Such a pretty bottle, such a pleasing wine

We finally decided to open our beautifully engraved bottle of 2008 Red Wine from Barrage Cellars – Kevin Correll’s featured wine of 2011 Taste of Tulalip, the annual wine and food extravaganza at Tulalip Resort.

Kevin’s 2008 Red was originally known as Stealth, a new wine label in honor of his and Rebecca’s beloved dog, Murphy — a gorgeous chocolate Lab, known for his playfulness and surreptitiousness around the wine barrels.

“Stealth,” a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cab Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, sold out almost immediately. We weren’t surprised to hear this news, because we’ve never met a wine from Barrage Cellars that we didn’t like, or more often, love.

Back in 2011, with the announcement that Barrage Cellars was honored as the official winery partner of Taste of Tulalip, Kevin rebottled what little remained of Stealth and renamed it ”Murphy’s Blend.” He and Rebecca lovingly poured the nectar into engraved bottles that were featured at the event.

We bought a bottle there, and later wished we had purchased more.

But we decided to hold off on opening it; the bottle is so pretty, and filled with wine that we knew would be so, so pleasing.

But last night, we did it – we uncorked the bottle, and raised our glasses to Murphy (who is now romping around in doggy heaven with our beloved retrievers, Sam and Shadow) and also to Kevin and Rebecca, whom we are happy to call our friends.

Cheers to friends, dogs and fabulous wine!

P.S. We’re keeping the bottle!

Nothing says the holidays like Chester Kidder!

What better way to bring in the holiday week than with a glass (or two) of 2008 Chester Kidder Red from Long Shadows?

This beauty, created by winemaker Gilles Nicault, paired beautifully with spiced flank steak, as Dave and I toasted some rare time off together at the same time.

Released in September, we found ’08 Chester Kidder Red to be inky in color, balanced, silky and a rich blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Syrah, 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc.

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar gave 92 points to Chester Kidder Red with this description:

“Bright, deep ruby-red. Expressive nose offers currant, cherry cola, graphite and dark chocolate. Silky, sexy and intense, with firm, vibrant cabernet fruit complicated by licorice and spices. Finishes lively and very long, with sweet tannins and solid structure from the cabernet, some of which spent up to 40 days on its skins.”

Long Shadows is a collection of small production wineries, which brings together internationally acclaimed winemakers to showcase the superb grapes grown in Washington State’s Columbia Valley.

Gilles represents France; specifically, he made wine in the regions of Cote Du Rhone, Provence and Champagne, before moving to Washington state.

Prior to joining Allan Shoup’s state-of-the-art winemaking team, he was head of enology and production at Woodward Canyon.

We first met Gilles after he joined Long Shadows, when he and his wife, Marie-Eve Gilla — an excellent winemaker in her own right at Forgeron Cellarsheld a joint winemakers dinner at the Space Needle a few years back. They’ve both since become good friends – and we wish them, and you, a happy holiday season.

And thank you, Long Shadows, for sending us samples of your most-excellent Washington state wines.


Harvest Party

It’s that time again – our favorite wine event of the year – the annual Harvest Party in the Vines, held by Alexandria Nicole Cellars at their Destiny Ridge Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills in central Washington.

Let me tell you, Ali and Jarrod Boyle know how to throw a party! This is our fourth, and we just keep having more and more fun each year.

This event is so well planned – from the special hotel rate at the Marriott in Richland, to the party buses to take us on the 45-minute drive to the Estate vineyard, to the amazing “surf and turf” menu created by awesome chef Frank Magana. In addition, there’s live music and harvest hoopla, including a skeet-shooting contest, wine balloon toss, grape stomping, barrel rolling and much more.

And let’s not forget the incredible wines. ANC’s Estate Vineyard, Destiny Ridge, contains 263 acres of planted vines with 23 varietals. Believe me, 23 varietals is huge in Washington state:

White Wines: Crawford Viognier, a2 Pinot Gris, Shepherds Mark southern Rhone white blend, Sauvignon Blanc, Late Harvest Riesling, Cabernet Franc Rosé.

Red Wines: Quarry Butte Red Table Wine, Gravity Merlot, Alderdale Cabernet Sauvignon, a2 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Syrah, Jet Black Syrah.

In addition, wine club members (like us) can also enjoy:

White Wines: Reserve Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne.

Red Wines: Block 17 Syrah, Destiny Bordeaux Blend, Member’s Only, Grenache, Mackay Duck Press Red, Lemberger, Malbec, Rock Star Red, Tempranillo, Mr. Big Petite Syrah, Primativo

We became wine club members in 2007, the same year I started this blog and when ANC first moved to Woodinville. Over the years, Ali and Jarrod became our good friends. But it all began with the wine.



If you love blends …

… like we love blends, then mark your calendar right now for the third annual – you guessed it – BLEND event on Sept. 16 at Seattle waterfront’s Bell Harbor Conference Center.

We have not missed this event ever, because Bordeaux blends have been some of our favorite wines for years. I was asked to be a judge at this year’s BLEND blind tasting, but it’s during the day when I work at my “day job,” unfortunately.

But thankfully we can attend the event, which not only showcases Washington’s hottest blends, but also enticing gourmet food samples from some award-winning hotel restaurants.

Specifically, BLEND features more than 40 Washington wineries, barrel blending stations and international tasting stations, in addition to a “Bubble Lounge” with champagne, sparkling wines and cider and oysters.

While both of our palates favor Bordeaux-style blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, others prefer southern Rhone-style blends of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre.

Some of our favorites are unique-to-Washington blends of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, such as William Church 2008 2 Spires and Gorman 2009 Evil Twin. Unfortunately, neither will be at this event, but some of our other favorites, such as DiStefano 2007 Sogno (Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) will be definite pours for us.

Some white blends – perfect summer sippers — will also be available, such as the award-winning Shepherd’s Mark southern Rhone blend (Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne) from Alexandria Nicole Cellar and Optu White Bordeaux blend (Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion) from Fidelitas.

For a full list of wineries pouring at BLEND, in addition to tickets, visit the BLEND website. Net proceeds from the $49-per-person admission will benefit the Washington Wine Industry Foundation.

We hope to see you there!


Looking for a robust red for July 4th?

If you’re thinking about a juicy BBQ steak to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday (or July 1 for my family and friends in Canada), L’Ecole 41 has a multitude of choices of robust reds to pair with it.

We’ve been fans of L’Ecole for a long time – have a look at this 2010 blog post that references our L’Ecole tastings, starting in 2007. Every year since then, L’Ecole’s wines have either matched or superseded the previous vintage with character, complexity, flavors and balance.


My personal favorite is L’Ecole 41 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley. I had the opportunity to taste the 2001 library wine; the 2009 vintage continues the excellence – a blend of Cabernet from five prestigious vineyards that is sophisticated, structured and velvety rich.

According to winemaker and owner Marty Clubb, “Its old-world structure, dense dark fruit flavors and elegant tannins exemplify the best of Walla Walla.”

We have several bottles of this beauty – we had one last week, we’ll open another on July 4 and the rest remain in our cellar for what is sure to be years of good drinking.


In May, we reveled in L’Ecole 41 2008 Perigee, celebrated when the moon was in its perigee – a “super moon” when it passes closest to Earth.

The Perigee, L’Ecole’s estate Bordeaux blend, combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc with a dash of Petit Verdot and Malbec, sourced from the winery’s oldest and best blocks from Seven Hills Vineyard.

2008 Perigee is elegant, expressive and earthy – a delicious wine to enjoy over the holidays – or anytime.

Other robust reds from L’Ecole: 2008 Apogee Pepper Bridge, another of my favorites; 2008 Estate Merlot; and 2009 Estate Syrah, in addition to several from Columbia Valley.


Head Out to JM Cellars

If you’ve never been to JM Cellars in Woodinville, you are missing out on many wonderful Washington wines. Located on a hillside called Bramble Bump, JM Cellars offers first-class wines with a view.

Luck was with us a couple of weeks ago, when we stumbled upon an unexpected release party at JM Cellars. Winemaker/co-owner John Bigelow was pouring with a smile and our friend Paige Leighton welcomed us with hugs. And the wines – oh my.

We’ve been fans of JM Cellars signature blend Tre Fanciulli for years, so it was no surprise that we went home with the latest 2009 release. Tre Fanciulli is Italian for “three treasured lads” and named for John and Peggy Bigelow’s sons in 1999. With this new release, and the eleventh vintage, the name has been shortened to simply Tre. Love it!

Of the 11 vintages, this was the fifth we have savored. The 2009 Tre is a rich blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 18% Syrah – simply heaven in a glass.

The JM Cellars 2009 Boushey Vineyard Syrah is also outstanding. John told us the single-vineyard grapes came from old vines near the house of viticulturalist Dick Boushey, one of Washington’s finest grapegrowers. After Matt Sauer’s Red Willow Vineyard, Boushey was the next to plant Syrah grapes in Washington state. If you like big, peppery, savory Syrah, you simply must try this one.

Another one of John’s wines that we’re particularly fond of is the 2009 Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red. We first tried this stellar wine as a pre-release at the Taste of Tulalip last November, and couldn’t wait to taste it a few months later at its official release party.

It’s the inaugural vintage of a Bordeaux blend from vines that were planted in 2007 on the southern border of the Walla Walla appellation at the then-newly named Margaret’s Vineyard. The wine blends 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 17% Cab Franc, 17% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot and 6% Carmenere.

JM Cellars is known for elegant blended reds. And regular readers know my preference for Cab-based Bordeaux blends, so you know we took this beauty home with us!


2009 Chateau Smith Cab Sauv

Continuing with our trend of trying value wines in 2012, we want to give a shout-out to 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon “Chateau Smith” by Charles Smith Wines

 This reasonably priced wine received 91 points from Wine Spectator:

“Supple and inviting, with complex flavors of dark berries and plum shaded with hints of bacon and star anise. The finish rolls along unimpeded by the polished tannins.”

Not bad for a wine that sells for $15-$20, depending where you look. This Cab — blended with 14% Petit Verdot and 6% Syrah — is perfect for a weekday evening or during an afternoon game. (C’mon, not everybody drinks beer at games!)

Chateau Smith is the value label of Washington state wine maker, Charles Smith of K Vintners, who is known for his distinct-looking hair, black-and-white wine labels, and excellent reviews of his wines.

Give it a try and let us know what you think!


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!