Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Winter 2011 Newsletter

Greetings from wintery Walla Walla! We are finishing up what has been an incredibly exciting year for Sleight of Hand Cellars. New tasting room, new winery, some killer press for our latest wines, and a nail biter of a harvest to close out the year! 2011 kept us on our toes for sure, but thanks to you, our faithful customers and wine club members, everything has been worth it! We just wanted to share some news about this year’s harvest, and make sure that our new releases are on your radar for next year so you don’t miss out on these exceptional wines. We also have 2 winemakers dinners scheduled in December that we hope you can make.  

If you have been keeping up with Washington State wines, you have probably already heard about the challenging growing season that was presented to us in 2011. This years harvest was thrown a curve ball starting LAST year in late November, when a very early freeze (-8 degrees F here in Walla Walla) damaged the buds that were to be this year’s crop. Site selection played a key role in what vineyards suffered the most damage. Fortunately, we only lost one key vineyard for the year (Va Piano Vineyard, where we source Merlot, decided to cut their vineyard back to the ground for the long term health of the vineyard, which of course we are all for…we are on track to get fruit from them again starting next year). This freeze event was followed by a very cool, wet spring, and a very late bud break, anywhere from 3-4 weeks behind normal bud break. Flowering and fruit set were pushed back, and although we had a healthy set in most vineyards, we knew at this point that we would have to reduce yields proactively in order to get certain vineyards ripe. August and September were fantastic, with perfect growing conditions, never too hot to shut the vines down, and from a heat unit perspective, we actually caught up with 2010 numbers by the end of September in certain sites. We started picking in early October, about 6 days later than last year. October remained relatively dry, but cooler, and we finished picking around November 6th 

Overall, we think that this cooler vintage will turn out to be a classic vintage for Washington State. we see some similarities to 2010 (which is one of our favorite vintages ever) so that is a good thing. We have some really exciting lots, some experimental lots as well (100% whole cluster Syrah, for example), and we added a few new varieties to play with (Grenache from Upland Vineyard and Petit Verdot from Phinny Hill). Our Magician’s Assistant Cab Franc Rose’ is stunning, and the Chardonnay from French Creek Vineyard is already showing well in barrel. As always, we love the Blue Mtn. Vineyard Cab Franc and Cab Sauv, although our yields were miniscule on both of these, so less wine for the Archimage and Illusionist, but quality will be high! 

Speaking of the Archimage and Illusionist, you have undoubtedly heard about our Wine Spectator scores (93 points for the 2008 Archimage, 95 points for the 2008 Illusionist). We were pleasantly surprised in the Dec 15th, 2011 edition with a small article on the winery (New Faces in Washington Wine), as well as having the 2008 Illusionist Cabernet Sauvignon picked as a Spectator Selection. As you can imagine, we sold out of these wines in about 2 days after word got out, so we hope you have some stashed away in your cellars! We plan on releasing the 2009 vintage of both of these wines in April, so mark your calendars now. We do not anticipate either of these wines to last long. For those of you in our Wine Illusionist Society, you have nothing to fear as these wines are scheduled to ship to you this Spring! If you feel you want more than your scheduled shipment, just email us and we will take care of you.  

A few other small production wines are releasing this Spring (with much anticipation from you all), including the 2010 Funkadelic Syrah (160 cases) and the 2010 Enchantress Chardonnay (150 cases). We will send out an email this March with more information on all of these fantastic wines.  

Finally, we wanted to give you fair warning about the remaining inventory on the 2010 Magician (6 cases left), 2010 Spellbinder (120 cases left), and the 2009 Levitation Syrah (60 cases left). The 2009 Levitation just received a great write up from The Rhone Report. They also tasted a barrel sample of the 2010 Levitation.
“2009 Sleight of Hand Syrah Levitation (USA, Washington, Columbia Valley) $40
A serious Syrah that took the better part of the evening to open up, the 2009 Sleight of Hand Syrah Levitation is 100% Syrah that comes from both the Lewis Vineyard (Yakima Valley) and the Les Collines Vineyard (Walla Walla). Aged for 17 months in 42% new French oak, it boasts tight, yet fantastically pure notes of black and blue fruits, graphite, crushed rock, leafy herbs, lavender, and ground pepper on the nose. Medium to full-bodied on the palate, with a lively, elegant texture, good concentration, and a clean, focused finish, this needs a fairly substantial decant if drinking anytime soon, but should benefit from 3-4 years of bottle age, and have upwards of 12-15 years of longevity. (92+ pts.)”

“2010 Sleight of Hand Syrah Levitation (USA, Washington, Columbia Valley) $NA
Tasted as a barrel sample and chewy and rich, with impressive structure, the 2010 Sleight of Hand Syrah Levitation delivers a serious aromatic profile with loads of crunchy berry and plum styled fruits, crushed rock like mineralality, ripe herbs, and a meaty, bacon like quality all showing. Opening up in the glass over the evening, with a medium to full-bodied texture, integrated acidity, and ripe tannin, this impeccably put together wine should benefit from 2-3 years of bottle age, and drink beautifully for a decade or longer. (91-94 pts.)”

December 20th – Aqua by El Gaucho
8th Annual Holiday Dinner with Sleight of Hand Cellars, Mark Ryan Winery, and Sparkman Cellars. Only 50 seats available. Call 206-956-9171 for reservations.  

Dec 21st – Doc’s Marina Grill on Bainbridge Island
Sleight of Hand Cellars Winemakers Dinner for 36 people. Call 206-842-8339 for reservations. 

That’s all folks!! Have a great holiday season, from all of us here at Sleight of Hand Cellars! 

Sandy, Jerry, Trey, and Keith

Monday, September 6, 2010

September 2010 Newsletter

September…man, where did the summer go? We know that most of you in Portland and Seattle are wondering if the summer ever arrived. Here in Eastern WA, we have seen our share of sunshine, but overall, 2010 has been a very cool growing season. The combination of an early fall freeze last year, a mild winter, and a very late bud break this spring has many winemakers on edge about the upcoming harvest. Most sites that we are working with are anywhere from 10 days to 2 weeks behind normal. For the warmer sites (Red Mtn. and the Funk Vineyard) and earlier ripening varietals (Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah) we should be fine, but for our cooler vineyard sites and later ripening varietals, it will be a nail biter. Crop loads are going to be super light, most varietals will be 2 tons per acre of less. Needless to say we are hoping for an Indian summer. Somehow, things always work out for us!

That being said, we really do love the fall! Walla Walla is one of the prettiest places on the planet during autumn, with our gorgeous sunsets, and the tapestry of warm colors that flood your senses…vibrant reds, blood oranges, burnt sienna, cinnamon brown. Harvest is a marker in time that will produce something we can revisit for years and years to come. Way better than photographs, don’t you think? We have been busy at the winery getting ready (code word for “cleaning”). We expect to crush about 40 tons this year and will take plenty of pictures to whet your whistle, but we also would like to invite you down to Walla Walla to see crush firsthand. We will of course put you to work if you do visit us, free of charge!

At the end of August, Wine Advocate (you know, Parkers wine rag) bestowed upon us some nice scores, 92 points for the 2007 Illusionist and 90 points for the 2007 Archimage. Nice additions to our Wine and Spirits, Wine Spectator, and Wine Enthusiast scores for both wines. We are down to less than 20 cases of each at the winery. If you haven’t opened one recently, do yourself a favor and pop one of each and judge for yourself. These wines should age beautifully for the next decade, so if you have already depleted your inventory, stock up before it’s gone, for GOOD!

Earlier this month, we bottled some seriously special wines. Along with 938 cases of the 2009 Spellbinder, we bottled 222 cases of the 2008 Archimage (50% Merlot, 33% Cab Franc, 17% Cab Sauv), 319 cases of the 2008 Illusionist (93% Cab Sauv, 7% Syrah), 96 cases of a single vineyard Syrah called “The Funkadelic” (that you may have heard about in the underground cult world of wine bloggers), and finally, 68 cases of the 2009 Enchantress Chardonnay. All of these wines will be released sometime next spring. The limited production wines will be offered to our Wine Illusionist Society members first, and if we have any left over, we will make them available to our mailing list as well. This of course is your friendly reminder as to why you should be members of the Wine Illusionist Society! Great discounts, offers on smaller production wines, use of the Magicians Lair guest house in Walla Walla, and the sense of belonging to a community of like minded people who love great wine, great music, and great friends!

For our Wine Illusionist Society members, we are getting ready to send out (or prepare for pickup) our Fall release, the 2008 Levitation Syrah. As many of you already know, last years vintage received 93 points from the Wine Spectator, along with a Double Gold from the Seattle Wine Awards. This years release is a tremendous follow up to last years award winning wine. We bottled 295 cases of this wine back in March of this year, and after opening several bottles in the tasting room over the past few weeks, we are delighted to say that it is a stunner. A blend of Les Collines Vineyard and Lewis Vineyard, it was aged in 50% new French oak, a bump up from the 2007 vintage. This years vintage is savory and smoky, like cured bacon wrapped around fresh picked plums! The Lewis Vineyard fruit (traditionally full of red raspberries and cherries) is currently secondary to the Les Collines earthiness, but is waiting to erupt from the glass. My educated guess is that a few years in bottle will see the 2 vineyards swap places and show much like the 2007 vintage is showing right now. The 2008 vintage was a bit cooler than normal, and alcohol levels across the board are lower in all of our wines. The 2008 Levitation is 13.9%, but in no way does it give up weight and density with the lower alc. We actually harvested both vineyards a week later in 2008 than in 2007, so longer hang time with great flavor development at lower sugars.

Wine Illusionist Society members, we need you all to log into your account at https://www2.ibgcheckout.com/sofhcellars/account/login.jsp and update your billing and shipping info, as well as (most importantly) your credit card info. Doing this now prevents us from having to chase you down, and during harvest we don’t have time to do that! If you have any issues getting your password, please email us and we will try to take care of it in a timely manner. If you usually have your wines shipped and want to pick up instead, or vice versa, email us and let us know. Looking forward to getting this very special wine to you.

Finally, for your listening pleasure, we wanted to give you a great list of songs and bands that should get you through the fall. Some may seem a bit melancholy, but we prefer “hauntingly beautiful” instead.

Fistful of Mercy - Today's Crosby Stills and Nash? Maybe, but Joseph Arthur, Ben Harper, and Dhani Harrison (you know, George's kid) really nailed it with what I have heard. This link takes you to KEXP so you can watch a couple of songs live. http://blog.kexp.org/blog/2010/09/01/live-video-fistful-of-mercy/

Beach House - Whatever "Dream Pop" is, I think this is it. http://beachhousebaltimore.com/index.cfm?page=shop

School of Seven Bells - Lofty, airy, ethereal. http://www.myspace.com/schoolofsevenbells

Foals - Really gorgeous voice... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYoINidnLRQ best 7 minutes of your day right here!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Greetings and a happy summer to everyone!

With the hot weather finally here, I was feeling a bit nostalgic about summer, and what it means to me now vs., say, 1988. Summer is and always will be a time for celebration. I can close my eyes and smell the coconut oil and sand of the Florida panhandle, taste the barbeque and sweet corn, and of course, I can hear David Lee Roth** singing “California Girls” as it blares through my awesome Sony walkman cassette deck. It seems to me that each summer had at least one “summer anthem” that every radio station played, and MTV had on constant rotation. Be it Bryan Adam’s “Summer of 69” or Katrina and The Waves “Walking on Sunshine”, these songs resonate with me. The fact that I do not listen to the radio (save for KEXP of course) may show my ignorance of today’s pop music, but, thank you very much, I can do without it. I sort of feel responsible for educating the masses on the great music still being made today, but that does not get commercial radio play. So here is my top 10 list of songs for the summer (in no particular order) you may or may not have heard! Some are new, some are a few years old, but all are great!

1. The Kooks – Ooh La

2. Band of Horses – The Great Salt Lake

3. Silversun Pickups – Lazy Eye (pop genius)

4. Yo La Tengo – Take Care (At the end of Summer, or on a lazy summer evening, this song says is all)

5. The Walkman – The Rat (maybe my favorite song from 2008)

6. Pearl Jam – Oceans (OK, you didn’t think I would NOT include a PJ song here, did you?)

7. The Flaming Lips – It’s Summertime (from my favorite FL album, Yoshimi Battles the Robots)

8. The Drums – Saddest Summer

9. Bad Lieutenant – Summer Days

10. Afghan Whigs – Summer’s Kiss (Rock Genius)

(**Jerry wanted me to make sure that everyone knows, because he is from ye olden days, that the Beach Boys version of "California Girls" is WAY better than that of Mr. David Lee Roth.)

Today, summer reminds me that we are only a couple of months away from harvesting some awesome grapes! This year has seen a cool, wet spring that has recharged all of the groundwater in the Columbia Valley, and as of July 5th, some really warm, sunny days to start the ripening process for our grapes. Only time will tell the overall quality, but if it is anything like, say, the last 10 vintages, we should be OK!

Summer also screams Rose’, and as most of the mailing list for Sleight of Hand Cellars knows, we make a pretty good one. Production on this wine is always limited, and we sell out by Labor Day every year. We are blowing through it again this year and wanted to remind everyone that it is only available in the tasting room here in Walla Walla (and a few select placements in Seattle). Call us or order online. Weather permitting we will ship it out, and if it’s too hot, we’ll hold onto it in the back room until shipping weather returns. Of course, you could make a journey to wine country and pick it up yourself!

Our other amazing summertime wine is the 2009 Magician, a blend of 60% Gewurztraminer / 40% Riesling. We seem to be selling this wine twice as fast this year so be sure to order this crisp, mineral and fruit driven white wine before it is too late.
Sleight of Hand Cellars has a few events that you should put on your calander. We hope to see you at a few!

July 30 - La Porte Brune Winemakers Dinner in Seattle

July 31 - Wine in the Pines at Suncadia Lodge

August 6th - Meridian Valley CC Winemakers Dinner

August 12th - Ecco Restaurant in Atlanta GA - Winemakers Dinner

August 18th - Palisades Restaurant - Winemakers BBQ 5-8pm

August 19th-21 Auction of Washington Wines (Picnic, Winemakers Dinner, and Grand Gala Auction)

Next month we’ll be sure to update you on some awesome wines from the 2008 and 2009 vintage that are getting bottled. Until then, go and enjoy the sunshine! We’re sure you’ve earned it!


Trey, Sandy, and Jerry

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Spring and Summer 2010

Spring is still here, with some crazy weather these past few weeks....rain, sun, hail, sun, snow...you name it and Walla Walla has seen it this past May. Looking forward to Summer getting here sooner than later.

Jerry and Sandy were here all of April and we started to put together the 2009 wines. The Syrah almost made itself, with a similar blend to the 2008 vintage, 7 barrels of Les Collines Syrah, and 5 barrels of Lewis Vineyard Syrah. The Funk Vineyard Syrah will simply have to be bottled on its own! It is so distinctive, and fans of Cayuse will want to make sure to try this when it is ready to go! The Archimage and Illusionist were more challenging because we have so many lots to work with. We have an idea about both wines but could not come up with a consensus, so will wait till September to finalize these 2 wines.

The 2009 Enchantress Chardonnay is tasting great and may get bottled in August, along with the 2008 Archimage and 2008 Illusionist. All 3 are great successors of their previous vintages.

The press has been very kind to Sleight of Hand Cellars these past few months. Below are the great reviews we have received from various publications!

Wine Spectator

SLEIGHT OF HAND The Archimage Walla Walla Valley 2007 Score: 92 $40
Smooth and succulent, brimming with red berry and rhubarb flavors that sing sweetly against hints of lime and espresso, lingering on the refined finish. Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Drink now through 2015. 295 cases made. —H.S.

SLEIGHT OF HAND Levitation Syrah Columbia Valley 2007 Score: 93 $40
Rich and fleshy, not heavy but beautifully focused and deftly balanced to play its fresh boysenberry and currant flavors against fine tannins and hints of licorice and pepper on the finish. Drink now through 2014. 340 cases made. –HS

Wine Enthusiast Magazine
92 Points - Cellar Selection Sleight of Hand 2007 The Illusionist Red Red Blend Columbia Valley (WA) $40

91 Points - Cellar Selection Sleight of Hand 2007 Archimage Red Red Blend Walla Walla (WA) $40

90 Points - Sleight of Hand 2008 The Magician White Blend Columbia Valley (WA) $17

Wine and Spirits Magazine

92 Points - The Archimage Red Blend Walla Walla Valley 2007 (WA) $40

92 Points - The Illusionist Red Blend Columbia Valley 2007 (WA) $40

90 Points - BEST BUY The Magician Columbia Valley 2008 (WA) $17

WINO Magazine

Nice interview here:

I have a busy summer schedule planned, lots of tastings in and around the NW, and trying to get back to Atlanta to see friends and family, while selling some wine in the process! Also plan on a few long weekends with the family. I hope to see you at one or more of the many events I have scheduled. Check out our Facebook page and fan us up! http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/Sleight-of-Hand-Cellars/50521891503?ref=ts

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Post ML

At the beginning of February 2010, I racked all of the 2009 lots that were finished with both primary and secondary fermentation. I racked lot by lot, so no blending is done at this point. The wines are stunning, and it reinforces why I love winemaking so much. There is no greater joy for a winemaker (at least this winemaker) than filling barrels and having the winery smell like all of the great wines going back into barrel.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Just an update on the 2009 vintage, one that is sure to create lots of dialogue as it was a very interesting vintage. I tasted through every lot today and am very happy with the results, although every lot (minus one) is still going through ML. That makes it a bit tougher to evaluate, but I got the overalll essence of each wine and the notes are below.

Cab Franc lots:

2009 Blue Mtn Cab Franc (Walla Walla Valley AVA) - Dark blood red to the rim, amazing color and density. My favorite CF lot of the year, super meaty, herbal, green tea, spicy dark fruit. HUGE structure, this wine will be the base wine for the Archimage. I may even bottle a barrel on its own it is so good.

2009 Red Mtn Vineyard Cab Franc (Red Mtn AVA) - Equally as dark and brooding as the Blue Mtn Vineyard, but more mineral, wet stone, and less fruit intensity...will make a great blending component. Big tannins as well.

2009 Chelle den Millie Cab Franc (Yakima Valley AVA) - Not as dark, but much more perfumed than the first two. Will add lots to the nose. Medium weight and density, and great acid.

Merlot lots:

2009 Seven Hills Merlot (Walla Walla Valley AVA) - Bright ruby red, lots of candied red fruits in the nose. Cherries come to mind. Should blend well with the Cab Franc lots.

2009 Blackrock Vineyard Merlot (Yakima Valley AVA) - In full ML mode, lots of spritz, dark red but cloudy in color, one of the bases for the Spellbinder program. Really impressed with the structure of the wine, and dark purple fruits, lots of plums.

Cabernet Sauvignon lots:

2009 Blue Mtn. Cab Sauv (Walla Walla Valley AVA) - Like the CF, dark to the rim. Blueberries to the max, very reserved and dense, wall of tannins. Great wine, great vineyard.

2009 Red Mtn. Cab Sauv (Red Mtn. AVA) - Bright red to the rim, lots of classic cab characteristics, leafy, cassis, but again, the mineral component that makes Red Mtn. special. Tannins all in the front of the mouth right now. Finishing ML.

2009 Double Canyon Cab Sauv (Horse Heaven Hills AVA) - Currently my least favorite lot, not a lot of fruit, and a bit reductive from the ferment (trouble from the start), will splash rack after ML and re-evaluate.

2009 Blackrock Cab Sauv (Yakima Valley AVA) - Another winner from Blackrock, destined for the Spellbinder. Great fruit intensity, dark, happy.

Syrah lots:

Notes in advance, this was a killer Syrah year!!!

2009 Lewis Vineyard Syrah (Yakima Valley AVA) - from the beginning reminded me of my 2004 vintage. Meaty, dense with a great spine of acid. Dark, almost neon - like...take a slap of beef and grind it with a bowl of raspberries, and you have the 09 Lewis! Another contender for barrel select program.

2009 Les Collines Syrah 100% Stems (Walla Walla Valley AVA) - Experimented last year with stems and like it, so went 100% with this lot. Amazing nose of spicy white pepper, lots of cooking spices, like a potpouri, and the tannins and structure from the stem add...oh my!

2009 Les Collines Syrah Whole Berry (Walla Walla Valley AVA) - Same grapes, whole berry, no stems, totally different wine. More fruit drive, softer, lots of plums, but still gamey. Will be a great addition to the Levitation.

2009 Funk Vineyard Syrah (Walla Walla Valley) - Saving the best for last.....Calling all fans of Cayuse! This vineyard has an appropose name, the Funk vineyard, because this stuff is funk-ay! Bloody iodine, soy, meat, some fruit somewhere in there. I jumped up and down after smelling this wine today! I'm not on the Cayuse list, and now I don't have to be!

Rose' and Chard lots -

2009 Raj Majal Chardonnay (Yakima Valley AVA) - A great follow up to the 07 vintage. Ripe Granny smith apples, lots of cinnamon spice, and that mineral and acid that makes you think Chablis...really liking where this is going already. Still on original lees.

2009 Cab Frank Rose' - From Chelle den Millie, it is a beautiful coral pink/orange, and an explosive nose of rhubarb, cranberries, and tart cherries. VERY happy with this wine. And we made more this year, about 7 barrels, up from 3!

Will update you on the wines as I retaste in early spring!

Cheers for now!


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Thought I'd throw of a pic of us up....this is Jerry, Sandy, and myself at the Sun Valley Wine Auction this past July.