked nearly every bottling event at Donedei from day one. His laughter and up beat attitude will be greatly missed. Mike was always up for anything and no job was too big or too small. The winery and myself personally will miss him greatly.
An Interview with Carolyn Lakewold, Donedei owner and winemaker
Many wine lovers can point to one moment when their love affair with the grape began. Did you have a wine epiphany?
“24 years ago we were able to have lunch with Julio Gallo and his wife. I remember he poured his Hearty Burgundy for us then he leaned over and whispered to me “What do you think of my wine?” I stammered and said “It’s good.” What else does one say to Julio Gallo? But after that tasting, I was hooked.”
What is your winemaking philosophy?
“Keep it unfiltered, unrefined, and truly 100% free-run. We don’t press our grapes - only 2% of winemakers do not press. It creates a more pure, less astringent wine. The more it’s pressed, the more you’re changing it. The color goes down and the taste changes as the biter compounds are in the skins and pits. Our winemaking, unlike many wineries, is not about technological improvement. It’s not about the newest thing that’s out there. We embrace old world and old school wine making. There is a casual relationship with the more you manipulate, the more you deal with the consequences. Wine is a natural process.”
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in winemaking since you started?
“Surprisingly, less technology! Wine makers are coming back to the more traditional European style of winemaking.”
If you could make wine in any wine region in the world, other than Washington, where would you be making and why?
“I wouldn’t want to trade Washington for anywhere in the world! For the same reasons our cherries, apples, hops, potatoes, and other crops are regarded as the best in the world the same is also true of Washington wine grapes. We have best fruit in the world! There’s a reason why global wine leaders from all over have come to Washington State.”
Where do you see the Washington wine industry in 10 years?
“I think we will continue to be regarded as one of the top wine producing areas in the world.”
Where do you get your grapes?
“Ciel Du Cheval on Red Mountain (arguably one of the best vineyards in the world) and the soon to be famous Elephant Mountain - near Union Gap.”
Why did you chose the varietals in the vineyards that you have?
“Location, location, location! Terroir, terroir, terroir!” How many cases do you produce a year?
“600-1000” What are your recommendations for drinking Donedei?
“If you are going to have a 7:00 pm dinner, open it at noon. Always decant! In as big as a decanter that you have. Donedei wines need a lot of air.”
What are your pairing suggestions for Donedei wine?
“Our Cabernet pairs best with lamb or sauce based dishes such as bolognese over spaghetti. The Merlot pairs best with lamb, sausage, and italian style dishes. Or just when you want a glass of wine!”
What are your recommendations for aging Donedei wine?
“Our wines will age easily 15-20 years. Our experience with Red Mountain wines is that they age considerably longer than most red wines you will encounter.”
What does the future hold for Donedei?
“As a tiny, artisanal Washington wine producer, our challenge is to explore how best to reach the informed consumer and therefore we are trying to get more advanced marketing and distributing wise. Our winemaking style is not going to change though. Our goal is not to do the latest, greatest thing. It’s all about maintaining the quality!”
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate Reviews Donedei Wines:
Donedei 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
91 Points Donedei 2009 Merlot
89 Points Force Majeur Collaboration Series IV 2011
Wine Advocate Jeb Dunnuck rates 2010 Force Majeure Collaboration Series IV 94 pts
Series IV is made by Carolyn Lakewold of Donedei, and it is a right-bank Bordeaux blend, made entirely from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard fruit (location here). What makes this Series special is the Merlot. It’s from the 1982 block at Ciel, among the oldest vines on Red Mountain, and it forms the spine of this wine (75%). The remainder is Cabernet Sauvignon (13%), Cabernet Franc (10%), and Petit Verdot (2%). They only produced 200 cases in 2010, and for me, this is a hidden gem of the lineup. It seems to fly under the radar a bit, perhaps because Merlot is not as sexy as some of the other bottlings (Cab! Syrah!), but this is the fifth vintage of Collab Series IV, and it has proven extremely consistent in its purity, elegance, and finesse.
It is also the most insistently earthy/old-world of the lineup, especially in a cool year like 2010 (13.8% listed alc). There’s a real wildness at the heart of this bottle, a mildly rustic character that holds deep appeal for me. The mix of plum and fig, soil and gravelly mineral is terrific, and seems to me a dead ringer for some quality right-bank Bordeaux. With chew, intensity, and length, this is one beautiful monster.
Wine Advocate (Jeb Dunnuck): “The 2010 Collaboration Series IV is a Merlot-dominated blend that’s made by Carolyn Lakewold of Donedei Wines. The stated goal with this cuvee is to straddle the line between old-world and New World in style, and while I’m not sure how close they got to that mark, I can say that it’s certainly a beautiful wine. Possessing an inky purple color as well as an up-front, intense bouquet of black and blue fruits, violets, licorice, leather and liquid flowers, it flows onto the palate with a full-bodied, hedonistically styled texture that carries solid freshness and plenty of framing tannin that emerges on the finish. There’s a smidge of volatile acidity here, yet the wine handles it and is a plush, downright sexy effort that’s hard to resist. It should have over a decade of evolution. Drink now-2023. 94pts.”
To order this wine, click here
People have asked me repeatedly to do a wine version of Best Of The Northwest, my annual beer round-up. I’ve consistently declined. Reason?
I’m just plain white-trash lazy.
You’ll probably think I’m kidding or engaging in a little self-effacing humor. You’d be wrong. I am just exactly that lazy. There’s a small universe of wines out there and, honestly, the whole idea of even presuming to say which wines are the absolute best of a given year is the original chump job. I read the Spectator and Enthusiast and frankly wonder if they just put a bunch of names into a hat and drew them by category. I usually have tried about half of each list and some of the choices leave me scratching my head and other body parts in puzzlement.
And the thing is, they’re wrong. The Wine Spectator Top 100 is not, by any stretch, the 100 best wines of the current year. It’s just the 100 best they tasted, out of a total number that represents no more, usually, than about 5% of all the wines produced on the planet. And I have no use for $250 bottles of wine, anyway. I can afford ‘em but I’m nowhere near stupid enough to buy them, when I’ll be far more delighted with a wine that costs twenty or thirty bucks and doesn’t require a second mortgage to open.
BUT…I love the whole idea of value wines; the ones that pack waaaay more into the bottle than the price tag would indicate. These are the wines that produce the most swooning for me; the most contented, enthralled sighing and happy noises in my chest.
Of the 2900+ wines I tasted in 2012, this is a list of the truly exceptional values; the ones that stick in my mind and suck cash from my wallet and delight those for whom I pour them and to whom I recommend them. Like all those other lists that I just slapped up, mine is also just One Guy’s Opinion and is also limited to my own narrow percentage of the world’s output. But they were exceptional and I take great pleasure in sharing them with you…
_____________WASHINGTON’S BEST VALUE WINES OF 2012__________
Donedei Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
I say this with absolute certainty and zero fear of contradiction: Donedei’s Carolyn Lakewold is one of America’s two or three best underappreciated winemakers. Every winemaker in Washington knows about her and her stature is such that, when Force Majeure Cellars went looking for their three partner vintners in their brilliant collaboration series, they chose Carolyn Lakewold. This Cab is one of the best values in American red wine that I’ve ever seen. The fact that you can buy this kind of elegant, serious, balanced, impeccable Cabernet for right around $20 makes a mockery of the sudden proliferation of $80 – $100 Cabs we see each year. This is nearly flawless now…and getting better with each passing year! About $20 95 Points
Most wine producing areas of the world are challenged by grape growing conditions that contribute to balance in a wine, the sensory relationship between fruit, alcohol, tannin, and acid (sugar, by the way, is a means of determining the potential alcohol in a wine. Under-ripe fruit usually means a wine with low alcohol and high acids unless the grape- must has been chaptalization or sugar added to it to boost alcohol level. Residual sugar in a wine, the unfermented grape sugars, usually will contribute to a mid-palate richness in both reds & whites and discernible sweetness for dessert wines). If any of these components are missing or too prominent there is the potential that the other aspects of the wine will become too dominant and the wine will be “unbalanced” or not well integrated.
Typically, high sugars (potential alcohol) and high acids are mutually exclusive in most of the world’s growing areas resulting in wines that are either high in alcohol with little acid (hot growing regions, think Australia, Spain, Italy) or high in acid with low alcohols (cooler growing regions, think Germany, Austria, Burgundy, Champagne). While laboratory adjustments can work wonders in correcting these imbalances it is a winemaking axiom that perfectly balanced fruit out of the vineyard makes superior wine. Additionally, we must also remember that there is a difference between high sugar and physiological maturity of the fruit.
Just because a grape is ripe doesn’t mean that it will have mature flavors. In terms of growing temperatures and acid production (or lack thereof) the following is generally accepted as to what occurs in Washington. Firstly, we must remember that it is photosynthesis and not heat that ripens fruit. Heat, or the absence thereof, tells the vine when to turn on and off. Winters in the eastern half of the state, where the vast majority of the state’s grapes are grown, can be quite cold forcing the vine into complete dormancy and not just losing its leaves (as a side note, grape growing here is in the rain shadow of the Cascades and Olympic Mountains and most all vineyards are drip irrigated). As winter eases and soils begin to warm up the vine first begins to bud (around 50 degrees F) then to flower, then produce fruit, then to go through veraison, the time the berries begin to color and soften and the ripening stage begins. As ripening progresses, the color becomes more intense, the amount of sugar increases and acidity decreases.
During this part of the growing season photosynthesis begins soon after sunrise . Given Washington’s northern location there are 2 more hours of sunlight over that of California. This is a very important aspect of our grape growing as we typically have a later bud-break and flowering then California or other hot growing areas but we make up for it by having longer daylight hours. As temperatures increase in the early morning the vine is increasing sugars in the grapes. As temperatures continue to climb the vine begins to react to adverse conditions. Around 90 degrees F. sugar production is arrested. This is why in many hot growing areas the grapes get “stuck”, they are not ripening because it is too hot. It seems counter-intuitive but from time to time this condition may occur. As temperatures continue to climb past 100 degrees F. the process of transpiration is compromised.
Transpiration is the evaporation of water from plants. It occurs chiefly at the leaves where their stomata (the cellular openings on the undersides of the leaves) are open for the passage of CO2 and O2 during photosynthesis. Plants transpire more rapidly at higher temperatures because water evaporates more rapidly as the temperature rises. At 90°, a leaf may transpire three times as fast as it does at 70°C.
A plant cannot continue to transpire rapidly if its water loss is not made up by replacement from the drip irrigation. When absorption of water by the roots fails to keep up with the rate of transpiration, loss of turgor occurs, and the stomata close. This immediately reduces the rate of transpiration (as well as of photosynthesis, sugar production). Wilting may occur and the plant begins to metabolize it’s acids as a survival mechanism.
If this environment persists over time the grape is left with mostly sugars, therefore the typical hot climate type of grape with high sugars and low acids. In Washington, however, our peak daytime temperatures are usually around 4 PM. Temperatures soon begin to drop (and in many places of the state late afternoon winds also arise helping to sweep hot air off the vineyards and replaces it with cooler air from river areas and higher elevations also serving to drop temperatures). As temperatures begin to drop the stomata re-open, transpiration renews, the plant stops metabolizing as much acid and as temperatures continue to fall sugar production is renewed. Washington, with our northern location still is receiving significant sunshine in the late evening so photosynthesis is still occurring when most growing areas would be in darkness. Finally, nighttime in Eastern Washington can be quite cool with temperatures in the 50’s not at all unusual, so 50 degree temperature swings are normal.
So, in our area, the actual time of no sugar production and of the vine metabolizing its acids due to high temperatures is small in comparison to other warm growing areas due to longer daylight hours and the desert effect of cool mornings and evenings. The net effect is grapes high in sugars and high in acids, a condition mutually exclusive in most grape growing areas, with high physiological maturity ultimately resulting in perfectly balanced fruit and thus great wines.