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!