JM Cellars New Releases

We’re looking forward to tasting JM Cellars new releases. And better yet, the release party is on two days, Saturday March 1 and Sunday March 2, which means we will be able to drive to Woodinville to attend. (The tasting room is typically open only on Saturdays, when both of us are usually too busy in Seattle.)

In particular, the 2005 Tre Fanciulli and the 2005 Columbia Valley Cuvee have our attention. JM Cellars has been crafting their flagship blend, Tre Fanciulli, since 1999. Tre is Italian for three treasured boys, and the wine was named in honor of the three sons of owners John and Peggy Bigalow. John is also the winemaker. The 2005 Tre, a blend of Klipsun Cabernet Sauvignon, Ciel du Cheval Merlot, Lewis Syrah and Boushey Syrah, can be opened now or cellared for up to ten years.

The 2005 Cuvee is a Bordeaux-style blend of 44% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cab Franc, 6% Malbec and 6% Petite Verdot. Seventy-five percent of the grapes come from Stillwater Creek, with the remainder from Ciel du Cheval, Conner Lee and Milbrandt. You can drink the Cuvee now through 2015.

These wines are expected to sell out fast. You can pre-order them on JM Cellars’ Web site.



Winetrails of Washington: A Guide to Uncorking Your Memorable Wine Tour

Some time ago, I had an opportunity to glance at the new Washington state wine book, Winetrails of Washington: A Guide to Uncorking Your Memorable Wine Tour, because I work with Kelly Roberts, niece of the book’s author Steve Roberts.

Kelly’s copy of the just-released book was so pristine that I didn’t want to mess it up pouring over the pages. But I knew, just from my quick glance, that this is one book that I definitely want for my collection.

As it turns out, the author is making appearances in some of my favorite haunts over the next few weeks. On Saturday, he’ll be at my local wine bar, Vino Bello, for a book signing. Then on Feb. 5, he’ll be at The Tasting Room in Pike Place Market’s Post Alley for another signing.

I’m considering buying two copies of this guide book — one to keep for reference by my computer and one to keep in the car. Trust me, Winetrails of Washington: A Guide to Uncorking Your Memorable Wine Tour is one handy reference book.  

Steve spent the last 18 months visiting more than 225 wineries and tasting hundreds of wines as he traveled from Walla Walla to Woodinville and from Lake Chelan to Lopez Island. His book suggests 32 different “tasting trails” around Washington state.

I’ll try to blog more about this book after I have a chance to read it!


Wonderful Woodhouse Wine Weekend

What a wonderful “Woodhouse Wine Weekend” this has been! The experience began on Friday night. After working very late, we opened a bottle of Kennedy Shah 2005 Merlot from Woodhouse Family Cellars in Woodinville. It was so amazing that we easily polished off the bottle.

Winemaker Tom Campbell really scored with this smooth wine. Here are his tasting notes: A medium weight Merlot with raspberries, blueberries, smoky earth and spice on the nose and palate. Bright acidity supports the fruit through the palate and into the finish. The wine will find natural pairings with many foods from earthy vegetarian dishes to meat based dishes with beef or pork.”

My “Woodhouse Wine Weekend” continued on Saturday. I stopped by Woodhouse Family Cellars to say hello to owner Bijal Shah, and there was Tom himself, crafting some old-world style blends in the barrel room. 

I sat down with both of them, heard some fascinating stories and tasted some incredible wines. The tasting room was very busy on Saturday, despite a downpour and threats of snow!

I’ve written several posts in the past about Woodhouse Family Cellars, and I’m still as passionate, if not more so, about these fine Washington state wines.

I highly recommend that you stop by the winery, which features a tasting bar, barrel room and organic garden. If you’re lucky, Bijal will be pouring that day, and will tell you the unusal stories behind each of the winery’s five labels. In the meantime, you can read about them on the Woodhouse Family Cellars’ Web site.


And the winner is …

Erath Vineyard’s 2005 Pinot Noir Leland was the wine we drank with dinner last night. And it was everything we expected — complex, rich, powerful and elegant. Not surprisingly, Leland paired well with steak. Most Pinots would.

Once again I’m surprised — delighted is a better word — at how much Pinot Noirs have developed in the 10 years since we lived in Oregon. I don’t think such an excellent Pinot Noir such as Erath’s Leland would have been made back in those days.

The problem is that I now want to open Erath’s 2005 Pinot Noir Prince Hill. I don’t want to cellar it. In fact, I’d like to open it tonight. We are on holidays, after all. Hmmmm. What to do, what to do.


WWD: Erath Vineyards

We’re trying to decide which wine to have with our steak dinner tonight. (WWD means wine with dinner, if you’re a new reader of this blog. And welcome!)

We brought home two fabulous bottles of Pinots from our December visit to the tasting room of Erath Vineyards, southwest of Portland. I hope that by writing about both of them, the choice will become easier.

Erath’s 2005 Pinot Noir Prince Hill is a very limited selection from the vineyard’s Prince Hill reserve block. Owner and Oregon wine pioneer Dick Erath lives above the Prince Hill Vineyard, where the first Pinot Noir vines were planted in 1983. The ten best barrels were chosen for this single vineyard bottling.

Erath’s 2005 Pinot Noir Leland is from the four-acre Leland Vineyard–Erath has contracted Leland’s entire Pinot Noir crop since 1987.

Pinot Noir Prince Hill has rich, weighty and firm tannins while Pinot Noir Leland’s tannins finish soft, smooth and supple. Prince Hill is powerful and elegant with hints of marionberry. Leland also is powerful  and intense, with aromas of black cherry and a dark fruit finish.

No wonder why we can’t make up our minds!

Both wines can be opened in 2008 or cellared through 2018. And it is indeed 2008! Maybe we’ll drink both tonight?


Sokol Blosser

We loved Sokol Blosser when we lived in Portland ten years ago, so we were delighted to discover the wines these days are even better than we remembered. And we tried a holiday flight of seven wines when we visited in early December!

We have always liked Sokol Blosser’s Pinot Gris with seafood in the summer, and 2006 Dundee Hills Cuvee Pinot Gris was no exception. We also enjoyed the 2005 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, with its smooth finish. Our absolute favorite was the 2005 Estate Cuvee Pinot Noir, with its rich, lush flavors of black cherry and blackberry.

But a special treat was the unexpected Meditrina IV –a unique rich and juicy blend of Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel, a Meritage which, at $18, is a great value. We have never tasted anything like it!

What did we take home? Sokol Blosser’s Evolution (11th Edition), a blend of nine different white grapes with a unique parade of flavors. Yes, our preference is red wine. But in the spring, when we have our first taste of Copper River salmon, this will be the wine that we drink.


Domaine Drouhin

Winemaker Veronique Drouhin offers a taste of heaven in a glass at Domaine Drouhin Oregon (DDO). I have no other words to adequately describe the rich, velvety 2004 DDO Pinot Noir Laurene, which was released in September to rave reviews of “elegant,” “seductive” and “suave.” This sophisticated wine is drinkable now and anytime over the next 8-12 years. This is a special wine to savor on a very special occasion.

Since DDO’s first vintage in 1988, Veronique has handcrafted every drop of wine at Domaine Drouhin Oregon. The goal of the winery is to create a unique Oregon Pinot Noir that is true to the classic Burgundian Pinot Noir. The story of the Drouhin family’s decision to create Pinot Noir in Oregon is fascinating–do take some time to read it on their Web site.

I have no idea why we didn’t visit Domaine Drouhin Oregon when we lived in Portland in 1997-1999. But I’m very glad that my colleague Michelle pointed us in that direction when we visited the area in early December. Thanks, Michelle! Merci!


Oregon-Excellent Pinots and More

I first started writing about wine when I managed KOIN-TV’s Web site in Portland ten years ago. Of course, Pinot Noir was my wine of choice in those days, but I also enjoyed a good Pinot Gris and Chards in the summer.

My palate has changed immensely since then–partly because of my wonderful sister’s exquisite palate for expensive Cabs and partly because of an incredible trip to Bordeaux in 2005. These days my wines of choice are Bordeaux-style blends from Washington state and robust Cabs, followed by Cab Francs and Syrahs. (Of course, I’d never turn down a glass of red from Chateau Margaux or from Del Dotto in Napa Valley.)

So I was most interested to see how I’d feel about the wineries in the Portland area when we visited in early December — for the first time since we moved from there in 1999.

My conclusion? Oregon wineries still make a wonderful Pinot Noir. No surprise there. In fact, the Pinots are even better now than they were ten years ago. But they also make some nice blends.

Because our time there was limited, we only visited wineries near Portland. In the days ahead, I will be blogging about some old favorites such as Sokol Blosser Winery and some new discoveries such as Domaine Drouhin.

As mentioned in a previous post, I made the decision in December to blog about wines of the northwest in 2008 — from Oregon to British Columbia. 


Arlington Road, Baer, Cuillin Hills and Edmonds Winery

As you’ve probably gathered from my recent posts, St. Nick’s weekend in Woodinville was an outstanding event. In addition to the wineries that I’ve already blogged about, we also visited Arlington Road Cellars, Baer Winery, Cuillin Hills Winery and Edmonds Winery.

Arlington Road Cellars’ signature wine is its red MONOLITH. The 2004 vintage is a traditional Bordeaux-style blend, and received critical acclaim. Arlington Road’s winemaker is Matthew Loso, considered one of Washington finest winemakers and also known for his superb wines at Matthews Cellars

I’ve blogged several times about Baer Winery because we’re big fans of the signature 2004 Ursa, a velvety Bordeaux-style red that may be enjoyed now or cellared for up to 10 years. During St. Nick’s weekend, we learned that the 2005 Ursa, which will be released in April, is showing well in its early previews.

Considering that my favorite wines tend to be Bordeaux-style blends and robust Cabs, and Dave’s favorites tend to be Bordeaux-style blends and big Merlots, we were surprised to discover that Syrahs tended to lead the pack for both of our palates at St. Nick’s. New to us was Cuillin Hills–and we highly recommend The Dungeon 2005 Syrah — a “mouth-filling, hedonistic wine” that is best with a good meal.

Last, but not least, came Edmonds Winery with its 2005 Cab-Merlot blend. Ten percent of all retail sales of this blend (60% Cab and 40% Merlot) are pledged to Food Lifeline. 

And by the way, on January 20, Edmonds will be releasing its 2005 Syrah, with 10% of all purchases donated to Food Lifeline. Visitors are also encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item or a cash donation to Food Lifeline. Call 425-774-8959 for more information.


DeLille Cellars

DeLille Cellars, one of the premier wineries in Washington state, is often compared to the best chateaux in Bordeaux. It is no coincidence that the winery recently was named on four Top 100 lists: Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, the Robb Report and Seattle’s Paul Gregutt.

The winery is not often open to the public, so the tasting room was packed during St. Nick’s weekend. And no wonder — the wines being poured were superb; the warm appetizers and cheese-and-cracker table, awesome; and the chateau was beautiful as big white snowflakes descended on it.

We found the 2005 Doyenne Grand Ciel Syrah excellent, and simply had to order a bottle. The Doyenne 2005 Aix was rich and delicious, and the smoky, silky 2006 Chaleur Estate Blanc exceeded my expectation of a complex white wine.

Yes, DeLille Cellars lives up to its glowing reputation, and then some. We are looking forward to returning to the release party in February.