Seattle Wine Awards

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We all know that Washington state makes some fabulous wine, and is the second largest producer in the country, after California. There is so much good juice in this state, it’s often difficult to pick the best of the best – we have so many favorites.

So when the prestigious Seattle Wine Awards are announced, we always have pride – and fun – looking at the list. The tasting panel included Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine, Professors of Viticulture & Enology, Wine Journalists, Wine Directors, Corporate Buyers and Wine Shop Proprietors.

We’ve tried many of these wines, but not all of them.  How many have you tasted? Congratulations to the Double Gold winners, listed here in alphabetical order:

Double Gold

  • 37 Cellars 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington
  • Airfield Estates Winery 2011 Sweet Riesling, Yakima Valley
  • Airfield Estates Winery 2009 Merlot, Yakima Valley
  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2012 Crawford Viognier, Columbia Valley
  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2012 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Shepard’s Mark, Horse Heaven Hills
  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2010 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Quarry Butte, Horse Heaven Hills
  • Amavi Cellars 2010 Les Collines Syrah, Walla Walla Valley
  • Amavi Cellars 2011 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley
  • Ambassador Vineyard 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Angel Vine 2010 The Hellion, Columbia Valley
  • Angel Vine 2010 Alder Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel, Washington
  • Apex Cellars 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • Arbor Crest Wine Cellars 2010 Dionysus, Columbia Valley
  • Arbor Crest Wine Cellars 2010 Dionysus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • Array Cellars 2011 Chardonnay Dijon Clone, Yakima Valley
  • Barili Cellars 2010 Double Barrel Red, Rattlesnake Hills
  • Barons V Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • Bartholomew Winery 2012 Uplands Vineyard Aligote, Snipes Mountain
  • Bergevin Lane Vineyards 2010 Wild Child Merlot, Columbia Valley
  • Bergevin Lane Vineyards 2010 Princess Syrah, Walla Walla Valley
  • Blooms Winery on Whidbey 2010 Poetic, Columbia Valley
  • Blooms Winery on Whidbey 2012 Blush, Rattlesnake Hills
  • Brian Carter Cellars 2011 Oriana, Columbia Valley
  • Brian Carter Cellars 2010 Opulento, Yakima Valley
  • Bunchgrass Winery 2009 Triolet, Walla Walla Valley
  • Bunnell Family Cellar 2008 Vif, Columbia Valley
  • Bunnell Family Cellar 2009 Malbec, Wahluke Slope
  • Bunnell Family Cellar 2008 Boushey-McPherson Syrah, Yakima Valley
  • Cadaretta 2011 sbs, Columbia Valley
  • Cairdeas Winery 2012 Sparkling Viognier, Columbia Valley
  • Cairdeas Winery 2012 Reserve Nellie Mae, Columbia Valley
  • Camaraderie Cellars 2009 Grâce, Columbia Valley
  • Camaraderie Cellars 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • Caprio Cellars 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
  • Castillo De Feliciana 2012 Vino Verano, Columbia Valley
  • Cave B Estate Winery 2010 Cuvée du Soleil, Columbia Valley
  • Cave B Estate Winery 2010 Merlot, Columbia Valley
  • Cave B Estate Winery 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley
  • Cave B Estate Winery 2010 XXV Merlot, Columbia Valley
  • Celaeno Winery 2008 Both Barrels Minick Vineyard Syrah, Walla Walla Valley
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle 2011 Ethos Late Harvest Riesling, Columbia Valley
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle 2011 Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle 2010 Cold Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle 2009 Ethos Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • Claar Cellars 2010 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, Columbia Valley
  • College Cellars 2012 Stan Clarke Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Ice Wine, Walla Walla Valley
  • College Cellars 2012 Mourvedre Rosé, Walla Walla Valley
  • College Cellars 2012 Stan Clarke Vineyard Semillon, Walla Walla Valley
  • College Cellars 2012 Stan Clarke Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Walla Walla Valley
  • College Cellars 2012 Scholarship White, Walla Walla Valley
  • College Cellars 2012 Muscat Ottonel, Walla Walla Valley
  • Columbia Crest 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • Columbia Crest 2010 H3 Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills
  • Convergence Zone Cellars 2010 Squall Line, Red Mountain
  • Corvus Cellars 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Cougar Crest Estate Winery 2008 Cougar Hills Vineyard Anniversary Cuvée, Walla Walla Valley
  • Cougar Crest Estate Winery 2008 Cougar Hills Vineyard Merlot, Walla Walla Valley
  • Coyote Canyon Winery 2010 Primitivo, Horse Heaven Hills
  • DaMa Wines 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • DaMa Wines 2009 Syrah, Columbia Valley
  • Davenport Cellars 2009 Continuity, Columbia Valley
  • Davenport Cellars 2009 Merlot, Rattlesnake Hills
  • DeLille Cellars 2010 Harrison Hill, Snipes Mountain
  • DeLille Cellars 2010 D2, Yakima Valley
  • DeLille Cellars 2010 Doyenne Signature Syrah, Yakima Valley
  • Desert Wind Winery 2010 Merlot, Wahluke Slope
  • Desert Wind Winery 2011 Sangiovese, Wahluke Slope
  • Dineen Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley
  • DiStefano Winery 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley
  • Double Canyon 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills
  • Dubindil Winery 2010 Syrah, Columbia Valley
  • Dunham Cellars 2011 Lewis Estate Vineyard Riesling, Columbia Valley
  • Dunham Cellars 2008 Merlot, Columbia Valley
  • Dusted Valley Vintners 2010 Rachis Syrah, Columbia Valley
  • Dusted Valley Vintners 2010 BFM, Wahluke Slope
  • Dusted Valley Vintners 2011 Mourvedre, Wahluke Slope
  • Eaglemount Winery & Cider 2008 Eaglemount Red, Wahluke Slope
  • Efeste 2010 Final Final, Columbia Valley
  • Efeste 2010 Ceidleigh Syrah, Red Mountain
  • Elevation Cellars 2009 Jammin’, Columbia Valley
  • Elevation Cellars 2010 Stone Tree Vineyard Black Peak Tempranillo, Wahluke Slope
  • Eleven Winery 2010 Malbec, Horse Heaven Hills
  • Eleven Winery 2010 Sweet Sarah, Washington
  • Ellanelle Wine Co. 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
  • Fidelitas Wines 2010 Optu Red, Red Mountain
  • Fidelitas Wines 2010 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Finnriver NV Spirited Apple Wine, Washington
  • Five Star Cellars 2007 Stellar, Walla Walla Valley
  • Five Star Cellars 2010 Malbec, Walla Walla Valley
  • Fort Walla Walla Cellars 2009 Treaty, Walla Walla Valley
  • Foundry Vineyards 2009 Artisan Cab, Columbia Valley
  • Gamache Vintners 2010 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley
  • Gamache Vintners 2009 Merlot, Columbia Valley
  • Gard Vintners 2011 Grand Klasse Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley
  • Gecko Cellars 2012 Rosé of Barbera, Wahluke Slope
  • Gifford Hirlinger 2009 Estate Malbec, Walla Walla Valley
  • Gifford Hirlinger 2009 Estate Merlot, Walla Walla Valley
  • Ginkgo Forest Winery 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Wahluke Slope
  • Goose Ridge Estate Winery 2010 Riesling Ice Wine, Columbia Valley
  • Goose Ridge Estate Winery 2011 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley
  • Goose Ridge Estate Winery 2011 Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley
  • Goose Ridge Estate Winery 2010 First Flight, Columbia Valley
  • Gordon Family Estate 2009 SIX, Columbia Valley
  • Gordon Family Estate 2009 Merlot, Columbia Valley
  • Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards 2011 Semillon, Columbia Valley
  • Helix by Reininger 2010 Phinny Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • Hightower Cellars 2012 Murray Rosé, Red Mountain
  • Hogue Cellars 2011 Late Harvest Riesling, Yakima Valley
  • Hyatt Vineyards 2010 Gorilla Zinfandel, Rattlesnake Hills
  • J & J Vintners 2011 First Release Riesling, Yakima Valley
  • Januik Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • JM Cellars 2010 Longevity, Columbia Valley
  • JM Cellars 2010 Boushey Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley
  • Jones of Washington 2012 Rosé of Syrah, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley
  • Jones of Washington 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley
  • Jones of Washington 2012 Riesling, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley
  • Kestrel Vintners 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley
  • Kestrel Vintners 2009 Rapter Red, Yakima Valley
  • Kestrel Vintners 2008 Malbec, Yakima Valley
  • Kestrel Vintners 2008 Old Vine Merlot, Yakima Valley
  • Kiona Vineyards Winery 2011 Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley
  • Kiona Vineyards Winery 2011 Chenin Blanc Ice Wine, Red Mountain
  • Kitzke Cellars 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • Knight Hill Winery 2010 Rook’s Red, Wahluke Slope
  • Kontos Cellars 2010 Stonetree Vineyard LVLL Malbec, Wahluke Slope
  • Kontos Cellars 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
  • Kontos Cellars 2010 Les Collines Vineyard Syrah, Walla Walla Valley
  • Kontos Cellars 2010 Boushey Vineyard Tate Syrah, Yakima Valley
  • Kyra Wines 2012 Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley
  • L’Ecole No. 41 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • L’Ecole No. 41 2010 Merlot, Columbia Valley
  • Lake Chelan Winery 2010 Malbec, Columbia Valley
  • Leone Italian Cellars 2009 Nebbiolo, Columbia Valley
  • Long Shadows Vintners 2010 Poet’s Leap Botrytis Riesling, Columbia Valley
  • Long Shadows Vintners 2009 Saggi, Columbia Valley
  • Long Shadows Vintners 2009 Sequel Syrah, Columbia Valley
  • Lookout Point Winery 2010 Malbec, Rattlesnake Hills
  • Lookout Point Winery NV Two Coyotes, Rattlesnake Hills
  • Lookout Point Winery 2011 Grenache, Rattlesnake Hills
  • Lopez Island Vineyard & Winery 2011 Sangiovese, Yakima Valley
  • Lost River Winery 2009 Cedarosa, Columbia Valley
  • Market Vineyards 2009 Arbitrage Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • Market Vineyards 2009 Derivative Red, Columbia Valley
  • Martinez & Martinez 2011 Selina Mechelle Orange Muscat, Horse Heaven Hills
  • Maryhill Winery 2010 Proprietor’s Reserve Sangiovese, Columbia Valley
  • Maryhill Winery 2010 Proprietor’s Reserve Zinfandel, Columbia Valley
  • Maryhill Winery 2010 Proprietor’s Reserve Mourvedre , Rattlesnake Hills
  • Maryhill Winery 2010 Proprietor’s Reserve Primitivo, Wahluke Slope
  • Maryhill Winery 2011 Riesling, Columbia Valley
  • Maryhill Winery 2010 Serendipity, Columbia Valley
  • Maryhill Winery 2010 Merlot, Columbia Valley
  • Maryhill Winery 2010 Zinfandel, Columbia Valley
  • Maryhill Winery 2010 Proprietor’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon , Wahluke Slope
  • Matthews Estate 2010 Blackboard Red, Columbia Valley
  • Mellisoni Vineyards 2012 180 Degrees, Lake Chelan
  • Mellisoni Vineyards 2012 Pinot Grigio, Lake Chelan
  • Mellisoni Vineyards 2012 45 Degrees, Lake Chelan
  • Mellisoni Vineyards 2010 Syrah, Lake Chelan
  • Mercer Canyons 2011 Riesling, Yakima Valley
  • Milbrandt Vineyards 2010 Series Tempranillo, Wahluke Slope
  • Milbrandt Vineyards 2010 Traditions Merlot, Columbia Valley
  • Milbrandt Vineyards 2011 Brothers Blend, Columbia Valley
  • Milbrandt Vineyards 2011 The Estates Viognier, Wahluke Slope
  • Milbrandt Vineyards 2010 The Estates Merlot, Wahluke Slope
  • Mosquito Fleet Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
  • Naches Heights Vineyards 2012 Riesling, Naches Heights
  • Naches Heights Vineyards 2012 Can-Can, Yakima Valley
  • Naches Heights Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Franc, Yakima Valley
  • Naches Heights Vineyards 2010 Mourvedre, Yakima Valley
  • Neufeld 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley
  • Newhouse Family Vineyards 2009 Vestige, Snipes Mountain
  • Northwest Cellars 2011 Sonatina, Columbia Valley
  • Northwest Cellars 2011 Viognier, Snipes Mountain
  • Northwest Totem Cellars 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley
  • Northwest Wine Academy 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • Northwest Wine Academy 2011 Mourvedre, Columbia Valley
  • Northwest Wine Academy 2011 Late Harvest Viognier, Horse Heaven Hills
  • Nota Bene Cellars 2010 Syrah, Columbia Valley
  • Obelisco Estate 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Obelisco Estate 2010 Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Obelisco Estate 2010 111 Nefer Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Obelisco Estate 2010 Les Gosses Vineyard Syrah, Washington
  • Palouse Winery 2010 Cabernet Franc, Rattlesnake Hills
  • Patterson Cellars 2011 Late Harvest Roussanne, Columbia Valley
  • Patterson Cellars 2012 Mélange Blanc, Columbia Valley
  • Patterson Cellars 2011 Malbec, Yakima Valley
  • Pepper Bridge Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
  • Pleasant Hill Cellars 2011 La Grande Affaire, Columbia Valley
  • Pleasant Hill Cellars 2010 Sangiovese, Columbia Valley
  • Plumb Cellars 2009 Damn Straight, Columbia Valley
  • Pondera 2009 Merlot, Columbia Valley
  • Proper Wines 2010 Syrah Estate, Walla Walla Valley
  • Reininger Winery 2009 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley
  • Revelry Vintners 2010 Cabernet Franc, Wahluke Slope
  • Rio Vista Wines 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • Robert Karl Cellars 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Horse Heaven Hills
  • Robert Karl Cellars 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills
  • Robert Ramsay Cellars 2010 Par La Mer Red, Columbia Valley
  • Rock Meadow Cellars 2010 Syrah, Columbia Valley
  • Rolling Bay Winery 2010 Upland Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Snipes Mountain
  • Ross Andrew 2009 Boushey Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley
  • Ryan Patrick Vineyard 2011 Ryan’s Riesling, Columbia Valley
  • Saint Laurent Estate Winery 2008 La Boheme, Wahluke Slope
  • San Juan Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Franc, Horse Heaven Hills
  • Seven Bridges Winery 2009 Les Collines Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
  • Seven of Hearts 2011 Hellsgate Vineyard Chateau Figareaux, Washington
  • Silvara Vineyards 2010 Riesling, Columbia Valley
  • Silver Bell Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Silver Lake Winery 2011 Roza Riesling, Rattlesnake Hills
  • Skylite Cellars 2009 Syrah, Columbia Valley
  • Skylite Cellars 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
  • Skylite Cellars 2009 Soirée, Walla Walla Valley
  • Smasne Cellars 2009 Three Vineyard Reserve, Columbia Valley
  • Smasne Cellars 2010 Lawrence Vineyard Block #3 Syrah, , Columbia Valley
  • Smasne Cellars 2010 Upland Vineyard Ice Wine, Snipes Mountain
  • Smasne Cellars 2010 Upland Vineyard Ancient Rocks Red, Snipes Mountain
  • Smasne Cellars 2010 Upland Vineyard Mourvedre, Snipes Mountain
  • Snoqualmie Winery 2012 ECO Riesling, Columbia Valley
  • Snoqualmie Winery 2012 Winemaker’s Select Riesling, Columbia Valley
  • Sol Stone 2011 Viognier, Yakima Valley
  • Sovereign Cellars 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • Spring Valley Vineyard 2010 Nina Lee Syrah, Walla Walla Valley
  • Stottle Winery 2011 Elerding Vineyard Viognier, Washington
  • Stottle Winery 2008 Elerding Vineyard Nebbiolo, Washington
  • SuLei Cellars 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
  • Tapteil Vineyard Winery 2010 Spilya Vineyard Syrah, Washington
  • Tenor Wines 2010 Two-of-Two, Columbia Valley
  • Tenor Wines 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley
  • Tero Estates 2009 Windrow, Walla Walla Valley
  • Terra Blanca Winery 2008 Arch Terrace Cabernet Franc, Red Mountain
  • Terra Blanca Winery 2008 Signature Series Red Blend, Red Mountain
  • Tertulia Cellars NV Late Harvest Semillon, Columbia Valley
  • Thurston Wolfe Winery 2011 Zephyr Ridge Vineyard Howling Wolfe Zinfandel, Horse Heaven Hills
  • Thurston Wolfe Winery 2010 Lonesome Spring Vineyard Touriga Nacional Port, Columbia Valley
  • Thurston Wolfe Winery 2012 PGV, Columbia Valley
  • Thurston Wolfe Winery 2010 Dr. Wolfe’s Family Red, Washington
  • Tildio Winery 2010 Malbec, Columbia Valley
  • Tranche Cellars 2010 Slice of Pape Blanc, Columbia Valley
  • Treveri Cellars NV Muller-Thurgau, Columbia Valley
  • Treveri Cellars NV Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut, Columbia Valley
  • Tsillan Cellars 2011 Estate Sempre Amore, Lake Chelan
  • Tsillan Cellars 2010 Estate Sangiovese, Lake Chelan
  • Tsillan Cellars 2010 Estate Syrah, Lake Chelan
  • Tulpen Cellars 2009 Merlot, Columbia Valley
  • Two Mountain Winery 2008 Copeland Vineyard Brothers No. 3, Rattlesnake Hills
  • Va Piano Vineyards 2009 Syrah, Columbia Valley
  • Veranda Beach Cellars 2012 Regatta Rosé, Washington
  • Veranda Beach Cellars 2012 Lakehouse Riesling, Washington
  • Walla Walla Vintners 2010 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley
  • Watermill Winery 2009 Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley
  • Westport Winery 2011 Airport Vineyard Fleur de Lis Pinot Gris, Washington
  • William Church Winery 2012 Viognier, Columbia Valley
  • William Church Winery 2010 2 Spires, Columbia Valley
  • William Church Winery 2010 Syrah, Columbia Valley
  • Willow Crest Winery 2011 Riesling, Yakima Valley
  • Wineglass Cellars 2007 Rich Harvest, Yakima Valley
  • Woodinville Wine Cellars 2009 Indomitable, Columbia Valley
  • Woodinville Wine Cellars 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley

For the list of the winners in all the categories, see the Seattle Wine Awards website.

Cheers!

 

Red Willow Vineyard: Part II

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In an earlier post, I described the wonderful people, the Sauer family, at Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. In the weeks ahead, I am going to write about the grapes, the terroir and more about the incredible story of the Sauer family. Right now, I’m going to tell you about how we met them in the first place.

As members of Columbia Winery’s Cellar Club, we signed up for a trip last weekend to visit Red Willow Vineyard and to join in the 25th anniversary celebrations at The Hogue Cellars in Prosser. (I’ll write about the Hogue visit in a future post.) The wine club makes this pilgrammage every year, and we highly recommend that you sign up next year. We had a fabulous time with a great group of people — wine enthusiasts from Edmonds through the Tri-Cities — and the club organizers, Michele Rennie and Dianna Murray.

The trip started in Yakima, where we gathered to take a short bus ride to Red Willow Vineyard. As I’ve mentioned before, Mike Sauer, his wife Karen and son Jon made this experience one we will always remember. First, we watched a film and a presentation about the Yakima Valley’s growth and history as a wine region. As we tasted Columbia Winery’s 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Willow and 2001 Syrah Red Willow and nibbled on ripe huckleberries, we learned about the terroir and the passion of grape growing. The respect that the Sauer family has for the soil, the slope and the climate was evident throughout the evening.

On we went to toast the vineyards with Columbia Winery’s 2000 Peninsula Red Willow, which we preferred even more than the previous vintage that we tasted last year. A fantastic BBQ in the vineyard was followed by a wagon ride to the hillside chapel, where we toasted the beautiful sunset with more excellent Red Willow wines. The chapel was built with stones from the farm and took three years to build. It proudly and distinctly stands, surrounded by hillside vines of Syrah and Viognier–both grapes were first grown in Washington state right there at Red Willow Vineyard.

The beauty of the vineyard took our breath away. The spirit of the land and the passion of the people who grow the grapes intensified our experience. At the top of that hillside, and throughout the evening, the wine club members, the organizers and our hosts, the Sauer family–all of us–shared a comraderie, a joy of the grape and the land where it grows, a love of the wine, and a deep pride in Washington state’s wine industry.

Cheers!

Red Willow Vineyard: Part III

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The terroir — what exactly does that mean? According to Wikipedia’s definition, terroir is loosely translated as “a sense of place”– the type of soil, weather conditions, grapes and winemaking, all of which contribute to give a specific personality to the wine. At Red Willow Vineyard, terroir is all of the above and then some. As mentioned in a previous post, Red Willow owner and self-proclaimed farmer, Mike Sauer defines wine as bringing the soil, the site, the season and the efforts of many people together into a single vintage.

We visited Red Willow Vineyard in early September as part of a group of visitors from Columbia Winery’s Cellar Club. Mike talked passionately to us about the terroir which he, too, described as a sense of place. He told us the story of a Texas couple who enjoyed his wine so much in Dallas that the man brought his girlfriend up to Yakima Valley to visit Red Willow Vineyard, where he proposed to her in the vineyard’s distinct chapel on a hillside surrounded by vines. Mike then told us: “Hopefully, the terroir is also part of the special memories of your life.”

In our case, it most definitely is. We were engaged at a winery — Maurice Carrie Winery in Temecula, California –long before Washington wines became my passion. We go back to Maurice Carrie because it’s a special place for us, just like Red Willow Vineyard is a special place for that Dallas couple. But something tells me that we’ll also be going back to Red Willow Vineyard for one of our future anniversaries because it became a special place to us during our visit there.

Cheers!

Red Willow Vineyard: Part IV

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When we visited Red Willow Vineyard in early September, Mike Sauer talked passionately about the history of the land in the Yakima Valley and how it was affected by the repeated Lake Missoula floods at the end of the ice age. The area that became his peninsula vineyard, with its high elevation, was above the water level and not affected by the water-deposited silt and sand like much of the valley floor. By the time the first wine grapes were planted in 1973 at Red Willow Vineyard, the lasting lesson learned was wine grapes do best on poor soil and vines love the hillsides. The success of Red Willow Vineyard, where those 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon vines are still in production, demonstrates that.

Mike told the amazing story of Red Willow Vineyard to us that day. Rather than paraphrasing it here, I will point you to it on the Red Willow Vineyard Web site. However, I will share this, which is quoted on the Web site from An Illustrated Guide to Wine:

Four things go into the making of wine, whether it be good, bad or indifferent. First of all, the soil from which the vine grows; second, the climate, particularly the sun or the amount of sunshine which shines upon the vine in any given year; third, the type of grape used in the making of the wine; and last, but by no means least, the hand of the vigneron who makes the wine. The first is immovable and permanent, the second variable, the third important, and the last human. When these four come into alignment, the result can be a near miracle, and by the grace of God this sometimes happens.

Cheers!

Red Willow Vineyard: Part V

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Those who know me well understand that I have a passion for Washington state wines and I’m also an avid Mariners’ fan. One of my all-time favorite Mariners is Edgar Martinez, whom I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of years back when I worked on the eastside of Seattle.

Those who read this blog know that I’ve written quite a few posts recently about our amazing journey to Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Imagine our surprise to learn that Gar had visited the vineyard too!

According to Red Willow owner Mike Sauer, Edgar and his lovely wife Holly visited Red Willow Vineyard a couple of years ago for a charity event on behalf of the Children’s Hospital. They toured the vineyard and picked Syrah grapes from Row 11 (Edgar’s Mariners jersey number), which was then made into wine by then-winemaker for Columbia Winery, David Lake.

Oh, and as an aside, 80 percent of Syrah in Washington state was propogated from cuttings from Red Willow Vineyard where, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the first production of Syrah grapes in the state took place in 1988.

Wine and baseball … and writing about it … combines three of my passions into one post!

Cheers!

Red Willow Vineyard

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Anyone who knows about Washington state wine should know about Red Willow Vineyard. It’s where wine pioneer Mike Sauer planted his first vineyard in 1971. It’s where Cabernet Sauvignon vines planted in 1973 are still in production. It’s where the first production of Syrah grapes in the state took place in 1988. It’s where the superb grapes are carefully tended and made into excellent wines at Columbia Winery and many others. And it’s where, we discovered last weekend, one of the nicest and most knowledgeable wine families in Washington state live.

Mike Sauer and his son Jonathan humbly refer to themselves as farmers. And indeed they are farmers, and mighty fine ones. But they are also both artisans of grape growing. And they have a joyous spirituality about their work that is evidenced in this quote by Mike on the Red Willow Web site:

“In farming there is no substitute for the soil, water, and hard work. Inherently, the nature of farming brings a spiritual dimension to our efforts. There is a connection of past, present, and future generations.

For us wine brings the soil, the site, the season, and the efforts of many people together into a single vintage. Later that vintage becomes a cherished memory of that year.”

We had the fortune and the honor to meet Mike, his wife Karen and Jonathan Sauer and to visit Red Willow Vineyard over the weekend with Columbia Winery’s Cellar Club. I will be writing several posts over the next few weeks about the experience, the grapes, the terroir and the incredible story of the Sauer family and Red Willow Vineyard.

Cheers!

Great Summer Idea: Yakima Valley Vineyard Tours

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One of our favorite vineyards in Washington state is Red Willow Vineyard – not only for the premium grapes grown there, but also for the down-to-earth (pun intended) wonderful owners Mike and Jon Sauer.

We had the privilege to spend time with the Sauers during a trip to Red Willow shortly after this blog launched in 2007. My first post discussed the Sauer family and their unique story, while the rest of the five-part series covered the terroir, the history and even Mariners baseball giant, Edgar Martinez.

So I was delighted to recently hear that more than a dozen lucky wine enthusiasts had the opportunity to experience the joy of Red Willow Vineyards and the Sauer hospitality a week ago, on July 7.

The Red Willow event was the first in a four-vineyard series conducted by the Wine Yakima Valley Association, whose executive director Barb Glover reported: “Owners Mike and Jonathan Sauer shared the inspiring story of their work operating one of the most historic vineyards in America, and why the Yakima Valley is one of the world’s true ‘sweet spots’ for wine grape production.

“This kind of experience is normally reserved for visits by influential members of the wine trade and the media. But the 30th anniversary of the Yakima Valley’s designation as Washington State’s first official wine region is on the near horizon; so we want to celebrate by opening some farm gates and sharing with the wider world how we have grown to greatness as a regional wine industry.”

After the Red Willow tour came the DuBrul Vineyard on July 14. The two remaining tours will be held at Upland Vineyard (July 21) and Boushey Vineyard (July 28). Tickets for each event are $75 and can be found at the Wine Yakima Valley website.

It’s been our experience that vineyard visits are always something to cherish for many years to come.

Cheers!

Tripping to Red Willow

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We are really looking forward to what promises to be an amazing weekend in eastern Washington after Labor Day. On Friday, we are joining Columbia Winery’s annual pilgrammage to Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Our hosts Mike and Karen Sauer will tell us about their vineyard and share some of the excellent wines that Columbia Winery has produced from their grapes. Then there will be a barbeque in the vineyard and an incredible experience for anyone: 360-degree views of the spectacular sunset in that part of Washington state.

The next day, we’ll travel to Prosser, wine tasting along the way of course, until we reach The Hogue Cellars, where we will join their 25th anniversary celebrations. We really enjoyed our last trip to Hogue in April–this time, we’ll have the treat of tasting some of their library wines and a picnic-style lunch.

The Columbia Winery tour ends at that point, so we will head to Walla Walla that afternoon for another round of tastings at our favorite wineries: Forgeron Cellars, Reininger Winery, Goose Ridge Estates and Three Rivers Winery (we adore their 2003 Meritage) … to name a few. There are many more.

Maybe we’ll be luckier this time and find Long Shadows Vintners open for tastings. That’s been on our list for a long time, but the winery hadn’t opened yet when we were there in April. We’ve been anxious to taste the 2004 Pedestal Columbia Merlot for months. I just noticed their Web site says it’s sold out, but hopefully there is some left for tasting at the winery!

Cheers!

Syrah Saturday

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Syrah grapeFor the first time in many months, we went wine tasting on Saturday in Woodinville, where Syrah was both king and queen. Our tasting tour took us to see old friends and meet new ones at Efeste, William Church, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Obelisco, Barrage Cellars and Darby. Each winery featured a fine lineup of Washington wines, but according to our palates, Syrah took the lead every time.

Efeste: Winemaker Brennon Leighton continues to excel at a number of Syrahs crafted for Efeste. 2008 Jolie Bouche hails from one of Washington’s finest, Boushey Vineyard, and was rated 95 points by Wine Spectator, while 2008 Ceidleigh is a rich wonder from Red Mountain, rated 93 points by Wine Spectator.

William Church: Co-owner and winemaker Rod Balsley creates Syrah once again with his trademark flair. His “Jennifer” 2008 Syrah was sourced from three premium vineyards: Dineen Family, Red Willow and Stillwater Creek.  This Syrah, complex, dark and aromatic, was co-fermented with Viognier, resulting in an elegant mouth-feel and 90 points from Wine Enthusiast.

Alexandria Nicole Cellars: Block 17, creatively crafted by co-owner, winemaker Jarod Boyle, has always been on our list for heavenly Washington state Syrah. The 2008 vintage is no exception, with its dark red, inky color and a wonderful balance of luxury and delicacy. Jarrod notes that Block 17 is young and bold, so decant first, if you drink it prior to 2012.

Obelisco: This relative newcomer to Washington state offers 2008 Estate Syrah that explodes with robust flavor from the southwest corner of Red Mountain. This dark beauty, with moderate tannins, received 90 points from Wine Spectator and 90 points from Wine Enthusiast.

Barrage Cellars: The newly released 2008 Eclipse Syrah is another favorite, which is no surprise since the fruit comes from Les Vignes De Marcoux Vineyard, the sister vineyard to the Sauer Family’s Red Willow Vineyard. Barrage owner-winemaker Kevin Correll worked his wonders with the grape, and the result is one fine Eclipse Syrah.

Darby: Darby English’s 2008 Aunt Lee Syrah was released just two weeks ago, and it’s already drinking well. This dense 100% Syrah is lush and smokin’, and (in Darby’s own words, and we totally agree), delicious!

Four years ago, Washington wine pioneer and self-proclaimed farmer of Red Willow Vineyard, Mike Sauer told us that 80% of  Syrah in Washington state was propogated from cuttings from his vineyard, where the first production of Syrah grapes in the state took place in 1988.

Syrah, whether spicy or smoky, pairs well with beef, BBQ, pork, game and spicy foods. Enjoy!

Cheers!

Wines for Thanksgiving

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carlton Wine Country, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine, Zinfandel Comments Off

Wondering what wines to share over the Thanksgiving holidays? A special bottle to take to a family dinner or an evening with good friends? Here is our list of current favorite red wines of different vintages.

But first, a note: We strongly believe that people should drink whatever varieties of wine they want, red or white. Our preference for Thanksgiving happens to be robust red wines – some with a bit of funk, such as 2009 Reynvaan In the Rocks Syrah, and some that are rich and smooth, such as 2009 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon.

In addition to those two beauties, here are the wines (in alphabetical order) that we recommend for Thanksgiving – all are from Washington state unless otherwise noted as from Oregon.

What’s on your list of Thanksgiving wines?

Cheers!

 

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