As 2014 winds down and a new year begins, we want to reflect on the wineries in Washington state that made our list of Top 50 Washington Wineries.
The way to get on our list is fairly simple; we only have two criteria: wineries must offer good juice and good people who provide an excellent wine experience. Perhaps we had fun or learned something in a tasting room. Perhaps someone from the winery gave us a call, sent us a personal note or samples. Or perhaps we were invited to an incredible wine event.
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.
To these people, we thank you; we support you. Cheers to Washington state wine!
Top 50 Washington Wineries (in alphabetical order):
Alexandria Nicole Cellars
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Cooper Wine Company
Hard Row to Hoe
Northwest Totem Cellars
Sleight of Hand
Vin du Lac
Walla Walla Vintners
Woodhouse Wine Estates
We wanted to add Leonetti, Reynvaan, Cayuse, Andrew Will, Abeja, Amavi and others to the list because of their stellar wines, but we haven’t yet experienced their tasting rooms or met people from those wineries. Hopefully in 2015!
Cheers – happy holidays and happy new year!
Margot and Dave
Write for Wine — it’s Wine O’clock Somewhere!
We’ve been fans of William Church Winery since March, 2008, when our wine-expert nephew, Mathew, came to visit us with a bottle of their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon.
It was awesome, so we made a point to visit their tasting room in Woodinville’s winery warehouse district — William Church was one of the eight original warehouse wineries.
Unfortunately, this was not an easy feat at the time because they were only open on Saturdays.
But that situation didn’t last long; soon the tasting room was open more frequently, and then three years later, in July 2011, William Church opened their second tasting room in Woodinville’s Hollywood Schoolhouse wine area.
Fast forward to today, and we’re extremely happy to say that William Church Winery is one of Washington state’s success stories.
We recently visited their Schoolhouse tasting room, which is open every day (and until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), and it was thriving; packed with people cheerfully drinking some amazing juice.
This was the first time in a couple of years that we tasted their entire lineup, and wow! Winemaker (and co-owner) Rod Balsley has always produced quality wines, but these days, that quality has risen to a new level.
Rod currently produces seven award-winning wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Viognier and three blends: 2Spires, Bishop’s Blend and Sur La Mer.
We love all of them because they are solid, stand-alone sippers and also phenomenal when paired well with food.
2013 Viognier: This flagship wine has always been one of Washington state’s best examples of Viognier. Somehow, this Viognier is both rich and fresh, and understandably named one of Seattle Metropolitan‘s Top Washington Wines Under $25.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon: We brought this wine home to pair with a good meal — perhaps a juicy steak or a savory roast over the holidays. As mentioned, we’ve loved this classic Cab Sauv since the 2005 vintage, and it just keeps getting better and better.
2012 Syrah: Another perennial favorite, this Syrah is rich and full-bodied, and tastes the way a good Syrah should: balanced, with smoke and spice, and simply delicious. We first wrote about the 2006 Syrah, which was named in the Top 100 wines in Seattle Metropolitan.
2011 2Spires: William Church was one of the first Washington wineries to produce a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon (two wines=two spires). In the 2011 vintage, the blend is 63% Syrah and 37% Cab. Think big, bold and beautiful, and a double-gold winner at the Seattle Wine Awards.
2012 Bishop’s Blend: This full-bodied, robust wine blends 55% Cab Sauv, 20% Merlot, 15% Malbec and 10% Petit Verdot. It’s a steal at $25.
2011 Sur La Mer: This Merlot-based wine has all five Bordeaux varietals in the blend. A newer wine in the lineup — 2007 was the first vintage of this classic blend — Sur La Mer is named after the seaport city in France where co-owner Leslie Balsley was born.
2011 Malbec: Unfortunately for us, the 2011 Malbec is sold out — not surprisingly, since Seattle Met called this double-gold award winning wine a “textbook example of Washington Malbec.” We first tasted the 2006 vintage, and before we knew it, William Church Malbec was recognized as the best in the state.
We encourage you to try some or all of these wines, and you’ll understand why they are award-winning. They also make great gifts for the wine enthusiasts in your life, for the hostess at your holiday parties or to serve guests in your home.
You might have seen the phrase “What’s in Your Glass Lately” on your social network channels. We decided to answer with some excellent wines that we’ve enjoyed over the past six months. In no particular order:
Taste of Tulalip is always one of the best wine and food events in the Seattle area, and this year was no exception. The sixth annual Taste of Tulalip was an explosion of flavours for every palate.
Kicking off the event Friday evening at Tulalip Resort was the Celebration Dinner, an incredible six-course meal paired with excellent wines. While the entire dinner was beyond magnificent, our ultimate favorites were:
Creamy Jerusalem Artichoke soup, pumpkin seed pesto, creme fruit and crispy leek straws (Chef Brent Clarkson), paired with d’s Wicked Hard Cider “Baked Apple,” Kennewick, WA
Seared scallop with green papaya slaw, micro Asian mallow, golden edamame shoots, with ginger lime vinaigrette and aged balsamic (Chef John Ponticelli), paired with 2012 Alleromb Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, WA
Blackberry sockeye salmon lox popsicle and salmon souse vide over toasted hazelnut pesto (Chef David Buchanan), paired with 2012 Kosta Browne Russian River Pinot Noir, CA
New York strip, dry aged 46 days, tarragon beurre blanc and New York strip, aged 28 days, wild cranberry demi, with cambazola-mascarpone “Twinkie” (Executive Chef Perry Mascitti), paired with 2011 Leonetti Cellars Reserve blend, Walla Walla, WA
Chef Perry also provided another special treat during the dinner. He not only wowed the house with his, and his team’s, creative and delicious dishes, but also brought down the house with his showmanship by joining the band for a rocking version of “All Night Long.”
There were several musicians entertaining during the dinner, but Daniel Parks of Las Vegas had people on their feet dancing. From old-school Beatles and Neil Diamond tunes to perfect covers of Happy and Blurred Lines, this young man was a star. We hope to see him again; we can’t say enough good things about Daniel Park’s talent.
Can you tell that we totally enjoyed the Celebration Dinner?
Saturday offered a wide variety of things to do at Taste of Tulalip. We decided to spend our time at the Magnum Party and Grand Tasting.
There were two Magnum parties held simultaneously — one for old-world wine and one for new world wine. At the old-world tasting, we sipped an incredible 1985 Bordeaux blend from Chateau Lynch-Bages Pauillac in France — a chateau we visited during our trip to that wine region in 2005. This wine is drinking marvelously right now! We also tasted a pour from a $300-bottle of a Bordeaux blend, which combined Merlot and Cabernet Franc from St Emillion, France.
Hard as it was to leave the old-world event, we thoroughly delighted in excellent new-world wines too: Opus One 2007 Bordeaux blend from California; a lovely 2008 Shiraz from Penfolds in Australia; and our home-grown beauty, 2011 Betz Pere de Famille.
I also won a very cool gift pack that featured the Taste of Tulalip wine blend from the event’s honorary 2014 winemaker, Sean Boyd from Woodinville Wine Cellars. Special coffee and a gorgeous Tulalip medallion were also included in the gift.
How did I win it? Simple – I knew the answer to the trivia question, “Who is the Executive Chef at Tulalip Resort?” Even if I hadn’t already known it, how could I miss after his star musical performance the night before?
Next came the Grand tasting; how could this event make a mark after the activities already outlined above? Easy – we had an opportunity to see our friends and sip wine from some of our favorite Washington wineries: Obelisco Estate, Barrage Cellars, Avennia, Doubleback, Efeste, Gorman Winery, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Figgins, Force Majeure and Woodinville Wine Cellars.
Plus we had a taste of a magnificent red blend from Craggy Range, a winery we enjoyed when we were in New Zealand last May.
Special thanks to Norma Rosenthal and Allan Aquila for the invitation!
If you’ve never been to Taste of Tulalip, please bookmark this page, so you will remember to get your tickets for the 2015 event!
Lauren Ashton Cellars launched in Washington wine country in 2009, when Kit Singh, a dentist, decided to apply his knowledge of chemistry with his appreciation of wine and his training in viticulture and enology. Keeping it in the family, he named his winery after his two children and reflected his wife’s Estonian heritage by creating bottle labels with photos of her home country.
By late 2012, Lauren Ashton Cellars wines emerged on the Seattle wine scene, and by the following year, rave reviews started to come in.
Shortly after that, we too became quick fans of Kit’s handcrafted wines after stopping by the Lauren Ashton Cellars booth at numerous Washington wine events. The winery’s motto “True Washington Character” was indeed reflected in every sip we tasted.
No wonder why Robert Parker called the 2009 Cuvee Mirabelle “a perfect blend of juiciness and richness.” Closer to home, Washington wine experts and writers Sean Sullivan and Paul Gregutt described some of the Lauren Ashton wines as impressive and exceptional.
Our first experience was with the 2011 Columbia Valley Syrah, a robust, complex 100% Syrah that is smooth and rich. The tasting notes recommend that this full-bodied wine pairs “perfectly with garlicky lamb, sausages and grilled meats, alongside asparagus, mushrooms and potatoes.” (Sample provided by the winery)
The 2011 Red Mountain Reserve Syrah is even better. This silky, elegant wine is only available at the Lauren Ashton Cellars Tasting Studio in Woodinville. The recommended pairing is “roast pork accompanied by fresh fig skewers or grilled meats of all kinds.”
Kit also created a handful of 2011 Columbia Valley red blends, which we can’t wait to taste; we are also hoping to stop by the tasting studio soon to try the 2011 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, which received 94 points from the Wine Enthusiast.
The 2011 blends also generated high scores from the Wine Enthusiast: Cuvee Arlette (94 points), Cuvee Meline (92 points), Proprieter’s Cuvee (92 points) and Cuvee Mirabelle (91 points).
Notably, the 2009 vintage of two blends were sourced from Red Mountain and received even higher scores from Robert Parker: 2009 Proprietor’s Cuvee (95 points) and 2009 Cuvee Mirabelle (94 points).
The bottom line: We highly recommend stopping by Lauren Ashton Cellars Tasting Studio in Woodinville or finding out more about these impressive wines at their website.
This year’s Harvest Party is on Sept. 13 and will be a special celebration of the Decade of Destiny – ten years since ANC opened the doors to their first tasting room in Prosser.
At that time, they celebrated the wines created from grapes first planted in 1998 at Destiny Ridge. Now, 16 years later, and with a second tasting room in Woodinville, ANC produces 10,000 cases of wine with more than 23 varietals planted in 267 acres of vineyard.
And that’s where the Harvest Party takes place!
The fun begins and the wine starts to flow on buses that take you to the vineyard. No worries about finding a designated driver for this party.
When you arrive, there are pours of the most recent ANC wines, while you can watch or participate in hilarious activities such as a grape stomp, wine balloon toss and skeet shooting. The vineyard and production team also compete in a barrel-rolling contest, cheered on by their fans.
Then there is an amazing dinner of steak and jumbo prawns, followed by dancing to a live big band.
So bring your dancing shoes!
We’ve been wine club members since 2007, inspired by some fabulous wine during our first visit to their Prosser tasting room, and further nudged by a Seattle Times article written by Washington state wine expert Paul Gregutt, who rated the ANC wine club as number 1.
Over the years, we’ve written about ANC wine often. We’ve also been lucky enough to become friends with winery owners Jarrod (winemaker) and Ali Boyle.
What, you’re not a wine club member? It’s not too late to sign up and grab tickets to the Harvest Party and save a space on the buses, which leave from Tri-Cities, Yakima and Prosser. Don’t live in the area? No problem — the Richland Courtyard Marriott and the Yakima Hilton Garden Inn both have special offers for wine club members.
This August marks the 27th year of the event, which has raised more than $30 million since 1988. The weekend kicks off early with the Picnic & Barrel Auctionat Chateau Ste. Michelleon Aug. 14, beginning at 4 p.m. We have attended the picnic for the last few years, and always have such a good time tasting the fine wines of Washington state, talking to winemakers and bidding on some futures.
2014 Barrel Auction participants include: Adams Bench, Andrew Will Winery, Avennia, Baer Winery, Boudreaux Cellars, Buty, Cadence, Double Canyon, Efeste, Fidelitas, Hedges Family Estate, Kevin White Winery, Result of a Crush, Reynvaan Family Vineyards, Sleight of Hand Cellars, Sparkman Cellars, Spring Valley Vineyard, Va Piano, Walla Walla Vintners, Woodward Canyon and others. More than 30 additional Washington wineries will also be pouring wine during the picnic.
And what would a picnic be without great bites? Chefs from the Tulalip Resort Casino will provide gourmet fare to pair with the wine, including tents devoted to cheese and a themed dessert station.
Other AWW weekend events:
Winemaker Dinner Series: Friday, August 15
In one evening, 10 dinners featuring winemakers will take place at private locations around the Puget Sound. Enjoy a gourmet meal created by a guest chef paired with fabulous Washington wine.
Columbia Winery Charity 10K Race and 5K Run/Walk: Sat. August 16
The Columbia Winery Charity 10K Race and 5K Run/Walk & Kids Dash (formerly the Covey Run) provides fun for the whole family through a scenic course through the heart of Woodinville wine country. The event will also feature food, beverages, kids’ activities, music and more.
The Wine Gala: Saturday, August 16, Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery
A featured Washington State winemaker will be seated at every table.
Featured chefs include: Eric Triglas (Semiahomoo Resort), Josh Henderson (Hollywood Tavern), Jake Crenshaw (Olive Catering), Brett Teegardin (Purple Café and Wine Bar), Brian Scheehser (Trellis), Josh Sarich (Chateau Ste. Michelle), Janet Hedstrom (Chateau Ste. Michelle), Peter Birk (BOKA), Paul Duncan (Ray’s Boathouse), Roy Breiman (Copperleaf Restaurant at Cedarbrook Lodge), Perry Mascitti (Tulalip Resort Casino), Nikol Nakamura (Tulalip Casino)
We recently became big fans of Double Canyon, established just seven years ago in Horse Heaven Hills, and named for the two ravines that run through the property in central Washington state.
Double Canyon’s first wine, a 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Double Canyon Vineyard, was awarded 93 points from Wine Spectator.
Earlier this year, at Taste Washington, we named Double Canyon’s 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, from Phinny Hill Vineyard, in our top three favorite wines.
At that time, we met new winemaker Jason Ledbetter, who had just come to Double Canyon from Pine Ridge Vineyards, Trefethen Vineyards and Cakebread Cellars in Napa.
We could tell immediately that Jason had a passion for appellation-focused estate wine, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, which is Double Canyon’s focus. In the months since then, he has frequently referred to Horse Heaven Hills as “a special place” and a leading area to produce Cabernet in Washington state.
One week ago, Double Canyon released its 2012 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon. In Jason’s words, “Classic wines from this appellation are lauded for their exceptional balance and acidity, and this wine is no exception.”
We can attest to this, and we are sure that our appreciation of this wine will be echoed by those who taste it. Obviously the wine is young, just released last week. But yes, it definitely rocked with potential. And after decanting it for a couple of hours, it paired very nicely with BBQ steak.
From the tasting notes:
“Luminous and dark purple in hue, this wine delivers a rich fruit and floral fragrance accented by an exotic vanilla spice. The palate opens with soft, rich flavors of bright red plum and dried red cherry accented by black tea leaf and fresh vanilla bean. The texture is smooth and luscious, and the wine’s balance and mouthwatering acidity make for a classic Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet.”
This 2012 wine is sourced from grapes at three well-known vineyards. Almost a quarter comes from the winery’s estate Double Canyon Vineyard, with the remainder sourced from Phinny Hill Vineyard, which is located across from Double Canyon and owned by vineyard manager Will Beightol’s family, and Zephyr Ridge, which Beightol previously managed.
It’s a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon or evening. And this week is supposed to be sunny and in the 80s, so you can’t miss!
Pretty surroundings, fine Chateau Ste. Michelle wine, summer weather and music for dancing = happy people!
We were fortunate to attend the John Legend “All of Me” concert on June 28 and had a fabulous time. His music was as phenomenal as expected, and he entertained a rapt audience with funny stories in addition to sultry tunes.
We paired his music with Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 2010 Artist Series Meritage, a layered rich blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc and 3% Malbec.
There are many more concerts to come this summer. While some concerts are already sold out, you can still find tickets for many performances.
July 16: Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band
July 17: Replay America with The Go-Go’s, Patty Smyth and Scandal, Martha Davis and The Motels, Cutting Crew & Naked Eyes featuring Pete Byrne
July 18: Lyle Lovett & His Large Band
Sold Out: Goo Goo Dolls & Daughtry with special guest Plain White T‘s
July 26: Festival of Jazz with Manhattan Transfer, Spyro Gyra, Lee Ritenour & Dave Grusin and Jessy J
July 27: Chris Isaak
Aug. 1: Nickel Creek
Sold Out: ZZ Top and Jeff Beck
Gipsy King’s 25th Anniversary Tour
Sold Out: Earth, Wind & Fire
Aug. 24: Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus Featuring Buddy Guy
Sold Out: Boston
Sept. 12: An Evening with Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Sept. 14: Crosby, Stills & Nash (their first night, Sept. 13, is sold out)
Thanks for inviting us to be your guests, Chateau Ste. Michelle. There are many reasons why your winery is considered one of Seattle’s top summer concert venues, and why this series has been a winner since it was first introduced in 1984.
We’ve had many reasons to celebrate in the last few months — birthdays, anniversaries and vacations — and what better time to pull out a bottle of fine Washington state wine from our cellar?
We also found some good-value reds lately — how can you miss at $14-$16 for Washington state juice?
So here is a mix of Washington state wine, at a wide range of prices — from $14-$75 — in alphabetical order. (Note: Some of these were small pours at the Woodinville Wine Country event, Reserve; others were bottles shared with friends.)