Happy New Year!

We’re about to open a bottle of Matthews Cellars Cab Franc before we go out to dinner to bring in the new year. The WWD (wine with dinner) remains a mystery.

But first we wanted to wish our family, good friends and readers a healthy and happy 2008. As my dear friend Kathie once toasted (a couple of decades ago … and I’ve used the toast every year since then) — may your best day of 2007 be your worst day of 2008!


Margot and Dave

Mark Ryan Winery

One of the highlights of St. Nick’s weekend earlier this month was finally visiting Mark Ryan Winery’s tasting room and having an opportunity to chat with the winemaker himself. We have tried frequently in the past to stop by the Woodinville tasting room, but it’s not always open. All I can say is it was worth the wait!

First, we tasted a barrel sample of the new 2006 Wild Eyed Syrah from Red Mountain. This powerhouse red rocked! According to the tasting notes, “Deeply colored, dense and rich, the wine exudes black plum and berries with notes of chocolate, smoke and bacon.” We wanted to take some of it home, but its release date isn’t until March. Instead, we lapped up the most delicious meatballs in the world! (Yes, in true Woodinville wine weekend style, some of the wineries went all out with excellent selections of appetizers to taste along with the wine.)

Mark Ryan himself is frequently called Woodinville’s rising star, but he’s as down to earth as he looks in photos on his Web site. I talked to him about his fabulous wines and his new venture, Guardian Cellars, with Jerry Reiner.

Back in November, we first tried Mark Ryan’s 2005 Dead Horse when my nephew Mathew, with his excellent palate, ordered a bottle with a lucious dinner at Daniel’s Broiler in Bellevue. We also read rave reviews of 2005 The Dissident. (Who wouldn’t love a wine with a name like that?) So it was no surprise that we bought a couple of bottles of those two wines to take home with us.

And we’ll be in line in March for the new 2006 Wild Eyed Syrah, most definitely!


Woodinville Wine Country

There are some very fine wines in Woodinville. If you get a chance to go to Passport to Woodinville in April or St. Nick’s weekend next December, go for it!

We went to St. Nick’s earlier in the month and stopped by DeLille Cellars, Mark Ryan Winery, Arlington Road Cellars, Baer Winery, Cuillin Hills Winery, Edmonds Winery, Page Cellars, Red Sky Winery and Washington Wine Company. Some of the wineries are only open to the public at these special events, so it was a real treat. The winemakers were on hand, the appetizers were delicious and the wine … well, let’s just say that I’ll be writing about my favorites for the next few days.

First up — Red Sky, Page Cellars and Washington Wine Company.

Red Sky makes rich, elegant wines. My favorite was the 2003 Bordeaux blend because of its similarity to a smooth and silky Margaux–my wine region of choice outside the northwest. This blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot and 7% Cab Franc comes from a number of great vineyards, including Conner Lee and Pepper Bridge. Red Sky is open on Saturdays, so I’m sure we’ll be heading back for more tastes in the new year.

Page Cellars’ signature Preface continues to shine. My previous blog post, written after a tasting in November, still stands. Not only did we enjoy the wine, but the salmon and the music were fabulous too!

Washington Wine Company was a pleasant surprise. And how can you not like wines called “Forbidden“? The 2003 Big Forbidden Syrah is a velvet taste of dark fruits, black licorice and chocolate. We loved it. Amd we absolutely loved the 2003 Forbidden Red — a blend of 61% Cab Sauvignon and 39% Merlot from Horse Heaven Vineyards. We also tasted the 2004 Forbidden Red, which adds 30% Syrah to 50% Cab Sauv and 20% Merlot. While it was good, we preferred the 2003 Cab-Merlot blend.

Coming up — DeLilleDeLille, Mark Ryan and Baer.


Expanding to B.C. and Oregon

Now that my Washington state wine blog is six months old, I made a New Year’s resolution to expand my writing to include wines from British Columbia (where I was born and raised) and Oregon (where we lived for a couple of years prior to moving to Seattle).

Don’t get me wrong, my main priority will continue to be to promote the wines of Washington state. But a recent tasting trip to wineries around the Portland area, and a planned 2008 trip back to B.C.’s Okanagan region, made me realize that the time has come to blog about wines from more places in the northwest.

So starting next week, look for blog posts about the old and new wineries that we visited in Oregon in early December. And discover with me some of the fine wines of British Columbia. But I’ll also be writing about our tastings earlier this month at  DeLille Cellars, Mark Ryan Winery, Arlington Road Cellars, Baer Winery, Cuillin Hills Winery, Edmonds Winery, Page Cellars, Red Sky Winery and Woodinville Wine Cellars

The bottom line: I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it again. Washington state wineries make some excellent world-class wines.


Happy Boxing Day!

In honour of Boxing Day, we are spelling honor with a “u” and drinking 2003 Charbonneau Red from Woodward Canyon. We picked up a bottle last April when we visited the winery’s tasting room in a restored 1870’s farmhouse in Lowden, about 13 miles west of Walla Walla.

As regular readers know, we’re big fans of Bordeaux-style blends, and Woodward Canyon’s Charbonneau is one of our favorites. The rich, robust blend is a deep garnet red–56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot and 5% Cab Franc. It’s a unique wine because it’s both soft and spicy.

We were waiting for a special occasion to open it — and Boxing Day is just that! So Happy Boxing Day!


Happy Holidays!

My blog is now six months old — thank you for reading it and thanks to those who have friended me on Facebook.

Here’s a toast to my blog readers and new friends in the wine industry! And to my old friends in Canada and my new friends in the U.S. Thanks for your support in 2007 — and here’s to a healthy and successful 2008! Happy Holidays!


DeLille Cellars Hits for the Cycle

A press release about wine that contains a baseball analogy and a hockey reference is bound to get my attention! That recently happened — a press release touting DeLille Cellars’ latest honor stated: “DeLille Cellars became the sole member of a very exclusive club in 2007: The only winery in the world named to Top 100 lists of Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and the Robb Report, it has just been included on one more list … Instead of merely pulling off a hat trick, DeLille is ‘hitting for the cycle.’ ”

The fourth list is from Seattle’s respected wine writer Paul Gregutt. DeLille’s 2006 Chaleur Estate Blanc was given position number eight on Gregutt’s list and DeLille’s Doyenne Roussanne came in at number 46.

We tasted 2005 Doyenne Grand Ciel Syrah at St. Nick’s weekend, earlier this month and (of course!) ordered some. We’re looking forward to the release party in February.

Speaking of St. Nick’s weekend — come back in the next few days for more details about that fabulous weekend. I haven’t forgotten that I promised to write more about it.


WWD: Dunham Cellars Three Legged Red

One of our favorite every-day wines — and one that is price-friendly — is a Dunham Cellars red blend called Three Legged Red. To us, this is not a special occasion wine. But if you follow the credo that every day is a special occasion, then this is definitely a wine to have on the table.

The first time we saw it, we were drawn to the photo on the label of the cutest three-legged dog. Then we tasted it and liked the wine as much as we liked the photo.

Every year, Dunham Cellars blends a portion of its wines — Cabs, Merlots and Syrahs — into this red table wine. Last night, we had the 2005 Three Legged Red with our simple dinner of tasty burgers. (“WWD” means wine with dinner.) The Syrah, with its peppery and smoky flavor, spices up the blend, which is softened by the fruity Merlot.

The dog’s name is Port, by the way. We met him earlier this year when we visited the winery in Walla Walla. He is adorable! The story of how winemaker Eric Dunham rescued him is on the back of every bottle.

It was a sunny day in the summer of ’94 when I met Port. Outside I heard the distinct sound of an animal in distress. It took only moments to realize what was happening across the field from my house – a very small animal had fallen into harm’s way and was being attacked by a Pit Bull. I ran to the scene, broke up the fight and found that the small animal was a puppy that was very badly injured. Instinctively, I wrapped him up and took him to the veterinarian. I agreed to pay for the emergency surgery and recovery. The puppy had lost a leg, but found a home. With only three legs, and two on the port side, I named him Port, and he is my best friend.

Being dog-lovers, this story definitely resonated with us. Did you know that dogs have a big following in the wine industry? There are even books and postcards about winery dogs. I started an album on Facebook of dogs belonging to wine writers. I also started one on my Web site. If you’re a wine writer and have a dog, please send me photos!


Robert Stewart Returns on Dec. 28

Wow — two weeks after Robert Stewart, from The Fiasco rocked Vino Bello , he’s coming back! In case you missed details of his Dec. 13 appearance, you can read about it in my earlier blog post.

Robert was such a hit with the wine crowd that he’ll be back at Vino Bello from 6 to 9 p.m. on Dec. 28. We hope to see you there –think about it, fine wine, good company and the soulful sounds of Robert Stewart.

In other Vino Bello news, the Lady in Red from Kestrel Vintners will be signing bottles on Dec. 29. That sounds like fun, too.


Di Stefano still delicious

When we first moved to Seattle in 1999, one of the first Woodinville tasting rooms that we visited was Di Stefano Winery. It also was the first time that we ever tasted Cab Franc, and we became big fans of both the wine and the winery.

We went back on the weekend and tried several wines on Di Stefano’s current tasting menu. While we enjoyed the 2002 Merlot and 2003 Domenica, my preference was the 2004 Meritage and Dave’s was the 2003 Syrah R.

As regular readers of this blog know, my palate is all about Washington state Bordeaux-style blends (although I’m back to favoring Cabs these days too). Di Stefano’s 2004 Meritage blends 40% Cab Sauv, 40% Merlot and 20% Cab Franc into layers of smooth flavors of berries and spice. It’s ready for drinking now, through 2011.

We tasted Syrahs from numerous wineries during St. Nick’s weekend in Woodinville earlier this month, and decided we were starting to favor its smoky, peppery rich depths. But Di Stefano’s 2003 Syrah is unique – -perhaps because of the addition of 4% Viognier and 2% Cab Sauv. It had a bit of a kick to it that we’ve never noticed in other wineries’ Syrahs.

We recommend both the Meritage and the Syrah … and suggest a Saturday visit to Di Stefano’s tasting room too.