Washington State Wine: Quick Facts

As mentioned in an earlier post, we attended media day for Taste Washington recently. We were given an electronic press kit (in a really cool flash drive in the shape of a wine bottle) that contained some quick facts about Washington state wine. The facts — courtesy of the Washington Wine Commission — are pretty interesting, so I wanted to share them with you.

Quick Facts

• Washington State ranks second nationally in wine production

• Washington State wineries: 534 today

• Washington State wine grape growers: 350

• The Washington State wine industry contributes more than $3 billion to the state economy annually

• Full-time equivalent wine-related jobs:14,000

• Wine-related wages paid: more than $466.4 million

• Estimated 2004 production has a retail value of more than $684.9 million

• Leading red varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese

• Leading white varieties: Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier

• Red to white wine grape ratio: 56% white to 44% red


Page Cellars

We stopped by Page Cellars in Woodinville again last weekend and could not decide which wines to buy because they were all incredibly good quality. We ended up purchasing the outstanding 2004 Limited Edition Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which is robust with plenty of fruit  and balanced by velvety soft tannins. We also took home another bottle of Page’s signature wine, 2004 Preface — a blend of 90% Cab and 10% Cab Franc, which I’ve written about in previous posts and is still a favorite.

But it was a tough choice because we also loved the 2003 Libra da Carta and the two Syrahs from Page Cellars — the 2004 Syrah from Columbia Valley and the recently released 2005 Lick My Lips Syrah. Great name, eh?

Page Cellars was packed last Saturday, but it felt more like a wine bar than a tasting room. People didn’t just stop by, have a few sips and leave –they hung around, chatting to each other and to the engaging owner, Rothelle Page, who was smiling broadly as she poured tastes non-stop to the welcoming crowd of wine enthusiasts. We’re looking forward to going back again soon — hope to see you there.


JM Cellars is Awesome

I’ve written about JM Cellars a few times in the past: about their new releases in January and about their fabulous Saturday tastings that we could never seem to get to. Well, our luck finally turned — we visited their friendly tasting room for the last two consecutive weekends! And we can now officially add our voices to the clamor — JM Cellars is awesome!

Thankfully we pre-ordered JM Cellars new release (2005) of its popular flagship blend, Tre Fanciulli, because 275 cases produced for this vintage have already sold out. JM Cellars has been crafting Tre Fanciulli since 1999. Tre is Italian for three treasured boys, and the wine was named in honor of the three sons of owners/winemaker John Bigalow and his wife Peggy.

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. I’m not sure we can wait that long!

We also purchased the 2005 Columbia Valley Cuvee, which is a Bordeaux-style blend of 44% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cab Franc, 6% Malbec and 6% Petite Verdot. As I’ve written before, we also enjoy JM Cellars 2005 Merlot, which has depth in its Red Mountain flavors bursting with cherries.

But JM Cellars is a must-stop tasting room in Woodinville for more than its fine wines. The tasting room staff are friendly, fun and knowledgeable (a can’t-beat combination), the grounds are pretty, and the appetizers are delicious. And to our delight, JM Cellars is now open for tastings on Sundays, as well as Saturdays, from noon until 4 p.m. We will be going back there soon for sure.


WWD: William Church 2005 Cab

We’re not surprised that William Church’s 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon hit the right notes with us. Although it was our first taste of William Church wines, we’re very familiar with consulting winemaker Matthew Loso, who also creates magic for Arlington Road Cellars and of course, his own awesome label, Matthews Estate.

We had this premium Cab the other night, thanks to my nephew Mathew who occasionally brings his exquisite palate and his friends to Seattle to go wine-tasting with us. He’s mentioned William Church to us several times, but the tasting room was usually closed to the public, so we never experienced it. And we somehow missed the release weekend earlier this month. The good news — the tasting room is now open on the first Saturday of every month through Oct. 4. So my dear nephew stopped by for a pour last weekend and was kind enough to bring a bottle to our house later that evening. Thanks, Mathew!

I must say that William Church’s 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon was worth the wait. It’s a robust Cab made from grapes from the Conner Lee and Stillwater Vineyards in the Columbia Valley.  As the tasting notes say so well: “2005 was an amazing year for wine in Washington and this wine is no exception.”

This Cab can be paired with all meals that go well with full-bodied reds. But it also does well on its own with tasty cheese. In fact, this Cab paired so well with Parmesan Reggiano that I didn’t even want to eat dinner! Hence lies the question: can this post really be included in the WWD (wine with dinner) series?


Taste Washington-Media Day

The Washington Wine Commission held an amazing media tasting to kick off their promotion of Taste Washington,  which will be held at Qwest Field on April 5 and 6. For details about Taste Washington, have a look at my previous post about the event — and buy your tickets now.

The media tasting was held at Hotel 1000 in a meeting room that featured three tables filled with bottles of Washington state wine and one table of some amazing appetizers from the hotel’s hot BOKA Kitchen and Bar. The wine was flowing and the appetizers were in abundance  — I wish I had BOKA’s recipe for the most incredible scallops that I have ever tasted!

Back to the wines … I decided to only taste wines that I have never had before. (Yes, that put a major limit on my choices!) My absolute favorite was from Nicholas Cole Cellars — the 2004 Camille from Columbia Valley. After tasting the superb Bordeaux-style blend, I totally understood the many accolades given to the 2004 Camille: 92 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, 90 points from Wine Spectator and #32 on Paul Gregutt’s Top 100 list.

The 2004 Camille blends 64% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon. I could not describe it any better than the tasting notes: “The 2004 Camille oozes with decadence.  This wine, with layer upon layer of balanced fruit and spicy oak blended with aromas of dark chocolate, fresh ground espresso and a hint of sweet pipe tobacco, will entice your senses.  Intense, dark color, with a complex structure embracing velvety tannins leads to a long caressing finish.  One of our most sophisticated wines to date, your palate will desire more of this silky, sensuous Bordeaux style wine.”

We also very much enjoyed the 2004 Fidelitas OPTU and the Otis Kenyon 2005 Syrah.

These were just three of 850 wines from more than 200 of Washington’s fine wineries that will be pouring at Taste Washington next month. You do not want to miss it. We won’t!

In the next few weeks, we also intend to stop by Studio 1000, across from BOKA in Hotel 1000, to try out the Bites & Flights menu one evening soon. So watch this blog for more information!


WWD: BLT from Woodhouse Family Cellars

Last June, I wrote a blog post about BLT Barrel Select, a superb, subtle and structured red blend from Woodhouse Family Cellars. The BLT Barrel Select is 75 percent Cabernet and 25 percent Malbec. But it was only available for sale in Washington state in June for members of Woodhouse Family Cellars’ wine club. The only other place you could find it was at New York’s BLT Restaurants: BLT Steak, BLT Fish and BLT Prime.

A few weeks ago, I found a bottle that I had stashed in the back of our cellar. So we opened it up to have with our spaghetti dinner. It was just as good as I remembered it. Better really, with eight more months on the shelf.

And the good news continues — BLT is for sale again at Woodhouse Family Cellars. We were at a wine club release party last night, and my nephew from Vancouver bought a few bottles. Next time you’re in Woodinville, stop by Woodhouse’s tasting room. You’ll be glad you did!


Taste Washington-Tickets On Sale Now!

Another fabulous annual weekend wine event in Washington state is Taste Washington, from the Washington Wine Commission, on April 5 and 6 at Qwest Field. The Grand Tasting on Sunday features 850 wines from more than 200 of Washington’s fine wineries, each pouring up to three of their wines. More than 75 Seattle-area restaurants also will be on site serving tantalizing dishes.

In addition to tastings, this don’t-miss event is a great opportunity to learn more about the state’s wine industry — Saturday is packed with seminars by wine makers, enological experts and even wine celebrities. One seminar that I don’t want to miss is an ode to Columbia Winery’s David Lake, one of the most influential wine makers in Washington, who helped guide this state’s industry to its current worldwide status. 

Other exciting seminars feature Gary Vayernchuk of Wine Library TV fame and Riedel CEO Maximillian Riedel who will lead of tasting of wines in various glasses.

We had the pleasure of attending Taste Washington Media Day last week, so I have lots more to write about this great event. But I wanted to start now by encouraging everyone to get their tickets now!

We hope to see you there — Cheers!

Washington Wine Highway-Get Tickets Now!

Tickets have gone on sale for the great Woodinville annual wine event called Washington Wine Highway over the Memorial Day weekend. We went last year and decided it was one of the best of the many wine events we attended in 2007.

What is Washington Wine Highway? It’s held on Saturday and Sunday, May 24 and 25, on the beautiful grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. Four regional pavilions are set up on the grounds, designed to follow the highway route between Woodinville and Walla Walla, and representing the nationally recognized terroirs of Walla Walla, Puget Sound, Yakima Valley, Red Mountain and Columbia Valley. The pavilions showcase the wines, restaurants and tourist industries of each area.

It’s an excellent opportunity to try wines from eastern Washington without leaving western Washington, while at the same time, enjoying your Woodinville favorites too. And when you taste an excellent wine — and there are lots of them made in our state — you can purchase a bottle right at the site.

Check out the Washington Wine Highway Web site for the list of 80 participating wineries and 40 restaurants. This is one event that you will not want to miss! You can purchase tickets for one day or both. There’s also an early bird ticket price, which is worth considering because tickets sell out fast.

We hope to see you there — Cheers!

So much to say, so little time

Last Thursday evening, we attended the Washington Wine Commission’s media event prior to the big Taste Washington extravaganza on April 5 & 6, and finally met Thad of Beyond the Bottle, my co-founder of BOWW — Bloggers of Washington Wine.

We loved the Washington state wines and the fabulous scallops from Boka at Hotel 1000 — and I intend to write more about this event in the next week or so.

In addition, today we visited some of our favorite wineries: Woodhouse Family Cellars, JM Cellars, Di Stefano Winery, Columbia Winery and more. We tasted some fabulous wines — but I can’t seem to find the time to write about them all quite yet.

I’m far behind because I was out of town for much of February. Please have patience — I’ll write about all these fine wines and events as soon as I can catch my breath!


Pedestal vs. Maghee and Kennedy Shah

We finally opened our bottle of 2004 Pedestal Merlot from the Long Shadows Vintner Collection. This fine Columbia Valley wine was created by Michel Rolland, Pomerol vintner and consultant to many of the world’s most famous wineries. The wine was excellent — full-bodied, complex and concentrated. It was the perfect wine for a special occasion.

However, we both noted that we enjoyed the 2003 Maghee Merlot from Woodhouse Family Cellars just as much. Maghee was as elegant and full-bodied as Pedestal, and at a far better price point.

And these days, I prefer the Kennedy Shah 2005 Merlot, also from Woodhouse, to any merlot on the market.

Don’t get me wrong — the Pedestal Merlot was excellent and I highly recommend it. But if you’re looking for a less expensive wine that is similar in richness, try the Maghee. Or if you want a smooth, medium-weight merlot, taste Kennedy Shah. You will not be disappointed.