If you ever see this label in a wine store or on your restaurant’s wine list, get it. If you can, grab more and properly cellar it. All Andrew Will wines are nuanced, sophisticated, and elegant but Sorella is Andrew Will’s most championed label. The 2003 vintage is nothing less than outstanding. Sorella is a blend of fruit grown in the mature Champoux Vineyard in Washington State and is comprised of 50 percent cabernet sauvignon from Blocks I and II, 23 percent merlot, 17 percent cabernet franc, and 10 percent petit verdot. This is a world-class wine. It eludes precise description. A lot of reviewers including myself try to single out the individual flavors found in Sorella, but each time I experience it I come to the same conclusion: you can find whatever you want in there. Blackberries? Yes. Blackcurrant? Yes. Cherries? Yes. Coffee? Yes. Cassis? Chocolate? Currant? Cedar? Yes, yes, yes, yes. That’s what makes it wonderful. It’s all there; everything shows itself in waves at differing stages throughout its opened state. There is nothing that disappoints – not too much oak, not too many herbal notes, not too much tannin, acid, nor alcohol. No. It’s perfectly balanced and seductively smooth. Every time I open Sorella it becomes my favorite wine in the whole world all over again. Its intensity, complexity, and seriousness are the telltale signs that it was made by an inherently talented and thoughtful winemaker. That winemaker’s name is Chris Camarda and not only does he make the wine, he owns the Andrew Will winery located on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound of Washington State. Andrew Will was founded in 1989 by Chris and his wife, Annie – whom he lost to cancer in March, 2005. Annie was the most formidable presence in his life and in his work. To honor her memory, he replaced the painted image of his sister (“Sorella” is “sister” in Italian, and she too died of cancer in 1995) with a similarly styled portrait of Annie on the Sorella label. He also named his syrah “Annie Camarda Syrah.” In his letter to the winery’s customer base, Chris humbly and tongue-in-cheek described it: The 2003 Annie Camarda Syrah is rich, luscious and slightly bohemian – similar to its namesake. And while it would like to be blond and over 6’ tall and reaches for it; it falls short. But don’t believe him. He’s being modest. I’ve had that wine and it too is a respectable Andrew Will wine even if it IS a big cowgirl syrah. That’s just the nature of syrah. In recent years, Camarda has shifted his focus to blends instead of bottling specific varietals from specific vineyards. Just as Sorella is a blend from the Champoux vineyard, he makes proprietary blends from the Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun (2003), and Sheridan vineyards – all within and around the Yakima Valley in the south central portion of Washington. His blend from the Sheridan vineyard in 1999 was impressive enough to entice him to buy a 36-acre plot adjacent to Sheridan along with minority partner and best buddy, Bill Fleckenstein, the big league stock market commentator and hedge fund owner of Fleckenstein Capital in Seattle. Together they named the new vineyard Two Blondes. As you might guess, their wives – Annie and Melody . . . yes, both, blondes. The Two Blondes vineyard was initially planted in 2000 and the first vintage was made in 2002. I tasted that 2002 about a year and a half ago and remember being impressed with how much character it had for such young fruit. The 2003 I tasted not long after that didn’t quite have the grace and progression that the 2002 had shown but I summed that up to bottle immaturity. Keep it on your radar. The Two Blondes label is evolving and up and coming. Meanwhile, Sorella is never a bad bet.
I’ve written before about Andrew Will wines. The flagship Sorella is probably my most consistent favorite of all the wines I’ve encountered. Sorella never ceases to impress me with its seductiveness, consistency of quality, and understatement of presence. It’s a great wine but its restraint beckons you to learn that for yourself; it won’t scream it out to you. So yes, while I love Sorella, I have also come to appreciate that the winemaker and proprietor of Andrew Will – Chris Carmada – has several other wines to offer. Tonight, I pulled his ’04 Champoux blend out of the cellar for accompaniment to my husband’s phenomenal grilled steaks and spice rubbed pork loin. I have to tell you, it is incredible. This is the exemplification of what it is to pair wine and food so well. The wine is wondrous. It’s serious and brooding. I don’t know if the wine makes the meat better or if the meat makes the wine better but I have my suspicion that it is the former. I’m not much of a carnivore, but this I can definitely appreciate. Carmada’s Champoux blend is 44 percent cabernet sauvignon, 25 percent cabernet franc, 22 percent merlot, and 9 percent petite verdot. It’s not so different from Sorella but it has a bit more cabernet franc and less cabernet sauvignon and I think I like that. The aromas bring to mind blackberries, plums, cassis, and chocolate but there’s also the smoke, cedar, and graphite. It’s just like Sorella, but no, it’s not. It’s a different presentation. I can’t help but be entirely impressed each time I open an Andrew Will wine. It’s fine for sipping alone, but it’s even better with a lovingly prepared meal and good company. In my mind, that’s priceless.