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Olympic Cellars Winery: Featured Winery Sept 09

Olympic Cellars Winery is celebrating their 30th year of crafting Washington Wines. It’s founder, Gene Neuharth, was one of the few brave wine makers who saw the potential of Washington wines back in the 70s.  Olympic Cellars Winery is the 15th oldest winery in Washington state and it was the first winery on the Olympic peninsula. Now the winery is owned and operated by a trio of women, affectionately know as the Olympic Women in Wine. The original three women were Kathy Charlton, Sara Gagnon and Molly Rivard. Libby Sweetser joined the crew in 2003 to coordinate special events.In 2004, Sara Gagnon left the winery to make time for the other interests in her life and the search began for a new wine maker. Now there is a “rooster in the hen house” as Benoit Murat joined the winery, bringing his expertise and talents in both American and French wine making styles. Benoit strives to make a “drinkable” wine, a wine without pretension, a wine that you can pick up at the store and enjoy with your Tuesday night dinner.

The Olympic Women in Wine subscribe to a self-dubbed, “feminine way of doing business,” which embraces the triple bottom line philosophy of profitability, philanthropy and environmental sensitivity.

Olympic Cellars Winery has three wine labels:

  • Dungeness– The Dungeness Red and the Dungeness White date back to Gene Neuharth days and are classics. Although these Washington wines have been updated over the years, they remain the quissential table wines.
  • Working Girl Wines– These are the wines that you reach for at the end of your day: Working Girl White, Go Girl Red, Handyman Red and Rosé the Riveter. These wines are affordable and accessible to even the novice wine drinker. These wines fund Olympic Cellars philanthropic endeavors for women.
  • La Dolce Vida is Olympic Cellars Winery’s premium wine label. These wines are created from their best grapes, in small lots.

During their 30th Anniversary party, I was able to taste a variety of wines from all three labels.

Dungeness Wines

  • Dungeness Red 07-This Lemberger wine is medium bodied and reminsicent of cherry. The color is a gorgeous deep “bing cherry” red. The nose is cherry,herb, milk chocolate and black plum. The flavor is big on cherry and fresh currant but has enough tannin structure to stand well when paired. This Washington wine is balanced but it is a wine that begs to be drank now instead of cellared.
  • Dungeness White – This is a semi-sweet Reisling, full of juicy fruit aromas and flavors. Although it was a tad too sweet for my personal palate, that is no reflection on the wine, just my palate! I am not usually a fan of sweet Reislings.

Working Girl Wines

  • Handy Man Red – This is a Bordeaux blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc.  It is a deep mahogney color. This nose has an intense nose of cherry, blackberry, green pepper and a hint of tobacco. It has a sturdy tannin structure, crisp acidity and a lingering cherry and tobacco finish.
  • Rosé the Riveter – This is a bright watermelon colored  off dry Rosé wine. This is a medium bodied wine ripe with strawberry, watermelon and rose petals. The mouthfeel is smooth while the finish evolves from raspberries to lemon. This is an exceptional Rosé for pairing with appetizers or picnic fare.

La Dolce Vida

  • Chardonnay, barrel select 07 – This barrel fermented Chardonnay is a lovely pale gold. It was aged for 12 months in 50%  American oak. The nose is green apple, buttered toast and a hint of lemon. This Washington Chardonnay,  from Champoux Vineyards, has a pleasing acidity. The flavor reminds me of a pineapple that is almost but not quite perfectly ripe.  It doesn’t come across as sweet but fruit forward. It also has green apple and lemon and a touch of toast. The finish is moderate but smooth with more citrus than butter. It has a bit of heat, it clocks in at 14.9% alcohol.
  • Syrah 05– This Washington Syrah is a rich deep blackberry color. The intense nose is bursting with intense blackberry, plum and dark cherry aromas. On the palate, the Syrah is soft, full of juicy fruit and a hint of spice. There is a bit of heat on the moderate finish.  The tannins are soft, almost more like Merlot,  but can still stand up to leaner cuts of meat while pairing.
  • Cabernet Franc – 100% Cabernet Franc with an intense nose, consisting of blackberry, mulberry, brioche, cocoa and raspberry. The flavors are big, bold and fruit forward with blackberry, cocoa, and spice. The solid tannin structure support the fruit of the wine and make it an excellent pairing wine.  This wine can stand beside rich meats, and foods and cheese rich with fat. It would also be a pleasant after dinner drink when the weather cools.
  • My Sweet Syrah– The tasting notes say this is a semi-sweet wine but I disagree. This is definitely a sweet wine. They describe it as port-like without the added alcohol. The nose on this sweet red wine is full of sweet bing cherries and cocoa. The flavors are chocolate, plum, cherry and blackberry. Kathy describes it as:
  • “Sweet like a soda not sweet like a syrup.”

Olympic Cellar Winery's Neuharth's Legacy

Neuharth's Legacy

Specialty and varietals

  • Neuharth’s Legacy, Cabernet Sauvignon blend 2007 – This blend is 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah and 12% Cabernet Franc. Olympic Cellars is VERY excited about this wine. Benoit claims that the grapes in this wine are the best in the cellar. When Kathy was pressing the Cabernet Sauvignon, some of the juice dripped down the barrel in a grape formation. She snapped a picture of it, knowing that she wanted that image on the label. Olympic Cellars predicts that you can cellar this complex Washington wine  through 2015.
  • Le Melange Nouveau, Limited Edition 2008 Harvest – Muller-Thurgau is a cool weather grape, well suited to the Puget Sound AVA.  It creates a light bodied, low alcohol content wine with floral and tropical flavors. This wine was barrel fermented in neutral oak and infused with culinary lavender. This is a lovely subtle wine. The lavender doesn’t overwhelm the wine but adds a pleasing floral essence. The 2008 harvest of Muller-Thurgau was very limited, the cool and wet weather prevented most grapes from ripening. With this year’s heat wave, vintners are expecting a large crop not only of estate grapes but also from Bainbridge Island Vineyards, where the 2008 grapes came from.
  • Sparkling Twilight, Sparkling Syrah – Olympic Cellar Winery took advantage of some great Syrah grapes and the Twilight craze in nearby Forks to create this sparkling wine. It is a deep ruby color with fine bubbles. This is an off-dry sparkling Syrah with berry flavors that burst on your tongue like the bubbles! This is a very fun wine. I was delighted when Kathy opened a bottle of this to share at the end of the day with her last tasting room customers, in celebration of their 30 year anniversary.

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