J Bookwalter
Part 15, Washington State: visiting one of North America's leading wine growing regions

Winemaker Caleb Foster 

Website: www.bookwalterwines.com  

In 1976 Jerry Bookwalter moved his family to the tri-cities area in eastern Washington State, where he helped manage planting of three well known vineyards: Sagemoor, Bacchus and Dionysus. In 1982 he decided to start his own winery, J Bookwalter. The winery started making wine in 1983 and was bonded winery no 104 in the state.


The winery is now run by his son John, who had been marketing manager with E&J Gallo and Coors, before he returned to the family project in 1997.

We tasted through the range with winemaker Caleb Foster, who was hired in 2014. Caleb had started Buty wines with his then wife in Walla Walla, but originally hails from Connecticut.  Producton is 20 000 cases of estate wine and 10 000 cases of negociant level wine.


Caleb has only been here one vintage, so the reds we tried were not his responsibility. ‘Merlot here is the best in the world,’ says Caleb. ‘Our Cabernets are proven but Merlot is mindbogglingly good.’ The Bookwalter reds are ripe and dense with sweet fruit and high alcohol. In their style they are well made, but they aren’t wines I love.



Bookwalter Winery Notebook white NV Washington State
76% Riesling, 24% Muscat. 12.7% alcohol. Off dry and slightly syrupy with grapes, pears and apples. Quite pretty. 85/100

Bookwalter Winery Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2014 Washington State
From a 1980-planted vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Textured and fresh with nice citrus and pear fruit. Clean, with some white peach richness. Nice focus. 89/100

Bookwalter Winery Couplet 2013 Washington State
53% Chardonnay, 48% Viognier. Fresh, pretty and lively with lemons, some pear and some pithy notes. Direct in a fruit-forward style. 86/100

Bookwalter Winery Double Plot Chardonnay 2013 Washington State
Full colour. Rich and toasty with fig, spice, pear and peach. Some mealy notes. 89/100

Bookwalter Winery Scarlet Hexflame Rosé 2014 Washington State
Pink/red in colour. Textured and smooth with cherry and plum fruit, and a bit of sweetness. 87/100

Bookwalter Winery Subplot No 29 2012 Washington State
14.8% alcohol, mostly Cabernet and Malbec. Fresh, ripe sweet cherry and plum fruit with a bit of grip. Some chocolatey notes. Nice spiciness. There’s a hint of bitterness on the finish but nice sweet fruit. 88/100

Bookwalter Winery Foreshadow Merlot 2012 Washington State
14.9% alcohol. Spicy, rich and chocolatey with bold, ripe sweet blackberry and black cherry fruit. There’s a hint of mint here. Quite jammy, but nice purity. 88/100

Bookwalter Winery Foreshadow Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Washington State
Sweet, spicy and chocolatey with fresh, sweet fruit. Seductive and polished. 88/100

Bookwalter Winery Antagonist Syrah 2013 Washington State
14.9% alcohol. Sweet, fresh and vivid with nice black cherry and plum fruit. Generous and ripe with a hint of clove and spice. Very appealing ripe style. A bit salty, but with lovely fruit focus. 91/100

Bookwalter Suspense 2013 Winery Washington State
14.8% alcohol. 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc. Very stylish and sweetly fruited with freshness as well as richness. Silky, sweet, pure black cherry fruit. Lush, sweet and quite pure and focused. Has drive and direction. 92/100

Bookwalter Winery Conflict 2012 Washington State
Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a bit of Syrah. Rich, warm, spicy and sweet with a tarry edge and some pepper. Sweet and with density and structure, and hints of ginger and mint. 88/100

Bookwalter Winery Protagonist 2012 Washington State
Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with a splash of Syrah. Supple, sweet and ripe with dense bold fruit. Tannic. Warm and a bit drying. 88/100

Bookwalter Winery Chapter 5 2012 Washington State
14.9% alcohol. Concentrated, sweet and rich with bold black cherry and blackberry fruit. Very sweet, dense and plush with polish. A bold style. 89/100

Columbia Winery
De Lille
WT Vintners
Savage Grace
Chateau Ste Michelle
Andrew Will
Airfield Estates
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
Woodward Canyon
Gramercy Cellars
L'Ecole No 41
Columbia Crest
Memaloose/Idiot's Grace
COR Cellars

Wines tasted as indicated
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