Little Black Dress

The dress code for your holiday party doesn’t call for your little black dress, but there’s no reason you can’t bring a bottle of Little Black Dress (LBD) wines from Mendocino County.

According to LBD Wines (of California), “a good bottle of wine is your best accessory” and their wines  are “the perfect fit for every palate, party or holiday meal.”

To demonstrate it, the winery kindly sent us four samples to taste. While we don’t think these wines are for every palate, they are crowd-pleasers for those who like basic, simple, easy-drinking and affordable wines.

LBD Pinot Grigio ($11.99)
The predominant Pinot Grigio is blended with a bit of Chardonnay, Muscat and Viognier, which provides a pleasant combination of citrus and floral flavors. It pairs well with salads, sushi (or any soy-sauce-based dishes) or fish with lemon, to complement the citrus flavors of the wine. From the tasting notes: “Aromas of apple, melon and lemongrass before a zesty tangerine finish.”

LBD Cabernet Sauvignon ($11.99)
Cabernet Sauvignon is rounded off with Petite Sirah, Syrah and other red varietals to provide multi-layers to a medium-bodied wine. As with most Cab Sauvs, this goes well with juicy burgers and other grilling meats. Or you could try it with strong cheeses or chocolate. From the tasting notes: “Rich aromas of dark berries and toasted oak, a hint of vanilla spice and a lasting finish.”

LBD Diva Red ($11.99)
This Cab-based red blend contains a medley of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Petite Sirah, with small amounts of Zinfandel, Tannat, Mouvedre, Garnacha, Malbec and “other red grapes.” A fruit-forward wine, the Diva not surprisingly has a juicy finish. From the tasting notes: “Decadent notes of dark plum, cocoa and caramel leading to a finish accented by hints of cinnamon and chocolate-dipped strawberries.”

LBD Merlot ($11.99)
A small amount of Petite Sirah rounds off this rich Merlot, which has aromas of red licorice and plum, moving into flavors of berries and vanilla. Like the Cab, this wine pairs with meats and hearty dishes. From the tasting notes: “Plush aromas of ripe black cherry, rich mocha and spicy plum before a seductive vanilla and oak finish.”

Be sure to decant all of these wines before pouring, and enjoy!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Locations Wine by Dave Phinney

You might have heard of Dave Phinney because of his popular red blend, The Prisoner, or through Orin Swift Cellars, which he recently sold as a premium brand to E. & J. Gallo.

In addition to remaining with Orin Swift, his latest focus is on Locations Wine — as the name suggests, he is making the best value wines possible across the locations of all of the major wine-producing regions of the world.

In Dave Phinney’s words: “I seek out high-quality vineyards, and forward-thinking growers, across appellations to create a wine that proudly represents the best viticultural parcels of that country or location. Our quest is for old vines with low yields, to bring out the best of a specific vineyard and area. We then combine these parcels of place to craft a wine that pays homage to the country of origin; a wine that makes all of us proud.”

And better yet – these attractive wines are also affordable and approachable. Accolades for Phinney have been swift.

“Dave Phinney might be my “value winemaker of the year” candidate … If there are better wines for under $20 a bottle in the world today, please share that information with The Wine Advocate. These are all remarkable efforts. Kudos to Dave Phinney!” — Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate, July 27, 2016

We were fortunate to be provided with samples of six Locations wines, which have basic labels (the letters of the region) and a release number — in this case, the numbers 4 and 5 represent the most recent vintages. We’ve only tasted two so far, and were impressed.

WA4 – Washington Red Wine, $19.99
A unique blend of Syrah, Merlot and Petite Sirah, we knew immediately this would be a big Washington state red that our palates favor. We were right.  A beautiful nose of blueberries, almonds and licorice was followed by flavors of dark fruit, chocolate and spices on the finish. There is a lot going on with this complex wine.

CA4 – California Red Wine, $19.99
This is another unusual blend — Petite Sirah, Barbera, Tempranillo, Syrah and Grenache, from California’s diverse appellations: Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and the Sierra Foothills. Deep ruby in color, this is a robust red, offering flavors of intense berries, black fruits, smoke and savory notes, with a peppery finish that one might expect from Syrah.

These two wines were delightful, and we are looking forward to experiencing the remaining four samples. Until then, here are their tasting notes and price points.

OR4 – Oregon Red Wine, $23.99
“100% Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley; vivid red with a deep purple core, the nose is generous with ripe cherry, black raspberry, acacia flowers and hint of forest floor. Immediately, the palate is treated to a textural mélange of sweet cherry, pomegranate, rose petal and sappy strawberry. A lively mid-palate reveals a mineral twist and exotic spice notes juxtaposed with fine tannins and superb clarity on the finish.”

F4 – French Red Wine, $18.99
“A blend of Grenache, Syrah and assorted Bordeaux varieties; a dominant nose of raspberry, rhubarb and wild strawberry are complemented by savory aromas of humid tobacco, lavender and rose petal. An immediate entry of cranberry and other red fruit leads to a touch of savoriness. the wine is fresh and lively with great acidity and approachable tannins.”

E4 – Spanish Red Wine, $18.99
“A blend of Grenache/Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell and Carignan/Carinena; the wine presents a dark, polished amethyst with aromatic notes of white pepper, tobacco and black currant emerging from the glass. A silky mouthfeel with a palate of dark plums, black raspberry and hints of French vanilla closes with subtle tart black cherry and a lengthy, structural finish.”

AR5 – Argentinian Red Wine, $17.99
“A blend primarily of Malbec with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon; garnet in the glass, the wine exudes aromas of brambly boysenberry complemented by hints of antique rosewood and lavender. Immediately, the wine presents a rich entry of ripe red currant, hints of dark berries and subtle minerality, which transitions into an elegant and lingering finish of thyme and sage.>

The vision of Locations Wines is “Simple. Complex. Fun.”

Simple: “Make the best possible wine from a given country or location”

Complex: “Going out and tracking down the vineyards which are capable of delivering the quality of wine needed”

Fun: “Traveling the world to visit incredible sites and meeting amazing people that challenge each other to make the best wine possible”

Our final note: At this price point, we highly recommend that you try some, if not all, of the wines in this unique portfolio.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Madrigal Family Winery

Nestled between Howell and Diamond Mountains in Napa Valley, Madrigal Family Winery is best known for its Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc. Winemaker Chris Madrigal is a third-generation vintner, which shows in the wines he crafts.

We were fortunate to receive samples of three Madrigal wines, as the winery celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Madrigal Family Winery Petite Sirah 2012 ($34)
The winery made its name with Petite Sirah, and just one sip of this vintage will explain why. This intense wine is inky in color, with aromas of berries, licorice and dark chocolate. On the palate, there are rich, yet smooth flavors of dark fruit with spices on a long finish. You could pair this wine with grilled meats or sausage dishes, or sip on it before the meal, while nibbling on hard cheeses such as parmesan or sharp cheddar.

Winemaker Tasting Notes: “Inky black-blue color precedes perfumed aromas of cassis, espresso, and dark chocolate. Intense dark currant, blackberry, and plush plum flavors initially fill the palate. This heady, explosive wine then finishes long with BBQ rub spices, sweet toasted oak, and round tannins.”

Madrigal Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($48)
An Australian winemaker told us that she thinks about wines based on their “Yum Factor.” This Cabernet Sauvignon definitely has you saying “Yum!” Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot are blended with the Cab Sauv, resulting a robust, rich and beautiful expression of Napa Valley, where Cab is King. Now let’s get some steaks on the grill to pair with it!

Winemaker Tasting Notes: “From the outstanding 2012 vintage, this is a big, rich Napa Valley Cabernet with dark fruit and spice aromas and a hearty core of currant and black cherry flavors. The wine has excellent balance, soft tannins and a long, delicious finish.”

 

Madrigal Family Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($20)
We typically enjoy Sauv Blancs on the deck on warm evenings, but this lovely wine also works well during these cooler nights, particularly when paired with seafood. (We enjoyed it with garlic prawns and rice.) We love Sauv Blanc with 100% stainless steel fermentation, like this one, which results in a crisp, fresh taste of summer. Citrus and grassy aromas turn into smooth flavors of vanilla, melon and green tea.

Winemaker Tasting Notes: “Light straw color with the brilliance of sunlight through a forest canopy. Aromas of grapefruit, pineapples and orange peel. Flavors of pineapples and honeydew melon that are creamy and viscous on the palate. Nice crisp acid that finishes clean and refreshing.”

Next time we are in Napa Valley, Madrigal Family Winery will definitely be on our list of wineries to visit.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Murrieta’s Well

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 8.18.34 AMTwo years ago, we wrote about how we enjoyed Murrieta’s Well 2011 The Spur from Livermore Valley ($25). We just tasted the 2013 vintage, and we liked it even more. While the price has increased to $30, so have the flavors, with a higher percentage of Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc, and the addition of Merlot this year.

Crafted by the new director of winemaking, Robbie Meyer, this unique red wine blends 40% Petite Sirah, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon,10% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot,  8% Malbec and 8% Cabernet Franc. In other words, the Petite Sirah forms a beautiful foundation for the classic Bordeaux varietals.

Each type of grape was harvested, fermented and handcrafted separately to achieve their greatest varietal expression, and then blended into The Spur. From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

“Beautiful fruit aromas of black cherry and blueberry are highlighted by subtle notes of sweet oak and earthy spice. A ripe tannic structure and balanced acidity make this wine perfect by itself or paired with your favorite recipes from the grill.”

We think this big blend would pair well with roasted or grilled meats, dishes with red sauces or rich cheese.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 8.32.58 AMThanks to Murrieta’s Well for sending us a sample of The Spur, as well as 2014 The Whip, a white wine blend also from the Livermore Valley. While white blends aren’t our favorites, we know many people who would enjoy The Whip ($24).

The Whip blends 29% Semillon, 27% Chardonnay, 18% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Orange Muscat, 8% Muscat Canelli and 6% Viognier; as with The Spur, each varietal was fermented individually. From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

“This unique wine showcases juicy fruit flavors of white peach, pear and melon with bright acidity and a touch of sweetness that creates a smooth and creamy finish.”

Murrieta’s Well is one of California’s original wineries, propagated in 1883 with vineyard cuttings from Chateau Margaux and Chateau d’Yquem in France. Need we say more? Oh, one more thing — Murrieta’s Well is owned by Philip Wente of Wente Vineyards, the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Cops and Reporters

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 2.59.50 PMWhat do cops and reporters have to do with wine? In Washington state, a lot! “Cops and Reporters” is the name of an email recently sent out by Guardian Cellars, whose winemakers and owners happen to be in those two professions.

Jerry Riener, a police officer, makes Guardian Cellars favorites such as The Wanted, Gun Metal, The Alibi, Confidential Source, The Rookie, The Informant and more. Do you sense a theme here?

His wife, Jennifer Sullivan, a journalist at KOMO-TV and previously at The Seattle Times, makes her wines under the appropriately named Newsprint label — Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Blend, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay and Rosé.

While maintaining their full-time jobs as a cop and a reporter, they opened a tasting room and production facility in 2007 in Woodinville’s Wine Warehouse. In the last nine years, their wines became so popular that Jerry and Jennifer just opened up a second tasting room in Woodinville’s Hollywood Schoolhouse district.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 3.12.32 PMTo celebrate, they released the 2013 Chalk Line – a big juicy blend that has an equally big fan base.

The new tasting room features the Guardian Cellars label, while Newsprint is located at the longtime spot in the Woodinville Wine Warehouse.

We recommend you try both, because wines under both labels are perfect for summer sipping on the deck, a summer BBQ, an evening with friends or to take to a party.

Here are their times of operation:

  • Guardian Cellars tasting room at 14525 148th Ave NE, Suite 122, in Woodinville’s Hollywood Schoolhouse district, is open seven days a week: 12 p.m.- 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 12-6 p.m. on Sunday.
  • Newsprint tasting room is located inside the main production facility at 19501 144th Ave NE, Suite E-600, in Woodinville’s Wine Warehouse District. This tasting room is open 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Since the total Newsprint production is fairly small, this tasting room is only open when wines are available. Check the winery’s Facebook page for hours and inventory.

Most Newsprint wines are priced at $18 (although the rosé is $14). Guardian Cellars wines range from $20-$39.

These are definitely wines to write home about!

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

What’s in Our Glasses?

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 3.40.36 PMWe’ve had many reasons to celebrate in recent weeks — birthdays, anniversaries and vacations. What better times to pull out a bottle of fine Washington state and/or California wine from our collection?

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 3.40.23 PM

 

 

 

 

 

For example, on our anniversary we enjoyed two Washington state beauties, Obelisco 2012 Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon and Force Majeure 2010 Collaboration V, Estate Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.

Yes, these are definitely special-occasion wines.

In the last few months, we also opened some good-value reds — how can you miss at $15?

So here are some of the wines in our glasses lately — at a wide range of prices, from $15-$70 — in alphabetical order. Some of these were small pours at wine events; others were glasses at restaurants or bottles shared with friends.

Note: Sometimes you can find lower prices at Costco, through wine apps or wine stores.

  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2012 Destiny, $48
  • Ambassador 2012 Plenipotentiary Cabernet Sauvignon, $50
  • Avennia 2010 Sestina, $50
  • Bartholomew Primitivo 2013, $24
  • Columbia Crest 2013 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, $15
  • Corliss 2012 Secret Squirrel Cabernet Sauvignon, $25
  • Decoy 2013 Red Wine, $24
  • Des Voigne 2012 The Duke Zinfandel, $30
  • Double Canyon 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, $65
  • Eagle Eye 2007 Proprietary Red Limited Edition Heritage, $50
  • Efeste 2010 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon, $54
  • Force Majeure 2010 Estate Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, $65
  • Guardian Cellars 2012 The Wanted, $37
  • Lauren Ashton 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, $50
  • Mercer Estates 2011 Ode to Brothers GSM, $42
  • Michael David 2013 Petite Petit, $17
  • Oak Ridge 2013 OZV Zin, $14
  • Obelisco 2012 Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon, $70
  • Seghesio 2014 Sonoma Zinfandel, $26
  • Seven Falls 2013 Jones Vineyard Zinfandel, $40
  • Stags’ Leap 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, $50
  • William Church Winery 2010 Bishop’s Blend, $22
  • The Woodhouse Wine Estates 2012 Darighe, $65

We hope you also have a chance to taste some of these delicious wines; if the above vintages are sold out, chances are the next ones are very drinkable too.

Special thanks to Lauren Ashton, Double Canyon and Oak Ridge for the samples to taste.

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

Hope Family Wines

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 2.24.06 PMHope Family Wines is a pioneer in Paso Robles wine country, established 30 years ago and still family-owned and operated.

Five brands are in their barrels and bottles, three of which we experienced recently during a Twitter tasting sponsored by the winery and Boston Wine Expo.

2013 Liberty School Merlot, $16
This medium-bodied wine is ruby in color, and packed with flavors. Dense and earthy with blackberries, blueberries and plum, with a hint of dark chocolate and spice, this is one good-value, good-tasting Merlot. Try pairing it with pizza or burgers.

Troublemaker Blend 8, $20
Troublemaker is a Rhone-style blend that is distinctly Paso: 46% Syrah, 14% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre, 25% Zinfandel and 5% Petite Sirah. Think of it as GSM with a kick. Most of the wine comes from the 2013 vintage, but a mix of 2012 and 2011 brings a multi-vintage complexity that is unique. Fruit-forward characteristics make it pop; we’d say it’s trouble in glass!

2012 Treana Red, $45
While we enjoyed the first two wines, our favorite is Treana, the flagship and benchmark blend of Hope Family Wines since 1996. Of course we liked it best — it’s Cab-based (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah) and has a velvety mouthfeel. Bold, rich and spicy, this beauty will definitely pair well with Valentine’s Day.

Special thanks to our hosts, who gave us free samples so we could participate in the Twitter tasting.

Cheers!

Margot and Dave

Angel Vine Wine

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 12.47.59 PMAngel Vine is an Oregon winery specializing in Washington Zinfandel and Primitivo, and to a lesser extent, Petite Sirah. The wine is made by Ed Fus in one of our favorite places in Oregon wine country, Carlton, but the grapes come from Washington state: Walla Walla Valley, Horse Heaven Hills and Wahluke Slope.

A year ago, we tasted pours of some Angel Vine at Carlton Cellars, where Ed makes the wine, so we were delighted when we received some sample wines to try this year. We agree with the branding note on the back of the bottles, the winery’s website, and Facebook and Twitter profiles: “Angel Vine is committed to producing premium Northwest Zinfandel and Primitivo wines that show character, individuality and spunk.”

 Angel Vine 2010 Petite Sirah (Wahluke Slope)

This big, bold red has a dark inky color, with a firm texture and mouthfeel and aromas and flavors of dark plum and blueberries. We paired it with spaghetti, with a rich tomato and meat sauce. However this wine would also work well with grilled or barbecued meats or spicy dishes. An excellent value, at $22

Angel Vine 2011 Zinfandel  (Horse Heaven Hills)

If you are a fan of Zinfandel, you must try this rich and robust wine. Comprised of 98% Zin and rounded out with 2% Petite Sirah, this wine offers bright flavors of raspberries, cherries and strawberries. Washington state wine expert Paul Gregutt wrote this in the Wine Enthusiast: “Angel Vine sources excellent fruit, and makes what is arguably the most hedonistic, California-style Zinfandel in the northwest.” Another excellent value at $19

Angel Vine 2010 Primitivo (Horse Heaven Hills and Wahluke Slope)

We love Primitivo, and this one hits the mark in both taste and value. From Coyote Canyon vineyard and Stonetree vineyard, the blended wine offers gorgeous and fragrant aromas of black cherry, raspberry and dark fruits; the wine is elegant, luscious and jammy. Another excellent value at $20

Cheers!

 

Wines for Thanksgiving

Wondering what wines to share over the Thanksgiving holidays? A special bottle to take to a family dinner or an evening with good friends? Here is our list of current favorite red wines of different vintages.

But first, a note: We strongly believe that people should drink whatever varieties of wine they want, red or white. Our preference for Thanksgiving happens to be robust red wines – some with a bit of funk, such as 2009 Reynvaan In the Rocks Syrah, and some that are rich and smooth, such as 2009 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon.

In addition to those two beauties, here are the wines (in alphabetical order) that we recommend for Thanksgiving – all are from Washington state unless otherwise noted as from Oregon.

What’s on your list of Thanksgiving wines?

Cheers!