Mais Oui, Montreal!

Regular readers of this blog know that while I’ve lived in Washington state for the last decade, I grew up in Vancouver, B.C. It’s not unusual to read about Washington state wines in Vancouver newspapers. But in Montreal? Tres extraordinaire!

So I was delighted to discover a feature-length article about Washington state wines in the Montreal Gazette on April 27.

“You might know it as the home of Microsoft, the birthplace of Starbucks or where Kurt Cobain redefined rock ‘n’ roll. But Washington State also makes wine, and lots of it. With more than 500 wineries and 12,000 hectares of vines, after California it is the second-largest wine producer in North America. Here in Quebec, it is largely unknown. … A friend who knows his wine toured the state last year and told me there is something “very special” going on there. So when the Washington Wine Commission invited me to go check things out, I did.”

In the informative article, author Bill Zacharkiw describes the terroir, the climate of long, hot days and cool nights, and the structure of Washington state wine with a “distinctly European feel as opposed to the chewier, low-acidity New World style.” He lists Washington’s most-planted grapes as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay and riesling, while noting that in more recent years, syrah and other varietals ranging from mourvèdre to tempranillo have become popular.

You can read the entire five-page article on the Gazette‘s Web site. I can guarantee it will leave you feeling proud of our wine industry.


Spring Release Weekend

Walla Walla features more than 60 wineries and as many vineyards. It’s also the place to be for Spring Release Weekend on May 2-4. For all the details, check out the events page on the Web site of Walla Walla Wine News .

You’ll find winemakers’ dinners, art displays and even a sock hop for members of L’Ecole 41‘s wine club.

But of course, spring release weekend is all about the wine. And the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance has a convenient printable list of every winery that will be open for the weekend festivities.

With so many wineries in Walla Walla, how do you choose the ones to visit? Again, Walla Walla Wine News has made it easier with a Spring Release Weekend 08 Must-See List.

Enjoy the hospitality and the fine tasting rooms, while experiencing new vintages of Walla Walla’s quality wines.


Sexy Syrah at Salty’s

Last night, we attended our first “Sexy Syrah at Salty’s” event in West Seattle, and now we understand why it sells out quickly every year.  This was the 7th year for the popular event, and we will go back for the 8th! The Syrahs, the view from Salty’s on Alki Beach and Salty’s appetizers were awesome, and on top of all that, the event was a fundraiser for FareStart, a job training and placement program for homeless and disadvantaged people.

Forty northwest wineries were pouring, including some of our favorites that I’ve written about before and will write more about in the weeks ahead: Forgeron Cellars (we’ve loved Forgeron’s food-friendly wines for a couple years now and we finally met winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla, who is simply charming in addition to being a winemaker extraordinaire!); Reininger Winery (we met Chuck Reininger, whose 2005 Syrah is sumptuous and who writes the best tasting notes!); Kestrel Vintners, Chandler Reach Vineyards, Lost River Winery, Windy Point Vineyards, Hogue Cellars, and Di Stefano (one of the first Washington state tasting rooms that we visited when we moved here 10 years ago).

As it turns out (and not surprisingly, considering that this blog is about northwest wine), we had already tasted wines from more than half of the wineries that were represented at Salty’s, so we wanted to try some that were new to us. Of those, the one that stood out the most was Gilbert Cellars, a Yakima winery that was started in 2004 by brothers Sean and Nate Gilbert.

We had a nice chat with Sean, whose passion and enthusiasm were evident with every word he spoke. And after tasting Gilbert’s 2005 Estate Syrah, we were hooked. In the next couple of weeks, we are going to try more of their wines — so look for more blog posts about Gilbert Cellars, along with some of our other favorites from “Sexy Syrah at Salty’s.”


Did you go to Passport or Taste Washington?

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend either of these awesome Washington wine events after all. Did you go? What are your thoughts? What were your favorite wines and/or wineries? Did you meet any interesting winemakers? Other industry peeps? New friends? Did you get to wineries that aren’t usually open to the public? How were the appetizers at Passport wineries? (They were awesome at St. Nick’s wine weekend last December!)

Please share your thoughts and observations about Passport and/or Taste Washington with all my readers, since I wasn’t there! On the bright side, I am planning to attend Washington Wine Highway next month!


If you like Cab Franc…

Woodhouse Family Cellars released their first Reserve Cab Franc recently and what a release it is! Winemaker Tom Campbell hit another one out of the ballpark! (Can you tell that it’s baseball season again?)

Tom is one of the original Washington state winemakers and uncle of Bijal Shah, the personable owner of Woodhouse Family Cellars. We’ve been fans of Tom’s Darighe, Tempranillo, Syrah and Merlot for a couple of years now.

A couple of weekends ago, we had a great evening at the packed Woodhouse wine club release party for the Reserve Cab Franc. The wine was flowing, along with many entertaining and informative stories from Tom and Bijal.

Shortly afterward, I was delighted to read a comment by Bob on a recent post in this blog. He decided to join the Woodhouse wine club “to take advantage of their Cab Franc.”

If you are a fan of Cab Franc, I recommend that you head to the tasting room at Woodhouse Family Cellars in Woodinville pronto!


WWD: JM Cellars Cuvee

We opened our bottle of JM Cellars 2005 Columbia Valley Cuvee with dinner on Friday night (WWD=wine with dinner) and wow, was it good. Of course, regular readers of the Write for Wine blog know that our favorite wine is Bordeaux-style blends (or Bordeaux reds themselves). And this Cuvee is a fine blend of 44% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cab Franc, 6% Malbec and 6% Petite Verdot.

We had the Cuvee with Chicken Provolone for dinner. It’s not something that I would have specifically paired at all. But we started the meal with a wee bit of sharp cheese and it was marvellous. And being a Friday night, we were too tired to open a different bottle. And guess what? The Cuvee went well with chicken too.

We will definitely be buying another bottle or two the next time we visit JM’s tasting room in Woodinville.


Cave B at Sagecliffe

We’re really looking forward to seeing Cave B Estate Winery at Sagecliffe this weekend. It will be our first visit to — according to the Web site — “a place where you can experience all that the land has to offer. Where the arts are celebrated and the imagination sparked. A place where you can share a glass of wine with the winemaker, savor gourmet cuisine, be moved by music.

Cave B is located at the Columbia River and 1-90’s entry to Washington wine country. We’re attending a meeting there, but there will also be time for wine tasting and barrel tasting, too! We’re not sure which wines will be open for tasting, but we’re hoping to try Cave B’s Bordeaux-style blend, Cuvee du Soleil and the Syrah.

I expect to write more when we return. Cheers!

Wines from four wineries

We had a great wine weekend recently, but my computer crashed in a big way, so I haven’t been able to write about the details. I will start to blog again as soon as I can get caught up on another computer.

Briefly, we started out at a release party at Mark Ryan Winery, stopped by Alexandria Nicole and Di Stefano and wound up the evening at an amazing party at Woodhouse Family Cellars.

I’m looking forward to writing about some awesome reds! Until then …