St. Nick’s Tickets on Sale Now!

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Tickets have just gone on sale for one of our favorite wine events of the year, St. Nicholas Day Open House in Woodinville — known fondly by regulars as St. Nick’s weekend. It’s a two-day blast and we highly recommend that you attend. We went last year and loved it. (At the end of this blog post, I’ve linked my descriptions of the wineries we visited last year.) We will definitely be there this year too.

Woodinville Wine Country hosts the event, which is becoming as popular as their long-running Passport to Woodinville weekend. Wineries that aren’t frequently open to the public participate in this event, along with your old favorites and all those other wineries that you’ve been meaning to try.

Participating wineries to date include: Adams Bench, Anton Ville, Arlington Road Cellars, Brian Carter Cellars, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Winery, Covington Cellars, Cuillin Hills Winery, Des Voignes Cellars, Di Stefano Winery, Edmonds Winery, Efeste Wine Cellars, Hollywood Hill Vineyards, Januik Winery, J. Bookwalter Winery, Matthews Estate, Northwest Totem Cellars, Novelty Hill Winery, Page Cellars, Red Sky Winery, Ross Andrew Winery, Silver Lake Winery, Sparkman Cellars, Stevens Winery, William Church Winery, Woodhouse Family Cellars and Woodinville Wine Cellars.

But note: tickets are in limited quantity and they sell quickly. A limit of 2,500 two-day tickets ($50) and 800 Sunday-only tickets ($35) will be sold only on Woodinville Wine Country’s website.

So think about getting your tickets soon — before they sell out and before your December gets too busy with holiday events. And by the way, this is a great event to not only taste fine Washington wine but also to purchase wines for holiday entertainment and/or gift-giving.

Here’s what I wrote after last year’s St. Nick’s Weekend:

We hope to see you there!


St. Nick’s in the Snow

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First, I have to say that Woodinville Wine Country and the wineries of Woodinville know how to throw a great event. We braved the predictions of snow today and went to our first Saint Nicholas Day Open House tasting, and it was fabulous! I’m sure I’ll be writing blog posts about it for days to come.

We decided, in our limited time before the snow started to fall, to visit wineries that we had never been to before. Our first stop was DeLille Cellars. This superb, renowned winery is rarely open to the public, which explains the long lineups outside and the (friendly) crowds inside. We also visited the tasting rooms of Mark Ryan Winery, where I had an opportunity to chat with the winemaker himself, Arlington Road Cellars, Baer Winery, Cuillin Hills Winery, Edmonds Winery, Page Cellars, Red Sky Winery and Woodinville Wine Cellars.

I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it again. Washington state wineries make some excellent world-class wines.

I will write specifically about my favorite wines and wineries in the days ahead, in addition to special treats (appetizers, music and art) that we found at many of the tastings. I wish we had time to go back for the second day of St. Nick’s tomorrow, but we’re heading to Portland for the first time in almost ten years. And thanks to your suggestions, I’m sure we’ll find some great tastings there too.

So come back often in the next couple of weeks to read details of both St. Nick’s and our brief trip to Portland.


See you at St. Nick’s Wine Weekend?

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St. Nicholas Day Open House is just around the corner on Dec. 1 and 2, and we can’t wait! Just like the popular “Passport to Woodinville” event in the spring, a St. Nick’s booklet is a ticket to special tastings (and specially prepared hors d’oeuvres to complement the wines) at dozens of wineries — from boutiques to the bigs – around Woodinville.

Some of the wineries are rarely open to the public, so we are really looking forward to discovering new wineries, meeting some winemakers and tasting some excellent Washington state wine at this special, festive event.

For a full list of participating wineries, check out the Woodinville Wine Country Web site. We have a quite a few of them on our list over the two-day event: Baer Winery, DeLille Cellars, Des Voigne Cellars, Mark Ryan Winery and William Church Winery, to name a few. We’ll probably stop by our old favorites too: Woodhouse Family Cellars, Columbia Winery, Alexandria Nicole Cellars and Matthews Cellars.

Yes, we will have a designated driver. And we hope to see you there!


St. Nick’s Tickets Going Fast!

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Don’t say I didn’t warn you – tickets are going fast for one of our favorite wine events of the year, St. Nicholas Open House weekend in Woodinville on Dec. 6 & 7. Most of the $35 “Sunday-only” tickets are already gone, but there are still $50 tickets that will extend your experience to both days. But you’d better move quickly. The tickets are being sold only on Woodinville Wine Country’s website.

We love this event for a number of reasons — we can visit wineries that aren’t frequently open to the public, stop by our old favorites and finally drop in on all those other wineries that we’ve been meaning to try all year long. It’s also a great time to stock up on wine for the holidays — whether you want to add bottles to your own cellar, purchase wine for family and friends, or buy a special bottle or two to take to parties.

Participating wineries to date include: Adams Bench, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Anton Ville, Arlington Road Cellars, Brian Carter Cellars, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Winery, Covington Cellars, Cuillin Hills Winery, Des Voignes Cellars, Di Stefano Winery, Edmonds Winery, Efeste Wine Cellars, Hestia Cellars, Hollywood Hill Vineyards, Januik Winery, J. Bookwalter Winery, Matthews Estate, Northwest Totem Cellars, Novelty Hill Winery, Page Cellars, Red Sky Winery, Ross Andrew Winery, Silver Lake Winery, Sparkman Cellars, Stevens Winery, William Church Winery, Woodhouse Family Cellars, Woodinville Wine Cellars and XSV Wines.

We’ll be there on Sunday, Dec. 7th. Hope to see you there too!


Arlington Road, Baer, Cuillin Hills and Edmonds Winery

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As you’ve probably gathered from my recent posts, St. Nick’s weekend in Woodinville was an outstanding event. In addition to the wineries that I’ve already blogged about, we also visited Arlington Road Cellars, Baer Winery, Cuillin Hills Winery and Edmonds Winery.

Arlington Road Cellars’ signature wine is its red MONOLITH. The 2004 vintage is a traditional Bordeaux-style blend, and received critical acclaim. Arlington Road’s winemaker is Matthew Loso, considered one of Washington finest winemakers and also known for his superb wines at Matthews Cellars

I’ve blogged several times about Baer Winery because we’re big fans of the signature 2004 Ursa, a velvety Bordeaux-style red that may be enjoyed now or cellared for up to 10 years. During St. Nick’s weekend, we learned that the 2005 Ursa, which will be released in April, is showing well in its early previews.

Considering that my favorite wines tend to be Bordeaux-style blends and robust Cabs, and Dave’s favorites tend to be Bordeaux-style blends and big Merlots, we were surprised to discover that Syrahs tended to lead the pack for both of our palates at St. Nick’s. New to us was Cuillin Hills–and we highly recommend The Dungeon 2005 Syrah – a “mouth-filling, hedonistic wine” that is best with a good meal.

Last, but not least, came Edmonds Winery with its 2005 Cab-Merlot blend. Ten percent of all retail sales of this blend (60% Cab and 40% Merlot) are pledged to Food Lifeline. 

And by the way, on January 20, Edmonds will be releasing its 2005 Syrah, with 10% of all purchases donated to Food Lifeline. Visitors are also encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item or a cash donation to Food Lifeline. Call 425-774-8959 for more information.


Going Quickly: Passport to Woodinville Tickets

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You’d better act soon to buy tickets to Woodinville wine country’s kickoff spring event – the extremely popular Passport to Woodinville. This event is such a fan fave that more than 1,000 tickets were sold within the first 24 hours!

The two-day event will be held on April 18 and 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and features pours from more than 30 wineries. It’s also an opportunity to meet winemakers and learn more about this exciting growth area of Washington wine country.

Ticket prices: Two day tickets – $60. Sunday only – $40. Tickets can be purchased at Woodinville Wine Country’s website. 

Participating wineries include Adams Bench, Anton Ville Winery, Baer Winery, Brian Carter Cellars, Chandler Reach, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Winery, Covington Cellars, Cuillin Hills Winery, Des Voigne Cellars, DiStefano Winery, Edmonds Winery, Efeste, Gordon Brothers Tasting Room, Guardian Cellars, Hestia Cellars, Hollywood Hill Vineyards, J. Bookwalter Tasting Studio, Matthews Estate, Northwest Totem Cellars, Page Cellars, Pomum Cellars, Red Sky Winery, Sparkman Cellars, Silver Lake Winery, Washington Wine Company/Patterson Cellars, William Church Winery, Woodhouse Family Cellars, Woodinville Wine Cellars and XSV.

If you love St. Nick’s weekend, this one’s for you. It’s similar to St. Nick’s but warmer outside! If you’ve never been to St. Nick’s weekend, check out my first blog post after the event: Amazing Woodville Wines.


Amazing Woodinville Wines

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What a great time we had at St. Nick’s weekend in Woodinville. We spent a lot of time visiting wineries that we hadn’t visited before. And we also were fortunate to experience some barrel tastings of new releases. I plan to write a lot about this in the coming days. But first, I wanted to give an immediate overview. Here are my top-line notes.

1. Props to Woodinville Wine Country for once again organizing an event that lets people experience the amazing wines of Woodinville. There are more than 40 wineries and tasting rooms, just 30 minutes from Seattle. And this event lets everyone visit wineries that aren’t always open to the public, in addition to old favorites.

2. Keep your eyes/ears open for new releases from Efeste Cellars. I plan to write more about this winery in the near future. For now, I will just say that Estefe winemaker Brennon Leighton is doing some native fermentation, which results in awesome, softer wines. We’ve already pre-ordered 2006 Jolie Bouche Syrah, which is coming out in a few months. We barrel-tasted the 2007 release and wow, what a winner! And I love the name, which translates from French to “pretty mouth.” We also met the friendly and knowledgeable owners of Efeste, Kevin and Angie Taylor, so come back soon for more details.

3.  William Church Winery also has some great new releases. It was great, as always, to see owners Rod and Leslie, along with their welcoming assistant winemaker, Marcus Rafanelli. We pre-ordered  2006 Bishop’s Blend and barrel-tasted an incredible new blend called La Rochelle — another winner, which will be released in 2010. (I hope I have the name right – it was near the end of a wine-intense day!)

4. We also enjoyed meeting the winemaker at Stevens Winery, Tim Stevens and his wife Paige. Tim had some great stories to share, which I’ll also write about in the future. And I now see why readers of this blog recommended that we try Stevens wines. Tim was pouring 2006 Stevens Merlot and 2006 Stevens Black Tongue Syrah, and they were both awesome. And then there’s Tim’s incredible art, which is both at the tasting room and on the wine labels.

5. Gordon Rawson at Chatter Creek poured some very balanced, fruit-forward wines for us, and told us some interesting history about the Washington state wine industry. Our favorite wines there were Chatter Creek Grenache 2007 and Blend 105 2005.

6. As always, we had a special time at Woodhouse Family Cellars, where you can find a wonderful holiday blend that will brighten up any party. Woodhouse has so many excellent wines, that it is a must-stop tasting room on any trip to Woodinville. There’s also a case sale going on right now too, which is perfect for entertaining this season. And we met the engaging Auntie Meredith, whose name graces the label of the Kennedy Shah Auntie Meredith’s Picnic Blend, which is one of our summer drinks of choice on the deck.

7.  Alexandria Nicole Cellars always holds a good party, in addition to offering some of the best wines in Washington state, and tasting room manager Kathie Statler added her own unique verbal twists to the pours yesterday. It was great fun! And I’d be remiss to not mention the clever marketing tactic — an announcement about the Dec. 13th release of their excellent 2006 Destiny wine was prominently placed in the restroom!

8.  It was wonderful to see Rothelle Page at Page Cellars again too — although we have yet to meet her Canadian husband, whom I’m looking forward to trading stories with from the homeland. But we can say this — their house band, “Nice Legs” (as in wine legs) rocked the house! Son Brett Cummings wailed that saxaphone, and we just hated to leave. We also had an opportunity to taste the 2005 Limited Edition Cabernet Sauvignon, which was just released on Friday. Magnificent! You’ll find more about Page Cellars’ 2005 Preface and 2005 Libra in future blog posts. Every year, these three wines have been on our list of favorites.

9. I hate to end on a sad note, but we were so sorry to hear that Arlington Road closed its doors yesterday. We are big fans of Arlington Road’s 2005 and 2006 Monolith and it was heart-breaking to hear the news. We wish the best of luck to Ken Nydam and Robin Rutz in their future endeavors.

Thanks to the wine makers and tasting room managers and welcoming people in the Woodinville wine industry! And please come back often to read more about our experiences at St. Nick’s weekend. And if you didn’t get a chance to go, do not miss Passport in April.


Woodinville Wine Country

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There are some very fine wines in Woodinville. If you get a chance to go to Passport to Woodinville in April or St. Nick’s weekend next December, go for it!

We went to St. Nick’s earlier in the month and stopped by DeLille Cellars, Mark Ryan Winery, Arlington Road Cellars, Baer Winery, Cuillin Hills Winery, Edmonds Winery, Page Cellars, Red Sky Winery and Washington Wine Company. Some of the wineries are only open to the public at these special events, so it was a real treat. The winemakers were on hand, the appetizers were delicious and the wine … well, let’s just say that I’ll be writing about my favorites for the next few days.

First up — Red Sky, Page Cellars and Washington Wine Company.

Red Sky makes rich, elegant wines. My favorite was the 2003 Bordeaux blend because of its similarity to a smooth and silky Margaux–my wine region of choice outside the northwest. This blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot and 7% Cab Franc comes from a number of great vineyards, including Conner Lee and Pepper Bridge. Red Sky is open on Saturdays, so I’m sure we’ll be heading back for more tastes in the new year.

Page Cellars’ signature Preface continues to shine. My previous blog post, written after a tasting in November, still stands. Not only did we enjoy the wine, but the salmon and the music were fabulous too!

Washington Wine Company was a pleasant surprise. And how can you not like wines called “Forbidden“? The 2003 Big Forbidden Syrah is a velvet taste of dark fruits, black licorice and chocolate. We loved it. Amd we absolutely loved the 2003 Forbidden Red — a blend of 61% Cab Sauvignon and 39% Merlot from Horse Heaven Vineyards. We also tasted the 2004 Forbidden Red, which adds 30% Syrah to 50% Cab Sauv and 20% Merlot. While it was good, we preferred the 2003 Cab-Merlot blend.

Coming up — DeLilleDeLille, Mark Ryan and Baer.


DeLille Cellars Hits for the Cycle

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A press release about wine that contains a baseball analogy and a hockey reference is bound to get my attention! That recently happened — a press release touting DeLille Cellars’ latest honor stated: “DeLille Cellars became the sole member of a very exclusive club in 2007: The only winery in the world named to Top 100 lists of Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and the Robb Report, it has just been included on one more list … Instead of merely pulling off a hat trick, DeLille is ‘hitting for the cycle.’ ”

The fourth list is from Seattle’s respected wine writer Paul Gregutt. DeLille’s 2006 Chaleur Estate Blanc was given position number eight on Gregutt’s list and DeLille’s Doyenne Roussanne came in at number 46.

We tasted 2005 Doyenne Grand Ciel Syrah at St. Nick’s weekend, earlier this month and (of course!) ordered some. We’re looking forward to the release party in February.

Speaking of St. Nick’s weekend — come back in the next few days for more details about that fabulous weekend. I haven’t forgotten that I promised to write more about it.


Vote for Your Favorite Washington State Wine

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What are your favorite Washington wines? Sean over at Washington Wine Report is taking a survey, so check out his blog post and mark your faves for 2008. And let me know on this blog too!

There are so many wonderful wines in this state that I couldn’t submit all of them to the survey. Indeed, I actually listed 12 before realizing that Sean only wanted us to list our top five. Ooops! Here are the first 12 Washington wines that came to my mind:

2003 Darighe, Woodhouse Family Cellars
2004 Dussek Cab Sauv, Woodhouse Family Cellars
2005 Estate Cabernet Sauv, Gilbert Cellars
2006 “Jolie Bouche” Syrah, Efeste Wines
2006 Destiny, Alexandria Nicole Cellars
2005 Limited Edition Cab Sauv, Page Cellars
2005 Tre Fanciulli, JM Cellars
2006 Cab Sauv, Columbia Valley, Fall Line Winery
2006 Bishop’s Blend, William Church Winery
2006 Black Tongue Syrah, Stevens Winery
2003 Vinfinity, Forgeron Cellars
2004 Camille, Nicholas Cole Cellars

I wrote down the names of wines as I thought of them — and as it turns out, not surprisingly, most of the wines were poured recently at St. Nick’s in Woodinville. (Although I still missed Guardian Cellars, Mark Ryan, DeLille, DiStefano, and many others!) 

And I wonder if the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman will complain to this Washington Wine Wench for not choosing enough Walla Walla wines. (Now that’s a lot of W’s!)

Anyway …. please tell me your favorite Washington wines in 2008 — and be sure to stop by the Washington Wine Report and submit your entries there too.


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