Barrage Cellars is the creation of UC Davis Enology Grad Kevin Corell. From his Woodinville Warehouse District winery he hand crafts 100% varietal wines from some of Washington States finest vineyards. And the results are impressive.
The name Barrage has an interesting beginning. Kevin’s first wines as a hobby winemaker were made in a garage. A few years later he started making wine in a barn in the Yakima Valley. As an homage to his humble beginnings he merged the words Barn and Garage to come up with Barrage. The word means to bombard as in heavy artillery fire. Kevin likes high impact wines and so he thought the title was fitting.
We have tasted twice at Barrage now and both times Kevin spent a couple of hours with us and took us back of the tasting room into the barrel room where we tasted from numerous barrels. Barrel tasting adds a dimension of learning and of fun to any wine tasting. You can see how the winemaker assesses the development of his wines and you can compare different barrels before they go into the final blend.
Barrage makes wines from six different varietals: Riesling, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Kevin likes pure varietal expression so all wines contain just a single grape variety. He will blend vineyards and he likes to experiment with different cooperage and blend barrels, but grapes he does not blend.
Barrage wines are aptly named. They are high impact, intensely flavoured wines that are presented in a powerful style. Wines like this can run the risk of losing balance or becoming over the top. But the wines we tasted at Barrage all remained in bounds and retained a balance that is critical to any degree of success in making fine wine. Bold flavours were matched by structures that kept them from falling into the fruit bomb category. At the winery, Kevin told us: “Everything with wine is about finding equilibrium. In the vineyard, leaving too much fruit on the vine or taking too much of the canopy away can change the fruit. In the winery, too much extraction or not enough oak can change the character of the wine. You are constantly balancing one action with another. Like malo. We put the wines through full malolactic fermentation but we don’t want too much of that butter flavour. So we use a culture to start the malo that does not generate a lot of diacetyl (the cause of buttery flavours).”
Located in the Woodinvile Wine Warehouse district, Barrage is making terrific wines at very fair prices. They also hold back their wines longer than most so you taste wines with a bit of age on them. Definitely worth checking out on any visit to Woodinville.
2011 Nuclear Blonde Chardonnay
Don’t let the name fool you: this is not the overdone Chardonnay bomb that the name might imply. Apples and some tropical fruits form the nose of this medium body wine, with slightly floral notes poking through after a bit of air. A light bread dough component can also be detected. There is a richness to this which is matched by a streak of acidity to keep it balanced. 100% Conner Lee Vineyard.
Very good – US $24 at the winery
100% Merlot, all from Red Willow Vineyard, the State’s oldest. Baking spices lurk beneath the bright cherry nose of this full body, structured wine. On the palate we get black cherry, plum and a slight earthiness delivered with power. There is a richness to the fruit that allows it to stand up to the tannin, which is still quite present. Another year or two of cellaring will allow all of the components to meld more, but with a steak or grilled ribs, this wine is good to go right now!
Excellent – US $28 at the winery
2010 The Outcast Cabernet Franc
Kevin sees Cabernet Franc, generally a blending grape supporting Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, as an outsider to the world of varietal wines. But to us, this outcast just might be the best of his very fine line up. Blueberries and currants dominate the fruit profile of this medium body wine. Soft and smooth are definitely accurate descriptors but this is much more than just an easy drinking wine. Floral notes with a touch of herbs add complexity. We were pleased to note that the overt leafiness and strong tobacco notes that can dominate other 100% Cabernet Franc wines were not obtrusive here and stayed well into the background. A long, spice driven finish brings you back for another sip. Delicious! 60% Boushey and 40% Red Willow Vineyards
Excellent – US $35 at the winery
2009 Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon
Big and bold is where this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is at. Blended from Red Willow, Stillwater Creek and Destiny Ridge Vineyards, this is a powerful wine offers up blackberry and black currant followed by cedar and slight earthy tones. Deep and rich this is a cellar-worthy wine that asks to be served with food.
Very good/Excellent – US $35 at the winery
100% Syrah, all from Boushey Vineyard. Aged in 100% new US oak, this is a wine that will take on your favourite Barossa Shiraz! The style is big and bold, delivering blackberries in a powerful package with a long, spicy finish. No doubt this will settle down once in bottle but this is a high-impact Syrah that presents a velvety mouthfeel to its bramble and boysenberry notes.
Excellent (not yet for sale)
We also tasted a 100% Syrah from the rocks that was still in barrel. It was interesting to contrast this wine with the secret weapon. This Syrah had more of a Northern Rhone style to it and more spice and secondary notes and was more of an intellectuals Syrah that made you think whereas the Secret Weapon was the more up-front, pleasure driven wine. Both were delicious and well worth checking out once they are in bottle and ready for sale.
19501 144th Ave NE Suite E-800, Woodinville, WA 98072
(425)381-9675 / Kevin@BarrageCellars.com