One of the best parts of running this humble little wine blog has been all of the great people that I have had the opportunity to meet through it. Most of these people have been connections that I have made through Twitter, and I recently had the opportunity to meet another person that I have gotten to know through my online life, Cheryl Hodgins of Skylite Cellars.
I had actually become familiar with Skylite during the Wine Bloggers' Conference last year. During an after hours downtown tasting that was associated with the conference, I had the opportunity to meet Skylite winemaker Robert Smasne, and taste some of Skylite's wines. The wines were on the shortlist of wines that stood out in my mind from the trip, so I had been looking forward to my first visit to the winery since moving to Washington.
Since my first visit to their downtown Walla Walla tasting room, I have talked with Cheryl quite a bit on Twitter. Skylite (@SkyliteCellars on Twitter) has one of the most engaging and interesting Twitter presences of any Washington winery that I follow. She sends interesting pics and information, she jumps right into conversations online, and she never over-promotes. Because of this, she has always been one of the wineries that I most enjoy talking to online. When I last scheduled a trip out to Walla Walla, she was one of the people that I made sure I connected with. Turns out that Cheryl is every bit as engaging in person as she is online.
When you first meet Cheryl Hodgins, there is absolutely no ice to break. She is one of those people who can leap into animated conversation with you, even immediately after meeting her. When the topic turns to her winery, her love for the business kicks the conversation up to the next level. It is clear that she is passionate about her wines.
When starting the winery, Hodgins had the great fortune of getting connected with winemaker Robert Smasne, and the results has been outstanding. The wines have consistently performed well in competitions across the country, including the San Francisco International Wine Competition, the Fingerlakes International Wine Competition, the Seattle Wine Awards, and the Tri-Cities Wine Festival. When the Renaud Society, a group of physicians with a love of wine, convened their annual wine competition in Walla Walla in 2009, the Skylite Cellars 2006 Reserve Columbia Valley was named "Best in Show". When the competition was held in Napa this year, Skylite again came out on top, this time with their 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon taking the honors. "They usually like the host state to take these kind of honors." Hogins told me, obviously taking a great deal of pride in her Walla Walla winery beating California wineries on their home turf.
I tasted three different wines while I was visiting Skylite. Here are some brief notes on the wines:
2006 Syrah - Columbia Valley - $28
Along with their Malbec, which they are in between vintages of right now, the Syrah was one of the wines that I remembered from the WBC10 tasting. A smokey, meaty nose with dark fruit, and possibly at the suggestion of the taste card I got a touch of beets, leads into a soft, elegant palate. Nice dark cherry and earth notes, as well as some black pepper.
2007 Skylite Cellars Reserve - Columbia Valley - $47
This Bordeaux blend (51% Malbec, 16% Carmenere, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon) has consistently been one of their top wines. The nose has great red fruit, cherries, black pepper, vanilla, leather, and some coffee. The palate is well balanced, with wonderful raspberry and coffee notes, with some nice spice. Really nice blend.
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon - Walla Walla - $24
Lovely dark fruit on the nose, with floral components, toffee and mocha showing up as well. The palate is well balanced with good structure. Raspberry, with some nice smokey spice character, great texture and mouthfeel. Really reasonable price for a good Cabernet.
Skylite Cellars has a great tasting room to visit, people who really have a love for their wines, and the wines are great. All of these reasons make this a stop to add to your Walla Walla wine touring itinerary. I would also recommend following Skylite Cellars on Twitter here. They will provide you with some great content, and Cheryl is just fun to talk to. I also wanted to note that Skylite Cellars is one of the wineries that are going to soon be occupying the new Nectar Tasting Room in Spokane, so Spokane residence will now be able to taste their wines locally.
Disclaimer: No doctors were actually consulted for this post. I just make the funny because of Skylite's back-to-back best of show awards with Renaud.