Washington Residents - Donedei is now available for purchase on Amazon!

2009 Merlot HERE

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon HERE

Grand ReveSeattle PI, The Pour Fool, January 2013:

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__________

REDS

Renegade Wine Company Red Wine Columbia Valley 2010

A side project of Trey Busch’s superb Sleight of Hand Cellars, Renegade Red is a clever blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, and 1% Malbec that delivers chewy fruit, chocolate, plums, and dark berries in a soft texture with great balance. This is shockingly fine table red; hearty, dense, aromatic as a south Georgia high school prom, and immensely satisfying.  The mere fact that Trey put this bottle together and can manage to sell it for this little cash outlay would be shocking enough, if it were half this good. The fact that it’s big, rich, balanced, and even shows some pleasing terroir is downright staggering.   About $10   91 Points

Martedi Winery “Lavello” 2008

Winemaker Joe Miglino crafted a wine that was far better than even he knew. A blend of 45% Merlot, 25% Syrah, 17% Cabernet Franc and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, Lavello (Italian for “kitchen sink”) was odd barrels that Joe composed into this glorious little symphony that shocked me down to the soles of my feet. A Monroe winery? That even people in Monroe never heard of? A simple table red? This wine, by whatever divine accident, turned out to be among the top five Washington blends I tasted in ’12 at any price. Of everything I tasted from my own ‘hood in 2012, this was the biggest, happiest surprise.  About $12    93 Points

Saviah Cellars “The Jack” Red Blend 2010

In any given year since 2005, I could assemble this list and The Jack would have to be on it. This, simply put, is one of the great value brands in America. Jack is a big, juicy, generous, fruity, lively, beautifully-made miracle that winemaker Rich Funk just seems to conjure up effortlessly, with spare parts and Yankee ingenuity. From its uber-cool label and retro name to the silken, chewy juice, The Jack is as consistent and satisfying a red blend as Washington produces.   About $15    92 Points

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

Charles & Charles Red 2010

My old friend, Charles Smith, makes critical-darling Syrahs – at his Walla Walla shop, K Vintners – that pull down 99 and 100 point scores from the big critics and that would normally mean that Charles would retreat into an ivory tower and produce cripplingly-expensive art pieces, as most such anointed winemakers do. But that wouldn’t be Charles, one of the most doggedly eccentric humans who ever walked upright. Instead of  looking down his ample nose at value wines, Charles threw in with Charles Bieler, creator of the sani-packed Bandit wines that come in two-person servings and show up mostly in grocery stores, to make this stunning little C&C Red, a blend which I lobbied for almost a decade to get Washington vintners to try. The Aussies have been selling us Cab-Syrah blends for two decades but Washington wineries shied away like a horse from a bonfire. This wine absolutely, as the kids say, Rocks! Big, dark, chewy, crammed to the hilt with that alchemical, earthy, leathery character that comes from the  mystical symbiosis of these two grapes. The first time I tasted it, I was momentarily speechless. Brilliant.  About $10   90 Points

Haystack Needle Sangiovese 2009

Bob Bullock turns out a whole roster of casually-excellent value wines from his negociant operation out there in Woodinville and I could just as easily have named his Little Italy, The Eye, The Point, or Syrah here but this Sangiovese is his flagship; an impossibly-consistent, eerily-authentic version of a great mid-tier Chianti Classico that may well be the Northwest’s best all-purpose food wine. The chewy red berries, cherries, cola, spices, sweet herbs, and shockingly Tuscan-ish minerals add up to a wine that could, in a blind tasting, fool a lot of Italians. This stuff makes those $30 bottles of California Sangiovese look like a bad joke and it’s even relatively easy to find, these days.   About $10   90 Points

Waving Tree Nebbiolo 2008

This may be the most shocking wine made in Washington or Oregon today. I’m a devout Italian wine geek and drink far more great Barolo that I have any business drinking and this wine is, to my palate, totally indistinguishable from a very good, well-aged Barolo.  Seriously. Terrance Atkins, Waving Tree owner/winemaker, genuinely seems not to know how screamin’ terrific this wine really is. Piedmontese authenticity aside, this is simply a GREAT bottle o’ juice; lighter in body but crammed with Nebbiolo traits like raspberry compote, brambles, crushed stones, white pepper, cherries, red currants, and a faint, alluring grace note of something like spruce or eucalyptus(!). This wine makes me all swoony and I bet it’ll do the same to you.  About $18   93 Points

 



 

WHITES

Charles Smith Wines “Kung Fu Girl” Riesling 2011

If you know Charles Smith, as I tragically do, you know that his first and most serious wine obsession is German varietals. While running his short-lived Bainbridge Island wine shop, Charles used to keep two or three bottles of German Riesling open to pour and talk about – if you didn’t stop him – every day of the week. So, I trusted that, when he finally did produce a Washington Riesling, it would be exceptional. But even I didn’t expect this. Kung Fu Girl is, without exaggeration, among the two or three best Rieslings made in America at any price. Sourced from Butch and Jerry Milbrandt’s amazing new Evergreen Vineyard, this is a near-perfect recreation of a fine German Spatlese, at a price that seriously boggles the mind. About $10(!)   92 Points

Milbrandt Estate Viognier 2011

A lot of Washington wineries stopped making Viognier. Milbrandt seems to just be getting started. Josh Maloney has a real knack for paying hommage to this voluptuous Northern Rhone varietal without mindlessly aping it. The hallmark over-ripe pears, apricots, peaches, and spruce rest atop a fine-grained bed of sweet minerals that recall Condrieu while preserving the more-generous character of our brilliant Columbia Valley fruit.  The grapes, in this delicious juice, give winemakers like the intrepid Maloney superior material to make superior wines – a fitting testament to the Milbrandts, Washington’s premier growers.  About $17               92 Points

Idilico Albariño 2011

Javier Alfonso, owner and winemaker of Woodinville’s vastly-overlooked Pomum Cellars, started this edgy second label to work with his native Spanish varietals outside the more-conventional wines in the Pomum line-up. As a long-time fan of Albariño, I’ve tasted every one I could get my hands on for the past fifteen years and I’m here to tell ya that this wine could be given a Spanish label and nobody here or in Spain would be the wiser. The clarity, balance, fruit, and scale of this stuff is breath-taking and its classic smoothness and full body make it a real crowd-pleaser.  This is only the state’s second bottle of this varietal and the future of it looks amazingly bright.   About $20   93 Points


Rosé

Tre Nova Rosato 2011

Gino Cuneo is an Italian-American winemaker who lives in Carlton, Oregon but doesn’t make Pinot Noir! I know, I know: heresy. But Gino is a man on a mission and he’s exploring  Italian varietals , as grown in the Columbia and Walla Walla Valleys, with serious intent. In recent years, Sangiovese rosé has become a rather overwrought cliche here in Wash-patch  but, in Gino’s capable hands, this gorgeous, bone-dry rosato takes on new life and vibrancy, showing its Wahluke minerals and succulent cherry/red berry fruit with brilliant freshness and clarity. This is to run-of-the-mill rosé  what  a Maserati is to a Kia Sportage.  About $15   90 Points

Read on the Seattle PI Website.

Grand ReveSome Answers on Grape Growing in Washington State

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.

 

Grand ReveSeattle PI, The Pour Fool, April 2012: Oh, yeah: the title of this entry. Well…it’s a bit of hyperbole, I admit, akin to that old trick of putting up a sign that says “SEX!!” and then, at the bottom, “Okay, now that we have your attention…”  I don’t know for sure, of course, that Carolyn Lakewold – former ESL teacher and professional fast-pitch softball player from Spokane – is the actual “best” unsung winemaker in the US. There may well be some guy in Dubuque, with a quarter acre of Norton growing out behind his barn, who’s turning out  juice that would make wine-weenie types like me see unicorns and deceased ancestors. Stipulated that I – and everybody else in the world – cannot know every bottle of wine being made in any given year. But for my practical purposes, as someone who tastes a literal pond full of wines each year, IF there is someone making better wines than what Carolyn Lakewold is crafting down there in Tenino, WAH, I maybe don’t want to know about it because I would probably set up a fan club and sell t-shirts. I’m close to doing that for Ms. Lakewold but, since it’s actually the wines that give me these fluttery feelings in my diaphragm, I’m quite content with them and happy to avoid the hustle-bustle of downtown Tenino, that metropolis of…well, I’m not sure what’s in Tenino, other than Donedei/Gibbons Lane Winery.

Grand ReveDonedei winemaker Carolyn Lakewold has been chosen by Force Majeure Vineyards (previously known as Grand Reve Vintners) to participate in a collaborative winemaking project utilizing fruit from renowned vineyard Ciel du Cheval, located in the famed Red Mountain AVA. Known for her powerfully elegant wines, Carolyn produced the only Merlot in the series. A "dream team" of Washington winemakers was carefully selected to work with the fruit farmed specifically for this exclusive project. The winemakers include Ben Smith of Cadence, Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery, Ross Mickel of Ross Andrew Winery, and Chris Gorman of Gorman Winery. Available in extremely limited quantities, the wines showcase the finesse, balance and complexity of Ciel du Cheval fruit.

Seattle Wine AwardsSeattle Wine Awards, June 1, 2011: Both the 2006 Donedei Cabernet Sauvignon and 2006 Donedei Merlot were recognized at the recent 2011 Seattle Wine Awards. 909 Washington wines were submitted to this prestigious tasting event, whose widely-respected tasting panel includes top industry experts, known for their knowledge of Washington wines.

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Wine Enthusiast“90 Points" 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon: “This is essentially a mirror image of the 2004 Donedei Merlot. It brings the same dark, smoky, espresso-loaded scents and flavors, but it is sleeker, the acid more apparent (although actually a bit lower) and the tannins left to hang on the finish. This is a fine companion to the Merlot, but needs a juicy steak or rich sauce to cut the tannins.” – P.G.

“91 Points” 2004 Merlot: “Thick, chewy, dense and powerful. The blend is 75% Merlot, 15% Cab Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. A very fine effort, it’s smooth and supple with alcohol listed (somewhat surprisingly) at 13.5%. Scents mix mocha, espresso, liquid smoke, iodine and black licorice; flavors also run to black and smoky. But there is fruit as well, deep black cherry and cassis, tightly packed and lingering.” – P.G.

Wine Enthusiast scores Donedei 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon 90 Points and 2004 Merlot 91 Points

Wine Enthusiast“90 Points" 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon: “This is essentially a mirror image of the 2004 Donedei Merlot. It brings the same dark, smoky, espresso-loaded scents and flavors, but it is sleeker, the acid more apparent (although actually a bit lower) and the tannins left to hang on the finish. This is a fine companion to the Merlot, but needs a juicy steak or rich sauce to cut the tannins.” – P.G.

“91 Points” 2004 Merlot: “Thick, chewy, dense and powerful. The blend is 75% Merlot, 15% Cab Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. A very fine effort, it’s smooth and supple with alcohol listed (somewhat surprisingly) at 13.5%. Scents mix mocha, espresso, liquid smoke, iodine and black licorice; flavors also run to black and smoky. But there is fruit as well, deep black cherry and cassis, tightly packed and lingering.” – P.G.

vinography.com ranks Donedei 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2004 Merlot at the top of Washington State.

Vineography: A Wine Blog, May 27, 2009

Alder Yarrow, founder and editor of vinography.com, recently posted his reviews of wines tasted at Taste Washington, the most comprehensive tasting event of a single region (Washington State) of its kind. Founded in 2004, “the site is now a respected source for non-mainstream wine writing, and one of the most influential wine blogs on the Internet…we do not and never will accept advertising from wineries, winegrowers, or wine production companies…”

Carolyn Lakewold christens the world's first hybrid tug, the "Carolyn Dorothy."

Carolyn was born in Spokane, Washington in 1962 and grew up in Olympia, Washington. She and husband Fred Goldberg live in Olympia today, four doors from Fred’s 95 year old mother. Carolyn’s early years were full of mischief, fun and athletic pursuits. She began playing fastpitch softball at the age of seven, while her mom, Dorothy, thought she was taking ballet!! Her skills at fastpitch earned her the opportunity to play ball at the college level before graduating from the Evergreen State College. She then worked in catering and as a live-in nanny while getting two master’s degrees from the University of Puget Sound.

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Welcome

Donedei is a small boutique winery located outside Olympia, WA, founded in 1997. Total production is between 750-1000 cases per year, depending on the whims of nature.

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Donedei Wines

Donedei Wines
P.O. Box 7755
Olympia, WA 98507

360-264-8466
(Visit by Appointment Only)

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Grand ReveCarolyn Lakewold chosen for Force Majeure Vineyards (previously known as Grand Reve Vintners) Collaboration Series

Donedei winemaker Carolyn Lakewold has been chosen by Force Majeure Vineyards (previously known as Grand Reve Vintners) to participate in a collaborative winemaking project utilizing fruit from renowned vineyard Ciel du Cheval, located in the famed Red Mountain AVA. Known for her powerfully elegant wines, Carolyn produced the only Merlot in the series. A "dream team" of Washington winemakers was carefully selected to work with the fruit farmed specifically for this exclusive project. The winemakers include Ben Smith of Cadence, Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery, Ross Mickel of Ross Andrew Winery, and Chris Gorman of Gorman Winery. Available in extremely limited quantities, the wines showcase the finesse, balance and complexity of Ciel du Cheval fruit. Read more...

Information & Ordering:
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To Visit the Winery:
(by appointment only)
Call 360-264-8466

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Donedei Wines
P.O. Box 7755
Olympia, WA 98507