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Wednesday, October 26, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Animale releases its 2003 wines — all 132 cases

Special to The Seattle Times

Matt Gubitosa, whose Animale Winery in Ballard I profiled on Jan. 12, has released his 2003 wines, his third commercial vintage. Gubitosa operates at the fringes of what could be considered commercial. His entire 2003 output is 132 cases. For 2004, he hopes to ramp it up to 150.

Small brings with it many problems. Gubitosa is aware of them, but he is content to move at his own pace and committed to doing wines his way. That includes no new oak, no fining or filtering, and a focus on cool- climate flavors, producing varietal wines that are expressive in both nose and mouth but deceptively light and subtle.

When done well, the grapes and the vineyard express complex aromas that come from the fruit and the skins, and develop an elegant balance that weaves through the palate harmoniously. Don't look for the ripe, jammy flavors of sweet berry preserves, or the toast, coffee, butterscotch and vanilla flavors of expensive new oak. Instead, you may find what those bigger flavors often disguise: the true varietal character unique to Washington-grown grapes.

Animale's new releases include a 2003 Merlot ($21), a 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($26) and a 2003 Syrah ($24). I liked the merlot and cab quite a bit, though they require some breathing time. The syrah, though its flavors were appealing, later developed some off aromas that might indicate a long-term aging problem. The jury is out on that one. You will find these wines at a handful of wine shops around Puget Sound, or you may order directly from the winery (206-782-8047).

Paul Gregutt, Special to The Seattle Times

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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