Walla Walla Wins Again

Yet another fabulous wine from Walla Walla crossed my palate last night. This rich handcrafted blend is 2003 Meritage (Columbia Valley) from Three Rivers Winery. We first tried it in the winery’s beautiful tasting room when we visited Walla Walla in early April. We each tasted it, then looked at each other and smiled in agreement — we simply had to buy some to bring home to Seattle.

The 2003 Meritage is blended from the traditional Bordeaux grape varietals: 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% merlot, 4% Cab Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec.  The wine is rich with bright fruit flavors including berries and cherries.

We knew we really liked this wine. What we didn’t know at the time –Three Rivers 2003 Meritage has won considerable recognition as a rich, powerful wine that is good to drink now and will age gracefully for the next five years.

What’s going on this weekend?

What’s going on this weekend in Washington wine country?

Friday, June 29:

  • William Church Winery, one of the newest newest wineries to join a group of wineries at the northern end of Woodinville, is releasing the next vintage of its Viognier this weekend. To kick off the release, the winery will be holding a summer barbeque from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m. 

 Saturday, June 30:

  • Saviah Cellars, an artisan winery in Walla Walla, has a tasting at Vino Bello in Burien.  Enjoy live music featuring the fabulous blues of J.D. Hobson. $5 tasting fee. 636 SW 152nd Street, Burien, Washington, 206-244-VINO.
  • Silver Lake Winery in Zillah -Rattlesnake Hills is having a “Red, White and Blues Fest” with  BBQ from the folks at Smokin’ Bonez BBQ, along with music by Dented Trucks blues band, from noon-4 p.m.

And you won’t want to miss these events coming soon to Washington wine Country:

Tuesday July 10:

  • Januik Winery and Novelty Hill in Woodinville host author Julia Flynn Siler as she discusses her sweeping saga of America’s first family of wine, “The House of Mondavi” at 7 p.m. Cost is $25 and includes a wine and cheese tasting. Space is limited and reservations are required. Call Sarah Klapstein at 425-481-5502 or e-mail sarah@noveltyhilljanuik.com. 

Friday July 13-Saturday July 14:

Thursday July 19:

  • Taste of the Nation in Seattle. This anniversary event will bring together Seattle’s best chefs, restaurateurs and wineries for one evening. General admission ticket holders will enjoy access to the event from 6 -9 p.m., free parking, musical entertainment and a commemorative 20th anniversary wine glass. Fisher Pavilion – Seattle Center. For tickets call 877.26.TASTE.

 If you have any events to include in the weeks ahead, please contact info@writeforwine.com.

Update: Special thanks to The Cork Board team for giving me the idea to write about upcoming events — they do a fabulous weekly post called Cork Bits on Thursdays about weekend events in Napa Valley.  

Flock to Covey Run Reserve Series

We always enjoyed Covey Run’s decently-priced wines, but typically didn’t open them for special occasions. That’s starting to change now, with Covey Run’s Reserve Series wines. As members of Columbia Winery’s wine club, we tried the Covey Run Reserve Merlot and quite enjoyed it. The grapes come from select vineyards in the Yakima Valley and along the Columbia River border with Oregon. Chances are, you will like this merlot upon release, but it also has the deep fruit and firm structure for graceful aging.

Not only is the Reserve Merlot good, but the $20 price makes it work with almost any occasion. How good is it? Holly Leuning, the director of northwest retail operations at Constellation Wines, told me that she entertained some friends with a blind tasting of the Covey Run Reserve Merlot against six “top name” Washington state wines priced from $40 to $60. The result — in Holly’s words — the Covey Run Reserve Merlot “blew them all out of the water unanimously. For the price point ($20), they are phenomenal — definitely bang for the buck.”

Yes, Holly is in the wine marketing business. But in this case, I completely agree with her.


Already looking to the weekend

It’s only Monday, and we’re already looking forward to some good wine times on the weekend. On Saturday, we’re going to a wine tasting at our favorite neighborhood wine bar, Vino Bello, to taste wines from Saviah Cellars and enjoy the blues music of J.D. Hobson. (This amazing musician gets down on vocals, guitar, harp and stompbox! We plan to go to Vino Bello whenever he is playing the blues. Don’t worry, Michelle, we also plan to visit frequently, regardless of who is entertaining.)

We didn’t get a chance to visit Saviah Cellars when we went to eastern Washington in April. But we are planning to stop by in September. We discovered Saviah’s 2005 The Jack at Vino Bello’s earlier this year, and it’s become our wine of choice there. Just ask Jake! (I’ve blogged about The Jack, Jake and Vino Bello before, and no doubt will again!) So we’re really looking forward to tasting some other Saviah wines on Saturday.

Our weekend fun will continue on Sunday, down the road in Woodinville at Woodhouse Family Cellars, where the Big Boy Merlot, the 2002 Maghee is available again. It’s going to go fast, so we’ve put in our order already! (I’ve also blogged about the Maghee before, and no doubt will again, along with other old-world-style wines from Woodhouse Cellars!)

To find out about more of our favorites, check out the featured picks on our Web site, Write for Wine.


Que Syrah, Syrah

Columbia Winery just released its 2004 Syrah, Red Willow Vineyard, South Chapel Block. Big name, and  a potentially big Syrah. Red Willow is located in the northwestern corner of the Yakima Valley Appellation. There are no other vineyards within 20 miles; it is fairly warm; and located at a high elevation. Red Willow had an exceptional year, and the result is a structured Syrah accented with a touch of raspberries and hints of smoke, and a long finish of strawberries and licorice.

The well-versed staff at Columbia Winery’s tasting room explained to us that in the 2004 release, the Syrah grapes were co-fermented with 10 percent Viognier. As a result, the wine is not as deep or smoky as the 2003 Syrah, Red Willow Vineyard, South Chapel Block, which was co-fermented with 93 percent Syrah and 7 percent Viognier. We tasted them side by side and our preference is the 2003, which is well balanced with soft tannins, and a bright, juicy finish.

Don’t get me wrong — the 2004 release was good, but it’s still too young. In the meantime, the 2003 release is still available and highly recommended.


A Rose’ by any other name

Until recently, I always thought that a rose’ by any other name was still a rose’. Sweet. Not for me. I was wrong.  

Columbia Winery just released its 2006 Rose’ of Sangiovese to its wine club members — and I was pleasantly surprised. At the very first taste, I could visualize a warm summer day on the deck, sipping Rose’ of Sangiovese, nibbling on cheese and crackers, maybe even some prawns, and reading a good book.  

Columbia Winery’s Rose’ of Sangiovese is light, dry and not at all sweet. It is a European-style rose’, with appealing strawberry, tangerine and peppery notes and a clean finish. Columbia Winery even offers a pairing recipe with balsamic and black pepper strawberries with warm, toasted mozzarella flatbread. Delicious!

We’ve enjoyed the distinctive Washington wines of Columbia Winery for years. We can’t buy enough of Columbia’s Barbera. So we’re pleased to add Columbia Winery’s Rose’ of Sangiovese to our favorites. It comes from Red Willow Vineyard, where we will be headed in early September just in time for Harvest. Stay tuned for more about this.

In the meantime, enjoy summer — and don’t be afraid to try a rose’. Even Wine Spectator put rose’ on its cover last month. If you had told me a year ago that I would recommend one, I would have laughed. But here I am saying give it a try.


New Name, Same Stuff

In my first post, I called my blog “Washington State Wine Blog,” because that’s the topic of this blog — the wonderful wines of Washington state. But I noticed in the last couple of days that some wine bloggers (who have kindly welcomed me to the blogging community) referred to my blog as “Write for Wine Blog” because that’s the name of my business. I write for wine.

To keep things simple, I decided to change the name. So this post now makes it official: the name of this blog is: “Write for Wine, Washington State Wine Blog.”

So you can call it “Write for Wine Blog” or you can call it “Washington State Wine Blog.” Just please keep calling!


New wine blog friends

I want to give a shout-out to some wine bloggers whom I’ve “met” in the last couple of days. Their friendliness in welcoming me to the wonderful world of wine blogging is a perfect example of the major force behind social media — community. We have conversations. We share common interests. We are a community. And what a group of fine people have I already come across in the wine blogging community.

Catie, the Wild Woman of Walla Walla and Tom at Fermentation were the first to welcome me. Last week, Catie invited me to my first Wine Blog Wednesday, which was perfect because the topic was Washington State Cabernets. Earlier this week, Tom wrote about Write for Wine and in the same post, he discussed a new survey by Wine Opinions. The survey reports “24% of consumers in the panel read wine blogs, about double the level which read the Wine Advocate or eRobertparker.com.” I loved Tom’s reaction: “I’m not even sure what this means. But I think it is important.

Speaking of Wine Blog Wednesday, WBW founder Lenn of LENNDEVOURS introduced the July 11 topic today. (You’ll have to go to LENNDEVOURS to find out!) Lenn also welcomed me to the wine blogging community in the last couple of days. Then there’s Ken over at Ken’s Wine Guide and Boston Wine Buzz. In a future post, I’m going to discuss his recommendations for Washington state wines.

Thanks everyone for the grand welcome!


BLT means much more than a meal

To most people, BLT is a tasty sandwich, packed full of bacon, lettuce and tomatoes. To New Yorkers, BLT is BLT Restaurants: BLT Steak, BLT Fish and BLT Prime–each is also known as a stellar and elegant “Bistro Laurent Tourondel,” named after Master Chef Laurent Tourondel.

So what, you may ask, does any of this have to do with Washington state wines?

A lot, as it turns out. BLT Restaurants’ signature wine is called BLT Barrel Select, and it is only available in $16.50 pours in New York City. Guess where it comes from? Washington state, of course. More precisely, from the fabulous Woodhouse Family Cellars in Woodinville, a quick 30-minute drive from Seattle. We had the good fortune to taste BLT Barrel Select on the weekend at a wine club release party and barbeque. The wine was superb, supple and structured.

BLT Barrel Select, a special label 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon from Rattlesnake Hills, was a collaboration between Washington’s Bijal Shah, owner of the successful Woodhouse Family Cellars and BLT wine director Fred Dexheimer. The BLT Barrel Select is 75 percent Cabernet and 25 percent Malbec and is perfectly suited for the bistro fare at BLT Restaurants. The bad news: it was only available for sale in Washington state on Saturday for members of Woodhouse Family Cellars’ wine club.

The good news is that Woodhouse Family Cellar has many, many other fantastic wines that are available at a number of restaurants and retail outlets. All five premium labels have developed a “cult wine” following: Darighe, Maghee, Dussek, Kennedy Shah, and Hudson-Shah. 

Darighe is an exquisite, high-end Bordeaux-style blend that is considered the flagship. The second label, a robust 100 percent Merlot called Maghee, is so outstanding that it sells out very quickly. Also know as a “Big Boy” Merlot, Maghee is our favorite Merlot in the world. The third label is Dussek, consisting of a sharp, supple Cab with an elegant finish and a strong, straightforward Syrah. The fourth label is called Kennedy Shah, named after the daughter of Bijal and his wife Sinead. Kennedy Shah includes seven varietals: a Red Mountain Merlot, a Cabernet, a Syrah, an Orange Muscat, a Tempranillo, a Petit Verdot and a white picnic blend.

Ah, the picnic blend. We’re not big fans of white wine, but we had heard so much about the 2004 Auntie Meredith’s Picnic Blend (shout-out to the Cellar Rat) that we had to taste it at the barbeque, too. The 2006 Auntie Meredith’s Picnic Blend is pale gold with blossom, pear, peach and honey flavors–comprised of 50 percent Chardonnay, 25 percent Chenin Blanc and 25 percent Viognier. We “non-white-wine drinkers” took home a bottle of Auntie Meredith’s to enjoy on a sunny summer day on the deck.

The flagship release of the fifth label, Hudson-Shah, is another “Big Boy” … it’s called the Big Boy Butterball Chardonnay.

We highly recommend that you taste some of these fantastic wines at Woodhouse Family Cellars. The tasting room has been described as “warehouse chic,” featuring golden chandeliers, a granite tasting bar and a Viking kitchen. Oh and by the way, Bijal makes a mean barbeque, too.

I’ll have more about Bijal’s growing wine business and fantastic wines another day. For now, I’ll leave you with Bijal’s explanation of why Washington wines are so spectacular — Washington state has old-world terroir and new world fruit.


Wine Blog Wednesday #34

How lucky am I? I started my blog about Washington state wine on Sunday and within two days, I was asked by the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman to participate in Wine Blog Wednesday! Thank you WWWWW! This month’s theme is Cabernet Sauvignon from the State of Washington. (And we get extra points if we talk about Walla Walla, where we visited in April and had a marvellous time. But more about that later.)

First, I want to say that in the brief time that I’ve been blogging about Washington state wines, I’ve received numerous e-mails from people who had no idea that almost 500 wineries are in Washington. With any luck, we’ll get to visit all of them! In the meantime, I’m faced with a major dilemma. I write about Washington state wine; I love Washington state wine; I’m a member of several wine clubs here; and how on earth can I choose my favorite Cab? I can’t — so I’ll talk about a few of them!

First, in the name of consistency, I decided to stick with the Cab that I mentioned in an earlier post: Fall Line Winery’s 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is unique — it’s a blend of 100 percent cab. How can it be a blend, if it’s 100 percent cab, you might ask? It’s because the grapes came from Boushey Vineyards in Yakima Valley (45.5 percent); Artz Vineyards in Red Mountain (45.5 percent); and Destiny Ridge Vineyards in Horse Heaven Hills. It’s all Cab, and a sophisticated blend of Cab at that. According to Delaurenti Specialty Food and Wines, all of Fall Line Winery’s blends “possess all the balance, grace and depth that Walla Walla and Columbia Valley grapes are capable of. Fall Line’s Cabernet Sauvignon is all Columbia Valley with chocolate, blackberry and leather.”

So yes, Fall Line Winery’s 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon remains my number one pick. Owners Tim Sorenson and his wife, Nancy Rivenburgh are delightful to chat with and so very enthusiastic about the entire region. If you haven’t tried their Cab, you definitely are missing out. Stop by their warehouse space in Seattle’s Georgetown district–they have wine tastings on the second Saturday of every month–or order wine directly from the Fall Line Winery Web site. It’s the best $30 that we ever spent.

Next, I have to pay tribute to the wines of Walla Walla. As mentioned, we spent some time there in early April and absolutely loved it. We drove from Seattle and stopped at wineries along the way. (Yes, there was always a designated driver.) We spent a couple of days in Walla Walla and visited several nearby wineries that were excellent. Our number one cabernet was Forgeron Cellars 2003 Pepper Bridge Cabernet, which we first heard of when we had delicious ribs at the Depot Grill. It was as good as our friendly, wine-knowledgeable waiter promised. No surprise — our first wine tasting the next morning was at Forgeron Cellars (where we especially love the 2002 Vinfinity but it’s not a Cab, so we won’t mention it).

We also really enjoyed Reininger Winery’s 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve also recently written about Reininger’s Helix Merlot. Reininger’s Helix cab also is a favorite. According to the winery’s Web site: “This Helix (snail) is saddled and ready. Vanilla bean and cherry Beech Nut gum say howdy to my nose and once cornered on the palate they get hog tied with some fig, plum and a pinch of cocoa. No sense in keeping this guy penned in by cellaring… with his smooth tannins, he’s ready to slide out the gate leaving a slightly dusty trail of cherry.” (To learn more about Helix and the snail–aka escargot–check out another posting from Wine Blog Wednesday from Alex at Huevos con Vino.)

Most of the other wines we enjoyed in Walla Walla were blends, which I’ll write about on another day. Today, after all, is dedicated to Washington State Cabs. And on our next visit to Walla Walla in the next few months, maybe we’ll even bump into WWWWW.