Anyone who knows about Washington state wine should know about Red Willow Vineyard. It’s where wine pioneer Mike Sauer planted his first vineyard in 1971. It’s where Cabernet Sauvignon vines planted in 1973 are still in production. It’s where the first production of Syrah grapes in the state took place in 1988. It’s where the superb grapes are carefully tended and made into excellent wines at Columbia Winery and many others. And it’s where, we discovered last weekend, one of the nicest and most knowledgeable wine families in Washington state live.
Mike Sauer and his son Jonathan humbly refer to themselves as farmers. And indeed they are farmers, and mighty fine ones. But they are also both artisans of grape growing. And they have a joyous spirituality about their work that is evidenced in this quote by Mike on the Red Willow Web site:
“In farming there is no substitute for the soil, water, and hard work. Inherently, the nature of farming brings a spiritual dimension to our efforts. There is a connection of past, present, and future generations.
For us wine brings the soil, the site, the season, and the efforts of many people together into a single vintage. Later that vintage becomes a cherished memory of that year.”
We had the fortune and the honor to meet Mike, his wife Karen and Jonathan Sauer and to visit Red Willow Vineyard over the weekend with Columbia Winery’s Cellar Club. I will be writing several posts over the next few weeks about the experience, the grapes, the terroir and the incredible story of the Sauer family and Red Willow Vineyard.
Almost as soon as I hit the “publish” button on the previous blog post, I received word that Long Shadows Vintners in eastern Washington has been named “Winery of the Year” by Food & Wine magazine. The winery was chosen by the magazine’s editors and a panel of wine experts who select the best American wines each year.
Congratulations Long Shadows!
It was very disappointing to miss Long Shadows Vintners during our weekend trip to eastern Washington. Unfortunately, Long Shadows doesn’t have a tasting room and is not open to the public. But kudos to Mike Williamson of the sales and marketing team–he quickly responded to a last-minute e-mail from me and offered an appointment within two days. I would have loved to stop by and have a chat, but I already had an appointment at Red Willow Vineyard that day.
Long Shadows is a consortium of world-renowned prestigious vintners — also referred to as the “Dream Team” — led by Washington state wine pioneer Allen Shoup. It was Shoup’s vision to establish a collection of the top world talent in the winemaking industry. Not surprisingly, the wines that have been crafted so far by Long Shadows Vintners have received widespread applause.
The world-class wines of Long Shadow are so popular that all but the 2005 Poet’s Leap Riesling and the 2004 Chester Kidder Columbia Valley Red are sold out on the winery’s Web site. So imagine our surprise when we found a bottle of Long Shadow’s 2004 Pedestal Columbia Valley Merlot and 2004 Feather Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Napa Valley wine legend Randy Dun nat Stems, a fine wine gift shop that’s part of the new Hilton Garden Inn in Yakima.
If you ever hear of any Long Shadows tastings in the Seattle area, please count us in. Until then, try to find some time to read more about Long Shadows Vintners incredible story. It’s an interesting read!
You might know the Alexandria Nicole Cellars tasting room in Prosser. You might even know about the winery’s Puget Sound Wine Dinner in Prosser on Oct. 6. (It sounds like a great event for $75 per person — starting at the tasting room at 11 a.m., moving on to a vineyard tour and cellar tasting, and then back to the tasting room for dinner.)
But did you know that the winery recently opened its doors to a new tasting room in Woodinville? You can now try Alexandria Nicole Cellars wine at 19501 144th Ave. NE, in a tasting room that is shared with Darby Cellars. We were there on a busy weekend and tasted several of their wines. We liked a few of them, but the one we took home was a $20 bottle of 2004 Estate Quarry Butte, a Bordeaux-style blend of five varietals: 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 6% Syrah, 6% Cab Franc and 1% Malbec. Barrel-aged 18 months in both French and American Oak, this wonderful blend was ripe with berry flavors, a balanced structure and a lengthy finish.
We also enjoyed the 2004 Estate Merlot from Destiny Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. We weren’t surprised that this complex Merlot won the 2007 Seattle Wine Awards Grand Award of Excellence. It wasn’t a fruit bomb that is the trademark of many Merlots these days. This Merlot is a smooth, elegant blend of 79% Merlot, 19% Malbec and 2%Petit Verdot. The result is an intense bouquet of blackberries with refined tannins and a solid finish.
You can taste these wines and welcome Alexandria Nicole Cellars to Woodinville at the grand opening of the Woodinville tasting room on Sept. 22 from 4:30 – 9 p.m. I hope to see you there.
What’s going on in Washington wine country?
Saturday Sept. 8:
- Burien Fall Art Walk special tasting at Vino Bello fromÂ noon to 7:30 p.m. $5 tasting fee. Call 206-244-VINO.
- Basel Cellars 3rd Annual Stomp: For details, call 1-888-259-WINE or 509-522-0200 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- Happy 40th Anniversary, Chateau Ste. Michelle! From 11-4 p.m., help the winery celebrate with barrel tastings, new release tastings, winemaker bottle signings and more. Cost: $30 at the door. A complimentary tasting glass is included with admission.
Saturday, Sept. 15:
- Grape to Glass Gala: The event, hosted by the new Vineyard and Winery Technology Program at Yakima Valley Community College, features wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres, live music and a wine seminar by Master Sommelier Angelo Tavernaro. Funds raised from the event will provide scholarships to students.Â Â Cost: $25 per person, from 6 – 9 p.m.
- Wines from Spain at Vino Bello fromÂ 4 to 7:00 p.m. $10 tasting fee. Call 206-244-VINO.
Tuesday, Sept. 18:
Saturday, Sept. 22:
Don’t miss Taste of the HarvestÂ (formerly the annual Apple Harvest Festival) fromÂ 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in downtown Wenatchee. The festival offers wine tastings from nine local wineries with food pairings from local restaurants.
Wines fromÂ France at Vino Bello fromÂ 4 to 7:00 p.m. $10 tasting fee. Call 206-244-VINO.
Saturday, Sept. 29:
Sunday, Sept. 30:
- Januik and Novelty Hill Wineries host “Fall Harvest” from Noon â€“ 3 p.m. with a fall cooking class, a cozy meal, a selection of wine from both wineries and a tour of the winery. Cost: $90 per person. Call 425-481-5502.
- Fall Harvest Wine Tasting, hosted by Precept Wine Brands, from 2 – 6 p.m. at Shilshole Bay Beach Club, 6413 Seaview Ave. NW. Cost is $5 and includes aÂ complimentary wine glass, wine tasting and light appetizers. RSVP by Sept. 24 to email@example.com
Â Tuesday, Oct. 9
Tues. Nov. 13
Tues. Dec. 11
If you have any events to include in the weeks ahead, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catie, the self-described “Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman,” really knows her wine, and I’m a regularÂ reader of her blog, Through The Walla Walla Grapevine. A few weeks ago, one of her posts caught my attention, and IÂ finally have time to write about it.Â
Back on Aug. 1, Catie’s blog post focused onÂ the favorite Washington state wines of Gary Vaynerchuk in Episode 177Â of Wine Library TV. Catie noted that Gary’s trademark, “Changing the Wine World,” has been featured in TIME Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and on Conin O’Brien’s NBC Late Night Show.
Today on Episode 307, Gary focused on our state’s wine again, including one of my favorites, 2004 Pepper Bridge Merlot. But what really caught my attention was this statement by Gary, which underlines how he is indeedÂ changingÂ the world of wine: “Get everyone to know wine is about personal taste and not what a critic says …”
I couldn’t agree more. I prefer red blends or big Cabs. That doesn’t mean that thereÂ aren’t goodÂ whites or roses. SomeÂ people prefers whites and even dessert wines, which I cannot fathom. But the bottom line is there is no right or wrongÂ when it comes toÂ taste.
Some peopleÂ have a good nose and a refined palate and therefore can distinguish the multi-layered combination ofÂ aromas or flavors ofÂ a wine. (Sometimes I can. Other times I can’t.) Others are baffled by tasting notes and wonder how wine can taste flinty or earthy. Other people can’t distinguish bouquets or aromas, but they know what they like. As Gary so wisely said: Wine is about personal taste and not what a critic says.
So what are your favorites?
There’s a new winery in Woodinville! Darby Winery recently opened its doors to a new tasting room at 19501 144th Ave NE. We stopped by on Sunday and enjoyed chatting with winemaker Darby English, in between pours on a busy Labor Day weekend.
We tasted both his 2006 “Le Deuce” Rousanne & Viognier blend ($22) and 2005 Destiny Ridge Syrah ($30). Regular readers know that I prefer red wines, particularly Bordeaux-style blends. Darby’s 2005 Destiny Ridge Syrah was made for my palate.
To complement his old-World style wines, Darby’s wine label is the color of parchment and contains a stamp and postal markings. And while his current offerings are small –he made 195 cases of Le Deuce and 212 cases of Destiny Ridge Syrah — he plans to triple the volume within three years to 1,200 cases.
Join Darby for his grand opening celebration on Sept. 22 from 5 – 9 p.m. at the new tasting room and welcome him to Woodinville. I hope to see you there.