Wines from Italy

Last week, we enjoyed wine from Argentina. This week, we tasted samples from Italy.

NeroFirst up, we opened a Nero D’Avola from Sicilia DOC, when our neighbors popped over for a visit. It seemed fitting since Peter is from Sicily, and Nero D’Avola is a popular Sicilian grape.

This wine from Villa Pozzi featured aromas of ripe cherry, sweet spices, a bit of licorice and cocoa, and was rich and smoky on the palate, with a royal ruby color. It would pair well with grilled or roasted meats, or you could taste it with medium-aged cheeses, like we did. And at an $11-price point, this is a good value wine with smooth tannins and a fuller body than expected.

We also decided to try a Nero D’Avola from another winery — 2013 Morgante Nero D’Avola Sicilia, which is another good value red ($16) that is fruity, rich and would go nicely with spaghetti and meatballs.

From Sicily we switched to Tuscany, and sipped on three wines from Monteverro Winery: the Monteverro Chardonnay Toscana, Vermentino di Monteverro and Verruzzo di Monteverro.

IMG_4055The 2012 Chardonnay was unlike any we have tasted before — not a hint of buttery notes but strong minerality and layered, with a long, slightly salty finish. We’re not usually big fans of chards, but this is not a typical Chardonnay, including the price point at $80.

Another white from the winery, 2014 Vermentino di Monteverro, is more reasonably priced at $25. But it also shows strong minerality, similar to the Chardonnay. Light and refreshing, this is a great summer sipper on the deck.

We also enjoyed the 2013 Verruzzo di Monteverro ($22) — fruity but dry, this red wine is best decanted before tasting. According to the tasting notes, Veruzzo has “the power and structure of Cabernet Sauvignon, the aromatics of Cabernet Franc and the softness of Merlot, all united in a red wine full of aromas, Italian character and elegance.”

So now you have some choices, if you want to try something new from Italy.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

 

Kaiken Winery in Argentina

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 10.07.34 AMBeat the August heat with a new summer sipper from Argentina — Kaiken Terroir Series Sauvignon Blanc 2015.

We paired it with cilantro-lime prawns on the deck, savored the refreshing flavors, and then kicked back and enjoyed our view of the lake. You could also pair this Sauv Blanc with fish tacos or grilled chicken. The aromas were intense on the nose; on the palate, this wine was fresh, with peach and citrus flavors and mineral notes.

A couple of weeks later, we barbecued flank steak skewers to pair with Kaiken’s 2013 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, also part of the winery’s Terroir Series. According to the winery, BBQ has been big in Argentina for longer than the U.S. has been a country, so it seemed like a perfect choice.

Blended with a touch of Malbec and Petit Verdot, this Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep red color and medium-bodied. The wine is still young, so we decanted it for a few hours. Once it opened up, the potential was apparent. A smooth wine, this Cab Sauv revealed a predominance of red fruits like plums, in addition to a touch of chocolate and vanilla. Its fruity aromas and flavors would also pair well with a number of other meat dishes, such as a juicy hamburger or lamb chop.

Both wines have a price point of $17, making them great choices for an every-day value wine.

Thank you, Kaiken for the samples.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Bellingham NW Wine Festival

IMG_3924More than 100 wines were poured at the inaugural Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival on Aug. 6, which was presented by Brigadoon Service Dogs  in collaboration with Growing Veterans, and benefitted disabled veterans’ programs.

IMG_3934Of course we couldn’t taste all the wines from 36 participating wineries but between the two of us, we found quite a few new wines that we never tasted before and hope to again in the future (e.g., Tucannon Cellars, Two Mountain and Jones of Washington), along with new releases of old favorites from Forgeron Cellars, William Church Winery and Cooper Wine Company.

Here is the list (in alphabetical order by winery):

  • Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 10.12.50 AMCooper Wine Company: 2013 L’inzio (we’ve been fans of this Red Mountain beauty since its first vintage); 2012 Cabernet Franc; and Bud’s Blend “Gatekeeper,” named after Coop’s awesome winery dog
  • Dynasty Cellars: 2012 DCZ Zinfandel, a local Bellingham favorite
  • Forgeron Cellars: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, another fantastic release from our friend Marie-Eve Gilla in Walla Walla
  • Jones of Washington: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (the talk of the VIP room)
  • Lost River Winery: 2013 Cedars, a unique blend of 50% Cab Franc and 50% Merlot
  • Proper Wines: 2013 Estate Syrah for when you like your Syrah nice and funky
  • Revelry Vintners: 2013 “The Reveler” red blend
  • IMG_3926Tucannon Cellars: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, a great find from Red Mountain
  • Two Mountain Winery: 2013 Reserve Cabernet Franc
  • William Church Winery: 2013 Sur La Mer and 2013 Malbec (We’ve been long-time fans of both of these wines.)

Event organizer Zacchoreli Frescobaldi-Grimaldi told us that plans are already underway for the second festival in 2017, so mark your calendars now.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Matthews Winery – New Look, Same Great Wines

MatthewsTastingRoom097Matthews Winery is one of the first Woodinville tasting rooms we visited when we moved to Seattle more than 15 years ago. We bought our first three-bottle set of Washington wine in their tasting room — a 2001 Cabernet Franc to sigh for. We also enjoyed the winery’s flagship Bordeaux blend, Claret, that continues to dazzle in Matthews’ current lineup.

So it was with great interest to learn that Matthews’ historic winery building was recently remodeled, and a new venture created — Creekside Farm, an ecological produce garden adjacent to the winery building. This first commercial garden associated with a Woodinville winery provides produce and flowers to winery visitors, and to several restaurants.

In addition, tasting room guests can now pair their wine with farm-fresh produce and other products from local dairies, bakeries, creameries and charcuterie producers such as Cherry Valley Dairy and The Commons.

Located between the Woodinville Schoolhouse Wine District and the Warehouse Wine District, Matthews was a starting point for many well-known Washington state winemakers, including Brennon Leighton (B. Leighton Wines), Jerry Riener (Guardian Cellars), Mark McNeilly (Mark Ryan Winery), Ross Mickel (Ross Andrew Winery), Tim and Paige Stevens (Stevens Winery, Raige and Wines), Lance Baer (Baer Winery) and Aryn Morrell, who started his career there before making award-winning Napa wines for Silver Oak and Edgewood Estates. He now is back as Matthews’ current head winemaker.

Matthews co-owner Cliff Otis notes that nearly a dozen winemakers started or honed their craft at this location, and all of them have gone on to influence other generations of winemakers.

BarrelRoom4From the excellent winemakers to the classic wines, Matthews’ tasting room has always drawn a crowd — but according to Otis, a refresh was needed for its “dark barrel cave” atmosphere with dated wine-barrel table tops and stools. (This is a “before” photo.)

For the remodel, several interior walls were removed to expand and open up the space. Add fresh paint, new lighting, new windows, custom-made furniture and voila, a beautiful look, which also features an expanded outdoor seating area.

MatthewsTastingRoom052The building refresh is now generating applause and cheers for its bright, airy, roomy space, reminiscent of a French farm house.

These are two photos showing what Matthews Winery looks like now. Who is ready to visit?

MatthewsTastingRoom049In addition to the tasting room and farm, Matthews also offers the Estate House, a B&B and event center on a wooded, eight-acre hillside overlooking the Sammammish River Valley.

But the main spotlight remains on the wine. Since 2008, the Otis family and Morell have sharpened the focus of Matthews’ portfolio on the Bordeaux varieties – Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.

The winery kindly sent us samples of Matthews 2015 Sauvignon Blanc and a vertical of its Claret – 2011, 2012 and 2013. We were wowed.

Matthews 2015 Sauvignon Blanc
This is a perfect summer sipper on the deck – we enjoyed it paired with cilantro-lime prawns and a view of the lake. Ahh, summer. This Sauv Blanc rose above the super-hot 2015 vintage and is crisp and refreshing, but with more tropical than grapefruit flavors.

Winemaker tasting notes: “Pungent tropical tree fruit like pineapple and guava mixed with some citrus spice and fresh cut hay. Some air brings up white flowers, sweet honeysuckle and wet slate. The palate is rich and textured with enough acidity to keep it fresh but not bracing.”

Claret1Matthews Claret 2011, 2012, 2013
We were fortunate to do a side-by-side tasting of all three vintages. The 2013 Claret is a complex blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cab Franc, 11% Merlot, 3% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. With decanting, the wine opened up rich flavors, textures and depth, showcasing the classic Cabernet that we love.

Winemaker tasting notes for 2013 Claret: “Exotically perfumed with floral red fruits like raspberry puree and red currants mixed with sweet strawberry and crème brulee. Swirling releases rich blackberry, currants and plums with a hint of vanilla bean spice. The palate is thick and sweetly rich with perfect balance and long graceful finish. The 2012 was powerfully ripe and very Cabernet driven, this is all about grace and texture.”

As noted by Morell, the 2012 Claret is powerful but it also is an elegant, rich blend of 54% Cab Sauv, 25% Cab Franc, 10% Merlot, 5% Syrah, 3% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. This is slightly different than other vintages because of the addition of Syrah into the blend. We decanted it, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Winemaker tasting notes for 2012 Claret: “Sappy currants, plum skin and dark spices. The palate has volume but shows good density and has more of a Cabernet-driven tannin profile, giving the wine great composure and balance.”

The 2011 growing season was rougher than in 2012 and 2013, but Morell still created a beautiful red blend. The 2011 Claret is Merlot-based (unlike the 2012 and 2013 vintages driven by Cabernet) — 68% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. Like the other two vintages, this Claret will benefit from decanting.

Winemaker tasting notes for 2011 Claret: “Elegant mixture of currants, strawberries, spice and plums. Red flowers create a soft plushness to the profile. The palate is round with great texture and presence. Extremely silky and polished.”

With the dedication of co-owners Cliff and Diane Otis, along with the talented winemaking skills of Morrell, Matthews Winery is continuing to improve its already well-established footprint in Woodinville, and in Washington wine country.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Spring Valley Vineyard at Semiahmoo Resort

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 9.08.36 AMThe July Winemaker Dinner at the scenic Semiahmoo Resort featured impressive Spring Valley Vineyard wines paired with a delicious five-course meal designed by the creative Chef Bruno.

Throughout the meal, winemaker Serge Laville entertained the crowd with stories about the vineyard and each of the wines.

Spring Valley, located in Walla Walla, is known for producing only reds, but a special release of 2014 Viognier was also poured at the dinner. Serge explained that there was Viognier remaining from his co-ferment with the Nina Lee Syrah, so he decided to add a white wine to his portfolio. If you like Viognier, you will love this one — although it likely can’t be found anywhere but the winery itself and at special occasions such as winemaker dinners like this one.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 9.07.57 AMAs Serge visited with each table during the five courses, he was asked to name the wine of which he was the most proud. His response: his Syrah from the tough growing season in 2011. The  entire harvest took place in November (much later than usual) and was completed in 17 days instead of the typical 40-day period.

We enjoyed the Syrah, but we also appreciated the Cabernet Franc, the winery’s best-selling Uriah, and the lovely Frederick.

Here is the full menu of dinner courses and wine pairings, listed on a unique wooden menu at each place setting.

Menu

First Course
Goat Cheese Panna Cotta, Micro Herbs, Brioche Toast, Sockeye Salmon Ceviche, Pickled Cucumber, with Spring Valley Vineyard 2014 Viognier

Second Course
Pan Seared Foie Gras, Crispy Pork Belly Bacon, Creamy Polenta with Pecorino, Fresh Cherries, with Spring Valley Vineyard Katherine Corkrum 2010 Cabernet Franc

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 9.09.37 AM

Third Course
Roasted Halibut, Spot Prawns, Braised Heirloom Tomatoes, Black Olive & Fresh Thyme Vinaigrette with Spring Valley Vineyard Uriah 2013 Red Blend

Fourth Course
Japanese Wagyu Beef Ribeye, Smoked Rainbow Carrots, Red Wine Jus with Spring Valley Vineyard Frederick 2012 Red Blend

Dessert
Vanilla Cremeux & Washington Berry Trifle with Spring Valley Vineyard Nina Lee 2012 Syrah

Semiahmoo Resort holds winemaker dinners each month  so mark your calendar for these upcoming events.

  • August 25: Wagner Family Wine featuring Caymus
  • Sept. 8: Rodney Strong
  • Oct. 4: Cakebread Cellars
  • Nov. 3: Stags Leap
  • Feb. 10, 2017: Second Annual DeLille Cellars Dinner
  • May 11, 2017: Joe Dobbes

Whether you live in Washington state, British Columbia, or anywhere else, Semiahmoo Resort is a great weekend getaway with breathtaking scenery, kayaking, birdwatching, swimming and lots of other activities in addition to the winemaker dinners. We are lucky to live nearby!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Woodinville Wineries

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 9.14.49 AMNow that we don’t live in Seattle anymore, we have to carefully choose the wineries we want to visit on our trips to Woodinville.

It is not an easy task! Woodinville Wine Country boasts 108 wineries now — an amazing growth rate since 30 tasting rooms when we started Write for Wine in 2007.

Here is a list of the wineries (in alphabetical order) that we tend to visit most often — they are among the best, although there are more. So spend your time wisely – do your homework and develop a plan before you go!

  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  • Ambassador Wines
  • Avennia
  • Baer
  • Barrage Cellars
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle (Estates)
  • Darby
  • DeLille Cellars
  • Efeste
  • Fidelitas
  • Forgeron
  • Gard Vintners
  • Gorman Winery
  • Guardian Cellars
  • JM Cellars
  • Laura Ashton
  • Obelisco
  • Otis Kenyon
  • Savage Grace
  • William Church
  • The Woodhouse Wine Estates

For a list of all wineries in the area (including maps), restaurants and events, check out the Woodinville Wine Country website.

We highly recommend visiting Woodinville wineries every month, because there are always new releases to taste and a warm, welcoming tasting room where you can learn about wine and have fun at the same time.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Semiahmoo Resort’s Oenophile Club

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.13 PMSemiahmoo Resort launched a unique wine club this month, targeted at wine aficionados in Washington state and British Columbia.

The Oenophile Club features six wine tastings annually, plus reduced pricing for a number of events at the spectacular resort.

  • Six wine tastings annually; additional tastings throughout the year are reduced to $15 per tasting (full price is $20)
  • No corkage fee on one bottle per visit, per week, at Pierside Kitchen or Packers Oyster Bar
  • Advanced notice of all vintner and winemaker dinner dates — including Spring Valley (July 28), Cakebread Cellars (Oct. 4), Stag’s Leap (Nov. 3) and more. See more details in our previous blog post.
    • Preferred vintner and winemaker dinner reservations at 10% off
    • Special reserved seating for eight guests and 10% off entire reservation (when using one member card)
  • Access to private wine storage in resort wine room, subject to availability; maximum five bottles
  • Access to private cooking classes, and wine pairings, at Pierside Kitchen with the resort chef
  • Preferred resort room rates on vintner and winemaker dinner nights, subject to availability
  • Personalized Oenophile Club card

The annual cost is $225 — which works out to be less than $20 per month.

So now you have an opportunity to support your local resort – and have fun doing it!

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Crowdsourced Cabernet

Crowdsourced CabWord first came out two years ago that Columbia Crest was planning to become the first winery in the world to crowdsource a wine through an interactive online experience.

A new website, Crowdsourced Cabernet, was launched, so voters could make decisions through every step of creating the wine — bud break, harvest, fermentation, the final blend and the label.

On June 3, 2016, Columbia Crest’s 2014 Crowdsourced™ Cabernet was released (1,000 cases) and can now be purchased online and in the winery’s tasting room in Paterson, Washington. ($30 SRP)

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 8.46.29 AMThe two-year journey began when Columbia Crest’s head winemaker, Juan Muñoz-Oca, chose a five-acre estate block in one of his best vineyards, which is used for his highly acclaimed reserve program.

The vineyard can be seen in a series of YouTube videos made during the crowdsourcing program. Throughout the process, he educated and guided the crowd, explaining how much water to apply to the vines, how the temperature impacts harvest and other key factors needed in winemaking decisions. Voters were then given a series of choices to make.

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 8.34.40 AM

Ultimately, they decided harvesting should take place at night, the wine should be created with a lot of complexity and soft tannins, and be aged 16 months in 30% new oak barrels.

More than 6,000 people participated in the adventure. Depending on which voter you ask, the crowdsourced experiment was a lark, an adventure and/or an educational experience about the craft of winemaking. The outcome? From the tasting notes:

The result is a beautifully integrated and layered Cabernet Sauvignon from the Horse Heaven Hills. The 2014 Crowdsourced Cabernet Sauvignon has a delicate nose of tobacco, dried herbs, bright cherries and anise. On the palate, the wine develops warm blueberry pie flavors and a silky texture with dark chocolate and toffee undertones. It finishes with a bright, elegant and refined texture.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 8.32.58 AMBut the program isn’t over. Columbia Crest is embarking on another journey for the 2015 vintage of Crowdsourced Cabernet. Decisions are still in progress so if you are interested, you can place your votes on the website, Crowdsourced Cabernet. You can also follow #crowdsourcedcabernet on Twitter and Instagram.

We enjoyed our glasses of this one-of-a-kind Cab Sauv on the deck, as pictured above and on Instagram. As expected with a new release, the wine was a bit tight when we opened the bottle, but after some decanting, the flavors developed into one delightful sip after another.

Thanks to Columbia Crest for sending us a sample.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Winemaker Dinners at Semiahmoo Resort

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.13 PMBring out your calendar and mark the dates for these winemaker dinners at the spectacular Semiahmoo Resort. Whether you live in Washington state, British Columbia, or anywhere, really, Semiahmoo Resort is a great weekend getaway with breathtaking scenery, kayaking, birdwatching, swimming and lots of other activities in addition to the winemaker dinners. We are lucky to live nearby!

July 28: Spring Valley Vineyards, WA
This dinner will feature Spring Valley wines paired with a mouth-watering five-course meal created by the resort’s Executive Chef Bruno. Dinner includes Japanese Wagu Beef Ribeye, along with other tasty courses. Winemaker Serge Laville will be available to answer your questions.

Save the dates for these upcoming dinners in the Vintners Series:

  • August 25: Wagner Family Wine featuring Caymus
  • Sept. 8: Rodney Strong
  • Oct. 4: Cakebread Cellars
  • Nov. 3: Stags Leap
  • Feb. 10, 2017: Second Annual DeLille Cellars Dinner
  • May 11, 2017: Joe Dobbes

For locals, the dinner price is $99 per person for Spring Valley, $125 for Rodney Strong, $135 for Cakebread Cellars, and $150 for Caymus and Stag’s Leap.

For those wanting a weekend getaway, dinner and resort packages and pricing will be available on Semiahmoo Resorts website closer to the date of each dinner.

We are looking forward to this series of events, and hope to see you there.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Summer Sippers and BBQ Reds

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 12.37.47 PMSummer make us think of white wine on the deck or patio. But let’s not forget about robust reds to accompany tasty BBQs during the warm weather! Here are some good-value whites to sip with a summer salad or seafood such as prawns, scallops, sushi, crab or halibut, and some good-value reds for your BBQ. And there are also some bonus wines that are a bit pricier, and also work as a celebratory toast to Independence Day with friends.

 

Summer Sipper Whites

  • 2014 Kenwood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($13): Fruit from 28 vineyards went into this crisp summer sipper, and the result is a balance of citrus and tropical flavors plus some grassy characteristics and minerality.
  • Louis Jadot Macon-Villages 2014 ($15): This is a Chardonnay that is clean rather than oaky, with apple and citrus aromas, mineral notes and fresh fruit on the palate.
  • Santa Cristina 2015 Cipresseto Toscana ($14): If you like your rosé dry, try this one, with notes of jasmine and raspberry.
  • Santa Cristina 2015 Pinot Grigio delle Venezie ($12): Refreshing with aromas of tropical fruit and orange flowers, we will be sipping on this during lazy afternoons on the lake.
  • Drumheller Columbia Valley Chardonnay ($12): Smoky mineral notes on the palate make this a summer pleaser from a new label from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates — “a more restrained, yet elegant version of Washington’s expressive fruit.”

 Bonus Whites: These whites are a slice of heaven on a warm evening by the lake, by the pool, on the deck or the patio.

Efeste 2014 Feral Sauvignon Blanc ($20): This beauty of a Sauv Blanc brought us back to drinking whites in 2009 after years of reds only. Feral, with native yeast fermentation, is a wild and lively wine with intense minerality and the perfect amount of citrus to keep us sipping on the deck until the sun goes down.

JM Cellars 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($25): We first tasted this amazing white wine in 2009, shortly after we tried Feral for the first time. JM’s Sauv Blanc was fermented in 100% stainless steel, features both tropical and citrusy flavors, and is a refreshing favorite every summer.

Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Chardonnay 2014 ($28): This Napa wine shows aromas of pear, lychee, citrus zest and almonds, with a full range of flavors. We particularly like the citrus zest, which sets this apart from many Chardonnays that we’ve tasted.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 5.45.41 PMBBQ Reds: 

  • Double Barrel Shiraz ($20):
    The rich Australian Shiraz was aged in Scotch whiskey barrels to provide complex, well-developed characteristics.
  • Drumheller 2014 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($12): A distinct Washington wine, we noted the delicate flavors and texture, with a silky finish.
  • Drumheller 2014 Columbia Valley Merlot ($12): Another distinct Drumheller red, this merlot has lively aromas of blueberry and spice, with hints of cocoa and a soft texture.

 Bonus Reds: These rich reds pair well with BBQ meat dishes, at a summer party or as a stand-alone wine by a beach bonfire.

Résonance Pinot Noir Résonance Vineyard 2013 ($65) – From the  Yamhill-Carlton AVA within Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this lovely wine is a produced by winemaker Jacques Lardière, and is  Louis Jadot’s first project outside of France.

2013 Jack London Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($35)
This beauty will pair perfectly with BBQ steaks in the summer (and also roast beef in the winter). This is our kind of cab – full-bodied, rich, robust, well-structured and elegant.

2012 Ferrari-Carano Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley ($65)
With such a beautiful nose, lovely aromas and concentrated fruit, this Reserve Cab is simply delicious.

Any of these wines would add to your July 4 celebrations too!

Of note, all of these wines except Efeste and JM Cellars were samples provided by the wineries. Thank you!

Cheers to the long lazy days of summer BBQ’s and sipping wine outside.
Margot and Dave