Franciscan Estate

Bordeaux Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, California wineries, Merlot, Wine Comments Off

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 1.54.44 PMSince 1975, Franciscan Estate has produced wine in the Napa Valley, where Cabernet Sauvignon is king.

So we were delighted to receive samples of 2011 Franciscan Estate Cab and Merlot to taste.

2011 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Although 2011 was a challenging, cool growing season, the Franciscan Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon offers beautiful aromas of red fruit and a silky mouthfeel. Comprised of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 2% Petite Verdot, 1% Syrah and 1% Cabernet Franc, this Bordeaux-style blend pairs well with hamburgers and other meat dishes.

While it is drinkable now, we recommend putting it down for a couple of years to further enhance the flavors. This is a good example of a quality Napa Cabernet Sauvignon with a $28 price point.

2011 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Merlot

Despite being produced in the challenging growing season of 2011, Franciscan Napa Valley Merlot shows richness, body and what the winemaker calls “generous shoulders.” A blend of 82% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec and 2% Syrah, this wine offers vibrant aromas and flavors, with soft tannins and supple texture.

This wine is approachable now or could be cellared for a couple more years. This is a good example of an everyday wine at $20.

Cheers!

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon, California wineries, Chardonnay, Wine Comments Off

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 1.16.32 PM Chateau Montelena is a Napa Valley winery established in 1882 and famous for putting California on the international wine map in 1976. That’s when the winery’s 1973 Chardonnay won a blind tasting at the prestigious Judgment of Paris wine competition.

The historic victory was surprising to many, particularly in Europe where the expectation was for a French winner; a fictional version of the amazing event was featured in the 2008 film, Bottle Shock. (Notably, the Paris competition is just one highlight of Chateau Montelena’s rich history.)

Winemaker Mike Grgich – who later joined with Austin Hills to establish Grgich Hills – crafted the 1973 Chardonnay, which remains on display at Chateau Montelena’s only satellite tasting room in California, just off the lobby at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco.

The St. Francis was where I happened to be speaking about social media analytics at the Dreamforce 2013 conference last November and, not surprisingly, I was drawn to the tasting room to try the lineup

I was very lucky that the knowledgeable and friendly sommelier Cassandra Brown happened to be pouring that day. (Cassandra pours at several events and locations in the Bay area, so be sure to stop by to see her, if you have a chance. I know you’ll have both an educating and enjoyable time.)

First, I must applaud three of the winery’s whites: 2012 Potter Valley Riesling, which has a beautiful nose, layers of rich peach and apple, and only a touch of sugar;  2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay, so opulent and creamy; and the crisper 2010 Chard.

But what really captured my attention was Chateau Montelena’s Cabernet Sauvignon.

2009 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 1.52.32 PMThis is a wine with the “wow” factor: earthy, silky, rich and full-bodied, with berries and spice flavors, and an enticing mouthfeel. The Cabernet Sauvignon (98.25%) is rounded off with a splash of Cabernet Franc (1.75%).

According to the tasting notes:

The nose opens with big black cherry, currants, and plum spice cake notes. Underpinning all that fruit are layers of smoke, anise, and very subtle oak tones. The palate entry is soft and round, but builds quickly with loads of fine velvety tannin, huge black cherry, and red fruits that persist through to a rich finish layered with spice. A firm core of acid and barrel spice integrate beautifully across all layers, enhancing the structure and balance of this massive but approachable wine.

This winning wine is drinkable now, but the wow factor will be even more prominent in 7-10 years.

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 2.00.59 PM2010 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

In Napa Valley, Cabernet is King and this is one royal, robust red — a big, dense wine with concentrated fruit, and layers of berries woven with tones of vanilla and spice.

The Cabernet Sauvignon (91%) is blended with 7% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc.

Try drinking it now with a big juicy steak, like we did with the bottle I brought home from San Francisco, or if you have more patience, put it in the cellar for a few more years.

Cheers!

 

 

Coming Soon! Seattle Wine & Food Experience

California wineries, Carlton Wine Country, Events, Oregon wineries, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

You’d better move quickly – tickets are now on sale for the Seattle Wine and Food Experience at Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. If you like good wine, beer and food, mark your calendars for this delicious experience on Feb. 23, from 1-5 p.m.

New this year is a VIP experience,which includes a one-hour early entry, an event tote bag, wine glass and tasting plate, plus an opportunity to win a variety of wine-related prizes.

This year’s featured region is Woodinville Wine Country, with pours from many excellent wineries, including Alexandria Nicole Cellars,  Lauren AshtonObelisco and The Woodhouse Wine Estates. Other Washington AVAs are represented by Double Canyon, Kiona and Red Mountain AVA Alliance, among others.

Some of our Oregon favorites – Seven of HeartsKing Estate and Willamette Valley Vineyards – will be be pouring, along with wineries from California, Idaho, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Argentina.

You can find a full list of wineries that will be pouring, along with beer and ciderspirits, and coffeein addition to information about numerous restaurants serving gourmet bites, at the Seattle Wine and Food Experience websiteTickets are $55.

It’s important to note – this is the sixth annual SWFE, which is testimony to the reputation and following that this event, with its explosion of tastes, has generated in Seattle. 

So run, don’t walk to get your tickets! We hope to see you there.

Cheers!

What’s in Our Glass?

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, California wineries, Carlton Wine Country, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville, Zinfandel Comments Off

Summertime means warm, lazy evenings on the deck and tasty weekend BBQs. And what better accompaniment than a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, a medium-bodied Pinot Noir or a robust Cabernet Sauvignon?

Yes, those have been in our glasses so far this summer – refreshing whites with prawns or humus on the deck, medium-bodied reds with unique, flavorful salads, and big and beautiful reds with hamburgers or on occasion, steaks.

Here are the wines in our glasses — at home or in tasting rooms — that we’ve loved in the past couple of months.

What’s in your glass this summer?

Cheers!

 

Carmel Valley

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, California wineries, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Wine Comments Off

Our first visit to Carmel Valley wine country brought a discovery of unknown yet delightful wines, in addition to some educational and fun conversations with winemakers, winery owners and tasting room staff.

We were in the Carmel-Monterey region on vacation in April, to enjoy the gorgeous ocean views and sunshine, and to tour the wine region while celebrating my birthday. I wish we had planned even more time to stay in the area!

Here are the wineries that we visited and our favorite wines from each one.

Bernardus: For whites, 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Monterey County was my favorite, while Dave preferred 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Griva Vineyard. For reds, it was unanimous; we both chose two big Bordeaux blends: 2009 Marinus Estate Red Wine (92 points from Wine Enthusiast) and 2007 Signature Marinus Estate. This Bordeaux blend comes from grapes in the best barrels from the best lots from Marinus Estate Vineyard in the upper Carmel Valley.

Boekenoogen: 2010 Santa Lucia Highlands Estate Pinot Noir captured our attention, with its plush, lush, velvet mouthfeel and rich flavors. We also enjoyed the 2011 Carmel Valley Estate “Bell Ranch” Zinfandel, a bright light flavorful wine that would pair well with grilled prawns or marinated fish.

Carmel Ridge: When we were visiting Cannery Row on our first day in Monterey, we noticed the Carmel Ridge Winery tasting room, which has a beautiful view of the bay and was a perfect start to our wine experience in the region. Wine rep Stacy Silva not only educated us about the area, but she also suggested some the best wineries to visit. We took a bottle of 2010 Carmel Ridge Pinot Gris back to our hotel and enjoyed it with prawns and cheese on the deck.

Joyce Vineyards: Until a pour of 2011 Joyce Estate Syrah, we were never crazy about California Syrahs – we’re not sure if it’s because of the terroir or the unique winemaking style. But Joyce makes the best California Syrah we have ever tried, probably because it’s the closest in taste to the peppery, spicy Washington State Syrahs. This one was so good, we brought home a bottle, in addition to our other favorite, 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Russel’s Vineyard, a medium-bodied Cab with long, silky finish (87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec).

Parsonage Estate: The 2009 Estate Reserve “Tanner” Cabernet Sauvignon is one of those wines where all we could say after one sip was “WOW!” Tasting room manager Jessica Trask and winemaker Frank Melicia told us this Cab is rich, and we can certainly attest to it. A full nose, it’s “stunningly full on the palate with an exquisitely long finish.” This wine alone is worth a drive to Carmel Valley wine country, if you’re in the area.

Whether you’re planning a trip to see the amazing Monterey Aquarium or to cruise along the 17-Mile Drive along Pebble Beach, the Del Monte Forest and the dramatic Pacific Coast, be sure to save some time to visit the Carmel Valley wine country. We highly recommend it!

Cheers!

What’s in our glasses, recently?

California wineries, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

In the dark, damp winter months, it’s all about the reds. But with a spate of warm weather in Seattle in the last few weeks, out pop the whites too! Here is a list of red, white and rosé wines that have recently graced our glasses.

2011 JM Cellars Bramble Bump White: A blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvingon Blanc and a touch of Semillon, winemaker John Bigelow calls this crisp beauty a “Conundrum.” Not surprisingly, the 2010 vintage was named “Editor’s Choice” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. We enjoyed this refreshing summer sipper with prawns on the deck.

2011 Bernardus Sauvignon Blanc: We first tasted this bright wine on a recent trip to Carmel for my birthday. There are some fine wines being crafted in the Carmel Valley, and this one was one of our favorites because it shows classic Sauv Blanc characteristics.

2012 Obelisco Red Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé: This amazing summer sipper was jointly created by winemakers Doug Long from Obelisco and Kevin Correll from Barrage Cellars. You will find it to be unlike anything you’ve ever expected or experienced in a Rosé. Unfortunately, only a small quantity was produced, so we recommend you head to Woodinville to pick up some quickly.

2010 L’Ecole 41 Candy Mountain Vineyard Red Wine: L’Ecole released this red blend as part of their 30th Anniversary celebration. Candy Mountain is adjacent to our favorite Red Mountain; this seductive wine — a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon and 43% Merlot —  is just one of many reasons why L’Ecole has been named “Winery of the Year” for 11 consecutive years by Wine & Spirits.

2010 William Church Cabernet Sauvignon: This standout wine has what we like to call the WOW factor. But don’t just take our word for it! The winemakers of Woodinville judged this beauty as the winner of the 2013 Golden Grape Best Cabernet Award. Very impressive!

2009 Alexandria Nicole Cellars Destiny: When I walk into ANC’s Woodinville tasting room, they know to bring out this luscious blend. That’s because year after year, it’s been at top of my list of stellar ANC wines – and it’s a long list! Winemaker Jarrod Boyle calls Destiny “voluptuous” – and for good reason. This vintage is Cab-Sauv based (67%), with equal parts Cab Franc and Merlot (10% each), plus 8% Malbec, and rounded out by a touch of Petit Verdot and Carmenere.

2010 Forgeron Cellars Zinfandel: On Facebook, I used the term “beauty in a glass” to describe both ANC’s Destiny and Forgeron’s Zinfandel. We have not tasted a Washington state Zin that comes even close to Marie Eve Gilla’s creation, which blends 77% Zinfandel and 23% Primitivo. This is one powerful wine that cried out to be paired with Dave’s zesty spaghetti. Delicious!

We recommend all of these seven wines — the whites and Rosé in warm weather, and the three reds with BBQ burgers or steak.

Cheers!

 

 

New Tastes

Bordeaux Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, California wineries, Merlot, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

We recently tasted some good juice from two family operated wineries that are new to us – one from Washington state and one from California.

Starting close to home, we tried three wines from Two Mountain Winery in Rattlesnake Hills in Washington state’s Yakima Valley.

All three of these award-winning wines show great potential, and are vibrant, balanced and approachable.

Two Mountain 2009 Syrah won a gold medal at the 2013 World Wine Championships, a silver medal at the prestigious 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and a gold medal at the San Antonio Wine Competition.

Two Mountain 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Merlot both took silver at the San Antonio competition.

We will definitely visit the winery on our next trip to Yakima Valley – it sounds like the type of total wine experience that we enjoy so much;  just read the reviews on Yelp, and you’ll want to go too.

***

The other new wines that we tasted recently are from Trione Vineyards & Winery in Sonoma County. As mentioned in an earlier post, we received a sample pack of six small bottles to try. Our favorites were three reds — 2008 Russian River Syrah, 2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 2007 Alexander Valley Red.

All three were big, lush and fruit-forward.

To our surprise, Trione’s Syrah is one of the best we’ve tasted from California. We typically prefer the smoky, peppery Syrahs from Washington state, but this Russian RIver beauty is intense, velvety and drinking very well.

But our favorite was the ’07 Alexander Red. The nose, with distinct whiffs of dark chocolate, is magnificent; the full-bodied, classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet and Merlot left us wanting more.

***

Full disclosure: These wines were all free samples, given with the understanding that we only write about the wines we enjoy. See our sample policy for further details.

Cheers!