Andrew Will
Part 8, Washington State: visiting one of North America's leading wine growing regions

These were the first Washington State wines I fell in love with, when I tasted the range back in 2001. Andrew Will is the name of Chris Camarda's boutique winery. We met with Chris for dinner, to taste through a selection from the range. He comes across as an engaging and slightly eccentric character.

 

Chris started making the Andrew Will wines back in 1989 when he was managing a restaurant in Seattle. He'd begun making wine with friends, at his mother's house, the two previous vintages. 'The wines were relatively successful,' he recalls. 'I got bonded in 1989 and kept working at the restaurant until I quit on 1 January 1997.' At the time the winery was in a small warehouse in the city. After working at the restaurant, he'd head to the winery at night. He used the weekends or days off to do more involved winery operations, such as racking.

 

In 1994 he bought some property at Vaston Island, selling his house in Seattle. 'I bought 5 acres in Vaston, which has no bridge to it it's a 15 minute ferry ride so it has a rural feel,' says Chris. His winery is located there, and he takes the grapes over on the ferry. 'The first crush was in August 1994, and we've been there ever since.' The first year he made 400 cases. Now Andrew Will is a 3500-6000 case winery each vintage.

The Andrew Will wines are exclusively red, and they are blends of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. There's also a second label, the black label, which consists of varietal wines, which are about half the price, but which Chris says are essentially the same wines, without blending.

 

He's not impressed by the modern crop of high alcohol, over-ripe reds that are coming out of Washington State. 'It is becoming difficult to distinguish the differences in the vineyards now that alcohol dominates the wines,' says Chris. 'You lose varietal distinctiveness too, because of he dominaton of alcohol.' He blames the major critics for rewarding this style. 'When you get a pH of 4 and 15.7% alcohol, the wines taste sweet,' he says. 'I think they are flawed wines.'

Cabernet Franc is a favourite variety for Chris. 'In my view, Cabernet Franc is the most important grape in the state. It allows so much sophistication in the blends.'

The wines are mostly made from rented vineyards, but Chris owns the Two Blondes Vineyard and is a partner in Champoux Vineyard.

THE WINES

Andrew Will Ciel de Cheval Vineyard 2011 Washington State
Vivid, fresh and a bit grippy with nice bright, pure blackcurrant and berry fruits. Quite juicy and grippy with a hint of earthiness. 91/100

Andrew Will Champoux Vineyard 2011 Horse Heaven Hills, Washington State
13% alcohol. Bright and a bit fleshy with lovely focused, grippy blackberry and black cherry fruit. Pure and supple with lovely delicacy and freshness. Floral. 93/100

Andrew Will Two Blondes Vineyard 2011 Yakima Valley, Washington State
Generous and berryish with a nice hint of green. Lovely blackcurrant fruit with real finesse. So sophisticated. Such finesse here. 94/100

Andrew Will Sorella Champoux Vineyard 2011 Horse Heaven Hills, Washington State
Grippy, structured and dense with nice grip. Quite powerful with real intensity and a drying finish. 93/100

Andrew Will Two Blondes Vineyard 2012 Yakima Valley, Washington State
14% alcohol. Sleek, smooth and pure with lovely elegant yet ripe blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. Nice hint of green. Has flesh, but also freshness. 93/100

Andrew Will Champoux Vineyard 2006 Horse Heaven Hills, Washington State
Fresh with lovely blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, with some spiciness. Grippy with a hint of drying tannin. Still quite primary and dense with smooth black fruits to the fore. 93/100

WASHINGTON STATE WINES
Introduction
Betz 
Columbia Winery
De Lille
WT Vintners
Savage Grace
Chateau Ste Michelle
Andrew Will
Airfield Estates
Hedges
Milbrandt Vineyards
Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
Col Solare
Powers/Badger Mountain
J Bookwalter
Pacific Rim
Gordon Estate
Long Shadows
Seven Hills
Charles Smith
Geology with Kevin Pogue
Leonetti
Woodward Canyon
Gramercy Cellars
L'Ecole No 41
Columbia Crest
Maryhill
Memaloose/Idiot's Grace
COR Cellars
Syncline

Wines tasted 06/15  
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