A New Fave: William Church

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A few months ago, my wine-expert nephew Mathew from Vancouver visited us, so of course we took him to Woodinville. He came with us to our usual haunts but when we went to an exclusive wine party, he headed out with his friends for pours at other tasting rooms.

We met up again later that evening, where he opened a William Church 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. It was awesome. But when we returned to Woodinville a couple of weeks later (and again and again after that), William Church was not open. Unfortunately, many tasting rooms are closed on Sundays, which is the day we’re usually able to go there.

Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago, when my wine-expert sister (mother of my wine-expert nephew) asked me if I left her “an incredible bottle of wine from William Church” while she was in Spain. Sadly, the answer was no. It must have been her son, my nephew.

All this to say that I became even more bound and determined to get to the William Church tasting room in Woodinville. And finally we were successful over Labor Day weekend! We were not disappointed. The wine was fantastic, assistant wine maker Marcus Rafanelli was friendly and duly proud of the wines, and we were happy to take some wine home with us.

We will be going back soon too because we were invited to a release party for the 2006 William Church Syrah (just named in the top 100 wines in Seattle Metropolitan) and 2006 William Church Malbec on Sept. 12 and 13.

These wines are winning rave reviews! And I couldn’t agree more.


Rose, eh!

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As warm weather edges its way into the Northwest, we’re starting to experiment with a very small number of white wines and rosés — perfect to pair with prawns or parmesan and a wonderful way to spend a sunny afternoon on the deck with our three dogs.

As regular readers know, I am from Vancouver, B.C., so a wine that has “eh” in its name is bound to intrigue me. A wine with “eh” in its name, with Matt Loso as a winemaking consultant, is going to interest me even further. Then add into the mix Page Cellars, which is one of our top five favorite wineries in Woodinville, and you know I am going to check out this wine for summer drinking!

Syrah Rose, eh, from Wahluke Slope Vineyard, is described as “Thirty six hours on the skins to develop the rich Ruby Red Color. Refreshingly off dry, broadens through the mid-palate to finish with distinct Syrah aromas. Dominated by Raspberry, with layers of plum and blackberry. Not your grandmother’s Rose-eh! 75 cases released.”

In anticipation of the toasty weekend, we cooled Page Cellars’ Syrah Rose, eh for a few days and then paired it with Reggiano Parmesano, introduced to me by my nephew, Mathew. (I’ve written in previous posts about Mathew’s excellent palate. It turns out that he also has excellent taste in cheese. He also has an affinity for Matt Loso’s other wines at Matthew Cellars. I’m not sure that my nephew would approve of a rosé, but maybe he’ll comment on this post to let me know.)

Syrah Rose, eh is one of the few rosés that we like — another is Columbia Winery’s Rosé of Sangiovese, which is a bit drier. Would we drink a rosé on a regular basis? No. But on a hot summer day on the deck with a good book and some cheese, most definitely!

Last summer, when we tried a rosé for the first time in years, I wrote: “If you had told me a year ago that I would recommend one, I would have laughed. But here I am saying give it a try.” One year later, I feel the same way!


WWD: William Church 2005 Cab

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We’re not surprised that William Church’s 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon hit the right notes with us. Although it was our first taste of William Church wines, we’re very familiar with consulting winemaker Matthew Loso, who also creates magic for Arlington Road Cellars and of course, his own awesome label, Matthews Estate.

We had this premium Cab the other night, thanks to my nephew Mathew who occasionally brings his exquisite palate and his friends to Seattle to go wine-tasting with us. He’s mentioned William Church to us several times, but the tasting room was usually closed to the public, so we never experienced it. And we somehow missed the release weekend earlier this month. The good news — the tasting room is now open on the first Saturday of every month through Oct. 4. So my dear nephew stopped by for a pour last weekend and was kind enough to bring a bottle to our house later that evening. Thanks, Mathew!

I must say that William Church’s 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon was worth the wait. It’s a robust Cab made from grapes from the Conner Lee and Stillwater Vineyards in the Columbia Valley.  As the tasting notes say so well: “2005 was an amazing year for wine in Washington and this wine is no exception.”

This Cab can be paired with all meals that go well with full-bodied reds. But it also does well on its own with tasty cheese. In fact, this Cab paired so well with Parmesan Reggiano that I didn’t even want to eat dinner! Hence lies the question: can this post really be included in the WWD (wine with dinner) series?


Cheers for Chatter Creek!

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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.


William Church Winery

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This is a blog post that I’ve been meaning to write for a long time: William Church Winery offers unique wines from wonderful people. Owners Rod and Leslie Balsley live true to their mission, creating limited productions of “wines that are approachable and delicious upon release but will also express themselves well over time.”

We first tasted William Church’s 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon in March 2008, thanks to my nephew Mathew in Vancouver, who was an early fan of William Church wines. I’ve written about these wines frequently — including that 2005 Cab (last September), the delicious 2005 Bishop’s Blend (I just bought a couple more bottles yesterday) and the soon-to-be released 2 Spires (can’t wait!).

Rod and Leslie are as friendly as their wines are indeed approachable. Whenever I visit, we never seem to have enough time to talk about everything they are interested in – the grape, of course; the art of blending; wine education; Woodinville wineries and events; Washington wine; and more recently, the importance of social media to the wine industry.

They recently joined Twitter @wmchurchwinery. And their talented and friendly assistant winemaker, Marcus Rafanelli, also manages their Facebook presence.

And that’s not all! Rod has a great sense of humor and always leaves us laughing – and he’s also intelligent, smart and handsome. (And no, he didn’t pay me to write that, but it was a dare!) And of course, Leslie matches Rod on every one of those attributes!

But the bottom line – I’ve always blogged about how Dave and I favor wineries with three important aspects – awesome wine, great people and fun events. William Church Winery has it all. Keep your eye on their new releases coming out soon!


William Church Winery-Try These Wines Over the Holidays

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Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 4.37.35 PMWe’ve been fans of William Church Winery since March, 2008, when our wine-expert nephew, Mathew, came to visit us with a bottle of their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon.

It was awesome, so we made a point to visit their tasting room in Woodinville’s winery warehouse district — William Church was one of the eight original warehouse wineries.

Unfortunately, this was not an easy feat at the time because they were only open on Saturdays.

But that situation didn’t last long; soon the tasting room was open more frequently, and then three years later, in July 2011, William Church opened their second tasting room in Woodinville’s Hollywood Schoolhouse wine area.

Fast forward to today, and we’re extremely happy to say that William Church Winery is one of Washington state’s success stories.

We recently visited their Schoolhouse tasting room, which is open every day (and until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), and it was thriving; packed with people cheerfully drinking some amazing juice.

This was the first time in a couple of years that we tasted their entire lineup, and wow! Winemaker (and co-owner) Rod Balsley has always produced quality wines, but these days, that quality has risen to a new level.

Rod currently produces seven award-winning wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Viognier and three blends: 2Spires, Bishop’s Blend and Sur La Mer.

We love all of them because they are solid, stand-alone sippers and also phenomenal when paired well with food.

2013 Viognier: This flagship wine has always been one of Washington state’s best examples of Viognier. Somehow, this Viognier is both rich and fresh, and understandably named one of Seattle Metropolitan‘s Top Washington Wines Under $25.

CabSauv22012 Cabernet Sauvignon: We brought this wine home to pair with a good meal — perhaps a juicy steak or a savory roast over the holidays. As mentioned, we’ve loved this classic Cab Sauv since the 2005 vintage, and it just keeps getting better and better.

2012 Syrah: Another perennial favorite, this Syrah is rich and full-bodied, and tastes the way a good Syrah should: balanced, with smoke and spice, and simply delicious. We first wrote about the 2006 Syrah, which was named in the Top 100 wines in Seattle Metropolitan.

2011 2Spires: William Church was one of the first Washington wineries to produce a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon (two wines=two spires). In the 2011 vintage, the blend is 63% Syrah and 37% Cab. Think big, bold and beautiful, and a double-gold winner at the Seattle Wine Awards.

2012 Bishop’s Blend: This full-bodied, robust wine blends 55% Cab Sauv, 20% Merlot, 15% Malbec and 10% Petit Verdot. It’s a steal at $25.

2011 Sur La Mer: This Merlot-based wine has all five Bordeaux varietals in the blend. A newer wine in the lineup — 2007 was the first vintage of this classic blend — Sur La Mer is named after the seaport city in France where co-owner Leslie Balsley was born.

2011 Malbec: Unfortunately for us, the 2011 Malbec is sold out — not surprisingly, since Seattle Met called this double-gold award winning wine a “textbook example of Washington Malbec.” We first tasted the 2006 vintage, and before we knew it, William Church Malbec was recognized as the best in the state.

We encourage you to try some or all of these wines, and you’ll understand why they are award-winning. They also make great gifts for the wine enthusiasts in your life, for the hostess at your holiday parties or to serve guests in your home.


Thanks for Great Washington State Wine

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Better late than never, it’s time to share the glorious Washington state wines we enjoyed over the Thanksgiving weekend. Where to start?

On Thanksgiving Eve — that would be the night before Thanksgiving — we celebrated the start of the excellent long weekend with two of our favorite Merlots, both from Woodhouse Family Cellars: 2005 Kennedy Shah Merlot and 2004 Maghee Cellars Merlot. They’re very different, particularly in side-by-side tastings: the Kennedy Shah Merlot is medium weight “with raspberries, blueberries, smoky earth and spice on the nose and palate,” while the Maghee is more robust with “succulent rich black cherry fruit, full round soft mouth filling tannins and a smooth lingering finish.” We love them both!

On Thanksgiving Day, we began with Gilbert Cellars 2006 Estate Claret and then moved to Gilbert’s 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The Claret is a smooth blend of Bordeaux varieties from Washington state’s Wahluke slopes. The Cab is juicy, aromatic and rich.  Both wines enhanced the appetizers, delicious turkey and side dishes that were too many to name here!

The day after Thanksgiving, we were blessed with a visit from my father who lives in Vancouver (B.C.) Although he hasn’t quite developed the palate of my sister, my nephew, Dave or me, he still enjoyed the pre-dinner Three Rivers 2005 Meritage Red – possibly because this fine blend contains 12% Petit Verdot. With dinner, we sipped on another bottle of Gilbert Cellars 2005 Estate Cab, which we highly recommend.

We took a night off to recuperate from all the great food and wine, but on Sunday night we toasted the wonderful weekend with a glass of Saviah Cellars 2006 Jack. This Merlot, blended with 6% Cab Sauv, 4% Cab Franc and 2% Syrah, was Dave’s drink of choice when we were regulars at Vino Bello.  We haven’t been able to get there lately unfortunately, but we’ll be sure to stop by again to see Michele and the gang before the year is up.

Wow, think about that – with Thanksgiving behind us, it’s almost time for the holidays and 2009!


We’re Back!

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The Write for Wine blog unexpectedly took a holiday over the Labor Day weekend, but we’re back! And it’s all thanks to Louis!

The “holiday” began after we read a CNET article: “WordPress blogs falling prey to worm The worm does not affect the current version 2.8.4 and the one prior to it. And it only affects people who host their own WordPress blog.”

We host our own WordPress blog but it’s not on the current version, so our immediate reaction was to upgrade to version 2.8.4. Makes sense, eh? You’d think, except our manual upgrade didn’t quite work and the blog site went down, down, down – and remained in that dark state for two days. Two l-o-n-g days.

But then my wonderful nephew Louis came to the rescue – and voila, Write for Wine is back in business! We can’t find enough words to thank Louis, who along with the lovely Karyne, became new parents a mere one week ago when my beautiful great-niece Lyv was born in Montreal. Felicitations et merci beaucoup!

Cheers! Salut!

Mark Ryan Winery

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One of the highlights of St. Nick’s weekend earlier this month was finally visiting Mark Ryan Winery’s tasting room and having an opportunity to chat with the winemaker himself. We have tried frequently in the past to stop by the Woodinville tasting room, but it’s not always open. All I can say is it was worth the wait!

First, we tasted a barrel sample of the new 2006 Wild Eyed Syrah from Red Mountain. This powerhouse red rocked! According to the tasting notes, “Deeply colored, dense and rich, the wine exudes black plum and berries with notes of chocolate, smoke and bacon.” We wanted to take some of it home, but its release date isn’t until March. Instead, we lapped up the most delicious meatballs in the world! (Yes, in true Woodinville wine weekend style, some of the wineries went all out with excellent selections of appetizers to taste along with the wine.)

Mark Ryan himself is frequently called Woodinville’s rising star, but he’s as down to earth as he looks in photos on his Web site. I talked to him about his fabulous wines and his new venture, Guardian Cellars, with Jerry Reiner.

Back in November, we first tried Mark Ryan’s 2005 Dead Horse when my nephew Mathew, with his excellent palate, ordered a bottle with a lucious dinner at Daniel’s Broiler in Bellevue. We also read rave reviews of 2005 The Dissident. (Who wouldn’t love a wine with a name like that?) So it was no surprise that we bought a couple of bottles of those two wines to take home with us.

And we’ll be in line in March for the new 2006 Wild Eyed Syrah, most definitely!


WWD: Alexandria Nicole’s Quarry Butte

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We discovered Alexandria Nicole Cellars when the winery opened a Woodinville tasting room a few months ago. On our next trip to eastern Washington, we stopped by the Prosser tasting room; spent some time in the beautiful “Members Only” room; tasted some great new releases; and better yet, met winemaker Jarrod and his wife Alexandria, for whom the fine wines are named.

A couple of weeks ago, my nephew Mathew–an excellent wine tasting companion–came from Vancouver (B.C., my hometown) to visit, so we decided to tour our favorite tasting rooms in Woodinville. Of course, we stopped by to visit the good folks at Alexandria Nicole again.

During those three trips in two months, we tasted many of Jarrod’s wines. And of course, we brought some home to the dinner table. So, it stands to reason that the wine with dinner (WWD) recently was Alexandria Nicole’s 2004 Quarry Butte–a blend from Destiny Ridge Vineyards and Horse Heaven Hills.

The winery’s estate vineyard, Destiny Ridge, used to be called Quarry Butte. It’s located on the bluffs of Horse Heaven Hills and was slated to become a rock quarry. I, for one, am glad those plans were derailed.

2004 Quarry Butte is a Bordeaux-style blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 6% Cab Franc, 6% Syrah and 1% Malbec. It is smooth and rich, with berry flavors and a balanced structure. We had it with dinner the night before our second trip to the Woodinville tasting room, where we found out that it is now sold out!

The 2005 Quarry Butte was just released on the day of our visit–it’s a different blend of 48% Cab, 38% Merlot, 7% Malbec, 4% Syrah and 3% Cab Franc. We preferred the 2004 vintage, but you can’t go wrong with the 2005 Quarry Butte either.

This time, we took home something different–Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2004 Estate Cabernet. It is loaded with flavors and when we have it with dinner, I’ll tell you more.


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