Panther Creek: Thirty Years of Pinot

panther-creekPanther Creek in Oregon’s Willamette Valley is celebrating its 30th anniversary of making Pinot Noir, which is a perfect reason to raise a glass or two of their fine wines over the holidays.

Renowned Oregon Pinot winemaker Ken Wright founded Panther Creek Cellars in 1986; in 1994, he sold the winery and opened Ken Wright Cellars in Carlton. Other winemakers succeeded him at Panther Creek and by 2013, current winemaker Tony Rynders of Domaine Serene took the helm. One year later, Panther Creek moved to its tasting room in Dundee.

Panther Creek specializes in Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, all of which go well with holiday meals; or you could take a bottle or two to those numerous parties on your calendar this month.

panther-creek-1The winery’s 2014 vintage was recently released, and we were fortunate to receive two samples, plus a bonus wine to pour in a side-by-side tasting.

Of note, all young pinots should be decanted for 2-3 hours so you can really enjoy the flavors. This gives you time to prepare your appetizers or your meal, so it’s a good thing!

 

2014 Panther Creek Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Cuvee ($30)

This classic Oregon Pinot Noir opens with spicy aromas and moves to red, ripe fruit flavors and earthy notes. It would pair well with turkey or even a turkey sandwich, or if you want something besides the big bird, you could try it with cedar-plank salmon, pork tenderloin or any dish with mushrooms.

From the winemaker tasting notes:
“Reminisce about those delicious La Vie de la Vosgienne Framboises candies in the round tins, highlighted by dark fruit and cola and balanced with fine grain tannins. A mélange of varying soil types create a youthful Pinot Noir with a beautiful blend of flavor profiles and textures…gorgeous and easy to enjoy.”

2013 and 2014 Panther Creek Schindler Vineyard Pinot Noir ($50)
Think big, think age-worthy and take a sip. You’ll understand why Tony Rynders refers to these wines as a “beast” or “monster.”

We opened both bottles at the same time, so we could do a side-by-side tasting. The 2013 showed black-cherry fruit with hints of cedar and earth. As mentioned earlier, these pinots should be decanted. But the 2013 should be cellared first for a few years to really enjoy it. Our friend, Jenise Stone, who has an incredible palate, put it this way: “Let this puppy sleep.”

From the winemaker tasting notes (2013):
“Watch out! This is a big, masculine black fruited beauty. Light smoke with delicate coffee undertones support the expansiveness and fine grain tannins of this monster. The silky explosion of black fruit leaves a lasting appropriately weighted finish…extremely cellar-worthy.”

The 2014 was bigger, a chewy wine with black fruit and classic Pinot Noir savory characteristics such as earth, mushrooms and dark fruit.

From the 2014 tasting notes:
“Dark and brooding blue, purple and black fruit, shrouding a monumental foundation of granite and incredible structure, this is a very big boy that will mature fantastically. Looking for a massive Pinot? This monster is it.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.13 PMYou can meet winemaker Tony Rynders and taste his wines at the 2nd annual Northwest Wine Encounter at the scenic Semiahmoo Resort, April 28-30, 2017. We attended last year’s inaugural event and are looking forward to the 2017 activities. (More about the event will be posted here in the new year.)

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Thanksgiving Wines

ThanksgivingWondering what wines to pour over the Thanksgiving holiday? A special bottle to take to a family dinner or an evening with good friends?

Below are some wines that were sent to us to sample in time for the holidays. Thank you to the wineries who shared their bounty! We think all of these wines would pair well with different courses of a Thanksgiving feast.

img_0323Feudo Maccari 2013 Saia Nero d’Avola ($25)
Nero D’Avola is a perfect pairing for the main course, whether you go with traditional turkey, holiday roast or even rack of venison. Or before the meal, you could also serve it with a charcuterie board of smoked meats, cheeses, olives and dried fruits. The wine opens up with aromas of espresso and black plum, followed by juicy ripe cherry, sweet spices and a long finish. Simply lovely. Be sure to decant it for a few hours before serving. This vintage received a score of 90 by Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. Nero D’Avola is the most widely planted grape in Sicily.

img_0321Willamette Valley Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir ($55)
This delightful medium-bodied Oregon Pinot Noir features spicy, earthy notes, along with Thanksgiving flavors of cranberry, tart cherry and savory pumpkin. Sourced from old vines in the Willamette Valley, this is one powerful wine that will pair well with any mushroom-based side dishes or butternut squash.

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2015 Pinot Blanc ($24)
We love the minerality of this Pinot Blanc, which has a beautiful nose of pears, oranges and other citrus notes. We would typically enjoy this as a summer sipper on the deck, but we also think this would go well with your Thanksgiving salad or even with turkey and stuffing, if you prefer white wine.

img_0324Terra Di Montenegro 2012 Toscana ($35)
Another wine from Italy caught our attention, because we first experienced wines from Monteverro in August. This full-bodied beauty blends Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) with Cabernet Franc (30%), Merlot (15%) and 5% of Petit Verdot to round out the flavors.

Dark ruby in color, the wine opens with black cherry and cassis, with a bit of spice and fresh ripe fruit on the palate. If your main course is steak or roast beef instead of turkey this year, this Bordeaux blend is for you. Wine Spectator gave this wine 90 points.

Enjoy your holiday feast – and have a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving with your family and friends.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Winemaker Dinners at Semiahmoo Resort

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.13 PMBring out your calendar and mark the dates for these winemaker dinners at the spectacular Semiahmoo Resort. Whether you live in Washington state, British Columbia, or anywhere, really, Semiahmoo Resort is a great weekend getaway with breathtaking scenery, kayaking, birdwatching, swimming and lots of other activities in addition to the winemaker dinners. We are lucky to live nearby!

July 28: Spring Valley Vineyards, WA
This dinner will feature Spring Valley wines paired with a mouth-watering five-course meal created by the resort’s Executive Chef Bruno. Dinner includes Japanese Wagu Beef Ribeye, along with other tasty courses. Winemaker Serge Laville will be available to answer your questions.

Save the dates for these upcoming dinners in the Vintners Series:

  • August 25: Wagner Family Wine featuring Caymus
  • Sept. 8: Rodney Strong
  • Oct. 4: Cakebread Cellars
  • Nov. 3: Stags Leap
  • Feb. 10, 2017: Second Annual DeLille Cellars Dinner
  • May 11, 2017: Joe Dobbes

For locals, the dinner price is $99 per person for Spring Valley, $125 for Rodney Strong, $135 for Cakebread Cellars, and $150 for Caymus and Stag’s Leap.

For those wanting a weekend getaway, dinner and resort packages and pricing will be available on Semiahmoo Resorts website closer to the date of each dinner.

We are looking forward to this series of events, and hope to see you there.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Summer Sippers and BBQ Reds

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 12.37.47 PMSummer make us think of white wine on the deck or patio. But let’s not forget about robust reds to accompany tasty BBQs during the warm weather! Here are some good-value whites to sip with a summer salad or seafood such as prawns, scallops, sushi, crab or halibut, and some good-value reds for your BBQ. And there are also some bonus wines that are a bit pricier, and also work as a celebratory toast to Independence Day with friends.

 

Summer Sipper Whites

  • 2014 Kenwood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($13): Fruit from 28 vineyards went into this crisp summer sipper, and the result is a balance of citrus and tropical flavors plus some grassy characteristics and minerality.
  • Louis Jadot Macon-Villages 2014 ($15): This is a Chardonnay that is clean rather than oaky, with apple and citrus aromas, mineral notes and fresh fruit on the palate.
  • Santa Cristina 2015 Cipresseto Toscana ($14): If you like your rosé dry, try this one, with notes of jasmine and raspberry.
  • Santa Cristina 2015 Pinot Grigio delle Venezie ($12): Refreshing with aromas of tropical fruit and orange flowers, we will be sipping on this during lazy afternoons on the lake.
  • Drumheller Columbia Valley Chardonnay ($12): Smoky mineral notes on the palate make this a summer pleaser from a new label from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates — “a more restrained, yet elegant version of Washington’s expressive fruit.”

 Bonus Whites: These whites are a slice of heaven on a warm evening by the lake, by the pool, on the deck or the patio.

Efeste 2014 Feral Sauvignon Blanc ($20): This beauty of a Sauv Blanc brought us back to drinking whites in 2009 after years of reds only. Feral, with native yeast fermentation, is a wild and lively wine with intense minerality and the perfect amount of citrus to keep us sipping on the deck until the sun goes down.

JM Cellars 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($25): We first tasted this amazing white wine in 2009, shortly after we tried Feral for the first time. JM’s Sauv Blanc was fermented in 100% stainless steel, features both tropical and citrusy flavors, and is a refreshing favorite every summer.

Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Chardonnay 2014 ($28): This Napa wine shows aromas of pear, lychee, citrus zest and almonds, with a full range of flavors. We particularly like the citrus zest, which sets this apart from many Chardonnays that we’ve tasted.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 5.45.41 PMBBQ Reds: 

  • Double Barrel Shiraz ($20):
    The rich Australian Shiraz was aged in Scotch whiskey barrels to provide complex, well-developed characteristics.
  • Drumheller 2014 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($12): A distinct Washington wine, we noted the delicate flavors and texture, with a silky finish.
  • Drumheller 2014 Columbia Valley Merlot ($12): Another distinct Drumheller red, this merlot has lively aromas of blueberry and spice, with hints of cocoa and a soft texture.

 Bonus Reds: These rich reds pair well with BBQ meat dishes, at a summer party or as a stand-alone wine by a beach bonfire.

Résonance Pinot Noir Résonance Vineyard 2013 ($65) – From the  Yamhill-Carlton AVA within Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this lovely wine is a produced by winemaker Jacques Lardière, and is  Louis Jadot’s first project outside of France.

2013 Jack London Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($35)
This beauty will pair perfectly with BBQ steaks in the summer (and also roast beef in the winter). This is our kind of cab – full-bodied, rich, robust, well-structured and elegant.

2012 Ferrari-Carano Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley ($65)
With such a beautiful nose, lovely aromas and concentrated fruit, this Reserve Cab is simply delicious.

Any of these wines would add to your July 4 celebrations too!

Of note, all of these wines except Efeste and JM Cellars were samples provided by the wineries. Thank you!

Cheers to the long lazy days of summer BBQ’s and sipping wine outside.
Margot and Dave

Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo Resort

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.36 PMWe were delighted to hear that an exceptional Washington state wine event is happening right in our backyard near the Canadian border: Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo Resort. We stayed at Semiahmoo many, many times before moving to this area last year, and it is spectacular.

On April 15-17. some of Washington state’s most talented winemakers will be holding seminars, tastings and attending a gala dinner:

The Master of Ceremonies is Andy Perdue of Wine Press Northwest, who is also a wine columnist for The Seattle Times.

“The inaugural Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo brings together some of the Pacific Northwest’s finest winemakers for an intimate event with wine lovers,” commented Perdue. “This will be a treat for all the senses.”

The event is packed with educational and fun times, opening on April 15 with a “Meet the Winemakers” tasting, followed by a private beach bonfire at the spectacular resort.

Saturday’s activities include an overview of Washington and Oregon wine country, with sessions on “Sublime World of Pinot Noir” (Dobbes Family Estate); “Succulent Syrah” (DeLille Cellars and Betz Family Winery); and Red Mountain Rising (DeLille Cellars and Col Solare).

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.13 PMThere also is guided bird watching on the Semiahmoo Spit. What a great spot — we were recently there as part of the Northwest Birding Festival, Wings Over Water. (Yes, we’re bird nerds in addition to being wine enthusiasts.)

Saturday night caps off with a Winemaker Gala Dinner created by Executive Chef Bruno Feldeisen, held in the Peace Arch Tent. The special five-course dinner will be paired with wines from all attending wineries.

The event culminates on Sunday morning with an exploration of white wines from Betz, Chateau Ste. Michelle, DeLille and Dobbes.

The entire weekend package — including two nights at the gorgeous resort — starts at $375 per person. Details are available at Semiahmoo Resort’s website.

We can’t wait! And we hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

 

Seattle Wine and Food Experience Wine Awards

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 6.41.50 AMThe results of the third annual Wine Awards have been announced by the Seattle Wine and Food Experience in conjunction with their weekend of events Feb. 20-21.

More than 200 wines from Washington, Oregon, California and international regions were judged by a panel of experts who tasted and reviewed the wines under blind conditions, not knowing the producers, region of origin or prices.

Of the 204 wines submitted, 130 were awarded gold, silver and bronze medals. Top honors went to:

  • Best of Show: Piper Heidsieck Brut, NV Champagne
  • Best Red Wine: Garnet Pinot Noir 2013, Monterey County, California
  • Best White Wine: Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica Riesling 2014, Columbia Valley, Washington
  • Best of Class:
    • Ambassador Wines of Washington Estate Envoy 2012, Red Mountain, Washington
    • Arbor Crest Cellars Dionysus Meritage 2012, Columbia Valley, Washington
    • Bogle Vineyards Merlot 2013, California
    • Serra Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Applegate Valley, Oregon
    • Terra Blanca Winery & Vineyards Signature series Block 8 Syrah 2010, Red Mountain, Washington
    • Wilridge Winery Malbec 2013, Yakima Valley, Washington

A full list of awards can be viewed at Seattle Wine and Food ExperienceThis year’s judges’ panel, led by northwest-based wine journalists Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman, were Doug Charles, Lane Hoss, Rebecca Murphy, Chris Nishiwaki, Tim O’Brien, April Reddout, Yashar Shayan, Dawn Smith and Mark Takagi. You can read more about the judges and their credentials at Seattle Wine and Food Experience.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Recent Releases We’ve Enjoyed-Part 2

This is Part 2 of a two-part post looking at some new wines that we discovered late this year. Part 1 can be found here. In this post, you’ll find a variety of holiday red wines that won’t make you dig deep in your pocket — Cabernet, Zinfandel, Chianti and Pinot Noir.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 12.44.32 PMOak Ridge Winery OZV Red Blend 2012 ($14)
If you are a fan of big, lush, jammy Zinfandels, this blend is for you. We were not expecting such a robust Zinfandel-based blend when we opened the bottle, although we should have, since it comes from Lodi’s oldest operating winery, Oak Ridge. Wow, we were hit with strong aromatics of vanilla and blackberries immediately, which then transformed to a fruit-forward blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Merlot. This wine has a lot going on, with flavors of plum, licorice and blackberries. We had it with pasta, but this rich wine would also pair well with grilled steaks, smoked meats, chicken and pizza. By the way, Oak Ridge Winery first came to our attention with its Old Soul value-wines this summer.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 12.29.58 PMMark West 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($15-$25, depending on where you shop)
Mark West has been producing California Pinot Noir since 1978, but this is the first one crafted from grapes sourced in the esteemed Willamette Valley.

Representative of the Pinot characteristics in Oregon wine country, this wine is lighter, brighter and more delicate than its California counterparts, but it is definitely not a lightweight.

With notes of cranberry, cherry and apple, this Pinot will pair well with meats such as prime rib, but we think it would also be fabulous with salmon.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 11.42.09 AMSterling Vintner’s Collection 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($17) and 2013 Meritage ($14)
Sterling Vineyards introduced a few new releases for the holidays, including these two reds. The Cabernet Sauvignon is medium-bodied and juicy, filled with flavors of plum, cherries, blackberries and a touch of smoke and violets. If you can’t find the 2013, no worries – Sterling has already released the 2014 vintage.

The Meritage blends Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot into a good wine to pair with food. Both of these wines will go well with grilled steaks, meat pastas and even roasted chicken in a rich sauce.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 11.55.09 AMSanta Cristina 2013 Chianti Superiore ($16)
Santa Cristina produces Italy’s No. 1 selling red wine, Rosso; released its first wine in 1946; and is represented by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Washington state.

The 2013 Chianti Superiore is a ruby-colored blend of Sangiovese (95%) and Merlot (5%). This is a tasty, medium-bodied wine with aromas of plum and cherry that are also experienced on the palate.

We enjoyed it with pasta, but it would also go well with mushroom dishes, turkey or chicken.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 12.41.15 PMRed Diamond 2012 Limited Release Mysterious Red Blend ($10)
This wine was released in time for Halloween, but it works well for this holiday season too.

A blend of 56% Syrah, 40% Merlot, 3% Viognier and 1% other red varieties, this bold wine is described as mysteriously dark, with a palate of dark red berries and a hint of spice.

It pairs well with hearty dishes such as grilled steaks, rich stews or strong cheeses, or with sweets such as chocolate peanut butter cups.

At this price, how can you go wrong?

 

Thank you to Oak Ridge Winery, Mark West, Sterling Vineyards, Santa Cristina and Red Diamond for samples of these wines.

Happy holidays and cheers!
Margot and Dave

Sneak Peek

wine-glasses-photo-courtesy-Marcus-Whitman-Hotel-e1294811651743Life has been so busy lately – with work (our day jobs), the holidays and most importantly, family.

So while we’ve done our fair share of tasting wines lately, there hasn’t been as much time to write about them as we had hoped. But we will soon!

Here’s your sneak peek at what we’ll be posting in the weeks ahead:

  • List of best good-value red wine for the holidays
  • List of special wines for the holidays
  • Our second annual list of our top 50 Washington state wineries

Some new wines that we’ll be writing about include:

  • Seven Falls 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 GPS Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 GPS Zinfandel
  • Stottle 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Sterling Vintner’s Collection 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 Meritage
  • Oak Ridge Winery OZV Old Vine 2012 Zinfandel
  • Mark West 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
  • Nero D’Avola (Sicily)
  • Red Diamond 2012 Limited Release Mysterious Red Blend

So stay tuned to learn about some good red wines for the holidays!

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

Recommendation – Get Your Taste of Tulalip Tickets Now!

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 12.25.27 PMTickets are going quickly to one of our favorite wine events in Washington state, Taste of Tulalip — so run, don’t walk, to get yours before they sell out.

Trust us, you don’t want to miss this collaboration of wine, food and art.

Some “All Access” passes and tickets to the Grand Tasting on Nov. 14 are still available at Ticketmaster. But the Nov. 13 Celebration Dinner is already sold out.

All Access pass holders will have early entrance to the Grand Taste and the edgy Rock and Roll Cooking Challenge; a wine seminar called “Washington State AVA Smackdown,” featuring some of the state’s top wine producers; a VIP seminar featuring a cooking demo from Chef Chris Cosentino (from San Francisco’s Cockscomb and Boccalone); a private Magnum Party with a selection of high-level wine and food pairings; and more.

The Rock and Roll Challenge is a fast-paced culinary roller coaster with slammin’ rock and roll music. Three chef/sommelier teams will face off for a 30-minute cooking and wine pairing showdown—Iron Chef Style. Each team will combine talents to create the ideal entrée or appetizer from their mystery box, and pair it with a wine selection that the sommeliers will “hunt” for at the Grand Taste.

Each team will consist of one local Chef, one Tulalip Chef and one local Sommelier. This year’s local guest chef lineup includes Toby Jensen, The Ruins Seattle; Eric Truglas and Dean Shinagawa, Kama’aina Grindz; along with Tulalip Chefs Nikol Nakamura, John Jadamec and John Ponticelli. The Sommeliers will be comprised of Chris Horn, Purple Cafe Seattle; Dawn Smith, John Howie Steak; and Kristin Young, Bastille Cafe and Bar.

The Challenge takes place during the Grand Taste, which is always the weekend’s highlight. This year, more than 100 wines from Washington state, Oregon, California, Oporto, Maderia, will be poured, along with global selections of bubbles, late-harvest and ice wines, and craft beer.

Tulalip Resort Casino‘s talented wine expert, Tommy Thompson, and the event’s 2015 honorary winemaker, Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville, have created a unique blend of wine sourced from DuBrul Vineyard grapes — 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. As you can see in the above photo, the artwork by Mike Gobin for the commemorative wine bottle and plate is a beautiful expression of the Tulalip culture.

We were also delighted to discover that this year, on Nov. 14, Taste of Tulalip is featuring an in-depth reserve wine tasting/seminar called “Turning Water Into Wine” with Sparky and Sarah Marquis of the award-winning Australian winery, Mollydooker Wines. The tasting lineup will include 12 of Mollydooker’s recently released 2014 wines.

When we visited their Cellar Door and vineyard in McLaren Vale last year, we had so much fun with Sparky and his dad, Leigh Gawith. We had a vineyard tour, tasted through their amazing lineup and had a truly wonderful time. For more information, see our blog posts and learn about Mollydooker’s Marquis Fruit Weight™ process and their “yum-worthy” wines:

Mollydooker Part 1
Mollydooker Part 2 

We hope to see you at Taste of Tulalip!

Cheers,
Margot and Dave