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Originally published Saturday, November 26, 2011 at 7:01 PM

Wine Adviser

StoneCap's 2010s are all best buys

StoneCap is the second label of Goose Ridge, a 1,600-acre vineyard and winery across from Red Mountain. The estate is planted to cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, riesling, viognier and pinot gris, and what is particularly unusual about the StoneCap wines, all $8, is that they use exclusively estate-grown fruit.

Special to the Seattle Times

Pick of the week

Hogue 2008 Red Table Wine; $7

HOGUE HAS dropped the price on its everyday red, and this latest release is a superb value. It's fairly limited (for Hogue, the state's third-largest winery) at 21,804 cases, so stock up soon. Tart and juicy, it matches cranberry and plum fruit flavors to light milk chocolate and nougat highlights. Very well-crafted, with a pleasing florality (to coin a word) to the finish. (Young's-Columbia distributes)

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IT IS RARE that I taste through an entire lineup of new releases from any winery and am able to award each and every one of them a best-buy commendation. The 2010 wines from StoneCap all deserve that accolade, and more.

StoneCap is the second label of Goose Ridge, a sprawling, 1,600-acre vineyard and winery across from Red Mountain. The estate is planted to cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, riesling, viognier and pinot gris, and what is particularly unusual about the StoneCap wines, which are all priced at $8, is that they use exclusively estate-grown fruit.

In the spring of 2010 the winery named Kendall Mix as its winemaker. A veteran of the industry, he moved to Washington in 1993, and has worked at Chateau Ste. Michelle, Canoe Ridge and most recently Corliss Estates. When I first heard the news I anticipated that it would mean good things for Goose Ridge and StoneCap, and these first releases provide the proof.

The price drop (down from $11) has been accompanied by a surge in production numbers. More than 12,000 cases of the cabernet are available, and sizable amounts of everything else, except for the riesling (I'd grab that one soon). You may also still find some of the 2009 wines on supermarket shelves, and those wines, though not made by Mix, were also fine values, especially the merlot and syrah.

Here is a closer look at the 2010s:

StoneCap 2010 Riesling; $8. In almost every instance, Washington wineries making multiple varietals in the under-$10 price range do a very good job with riesling. Riesling is the star here as well. Fragrant and complex, it bursts from the glass with beguiling aromas of lemon oil, orange peel, fresh-brewed tea, pastry and powdered sugar. Mildly sweet, fruity and delicate, it surprises with exceptional length.

StoneCap 2010 Chardonnay; $8. The other white wine in the lineup is this fresh and lively chardonnay. Slightly spritzy, it showcases an abundance of green and yellow (lime, lemon and apple) fruit flavors. It is clean and engaging, with the bright flavors for which Columbia Valley vineyards are noted.

StoneCap 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; $8. Firm and tannic, this earthy, substantial cabernet has plenty of grip. The dark, herbal fruit flavors are accented with a wash of vanilla and fresh tobacco. Though not as accessible as its companion reds, it has every prospect of improving over the next few years and would be a fine match to a grilled burger. The alcohol is a modest 13.5 percent.

StoneCap 2010 Merlot; $8. Just slightly riper than the 2010 cabernet, with alcohol listed at 13.9 percent, this young merlot is a fine follow-up to the winery's outstanding 2009. Dark and rich, the estate-grown fruit offers far more flavor than almost any domestic merlot in this price range. Blackberries, black cherry, smoke and espresso lead into a grainy, chocolaty, tannic finish.

StoneCap 2010 Syrah; $8. The ability of Washington vintners to produce exceptional syrah throughout the state is borne out with this outstanding effort. It is the best of a very solid group of 2010 reds from StoneCap, and draws its inspiration from popular, affordable Australian shiraz brands such as [yellowtail]. Spicy and ripe, it's loaded with lush black fruits highlighted with a lick of citrus.

The revised second edition of Paul Gregutt's "Washington Wines & Wineries" is now in print. His blog is www.paulgregutt.com. Email: paulgwine@me.com.

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About Wine Adviser

My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.
paulgwine@me.com

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