Matthews Cellars has it all

Matthews Cellars‘ tasting room in Woodinville has a winning combination — robust Bordeaux-style wines and the friendliest tasting room people around. Whenever I drop by, I experience some fine wines and learn the latest news in Woodinville wine country. In addition to pouring some ridiculously good reds over the last few years, the friendly folks at Matthews Cellars told us to be sure to visit Brian Carter Cellars, JM Cellars, Page Cellars and William Church Winery, to name a few. Now that’s Woodinville wine country spirit!

I recently visited Matthews Cellars’ tasting room with my nephew Mathew (only one “t” in his name), and they didn’t even mind that his cute little dog Edie trotted in behind us. Everybody in the tasting room fell in love with Edie, and Mathew and I both fell head-over-heels with Matthews’ 2001 Columbia Valley Red Wine.

This library wine is a premium Bordeaux-style red blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 13% Cab Franc, 4% Malbec and 4% Petit Verdot. Winemaker Matthew Loso sourced fruit from “only the most prestigious vineyards in the Columbia Valley and Red Mountain appellations.” And it shows. My tasting notes were very brief: “Elegant. Rich. Velvety. Love it!” (I was too busy sipping, chatting, enjoying the fuss over Edie, my cool nephew and the fun conversation to write more elaborate notes.)

The 2001 Columbia Valley Red Wine is drinkable now through 2016. I know because one of the coolest things that Matthews Cellars’ Web site offers is a Library page that lists all the library wines and their years of drinkability. I wish all winery Web sites offered that feature. (Transparent plug: Trust me when I give Web site advice. My business, Write for Wine, creates Web site content for wineries, wine bars, distributors and other organizations in the wine industry. I’ve been working in interactive media since 1994.)

Back to Matthews Cellars — I also give very high marks to Matthews Cellars 2003 Conner Lee Cabernet Franc–a deep ruby 100% Cab Franc that is only available in a 3-bottle wooden box (3-750 ml. bottles) for $330.00.  This wine is both sensuous and elegant, and a must-have for Cab Franc lovers. It will be high on my holiday gift wish list!

Cheers!

Wake up to Washington state wines, SoCal!

We recently came back from a quick trip to Palm Springs, where we were surprised to find a dearth of Washington state wines sold in stores. During our short visit, we stopped by five different grocery stores and drug stores where wine was sold. One store had just opened a beautiful wine cellar, where we spent the good part of an hour browsing through different labels.

As expected, there were dozens of California wines at all the stores we visited. There was also lots of wine from Australia and France. But the only Washington state wines that were available were whites from Hogue Cellars and Chateau Ste. Michelle. No reds at all!

Now, regular readers of this blog will know how much we love Hogue’s Terroir wines, from Cabs to Malbecs. And Chateau Ste. Michelle is a staple around this state and well-known across the country. But c’mon SoCal — there are more than 500 wineries here. Washington state is the second-highest wine-producing state in the country.

The absence of so many fine Washington state wines on the shelves in Palm Springs was shameful.

What’s going on …

Friday, Nov. 16 to Sunday, Nov. 18

  • Winemaker Dinner: The Waterfront Seafood Grill welcomes Brian Carter as he showcases his exceptional European style blended wines paired with a multi-course dinner. The Nov. 16 event begins at 6:30 p.m. Price: $125 Information: 206.956.9171

  • Tri-Cities Wine Festival: This festival first started in 1978! This professionally judged wine competition begins on Nov. 16 and culminates in a public tasting on Nov. 17, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. At the Red Lion Hotel in Pasco, wines from small boutique wineries will be poured side-by-side with those from large producers. Find out more information here.

  • JM Cellars pours at the YWCA Childcare Endowment Fund Benefit along with Cadence, Guardian Wines, Mark Ryan, Reininger Vineyards and other wineries at the Wright Exhibition Space in Seattle on Friday, Nov. 16.

  • Welcome Guardian Wines to Woodinville at a special release party on Nov. 17, from noon to 4 p.m. More details about this exciting event are available on this blog.

  • Bottle Your Own Wine returns to Silver Lake Winery in Woodinville on Nov. 17-18, just in time for the holidays. Handcraft wine with your personalized label — you’ll get to bottle it, cork it, foil it and label it.

  • Discover perfect Thanksgiving pairings in a special wine tasting at Vino Bello on Saturday Nov. 17 from noon to 8 p.m. $10

  • Learn how to put bold flavors into small bites with Holiday Hors d’Oeuvres on Sunday, Nov. 18 from from noon to 3 p.m. at Januik Winery. Cost $90.

  • How to taste wine — a Sunday class and tasting at Maple Leaf Cellar to help those who are confused by the “right” way to taste wine. 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. $40

 Friday, Nov. 23 to Sunday, Nov. 25: Thanksgiving in Wine Country

  • At all three Silver Lake Winery locations — Woodinville, Leavenworth and Zillah — sample complimentary newly released wines served with snacks and special holiday pricing of your favorite wines.

  • Grand Opening of Wilridge Vineyard Tasting Room near Yakima over Thanksgiving Weekend. Be the first to visit Wilridge’s organic and biodynamic vineyard oasis and Tasting Room on the Naches Heights, five minutes west of Yakima.

  • Port lovers unite! It’s a special Ports & Stickes Blowout at Vino Bello from noon until 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24. The wine bar will rock to the mean guitar blues of Kimball Conant and the Fugitives from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. $10

  • On Nov. 24, Trey Busch of Sleight of Hand Cellars will be pouring three wines: “The Archimage” Columbia Valley 2005, “The Spellbinder” Columbia Valley 2005  and “The Magician” Columbia Valley 2006 at Cellar 46  on Mercer Island. Free!

 Thursday, Nov. 29

  • Walla Walla Valley Annual Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend: Join the 2nd Annual Winemakers’ Fete at the Marcus Whitman Hotel. Two of our favorite Walla Walla wineries, Forgeron Cellars and Pepper Bridge will join 18 other wineries hosting a special dinner–five courses with a special wine with each course prepared by Chef Bear. 
  • EB Foote Winery Holiday Open House: Sample new releases, Rainy Day Red IV, 2006 Zinfandel and 2006 Syrah, and tasty snacks Nov. 29-Dec. 2. There is no cost but times vary each day. Call 206-242-3852.

Saturday, Dec. 1 and Sunday, Dec. 2

  • Check out St. Nick’s Open House in Woodinville from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The wineries of Woodinville Wine Country open their doors for a single ticket price of $50. Some of the participating wineries are rarely open to the public, so don’t miss this opportunity! You’ll enjoy special tastings and specially prepared hors d’oeuvres to complement the wine. Check out Woodinville Wine Country’s Web site for a list of wineries and ticket information.

  •  Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting is an annual event in the Walla Walla Valley. Winemakers will be on hand as more than 50 wineries open their barrel rooms. Each winery participates offers a variety of different features such as food, music, art exhibits, wine dinners, cooking demonstrations, poetry readings, and more.

Tuesday, Dec. 11

Wednesday, Dec. 12

  • Chateau Ste. Michelle: An evening of wine and gourmet cheeses from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Chateau Wine Shop. $20 at the door. 

Cheers!

WWD: Page Cellars 2004 Preface

Our wine with dinner (WWD) last night was a robust Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004 Preface from Page Cellars. We picked it up at our first visit to the Woodinville winery a couple of weekends ago. This vintage is so new that it isn’t even listed in the wine section on their Web site yet, but Preface is Page Cellars’ signature wine. The 2000 and 2001 Preface were Bordeaux-style blends. The 2002 Preface was 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Cab Franc.

The 2004 Preface is 90% Cab and 10% Cab Franc–perfect with filet mignon or prime rib. I guess I don’t need to tell you what dinner we had with our wine. :)

There’s also news for fans of Page Cellars Limited Edition. The 2002 Limited Edition is sold out. But a new vintage will be released right before St. Nick’s Open House wine weekend in Woodinville. We are looking forward to tasting it then (Dec. 1 and 2). Hope to see you there!

Cheers!

JM Cellars: Best Saturday Tastings in Woodinville?

Woodinville winery JM Cellars has the best Saturday tastings in the area. It must be true because I heard that declaration at an event at a different winery last weekend! Unfortunately, we have had no luck in getting to the JM Cellars tastings ourselves. But it’s not for lack of trying.

My nephew Mathew (who has an excellent palate) and I stopped by JM Cellars a few Saturdays ago, but sadly, we arrived late and the official tasting was over. With a special shout-out to assistant winemaker Tim Drake, we did try a 2005 Merlot, which had depth in its Red Mountain flavors bursting with cherries. (JM Cellars’ 2003 Merlot was named one of the top twelve Merlots in America by Wine and Spirits magazine.)

But we didn’t get a chance to taste JM’s red blends — and regular readers of this blog know that my palate is all about red blends. I love the names of some of JM Cellars wines, too: Their flagship wine Tre Fanciulli (tray-fan-CHEW-lee) and Bramble Bump Red. We can’t wait to finally get to a tasting (on time!) to try them.

But Saturdays are tough for us to go wine tasting; we typically go on Sundays. So we were looking forward to stopping by JM Cellars during St. Nick’s weekend next month in Woodinville. Again, no such luck. The winery won’t be represented there. So, hopefully, we’ll be able to attend the YWCA Childcare Endowment Fund Benefit on Nov. 16 at Wright Exhibition Space in Seattle. They’ll definitely be pouring there, along with others. And it’s for a good cause. For more details, check out my What’s Going On posts on Thursdays.

Have you gone to Saturday tastings at JM Cellars? Write a comment and tell me what I’ve been missing!

Cheers!

Top 12 Washington State Wine Clubs

In case you missed it, northwest wine writer Paul Gregutt wrote case studies about the top 12 wine clubs in The Seattle Times today. He put his list in an interesting context — you now have to wait years to purchase Leonetti Cellars or Quilceda Creek wines directly from the winery. So, sign up now to receive wines from his Top 12 list: the “cult wines of tomorrow [that] are already being made.”

I was delighted to see Alexandria Nicole Cellars first on the list. Regular readers of this blog know how Alexandria Nicole wines are among our favorites. Although we were not yet wine club members in September, winemaker Jarrod Boyle was kind enough to invite us to spend some time in the “members only” area of the tasting room in Prosser. The room is exquisite — just like Jarrod’s fine wines. And we regularly stop by the new tasting room in Woodinville.

As Gregutt notes, Jarrod recently launched a unique club, called Over The Ridge to educate its members on all aspects of winemaking practices. With an “Over The Ridge Club” membership, you will literally grow your own vineyard and create hand-crafted wine from the grapes.

Other wineries on Gregutt’s list include some that I’ve written about in the past: Cadence, Three Rivers and Woodward Canyon.  Here is the complete list:

1. Alexandria Nicole Cellars

2. Andrew Will

3. Betz Family

4. Bunnell Family Cellar

5. Buty

6. Cadence

7. J. Bookwalter

8. Sleight of Hand Cellars/One Louder

9. Syncline

10. Three Rivers

11. Va Piano

12. Woodward Canyon

Please read Gregutt’s informative article for details about the wine clubs. Gregutt is an acclaimed wine writer who really knows his stuff! In fact he’s on a tour right now to promote his latest book, Washington Wines & Wineries: The Essential Guide.

Cheers!

WWD: Alexandria Nicole’s Quarry Butte

We discovered Alexandria Nicole Cellars when the winery opened a Woodinville tasting room a few months ago. On our next trip to eastern Washington, we stopped by the Prosser tasting room; spent some time in the beautiful “Members Only” room; tasted some great new releases; and better yet, met winemaker Jarrod and his wife Alexandria, for whom the fine wines are named.

A couple of weeks ago, my nephew Mathew–an excellent wine tasting companion–came from Vancouver (B.C., my hometown) to visit, so we decided to tour our favorite tasting rooms in Woodinville. Of course, we stopped by to visit the good folks at Alexandria Nicole again.

During those three trips in two months, we tasted many of Jarrod’s wines. And of course, we brought some home to the dinner table. So, it stands to reason that the wine with dinner (WWD) recently was Alexandria Nicole’s 2004 Quarry Butte–a blend from Destiny Ridge Vineyards and Horse Heaven Hills.

The winery’s estate vineyard, Destiny Ridge, used to be called Quarry Butte. It’s located on the bluffs of Horse Heaven Hills and was slated to become a rock quarry. I, for one, am glad those plans were derailed.

2004 Quarry Butte is a Bordeaux-style blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 6% Cab Franc, 6% Syrah and 1% Malbec. It is smooth and rich, with berry flavors and a balanced structure. We had it with dinner the night before our second trip to the Woodinville tasting room, where we found out that it is now sold out!

The 2005 Quarry Butte was just released on the day of our visit–it’s a different blend of 48% Cab, 38% Merlot, 7% Malbec, 4% Syrah and 3% Cab Franc. We preferred the 2004 vintage, but you can’t go wrong with the 2005 Quarry Butte either.

This time, we took home something different–Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2004 Estate Cabernet. It is loaded with flavors and when we have it with dinner, I’ll tell you more.

Cheers!

Guardian Cellars coming soon!

The first release of wine from Guardian Cellars in Woodinville is almost here, and we are looking forward to it. Three wines will be released, including the long-awaited Gun Metal, on Nov. 17. The party runs from noon to 4 p.m., “complete with loud music, fabulous wines and catering from the best taco wagon in Western Washington.” 

Just what is Guardian Cellars? It’s a new winery project by Mark Ryan McNeilly (think about the exquisite wines from Mark Ryan Winery) and Jerome Edward Riener, who worked with Mark for six years while also becoming the unofficial champion of the Woodinville winemaker forklift derby. 

Guardian Cellars began with just two barrels of 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon that Jerry and Mark worked on between perfecting some fabulous wines for Mark Ryan Winery. This inaugural Cab is nicknamed “The Rookie” and will be joined by a 2004 Red Mountain Syrah and the 2004 Gun Metal.

Mark Ryan Winery fans will remember the 2003 Gun Metal, of course. The second vintage is now a staple at Guardian Cellars.

Come try it out and welcome Guardian Cellars to Woodinville!

Cheers!

What’s going on …

 

Thursday, Nov. 8

  • Try some beautiful blends from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Portfolio Restaurant in West Seattle and enjoy the breathtaking view of Elliott Bay. Reservations required: 206-239-2363 ($12) 

Saturday, Nov. 10 and Sunday, Nov. 11

  • Taste of Red, Columbia Winery’s premier wine tasting and social event will be held from noon to 6 p.m. on both days. Taste an extensive collection of red wine, including wine pulled directly from the barrel. Samples of northwest food will also be available. Admission is $20 per person ($10 for Cellar Club members) and includes a logo tasting glass.

  • Learn how to make wreaths out of grapevines at Silver Lake Winery in Woodinville from noon to 4 p.m. on both days.

  • Chateau Ste. Michelle: A special book signing on Saturday, Nov. 10 with Northwest wine writer, Paul Gregutt book signing. $35 for a signed copy of the book, along with wines and appetizers.

  • Savor the elegant and finely structured wines from Reininger Vineyards at Vino Bello on Saturday Nov. 10 from noon to 8 p.m. $10

  • Learn how to put bold flavors into small bites with Holiday Hors d’Oeuvres on Sunday, Nov. 11 from noon to 3 p.m. at Januik Winery. Cost $90.

Tuesday, Nov. 13

Wednesday, Nov. 14

  • Chateau Ste. Michelle: An evening of wine and gourmet cheeses from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Chateau Wine Shop. $20 at the door.

Friday, Nov. 16 to Sunday, Nov. 18

  • Winemaker Dinner: The Waterfront Seafood Grill welcomes Brian Carter as he showcases his exceptional European style blended wines paired with a multi-course dinner. The Nov. 16 event begins at 6:30 p.m. Price: $125 Information: 206.956.9171

  • Tri-Cities Wine Festival: This festival first started in 1978! This professionally judged wine competition begins on Nov. 16 and culminates in a public tasting on Nov. 17, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. At the Red Lion Hotel in Pasco, wines from small boutique wineries will be poured side-by-side with those from large producers. Find out more information here.

  • JM Cellars pours at the YWCA Childcare Endowment Fund Benefit along with Cadence, Guardian Wines, Mark Ryan, Reininger Vineyards and other wineries at the Wright Exhibition Space in Seattle on Friday, Nov. 16.

  • Welcome Guardian Wines to Woodinville at a special release party on Nov. 17, from noon to 4 p.m. More details about this exciting event are available on this blog.

  • Bottle Your Own Wine returns to Silver Lake Winery in Woodinville on Nov. 17-18, just in time for the holidays. Handcraft wine with your personalized label — you’ll get to bottle it, cork it, foil it and label it.

  • Discover perfect Thanksgiving pairings in a special wine tasting at Vino Bello on Saturday Nov. 17 from noon to 8 p.m. $10

  • Learn how to put bold flavors into small bites with Holiday Hors d’Oeuvres on Sunday, Nov. 18 from from noon to 3 p.m. at Januik Winery. Cost $90.

 Friday, Nov. 23 to Sunday, Nov. 25: Thanksgiving in Wine Country

  • At all three Silver Lake Winery locations — Woodinville, Leavenworth and Zillah — sample complimentary newly released wines served with snacks and special holiday pricing of your favorite wines.

  • Grand Opening of Wilridge Vineyard Tasting Room near Yakima over Thanksgiving Weekend. Be the first to visit Wilridge’s organic and biodynamic vineyard oasis and Tasting Room on the Naches Heights, five minutes west of Yakima.

  • Port lovers unite! It’s a special Ports & Stickes Blowout at Vino Bello from noon until 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24. The wine bar will rock to the mean guitar blues of Kimball Conant and the Fugitives from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. $10

 Thursday, Nov. 29

  • Walla Walla Valley Annual Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend: Join the 2nd Annual Winemakers’ Fete at the Marcus Whitman Hotel. Two of our favorite Walla Walla wineries, Forgeron Cellars and Pepper Bridge will join 18 other wineries hosting a special dinner–five courses with a special wine with each course prepared by Chef Bear. 
  • EB Foote Winery Holiday Open House: Sample new releases, Rainy Day Red IV, 2006 Zinfandel and 2006 Syrah, and tasty snacks Nov. 29-Dec. 2. There is no cost but times vary each day. Call 206-242-3852.

Saturday, Dec. 1 and Sunday, Dec. 2

  • Check out St. Nick’s Open House in Woodinville from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The wineries of Woodinville Wine Country open their doors for a single ticket price of $50. Some of the participating wineries are rarely open to the public, so don’t miss this opportunity! You’ll enjoy special tastings and specially prepared hors d’oeuvres to complement the wine. Check out Woodinville Wine Country’s Web site for a list of wineries and ticket information.

  •  Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting is an annual event in the Walla Walla Valley. Winemakers will be on hand as more than 50 wineries open their barrel rooms. Each winery participates offers a variety of different features such as food, music, art exhibits, wine dinners, cooking demonstrations, poetry readings, and more.

Tuesday, Dec. 11

Wednesday, Dec. 12

  • Chateau Ste. Michelle: An evening of wine and gourmet cheeses from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Chateau Wine Shop. $20 at the door. 

Cheers!

Tri-Cities Wine Festival

While I updated my Washington state wine events listing for my weekly blog feature, What’s Going On, I discovered the Tri-Cities Wine Festival on Nov. 16 and 17 at the Red Lion Hotel in Pasco. The details about this event so captured my attention that I decided to write a separate blog post about it. First, this event has been going on since 1978. Hello — how many wineries were in Washington almost 30 years ago?

The two-day event includes judging and seminars and ends with a four-hour public tasting. Yes, four hours. And 65 wineries pouring up to four wines each! You will want to book a hotel room, for sure –the organizers were considerate enough to provide a special rate at the hotel just for this tasting. If you’re interested — and I definitely am — the phone number is 509-547-0701.

Oh, and there’s food at the event too. Complimentary breads, fruits, and cheeses will be available at several locations throughout the evening. And Red Lion chefs will be serving a selection of hors d’oeuvres near the winery booths.

And that’s not all. There will be a silent auction at the same time as the public tasting. So while you’re sipping and mingling, you can check out (and bid on) premium wine in engraved bottles, double magnums (or larger!), rare wines not readily available to the public and many wine-related gift items in time for the holiday season.

Cheers!