A Taste of #Washington State with Charles Smith Wines

Exploring Washington Wine Month with CS Wines

We all have our preferences (Italian wine for me) and tend to stick to them.  Sometimes, we are presently surprised when we go out of our comfort zone and try a new bottle, new winemaker or new wine region. August happened to be Washington State Wine Month, so for that month, we made wines of Washington the focus for #WiningHourChat. For the most part, everyone came to the table, or the twitter feed, with a different Washington State varietal each week.  For the most part, everyone enjoyed their WA wine and made plans to try other wines from that region.  We accomplished our goal!

Washington State Wine Region

WA Wine Map c/o Wine Folly
Washington Wine Country currently consists of 14 American Viticultural Area’s (AVA): Ancient Lakes, Columbia Gorge, Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Lake Chelan, Lewis-Clark Valley, Naches Heights, Puget Sound, Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain, Yakima Valley, Wahluke Slope and Walla Walla Valley. Yakima Valley was the first AVA, originating in 1983. Today, there are over 750 wineries in Washington Wine Country.  The main grapes planted are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling and Syrah.  

Washington State is a premium wine producing region due to its ideal geography and growing conditions.  The sandy, gravelly soil is conducive for grapevines and fruit development and allow all the vineyards to be planted on their own roots.  The latitude contributes to lots of sunlight, which also provides optimal conditions for the development and texture of the wine. Although Washington is known for its Bordeaux-style red wine blends, it produces many tasty varietals.  In fact, Washington State second in the U.S., after California wine country, in terms of quality wines.
Featured Winemakers:

Charles Smith

Charles Smith, Winemaker
Charles Smith is a self-taught winemaker, who left a lucrative music career in Europe and returned to the States in 1999 to open his own wine shop.  His interest and passion for wine magnified and he released 330 cases of his first wine, K Syrah, in 2001. That was only the beginnings of a rocking winemaker.  In 2008, K Vintners was recognized by Wine & Spirits magazine as one of the “Best New Wineries of the Last Ten Years,” and as “Winery of the Year” in their annual buying guide. In 2009 Food & Wine magazine awarded Charles “Winemaker of the Year” and in 2010 Seattle Magazine recognized Charles as their “Winemaker of the Year.” Today, Charles produces wine under brands: Charles Smith Wines, K Vinters, Sixto, Charles & Charles, ViNO, Substance, Secco and Casa Smith. Formerly a rock band manager, Charles Smith made the switch to wine and continues to be a rockstar in the wine industry. 

Charles Bieler, Winemaker

Charles Bieler 

Charles Bieler is a winemaker whose initial time in the wine business was spent in Provence, France, and several years at Chateau Routas. He was and continues to be a supporter of the rosé movement. Charles Bieler produces wine under Three Thieves, BIELER Pere et Fils, Sombra mezcal and Charles & Charles.  Charles & Charles Wines are a collaboration between Charles Smith and Charles Bieler. The Charles & Charles portfolio includes a red blend and rosé from Columbia Valley vineyards. According to the winemakers, the bottles under the Charles & Charles label are designed with an abstract play on the American Flag, as “the labels showcase the intent to provoke thought of the future while honoring the past.”

The Wining Hour’s Charles Smith Wine Selections:

For our weekly #WiningHourChat in August, we selected and featured 6 of the Charles Smith Wines and Charles & Charles Wines:

2014 Charles & Charles Cabernet Sauvignon

This bold Cabernet is actually a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Syrah grapes.  The Syrah was was fermented whole cluster (with stems) in stainless steel tanks with yeast and the Cabernet Sauvignon was harvested and fermented separately, whole berry (stems removed) in stainless steel tanks with native yeast. According to Charles & Charles, this wine was made using a “slow, small batch winemaking” process that “brings an intensity and richness.”  The fermentation process of the Syrah leads to the dark fruit and spiciness, while the dense black currant on the palate comes from the Cabernet Sauvignon. Charles & Charles Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah is a black-dark red plum in color and emits aromas of cassis, baking spices, herbs and violets. On the palate is spicy black currant, blackberry, vanilla and chocolate.  Full bodied with smooth tannins. From the first sip, this wine was smooth, bold and delicious.  This wine would pair nicely with roasted or grilled lamb and pasta dishes with hearty red sauces. Actually, this wine will pair well with…anything. While it is versatile, it is a rockstar on its on as well.  13.5% ABV.

I have been a longtime fan of Charles Smith’s Cabernet Sauvignon.  I’ve tasted each of his 2007-2014 Cabernet vintages.  I have yet to be disappointed.

2011 Charles Smith Superstar Chardonnay

Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, unoaked.  Therefore, it does not have an oaky taste, but it does not have a buttery taste either.  Pale straw to the eye and pear, apples citrus blossom and saline on the nose.  This Chardonnay is not too fruity, but tastes of green apple, a twist of lemon and minerals. This crisp Chardonnay is just right for a spring or summer treat. It is light, zippy and refreshing with 12.5% ABV.  Charles Smith Superstar Chardonnay is nice as an aperitif, with salads, white fish, poultry and vegetarian dishes.

2010 Charles Smith Syrah

Made with 100% whole-cluster Syrah, this wine spent 40 days on skins in 60% New Oak and 22 months aged on lees in puncheons.  This garnet red wine has scents of tar, chocolate baking spice, dark fruit and lavender.  The palate is earthy with hints of ash, herbs, black olives, peppery red and black fruits and berries.  Charles Smith Syrah is complex and full-bodied with a smooth texture was smooth.  13.5% ABV

2014 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling

While Riesling is not a varietal of preference for us, it was interesting to taste and see how it measures up against others we’ve tasted.  Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling received 89 Points from Wine Spectator, and received awards for being in the “Top 100 Wines” in 2014 and 2013 and “Best Value” Five Years in a Row.  Charles Smith’s Kung Fu Girl is made from 100% whole-clustered Riesling barrel-aged for two months on lees. This 12% ABV white wine has a yellow-gold hue with a nose of white peach, green apple and lime.  The palate is long, with citrus zest and minerals.  Kung Fu Girl Riesling is light to medium-bodied with a fresh finish.   

2013 Charles Smith The Velvet Devil Merlot

Ahh, Merlot.  This one is made with 99% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon that underwent whole-berry fermentation in 30% New French Oak, and 10 months barrel-ageing on lees. After observing its deep, ruby red appearance, floral scents, dark berries, black currant and clove tickle the nose. This Merlot is rich, with layers of coffee, chocolate, black and red plums and spicy wild berries on the palate. With 13.5% ABV, it would pair nicely with beef, roasted chicken, Cornish hens, soft cheeses or on its own. This Velvet Devil will certainly make people rethink Merlot, as it was a delightful surprise and reminder of just how good a Merlot can be. Charles Smith’s Velvet Devil Merlot is just that, it’s velvet.  Velvety smooth, medium-bodied, full of fruit and well-balanced tannins with a persistent finish. 

2012 Charles Smith Malbec

This wine is the yield from great growing season that produced many wines with structure and elegance-wines such as this Malbec. This awesome wine is 100% Malbec from Wahluke Slope, Washington.  The grapes were fermented whole-berry for 46 days on skins in 60% New Oak and barrel-aged on lees for 22 Months. It is an inky, dark, purple-red color with inviting aromas of blackberry, vanilla and tobacco.  This Malbec is bold and bursting with flavor. On the palate is spicy oak, red plum, blueberry, blackberry, baking spices and leather. This Washington Malbec is a good accompaniment for a juicy steak.  14.5% ABV
Although #WiningHourChat was celebrating all of the wines of Washington and shared wines from many different WA winemakers, it was great to see that I was often not alone in my feature of CS Wines.  Many in the group enjoyed these wines as much as I did.
What’s next?  I am looking forward to trying CS Rosé, Eve Chardonnay, the Secco line and more from Charles Smith and Charles & Charles. Have you tasted wine from Charles Smith or Charles & Charles?

About The Wining Hour

The Wining Hour writes about wine, Italy and global travel.  The Wining Hour boutique caters to wine-lovers across the globe by offering all wine-related items.  The Wining Hour markets unique wine décor and furnishings, accessories, glassware, barware, wine racks, storage and cooling options, games, gifts and more. The Wining Hour also hosts #wininghourchat on Twitter (@wininghourchat) on Tuesday’s at 9 p.m. EST.(For more, see links at the top of this page)
For more information, please visit www.thewininghour.com.­­­
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Planted, harvested and aged in NY. I have a background in education and marketing, with a love and passion for travel...and all things wine. In addition to writing about wine, I also maintain an online wine boutique (thewininghour.com) that caters to the winelover, as well as the weekly vinous winechat (#WiningHourChat) on Twitter (see page for more info).

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