What’s in Your Glass Lately?

Australian wineries, B.C. Wineries, California wineries, Washington wineries, Wine No Comments

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 8.37.48 AMYou might have seen the phrase “What’s in Your Glass Lately” on your social network channels. We decided to answer with some excellent wines that we’ve enjoyed over the past six months. In no particular order:

Cheers – and Happy Holidays!

Taste of Tulalip 2014

California wineries, New Zealand wineries, Washington wineries No Comments

TOT1Taste of Tulalip is always one of the best wine and food events in the Seattle area, and this year was no exception. The sixth annual Taste of Tulalip was an explosion of flavours for every palate.

Kicking off the event Friday evening at Tulalip Resort was the Celebration Dinner, an incredible six-course meal paired with excellent wines. While the entire dinner was beyond magnificent, our ultimate favorites were:
  • Creamy Jerusalem Artichoke soup, pumpkin seed pesto, creme fruit and crispy leek straws (Chef Brent Clarkson), paired with d’s Wicked Hard Cider “Baked Apple,” Kennewick, WA
  • Seared scallop with green papaya slaw, micro Asian mallow, golden edamame shoots, with ginger lime vinaigrette and aged balsamic (Chef John Ponticelli), paired with 2012 Alleromb Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, WA
  • Blackberry sockeye salmon lox popsicle and salmon souse vide over toasted hazelnut pesto (Chef David Buchanan), paired with 2012 Kosta Browne Russian River Pinot Noir, CA
  • New York strip, dry aged 46 days, tarragon beurre blanc and New York strip, aged 28 days, wild cranberry demi, with cambazola-mascarpone “Twinkie” (Executive Chef Perry Mascitti), paired with 2011 Leonetti Cellars Reserve blend, Walla Walla, WA

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 12.40.24 PMChef Perry also provided another special treat during the dinner. He not only wowed the house with his, and his team’s, creative and delicious dishes, but also brought down the house with his showmanship by joining the band for a rocking version of “All Night Long.”

TOT3There were several musicians entertaining during the dinner, but Daniel Parks of Las Vegas had people on their feet dancing. From old-school Beatles and Neil Diamond tunes to perfect covers of Happy and Blurred Lines, this young man was a star. We hope to see him again; we can’t say enough good things about Daniel Park’s talent.

Can you tell that we totally enjoyed the Celebration Dinner?

Saturday offered a wide variety of things to do at Taste of Tulalip. We decided to spend our time at the Magnum Party and Grand Tasting.

There were two Magnum parties held simultaneously — one for old-world wine and one for new world wine. At the old-world tasting, we sipped an incredible 1985 Bordeaux blend from Chateau Lynch-Bages Pauillac in France — a chateau we visited during our trip to that wine region in 2005. This wine is drinking marvelously right now! We also tasted a pour from a $300-bottle of a Bordeaux blend, which combined Merlot and Cabernet Franc from St Emillion, France.

Hard as it was to leave the old-world event, we thoroughly delighted in excellent new-world wines too: Opus One 2007 Bordeaux blend from California; a lovely 2008 Shiraz from Penfolds in Australia; and our home-grown beauty, 2011 Betz Pere de Famille.

TOT2I also won a very cool gift pack that featured the Taste of Tulalip wine blend from the event’s honorary 2014 winemaker, Sean Boyd from Woodinville Wine Cellars. Special coffee and a gorgeous Tulalip medallion were also included in the gift.

How did I win it? Simple – I knew the answer to the trivia question, “Who is the Executive Chef at Tulalip Resort?” Even if I hadn’t already known it, how could I miss after his star musical performance the night before?

Next came the Grand tasting; how could this event make a mark after the activities already outlined above? Easy – we had an opportunity to see our friends and sip wine from some of our favorite Washington wineries: Obelisco Estate, Barrage Cellars, Avennia, Doubleback, Efeste, Gorman Winery, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Figgins, Force Majeure and Woodinville Wine Cellars.

Plus we had a taste of a magnificent red blend from Craggy Range, a winery we enjoyed when we were in New Zealand last May.

Special thanks to Norma Rosenthal and Allan Aquila for the invitation!

If you’ve never been to Taste of Tulalip, please bookmark this page, so you will remember to get your tickets for the 2015 event!

Cheers!

Good Value Reds for the Holidays

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If you’re looking for good value red wines for the holidays — for your dinner table or for a hostess gift — look no further. Here are four that we recently tasted and recommend: one from Washington state and three from Livermore Valley, located just east of San Francisco.

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 6.12.30 PMMurrieta’s Well The Spur, 2011 Livermore Valley ($25)
This unique red blend not only drinks well but also has a great label that is a perfect hostess gift. This Livermore Valley wine blends 31% Petite Sirah, 29% Petit Verdot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Franc, and pairs well with roasted and grilled meats, dishes with red sauces or rich cheese. Marietta’s Well is one of California’s original wineries, propagated in 1883 with vineyard cuttings from Chateau Margaux and Chateau d’Yquem in France. Need we say more? Oh, one more thing — Murrieta’s Well is owned by Philip Wente of Wente Vineyards, the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery.

Wente Vineyards Southern Hills 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley ($18)
This estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon combines 76% Cabernet Sauvignon with 9% Petit Verdot, 9% Petite Sirah, 3% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Merlot. This is a great everyday wine that is well balanced, with a depth and intensity that showcases the character of the grape. Just like Murrieta’s Well, vines at Wente Vineyards were planted in 1883. Today the winery draws from approximately 3,000 acres of sustainably farmed Estate vineyards.

TateDog 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley ($25)
TateDog’s slogan is “Great artisan wines at nice prices,” which perfectly describes the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. This flavorful, award-winning wine has a beautiful nose with a long finish. While medium-bodied, it pairs well with a ribeye or stands alone without food.

14 Hands Vineyards The Reserve 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills ($30)
Launched by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in 2005 as a restaurant-only brand, 14 Hands introduced “The Reserve” label of wines sourced from the Horse Heaven Hills appellation in Washington state in 2012. This is one gorgeous wine, which received 92 points from Wine Spectator. This beauty would also pair well with a ribeye or a rich mushroom tart. And if you are in Prosser, stop by their new tasting room, which opened earlier this year.

Thank you to these wineries who kindly provided us with samples of their wines. Our sample policy can be found here.

Cheers!

Beautiful British Columbia-Part 4

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Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 5.58.19 PMTo wrap up this series on B.C. wine country, we wanted to tell you about the Wines of British Columbia dinner that we were invited to a few weeks ago at Dahlia Lounge.

Each of the six delicious courses by Chef Brock Johnson and B.C. Chef Trevor Bird of Fable Restaurant in Vancouver were paired with B.C. VQA wines that are now available exclusively at Whole Foods Market stores in Washington and Oregon.

This was the amazing menu:

First course: Chef Brock Johnson, Dahlia Lounge
Canapés: Bacon jam and apple on toast
Tantalus Vineyards, 2012 Riesling

Second course: Chef Brock Johnson, Dahlia Lounge
British Columbia lingcod fritter, tarragon aioli and olive
St. Hubertus Estate Winery, 2013 Pinot Blanc
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, 2013 Pinot Gris

Third course: Chef Trevor Bird, Fable Kitchen, Vancouver, B.C.
Grilled fruit salad, Fable made ricotta, pickled berries, radish, end of the season strawberry vinaigrette
Quails’ Gate Winery, 2012 Pinot Noir

Fourth course: Chef Trevor Bird, Fable Kitchen
Confit Point Grey salmon, beet carpaccio, crispy business, herbed yogurt, pickled fennel and dill
Meyer Family Vineyards, 2012 Chardonnay

Fifth course: Chef Brock Johnson, Dahlia Lounge
Beef tenderloin and wine braised beef heart, smoked wild mushroom, parsnip and nutmeg
Black Hills Estate Winery, 2012 Nota Bene
Nk’Mip Cellars, 2012 Merlot

Sixth course: Chef Brock Johnson, Dahlia Lounge
British Columbia cheese plate, roasted fig, pecan flax toast
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, 2011 Cabernet Franc

As mentioned, wines from these participating wineries are now available at Whole Foods, so if you can’t visit Beautiful British Columbia’s growing wine country, you can still taste the wines right here.

Thanks for inviting us to the delicious dinner and introducing B.C. wines to Washington and Oregon, Wines of British Columbia.

Other posts in this series:

Beautiful British Columbia Part 1
Beautiful British Columbia Part 2: Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
Beautiful British Columbia Part 3: Fairview Cellars

Cheers!

Fairview Cellars-Beautiful British Columbia Part 3

B.C. Wineries, Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine Comments Off

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 1.38.52 PMSome of the best Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends in British Columbia can be found at Fairview Cellars, a small unassuming winery in Oliver, which we recommend as a stop in any tour of B.C. wine country.

While many wineries in B.C. (and Washington state) have become gorgeous destination resorts, Fairview Cellars has a rustic tasting room in a tiny log cabin about five minutes into the hills off the north end of the Benches of the Golden Mile. Sandra Oldfield of Tinhorn Creek suggested we stop by during our September visit, and we now know why.

In 1993, half Fairview’s 10-acre property was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. The remainder was split equally with Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Later, one row of Syrah and one row of Petit Verdot were added; Sauvignon Blanc was planted on a lower terraced bench in 2007.

We found the Cabs and Bordeaux blends the best. But we also enjoyed Fairview Cellars 2013 Sauvignon Blanc on the hot end-of-summer day we visited; it was crisp, well-balanced and delightful.

And the stories from winemaker/owner Bill Eggert and his brother, Chuck, were an entertaining accompaniment to our tastings.

Fairview Cellars 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
This is an amazing wine that is drinking beautifully right now and still has about 10 more years left in it. This classic cab is a special-occasion wine that will pair marvelously with savory and/or smoky meats. We loved it.

Iconoclast Premier Series
Bill only makes Iconoclast when he thinks the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are near perfect – the most recent vintage is 2009, and the next release is 2012. This is another special wine, rich, silky and with great structure and balance. This is one big cab, which would pair so very well with a big, juicy steak.

2011 & 2012 Two Hoots
The flagship Cab-Merlot-Cab Franc blend is “produced for daily consumption,” according to Bill. He also says that while there are many reasons for the name, the main one is “to honour the return every year of the Great-Horned Owls to nest on the Fairview property.”  This is a medium-weight blend with a flavorful punch. The 2011 vintage has floral notes and is one of the winery’s best sellers. The 2012 has the same blend, but is bigger and bolder, and we really enjoyed it.

2011 The Bear
Another favorite, The Bear is Cab-based (50-75%, depending on the vintage) with Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot to round it off. This is a classic Bordeaux blend, with grapes from the best barrels chosen, and stored from 14-20 months. Thinking of pairing? Think prime rib.

For our friends in B.C., you can find Fairview Cellars wines in a number of places, although we still recommend a visit to BC wine country.

As a young child, my family visited the Okanagan every summer, swimming in the numerous lakes and picking cherries. I said this in Part 1 of this series, and I’ll say it again now: Beautiful British Columbia, you’ve come a long way, baby!

Cheers!

Tinhorn Creek-Beautiful British Columbia Part 2

B.C. Wineries, Cab Franc, Pinot Gris, Wine Comments Off

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.43.53 AMTinhorn Creek Vineyards, quite simply, is a must-stop destination for any visit to British Columbia wine country. September 23rd marked the 20th anniversary of Tinhorn Creek, which has grown from barrels of wine in the basement of a house to 150 acres of vines on a beautiful estate in Oliver Osoyoos wine country, in the south Okanagan’s “Golden Mile” region.

Over the years, Tinhorn Creek has also become known in Canada as one of the most progressive wineries, focusing on sustainability and being environmentally friendly.

This winery is the epitome of what we consider a top pick: Good juice, good people and good events such as concerts and winemaker dinners at their onsite restaurant, Miradoro.

Sandra Oldfield, co-owner, president, CEO, and the face and voice of Tinhorn Creek, has been active in the wine community on Twitter for years. She embodies the experience declared on their website:Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.11.39 AM

“We grow grapes and we make wine. There are many steps between the field and the bottle, but at the end of the day it’s about farming the land responsibly, having fun, and making wines to share with family and friends. Because that’s what we are: friends, family – and friends who become family.”

Sandra also was the winemaker until this year, when Andrew Windsor joined the team, after after spending the past eight years in wine regions of Australia, New Zealand and France.

The winemaking team works from vines on two very distinct parcels of land:

  • 50 acres at the Tinhorn Creek Vineyard on the west bench, which benefits from sunrise and morning light, and is perfect for Gewürztraminer and Muscat
  • 100 acres on the Black Sage bench of the Diamondback Vineyard across the valley, which soaks up the intense afternoon heat, and therefore works well for Cabernet Franc and Merlot

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 12.02.23 PMSo let’s talk about the wines, starting with Tinhorn Creek’s Cab Franc, surely the best in Canada. We’ve tasted two vintages and enjoy the rich flavors that exemplify the varietal characteristics. This is a fantastic food wine, particularly with hearty beef stew or prime rib.

Earlier this year, the B.C. Wine Appreciation Society held a blind tasting of eight B.C. Cab Francs against four from other wine regions of the world. Tinhorn Creek 2010 Oldfield Selection Cab Franc, the winery’s first reserve version, won by a wide margin.

Going back several years, our first taste of Tinhorn Creek wine was at Whistler, back in the late 1990s — a 1995 Pinot Gris that set the bar for all the Pinot Gris we tasted in the following years.

More recently, last month, we visited the vineyard and tasted the 2013 vintage, which is crisp, balanced and brimming with citrus, pear and apple aromas and flavors.

In the late summer heat, we were also wowed by the Oldfield Series 2013 2Bench White, a delightful blend of Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc that screams for seafood to pair with it.

Tinhorn Creek is also known for its Merlot; the 2012 vintage is not at all jammy, and has a bite at the front palate that will taste marvelous with steak.

And yes, most of us in the U.S. can enjoy Tinhorn Creek wines here too – Tinhorn Creek is one of eight B.C. VQA wineries that offer wine exclusively at Whole Foods Market stores in Washington and Oregon.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 12.17.56 PMIn addition, Tinhorn Creek now ships wines direct to consumer in 34 states.

Of course, it’s more fun to visit.

And if you’re lucky, you’ll see the newest member of the Tinhorn Creek family. Right after our visit ended, the winery became home to a new puppy, Sam.

How cute is he?

Yes, he’s grown a lot in the last two months, but he is still adorbs (a word that has never been used on this blog since it launched in 2007)!

According to Sandra, one of Sam’s favorite things to do is to nap on the cool tiles in the shower (without the water)!

So what are you waiting for?

Cheers!

Beautiful British Columbia-Part 1

B.C. Wineries, Wine Comments Off

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 6.48.00 PMEight B.C. VQA wines are now available exclusively at Whole Foods Market stores in Washington and Oregon, and we were invited to taste them at a special dinner last week at Dahlia Lounge.

Chef Brock Johnson and B.C. Chef Trevor Bird of Fable Restaurant in Vancouver (and Top Chef Canada) created west coast cuisine perfectly paired with the eight featured B.C. wines.

Coincidentally, this amazing evening came on the heels of a trip we took to parts of BC wine country in mid-September.

We will be writing in detail about both of those events in the future. In the meantime, we wanted to share the names of the wineries where we tasted some pretty good B.C. wine. I was born and raised in B.C., and I can truly say, “B.C. wine, you’ve come a long way, baby!”

Wines from these participating wineries are now available at Whole Foods:

  • Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
  • Nk’Mip Cellars
  • Tantalus Vineyards
  • St. Hubertus Estate Winery
  • Meyer Family Vineyards
  • Quails’ Gate Estate Winery
  • Black Hills Estate Winery
  • Burrowing Owl Estate Winery

Additional BC wineries we visited in Osoyoos and Kelowna:

  • Fairview Cellars
  • Gehringer Brothers
  • Hester Creek

Stay tuned for more details in future blog posts. In the meantime, we encourage you to visit Beautiful British Columbia and its growing wine country.

Cheers!

Taste of Tulalip Nov. 14-15

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Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 10.47.54 AMExcitement is growing for the sixth annual Taste of Tulalip, a major event that is widely recognized as one of the top Northwest foodie and wine “happenings.”

The superb reputation of Tulalip Resort Casino is underlined every year at this event, when its food and wine maestros — Executive Chef Perry Mascitti and his fabulous team of chefs, and Sommelier Tommy Thompson — unveil an explosion of flavors and aromas that merge into a premium, five-star experience.

This year, Food Network star Ming Tsai will prepare some signature dishes to complement pours at the Magnum party on Saturday Nov. 15, featuring  samples of limited and rare vintages from 21 elite wineries, including Chateau Cos d’Estournel, Krug Clos du Mesnil, Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Harlan Estate, Penfolds Grange, Chateau Lynch-Bages, Verite “La Muse,” M. Chapoutier L’Ermitage  Blanc, and CIRQ Pinot Noir.

Here are highlights of the other events planned this year:

The weekend kicks-off with Friday night’s multi-course Celebration Dinner, paired with premium wines from around the globe: Schramsberg Vineyards, Alleromb, Kosta Browne, Leonetti Cellar, Rasa Vineyards, and Inniskillin. This year’s Featured Winemaker is Sean Boyd of Woodinville Wine Cellars.

Saturday is action-packed with wine and food demos, chef challenges, a wine seminar, Rock & Roll Challenge, the Magnum party and the Grand Taste, featuring more than 120 wineries from Washington, Oregon, California, New Zealand and Germany, along with a craft beer “pool garden.” Washington state wineries include the stellar Quilceda Creek and Figgins.

Saturday’s “All Access” ticket is priced at $350 per person; the Celebration Dinner tickets cost $195 and the Grand Taste tickets are $95.

More details and tickets are available at the Taste of Tulalip website. Mark your calendars for Nov. 14 & 15 — we hope to see you there!

Cheers!

Caymus 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon

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Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 11.03.32 AMBring on a juicy steak and a glass of Caymus Vineyards 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and celebrate the vineyard’s 40th anniversary in style. If you love big, velvety, opulent Cabernets, this one is for you.

So smooth and silky, this Cab glides across your palate, showing off the near-perfect conditions for the 2012 vintage in Napa Valley.  You don’t have to think twice about why Wine Spectator named this beauty “Wine of the Year.”

A true palate-pleaser, this luscious red packs in a lot of ripe, rich flavors with a long finish.

According to owner and winemaker Chuck Wagner: “This wine exemplifies our style of Cabernet out of a great vintage – deep color, rich, concentrated and balanced. 2012 celebrates 40 years of producing our pride and joy, Caymus Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.”

We first tasted a sample given to us by the winery for a virtual tasting in June. We loved this stellar wine so much that we bought a few bottles a month later.

We are cellaring most of them for a couple of years, but this wine is already so stunning, we opened a bottle last weekend.

An additional highlight: The Caymus Vineyards 2012 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon features a special commemorative bottle and label.

Cheers!

 

 

Lauren Ashton Cellars

Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 2.49.52 PMLauren Ashton Cellars launched in Washington wine country in 2009, when Kit Singh, a dentist, decided to apply his knowledge of chemistry with his appreciation of wine and his training in viticulture and enology. Keeping it in the family, he named his winery after his two children and reflected his wife’s Estonian heritage by creating bottle labels with photos of her home country.

By late 2012, Lauren Ashton Cellars wines emerged on the Seattle wine scene, and by the following year, rave reviews started to come in.

Shortly after that, we too became quick fans of Kit’s handcrafted wines after stopping by the Lauren Ashton Cellars booth at numerous Washington wine events. The winery’s motto “True Washington Character” was indeed reflected in every sip we tasted.

No wonder why Robert Parker called the 2009 Cuvee Mirabelle “a perfect blend of juiciness and richness.” Closer to home, Washington wine experts and writers Sean Sullivan and Paul Gregutt described some of the Lauren Ashton wines as impressive and exceptional.

Our first experience was with the 2011 Columbia Valley Syrah, a robust, complex 100% Syrah that is smooth and rich. The tasting notes recommend that this full-bodied wine pairs “perfectly with garlicky lamb, sausages and grilled meats, alongside asparagus, mushrooms and potatoes.” (Sample provided by the winery)

The 2011 Red Mountain Reserve Syrah is even better. This silky, elegant wine is only available at the Lauren Ashton Cellars Tasting Studio in Woodinville. The recommended pairing is “roast pork accompanied by fresh fig skewers or grilled meats of all kinds.”

Kit also created a handful of 2011 Columbia Valley red blends, which we can’t wait to taste; we are also hoping to stop by the tasting studio soon to try the 2011 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, which received 94 points from the Wine Enthusiast.

The 2011 blends also generated high scores from the Wine Enthusiast: Cuvee Arlette (94 points), Cuvee Meline (92 points), Proprieter’s Cuvee (92 points) and Cuvee Mirabelle (91 points).

Notably, the 2009 vintage of two blends were sourced from Red Mountain and received even higher scores from Robert Parker: 2009 Proprietor’s Cuvee (95 points) and 2009 Cuvee Mirabelle (94 points).

The bottom line: We highly recommend stopping by Lauren Ashton Cellars Tasting Studio in Woodinville or finding out more about these impressive wines at their website.

Cheers!

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