Wines, Wonderful WA Wines

We recently tasted some new Washington state wines – by new, I mean the wines were either new releases or new to us. For example, over the last couple of weeks, we tried the lush 2006 L’Ecole No 41 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, the fun red blend 2007 Riot from Trio Vintners and the 2006 Syrah from Desert Wind, with concentrated flavors of blackberry and chocolate.

We also attended a party for Efeste‘s new releases of their fabulous Syrahs, Jolie Bouche and Ceidleigh, and at Full Pull Wines, we experienced a preview taste of the new — and amazing — Block 17 Syrah from Alexandria Nicole Cellars.

Add in a first visit to the recently opened restaurant/wine bar Sip Seattle this weekend, where Fidelitas Cab was as wonderful as promised. And next week, JM Cellars is releasing the last of their 2007 reds: the popular Tre Fanciulli, Cabernet Sauvignon (Red Mountain), and Boushey Vineyard Syrah.

In other words, there is lots to blog about – and I will, so please watch for it! The last couple of months have been more than busy, but it’s time to starting writing often again!


Portland Indie Wine & Food Festival

The award-winning Portland Indie Wine & Food Festival is back for its sixth time on May 8th. How on earth did we miss the first five festivals? (I have a soft spot for Portland, because I first started writing about wine in 1997 when I wrote a column for KOIN-TV’s web site.)

This event showcases 40 jury-selected Oregon craft wineries and benefits the Indie Wine Foundation, a non-profit organization to preserve and sustain the art of craft winemaking.

In March, a jury of renowned wine experts, celebrity chefs and journalists will gather in Portland to evaluate the entries. To qualify, the wineries must produce only 2,500 cases or fewer each year. The selected wineries will be announced on April 2.

At the May festival, 15 of Portland’s top chefs will prepare tasty bites to pair with the wine. And to make it even more interesting, the festival has partnered with Hotel Vintage Plaza to offer a special indie wine package that includes wine-flight certificates at Pazzo Ristorante.

Even though the festival doesn’t occur until May 8th, tickets are on sale now — which should tell you something about this popular event! General admission tickets are $75 per person for a tasting glass, festival passport and access to pours from all wineries and food from all featured restaurants. You can also follow indiewinefest on Twitter.

Hope to see you there!


Mark Your Calendars for Seattle Food & Wine Experience

We are really looking forward to Seattle Food & Wine Experience on Feb. 28 at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. This major food and wine event has so much to offer that I have a feeling we will be there for the entire time (from 1 – 5 p.m.).

Where to start? With wines, of course – Seattle Food & Wine Experience offers more than 1,000 wines from 10 different countries, including pours from 25 Washington wineries, 15 Oregon wineries and 50 California and International wineries. You can see who is pouring on the event’s website.

In addition, there will be gourmet samples from chefs and restaurants, including Campagne, Ray’s Boathouse, Earth & Ocean, Andaluca, Ponti Seafood Grill, John Sarich of Chateau Ste. Michelle, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, The Hunt Club, Pearl Bar & Dining, Cicchetti Kitchen and Bar, Artisanal Brasserie and The Artisanal Table, Salty’s on Alki, Copperleaf Restaurant, Blackfish, Pike Place Brewing Company, TASTE Restaurant, Maximus-Minimus, Frost Doughnuts and Beecher’s Cheese.

Oh, and did I mention there will be a Starbucks Coffee and Music Lounge, and an Artisan Beer garden, featuring regional and international breweries and cider companies?

The cost is $49 per person. A portion of proceeds will benefit Beecher’s Flagship Foundation, which gives support to non-profit organizations that provide education about the benefits of all-natural foods.

And then there’s this nice opportunity too: Ticket buyers will be entered into a drawing for the chance to win a wine touring package for 10provided by Butler Transportation.

Hope to see you there!


Tweet-up Continued at William Church Winery

After the Woodinville wine tweet-up at Alexandria Nicole Cellars, most of us went across the way to William Church Winery to taste their wines too. Owners Rod and Leslie Balsley were on hand to greet us, and poured some of their recent releases: the popular 2007 Bishop’s Blend, 2007 “2 Spires” and ’07 Yakima Syrah.

Rod was in his element, standing by the barrels and discussing winemaking with the wine tweeps – a captive audience indeed! Leslie was also chatting with everyone and discussing social media – again the Twitter-addicted audience was captive.

And then we were treated to a pre-release tasting of William Church’s 2008 Malbec – wow! I’ve tasted it a few times, starting when it was still in the barrel, and it definitely has the wow-factor! We also tasted a pre-release of their second Cabernet. While it was still a wee bit tight, it is so absolutely promising. We absolutely adored their 2005 Cab; my sister kept a bottle that I gave her and I’m hoping she’ll open it when we’re back visiting her in Vancouver.

These are the wonderful tweeps who also gathered at William Church:  @YasharSeattle @Shona425 @WABrokers @nwwineandre  @DivaTink @winebeerWA @beanfair and @NWwines. (I, obviously, was there too @WriteforWine)


Tweet-up at Alexandria Nicole Cellars

Seattle-area wine bloggers and enthusiasts on Twitter gathered for a wine tweet-up yesterday in the Woodinville tasting room of Alexandria Nicole Cellars. We had to limit the amount of people who attended, because ANC was kind enough to give us a table in the back room based on my membership in their wine club (and I didn’t want to impose)!

These are the wonderful tweeps who gathered at ANC: @Shona425 @WABrokers @nwwineandre @YasharSeattle @SeattleWineGal @DivaTink @winebeerWA @beanfair @NWwines @incrediblechef and @Smalllot. (I, obviously, was there too @WriteforWine)

To our surprise — because frankly, we invited ourselves — Kathie, our friendly and knowledgeable host at Alexandria Nicole Cellars, had set up a beautiful table for us and asked Rob from Russell’s to pair his tasty treats with ANC wines. The wine was flowing and the pairings were delicious. What an event!

We tasted 2008 Sauvignon Blanc,’08 Crawford Viognier, ’08 Shepards Mark, ‘07 Merlot, ‘07 Syrah, ‘07 Quarry Butte, ‘06 Cabernet Sauvignon,  and an ’08 Syrah Ice Wine. Looking at tweets today, the 2007 Quarry Butte was the favorite – not surprising since ANC just won a gold award for it at the San Francisco Chronicle’s Wine Competition – one of the premium wine contests in the country. In fact, ANC won awards for all eight of the wines they entered into the 2010 competition – and 4,900 wines were entered!

For more details about our tweet-up: NWWinesandRE posted more on her blog and several people posted photos of the tweeps, the wonderful wine, and the fine food:


Wines Over the Holidays

Over the holidays, we love to pour some of our favorite wines. This holiday season was no exception. On New Year’s Eve, we cherished that coveted 2005 AEROS Meritage from Goosecross Cellars in Napa Valley, while Goosecross’ rich 2006 Cabernet Franc was enjoyed a few days earlier. On Boxing Day, another special bottle from Napa Valley was shared: Hall Wines 2006 Jack’s Masterpiece Cabernet Sauvignon.

But, not surprisingly, the majority of our wines in December and early January came from Washington state. Here they are, in alphabetical order, in case you’d like to try them in 2010. (Note: Some of them, unfortunately for us, are already sold out.)

We look forward to new releases and library wines from Washington state and Napa Valley in 2010! Happy New Year!


Play it Again in 2010

Regular readers of this blog know that Dave and I have three criteria for what we think makes a Washington state winery special: fine wine, great people and terrific events. And we’ve been fortunate to find a few wineries that exceeded our expectations and whose owners, winemakers and staff have become our friends. It is these wineries and people to whom we tip our hats and say play it again in 2010!

Special thanks to (in alphabetical order):

  • Airfield Estates: We were delighted to hear that our friends at Airfield Estates in Prosser are opening a tasting room in Woodinville in 2010, so that more people can experience their wine. Winemaker Marcus Miller, his father/owner/grape grower Mike Miller, and assistant general manager Amy Sonnichsen were wonderful hosts on our visits to the winery. Mike heralded us with incredible stories about the airport hangar and its history, while Marcus and Amy enthusiastically took us behind the scenes during crush. We’re big fans of their Bombshell Red and the Aviator, to name just a couple.
  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars: Mr. Big Petite Sirah is a favorite in our house, and there are a dozen other beyond-excellent ANC wines too! Don’t just take our word for it – ANC won KING TV’s Best Winery in Western Washington and many other awards in 2009. A special shoutout to Jarrod and Ali Boyle and the wonderful people, such as Kathie Statler, in the tasting rooms in both Prosser and Woodinville. And props to the ANC wine club, Vida Johansen and her crew, for the incredible club parties and special features that members enjoy.
  • Efeste: Our hardest decision at Efeste is whether we prefer Jolie Bouche or Ceidleigh, because both Syrahs are so luscious. And then there’s Big Papa and Feral and the list goes on. In addition, Efeste throws such terrific events that we actually faced rush-hour traffic from Seattle to Woodinville to attend one of their week-night parties. Everyone associated with Efeste is so much fun – from Brennon Leighton (winemaker) to all the owners — Daniel and Helen Ferrelli, Kevin and Angie Taylor and Patrick Smith.
  • Gilbert Cellars: We first met Sean Gilbert at an event called Sexy Syrah at Salty’s a couple of years ago. His winery – and his wines – have exploded since then. Gilbert Cab and Cab Francs are definite must-haves for our special dinners. Gilbert Cellars tasting room is also a wine bar and a must-stop for us in Yakima and/or on the way to Prosser and Walla Walla. Sean and his promotion/sales manager Anders Zwartjes have shared stories and glasses with us in the last couple of years – and we look forward to more.
  • JM Cellars: We’ve been fans of Tre Fanciulli and Bramble Bump Red for a few years now. But in 2009, we also fell in love with JM’s Sauvignon Blanc – an amazing feat since we rarely drank white wine before we discovered this beauty.  And while we’re just getting to know John and Peggy Bigelow, we’ve been big fans of Paige and Lisa in the tasting room as long as we can remember. Beyond fans, we consider them friends.
  • Page Cellars: Rothelle Page has been warm and welcoming to us from the first day we met her, and her winemaker husband Jim has created some unique wines that we love including Red Zepplin Cab Franc and Preface Cab Sauvignon. Plus their band, Nice Legs (as in wine legs), rocks the house at events and features son Brett Cummings on saxaphone. 
  • William Church Winery: From an amazing Malbec to some incredible blends, we always have a bottle of William Church on hand in our house. Owners Leslie and Rod Balsley are truly a delight – a combination of talent, fun and smarts. They’re also winning the hearts and minds of local bloggers, holding tweetups and blogger gatherings with barrel tastings and syrah meatballs to line up for! Winemaker Rod, along with assistant winemaker Marcus Rafanelli, create exceptional wines and with Leslie, turn their events into a wonderful experience.
  • Woodhouse Family Cellars: From Bijal and Sinead Shah to winemakers Tom Campbell and Jean-Claude Beck, we’ve always been made to feel like part of the Woodhouse family. We’re huge fans of Dussek Cab, which is also a favorite of my sister in Vancouver. And then there’s the velvety Darighe – we’re hoarding vintages of this opulent wine!

We also want to say Happy New Year to our new friends at Goosecross Cellars, David and Colleen Topper. We spent hours talking to them about wine and social media when we were in Napa Valley last May – and we know we’d see them frequently if we lived closer. David and Colleen are fantastic – and their wines, made by Geoff Gorsuch, frequently grace our table. We opened their rich Cab Franc over the holidays and started our New Year’s Eve celebration with their artisan AEROS. A visit to their Napa winery is an experience we recommend to anyone headed that way in 2010.

So Dave and I thank all of you for sharing your wines and your stories with us. We lift our glasses to you – Happy New Year … and play it again in 2010!