Summer Sippers

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 9.08.12 AMOur recent sunny May weather makes us think of summer sippers while it is still spring. So here are some recent releases of good-value whites and rosés that pair perfectly with warm evenings on the deck or patio.

14 Hands 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Washington State
Our favorite white wine is Sauvignon Blanc, particularly when it shows aromas and flavors of grapefruit. This beauty does just that, and pairs nicely with prawns or other fresh seafood dishes. It also is a refreshing crisp taste of summer to sip and savor on its own on the deck. ($10)

14 Hands 2014 Pinot Gris Washington State
After Sauv Blanc, our second favorite white wine is Pinot Gris, which also pairs best with seafood. Similarly refreshing, this Pinot Gris is rounded with flavors of pears and honeysuckle, and contains 2.5% Pinot Blanc. We recommend it to accompany seafood pasta. ($10)

Santa Cristina 2014 Pinot Grigio
This wine comes from an established growing region outside Venice, Italy. Think of orange blossoms and tropical fruit, and you’ll travel to the Tuscan sun without leaving your patio. In addition to seafood, this elegant and fragrant wine also pairs with chicken salad — or any salad, actually. ($12)

Santa Cristina 2014 Cipresseto Toscana Rosato
Cipresseto is one of the first rosés produced in Italy. Named for the Cyprus trees near the vineyards, this dry rosé blends Sangiovese and Canaiolo. Fermentation and time in stainless steel tanks generated a crisp wine with distinctive aromas of raspberry and jasmine. According to the tasting notes, its savory undertones mean it will pair well with tomato dishes or calamari.  ($14)

Other Summer Sippers from 14 Hands and Santa Cristina

  • Santa Cristina 2014 Campogrande, $12
  • 14 Hands 2013 Chardonnay Washington State, $12
  • 14 Hands 2013 Hot to Trot White Blend Washington State, $10

Samples were provided by 14 Hands and Santa Christina, both of which are part of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

 

Australian & Californian Winemaking Merge into Two Lands

Two LandsEarlier this month, we were invited to a virtual tasting of a new wine brand, Two Lands by Jacob’s Creek – a winemaking collaboration between Jacob’s Creek chief winemaker Bernard Hickin and award-winning Napa winemaker Ehren Jordan.

The branding of this new line of wines, launched exclusively in the U.S., says it all: “Two Lands: California craftsmanship meets Australian character. Harnessing the power of collaboration to bring together the best of both worlds”

This new venture merges Australian and Californian winemaking into four satisfying bottles of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our favorites were the Pinot Grigio and the Shiraz, both sourced with South Australia fruit.

2014 Two Lands Pinot Grigio
This refreshing, crisp summer sipper makes us think of lazy days on the deck. With beautiful flavors of apple, peach and citrus, this wine is rich, smooth and very rounded; it would pair well with icy prawns or some good cheddar. Jacob’s Creek recommends it with seafood chowder.

2013 Two Lands Shiraz
We became super fans of Shiraz after wine tasting in Adelaide during our trip to Australia a year ago. Two Lands Shiraz is medium-bodied and flavorful, with big ripe fruit, a lovely mouthfeel and a long, dry finish. It’s still young, so be sure to decant it for a few hours. This is definitely a food wine – think of BBQ ribs or a savory stew.

Each bottle is priced at $13.99, a testament to the notion that wine does not have to be expensive to be good.

Many thanks to Jacob’s Creek for the samples and including us in this digital tasting.

Cheers!
Margot and 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

 

Tinhorn Creek-Beautiful British Columbia Part 2

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.43.53 AMTinhorn Creek Vineyards, quite simply, is a must-stop destination for any visit to British Columbia wine country. September 23rd marked the 20th anniversary of Tinhorn Creek, which has grown from barrels of wine in the basement of a house to 150 acres of vines on a beautiful estate in Oliver Osoyoos wine country, in the south Okanagan’s “Golden Mile” region.

Over the years, Tinhorn Creek has also become known in Canada as one of the most progressive wineries, focusing on sustainability and being environmentally friendly.

This winery is the epitome of what we consider a top pick: Good juice, good people and good events such as concerts and winemaker dinners at their onsite restaurant, Miradoro.

Sandra Oldfield, co-owner, president, CEO, and the face and voice of Tinhorn Creek, has been active in the wine community on Twitter for years. She embodies the experience declared on their website:Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.11.39 AM

“We grow grapes and we make wine. There are many steps between the field and the bottle, but at the end of the day it’s about farming the land responsibly, having fun, and making wines to share with family and friends. Because that’s what we are: friends, family – and friends who become family.”

Sandra also was the winemaker until this year, when Andrew Windsor joined the team, after after spending the past eight years in wine regions of Australia, New Zealand and France.

The winemaking team works from vines on two very distinct parcels of land:

  • 50 acres at the Tinhorn Creek Vineyard on the west bench, which benefits from sunrise and morning light, and is perfect for Gewürztraminer and Muscat
  • 100 acres on the Black Sage bench of the Diamondback Vineyard across the valley, which soaks up the intense afternoon heat, and therefore works well for Cabernet Franc and Merlot

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 12.02.23 PMSo let’s talk about the wines, starting with Tinhorn Creek’s Cab Franc, surely the best in Canada. We’ve tasted two vintages and enjoy the rich flavors that exemplify the varietal characteristics. This is a fantastic food wine, particularly with hearty beef stew or prime rib.

Earlier this year, the B.C. Wine Appreciation Society held a blind tasting of eight B.C. Cab Francs against four from other wine regions of the world. Tinhorn Creek 2010 Oldfield Selection Cab Franc, the winery’s first reserve version, won by a wide margin.

Going back several years, our first taste of Tinhorn Creek wine was at Whistler, back in the late 1990s — a 1995 Pinot Gris that set the bar for all the Pinot Gris we tasted in the following years.

More recently, last month, we visited the vineyard and tasted the 2013 vintage, which is crisp, balanced and brimming with citrus, pear and apple aromas and flavors.

In the late summer heat, we were also wowed by the Oldfield Series 2013 2Bench White, a delightful blend of Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc that screams for seafood to pair with it.

Tinhorn Creek is also known for its Merlot; the 2012 vintage is not at all jammy, and has a bite at the front palate that will taste marvelous with steak.

And yes, most of us in the U.S. can enjoy Tinhorn Creek wines here too – Tinhorn Creek is one of eight B.C. VQA wineries that offer wine exclusively at Whole Foods Market stores in Washington and Oregon.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 12.17.56 PMIn addition, Tinhorn Creek now ships wines direct to consumer in 34 states.

Of course, it’s more fun to visit.

And if you’re lucky, you’ll see the newest member of the Tinhorn Creek family. Right after our visit ended, the winery became home to a new puppy, Sam.

How cute is he?

Yes, he’s grown a lot in the last two months, but he is still adorbs (a word that has never been used on this blog since it launched in 2007)!

According to Sandra, one of Sam’s favorite things to do is to nap on the cool tiles in the shower (without the water)!

So what are you waiting for?

Cheers!

A Taste of Summer from Carlton Cellars

What an unexpected and pleasant surprise a few weeks ago to see Seattle temperatures hit almost 70 degrees — in March! You know what that meant … time to sit on the deck with a glass of white wine.

Our wine of choice for the deck – and later to be paired with salmon barbecued on a cedar plank — was Carlton Cellars Proposal Rock 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp, elegant, refreshing, with strong notes of grapefruit, pear and citrus rind — perfect!

You might recall that I went on a tour of Carlton, Oregon wineries with friends after the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland last summer. Fondly nicknamed “Blitz Carlton,” you can read about it here and here.

One of the bottles I brought home from Blitz Carlton was that same Carlton Cellars Sauv Blanc, knowing Dave would also enjoy it because of the strong grapefruit flavors.

He also enjoyed the story behind the name and label.

In 1999, Carlton Cellars co-owner Dave Grooters proposed to his future wife and winery parter Robin at a stunning spot at Neskowin on the Oregon Coast. Only later did Dave learn this place is actually known as Proposal Rock! Surprise!

Look at the label of Proposal Rock Sauvignon Blanc (above). See the two people? What a great story!

Dave Grooters is more than Carlton Cellars’ co-owner, grower, and winemaker. He is a storyteller, and his enthusiasm about the wines and the labels is enchanting.

He and Robin honor the Pacific by naming each wine for a special place on the Oregon coast, illustrated by really cool label art. On the right is the label from Carlton Cellars 2011 Canon Beach Pinot Gris, which I described last summer as “the crispest Pinot Gris in Oregon.”

Looking forward to visiting Carlton again next month!

Cheers!

 

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.

Cheers!

 

Blitz Carlton!

After the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland last month, I had an opportunity to join a few friends – and make new ones – on a post-conference tour to Carlton, Oregon.

And I can’t say enough good things about the people, the wine, the food, the accomodations and the amazing hospitality. I will most definitely return to Carlton – and I highly recommend you think about visiting too.

I will definitely write more in future posts, but I’m traveling a lot in the weeks ahead, so for now, I’d like to give big thanks to the wonderful people in Carlton Wine Country,  Republic of Jam, Seven of Hearts Wine, K&M Wine, Lobenhaus Bed & Breakfastwith special shout-outs to Thea, Lena, Bethany, Lynette, Byron and Ken.

Here are some of my tweets I posted while I was visiting the wonderful Carlton on a Blitz bus (hence, the Twitter hashtag, #BlitzCarlton). Enjoy!

  • First stop for #blitzcarlton #WBC12 is Seven of Hearts http://twitpic.com/alhrn2
  • Wine bloggers at Carlton’s Walk on the Park. Post #WBC12 #blitzcarlton http://twitpic.com/ali7my
  • Pinot Gris @7ofheartswine is refreshingly crisp on a warm day. (Stainless steel & barrel fermented #mustbuy #blitzcarlton
  • K & M 2010 chardonnay an understandable award winner #blitzcarlton
  • 09 Cuvee from K&M Wines is bright, beautiful & a new fave @kandmwines #blitzcarlton
  • 2010 Luminous Hills Estate Pinot Noir wins Mr. Personality and only $28. Wow! #blitzcarlton
  • Mmm pepper. Thank you @marycressler for encouraging me to taste GSM 2010 @7ofheartswine Bring on the steak! I am a new fan! #blitzcarlton
  • Yea! RT @melanie0: @republicofjam Lovely ladies rocking hospitality. Some of my fav folks of all times #blitzcarlton pic.twitter.com/8wHHGOwb
  • Ben Rice band is rocking the house @horseradish restaurant in Carlton. And love their blues. Oh yeah. #blitzcarlton #WBC12
  • Late night with Lena @7ofheartswine: Cab Franc and chocolates Yummy! #blitzcarlton
  • The Lobenhaus B&B in Carlton wine country is beautiful. Make time to stop over if you are near Portland OR #blitzcarlton #WBC12
  • 3 cheers, no 10 for the wonderful people in Carlton wine country @CarltonWine So friendly, nice & mighty fine wine & food #blitzcarlton
  • Good morning beautiful Lobenhaus B&B @Carltonwine. View from my patio! #blitzcarlton http://twitpic.com/als2f0
  • This is definitely one place I am coming back to visit. Lobenhaus B & B @CarltonWine #blitzcarlton thanks! http://twitpic.com/alsoae
  • Finally! I have wanted to taste @KenWrightCellars wine since 1997. And Ken is brilliant and funny #blitzcarlton http://twitpic.com/altw8w
  • Love to learn – side by side cooperage tasting at @lemelsomwinery #blitzcarlton
  • 06 Estate Reserve from @carloandjulian – wow that is special! @CarltonWine #blitzcarlton
  • Brilliant! @CuveeRestaurant Thanks for a beautiful lunch #blitzcarlton @carltonwine @alexanawinery @bellepente and Carlo & Julian
  • 2011 Cannon Beach Pinot Gris, Carlton Cellars, the crispest Pinot Gris in Oregon @Carltonwine #blitzcarlton http://twitpic.com/alvegv
  • Pinot Blanc is the new burrito wine! @noblepig? #blitzcarlton
  • Big reds loaded with fruit, 2010 Cab Franc is smooth & the Maserati of Cab Franc! @terravinawines #blitzcarlton @CarltonWine
  • If you like big red wine, @terravinawines in @Carltonwine is a must stop in Oregon wine country. #blitzcarlton
  • Donna Jean 09 Pinot Noir from Mouvance @Carltonwine is savory, silky & makes me want to sing like Michael Jackson #blitzcarlton
  • 09 Old Vine Meritage: Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot, Malbec & Petit Verdot & I love it @trooncarlton #blitzcarlton http://twitpic.com/alwiee

So again, if you’re thinking about taking an Oregon wine country tour, plan to spend a day or two in Carlton!

Cheers!

 

Say what? Wine & Lemon Meringue?

Summer sippers are bountiful in Oregon wine country, as we recently discovered at #WBC12, the Wine Bloggers Conference held this year in Portland. During last week’s heat wave, we were refreshed by crisp Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and several Rosés.

But tasting wine took on an entirely different experience at Noble Pig in Carlton. (Note: In the weeks ahead, I have several blog posts to write about this wonderful town in the Willamette Valley.)

Our smart and creative hostess Cathy Pollak, a winemaker and well-known food-and-wine blogger, poured a taste of her 2009 Pinot Gris Noble Pig. First, we swirled and sipped this soft, lush white wine with a creamy finish. Then came a surprise.

Cathy poured what seemed to be about a teaspoon of lemon olive oil into a paper cup, instructed us to toss it into our mouths (like a shot) and then have another sip of the Pinot Gris.

She said it would taste like lemon meringue pie.

Say what? Wine transforming to the taste of lemon meringue pie? Is this a good thing? It turns out the answer is a resounding yes!

It was absolutely delicious. So good, in fact, I bought a bottle of her Galantino Lemon Olive Oil, so Dave could experience this taste sensation at home. (He loves lemon meringue pie, but that’s another story.)

Cathy offered up many other unusual pairings, but that one was a standout to me. Be sure to read her food blog for more creative adventures. And yes, we recommend the wine too.

As mentioned, we will be writing several posts about our two days in Carlton, in addition to sharing our experiences at the Wine Bloggers Conference 2012. We hope you come back often to read them.

Cheers!

Back to B.C.

Regular readers of Write for Wine know that I live in Seattle but I’m from Vancouver, and I occasionally write about B.C. wines. This is one of those occasions.

On two recent visits to my hometown, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver and experienced two delightful B.C. reds – to my admitted surprise, considering that B.C. is known mainly for its fine whites.

First, 2008 Burrowing Owl Merlot: This rich wine was drinking nicely a couple of months ago, with aromas of dark cherry and cassis particularly noticeable. It was the best B.C. merlot I’ve tasted and equals some of our favorite Washington state merlots, hands down. Not surprisingly, it won a bronze at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition 2011.

In fact, I was so pleased to find a fabulous B.C. red, that I’d like to try Burrowing Owl’s Cab Franc one of these days. And it just so happens that their 08 Cab Franc won gold at the same SF International Wine Competition.

We are heading to B.C.’s wine country in 2013 for the Wine Bloggers Conference, but if we get to Oliver before hand, Burrowing Owl is definitely on our must-see list. More than a winery, Burrowing Owl offers a restaurant and accommodations, overlooking 140 acres of picturesque vineyard. The “Guest House” contains 10 spacious rooms with fireplaces and private decks.

The second B.C. red that I tasted at Vancouver Hyatt a few weeks later came from Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Vineyard. Jackson-Triggs, the most-awarded winery in Canada, is well-known for its Niagara (Ontario) wine.

But its award-winning merlots and cabernet sauvignons are made with grapes from B.C.’s Okanagan region, also near Oliver.

We tasted the latest release, a 2009 Black Series Merlot (formerly Proprietors’ Reserve), which was velvety smooth and silky at the same time. This wine is so new that it hasn’t been entered into international wine competitions yet, but my bet is on awards in the future.

If you’re looking for recommendations about B.C. whites, Washington wine expert Paul Gregutt gives full marks to “gems such as Sperling Old Vine riesling, Le Vieux Pin sauvignon blanc and Poplar Grove pinot gris.”

Cheers!

Happy Canada Day, Happy 4th of July!

What a great weekend – Friday is Canada Day and Monday is the Fourth of July! And the weather is sunny, which means wine on the deck and BBQ’ing.

First, Dave and I wish all our Canadian family and friends a Happy Canada Day today. Tonight, we shall sip on both white and red wine (the colour of the flag) in your honour.

Then on Monday, we wish all our American family and friends a wonderful Fourth of July. In your honor, we plan to start with white wine on the deck, moving to a robust red later with some blue steak (the color of the flag).

What wines will you be drinking this holiday weekend on both sides of the border? Sauv Blanc, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Marsanne, Riesling, Chard? Cabernet, Cab Franc, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Zinfandel, Primitivo, Counoise or perhaps a nice Bordeaux blend? Let us know in the comments below.

We hope your holiday is wonderful and safe.

Cheers!

Margot & Dave