Rosé Release and More from Lauren Ashton Cellars

There’s a reason we talk a lot about Lauren Ashton Cellars — Kit Singh makes great wine. It’s that simple.

His recent rosé release is solid proof, and two June releases — 2013 Cuvée Arlette and 2016 Cuvée Meline — seal the deal.

2016 Lauren Ashton Rosé ($21)
Just released on April 22, this is a perfect rosé for spring and summer. The blend of Grenache (52%), Counoise (28%) and Mourvedre (20%) features berry notes and some citrus and spices. This wine is bright, lively and fruity, yet dry. Pair it with salads, pasta and rice dishes, seafood, shellfish and cheesy dishes. Or simply drink it without food, pairing it with your patio or deck on a warm afternoon or evening.

A portion of proceeds during the Rosé release weekend will be donated to Susan G. Komen Puget Sound. “We have a belief in this community and a passion for giving back,” said Singh. “We are able to provide our wine and our time to recipients we believe in. With our Rosé release becoming so popular, we love doing something to get the community involved too.”

2013 Cuvée Arlette ($55)
We have loved every vintage of this beautiful, elegant red wine, and the upcoming June release somehow even exceeds previous years. Cuvée Arlette is a rich and complex blend of Merlot (59%), Cabernet Franc (23%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), rounded off with a splash of Malbec (1.5%) and Petit Verdot (1.5%). Arlette is a layered, luxurious and structured wine with notes of dark fruit, cocoa and caramel, and hints of spiciness. Pair this beauty with steak, grilled meats, pork or lamb dishes.

2016 Cuvée Meline ($28)
Also to be released in June, Cuvée Meline is a clean, crisp blend of Sémillon (55%) and Sauvignon Blanc (45%), featuring freshness, balance, high acidity and some minerality. The opening notes are floral and tropical, turning into grapefruit and citrus zest on the finish. Another super summer sipper, serve Meline with cheeses and prawns on the deck, or pair it with fresh seafood. We served it with ling cod cheeks that had lots of garlic and zesty lemon — a delicious pairing!

Samples provided by Lauren Ashton Cellars. Of note, it is rare that we adore all samples from one winery, but that was definitely the case this time.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Snoqualmie Wines for Earth Day

April 22 is Earth Day, a great time to open a bottle of value wine from Snoqualmie Vineyards. According to the winery, they have the largest certified organic vineyard in Washington state.

“Whether it’s in our vineyard, the winery or in our packaging, Snoqualmie wines are made using sustainable and organic practices and are designed to showcase the best winemaking techniques and vineyard selections.”

  • Vineyard – Weather stations and soil moisture-measuring probes monitor water use and eliminate wasted water.
  • Winery – A recycling program includes paper, glass, cork and aluminum waste that reduces solid waste by more than 8%. Eco-friendly energy options in the winery have reduced electricity usage by 30% in the last five years.
  • Packaging – ECO glass bottles are among the lightest in the industry, printed materials are on 100% post-consumer waste material stock, and corks and labels are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Part of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Snoqualmie Vineyards sent us a few samples of the latest releases of their good value, every-day wines to taste. We recommend them as a great entry-level experience into the world of wines – on Earth Day or any day of the year.

Snoqualmie 2015 ECO Chardonnay ($13)
Snoqualmie’s ECO wines are produced from 100% organically grown grapes from USDA-certified organic vineyards in the Columbia Valley. No oak was used in this Chardonnay, so the result is a refreshing taste of crisp fruit flavors. Pair it with crab, other seafood dishes, chicken or a summer salad.

Snoqualmie 2015 ECO Cabernet Sauvignon ($13)
This Cabernet Sauvignon is also made from organically grown fruit in the Columbia Valley. It is a good value if you like fruity Cabs; you’ll find it bursting with fruit aromas and jammy flavors. Pair it with most meat dishes or fragrant cheeses.

Snoqualmie 2014 Syrah Columbia Valley ($10)
This value Syrah offers dark fruit on the nose, with flavors of chocolate, smoke and a bit of spice, coffee and pepper. Pair it with pizza, lasagna or pasta.

Snoqualmie 2015 Winemaker’s Select Riesling ($8)
If you like your Rieslings crisp and refreshing, sweet but tart, give this Winemaker’s Select a try. Almost 6% of Viognier was added to round out the Riesling. The nose is a lovely blend of pear, apple, honey and apricot aromas, followed by a light mouthfeel of spice and fruit. Pair it with seafood dishes, crab or smoked salmon.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

 

 

Columbia Crest Wines: Good Juice, Great Value

We’ve been fans of Columbia Crest Winery for at least a decade — the winery produces good, easy-drinking wines at bargain prices. We’ve purchased cases over the years, and we were delighted to receive samples of their recent releases.

Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Merlot Columbia Valley ($12)
Merlot (87%) is blended with small amounts of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon; all fruit was sourced from Horse Heaven Hills for texture and body, and from the Wahluke Slope for aromatics and complexity. This is a rich Merlot with a balance of fruit and earthiness, punctuated by notes of dark cherries and chocolate. Pair this with blue cheese, dark chocolate, pork, grilled salmon or beef.

Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Red Blend Columbia Valley ($12)
This vintage’s blend combines Merlot (55%), Cabernet Franc (36%), Petit Verdot (8%) and a splash of other red varieties. The result is layers of dark berry flavors, with more layers of spice and caramel on the finish. Pair this with grilled meats or tomato-based meat dishes such as lasagne.

Columbia Crest 2014 H3 Merlot Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
This is a medium-bodied Merlot, lighter than the Grand Estates. The nose is beautiful with aromas of spice and blackberry, followed by cherry and cocoa on the palate. We have enjoyed several vintages of H3 Merlot, paired with cedar-plank barbecued salmon and grilled meats.

Columbia Crest 2015 Grand Estates Unoaked Chardonnay Columbia Valley ($12)
We much prefer unoaked Chardonnay like this one, which was fermented only in stainless steel. This is a refreshing summer sipper on the deck – or pour it any time of the year to accompany seafood dishes. Tart and crisp, this Chard has aromas of lemon, pear and orange blossoms, followed by citrus fruit and lively acidity. Where we live, Chardonnay pairs well with fresh crab in August and September, or crab cakes all year round, along with other shellfish, halibut or salmon, with a dash of lemon.

Other wines that we’ve tasted recently from Columbia Crest Winery:

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 we recently 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.

With summer around the corner, we might open these wines with BBQ hamburger or fresh seafood. But at these prices, you can stock up for any season!

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Wind Rose Cellars

Wind Rose Cellars is a boutique winery in Sequim, Washington, owned by husband-and-wife team, David Volmut and Jennifer States. Their focus is to make top-quality, food-driven wine from Italian varieties grown here — including Barbera, Primitivo, Pinot Grigio, Orange Muscat and the rare-in-Washington Dolcetto and Nebbiolo.

We recently sampled two bottles of their latest releases.

Wind Rose 2013 Primitivo ($25)
Sourced from Stonetree Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope, this is an expressive Primitivo that has both structure and depth. It is blended with a small amount of Barbera to bring some acidity to the wine for aging and finish.

The nose is pretty, with notes of strawberry, lilacs and herbs, moving on to flavors of tart cherries, strawberries and blackberries, with hints of cocoa in the finish. Pair it with grilled meats, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna or other tomato-based dishes.

It came as no surprise that this tasty wine took home a bronze at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Even the label on the bottle is beautiful.

Wind Rose 2014 Omaggio Barbera ($33)
Wind Rose Cellars produced this lovely 100% Barbera with grapes sourced from Red Heaven Vineyard on Red Mountain. Crisp and fruit-forward, the Omaggio Barbera has simple flavors, structure and depth; it is approachable now but will become better with age.

With aromas of mocha, coffee and cherries, this Barbera opens to flavors of fruit, caramel and espresso, with a lingering finish. The Omaggio will pair well with grilled meats, chicken parmesan, pizza, pasta or even grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup.

Samples provided by Wind Rose Cellars.

While Wind Rose Cellars’ speciality is Italian wines, they also make small batches of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Grenache, sourced from Red Mountain, Wahluke Slope and Yakima Valley.

If you’re ever on the Olympic peninsula, stop by their tasting room, which becomes a wine bar in the evenings, and features live music on Friday and Saturday nights. As a result, Wind Rose Cellars is said to have the best nightlife in Sequim.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

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

On Sale Now – Chateau Ste. Michelle 2017 Summer Concert Series

CSM concertSummer must be around the corner because tickets are now on sale for the Chateau Ste. Michelle 2017 Summer Concert Series.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the oldest winery in the state, so its concert lineup, paired with award-winning wine and beautiful surroundings, is even more special.

Think about it: a lazy summer day or evening, kicking back on the manicured lawns of Chateau Ste. Michelle with a peacock or two sauntering by, as you sip on a refreshing summer wine, nibble on tasty munchies from your picnic basket and listen to some amazing music. Ah, summer!

Whether you prefer white, rosé or red wine during the summer, this concert calendar is something to cheer about. Twenty-seven concerts span the range of pop, jazz, rock and blues in the winery’s picturesque outdoor amphitheatre with seating for 4,300. The series kicks off on June 1 with a concert by Elvis Costello & The Imposters and ends on Sept. 15 with the Goo-Goo Dolls.

Please note – tickets sell quickly for this incredible summer experience, so act soon. Two John Legend concerts on June 3 and 4 have already sold out. We saw him last year at Chateau Ste. Michelle and what an entertaining show!

Concerts that have not yet sold out (as of this writing) are: Elvis Costello & The Imposters (June 1); The Moody Blues (June 11); Chris Isaak (July 1); Blondie & Garbage (July 13); Lyle Lovett & his Large Band (July 15); Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie (July 19); Natalie Merchant (July 22); 2CELLOS (July 23); Diana Krall (July 28); Festival of Jazz (July 29); the Wine Country Blues Festival (July 30); Allen Stone (Aug. 4); Michael McDonald & Boz Scaggs (Aug. 10); Bryan Ferry (Aug. 11); Chicago (Aug. 27); The Gipsy Kings (Sept. 1); The Australian Pink Floyd Show (Sept. 4); Steve Winwood (Sept. 8); Pink Martini with singer China Forbes (Sept. 9 and 10); and Goo Goo Dolls with Phillip Phillips (Sept. 15).

And there’s more — net proceeds from the annual concert series help fund Chateau Ste. Michelle’s charitable contributions program, which supports a broad range of non-profit organizations.

Have questions? No problem, there is an FAQ to help out.

So get your wine on and check it out.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Wonderful Wine Weekend Getaway at Semiahmoo

Whether you live in nearby British Columbia or in the Seattle area, mark your calendars for April 28-30 — a wonderful weekend for wine lovers.

Just six miles from the B.C. border, the second annual Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo Resort features a great getaway to experience wine, and meet some of the most talented winemakers and viticulturists from Washington state, British Columbia and Oregon:

We have tasted wines from all of the attending wineries and vineyards, and 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 weekend 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 paired with port.

Here is the list of activities to enjoy at the scenic, breathtakingly beautiful resort. You can also download the full schedule at Semiahmoo’s website.

Friday, April 28
4:00 to 6:30 p.m. – Arrival, check-in and free time

6:30 to 8:00 p.m. – Meet the Winemakers, Tasting Reception
Enjoy a casual tasting, hearty appetizers by Bruno Feldeisen, executive chef at Semiahmoo Resort’s Pierside Kitchen, and the opportunity to mingle with the winemakers and wine experts.

8:00 p.m. – Private Beach Bonfire (on the Beach next to Packers Oyster Bar)
Enjoy s’mores and mingling for Northwest Wine Encounter guests and winemakers. A port tasting with exquisite gourmet chocolates from jcoco enhance this signature NWWE experience (weather dependent).

Saturday, April 29
9:30 to 10:00 a.m. – Opening Remarks
A look at Northwest wine country and an overview of the wines you will taste over the next two days, hosted by Andy Perdue of Wine Press Northwest, who is also a wine columnist for The Seattle Times, as well as retailer and collector Doug Charles of Compass Wines.

10:00 to 11:00 a.m. – The Siren Song of Pinot Noir
Explore Pinot Noir with Chris Figgins, Tony Rynders and Walter Gehringer.

11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. – Lunch Break

1:30 to 2:30 p.m. – Walla Walla
One of the most famous wine towns in North America is Walla Walla. What makes the region so special? Explore this AVA with David Merfeld and Chris Figgins.

2:30 to 3:30 p.m. – Wine Speed Dating
In this fun format, each participant will get the opportunity to taste wine one-on-one with our winery panelists.

3:30 to 4:30 p.m. – Guided Bird Watching Tour on the Semiahmoo Spit (Limited space, please pre-register)

4:30 to 7:00 p.m. – Leisure Time

7:00 to 10:00 p.m. – Winemaker Gala Dinner
Get up close and personal with winemakers and top experts at this Winemaker Gala Dinner. Each table is hosted by a panelist or wine industry luminary, and a five-course meal will be crafted by Chef Bruno Feldeisen and celebrity chef Roy Breiman of Coastal Hotels. The courses will be paired by wines from all wineries in attendance.

Sunday, April 30
10:00 to 11:30 a.m. – Importance of Place
How important is a single vineyard? A single location within that vineyard? These questions will be explored with Chris Upchurch along with historic grower Mike Sauer.

The entire weekend package — including two nights at the gorgeous resort — starts at $475 per person. Further information is available at Semiahmoo Resort’s website.

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

 

Don’t Miss Taste Washington’s 20th Anniversary Celebration

Run, don’t walk, to get your tickets to Taste Washington, which we call “the Super Bowl of Wine Events” because it is the country’s largest single-region wine and food extravaganza. You don’t want to miss this explosion of tastes, fun and education on March 23-26 in Seattle.

This year, Taste Washington celebrates its 20th anniversary with almost 300 wineries, more than 70 restaurants and top national chefs. In honor of this milestone, the 2017 expanded lineup offers four days packed with diverse activities.

And for the first time ever, you can purchase The Connoisseur Festival Pass for four days of VIP access to signature events, with these extra benefits: jump the line at all major events, reserved seating at Alaska Mileage Plan Chef’s Stage and a gift bag with a bottle of Washington state wine, an autographed Cook + Cork Cookbook, a one-year subscription to Seattle Met magazine and a trio of El Gaucho spices.

We love to go to Taste Washington every year and are really looking forward to the 2017 activities:

  • You’ll find “super-exclusive wine pours” at the VIP Red & White Party at AQUA by El Gaucho on Thursday, March 23 from 7p.m.-10 p.m.
  • Taste Washington on the Farm gives you an opportunity to explore the northwest’s bounty, alongside farmers, chefs and winemakers on Friday, March 24 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. New excursions in this year’s lineup include visits to Tahoma Farms and Ox Bow Farm & Conservation Center.
  • The New Vintage with its trendy Rosé Lounge at the Four Seasons Seattle features music, more than 40 wineries and 11 chef stations on Friday, March 24 from 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
  • Informative and fun wine seminars, which include tastings and interactive panels, will be held on Saturday, March 25 and Sunday, March 26 from 10:30 a.m.-noon at the Four Seasons Seattle.
  • New: Think about joining a Taste & Savor Tour through Pike Place Market on both Saturday and Sunday, at 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
  • The Grand Tasting at CenturyLink Field Event Center will be held on both Saturday and Sunday, from 1 p.m.-5:30 p.m. (tasting hours have been extended this year).

Before you enter the doors of the Grand Tasting, 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.

So make a list of wineries and restaurants you want to make sure to visit. But always leave room for some flexibility; chances are something will catch your eye as you walk through the aisles.

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

Washington State Crushes Wine Grape Harvest Record

The state’s record for its wine grape harvest was crushed in 2016, according to a report released by the Washington State Wine Commission.

The commission’s Annual Grape Production Report showed 2016 had the biggest wine grape harvest in the state’s history: the 2016 harvest totaled 270,000 tons, a 22-percent increase over 2015 and easily surpassing the previous record harvest of 227,000 tons in 2014.

The largest growth came from Cabernet Sauvignon, with a 23,700-ton increase. This also meant that Cab Sauv was the top-producing variety grown in the state — 71,100 tons or 26% of the total. Merlot was ranked second, at 48,400 tons or 18% of the total. Syrah came in third of the reds, at 21,300 tons, followed by Cab Franc at 4,300. Malbec rounded off the top five reds at 2,700.

Overall, red varieties accounted for 58% of the total production, compared to 51% in 2015.

Chardonnay was the top white grape and third overall at 45,000 tons, while Riesling was right behind it at 41,300 tons. Sauvignon Blanc was ranked third among whites, trailing with 9,800 tons, followed by Pinot Gris at 8,700 and Gewurtztraminer at 2,600.

A sign of further growth — there are now more than 900 winery licenses in Washington State.

“2016 was a year for the record books,” said Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission, which represents every licensed winery and grape grower in the state. “Not only did we see our biggest harvest ever – but it was a great harvest. The weather in Eastern Washington cooled down a bit to extend the growing season and allow the grapes some extra time to mature on the vine. Our growers and winemakers are extremely excited about these wines.”

Further details are available in Annual Grape Production Report.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Lauren Ashton Scores Again

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 4.17.09 PM The motto of Lauren Ashton Cellars — “True Washington Character” — has been noticeable in every sip we have tasted of Kit Singh’s elegant wines in the last five years.

This continues to be the case in his two recent releases, which we were fortunate enough to sample last week, courtesy of the winery: 2013 Proprietor’s Cuvée and 2013 Cuvée Estelle.

As with any new release, the wines are still young; but both are very approachable with decanting. They also have great aging potential.

Lauren Ashton Cellars 2013 Proprietor’s Cuvée ($65)
This is an elegant, complex and impressive Cab-based Bordeaux-style blend — 70.4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.3% Merlot, 13.3% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec — showing structure and balance immediately, followed by plush tannins after opening up. Luscious dark-fruit flavors follow a nose of violets, black cherries and plums. Pair this wine with beef, pork, lamb or any rich meat dishes. Kit wowed fans with the 2009 and 2011 vintages, and we predict that he is set to do the same with this stellar release.

Lauren Ashton Cellars 2013 Cuvée Estelle ($40)
This is another elegant Bordeaux-style blend, with Merlot (64%), Cabernet Sauvignon (27%) and Petit Verdot (9%). The Merlot brings aromas of violets and black fruit, the Cab Sauv adds depth and weight, and the Petit Verdot offers hint of spice to sweet cherry flavors. Enjoy this wine with grilled meats, or pour it as a stand-alone wine to enjoy with friends.

The bottom line: We highly recommend stopping by Lauren Ashton Cellars Tasting Studio in the Hollywood District of Woodinville or finding out more about these notable wines at their website.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave