Washington in Washington

A day of double-takes comprised what I like to call our experience of “Washington in Washington.”

Dave and I were in Washington, D.C. at the same time as this state’s Washington Wine Commission held a trade and media tasting there.

Ryan Pennington, the Commission’s social-media-savvy PR director, saw my Facebook update that we were headed to D.C., so he kindly invited us to stop by the tasting event at the Rooftop Terrace at The John F. Kennedy Center.

Of course we went! The tasting area was packed, and we listened with pride as many D.C.-area wine experts, restaurant owners, media and wine enthusiasts extolled the virtues of Washington state wine.

And we laughed at the looks on the faces of several winemakers and winery owners when they saw us, out of context, in “the other Washington!”

“What are you doing here?” exclaimed Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas, Mike White of Barrister, Lisa Baer of Baer, John Abbott of Abeja, Darcey Fugman-Small of Woodward Canyon, Jerry Riener of Guardian Cellars and Doug Long of Obelisco.

“We just happened to be in the neighborhood and heard some excellent Washington state wine was being poured here,” we replied.

We also had an opportunity to taste wine and talk to Daniel Wampfler of Dunham Cellars, Kristi and Lou Facelli of Facelli, Kim Bolander of L’Ecole 41, Debbie Hansen of Cougar Crest, and Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan.

These were the wines we tasted and recommend (in alphabetical order):

  • Abeja 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla ($52)
  • Baer 2009 Ursa Red Bordeaux Blend, Columbia Valley ($39)
  • Cougar Crest 2007 Estate Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla ($38)
  • Dunham Cellars 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon XIV, Columbia Valley ($45)
  • Facelli 2008 Barbera, Columbia Valley ($25)
  • Fidelitas 2008 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($55)
  • Guardian Cellars 2009 Gun Metal Red Bordeaux Blend, Columbia Valley ($37)
  • L’Ecole 41 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla ($37)
  • Long Shadows 2007 Feather Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley ($55)
  • Mark Ryan 2009 Dead Horse Red Bordeaux Blend, Red Mountain ($52)
  • Obelisco 2009 Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($65)
  • Woodward Canyon 2009 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State ($54)

Frankly, I couldn’t say it any better than the Washington Wine Commission’s brochure:

“Washington State’s exceptional grapes reach their potential in the hands of extraordinary winemakers, who create bright and balanced expressions of our region with world-class wines.”

Cheers to Washington state winemakers!

Washington Wine Fun Facts

The Washington Wine Commission released fun facts about Washington wine at Taste Washington again this year, and we thought it would be fun to compare this year to last year’s facts:

 

Washington state is the second-largest premium wine producer in the United States (after California).

  • YES in 2011 and 2012

There are 730 wineries in Washington state and 350+ grape growers.

  • In 2011, there were 700+ wineries & 350+ grape growers

More than 30 varietals are produced in Washington state.

  • In 2011, more than 60 (Interesting reversal!)

The leading white varietals produced in Washington state are Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Semillon and Chenin Blanc.

  • Same order in both 2011 and 2012

The leading red varietals produced in Washington state are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cab Franc, Malbec, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir and Lemberger.

  • Same order in both 2011 and 2012

The ratio of white-to-red wine is 55% white to 45% red.

  • In 2011, the ratio was 54% white to 46% red.

The average hours of summer sunlight in Washington state: 17.4 hours per day, about two hours more than California’s prime growing region

  • Surprising to many, the answer is YES in both years.

The annual rainfall is eight inches in eastern Washington (our state’s major grape growing region) and 48 inches in western Washington.

  • YES in both years

We hope you enjoyed these factoids as much as we did!
Cheers!

 

Taste Washington Weekend

Taste Washington weekend is here, and from all accounts we’ve heard, opening day Saturday was a huge success! See below for a sampling of tweets from our friends and colleagues. We’ll be there Sunday, so be sure to follow my live Twitter stream @WriteforWine.

A plan is necessary at Taste Washington, where there are more than 200 Washington wineries pouring from several bottles – and if you’re a Facebook fan or Twitter friend, chances are you’ll be offered a “little something special” from under the table.

Just be sure to spit or spill – it’s acceptable and appreciated. Enjoy the tasty bites from some of Washington state’s best restaurants. And please do take a cab!

We’re going to follow our plan from last year:

  1. Taste Cabernet Franc
  2. Taste new releases from wineries we know
  3. Taste releases from wineries we are not familiar with
  4. Last but not least, visit friends at wineries to say hello

Again, you can follow my tweets live from Taste Washington Sunday at @WriteforWine. Meanwhile, here are some tweets highlighting Saturday’s tasting and seminars:

@TasteWashington: The doors are open and the clinking of glasses can already be heard. Welcome to #TasteWA 2012! http://pic.twitter.com/1TqUOcIv

@WmChurchwinery: Headed to #tastewa? See u there right by the Viking stage..in the back this yr. search & u will find

@MsTerroir: #TasteWa check out @NWTotemCellars @GardVintners @WmChurchwinery @ForgeronCellars @TreveriCellars @grapegeek….+ more! #wawine

@44vines: It’s #TasteWA Visit me at Table 5B when you walk in @redmtnava

@lecole41: fantastic, glad everyone is enjoying the merlot ! #tastewa #seminar

@Forgeron Cellars: Ready to pour! #tastewa don’t forget to mention twitter & ’07 Vinfinity

@BlackPearlSEA: ’02 @colsolare Red. Get it before it’s gone! #TasteWA #WAwine

@SeattleMaven: @ElGauchoSteak Good gawd … you spoil me! #TasteWA http://pic.twitter.com/BorQSK7c

@WaWineReport: Make sure to check out the Northridge Vineyard table and other vineyard tables. #tastewa

@wild4wawine: @cougarcrest @tastewashington out of the park #wawine

@LaurelhurstWine: Sweet Decadence artisan chocolates pairing @TasteWashington come by booth 12A

@WinePeeps: Amazing! RT @TulalipResort: try our Fried Chocolate Bread Pudding and Bourbon Caramel-Vanilla Milkshakes at #TasteWA

Hope to see you Sunday at Taste Washington – come celebrate Washington Wine Month!

Cheers!

 

Wonderful Walla Walla Wine

Regular readers of this blog know we are major fans of Walla Walla wine. We don’t get to visit Walla Walla nearly as often as we would like, so when Walla Walla comes to Seattle, it’s a must-go-to event.

So I dashed out to SoDo during my lunch break to visit friends and have a few (very small) tastes at “Walla Walla Wine @SoDo Park” last week.

I could only visit a few booths, and I know I missed out on lots of wineries. I wish I could have stayed longer, but work beckoned me back.

Here are the wines I tasted and would definitely purchase:

  • Abeja 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon – This fine Cab is blended with 4% Merlot, in John Abbot’s fashion of being true to the varietal and to the state.
  • L’Ecole 41 2009 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon – I’ve been a major fan of this wine since the 2001 vintage.
  • Otis Kenyon 2008 Syrah – It has that “In the Rocks” funk – yum!
  • Watermill 2008 Cabernet Franc – if you love Cab Franc like I do, this is a must-buy.
  • Woodward Canyon 2009 Estate Reserve – It won’t be released until summer but the potential is already magnificent.

There are many, many more excellent Walla Walla wineries – and we highly recommend you visit them in Walla Walla. Some of them have tasting rooms in Woodinville too.

Cheers!

Celebrate Washington State Wine!

March is Washington Wine Month – a time to raise a glass to the best of this state’s juice. In honor of this celebration, a number of wine shops, tasting rooms, restaurants and hotels are offering special promotions.

For the full list of participating establishments, see the new website created by the Washington State Wine Commission.

Our favorite annual wine event is being held at the end of the month — the Super Bowl of wine events, Taste Washington, which has  been expanded to a two-day extravaganza (March 31-April 1)!  What could be better than two days sipping the best Washington wines and tasting scrumptious appetizers?

Every year we’ve gone to Taste Washington, we’ve discovered new wines and tasty treats at this excellent, well-organized event. To make the most of Taste Washington – with more than 200 wineries and more than 50 restaurants – you have to go in with a plan.

Ours is simple – try pours from wineries that are new to us, in addition to new releases from wineries we know well, plus visit as many of our wine industry friends as possible to say hello.

Here’s my review in Seattleite Magazine about last year’s Taste Washington: http://www.seattleite.com/the-finest-wines-washington-has-to-offer/

We hope to see you there this year!

Cheers!

Seattle Wine & Food Experience

There’s only one week left to buy your tickets for the Seattle Wine and Food Experience at Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. If you like good wine, beer and food – and seriously, who doesn’t? – mark your calendars for this delicious experience on Feb. 26.

In addition to the wonderful wines of Washington, our neighbors to the south, Oregon, are also featured this year. And face it, there aren’t many events where plentiful choices of both Washington and Oregon wine are available for tasting.

Some of our Oregon favorites — Erath Winery, King Estate, Sokol Blosser and Willamette Valley Vineyards — will be side by side with our Washington friends from Barrage Cellars, Forgeron Cellars, Airfield Estates and Kiona, to name a few. And then there’s Watermill, which straddles both states and has some great juice too.

And let’s not forget Stag’s Leap, Francis Ford Coppola Winery  and other California wineries will also be pouring, along with wineries from Idaho and around the world (France, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, Australia and Argentina).

There’s something for everybody, including beer and cider and spirits, non-alcoholic beverages and coffee.

Did we mention food? Seattle Wine & Food Experience showcases too many Washington restaurants to name, so here is the list. You’ll be able to nibble on tasty treats such as barbequed beef slider, Kona coffee-rubbed filet, boeuf Bourguignon stew, seafood salad, roasted lamb leg, foie gras and much more.

The cost for this explosion of tastes is $49 in advance or $60 at the door (cash only).

Enjoy – and cheers!

An Evening with the Grape Killers

Six of seven Woodinville wineries that make up the Grape Killers generated lots of fans and fun at their annual “Holiday in the ‘Hood” wine tasting event last night in Woodinville’s Wine Warehouse District.

Winemakers, and friends, from Gorman Winery (Chris Gorman), Mark Ryan Winery (Mark Ryan McNeilly), Darby Winery (Darby English), Guardian Cellars (Jerry Riener), Baer Winery (Lisa Baer) and Sparkman Cellars  (Chris Sparkman) offered some amazing wines, appetizers and good cheer. Perfect example? Chris Sparkman appeared dressed as Elvis. (Photo courtesy of our friend Taryn Miller)

Not surprisingly, we enjoyed all the wines we tasted at Grape Killers Holiday in the ‘Hood party. But these were our favorites:

  • Gorman Winery 2008 Bully Cabernet Sauvignon (blended with Petit Verdot), Red Mountain
  • Sparkman Cellars 2009 Kingpin Old Vine Cab (blended with Petit Verdot), Red Mountain
  • Darby Winery 2009 Dark Side Syrah (100% Syrah), Yakima Valley
  • Baer Winery 2009 Arctos, a Cabernet-driven blend, Columbia Valley
  • Guardian Cellars 2008 The Rookie Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Mark Ryan Winery 2009 Dead Horse Red, Bordeaux blend, Red Mountain

Do you sense a trend here? Indeed, our palates prefer Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends, and as Dave said, “I never met a grape from Red Mountain that I didn’t like.”

You could tell the six winemakers (plus Tim Stevens of Stevens Winery who couldn’t participate this time) are pals who hang out together in their spare time. Their camaraderie was evident at each of their tasting rooms. This was a night full of smiles and laughter!

And to top off the good fun, a portion of all wine sales will benefit Woodinville’s Homeward Pet Adoption Shelter.

If you didn’t make it to the Grape Killers event last night, be sure to stop by these wineries in the future. They make good juice!

Cheers!

Love Tempranillo? Head to Fall Line in Seattle Now!

Fall Line Winery just released one of the best Washington state Tempranillos we have ever tasted.

This 2009 Yakima Valley Tempranillo is a new addition to Fall Line’s lineup, appropriately called El Otro (“The Other One”) because it’s a departure from the other red wines beautifully crafted by Tim Sorenson.

El Otro is 100% Tempranillo planted specially for Fall Line at Boushey Vineyard; it’s also 100% drinkable now. Believe me, this dark ruby wine has the WOW factor – it is silky, structured and so layered, I actually said “wow” when I tasted it. Seriously.

Wine Advocate awarded it 92 points last month: “Spice box, cedar, rose petal, and black cherry aromas set the stage for a lingering, already complex, lengthy offering that is a fine example of the potential for Tempranillo in eastern Washington. Drink this outstanding wine from 2012 to 2021.”

Only 166 cases were made, with a low price point of $25 for a wine this elegant. So if you are a big fan of Tempranillo, head to Fall Line soon, because this beauty will sell out quickly.

While you’re there, try some of Fall Line’s other red wines too. We’ve been fans of Tim’s wine for years – my first post about Fall Line was on June 9, 2007, just six days after I started this blog (and when people still referred to “the blogosphere”)!

I fell in love with his 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon — 100% Cab sourced from Boushey Vineyards in Yakima Valley, Artz Vineyards in Red Mountain, and Destiny Ridge Vineyards in Horse Heaven Hills. To my surprise, the next vintage was even better, as I wrote on Feb. 18, 2008: Fall Line Does It Again.

Fast forward to November 2011, and I am once again applauding Fall Line’s 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Not surprisingly, this enticing wine was also awarded 92 points from Wine Advocate last month: “A hint of mint, exotic spices, incense, violets, and assorted black fruits lead to a firm, sweetly-fruited, elegant offering. This well-balanced, lengthy effort will benefit from another 2-3 years of cellaring and will be at its best from 2013 to 2024.”

Fall Line’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo are joined by four unique blends – Yakima Valley Boushey Vineyard Bordeaux-style blend (91 points), Red Mountain Artz Bordeaux-style blend (90 points), Yakima Valley Exhibition Red, and Yakima Valley Red Willow Bordeaux-style blend – to round out the 2009 lineup.

You can taste Fall Line wines and join Tim at West Seattle Cellars on Dec. 3 or at his Georgetown winery for a holiday tasting on Dec. 10. More details are available on the Fall Line website.

Once you sip these fantastic-value reds (and find out their price points), you likely will want to buy some for your holiday dinner or to take with you to a special holiday party.

Cheers!

Time for Taste of Tulalip!

It’s here, the Taste of Tulalip weekend wine and food spectacular at Tulalip Resort Casino! See my previous posts, listed below, for information about activities, times, locations and ticket information.

I will be there for many of the seminars, tastings and parties – you can follow me over the weekend on Twitter @writeforwine and you can also follow many wine tweeps and foodies on the Twitter stream at #tasteoftulalip

Previous Posts:

Hope to see you there!

Cheers!

Still Tickets Left for Taste of Tulalip

You’re in luck – there are still tickets left for the Grand Tasting and All-Access Pass on Saturday at Taste of Tulalip, held each year at Tulalip Resort Casino, and recognized as one of the top Northwest foodie “happenings.”

This is one of our favorite events of the year. For the Grand Tasting, Executive Chef Perry Mascitti and his fabulous team, and Sommelier Tommy Thompson go all out for guests with an array of mouthwatering bites, and pours from 65 Washington wineries, 20+ from Napa and more than 20 from Italy.

The All-Access Pass includes this exciting lineup:

  • 12:00 PM – VIP Seminar featuring Carla Hall, who will “wow” you as she performs a cooking demonstration, table talk and a question and answer session with Executive Chef Perry Mascitti and Sommelier Tommy Thompson.
  • Private Magnum Party in mpulse lounge hosted by “Liquid Kitchen” star Kathy Casey. You’ll be treated to some of the most elite wines from around the world, selected by Sommelier Tommy Thompson and sample some of Kathy Casey’s tasty appetizers. (We can’t wait for this event!)
  • 1:30 PM – Early entrance into the Grand Taste
  • 3:30 PM – Rock-n-Roll Cooking Challenge judged by “Thirsty Girl” Leslie Sbrocco and Carla Hall

You can purchase tickets right now!

And of course, if you don’t feel like driving home after such a wonderful day, the Tulalip Resort has a beautiful hotel to relax in.

We hope to see you at the 2011 Taste of Tulalip! You can follow me on Twitter @writeforwine and you can follow the Twitter stream at #tasteoftulalip

Cheers!