Free Wine Tastings!

Super Bowl Sunday brings more than just football to Washington wine enthusiasts. Several Woodinville wineries are offering free tastings and other activities to celebrate the big day.

Woodhouse Family Cellars offers a “SuperBowl Sunday Special” of complimentary tasting all day and the unveiling of their new Kennedy Shah Blend, La Vie en Rouge. The name honors the newest member of the Woodhouse winemaking team, the charming Jean-Claude Beck, whose motto is “No boring wines.” We’ve tasting this fine blend and really enjoyed it.

Alexandria Nicole Cellars will have the game on and will offer two special “football wine flights” of two-ounce pours during the game – Pittsburgh Steelers Flight ( 2005 Syrah, 2006 Quarry Butte and 2006 Merlot) and Arizona Cardinals Flight (2007 Viognier, 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, and 2007 Shpherds Mark).

DiStefano Winery is also offering free tastings and discounts on selected wines all day on “Superbowl Sunday.” Two of their family wines (both are reds) – 2004 Domenica and 2004 Donna Maria — are reduced to $19.99 from $27.99 for one day only.

If you know other wineries with Sunday specials, please comment on this post!


Washington Wines Rock! – Wine Event

We’re going to what sounds like an amazing event at Efeste Wines in Woodinville next Saturday, Feb. 7 that’s called Washington Wines Rock! As regular readers know, that is also pretty much the theme of this blog. We are unabashed cheerleaders of wine from this great state. So of course, we are going to be there next Saturday!

The fun begins at 3 p.m. and the proceeds from the $25 tickets go to a great cause — the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

So what exactly is the event? Seven wineries are pouring 3-7 samples, including some pre-release tastings. There will also be good music by the band “Creeping Time” and brick oven pizza. What more could you want? Here are the wineries participating so far: Efeste Wines, Sparkman Cellars, Sleight of Hand Cellars and K Vintners.

The event is limited to 300 people, so buy your tickets here soon — or stop by Efeste’s winery this weekend to pick them up! And if you go to “Washington Wines Rock,” look for us and say hello!


A Toast to Monolith 2006

Over the holidays, we lifted our glasses in a special toast to Ken and Robin Nydam, even though we’ve never met them. The reason for the toast was sad, unfortunately – we were drinking 2006 Monolith from their recently closed winery, Arlington Road Cellars.

As I mentioned in early December, we stopped by their tasting room during St. Nick’s weekend and learned the doors were closing that weekend. What bad news! We purchased a couple of bottles of 2006 Monolith for only $25 — and now I wish we had even more.

In my opinion, the 2006 vintage surpassed the first release (2004), which received critical acclaim. This traditional Bordeaux-style wine blends Cabernet Sauvignon (66%), Merlot (21%), Cab Franc (11%) and Petit Verdot (2%).

So we once again toast Arlington Roads and wish Ken and Robin the best in the future.


Tamarack Cellars

The next time you go to Walla Walla, be sure to stop by Tamarack Cellars, located in a restored World War II fire station and barracks at the airport complex. And while you’re there, try their signature Firehouse Red – chances are, you’ll take a bottle or three home with you.

Each vintage of Firehouse Red garners great reviews – it’s been described as bursting with flavor, expressive, fine value and outstanding. But my favorite description is from Tamarack’s website: “Year in and year out, it’s like partying with an old friend.”

The 2007 vintage is called “the ultimate food wine, pairing well with everything from pasta and pizza to grilled meat and roasted chicken.” We drank the 2006 Firehouse Red with pasta over the holidays. This full-bodied wine is a fruit-filled blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (34%), Syrah (30%), Merlot (21%), Cab Franc (8%), Sangiovese (3%), Carmenere (2%) and Malbec (2%). I could be wrong, but I think the Carmenere might set this wine apart from so many others.

Carmenere originally came from the Medoc region of Bordeaux and later came to Chile. These days, small amounts of this ancient Bordeaux varietal are grown in the Walla Walla Valley. It’s a great blending grape that I hope to see more often in Washington wines in the future.


Cheers for Chatter Creek!

Once again my marvellous nephew, Mathew, introduced us to a winner — Chatter Creek, which we finally had a chance to visit during St. Nick’s weekend earlier this month. As I mentioned at the time, owner and winemaker Gordon Rawson poured us some very balanced, fruit-forward wines and one of our favorites was 2005 Chatter Creek Blend 105.

We brought some home with us and decided it was perfect to open it during the holidays. The bottle modestly calls it “red table wine.” Well, yes it is, but so much more! This is a balanced blend of Merlot (39.6%), Cabernet Sauvignon (35.8%), Malbec (7.2%), Cab Franc (12.4%) and Petit Verdot (5%). And what a finish. Here are the tasting notes:

“This wine sparkles with bright, ruby color. Ripe and forward, a blend of violets, cassis, and black cherry, jump from the nose. Good acid on the attack of this wine carries through the lead pencil and quartz notes, warming to plummy cherry and blueberry fruit. The finish continues the interplay of the fruit and terroir, framed in by notes of toasted almonds and vanilla bean. A wine that boasts of tremendous balance and attentive winemaking.”

According to Gordon, when he makes blends, “I let whimsy take me where it will.” We adored it! And with a $22 price point, we recommend you stop by their tasting room in Woodinville and pick up a bottle or more.


Another Wonderful Washington Cabernet

We’ve been fans of Page Cellars for a long time. From their signature Preface Cabernet to their awesome blend called Libra, we’ve enjoyed their wines for several years. But our absolute favorite is Page Cellars Limited Edition Cabernet Sauvignon — and the recently released 2005 vintage is sky-high amazing. (Owner Jim Page was a corporate pilot before founding Page Cellars with his wonderful wife, Rothelle.)

Only 96 cases of 2005 Limited Edition were produced. We purchased some during St. Nick’s weekend last month, and opened a bottle to accompany our steak dinner over the holidays. This wine is impressive. Here are the tasting notes:

“Blackberry, currant and cassis rumble across the palate while balanced soft grained tannins finesse the finish, twenty one months aged in French oak and fifteen months to develop its bottle bouquet.”

We will no doubt be heading back to Woodinville soon, and hopefully we will be able to catch up with Rothelle and bring some more bottles of 2005 Limited Edition home with us.


Have You Been Snoothed?

Snooth is an extraordinary wine database that, in my opinion, should be bookmarked by wine enthusiasts and everyone in the wine industry. In my research and writing about Washington state wines, I always come across references to Snooth, which features millions of reviews and hundreds of thousands of wines.

I’m obviously not the only one who is a fan of this site. Here are some stats, recently released by president Philip James in his Snooth blog:

“In December 2008 we had 616,477 unique users use our site and over the course of 2008, our first full year of operations, had the pleasure of serving 2,508,254 unique individuals. These numbers represent a greater than 400% growth rate year over year.”

His predictions for 2009: Snooth will grow its monthly user base to more than 1,000,000 users per month and — take note, wine industry friends — Snooth will generate wine sales of more than $50 million.

Check out the Snooth database now — have your wines been snoothed?