Another Successful Taste Washington

Congratulations to the Washington State Wine Commission and Visit Seattle for another successful Taste Washington March 23-26, capping off Washington state Wine Month.

Thousands of people participated in the annual celebration of the excellent juice made in this state — at the Grand Tasting, educational seminars, lunches on local farms, and at restaurants, wineries, hotels and retailers that offered special deals and promotions throughout the month.

But we hope that people did more than taste the fine wine of Washington. We hope they appreciated it, and the hard work by people in our state’s wine industry – from farmers to vineyard managers to those in the production facilities, winemakers, distributors, marketing specialists, tasting room staff and more.

In particular, we applaud the workers in the vineyard who toil over the grapes and the terroir, the winemakers who balance creativity and science in every barrel and bottle, and their families who support this extreme effort.

We definitely appreciated every taste that was poured for us at the Grand Tasting.

And there were some delicious bites too. Our favorite was these amazing Salted Caramel Fudge Brownies from Blazing Bagels. (Their bagels were mouth-watering too, of course!)

We also enjoyed seafood from Anthony’s Pier 66, Ivar’s, Ray’s Boathouse and The Crab Pot. We munched on a lot of crab cakes this year!

Here are some of our favorite wines, in alphabetical order:

      • Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2014 Quarry Butte Red Bordeaux Blend ($26)
      • Ambassador Wines of Washington 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($38)
      • Andrew Will 2013 Champoux Vineyard Red Blend ($74)
      • Avennia 2015 Oliane Sauvignon Blanc ($28)
      • Barrage Cellars 2012 “Cease and Desist” Cabernet Franc ($35)
      • Barrister Winery 2013 Cabernet Franc ($31), pictured left with Petit Verdot & Barrister’s Block
      • Bartholomew Winery 2014 Tannat ($32)
      • Betz Family Winery 2013 Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon ($75)
      • Boudreaux Cellars 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($115); winemaker Rob Newsom and his daughter Keely are pictured below
      • Canvasback 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($40)
      • Cooper Wine Company 2014 L’inizio Bordeaux Blend, Red Mountain ($55)
      • Double Canyon 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)
      • Efeste 2013 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon ($60)
      • Fidelitas 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($50)
      • Figgins 2013 Estate Red Bordeaux Blend ($85)
      • Lauren Ashton Cellars 2013 Cuvee Estelle Red Bordeaux Blend ($50)
      • Maison Bleue 2014 Voyageur Syrah ($50)
      • Obelisco 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($50)
      • Saviah Cellars 2013 “The Stones Speak” Syrah ($55)
      • Secret Squirrel 2013 Red Bordeaux Blend ($25)
      • William Church 2014 Keystone Reserve Series, Reserve Syrah ($55)

There were so many other wonderful wineries pouring at Taste Washington, but we unfortunately could not visit every table.

As far as we’re concerned, every month is a good time to celebrate Washington state wine.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

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

Hard Row to Hoe – Wine with a Story

img_0004We’ve been fans of Hard Row to Hoe for years, and we finally made it to their intriguing tasting room in Lake Chelan Valley last month. Co-owner and winemaker Judy Phelps poured us tastes of many of her winning wines and shared some stories behind their names. First, the name of the winery itself has two meanings — one obviously related to vineyard management; the other is racy!

Back in the late 1930s, construction was winding down at the Grand Coulee Dam, and the area’s “professional ladies” decided to travel to the then-remote Lake Chelan, where a new mine had just opened near the town of Lucerne. The ladies moved into the Edgemont Lodge, located a few miles uplake from Lucerne at Point Lovely. Their goal: to take care of the miners. Yes, the lodge became a brothel.

As the story continues, a long-time resident, an entrepreneur some might think, ran a rowboat taxi service from Lucerne to Point Lovely to transport the miners to and from the brothel, in support of the soon-thriving enterprise at Edgemont Lodge. Eventually the miners’ wives decided to retaliate by burning down the brothel.

Fast forward to present times, and the decor in Hard Row to Hoe’s tasting room reflects the theme: an actual bed from the brothel, feather boas, pink panties and — well, let’s just use the word intriguing again – intriguing wall paper. The names of wines also contribute: Burning Desire, Shameless Hussy, Seduction, Good in Bed and S&M (Syrah and Malbec).

img_0005In addition to the names, the stories are also illustrated by little caricatures drawn on the wine bottles — one depicts the miners in the rowboat taxi, heading to the brothel. Others show the brothel beds or the building itself, with the shutters up when the brothel was open for business, or the shutters down when the miners were visiting. For example, Hard Row to Hoe’s stellar Cabernet Franc, Burning Desire, has a drawing (right) of the wives carrying torches in the rowboat taxi en route to burn down the Edgemont Lodge.

So let’s take a look at the Burning Desire, along with some of the other wines we tasted.

2014 Hard Row to Hoe Burning Desire Estate Cabernet Franc ($45)
This big juicy wine has made our list of favorite Cab Francs for years, and this vintage is no exception. Tasting notes: “Showing great purity of fruit with a long, vibrant finish. It is loaded with dark cherry and plum flavors with a complex aroma of herbs, spices and violets. Well-balanced, with richness, good acidity and a judicious use of new oak.”

2014 Hard Row to Hoe S&M ($38)
A delicious blend of 60% estate Syrah and 40% estate Malbec, this is one big beauty of a wine. Tasting notes: “Shows beautiful fruit flavors of black cherry, blackberry, black pepper and blueberry with aromas of black pepper, leather and tobacco.”

2014 Hard Row to Hoe Barbera ($40)
The Barbera grapes come from a single vineyard in Oroville near the Canadian border. We plan on pairing this wine with Dave’s famous spaghetti or maybe Margot’s beef stew. Tasting notes: “Offering flavors of cranberry, dried red currant, allspice and anise, the palate showcases the freshness and purity of this varietal, with pure cherry and dark berry flavors, alongside an earthiness of spiceand leather.”

2014 Hard Row to Hoe Primitivo ($49)
Oh do we love this wine – robust and beautiful with flair. Tasting notes: “Bold and delicious; filled with plum and cherry flavors. Aged in mostly neutral barrels so as not to overwhelm the fruit flavors with oak, this wine is incredibly food friendly and supple. It has an exotic spice finish that goes on forever.”

These were our favorites in Hard Row’s extensive lineup, and the ones we brought home to our cellar. All of these wines will drink well through 2020 or longer.

We highly recommend a visit to the winery tasting room if you are even remotely close to Lake Chelan. If not, you can purchase these wines at some wine shops or at the winery’s website.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave