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

Your Car + Their Driver When Wine Tasting in the Seattle Area

There’s a new, safe way to visit the numerous winery tasting rooms in the Seattle area — now you can order Main Street Drivers to be the designated driver of your car. In other words, the company’s “your car + our driver” concept means a professional chauffeur drives your vehicle.

It’s less expensive than renting a car or a limo service. And whether you are with your spouse, family or a group of friends, everyone can enjoy the day wine tasting without having to worry about safe driving afterward.

Think about it – customized transportation at taxi prices to take you around Seattle Urban Wineries and Woodinville Wine Country — popular wine destinations in the Seattle area.

This is particularly helpful if you want to participate in Spring Release Weekend or other winery events, have a fun night on the town, during special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries and birthdays, or even in the busy summer tourism season (so you don’t have to worry about finding a parking space).

Founded in 2011, Main Street Drivers began offering its services in the Hamptons, and now operates in the wine regions of Finger Lakes and North Fork in New York, Willamette Valley in Oregon and the Walla Walley Valley, in addition to the new service in the Seattle area.

All drivers have professional driving experience, background checks and insurance.

Reservations are $35/hour, plus a 20% service fee/gratuity, and can be made at the Main Street Drivers website, where you can also find additional information.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

It’s Back! The Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo

The second annual Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo Resort will be held April 28-30, when some of the northwest’s most talented winemakers and viticulturists will be holding seminars, tastings and attending a gala dinner:

We have had the pleasure of meeting Mike Sauer, Chris Upchurch and Walter Gehringer in the past, and have tasted wines from all of the attending wineries and vineyards. We also attended last year’s inaugural Northwest Wine Encounter — so we can personally attest to the experiences awaiting you this year at Semiahmoo Resort.

The event is packed with educational and fun times, opening on Friday, April 28 with a “Winemaker’s Reception,” followed by a private beach bonfire with gourmet s’mores at the spectacular resort.

Saturday’s activities include educational seminars hosted by Andy Perdue of Wine Press Northwest, who is also a wine columnist for The Seattle Times. Keynote speaker will be retailer and collector Doug Charles of Compass Wines.

Participants will also have the unique opportunity to taste wines one-on-one with participating winemakers at Saturday’s “Wine Speed Dating.”

Saturday culminates with an intimate Vintner’s Dinner Gala — a five-course meal crafted by Bruno Feldeisen, executive chef at Semiahmoo Resort’s Pierside Kitchen, and celebrity chef Roy Breiman of Coastal Hotels. The courses will be paired by wines from all wineries in attendance.

Sunday’s seminar, “Importance of Place,” looks at the importance of a vineyard’s location (or a location within a vineyard) to the grape-growing process.

The entire weekend package — including two nights at the gorgeous resort — starts at $475 per person. Local residents can phone for more details: (360) 318-2000. Further information is available at Semiahmoo Resort’s website.

We hope to see you there!

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

Boudreaux Cellars – Part Two

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-9-25-31-amAs mentioned in Boudreaux Cellars – Part One, winemaker Rob Newsom sources grapes from some of the finest vineyards in the state; he is one of the few to get grapes from Leonetti Estate Vineyard.

The wines in his current lineup are powerful, complex, smooth, deep and layered. These are wines for a special occasion, with high price-points and lush flavors. We loved every one of those that general manager Keely Newsom poured for us during our visit in early September, but these were our favorites.

2010 Boudreaux Cellars Merlot ($50)
A 100% Washington Merlot from four vineyards in Columbia Valley, this wine is elegant and aromatic. In Rob’s words, “Showy, gorgeous body like having a date with a super model, all amazing but more legs than most. This wine is a masterpiece of special blocks blended to perfection after three years of gentle handling and cool underground aging.”

img_40902012 Boudreaux Cellars Syrah ($60)
A classic showing of Washington Syrah, robust, powerful, and spicy. In Rob’s words, “This is the one I’ve been trying to make. Shows typical Syrah ‘good stinky’ on the nose, full mid-palate, and nice long finish of dark fruit flavors. Balanced with good acidity. Bring me some smokey ribs, saffron quail, and roast a pig. A am ready now.” (Read in southern drawl.)

2011 Boudreaux Cellars Malbec ($60)
This is a smooth, plush, full-bodied Malbec, compelling and textured, with grapes sourced from Gamache Vineyard. It will pair well with spicy food and chicken dishes, or share a bottle during an evening with friends.

2010 Boudreaux Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ($60)
An outstanding, rich and complex Cab Sauv, this excellent wine is sourced from ten, yes ten! Washington state vineyards and aged three years. In Rob’s words, “I will basically drive my Silverado to Egypt to get the best Cab possible if I have to. Our Cabs have become famous for being full-bodied, long, and fine. There is not another one like it in the world. No one would go to the trouble of getting grapes from ten vineyards for the blend, working hard to get the oldest, best blocks in the state.”

2010 Boudreaux Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($115)
Our favorite, this luxe wine showcases what an experienced, talented winemaker can craft with good fruit and Washington state terroir. Balanced, bold and beautiful, supple and velvety, this magnificent wine drinks very well now and will continue to develop for years. In Rob’s words, “Get ready to smile big with the high-toned, smoky, toasted pecan, molasses, cassis with dried cherries and violets. Tastes like a giant smooth Old World Cabernet Sauvignon. You will smell and taste plenty of deep fruit, with some backyard dirt, and gorgeous long fine tannins. We have held it for a long time so that when you get it you will have a freak-out in your glass. Do not be afraid to drink some now but definitely plan to cellar some for another ten-fifteen years.”

As we noted earlier, these are special-occasion wines, to savor, pair with excellent meals and enjoy with like-minded friends.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Bellingham NW Wine Festival

IMG_3924More than 100 wines were poured at the inaugural Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival on Aug. 6, which was presented by Brigadoon Service Dogs  in collaboration with Growing Veterans, and benefitted disabled veterans’ programs.

IMG_3934Of course we couldn’t taste all the wines from 36 participating wineries but between the two of us, we found quite a few new wines that we never tasted before and hope to again in the future (e.g., Tucannon Cellars, Two Mountain and Jones of Washington), along with new releases of old favorites from Forgeron Cellars, William Church Winery and Cooper Wine Company.

Here is the list (in alphabetical order by winery):

  • Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 10.12.50 AMCooper Wine Company: 2013 L’inzio (we’ve been fans of this Red Mountain beauty since its first vintage); 2012 Cabernet Franc; and Bud’s Blend “Gatekeeper,” named after Coop’s awesome winery dog
  • Dynasty Cellars: 2012 DCZ Zinfandel, a local Bellingham favorite
  • Forgeron Cellars: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, another fantastic release from our friend Marie-Eve Gilla in Walla Walla
  • Jones of Washington: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (the talk of the VIP room)
  • Lost River Winery: 2013 Cedars, a unique blend of 50% Cab Franc and 50% Merlot
  • Proper Wines: 2013 Estate Syrah for when you like your Syrah nice and funky
  • Revelry Vintners: 2013 “The Reveler” red blend
  • IMG_3926Tucannon Cellars: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, a great find from Red Mountain
  • Two Mountain Winery: 2013 Reserve Cabernet Franc
  • William Church Winery: 2013 Sur La Mer and 2013 Malbec (We’ve been long-time fans of both of these wines.)

Event organizer Zacchoreli Frescobaldi-Grimaldi told us that plans are already underway for the second festival in 2017, so mark your calendars now.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Winemaker Series at Semiahmoo Resort – JM Cellars

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 5.22.37 PMThe breathtakingly beautiful Semiahmoo Resort is continuing its popular Winemaker Series on May 26 with a reception and dinner with John Bigelow of JM Cellars. John’s excellent wines can be frequently found on our table: Tre, Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red (named after his lovely wife and winery co-owner, Peggy), Sauv Blanc and Bramble Bump Red, among others.

The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with a reception in Semiahmoo Resort’s Wine Room, followed by the Winemaker Dinner. JM Cellars wines will be paired with a mouth-watering five-course dinner created by Semiahmoo’s Executive Chef Bruno — including Scallops Sashimi with JM Cellars 2014 Bramble Bump White, and Spring Lamb Loin with JM Cellars 2012 Tre.

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.13 PMThis is a perfect opportunity for wine lovers in Seattle, Vancouver and well, everywhere, to come to Semiahmoo Resort for relaxation in a scenic location, excellent wine and a delicious meal. For those of us fortunate to live near Semiahmoo Resort, what a fantastic way to spend the evening!

If you are out of town, the package starts at $359, which includes two tickets to the Winemaker Dinner and a one-night stay for two in a newly renovated guest room at the resort. (Taxes and gratuity are not included in the price.) For reservations, phone 360-318-2000.

If you’re local, the price is $99 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity. Phone 360-318-2044 for reservations.

We hope to see you there! We’ve enjoyed JM Cellar wines since 1999 when we moved to Seattle; six years later, we finally met John at Taste Washington 2009. After the event, John wrote me a note to thank me — not just for our blog posts about JM Cellars, but about our support for Washington state wines in general.

Now that’s a class act!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

 

 

Charles Smith Wines Jet City

Photo credit; Charles Smith Wines

Photo credit: Charles Smith Wines

Now that we don’t live in Seattle anymore, we couldn’t visit Charles Smith Wines Jet City when it opened on July 25. So we decided to go on a road trip with our friends Jenise and Bob Stone (both have excellent palates), to see the new 32,000-square-foot winery in the Georgetown neighborhood, across from Boeing Field.

Jet City is located in a former Dr. Pepper bottling plant, which received a massive makeover by architect Tom Kundig. What a fantastic combination of steel, glass, concrete, barrels and big tanks, with 21-foot-tall windows looking out on the magnificent Mt. Rainier and the Boeing Field runways.

The downstairs tasting room also looks onto the first-floor production area. Unfortunately, the second floor, with its commercial kitchen, isn’t open yet, so we didn’t get a chance to check it out too. But according to reports from the grand opening, the area has an aviation theme, and the kitchen will be used to host harvest lunches and catered events.

As Charles said recently to the media, “Is this a restaurant? No. But will we have amazing dinners here? Yes. Is this a concert venue? No. But will we have great bands play live shows here? Yes.”

Jet City is billed as the largest urban winery on the west coast. What a giant place for such a giant personality with giant hair, giant billboards and a giant production of wines — 750,000 cases a year.

Charles has said he wants Jet City to be “big and loud and rock n’ roll.”

Charles Smith

Charles Smith, Jet City, Seattle

Fitting since Charles is one of Washington state’s rock-and-roll winemakers, along with our friend Brennon Leighton, former winemaker at Efeste who now leads the Jet City team. We were delighted see Brennon again yesterday and to discover that his new B. Leighton label is also available at Jet City.

We first met Charles at the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla. At midnight, he took some wine bloggers to his winery, where his rock and burlesque shows are legendary.

Charles has a commanding presence that is unique in the local wine industry. His showmanship could, but does not, overtake the impact of the wines he makes.

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 10.02.00 AM

His largest-production wines are Wines of Substance Cabernet Sauvignon and Kung Fu Girl Riesling.

His first release,1999 K Syrah from Walla Walla Valley, initiated his wine-making style that continues today: “Small lots of single vineyard Syrahs and blends of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Tempranillo and Viognier, all of which are hand-picked, foot-stomped, fermented with naturally occurring yeasts and basket pressed.”

In 2006, he created Charles Smith Wines, which are ready to be consumed immediately. These casual wines include Boom Boom Syrah! and The Velvet Devil Merlot, with funky black and white images on the labels.

Most recently, he created his sixth label, appropriately named Sixto, which features only Chardonnay, and is made in partnership with Brennon and Andrew Latta.

We wonder if there will soon be a new label, Charles Smith Wines Jet City. Until then, if the crowd there yesterday afternoon is any indication, Jet City looks like a success.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

 

 

Another Success for Taste Washington

Taste WA 2015Congratulations to the Washington State Wine Commission and Visit Seattle for another successful Taste Washington at the end of March, 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.

IMG_2546But 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.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 8.22.51 AMWe definitely appreciated every taste that was poured for us at the Grand Tasting. With 225+ wineries participating, we needed a plan. This year, we only tasted reds, and between the two of us, sipped quite a few. (Yes, it is imperative to spit or spill at the Grand Tasting!)

Here are some of our favorites, in alphabetical order:

  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2012 Quarry Butte Red Bordeaux Blend
  • Andrew Will 2011 Two Blondes Red Bordeaux Blend
  • Barrage Cellars 2010 Outcast Cabernet Franc
  • Barrister Winery 2011 Washington Cabernet Franc
  • Canvasback 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Double Canyon 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Phinney Hills
  • Efeste 2011 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Fall Line 2011 Artz Vineyard Red Blend, Red Mountain
  • Fidelitas 2012 Optu, Red Mountain
  • Gramercy Cellars 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Guardian Cellars 2011 Gun Metal Red Bordeaux Blend
  • Hard Row to Hoe 2013 Barbera
  • Matthews Estate / Tenor 2010 1:1 Bordeaux Blend
  • Mercer Estates 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Obelisco 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Sinclair Estate 2010 Pentatonic
  • Walla Walla Vintners 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 Cab Franc
  • William Church 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

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

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

UPDATE on Taste Washington & Washington Wine Month

Taste WA 2015Welcome to March, Taste Washington Wine Month, an annual celebration of the excellent juice made in this fine state.

The entire month is full of special deals and promotions by restaurants, wineries, hotels and retailers to honor more than 850 wineries in our exciting Washington state industry.

For example, discounts, flights and bonus pours of Washington state wines will be offered at many local wineries and tasting rooms across the state. Winemaker dinners will take place at various restaurants. There is a full calendar of Wine Month activities available, so you can plan ahead.

The momentum builds until the end of the month when the Super Bowl of wine events in Seattle, Taste Washington, is held on March 26-29 — the largest single-region wine and food event in the U.S.

New this year is Taste Washington on the Farm, a series of lunches on local farms, so you can meet the talented people who grow and produce northwest gourmet products. The lunches take place on March 27, right before Taste Washington’s Grand Tasting on March 29.

Three lunch experiences are available:

  • Cheese bliss at Kurtwood Farms on Vashon Island
  • Exploring the lush Snohomish Valley at Willie Greens Organic
  • A Deep Dive into Oyster Growing at Taylor Shellfish on Samish Bay

Tickets are $165 per person and include transportation by Evergreen Escapes. For more details about the lunch experiences and tickets, visit Taste Washington on the Farm.

Other events featuring more than 225 Washington state wineries and more than 70 northwest restaurants add up to make Taste Washington a special four-day happening that you don’t want to miss:

  • March 26: VIP Red & White party is held on the Seattle waterfront, where exclusive pours come from magnums of 90+ point Washington wines.
  • March 27: The New Vintage offers a fantastic opportunity to interact with premier winemakers in a boutique downtown setting, sip great wine, eat gourmet bites and dance the night away.
  • March 28 & 29: Educational Seminars are led by top national wine personalities and sommeliers about topics that showcase various aspects of Washington wine, as well as wine and food pairing demonstrations by renowned chefs.
  • March 29: The Grand Tasting, the Super Bowl of wine events, which is so big that we highly recommend developing a plan before you enter the doors.

We recommend planning ahead for the Grand Tasting because once there, you will be hit with an explosion of taste potentials — and it can be overwhelming. For example, one year we decided to only taste wines made from 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.

We also 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, there are hotels nearby. 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