The Super Bowl of Wine Events Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

Taste Washington celebrates its 20th anniversary in Seattle on March 23-26, with almost 300 wineries, more than 70 restaurants and top national chefs. It’s an explosion of tastes, fun and education, all rolled into one.

As far back as we can remember, we’ve always called Taste Washington “the Super Bowl of Wine Events” because it is the country’s largest single-region wine and food event. Period.

And this year’s expanded lineup offers four days packed with diverse activities. First up is “super-exclusive wine pours” at the VIP Red & White Party.

Taste Washington on the Farm gives you an opportunity to explore the northwest’s bounty, alongside farmers, chefs and winemakers. And then there’s The New Vintage with its trendy Rosé Lounge.

Don’t forget the super-informative and fun wine seminars, which include tastings and interactive panels, where you can find out — from top winemakers, Master Sommeliers and national wine personalities — why Washington state is a world-class wine region.

We love to go every year and encourage you to run, don’t walk, to get your tickets. If you’re planning to attend multiple Taste Washington events, you might be interested in The Connoisseur festival pass for four days of VIP access.

Note: Before you enter the Grand Tasting doors, we highly recommend that you develop a plan. Because once there, you will be hit with a massive amount of taste potentials — and it can be overwhelming.

For example, one year we decided to only taste Cabernet Franc, as a standalone varietal. Another year, we decided to visit booths of some of our tried and favorite wineries plus five new ones.

But we always leave room for some flexibility; chances are something will catch our eye as we walk through the aisles, and we’ll make an on-the-spot decision to deviate from the plan. There could be a new wine release that grabbed our attention or a mouth-watering dish, whose scent wafted our way.

Of note, we recommend tasting and spitting wine (or pouring it into the buckets at each booth) at this major event, but if you think you might want more than a sip or two, many hotels in the area are offering special weekend packages. Otherwise, be sure to have a designated driver, or take cabs or local transit home.

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Fantastic Value Wines – Columbia Crest H3+

img_0191We’ve been fans of H3 Cabernet Sauvignon since Columbia Crest Winery sent us samples of the 2012 vintage a couple of years ago. We ended up buying cases of this extremely good value wine during the year, and the pattern continued for the 2013 vintage. Columbia Crest recently sent us samples of their 2014 lineup, and we are happy to say that their winning streak continues.

Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, 2013, 2014 ($15)
We recently decided to taste through a vertical of H3 Cab Sauv. Not surprisingly, the 2012 was the most complex of the three vintages, and drinking very nicely with a couple of extra years under its belt. But to us, at this vertical tasting, the 2013 was the clear winner. That being said, the new 2014 release is lovely, showing promise of outperforming both previous vintages. We can’t wait to try it again in about six months – we have a feeling it will end up being our favorite. Enjoy this wine with almost any beef dish, hearty pasta or even before a meal with strong cheese.

Other new releases sent to us were:

Columbia Crest 2014 Limited Release Gold Red Wine ($12)
Every year, this limited release wine is popular for the Thanksgiving table. (You also could pair it with grilled meats and vegetables.) Columbia  Crest’s winemaker sets aside a couple of barrels of wine each year that represent what he considers to be the gold standard vineyards and grapes in the Columbia Valley. This year’s blend combines Cabernet Franc (45%) with Syrah (36%), Malbec (17%) and other varietals to round it out. As you can tell by the grapes in this blend, you’ll find a big, rich and flavorful glass of delicious.

Columbia Crest 2013 H3 Les Chevaux Red Wine Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
Named after the horses (Les Chevaux in French) that once roamed Horse Heaven Hills, this is a lovely, vibrant red blend of Merlot (59%), Syrah ($36%), Viognier (4%) and Cab Franc (1%). You can enjoy this with strong cheeses such as blue or stilton, or with well-seasoned pepper steaks, beef stew or lamb.

Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley ($12)
This is a great value estate Cab to pair with beef tenderloin, hearty pasta, blue cheese or chocolate. This wine features dark fruit, a wonderful mouthfeel, and a smoothness, complexity and structure not often seen at this price point.

Columbia Crest 2015 H3 Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
We’ve enjoyed previous vintages of this Sauv Blanc as a summer sipper on the deck, but this fall, we tasted it on a rainy, windy day, paired with garlic prawns, and it was delicious. The Sauv Blanc features citrus notes and crisp minerality, just the way we like it. You can also pair it with halibut, crab or quiche.

Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Chardonnay Columbia Valley ($12)
If you like Chardonnay with creamy, buttery notes, with a bit of creme brûlée and butterscotch, this one is for you. Interestingly, 22% was fermented in stainless steel, which brings a freshness to the taste as well. Where we live, Chardonnay pairs well with fresh crab in August and September, or crab cakes all year round, along with chicken pot pie or pork tenderloin.

Any of these wines would be paired well with different Thanksgiving dishes — and at these prices, you can stock up for the whole family!

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Boudreaux Cellars – Part Two

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-9-25-31-amAs mentioned in Boudreaux Cellars – Part One, winemaker Rob Newsom sources grapes from some of the finest vineyards in the state; he is one of the few to get grapes from Leonetti Estate Vineyard.

The wines in his current lineup are powerful, complex, smooth, deep and layered. These are wines for a special occasion, with high price-points and lush flavors. We loved every one of those that general manager Keely Newsom poured for us during our visit in early September, but these were our favorites.

2010 Boudreaux Cellars Merlot ($50)
A 100% Washington Merlot from four vineyards in Columbia Valley, this wine is elegant and aromatic. In Rob’s words, “Showy, gorgeous body like having a date with a super model, all amazing but more legs than most. This wine is a masterpiece of special blocks blended to perfection after three years of gentle handling and cool underground aging.”

img_40902012 Boudreaux Cellars Syrah ($60)
A classic showing of Washington Syrah, robust, powerful, and spicy. In Rob’s words, “This is the one I’ve been trying to make. Shows typical Syrah ‘good stinky’ on the nose, full mid-palate, and nice long finish of dark fruit flavors. Balanced with good acidity. Bring me some smokey ribs, saffron quail, and roast a pig. A am ready now.” (Read in southern drawl.)

2011 Boudreaux Cellars Malbec ($60)
This is a smooth, plush, full-bodied Malbec, compelling and textured, with grapes sourced from Gamache Vineyard. It will pair well with spicy food and chicken dishes, or share a bottle during an evening with friends.

2010 Boudreaux Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ($60)
An outstanding, rich and complex Cab Sauv, this excellent wine is sourced from ten, yes ten! Washington state vineyards and aged three years. In Rob’s words, “I will basically drive my Silverado to Egypt to get the best Cab possible if I have to. Our Cabs have become famous for being full-bodied, long, and fine. There is not another one like it in the world. No one would go to the trouble of getting grapes from ten vineyards for the blend, working hard to get the oldest, best blocks in the state.”

2010 Boudreaux Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($115)
Our favorite, this luxe wine showcases what an experienced, talented winemaker can craft with good fruit and Washington state terroir. Balanced, bold and beautiful, supple and velvety, this magnificent wine drinks very well now and will continue to develop for years. In Rob’s words, “Get ready to smile big with the high-toned, smoky, toasted pecan, molasses, cassis with dried cherries and violets. Tastes like a giant smooth Old World Cabernet Sauvignon. You will smell and taste plenty of deep fruit, with some backyard dirt, and gorgeous long fine tannins. We have held it for a long time so that when you get it you will have a freak-out in your glass. Do not be afraid to drink some now but definitely plan to cellar some for another ten-fifteen years.”

As we noted earlier, these are special-occasion wines, to savor, pair with excellent meals and enjoy with like-minded friends.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Crowdsourced Cabernet

Crowdsourced CabWord first came out two years ago that Columbia Crest was planning to become the first winery in the world to crowdsource a wine through an interactive online experience.

A new website, Crowdsourced Cabernet, was launched, so voters could make decisions through every step of creating the wine — bud break, harvest, fermentation, the final blend and the label.

On June 3, 2016, Columbia Crest’s 2014 Crowdsourced™ Cabernet was released (1,000 cases) and can now be purchased online and in the winery’s tasting room in Paterson, Washington. ($30 SRP)

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 8.46.29 AMThe two-year journey began when Columbia Crest’s head winemaker, Juan Muñoz-Oca, chose a five-acre estate block in one of his best vineyards, which is used for his highly acclaimed reserve program.

The vineyard can be seen in a series of YouTube videos made during the crowdsourcing program. Throughout the process, he educated and guided the crowd, explaining how much water to apply to the vines, how the temperature impacts harvest and other key factors needed in winemaking decisions. Voters were then given a series of choices to make.

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 8.34.40 AM

Ultimately, they decided harvesting should take place at night, the wine should be created with a lot of complexity and soft tannins, and be aged 16 months in 30% new oak barrels.

More than 6,000 people participated in the adventure. Depending on which voter you ask, the crowdsourced experiment was a lark, an adventure and/or an educational experience about the craft of winemaking. The outcome? From the tasting notes:

The result is a beautifully integrated and layered Cabernet Sauvignon from the Horse Heaven Hills. The 2014 Crowdsourced Cabernet Sauvignon has a delicate nose of tobacco, dried herbs, bright cherries and anise. On the palate, the wine develops warm blueberry pie flavors and a silky texture with dark chocolate and toffee undertones. It finishes with a bright, elegant and refined texture.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 8.32.58 AMBut the program isn’t over. Columbia Crest is embarking on another journey for the 2015 vintage of Crowdsourced Cabernet. Decisions are still in progress so if you are interested, you can place your votes on the website, Crowdsourced Cabernet. You can also follow #crowdsourcedcabernet on Twitter and Instagram.

We enjoyed our glasses of this one-of-a-kind Cab Sauv on the deck, as pictured above and on Instagram. As expected with a new release, the wine was a bit tight when we opened the bottle, but after some decanting, the flavors developed into one delightful sip after another.

Thanks to Columbia Crest for sending us a sample.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

The Estates Wine Room in Seattle’s Pioneer Square

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 12.07.10 PMSeattle’s historic Pioneer Square will soon be the new site of The Estates Wine Room featuring one of our favorite Washington state wines, Double Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon, and Archery Summit Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

On Dec. 11, Crimson Wine Group will open the new venue with a tasting bar, table seating and an area where you can purchase bottles of wine.

Walk-in customers can join in the tastings, purchase wine by the glass, enjoy small bites, as well as food and wine pairings. Yes, Double Canyon and Archery Summit will be featured – they are Crimson Wine Group’s northwest holdings. But other wines will also be available.

Based in the Napa Valley, Crimson’s diverse collection of luxury domestic estates and wine brands also include Pine Ridge Vineyards (Napa, Calif.), Seghesio Family Vineyards (Healdsburg, Calif.), and Chamisal Vineyards (San Luis Obispo, Calif.).

Regular readers know that we have been big fans of Double Canyon since winemaker Jason Ledbetter arrived from Pine Ridge Vineyards, Trefethen Vineyards and Cakebread Cellars in Napa.

At Taste Washington 2014, we named Double Canyon’s 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, from Phinny Hill Vineyard, in our top three favorite wines.

A few months later, Double Canyon was included in our list of top 50 Washington wineries in 2014.

Here are our previous blog posts:
Double Canyon 2013 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon
Double Canyon-New Winemaker, New Wine

We hope to see you at the new Estates Wine Room, where you can stock up on party wine right before the holidays!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Double Canyon 2013 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 2.03.52 PMOne of our favorite Cabernet Sauvignons from Washington state comes from Double Canyon, established eight years ago in Horse Heaven Hills, and named for the two ravines that run through the property.

We were big fans of Double Canyon’s first wine, a 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, which was awarded 93 points from Wine Spectator.

We also enjoyed the winery’s 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and not surprisingly, felt the same way about the 2012 Horse Heaven Hills vintage.

Are you sensing a pattern here?

The hits just keep on coming from winemaker Jason Ledbetter, who has a passion for appellation-focused estate Cabs. His wines have become so popular that Double Canyon expanded its distribution of the recently released 2013 Double Canyon Horse Heaven Hills Cab Sauv to 15 markets: Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Like its predecessors, the 2013 vintage is a classic Washington state Cabernet with excellent balance, fresh fruit characteristics and juicy acidity. Of course, it pairs well with rich steak on the barbecue or grill, but it is a standalone wine too, to sip and savor with friends.

Cabernet Sauvignon (75%) is blended with Syrah (17%) and rounded out by Malbec and Petit Verdot (4% each) for extra complexity. The majority of the grapes were sourced from Double Canyon Estate Vineyard, with the remainder from Phinny Hill and Champoux Vineyards.

From the tasting notes: This Cabernet embodies a delectable mix of fresh ripe red and black plum, intermingled with hints of dried red cherry. The addition of Syrah leads to a full and rich texture on the mid-palate, further accented by luscious blackberry notes supplied by the Malbec and bright acidity from the Petit Verdot. The soft and supple mouthfeel is supported by the complexity of sweet oak tannins and fresh fruit character, finishing with the juicy acidity that is characteristic of Horse Heaven Hills.

AVA: Horse Heaven Hills
Blend: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Syrah, 4% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot
SRP: $25
Released: March 2015
Production: 4,200 cases
Sample provided  by winery

We highly recommend all the wines we’ve tasted to date from Double Canyon.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Passing Time Winery’s Inaugural Release

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 12.44.32 PMPassing Time Winery was launched last June by Dan Marino and Damon Huard, two former National Football League quarterbacks and teammates with the Miami Dolphins. If you’re skeptical about the kind of wine NFL stars can make, think again.

We were delighted to pass the time with a couple of glasses of their first release, Passing Time 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Horse Heaven Hills.

This is not surprising to those of us who are fans of winemaker Chris Peterson, whom we first met when he co-founded Avennia with Marty Taucher in 2010. Chris is widely considered as one of the hottest winemakers in Washington state, and was named “Winemaker to Watch” by Seattle Magazine in 2013.

This inaugural Passing Time wine blends 86% Cabernet Sauvignon from Discovery Vineyard with 9% Klipsun Merlot and 5% Champoux Cabernet Franc. It shows a balance of fruit and mineral elements, with a beautiful mouthfeel and a chewy finish; this is an elegant, complex and expressive Cabernet that showcases the unique character of the grape in Washington state.

From Chris’s tasting notes: “This wine is opaque purple-black out to the rim, with beautiful, complex aromas of black cherry, cassis, vanilla, toast, fresh-cut violets, cedar, and hints of bergamot. The mouth feel is palate-coating, yet light on its feet with dark red fruits, vanilla bean, flowers, and balanced acidity to give lift and brightness. The well-structured finish is long and complex, promising a long life in the cellar.”

We encourage Cabernet lovers to keep their eyes on Passing Time winery, which plans to produce three Cabernets: from Horse Heaven, Red Mountain and Walla Walla. Rumor has it that they are already fantastic in the barrel.

AVA: Horse Heaven Hills
Blend: 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc
SRP: $75
Cases: 500
Sample provided  by winery

Cheers!
Margot & Dave

And the winner is … ANC Wines

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.34.37 PMJarrod Boyle of Alexandria Nicole Cellars is continuing his winning streak with a number of recent accolades for several of his stellar wines.

Knowing Jarrod, he would also credit Jose Yanez, the excellent foreman at Destiny Ridge Estate Vineyard, assistant winemaker Matt Dodson, and Jarrod’s amazing wife, co-owner and marketing manager, Ali Boyle.

And last, but definitely not least, Jarrod would point to Mother Nature.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.35.57 PMTwenty-three varietals are planted at Destiny Ridge, and the belief at ANC is that quality starts in the vineyard.

The winery’s motto is “approachable elegance” — and judging by the recent awards, and dozens and dozens of previous ones, Jarrod and his team are definitely succeeding.

Here are the most recent awards:

  • 2014 “Crawford” Viognier, Best of Class and Double Gold, Savor NW Awards
  • 2014 Shepherds Mark, Gold, Savor NW Awards
  • 2013 Jet Black Syrah, Best of Class and Gold, Seattle Wine and Food Experience
  • 2013 Shepherds Mark, Gold, Seattle Wine and Food Experience
  • Beverage Tasting Institute Ratings
    • 2012 “Gravity” Merlot, 92 points and Cellar Selection
    • 2012 “Little Big Man” Petit Verdot, 92 points and Cellar Selection
    • 2011 “Alderdale” Cabernet Sauvignon, 92 points
    • 2012 Quarry Butte, 91 points
    • 2014 A squared Pinot Gris, Best Buy

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.35.44 PMThe outstanding wines are what brought us to Alexandria Nicole Cellars almost 10 years ago. But the warmth of the ANC team and the winery’s fabulous events played a big role too.

Over the years, we have had the pleasure and honor of becoming friends with Jarrod and Ali, and we are so excited for their new venture, The Estate on Destiny Ridge — a breathtaking, luxurious and private venue for entertaining in the middle of wine country.

We also can’t wait for their glamping season to start up again this summer.

Congratulations to Jarrod, Ali and the ANC team on the latest accolades.

Stop by and see them at Taste Washington, or at their tasting rooms in Woodinville and Prosser.

Cheers!

Margot and Dave

 

UPDATE on Taste Washington & Washington Wine Month

Taste WA 2015Welcome to March, Taste Washington Wine Month, an annual celebration of the excellent juice made in this fine state.

The entire month is full of special deals and promotions by restaurants, wineries, hotels and retailers to honor more than 850 wineries in our exciting Washington state industry.

For example, discounts, flights and bonus pours of Washington state wines will be offered at many local wineries and tasting rooms across the state. Winemaker dinners will take place at various restaurants. There is a full calendar of Wine Month activities available, so you can plan ahead.

The momentum builds until the end of the month when the Super Bowl of wine events in Seattle, Taste Washington, is held on March 26-29 — the largest single-region wine and food event in the U.S.

New this year is Taste Washington on the Farm, a series of lunches on local farms, so you can meet the talented people who grow and produce northwest gourmet products. The lunches take place on March 27, right before Taste Washington’s Grand Tasting on March 29.

Three lunch experiences are available:

  • Cheese bliss at Kurtwood Farms on Vashon Island
  • Exploring the lush Snohomish Valley at Willie Greens Organic
  • A Deep Dive into Oyster Growing at Taylor Shellfish on Samish Bay

Tickets are $165 per person and include transportation by Evergreen Escapes. For more details about the lunch experiences and tickets, visit Taste Washington on the Farm.

Other events featuring more than 225 Washington state wineries and more than 70 northwest restaurants add up to make Taste Washington a special four-day happening that you don’t want to miss:

  • March 26: VIP Red & White party is held on the Seattle waterfront, where exclusive pours come from magnums of 90+ point Washington wines.
  • March 27: The New Vintage offers a fantastic opportunity to interact with premier winemakers in a boutique downtown setting, sip great wine, eat gourmet bites and dance the night away.
  • March 28 & 29: Educational Seminars are led by top national wine personalities and sommeliers about topics that showcase various aspects of Washington wine, as well as wine and food pairing demonstrations by renowned chefs.
  • March 29: The Grand Tasting, the Super Bowl of wine events, which is so big that we highly recommend developing a plan before you enter the doors.

We recommend planning ahead for the Grand Tasting because once there, you will be hit with an explosion of taste potentials — and it can be overwhelming. For example, one year we decided to only taste wines made from Cabernet Franc, as a standalone varietal. Another year, we decided to visit booths of some of our tried and favorite wineries plus five new ones.

We also recommend tasting and spitting wine (or pouring it into the buckets at each booth) at this major event, but if you think you might want more than a sip or two, there are hotels nearby. Otherwise, be sure to have a designated driver, or take cabs or local transit home.

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Columbia Crest Reserve Wines

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We recently sampled three red wines from the Columbia Crest Reserve program — a layered red blend and two robust Cab Sauvs — all of which we recommend if you like your wine big and smooth.

These wines were free samples provided by Columbia Crest, which is located in Horse Heaven Hills, next to the Columbia River in eastern Washington. After tasting them, we can say that we would buy all three, particularly the Reserve Cab from Red Mountain — it speaks to our palate!

Columbia Crest 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain
This big Cab received 91 points from Wine Spectator a couple of months ago, and if you like your Cabs chewy and juicy, this one is for you. Layered and dense, it has a mouthfeel that is classic Red Mountain. $38, 300 cases produced

Columbia Crest 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
Also receiving 91 points from Wine Spectator, this is one smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, true to its varietal character. Textured, big and bold, this wine pairs well with a big juicy steak. $45, 6,700 cases produced

Columbia Crest 2011 Walter Clore Private Reserve Red Wine Columbia Valley
Regular readers of this blog know we are big fans of good Bordeaux blends, and this one fits the bill. Spice and earthy notes flow into layers of flavor and texture in this blend of 68% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Cab Franc. $35, 4,990 cases produced

Any of these three wines would pair nicely with Valentine’s Day and chocolates!

Cheers,

Margot and Dave