What We’re Tasting Podcast: Washington Pink Blends Take Wine’s Middle Stage


Whether or not the blends are Bordeaux, Rhône-style, or one thing fully distinctive, Washington is serving discover that its crimson wines constructed from a mixture of grapes are world-class. This week we discuss to Wine Fanatic Contributing Editor Sean Sullivan and get to know bottles from three distinctive areas, Pink Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills, and Walla Walla Valley, and the way winery web site impacts what results in your glass.

The wines mentioned on this episode are:

@5:25 Underground Wine Project 2015 Idle Hands Red (Red Mountain)

@12:11 Buty 2014 Columbia Rediviva Phinny Hill Vineyard Red (Horse Heaven Hills)

@16:37 La Rata 2014 Red (Walla Walla Valley (WA))



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Learn the total transcript of “Washington Pink Blends Take Wine’s Middle Stage”:

Jameson Fink: Welcome to Wine Fanatic’s “What We’re Tasting” podcast. I’m your host, Jameson Fink. Be a part of me as we talk about three improbable wines and why each belongs in your glass. This episode, we’re taking a look at crimson blends from Washington state with Sean Sullivan, Wine Fanatic contributing editor who covers and evaluations wines from the area.

“What We’re Tasting” is sponsored by Vivino. With the biggest on-line stock, Vivino finds the best wine each time, together with wines from my expensive dwelling state for a decade of Washington. Obtain Vivino to find and purchase your favorites. Fill up at vivino.com/wineenthusiast.

One of many conversations we at all times have a couple of wine area or a state is having a signature grape, does it must have a signature grape. Positively with Washington, what’s actually attention-grabbing about that’s you can in all probability say Merlot, you can say Cabernet, maybe even Syrah. I believe what’s attention-grabbing about Washington, apart from its variety in grapes, is its crimson blends. For me, that’s the place loads of pleasure is so I’m excited to talk with you about this, Sean. Welcome to the present.

Sean Sullivan: Thanks very a lot for having me.

Jameson Fink: With crimson blends, I believe … Additionally, I ought to point out that you simply wrote a extremely attention-grabbing article for winemag.com about wine mixing and crimson grapes. If you happen to go to winemag.com and seek for wine mixing, it’ll come up. I used to be desirous about Bordeaux-style blends, your Cabernet-Merlot, Cabernet-Franc, et cetera, primarily based blends. Rhone blends, that are your Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and some different suspects is perhaps concerned in that, too. Sean, is Rhone … Are the Rhone blends, the crimson blends, is that basically the place loads of sort of the joy and actually attention-grabbing issues are being executed in Washington?

Sean Sullivan: Yeah. I believe that when it comes to … Bordeaux-style blends have actually been executed for fairly a while in Washington now. It’s actually solely extra lately … If you happen to have a look at it, Syrah has actually solely been within the state … It was first planted in 1986 and the plantings have been rising ever since, so it’s a fairly brief historical past. It’s actually solely rather more current that we’ve began to see an growing variety of wines utilizing Grenache and utilizing Mourvedre and a few of the different varieties, as effectively, in Rhone blends. Positively, we see loads of these, as effectively some very thrilling wines being made in that class, however we see individuals mixing with just about all the pieces below the solar within the state. We have now over 70 totally different grape varieties planted right here and individuals are experimenting with loads of various things and so they’re making an attempt to mix with loads of various things and seeing what they discover.

Jameson Fink: Do you assume, simply because I believe Syrah has been such a rising star, that that’s sort of … Clearly, a few of these blends are Grenache-heavy or probably Syrah-heavy or one other grape, nevertheless it looks like, with form of the ascending stardom of Syrah, the place it has that sort of savory Previous World notes and a few good acid and a few of that sort of New World raise and energy, is that sort of enjoying a component within the reputation of Rhone-style blends?

Sean Sullivan: Not simply in Rhone-style blends. Even in Bordeaux-style blends, we see some wineries mixing in generally a bit little bit of Syrah, generally loads of Syrah, which you can say is that also a Bordeaux-style mix or not. I believe one of many stuff you get with Syrah, along with the stuff you stated, is that you simply get that good plush richness of fruit taste that loads of shoppers discover very, very interesting. I believe we see Syrah being utilized in a wide range of various kinds of blends along with the Rhone-style blends.

Jameson Fink: I sort of consider … That is one thing simply once I first got here to Washington in 2004, 2005, that I discovered attention-grabbing, and I actually hadn’t seen it wherever else, is it looks like there’s loads of Syrah-Cabernet blends that sort of … Somewhat little bit of Syrah, a bit it of a Cabernet, is that sort of a signature Washington mix? It appears actually attention-grabbing.

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, it’s positively one thing that you simply see loads of within the state and folks have been doing no less than going again to the early 2000s, if not earlier. There are two … Proper, you see it a bit bit elsewhere on this planet, reminiscent of Australia. You see these kinds of blends, nevertheless it’s positively one thing that we see an excellent little bit of right here in Washington and one thing that I believe could be executed very, very effectively in Washington. It’s an excellent marriage of the 2 varieties.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. You’re not form of … That’s one of many good issues a couple of pretty younger wine area is you’re not sort of sure by custom, like, “Okay, we will both make a Bordeaux-style mix or now we have to make a Rhone-style mix.” It’s like, “Hey, let’s take a bit bit from Column A and Column B.”

Sean Sullivan: Effectively, I used to be instructed an ideal story by Steve Griessel at Betz Household Vineyard the place he was saying that he had a winemaker in from Bordeaux, from a reasonably well-regarded vineyard. They had been working with a sequence of barrel samples and he stated the very first thing the Bordeaux winemaker did was take some Syrah and take a look at mixing it into the Bordeaux blends and sort of seeing what that regarded like. It’s one thing that I believe lots of people are experimenting with. As you stated right here, it’s early days and really a lot the Wild West, and so individuals are making an attempt various things and making an attempt to see what works. It results in loads of pleasure and loads of attention-grabbing wines being made.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. Effectively, let’s speak about a type of attention-grabbing wines. The primary one I wished to speak about was the Underground Wine Venture 2015 Idle Palms crimson from Pink Mountain, 90 factors. Once we had been speaking about this earlier, that … It’s 90% Syrah, 10% Cabernet, so it actually might be labeled as Syrah.

Sean Sullivan: Right, might be labeled as Syrah. They really make … Underground Wine Venture makes one other wine that’s the flip of those wines referred to as the Satan’s Playground that’s 90% Syrah … Excuse me, 90% Cabernet and 10% Syrah, as effectively. Sure, this wine might be … To be a varietally labeled wine, it must be no less than 75% of this selection. At 90% for this explicit wine, it’s effectively above that however they’re labeling it as a crimson mix. I believe partly in doing so, it provides them the pliability to alter that mix over time if they want, and partly crimson blends are only a very, highly regarded class now and have been for the previous few years.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. I picked … That was one thing I wished to speak about, simply because loads of … We is perhaps ingesting much more blends than we even know, simply because any bottle of Cabernet or a single selection grape, whether or not crimson or white, it might have a sure proportion of different grapes in it. I believe that’s sort of an attention-grabbing improvement. Lots of people may not know that once they purchase a Syrah. They’re like, “Okay, it’s a Syrah,” however you recognize what? It might need 10% Cab, it might need 15%. I believe that’s sort of an attention-grabbing factor for individuals to sort of dig deeper in for those who’re … These beautiful PDF tech sheets with all of the wine knowledge on them, it’s fairly attention-grabbing if you form of dig down a bit and get the mix.

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, completely. I believe most wines are blends of some kind. Both they’re blends of various barrels, they’re blends of various varieties, they’re blends of various vineyards, they’re blends of various appellations, and so it may be very attention-grabbing to look down in that and say, “Okay, what’s the 5% of this? What does it carry to the wine? Why did the winemaker add it?” Typically, you’ll be able to attempt to determine that out and attempt to style that within the wines, and generally it’s rather more delicate and it may be laborious to do. It’s positively attention-grabbing to consider.

Jameson Fink: It’s like all of the wine world is a mix.

Sean Sullivan: All of the wine world is a mix. Precisely.

Jameson Fink: Truly, that … Whenever you stated a bit, sort of detecting these smaller percentages, I assumed it was actually attention-grabbing, simply going again to your article about wine mixing if you talked to James from Syncline about one in all his blends has 2% of one thing in it. Lots of people could be like, “2%? What the hell is that going to do? That’s not going to contribute something,” however he was … He spoke very strongly about, “Yeah, that’s one thing … When it’s there, you’ll be able to style it and, when it’s not there, it’s a distinct wine.”

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, completely. One other a part of that dialog with James which didn’t make it into the article, he was additionally speaking about glowing wines. He was speaking in regards to the dosage or including of sugar to these wines, as effectively, and he was saying that as a lot as 1 / 4 of a milliliter can radically have an effect on the style and general sensation of the wine in a glowing wine. It appears … 2% in a 750 mL bottle looks like an especially small quantity however he’s saying even tiny drops of sugar to wine also can radically have an effect on them, as effectively. That’s a part of the article.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. Look, I’m simply going to present a bit sidebar regardless that we’re speaking about crimson blends, that the Syncline glowing wines are nice, and the glowing Gruner is admittedly cool.

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, it’s positively … It’s each an excessive rarity and completely scrumptious and effectively value individuals searching for out.

Jameson Fink: Simply going again to the Underground Venture Wine, simply one thing you stated I assumed was actual attention-grabbing, too, simply not calling it a Syrah, giving that flexibility. With crimson blends, such a scorching class, and having these sort of proprietary names like Idle Palms or the Prisoner or one thing like that, one 12 months to the following, individuals are like … They’re responding to the identify, the packaging, after which the wine inside, after all, nevertheless it does provide you with that. Possibly subsequent 12 months it is going to be 80% Syrah or possibly there will probably be one other grape in there. So long as it’s received that sort of, I believe, possibly stylistic consistency that folks anticipate, and it is a mission with, I ought to say, between Trey Busch and Mark McNeilly, that individuals are going to reply to it. They’re sort of searching for that sort of profile with these wines. Would you agree with that?

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, I’d completely agree. Yeah, Trey Busch, Sleigh of Hand sellers, Mark McNeilly, Mark Ryan Vineyard. The wine coming from Pink Mountain, generally known as a really, very heat space of Washington state, so wines with loads of ripeness of fruit but additionally loads of construction to them, as effectively, after we’re speaking about Cabernet Sauvignon specifically. Large, highly effective wines that I believe are very, very consumer-friendly.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. One factor I’m glad you talked about, Pink Mountain, it’s a extremely … So far as appellations in Washington go, Pink Mountain is a tiny place, proper?

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, it’s solely four,040 acres whole in measurement, so actually, actually a small rising area, however, for those who go there, it’s extensively planted to wine grapes. I don’t know what the present quantity is. It’s no less than 2,600 acres, I wish to say, planted to wine grapes at this level, so it’s very a lot wine nation there, and particularly crimson wine the overwhelming majority of grapes grown there are crimson wine grapes due to the warmth.

Jameson Fink: Are you seeing extra collaborations like this with winemakers, extra tasks the place two or extra winemakers are sort of getting collectively and making one thing collectively, a brand new model, sort of one thing that’s totally different than what they’re doing with their very own vineyard?

Sean Sullivan: I positively assume there’s some curiosity in doing that. One of many issues that I believe makes Washington such a enjoyable space to cowl and such a enjoyable space to go to is it’s a really small trade and everybody actually nonetheless is aware of one another. On this case, Trey Busch and Mark McNeilly made this wine as a result of they’ve been mates without end and had been inquisitive about working collectively and doing one thing collectively. I believe these kinds of collaborations are positively one thing that may be very Washington. Lots of winemakers right here, in areas like Woodenville, they’re sharing gear, they’re sharing presses, they’re sharing all types of various issues throughout the harvest time, and that lends itself to a very nice sort of collegial ambiance that then results in individuals doing numerous joint tasks collectively.

Jameson Fink: Yeah, and so they share beers and pizza. Truly, attention-grabbing. Earlier, you talked about how there’s one other Underground Wine Venture wine that’s sort of the flip of that heavy Syrah-Cab mix. Truly, the second wine is sort of like that, the Buty 2014 Columbia Rediviva Phinny Hill Winery crimson from the Horse Heaven Hills, 91 factors. That’s 80% Cabernet, 20% Syrah. My expertise with Buty is definitely extra of … To me, their white wine, their white Bordeaux, their Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle is, to me, a extremely iconic Washington white wine. Are you able to speak about this explicit crimson wine?

Sean Sullivan: Yeah. I agree, the Buty white wine is certainly one of many iconic white wines of Washington state. Right here, we see one in all their reds with the 2014 Columbia Rediviva from Phinny Hill Winery within the Horse Heaven Hills. Horse Heaven Hills is a fairly heat rising area in Washington, close to the Columbia River. This explicit winery is correct subsequent to Champoux Winery, probably the most well-known vineyards in Washington state, so we see this very nice ripeness of fruit taste from that Cabernet Sauvignon, loads of good construction to it, too. Oh, very nice fruitfulness coming from the Syrah, this sort of plum taste.

Additionally they, at Buty, make a wine that’s, once more, sort of the flip of this, focusing extra on Syrah, referred to as the Rediviva of the Stones. That’s popping out of the Walla Walla Valley appellation the place the vineyard is definitely situated. We see in Washington various wineries which can be enjoying with these Cabernet-Syrah blends. Some will probably be Cab-dominant, after which generally they’ll make one other one which’s sort of Syrah-dominant with the alternative proportion. It makes for an attention-grabbing comparability between the 2 wines.

Jameson Fink: One factor … Studying your evaluate, you referred to as Phinny Hill Winery “up and coming.” Is that due to its location subsequent to Champoux, or is it comparatively new? What’s sort of thrilling about it to you?

Sean Sullivan: Yeah. It is a winery the place, for those who discuss to totally different wine makers, they’re … One of many issues about Washington I ought to say, simply again up for a second, is we don’t have as a lot of the property mannequin right here in Washington, the place now we have a winery with a chateau or vineyard sitting subsequent to it. As a substitute, now we have wineries sourcing fruit from totally different vineyards throughout the Columbia Valley, which is Washington’s largest rising area. Lots of totally different wineries are sourcing fruit from Phinny Hill Winery, and there’s simply loads of pleasure in regards to the fruit that’s popping out of that individual space. Particularly, Gramercy Cellars, loads of their Cabernet Sauvignon, which is an impressive wine coming from Washington, is coming from the Phinny Hill Winery, as effectively. It’s positively one which, if you discuss to winemakers about what they’re enthusiastic about that’s of their cellars, Phinny Hill is certainly a type of locations.

Jameson Fink: It’s fairly attention-grabbing as a result of these are some, like Champoux, Phinny Hill, some actually prestigious vineyards, however the appellation Horse Heaven Hills, I went there as soon as and my directions had been like, “There’s this lonely fuel station and, for those who don’t get fuel there for those who want fuel, you is perhaps in bother,” and it was a really lonely fuel station so it wasn’t exaggerated. Are you able to speak about Horse Heaven Hills, the place this wine comes from, as a result of I believe there’s clearly loads of possibly extra excessive manufacturing kind of wines that come from there, however then there are these actually prestigious vineyards.

Sean Sullivan: Yeah. The attention-grabbing factor in regards to the Horse Heaven Hills is it’s a very distant rising area. The closest main city would in all probability be Prosser, which is about an hour, possibly a bit bit lower than that, away. It’s a fairly distant rising area, however some distinctive rising situations. As I stated earlier than, it’s down near the Columbia River so that you get a pleasant river impact, which helps shield towards frost and freezes, which is one in all our points that we will probably have right here in Washington. There’s additionally a really good wind circulation coming by way of, partially due to that river, which helps make thicker tannins and focus the fruit a bit bit extra. I believe it’s a really attention-grabbing rising area.

I’ve additionally … I used to be initially a bit bit skeptical of how good of a area it is perhaps for Syrah, primarily due to the heat of the areas, however I’ve lately seen some very top quality Syrahs popping out of the Horse Heaven Hill, as effectively. It’s a really attention-grabbing rising area, however this can be very distant.

Jameson Fink: Okay, so the primary two wines had been just about wines with 90% Syrah, 80% Cabernet, however now let’s actually get into a mix for actual, critical time. The La Rata 2014 Pink from Walla Walla Valley, 93 factors. It’s a Grenache 53%, Cabernet 34%, and 13% Syrah mix. Sean, are you able to simply discuss in regards to the winemaker who’s making this wine as a result of there’s quite a bit occurring there?

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, there’s positively quite a bit occurring right here. It is a mission, this was began in 2012 by Elizabeth Bourcier, who’s the assistant vigneronne at Cayuse Vineyards within the Walla Walla Valley. She was sort of impressed by a bottle of Priorat to assume, “Effectively …” Within the Rocks space of the Walla Walla Valley, you’ve got Cabernet Sauvignon rising proper subsequent to Grenache and so they are likely to ripen across the identical time interval, so she thought, a la with Priorat, possibly she may mix these collectively and give you one thing attention-grabbing.

Her first classic was in 2012, and a extremely attention-grabbing mix of those two varieties. The Rocks is without doubt one of the extra distinct rising areas within the Pacific Northwest. It’s within the Walla Walla Valley nevertheless it’s on the Oregon aspect of the Walla Walla Valley. The soil, for those who can name it that, is made up of fist-sized cobblestones from the mattress of the Walla Walla River. It provides the wines this very distinctive profile with loads of earth notes, loads of savory notes, loads of mineral notes which can be both compelling. Individuals both love them or they hate them.

Elizabeth was actually the primary individual to, in that area, to take a few of these varieties and say, “Effectively, let’s take Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon and put them collectively.” With the 2014 classic, she’s added in a bit little bit of Syrah, as effectively. That’s the primary time on this wine. It’s a really compelling and attention-grabbing bottle of wine, and actually is the one one prefer it, definitely popping out of the Walla Walla Valley.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. The Rocks, it’s such an attention-grabbing place. If you wish to make … For me, if you wish to make an argument about Terroir, Chablis involves thoughts, however tasting these Rocks wines have such an attention-grabbing signature. Then, simply being there, they’re like, such as you stated, these sort of brain-sized rocks and that’s the soil. It’s so bizarre to assume … You assume soil, you assume dust. You seize it in your fingers and compress it. These are large rocks. [was-alt 00:19:14] the primary place I ever noticed being plowed by a horse. I bear in mind I used to be visiting Cayuse and I used to be like, “Wow, there’s only a large horse there with a plow.” It was fairly dramatic. It was in all probability deliberate for us as a result of we had been media nevertheless it was nonetheless fairly dramatic.

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, it’s a really, very fascinating rising area. To plant the vines, you actually want crowbars to sort of pry between the rocks to get the vines down in there. One of many issues that’s occurring is the rocks are absorbing all this warmth after which transmitting it within the infrared again up on the grape clusters. It provides the wines an especially distinctive signature, and one that you simply see actually nearly trumps selection in that individual area, which I believe may be very uncommon, definitely for Washington. You possibly can detect that. I bear in mind having a wine a number of years again the place I assumed … It was a Syrah and I assumed, “Is there some Rocks fruit on this explicit wine?” I believe it had 6% Rocks fruit in it however you can inform as a result of it’s such a particular signature.

Jameson Fink: James from Syncline could be very pleased with you for pointing that out. Then, we received to speak about … This entire Rocks appellation, which is now the Rocks of Milton Freewater, I believe it’s, however … Let me see if I can describe this proper. This wine is constructed from grapes within the state of Oregon nevertheless it’s … I don’t know why it’s Walla Walla Valley or is it a Washington wine or what’s it? I’m confused. I’m nonetheless confused and I stay there.

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, it’s … I believe the Walla Walla Valley is a really attention-grabbing appellation in that it spans each the Washington and Oregon borders and there’s in depth plantings on either side of the appellation. That stated, of the, let’s say, 110 or so wineries and tasting rooms within the space, the huge, huge, overwhelming majority of them are on the Washington aspect so that you see loads of wines being made in that space which can be blends of fruit from the Washington and Oregon aspect or possibly they’re all from the Oregon aspect however they’re being vinified in a vineyard in Washington. It will get a bit complicated when it comes to whether or not that wine is … It’s positively a Walla Walla Valley wine. Is it a Washington wine or is it an Oregon wine? That turns into a lot more durable to say.

I believe it’s extra clear the place the vineyard is. In Oregon, the Rocks are all situated in Oregon. If the vineyard is there, it’s positively an Oregon wine. If it’s a Washington vineyard that’s utilizing that fruit, I can inform you they may name it a Walla Walla Valley, Washington, wine. I believe that may be a bit bit complicated to individuals, definitely.

Jameson Fink: Or it might be contentious, too. You’re speaking about is that this Oregon’s wine or Washington’s wine.

Sean Sullivan: Yeah, no, completely. It’s one thing that, in … Going again a bit bit in historical past, the place sort of all the Walla Walla Valley wineries, or most of them, actually, had been on the Washington aspect, you look again traditionally, a vineyard like Seven Hills initially began on the Oregon aspect, then moved to the Washington aspect. As in lots of different areas, they had been just a bit bit earlier than their time as a result of now you’re seeing wineries on the Oregon aspect, as effectively. It simply will get troublesome to say the place do … If a wine is 51% Washington fruit, 49% Oregon fruit, made by a Washington vineyard versus an Oregon vineyard, it’s laborious to say what precisely the elements are that decide the place that wine is from and the way that wine ought to be labeled.

It will get extra attention-grabbing, when it comes to the Rocks district, the place it’s a sub-appellation of the Walla Walla Valley nevertheless it’s all wholly situated on the Oregon aspect of the valley. There’s truly, and that is very insider baseball, to place one thing on the label, to place an appellation on the label, the wine must be what’s referred to as absolutely completed within the state during which that appellation lies, so wineries within the Walla Walla Valley can not at the moment use the Rocks District of Milton Freewater on their label as a result of they’re in Washington, regardless that it’s solely 5, 10 miles away from the Rocks district. They’ll’t at the moment put that on the label. That’s one thing the federal government is wanting into, and hopefully we’ll work out a method round that sooner or later.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. That is the not enjoyable, bureaucratic aspect of wine.

Sean Sullivan: Completely.

Jameson Fink: However the wines are … I assume sort of to summarize that, although, if yow will discover, and possibly simply go to your wine store otherwise you’re at a restaurant and simply say, “I wish to attempt a wine made with fruit from the Rocks district,” I actually assume they’re simply … There’s one thing about them. I assume their form of savoriness, meatiness, possibly a bit gaminess may be very … It’s simply a type of issues the place you’re similar to, “Wow, that is actually …” When you’ve got a line-up of Washington reds, I believe it’s fairly … It has such a signature that basically pops if the remainder of them aren’t from there.

Sean Sullivan: Sure, completely. There are wines that, for those who blind style them in a line-up, you’ll be able to completely level out which wines are coming from this space as a result of they’ve that distinctive fragrant signature and in addition taste signature. These wines are additionally the next pH and it provides them this very delicate, sort of luxurious mouthfeel, as effectively, which can be one thing that’s very distinctive. Typically, individuals say, tasting these wines, like, “Wow, these wines remind me of wines from the northern Rhone,” when it comes to that savory facet, however that larger pH, to me, is at all times sort of the inform of them being from the Rocks district, amongst different issues. That mouthfeel that you simply get from these wines may be very, very distinctive, as effectively.

Jameson Fink: Yeah. Effectively, loads of the blends from the Rocks district are actually fascinating, and throughout Washington, Pink Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills. Like I stated firstly, there’s definitely an ideal Cabernet, there’s nice Merlot, there’s nice Syrah, and plenty of different attention-grabbing grapes, nevertheless it’s actually value exploring the blends of Washington state as a result of there’s some actually thrilling and distinctive blends being made by winemakers throughout.

Sean, thanks for shining a bit gentle on a few of the nice wines from Washington state.

Sean Sullivan: Thanks a lot once more for having me, Jameson.

Jameson Fink: Okay. My pleasure.

Thanks for listening to the “What We’re Tasting” podcast, sponsored by Vivino. Wine made straightforward.

The three wines we mentioned as we speak had been Underground Wine Venture 2015 Idle Palms crimson, Buty 2014 Columbia Rediviva Phinny Hill Winery crimson, and La Rata 2014 crimson.

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