ZAPpy for Zin

If you like Zinfandel, the ZAP festival was the place to be in July. People with a zest for zin braved last month’s heat wave to try Zins from 40 California wineries at the beautiful Arboretum at South Seattle College. (Thankfully the location offered lots of shady trees to escape the harsh sun.)

The range of Zins was breath-taking. I soon discovered that I prefer the complex, big Zins to the lighter ones. We had several favorites – and most of them tended to be blended with some Syrah. (Are we used to Washington wines, or what?)

  • Mauritson Wines (Healdsburg) – Zins from three single vineyards, each with different soils; we loved them all and enjoyed talking to winemaker Clay Mauritson too. He is passionate about his wines – it’s not surprising that so many of them have received accolades.
  • Michael & David Winery (Lodi Vineyards) – Great wine, unforgettable wine names and great Zins – from Earthquake to Lust to 7 Deadly Zins. And extra points for marketing the brands – dozens of people at the event had stickers “Lust” and “7 Deadly Zins” plastered on their hats, their shirts and even their wine glasses!
  • Trentadue Winery (Alexander Valley) – Most value – 2005 Sonoma County Zinfindel won a double gold at the 2007 Sonoma County Harvest Fair and according to my notes, only cost about $14. This Zin was blended with 20% Petite Syrah and 4% Syrah.
  • Steele Wines (Lake County) – The first Zin I ever tasted was from Steele about 10 years ago; more recently, in 2007, we discovered Writer’s Block at a restaurant in Napa Valley. As a writer, reading the wine label was as much fun as tasting the wine! Buy a bottle and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Cline Cellars (Sonoma) – Seriously, who hasn’t heard of Cline wines? You can find many of their wines in grocery stores in Washington state. But try the 2007 Big Break Zin, which received 89 points from Wine Spectator.


Kitsap Wine Festival a Success

The best news about the first annual Kitsap Wine Festival is that it will be back in 2010 in Bremerton. And it’s an event we recommend that you attend each year.

Located on the waterfront at the beautiful Kitsap Conference Center, Sunday’s wine festival was a celebration of 35 wineries from Washington and Oregon and some of the best food we have enjoyed at such events. (Amazing seafood appetizers from Anthony’s Homeport and smoked specialties from Crimson Cove were our favorites, but it all was delicious!)

Harborside Fountain Park was gorgeous, the weather cooperated, the music by North End JazzQuintent was much appreciated, and the spirits were high.

Terry Halverson, general manager of the conference center, told the Kitsap Sun that tickets to the event were in such demand that someone even posted a Craigslist ad requesting four of them.

We enjoyed all the wines we tasted, but a special shout-out goes to:

If you get a chance, try to taste these wines yourself in the near future.


Sensational Syrah from Chateau Ste. Michelle

I don’t often blog about Chateau Ste. Michelle because the Washington winery has such a high profile and is very a well-known brand, and I tend to write about smaller wineries. But we recently pulled out a bottle of their limited release 2005 Syrah Wahluke Slope and I simply just had to share its beauty here!

We started the evening by pairing this fine Syrah with sharp cheese, and then moved onto barbequed steaks. Luscious. Jammy. Smoky. Plush.

And from the tasting notes: “Hints of warm boysenberry fruit and roasted espresso grace this soft Syrah. Plush on the palate, this wine is fleshy, viscous and mouth-filling. It is a tribute to the Wahluke Slope style of fruit – forward and jammy.”

No surprise that Chateau Ste. Michelle 2005 Syrah Wahluke Slope  received 90 points from Wine & Spirits. And the good news – you can still buy a bottle – but be fast – it is a limited release!


Wine and Theatre

If you love theatre and you enjoy wine, this event is for you! Intiman Theater is currently holding a production of The Year of Magical Thinking, based on the national best-selling book by Joan Didion.

On Sept. 9, you can enjoy a pre-show wine tasting by Maryhill Winery — Gewurztraminer, Sangiovese, Reserve Cab Franc and Reserve Malbec will be paired with hors d’oeuvres from Center House Bistro in the theatre’s private reception room in the upper lobby.

The event begins at 6:30 – and in the words of the organizers – “Wine Wednesday? Wine not?”

More information is available at the Intiman Theater website.


Beethoven + Wine Festival

This summer seems to be the time to add wine to all kinds of events – from the theatre to the symphony. Yes, the symphony!

Seattle Symphony is holding a three-day festival, Sept. 9-11, to kick off its fall schedule. Some fine Northwest wines are being paired with – you guessed it from the title of this blog post – the music of Beethoven at S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium.

Concert tickets start at $9, and the wine tasting is $5 for four pours. The wine tasting begins at 6:30 p.m. each evening, followed by the performances at 7:30 p.m.

Gerard Schwarz will lead Seattle Symphony in all three programs, which will feature two great Beethoven works without intermission. The Symphony website has more information.

So if you enjoy the symphony and you’re a wine enthusiast, this event is for you!


Update: Wine, Harborside, with Benefits

Wine, harborside, with benefits, oh my! It’s hard to believe that the first annual Kitsap Wine Festival is almost here. I first blogged about it more than a month ago, and now it’s just around the corner.

The Kitsap Wine Festival will be held this Sunday, Aug. 23, at Harborside Fountain Park near the ferry landing in Bremerton. The benefits?

  • A portion of ticket proceeds will benefit Harrison Medical Center Foundation. A worthy cause! Tickets are $45 and can be purchased online or at Kitsap Conference Center.
  • If you take the ferry from downtown Seattle, you don’t need a car, because the wine festival takes place right next to the ferry terminal along the marina.
  • It’s a celebration of beneficial wine from dozens of wonderful Washington wineries.
  • And there’s beneficial food such as Amy’s Chocolates from Bremerton, Crimson Cove Smoked Specialties from Poulsbo and cuisine prepared by Chef Marsha Henry of Kitsap Conference Center and Chef Shawn Walker of Anthony’s at Sinclair Inlet.

These are the wineries that will be pouring: Balboa, Camaraderie Cellars, Chateau Ste. Michelle, DiStefano Winery, Domaine Ste. Michelle, Dusted Valley Vintners, Forgeron Cellars, Gordon Brothers Cellars, Hard Row to Hoe, Hightower Cellars, J Bookwalter, Mercer Estates, Novelty Hill, Olympic Cellars, Revelry Vintners, Snoqualmie, SYZGY, Thurston Wolfe Winery, Vin du Lac, Whidbey Island Winery, Yellow Hawk Cellar and Zero One Vintners.

We hope to see you there!


Wine, Dogs and Cats for a Cause!

There’s a party for the animals this weekend – and it involves wine! Bonza Bash Summer 2009 will benefit  The Seattle Humane Society, and juice will be flowing from Washington wineries such as Darby, DiStefano, Sparkman Cellars, Barrage Cellars and Bookwalter, in addition to Australian wines, The Black Chook and Woop Woop.

The fun begins Saturday (Aug. 22) at 8 p.m. at Seattle’s Fremont Studios with wine tasting and appetizers; dancing “to old school and new school beats” begins at 11 p.m. and goes through 2 a.m.  There also will be raffles and a silent auction including restaurant and spa gift certificates, winery packages and tickets to sports events.

The Seattle Humane Society will benefit from ticket sales, raffles, silent auctions and donations. And you know what a good cause this is — the shelter in Bellevue gives healthy and adoptable animals as long as it takes for staff to find them homes, regardless of their age, breed or beauty. We know this from first-hand experience because we have two shelter dogs.

Two items to note:

  • All previous Bonza Bash events have sold out quickly, so you are encouraged to purchase tickets soon at the Bonza Bash Summer 2009 website.
  • There’s a “Red, White and Bright” dress code of colorful summer cocktail attire


Want to go back to Goosecross Cellars

Goosecross Cellars in Napa Valley has been into social media for a long time. That’s a great thing – all wineries should have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, in my opinion. Even better, Goosecross also has a blog and a podcast, which is awesome.

As a result, I’m inundated with the news at Goosecross Cellars – I know what’s going on in the valley, I learn about new releases and events and … it makes me want to go back to Goosecross Cellars. NOW.

Unfortunately, we can’t. But fortunately, we bought some wine when we were there in May.

So we recently opened a bottle of Goosecross 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to complement our barbequed steaks. This wine is lush, rich and a perfect example of why Cabernet is King in Napa Valley.

A few weeks back, we enjoyed a bottle of Goosecross 2006 AmerItal Red, an American Italian blend of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Barbera that paired nicely with Dave’s delicious spaghetti.

And now, with another heat wave on the horizon, I wish we had also bought Goosecross Cellars 2007 Sauvignon Blanc to help us cool off on the deck!

So I’ll say it again – we want to go back to Goosecross Cellars!


Seattle Release Party for Col Solare

We met Col Solare‘s resident winemaker, Marcus Notaro, at the Auction of Washington Wines picnic at Chateau Ste. Michelle yesterday, and we had an opportunity to taste their just-released 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon blend. We also met Gracie, who is the friendly manager of the @Col Solare Twitter account. (More on Twitter in a minute!)

All I have to say is this: If you like  full-bodied red blends, try this one at Col Solare’s release party on Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. at the Palace Ballroom in Seattle.

Want to know more? Col Solare is a complex blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Syrah. And it’s the first vintage made start-to-finish at their Red Mountain estate winery.

But don’t let me influence you – look at the tasting notes and decide for yourself: Aromas of black cherry, currants, and blackberry blend with subtle notes of vanilla and milk chocolate. Tannins are rich and refined on the finish, a characteristic of Red Mountain fruit, with flavors of berries, black fruit, and cocoa.

Tickets to the release party are $30, or you can follow @Col Solare on Twitter, like I do, and ask how you can enter the contest to win free tickets.

And while you’re at it, you can follow me on Twitter too: @writeforwine

And yes, I will write more soon about the AWW picnic!


Smasne Cellars-An Experience and Education

If you’re fortunate enough to stop by Smasne Cellars on a day when both winemaker Robert Smasne and viticulturalist Dr. Alan Busaca are in the tasting room, plan on staying awhile. Because this dynamic team will educate you – in a captivating way – while you taste their magnificent wines.

Alan was there on the day we visited. With every word he spoke, this man oozed passion for the terroir and the role of soils in viticulture. As we tasted pours from the Alma Terra label, Alan told us about the Alma Terra project “that expresses terroir in every glass.”

Our Alma Terra tasting comprised of 2006 Syrahs from three northwest vineyards: Ciel du Cheval in Red Mountain, Coyote Canyon in Horse Heaven Hills and Minick Vineyard in Yakima Valley. For this project, grapes for each wine were treated the same way — from harvest to crush to fermentation to barrel and bottle.

These identical practices were combined with the unique climate, soils and geography of each vineyard. As a result, you can truly taste the differences in terroir. And as you know, terrior, along with great wine-making, is what makes every bottle of wine unique.

Because Alan was in the house when we visited the tasting room, we focused on the Alma Terra wines and didn’t taste any of the Smasne Cellars  wines, or wines from Smasne’s value-priced Farm Boy label. 

So I can guarantee that we will go back. And one day we hope to meet Robert too. He is a legend in Washington state and currently consults or custom-makes wine for 14 different labels in the northwest.