Harvest Party

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Marsanne, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Gris, Primitivo, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

It’s that time again – our favorite wine event of the year – the annual Harvest Party in the Vines, held by Alexandria Nicole Cellars at their Destiny Ridge Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills in central Washington.

Let me tell you, Ali and Jarrod Boyle know how to throw a party! This is our fourth, and we just keep having more and more fun each year.

This event is so well planned – from the special hotel rate at the Marriott in Richland, to the party buses to take us on the 45-minute drive to the Estate vineyard, to the amazing “surf and turf” menu created by awesome chef Frank Magana. In addition, there’s live music and harvest hoopla, including a skeet-shooting contest, wine balloon toss, grape stomping, barrel rolling and much more.

And let’s not forget the incredible wines. ANC’s Estate Vineyard, Destiny Ridge, contains 263 acres of planted vines with 23 varietals. Believe me, 23 varietals is huge in Washington state:

White Wines: Crawford Viognier, a2 Pinot Gris, Shepherds Mark southern Rhone white blend, Sauvignon Blanc, Late Harvest Riesling, Cabernet Franc Rosé.

Red Wines: Quarry Butte Red Table Wine, Gravity Merlot, Alderdale Cabernet Sauvignon, a2 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Syrah, Jet Black Syrah.

In addition, wine club members (like us) can also enjoy:

White Wines: Reserve Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne.

Red Wines: Block 17 Syrah, Destiny Bordeaux Blend, Member’s Only, Grenache, Mackay Duck Press Red, Lemberger, Malbec, Rock Star Red, Tempranillo, Mr. Big Petite Syrah, Primativo

We became wine club members in 2007, the same year I started this blog and when ANC first moved to Woodinville. Over the years, Ali and Jarrod became our good friends. But it all began with the wine.

Cheers!

 

Avennia-Look for These Wines

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

We stopped by the fall release party at one of Woodinville’s newest wineries, Avennia, and became immediate fans of the wines and the owners. We highly recommend you see for yourself what talented winemaker Chris Peterson has created featuring Washington state grapes in the ”old-world style” of French wines.

The words and phrases that came to mind while tasting all five Avennia wines were classic, complex, balanced, structured, true to varietal, and a showcase of the beauty of Washington grapes.

One white, Oliane Sauvignon Blanc, and two Syrahs – 2010 Arnaut and 2010 Parapine - are now available.

They will be followed by the February 2013 release of two 2010 Bordeaux blends, Sestina and Gravura – both are showing such potential now, we know they will have that WOW factor for a number of years.

 

1. 2011 Oliane Sauvignon Blanc, Avennia’s only white wine,  is true to the classic, crisp and elegant Sauvignon Blanc and perfect on a warm Seattle afternoon. Oliane is bursting with grapefruit aromas and citrus notes, along with that minerality we’ve come to love in good Sauv Blancs.

2. 2010 Arnaut is 100% Syrah from the fabulous Boushey Vineyard. This  flagship Syrah ranked 16 in Seattle Met’s recently released 100 Best Washington Wines.

3. 2010 Parapine Syrah features grapes from Boushey and from Force Majeure’s (formerly Grand Reve) new vineyard on Red Mountain. But this Syrah will be replaced in the 2011 vintage with a Southern Rhone-style wine.

4. 2010 Sestina, the flagship Bordeaux blend, is my favorite: Cabernet Sauvignon (73%), Merlot (18%) and Cab Franc (9%). As mentioned, this complex wine tastes full of potential already, and we can’t wait to try it again in February. I hope we’ll have the patience to cellar some bottles for a few years too!

5. 2010 Gravura offers a closer split of the classic Bordeaux blend: Cabernet Sauvignon (54%) and Merlot (40%), rounding off the edges with 6% Cab Franc.

Interestingly, the $35 Parapine Syrah and the $35 Gravura blend have Seattle restaurants lined up to include on their tasting menus.

Regular readers of this blog know that the people behind the wine are also important to us. Winemaker/partner Chris Peterson and managing partner Marty Taucher are right up there with the finest in Washington’s wine industry.

Chris passionately talked to us about his wines and his wine-making style for about 30 minutes. He was the first graduate of Walla Walla Community College’s Enology and Viticulture program; he spent quality time in all of the major wine regions of France and Italy; and more recently, as assistant winemaker at DeLille Cellars, he helped create some of the state’s finest wines.

During the 2009 harvest at DeLille, Chris met  Marty Taucher, a retired PR and Marketing leader at Microsoft, who has collected wine for 25 years. They shared similar interests and clicked – a close friendship that was obvious the minute we met them.

The following year, they founded Avennia, inspired by the Roman name for the city of Avignon, which signifies the heart of Old World winemaking to both of them. All the names of their wines have significance to Marty and Chris – we encourage you to read about it on the Avennia website.

Cheers!

 

A New Fave Stop in Woodinville: Obelisco Estate

Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville 2 Comments

We have several favorite stops when we go wine tasting in Woodinville – the newest is Obelisco Estate, which meets our personal criteria for incredible wine and great people.

Let’s start with the wine.

Obelisco’s Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon wins Double Gold awards every year and constantly sells out. Just a wee taste of the 09 vintage more than demonstrates why. This deep purple, complex wine delights with layers of pleasing aromas and robust, rich — no make that luxe — flavors. Electrum showcases Red Mountain Cabernet to the max.

Red Mountain is the location of Obelisco Estate Vineyard, next to Hedges, and now in its fourth year — 30 sun-bathed acres owned by Doug Long, a Napa Valley veteran, who is as friendly as he is experienced in the wine industry. (The 1997 vintage from his David Arthur winery in Napa was awarded 99 points by Wine Spectator.)

We first met Doug in April at a Washington state wine event in the other Washington, D.C. But we first tasted the 07 Electrum, its first vintage, a couple of years earlier.

Winemakers Pete Hedges and Sara Goedhart’s love of the grape is evident in every glass of Obelisco wine that we’ve tasted. (And Dave always says he’s never met a grape from Red Mountain that he didn’t like.)

Last weekend we paired Obelisco 09 Cabernet Sauvignon with marinated flat iron steaks on the grill, and wow, it was a heavenly combination. Lush and lively, this is one Cabernet that we will be revisiting over and over again — which means Doug can expect to see us again soon at his tasting room in the Woodinville Wine Warehouse.

The Obelisco tasting room was recently renovated, by the way, and well worth a stop to admire the non-warehouse look of rich wood and intricate carpets. It would be a great place to have a party too!

Cheers!

 

 

Big Winemaker News at EFESTE

Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

Winemaker extraordinaire Brennon Leighton is becoming a consulting winemaker at EFESTE in Woodinville and after Crush 2012, he will be relocating to eastern Washington near EFESTE’s vineyards and taking on additional projects with other wineries.

He personally selected winemaker Peter Devison, formerly from Apex, Alder Ridge and Willow Creek, to join him on an expanded EFESTE winemaking team “because of his experience in reductive winemaking — a distinctive old-world style seldom seen in Washington.”

“Peter’s knowledge of our winemaking style is incredible,” Brennon explained. “We have similar philosophies and perspectives that will make for a great progression. It’s like being in a foreign country and finding someone who can speak your language.”

Regular readers of this blog know we’ve been fans of Brennon and EFESTE for years. My article about Brennon in Seattleite Magazine landed him in third spot in the magazine’s Top Ten newsmakers of the year (2011).

We first met him in 2008, when we barrel-tasted Jolie Bouche during a St. Nick’s event in Woodinville. We instantly became members of EFESTE’s Inner Circle wine club, and applauded when the next year, 2009, Seattle Magazine hailed Brennon as Winemaker to Watch and EFESTE as the Best New Winery.

As his star rose, Brennon remained constant – open, blunt, funny, sharp and passionate, a talented man whom my mother would have said “pulls no punches,” an artist who also likes to experiment and a thinker who reads several books a week.

We’ve also written numerous posts about Efeste’s award-winning wines such as Feral Sauvignon Blanc, Jolie Bouche Syrah,  Lola Chardonnay and Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon, my personal favorite (although it’s hard to choose).

EFESTE’s new winemaker, Peter Devision, is fortunate to join Brennon and the owners whose last names make up the letters that spell EFESTE: Daniel and Helen Ferrelli, Patrick Smith, and Kevin and Angie Taylor are also passionate about wine, dedicated to several worthy causes, and fun to hang out with in the tasting room.

Devison began working with Brennon for crush 2012, taking place now.

We look forward to meeting him. In addition to talking wine, we have Canada in common – he’s from Nova Scotia and worked in my hometown, Vancouver before moving to Washington state.

Cheers!

Cool down, go Feral

Sauvignon Blanc, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

Summer is here, which often means long, warm evenings on the deck with the dogs, our books and a nice refreshing glass of wine. The summer white that tops our list right now is Sauvignon Blanc – and our favorite of this particular weekend is Efeste 2011 Feral.

Made using native, wild yeast for fermentation, the grapefruit aromas inherent to Sauv Blanc are enhanced, and the mouthfeel is somehow both rich and crisp at the same time.

Native fermentation means that no commercial yeast was added to the pressed juice. As a result, the character of the varietal is showcased, along with the terroir at Evergreen Vineyard in the Columbia Valley.

In other words, if you love a classic Sauvignon Blanc, Feral is for you.

This is the fifth vintage of winemaker Brennon Leighton’s Feral. In his notes on the bottle, he dedicates this wine “to the esteemed Loire Valley vigneron Didier Dagueneau” – who inspired Brennon to reach beyond his comfort zone “and produce wines that do not adhere to the expected, but rather drive to make wines that surpass even my own concept of place, purity and excellence.”

We both think Brennon successfully reached his goal with 2011 Feral.

Cheers to Brennon, to Feral and to summer!

 

What we’ve been drinking lately

Barbera, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

I’ve been traveling so much lately that it’s been hard to find time to write individual posts about the wonderful Washington state wines we’ve enjoyed in the last couple of months. But I still want to share them with you, in hopes that you’ll also taste them one day soon.

We recommend all of them — cheers!

Looking for a robust red for July 4th?

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

If you’re thinking about a juicy BBQ steak to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday (or July 1 for my family and friends in Canada), L’Ecole 41 has a multitude of choices of robust reds to pair with it.

We’ve been fans of L’Ecole for a long time – have a look at this 2010 blog post that references our L’Ecole tastings, starting in 2007. Every year since then, L’Ecole’s wines have either matched or superseded the previous vintage with character, complexity, flavors and balance.

 

My personal favorite is L’Ecole 41 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley. I had the opportunity to taste the 2001 library wine; the 2009 vintage continues the excellence – a blend of Cabernet from five prestigious vineyards that is sophisticated, structured and velvety rich.

According to winemaker and owner Marty Clubb, “Its old-world structure, dense dark fruit flavors and elegant tannins exemplify the best of Walla Walla.”

We have several bottles of this beauty – we had one last week, we’ll open another on July 4 and the rest remain in our cellar for what is sure to be years of good drinking.

 

In May, we reveled in L’Ecole 41 2008 Perigee, celebrated when the moon was in its perigee – a “super moon” when it passes closest to Earth.

The Perigee, L’Ecole’s estate Bordeaux blend, combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc with a dash of Petit Verdot and Malbec, sourced from the winery’s oldest and best blocks from Seven Hills Vineyard.

2008 Perigee is elegant, expressive and earthy – a delicious wine to enjoy over the holidays – or anytime.

Other robust reds from L’Ecole: 2008 Apogee Pepper Bridge, another of my favorites; 2008 Estate Merlot; and 2009 Estate Syrah, in addition to several from Columbia Valley.

Cheers!

Chateau Ste. Michelle Summer Concerts

Events, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

You always know spring is in the air when Chateau Ste. Michelle starts selling tickets to its amazing Summer Concert Series. This year’s lineup of renowned musicians tops even last year’s – and that’s no small feat!

The 2012 lineup includes the Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Tour, Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band, Chris Isaak, Steve Martin & EmmyLou Harris, Diana Krall, Blondie, Bonnie Raitt and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

The series begins with John Fogerty on June 16 and wraps up with Huey Lewis and the News on September 16. There are three months’ of options on the concert calendar along with answers to any questions you might have about how to prepare for, and what to expect from, a concert outdoors.

We had such a wonderful evening at the Moody Blues concert last year, and are looking forward to another special time this year.

Tickets are now on sale at Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Wine Shop and through Ticketmaster.

What are you waiting for? It’s a wonderful way to spend a lazy summer evening of music and wine in a beautiful location.

Cheers!

A Look at the Success of Washington State’s Wine Industry

Washington wineries, Wine 1 Comment

While I was traveling, a new economic impact study about the Washington state wine industry was released, showcasing impressive statistics about the industry’s incredible growth and its positive effect on the economy.

According to the Washington State Wine Commission, which released the study, the state’s wine industry is valued at more than $8.6 billion annually in Washington state and more than $14.9 billion annually in the U.S. — approximately three times higher than a similar study conducted in 2007.

In 2010, Washington’s wineries produced 11.2 million cases of wine, generating revenue in excess of $1 billion, providing the livelihoods for nearly 30,000 people and hundreds of connected businesses and organizations.

“Throughout this period Washington wine has benefited from strong, pragmatic leadership, quality education and an increasingly effective research program which has enabled the industry to overcome a multitude of economic and environmental challenges,” the report states. “Washington wine has shown little of the complacency which has imperiled many other major producing regions in this difficult period.”

Here is some additional interesting information from the study:

  • Since 2005, the number of licensed wineries in Washington State has more than doubled from 360 to 739 today.
  • The state has also added more than 13,000 acres of vineyards during this time – from just over 30,000 acres (12,000 hectares) in 2005 to more than 43,000 acres (17,000 hectares) today.
  • The industry supports nearly 30,000 jobs in Washington State and more than 70,000 jobs nationally, with wages of nearly $1.2 billion and more than $2.8 billion, respectively.
  • The industry generates more than $237 million in annual tax revenues to the state of Washington and pays nearly $1.4 billion annually in taxes across the country.
  • Each year, Washington State draws more than 2.4 million wine-related tourists, who spend nearly $1.1 billion in communities throughout the state.

Want to read more? The complete study, conducted by California-based Stonebridge Research, can be found at washingtonwine.org.

Cheers!

Washington in Washington

Barbera, Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Events, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine 1 Comment

A day of double-takes comprised what I like to call our experience of “Washington in Washington.”

Dave and I were in Washington, D.C. at the same time as this state’s Washington Wine Commission held a trade and media tasting there.

Ryan Pennington, the Commission’s social-media-savvy PR director, saw my Facebook update that we were headed to D.C., so he kindly invited us to stop by the tasting event at the Rooftop Terrace at The John F. Kennedy Center.

Of course we went! The tasting area was packed, and we listened with pride as many D.C.-area wine experts, restaurant owners, media and wine enthusiasts extolled the virtues of Washington state wine.

And we laughed at the looks on the faces of several winemakers and winery owners when they saw us, out of context, in “the other Washington!”

“What are you doing here?” exclaimed Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas, Mike White of Barrister, Lisa Baer of Baer, John Abbott of Abeja, Darcey Fugman-Small of Woodward Canyon, Jerry Riener of Guardian Cellars and Doug Long of Obelisco.

“We just happened to be in the neighborhood and heard some excellent Washington state wine was being poured here,” we replied.

We also had an opportunity to taste wine and talk to Daniel Wampfler of Dunham Cellars, Kristi and Lou Facelli of Facelli, Kim Bolander of L’Ecole 41, Debbie Hansen of Cougar Crest, and Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan.

These were the wines we tasted and recommend (in alphabetical order):

  • Abeja 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla ($52)
  • Baer 2009 Ursa Red Bordeaux Blend, Columbia Valley ($39)
  • Cougar Crest 2007 Estate Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla ($38)
  • Dunham Cellars 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon XIV, Columbia Valley ($45)
  • Facelli 2008 Barbera, Columbia Valley ($25)
  • Fidelitas 2008 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($55)
  • Guardian Cellars 2009 Gun Metal Red Bordeaux Blend, Columbia Valley ($37)
  • L’Ecole 41 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla ($37)
  • Long Shadows 2007 Feather Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley ($55)
  • Mark Ryan 2009 Dead Horse Red Bordeaux Blend, Red Mountain ($52)
  • Obelisco 2009 Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($65)
  • Woodward Canyon 2009 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State ($54)

Frankly, I couldn’t say it any better than the Washington Wine Commission’s brochure:

“Washington State’s exceptional grapes reach their potential in the hands of extraordinary winemakers, who create bright and balanced expressions of our region with world-class wines.”

Cheers to Washington state winemakers!

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