Our Top 65 Washington Wineries

NYE WineHappy New Year! As we begin 2017, it’s time for our annual Top Washington Wineries List. Why 65 wineries? The list grew to 65 from 60 last year, and from 50 the year before, as we were introduced to new wines or new wine experiences.

The way to get on our list is fairly simple; we only have two criteria: wineries must offer great juice and good people who provide an excellent wine experience. Perhaps we had fun or learned something in a tasting room or at a wine event such as Taste Washington, Taste of Tulalip, Seattle Wine and Food Experience, Bellingham Bay Rotary Grape and Gourmet or Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival. Perhaps someone from the winery gave us a call, or sent us a personal note or samples. Or perhaps we were invited to an incredible winery party.

These people might be the winemakers or the winery owners; in some cases, they are the hard-working staff in a tasting room who went out of their way to make us feel welcome or the amazing workers in the vineyards where it all begins.

We welcome ten newcomers to our list this year, and thank you for the 2016 wine experiences you brought us — Ambassador Wines of Washington, CanvasbackDeLille Cellars, Matthews Winery, Mullan Road CellarsSavage GraceSpring Valley VineyardTildio Winery, Upchurch Vineyard and Two Vintners.

Write for Wine’s Top 70 Washington Wineries (in alphabetical order):

  1. Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  2. Ambassador Wines of Washington
  3. Andrew Will
  4. Avennia
  5. B. Leighton
  6. Barrage Cellars
  7. Barrister Winery
  8. Bartholomew Winery
  9. Betz Family Winery
  10. Boudreaux Cellars
  11. Buty Winery
  12. Canvasback
  13. Chateau Ste. Michelle
  14. Columbia Crest
  15. Cooper Wine Company
  16. Cote Bonneville
  17. Darby
  18. DeLille Cellars
  19. DiStefano
  20. Double Canyon
  21. Dunham Cellars
  22. Dynasty Winery
  23. Efeste
  24. Ensemble Cellars
  25. Fall Line
  26. Fidelitas
  27. Fielding Hills
  28. Figgins
  29. Force Majeure
  30. Forgeron Cellars
  31. Gard
  32. Gorman Winery
  33. Guardian Cellars
  34. Hard Row to Hoe
  35. JM Cellars
  36. L’Ecole 41
  37. Lauren Ashton
  38. Leonetti
  39. Long Shadows
  40. Maryhill
  41. Matthews Winery
  42. Mercer Estates
  43. Mullan Road Cellars
  44. Obelisco Estate
  45. Otis Kenyon
  46. Passing Time
  47. Quilceda Creek
  48. Reynvaan
  49. Ross Andrew
  50. Savage Grace
  51. Seven Falls Cellars
  52. Sinclair Estate
  53. Sleight of Hand
  54. Spring Valley Vineyard
  55. Stottle Winery
  56. Tildio
  57. Two Vintners
  58. Upchurch Vineyard
  59. Va Piano
  60. Vin du Lac
  61. Walla Walla Vintners
  62. William Church
  63. Windy Point
  64. Woodward Canyon
  65. Woodhouse Wine Estates

To these people, we thank you; we support you. Cheers to Washington state wine!

Happy new year!
Margot and Dave
Write for Wine — it’s Wine O’clock Somewhere!

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

Fantastic Value Wines – Columbia Crest H3+

img_0191We’ve been fans of H3 Cabernet Sauvignon since Columbia Crest Winery sent us samples of the 2012 vintage a couple of years ago. We ended up buying cases of this extremely good value wine during the year, and the pattern continued for the 2013 vintage. Columbia Crest recently sent us samples of their 2014 lineup, and we are happy to say that their winning streak continues.

Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, 2013, 2014 ($15)
We recently decided to taste through a vertical of H3 Cab Sauv. Not surprisingly, the 2012 was the most complex of the three vintages, and drinking very nicely with a couple of extra years under its belt. But to us, at this vertical tasting, the 2013 was the clear winner. That being said, the new 2014 release is lovely, showing promise of outperforming both previous vintages. We can’t wait to try it again in about six months – we have a feeling it will end up being our favorite. Enjoy this wine with almost any beef dish, hearty pasta or even before a meal with strong cheese.

Other new releases sent to us were:

Columbia Crest 2014 Limited Release Gold Red Wine ($12)
Every year, this limited release wine is popular for the Thanksgiving table. (You also could pair it with grilled meats and vegetables.) Columbia  Crest’s winemaker sets aside a couple of barrels of wine each year that represent what he considers to be the gold standard vineyards and grapes in the Columbia Valley. This year’s blend combines Cabernet Franc (45%) with Syrah (36%), Malbec (17%) and other varietals to round it out. As you can tell by the grapes in this blend, you’ll find a big, rich and flavorful glass of delicious.

Columbia Crest 2013 H3 Les Chevaux Red Wine Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
Named after the horses (Les Chevaux in French) that once roamed Horse Heaven Hills, this is a lovely, vibrant red blend of Merlot (59%), Syrah ($36%), Viognier (4%) and Cab Franc (1%). You can enjoy this with strong cheeses such as blue or stilton, or with well-seasoned pepper steaks, beef stew or lamb.

Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley ($12)
This is a great value estate Cab to pair with beef tenderloin, hearty pasta, blue cheese or chocolate. This wine features dark fruit, a wonderful mouthfeel, and a smoothness, complexity and structure not often seen at this price point.

Columbia Crest 2015 H3 Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
We’ve enjoyed previous vintages of this Sauv Blanc as a summer sipper on the deck, but this fall, we tasted it on a rainy, windy day, paired with garlic prawns, and it was delicious. The Sauv Blanc features citrus notes and crisp minerality, just the way we like it. You can also pair it with halibut, crab or quiche.

Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Chardonnay Columbia Valley ($12)
If you like Chardonnay with creamy, buttery notes, with a bit of creme brûlée and butterscotch, this one is for you. Interestingly, 22% was fermented in stainless steel, which brings a freshness to the taste as well. Where we live, Chardonnay pairs well with fresh crab in August and September, or crab cakes all year round, along with chicken pot pie or pork tenderloin.

Any of these wines would be paired well with different Thanksgiving dishes — and at these prices, you can stock up for the whole family!

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Hard Row to Hoe – Wine with a Story

img_0004We’ve been fans of Hard Row to Hoe for years, and we finally made it to their intriguing tasting room in Lake Chelan Valley last month. Co-owner and winemaker Judy Phelps poured us tastes of many of her winning wines and shared some stories behind their names. First, the name of the winery itself has two meanings — one obviously related to vineyard management; the other is racy!

Back in the late 1930s, construction was winding down at the Grand Coulee Dam, and the area’s “professional ladies” decided to travel to the then-remote Lake Chelan, where a new mine had just opened near the town of Lucerne. The ladies moved into the Edgemont Lodge, located a few miles uplake from Lucerne at Point Lovely. Their goal: to take care of the miners. Yes, the lodge became a brothel.

As the story continues, a long-time resident, an entrepreneur some might think, ran a rowboat taxi service from Lucerne to Point Lovely to transport the miners to and from the brothel, in support of the soon-thriving enterprise at Edgemont Lodge. Eventually the miners’ wives decided to retaliate by burning down the brothel.

Fast forward to present times, and the decor in Hard Row to Hoe’s tasting room reflects the theme: an actual bed from the brothel, feather boas, pink panties and — well, let’s just use the word intriguing again – intriguing wall paper. The names of wines also contribute: Burning Desire, Shameless Hussy, Seduction, Good in Bed and S&M (Syrah and Malbec).

img_0005In addition to the names, the stories are also illustrated by little caricatures drawn on the wine bottles — one depicts the miners in the rowboat taxi, heading to the brothel. Others show the brothel beds or the building itself, with the shutters up when the brothel was open for business, or the shutters down when the miners were visiting. For example, Hard Row to Hoe’s stellar Cabernet Franc, Burning Desire, has a drawing (right) of the wives carrying torches in the rowboat taxi en route to burn down the Edgemont Lodge.

So let’s take a look at the Burning Desire, along with some of the other wines we tasted.

2014 Hard Row to Hoe Burning Desire Estate Cabernet Franc ($45)
This big juicy wine has made our list of favorite Cab Francs for years, and this vintage is no exception. Tasting notes: “Showing great purity of fruit with a long, vibrant finish. It is loaded with dark cherry and plum flavors with a complex aroma of herbs, spices and violets. Well-balanced, with richness, good acidity and a judicious use of new oak.”

2014 Hard Row to Hoe S&M ($38)
A delicious blend of 60% estate Syrah and 40% estate Malbec, this is one big beauty of a wine. Tasting notes: “Shows beautiful fruit flavors of black cherry, blackberry, black pepper and blueberry with aromas of black pepper, leather and tobacco.”

2014 Hard Row to Hoe Barbera ($40)
The Barbera grapes come from a single vineyard in Oroville near the Canadian border. We plan on pairing this wine with Dave’s famous spaghetti or maybe Margot’s beef stew. Tasting notes: “Offering flavors of cranberry, dried red currant, allspice and anise, the palate showcases the freshness and purity of this varietal, with pure cherry and dark berry flavors, alongside an earthiness of spiceand leather.”

2014 Hard Row to Hoe Primitivo ($49)
Oh do we love this wine – robust and beautiful with flair. Tasting notes: “Bold and delicious; filled with plum and cherry flavors. Aged in mostly neutral barrels so as not to overwhelm the fruit flavors with oak, this wine is incredibly food friendly and supple. It has an exotic spice finish that goes on forever.”

These were our favorites in Hard Row’s extensive lineup, and the ones we brought home to our cellar. All of these wines will drink well through 2020 or longer.

We highly recommend a visit to the winery tasting room if you are even remotely close to Lake Chelan. If not, you can purchase these wines at some wine shops or at the winery’s website.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Tildio Winery

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-1-07-32-pmOne of our biggest surprises on a recent trip to Lake Chelan was Tildio Winery. How did we miss these wines in the past? They are incredible.

Owners Katy and Milum Perry started planting Tildio’s vineyard in Lake Chelan in 2002; their tasting room opened three years later. Katy is the winemaker, with a history of working for such greats as Robert Mondavi, Stags Leap and Chateau Ste. Michelle. The result — a family-owned vineyard and boutique winery, offering some of the most elegant, beautiful wines in Lake Chelan Valley. Tildio Winery is a gem!

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-12-36-57-pmOur friend Cheryl, whom we met in Woodinville around the time we started this blog in 2007, is the hospitality director and sales manager. We spent a delightful afternoon with her in early September, tasting through the lineup, snacking on delicious cheeses and cured meats, and enjoying the view of Roses Lake.

We arrived at Tildio winery to catch up with Cheryl. We left with a new love of Tildio wines. Here are just some of our favorites.

Tildio Reserve Cabernet Franc 2012 ($35)
What a beauty! Suffice it to say we took some home with us. This is one big, bold, earthy Cab Franc with aromas of spice and cocoa and deep dark fruit on the finish.

Tildio Malbec 2011 ($38)
Inky in color, this wine shows flavors of blueberry, blackberry and hazelnut combining into one glorious mouthfeel. Words that came to mind when tasting this wine: lush, luxe,  delicious, more please!

tildioTildio The Phoenix 2012 ($35)
This is a unique blend of 67% Cab Franc and 33% Malbec — no surprise that it’s now in our cellar. It has the WOW factor and then some! The wine is dedicated to “the firefighters who fought the destructive wildfires of 2014 and the people who are rising from the ashes of their burned homes,” including some of Milum’s family.

Tildio The Hermit 2012 ($35)
A softer blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache, this wine would pair well with spicy foods, spaghetti and meatballs, or with cheeses and cured meats like we enjoyed on the deck.

If you are heading to Lake Chelan Valley, make sure to stop by Tildio and taste their wines. You will be very glad you made the trip.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Fielding Hills Winery

img_4131On a trip to Lake Chelan last month, we discovered that the new tasting room at Fielding Hills Winery is as  magnificent as the wines. (The tasting room isn’t really new, it’s two years old, but we hadn’t visited in six years, so it was new to us.) Located on the shores of Lake Chelan, the views are spectacular and a great backdrop to some wonderful Washington wines.

Winemaker Mike Wade released his first vintage in 2000, and two years later, he was named one of Washington’s Rising Stars by Wine Spectator. We first met Mike in 2010 at his vineyard, during our tour of Cascade Valley wine country. At the time, he told us that the winery’s history began a lot earlier.

“Fielding Hills Winery actually began in 1919 when my grandfather, Isham Fielding Wade, set off from Tennessee to find his place in the world. Settling in Eastern Washington, he started a family and a business, both tied to cultivating the land. The name of our winery is a tribute to him and the character qualities he lived. I believe his legacy is found in each glass of Fielding Hills wine.”

We’ve been fans of Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon for years, and these two beauties did not disappoint in their recent vintages. Here are our thoughts on them and the other wines we enjoyed during our visit.

img_4127 2010 Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc Estate Barrel Select
No surprise here, we love this library wine — one select barrel of 100% Cabernet Franc from Fielding Hills estate vineyard. This Cab Franc is beyond rich; it is luxe, pure, full-bodied and unique to the character of the grape and the 2010 harvest. This is a special occasion wine, so we purchased a couple of bottles for some milestone events coming up soon.

2012 Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc ($34)
This is another lovely wine — 90% Cabernet Franc blended with 5% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s drinking well now, but will be even better after a year or more in the cellar. “Aromas of coffee, cherry, vanilla, woodspice, mesquite and herbs lead to concentrated, rich cherry and chocolate flavors that linger.”

2012 Fielding Hills Cabernet Sauvignon ($44)
Deep, inky, complex, this Cab Sauv is bold, dense and opulent with a long finish. Smokey, silky and smooth, the tasting notes describe it as “revealing multiple layers and a hedonistic styling.” This is one of the best Cabs we’ve tasted in recent months. Pair it with steak or simply enjoy it with dark chocolate.

2012 Fielding Hills Tribute ($34)
In our opinion, this wine is a tribute to Washington state’s fine varietals, in addition to showcasing Fielding Hills lineup – a blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 20% Merlot with aromas of cocoa, spices, cedar and black cherries.

img_41322010 and 2011 Fielding Hills Merlot ($36)
We were split on which vintage we preferred; here are the tasting notes:

2010: “Lush and appealing with notes of vanilla and other barrel spices accenting herbs and red fruit. The palate is creamy in feel with tart, mouthwatering acids that draw out the flavors for a long finish.”

2011: “81% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Franc – Woodspice, coffee, raspberries, light gamy notes, richly flavorful and  balanced.”

2012 Fielding Hills Syrah ($40)
Rich, full-bodied and smooth, this wine is comprised of 94% Syrah, blended with 2 percent each of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Merlot, and displays the smokey, peppery notes we appreciate in the varietal.

If you’re looking for a weekend get-away, we highly recommend the Lake Chelan area — and Fielding Hills, with its lake and mountain views and excellent wines, is a must to visit.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Boudreaux Cellars – Part One

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-9-25-31-amBoudreaux Cellars produces some of the best wine in Washington state, and winemaker Rob Newsom creatively crafts it in his own unique way, off the power grid — specifically in the only bonded off-grid (self-powered) winery in the U.S.

Yes, four miles off the power grid in the Icicle Canyon in Leavenworth, Washington, Rob’s winery is amazing. In a word, wow!

The picturesque property has been the location of both Rob’s family home and Boudreaux Cellars since 1981. Rob’s wine roots began with many long discussions with his extraordinary winemaking friends such as Gary and Chris Figgins (Leonetti Cellars) and John Abbott (Abeja).

Rob is both mellow and one of the most colorful characters in Washington’s wine industry, with a Louisiana drawl and a dry sense of humor. Over the years, we tasted his classic wines, heard his music, read ditties on his wine bottles (“Drink this Merlot, eat smoked Coho, kick off your flip-flops, dance on rooftops”) and listened to his jokes, including those about the Cajun folklore character Boudreaux, after whom the winery is named. Over those same years, Rob asked us to visit the winery but we never had an opportunity. In early September, we finally  made it, and brought our friends, Jenise (a wine expert with an incredible palate) and Bob Stone.

img_4095During our visit, Rob and assistant winemaker Caylan Haehl were busy with harvest, which he said was going well; he still found time to chat with us and be a gracious host. He also introduced us to his spunky and smart daughter, Keely, who is the general manager of Boudreaux Cellars, her adorable toddler and two very friendly dogs (brown Labs). Keely shared stories about how she helped her dad build the winery and spent hours with some of Washington’s finest winemakers over the years. After college, she moved to Walla Walla, where she worked at Dunham Cellars, Revelry, and Forgeron wineries before heading back home to the family business in 2012.

Keely took us on a tour and explained their winemaking process as well as poured some excellent wines. They are stored in a man-made underground cave that is kept cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Photo: Jenise Stone

Photo: Jenise Stone

According to Rob, “The winery is powered by a propane-fired 15 KW Onan generator. Power is supplied to and from a large bank of Trojan L-16 batteries. Battery power is inverted from DC to AC through a Magna Sine Magnum inverter. The property has 3,000 gallons of propane storage capacity. The winery is heated in winter with propane. Due to our location in the mountains with underground cellars, high ceilings and thick walls, we require no cooling whatsoever.”

Keely added, “The generator only runs a few hours a day at best, and then charges the batteries. This way we’re not constantly running the generator. We try to run as green as possible. We have an appointment with a solar company in the next month or so; we’re hoping we can go primarily solar. We are off the power grid not because it’s currently trending, but because we were fortunate enough to buy property in the middle of the national forest reserve and as a result, the county quits running power about four miles downstream from us at Snow Lakes Trailhead.”

The resulting wines are luscious. Rob sources grapes from some of the finest vineyards in the state; he is one of the few to get grapes from Leonetti Estate Vineyard. Words that came to mind as we tasted through his current lineup: big, powerful, complex, smooth, deep and layered. We loved every one of them, but our favorites are featured in Boudreaux Cellars – Part Two.

We highly recommend that you visit Boudreaux, particularly if you are going to be in the Leavenworth area. Or make a special trip – it’s well worth it. But note that the winery is only open by appointment, so be sure to call ahead to set up a time.

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

Matthews Winery – New Look, Same Great Wines

MatthewsTastingRoom097Matthews Winery is one of the first Woodinville tasting rooms we visited when we moved to Seattle more than 15 years ago. We bought our first three-bottle set of Washington wine in their tasting room — a 2001 Cabernet Franc to sigh for. We also enjoyed the winery’s flagship Bordeaux blend, Claret, that continues to dazzle in Matthews’ current lineup.

So it was with great interest to learn that Matthews’ historic winery building was recently remodeled, and a new venture created — Creekside Farm, an ecological produce garden adjacent to the winery building. This first commercial garden associated with a Woodinville winery provides produce and flowers to winery visitors, and to several restaurants.

In addition, tasting room guests can now pair their wine with farm-fresh produce and other products from local dairies, bakeries, creameries and charcuterie producers such as Cherry Valley Dairy and The Commons.

Located between the Woodinville Schoolhouse Wine District and the Warehouse Wine District, Matthews was a starting point for many well-known Washington state winemakers, including Brennon Leighton (B. Leighton Wines), Jerry Riener (Guardian Cellars), Mark McNeilly (Mark Ryan Winery), Ross Mickel (Ross Andrew Winery), Tim and Paige Stevens (Stevens Winery, Raige and Wines), Lance Baer (Baer Winery) and Aryn Morrell, who started his career there before making award-winning Napa wines for Silver Oak and Edgewood Estates. He now is back as Matthews’ current head winemaker.

Matthews co-owner Cliff Otis notes that nearly a dozen winemakers started or honed their craft at this location, and all of them have gone on to influence other generations of winemakers.

BarrelRoom4From the excellent winemakers to the classic wines, Matthews’ tasting room has always drawn a crowd — but according to Otis, a refresh was needed for its “dark barrel cave” atmosphere with dated wine-barrel table tops and stools. (This is a “before” photo.)

For the remodel, several interior walls were removed to expand and open up the space. Add fresh paint, new lighting, new windows, custom-made furniture and voila, a beautiful look, which also features an expanded outdoor seating area.

MatthewsTastingRoom052The building refresh is now generating applause and cheers for its bright, airy, roomy space, reminiscent of a French farm house.

These are two photos showing what Matthews Winery looks like now. Who is ready to visit?

MatthewsTastingRoom049In addition to the tasting room and farm, Matthews also offers the Estate House, a B&B and event center on a wooded, eight-acre hillside overlooking the Sammammish River Valley.

But the main spotlight remains on the wine. Since 2008, the Otis family and Morell have sharpened the focus of Matthews’ portfolio on the Bordeaux varieties – Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.

The winery kindly sent us samples of Matthews 2015 Sauvignon Blanc and a vertical of its Claret – 2011, 2012 and 2013. We were wowed.

Matthews 2015 Sauvignon Blanc
This is a perfect summer sipper on the deck – we enjoyed it paired with cilantro-lime prawns and a view of the lake. Ahh, summer. This Sauv Blanc rose above the super-hot 2015 vintage and is crisp and refreshing, but with more tropical than grapefruit flavors.

Winemaker tasting notes: “Pungent tropical tree fruit like pineapple and guava mixed with some citrus spice and fresh cut hay. Some air brings up white flowers, sweet honeysuckle and wet slate. The palate is rich and textured with enough acidity to keep it fresh but not bracing.”

Claret1Matthews Claret 2011, 2012, 2013
We were fortunate to do a side-by-side tasting of all three vintages. The 2013 Claret is a complex blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cab Franc, 11% Merlot, 3% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. With decanting, the wine opened up rich flavors, textures and depth, showcasing the classic Cabernet that we love.

Winemaker tasting notes for 2013 Claret: “Exotically perfumed with floral red fruits like raspberry puree and red currants mixed with sweet strawberry and crème brulee. Swirling releases rich blackberry, currants and plums with a hint of vanilla bean spice. The palate is thick and sweetly rich with perfect balance and long graceful finish. The 2012 was powerfully ripe and very Cabernet driven, this is all about grace and texture.”

As noted by Morell, the 2012 Claret is powerful but it also is an elegant, rich blend of 54% Cab Sauv, 25% Cab Franc, 10% Merlot, 5% Syrah, 3% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. This is slightly different than other vintages because of the addition of Syrah into the blend. We decanted it, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Winemaker tasting notes for 2012 Claret: “Sappy currants, plum skin and dark spices. The palate has volume but shows good density and has more of a Cabernet-driven tannin profile, giving the wine great composure and balance.”

The 2011 growing season was rougher than in 2012 and 2013, but Morell still created a beautiful red blend. The 2011 Claret is Merlot-based (unlike the 2012 and 2013 vintages driven by Cabernet) — 68% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. Like the other two vintages, this Claret will benefit from decanting.

Winemaker tasting notes for 2011 Claret: “Elegant mixture of currants, strawberries, spice and plums. Red flowers create a soft plushness to the profile. The palate is round with great texture and presence. Extremely silky and polished.”

With the dedication of co-owners Cliff and Diane Otis, along with the talented winemaking skills of Morrell, Matthews Winery is continuing to improve its already well-established footprint in Woodinville, and in Washington wine country.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave