Bellingham Grape and Gourmet

Grape & GourmetThe 12th annual Bellingham Grape and Gourmet is less than a month away, and we are really looking forward to attending. This year, the event will be held at Silver Reef Casino on Nov. 1. 

The evening of “sensational wines and exquisite food” is hosted by Bellingham Bay Rotary Club.

The event is also a fundraiser — all proceeds will be donated to local non-profits.

Almost 40 Washington and Oregon wineries will be pouring — including our friends at William Church, Forgeron Cellars, L’Ecole 41, Walla Walla Vintners, Dunham Cellars, Airfield Estates and Hightower. Wines range from Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Viognier to Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir. And there’s more, including both white and red blends.

If you find a wine that’s a real palate pleaser, you can purchase it at a 20% discount right on site. You can also sample tasty bites from local restaurants, including one of our favorites, The Steakhouse at Silver Reef Casino.

Last week, we were fortunate to be invited to a pre-tasting, hosted by BB Rotary Club event organizer Bryant Engebretson and his wife Hillary. Our two favorites were William Church Winery’s 2 Spires and Walla Walla Vintners Cuvee, but we know there will be more to add to that list on Nov. 1 at Bellingham Grape and Gourmet.

Grape & Gourmet 1So what are you waiting for – get your tickets now!

Sunday, Nov. 1 at Silver Reef Casino, 5:00 – 8:30 p.m.

VIP Tickets ($100) give you early admission at 5 p.m., which means 90 minutes without the crowds!

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for regular admission ($80).

We hope to see you there!

Margot and Dave


Columbia Crest Fall Release Wines

If you’re one of those people who look for good-value wines at a $10-$15 price point, this blog post is for you. We are very pleased with some Columbia Crest winery samples that pair well with the fall season.

First, you might recall that we praised Columbia Crest H3 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon In  a July post about Good Value BBQ Reds. H3 became our go-to, every-day wine over the summer ($10-$15, depending on where you look). We were not surprised to find out that H3 was a Double Gold winner at the 2015 Seattle Wine Awards.

And now, Columbia Crest offers their 2013 Limited Release “Gold” Red Wine Blend, in addition to several other new 2013 releases, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

We particularly enjoyed these four wines, all from Columbia Valley, all priced at $12.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 5.53.39 PMColumbia Crest 2013 Limited Release “Gold” Red Wine Blend
According to the winery, a couple barrels of wine that represent the “gold standard” of Columbia Valley grapes are blended into this limited release Gold Red Wine. Harvested in September 2012, when Cabernet Franc had an excellent year, this wine features 52% Cab Franc, 38% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot. Think spicy, rich and textured – and great to pair with grilled beef, lamb, rich stews or simply with strong cheese.

Columbia Crest 2012 Grand Estates Red Blend
This is a Syrah-Cab Sauv blend, specifically 57% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Viognier, 6% Merlot and 3% other varietals. Tasting Notes: “This complex red blend marries together a variety of characteristics and layers that complement each other, including lively flavors of red and black fruit punctuated with layers of spice and caramel on the finish.” We paired it with rich spaghetti and meatballs, and it was delicious.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 6.11.45 PMColumbia Crest 2013 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon
The 81% Cab Sauv is rounded out with 15% Merlot, 2% Syrah and 2% of other varietals. Tasting Notes: “This bold style Cabernet Sauvignon displays great complexity and structure. There are aromas of dark berry fruits and plum on the nose with chocolate and vanilla on the palate. This wine pairs well with beef tenderloin or hearty pasta.” We think it also is wonderful paired with blue cheese and/or dark chocolate.

Columbia Crest 2013 Grand Estates Syrah
In this classic, 95% Syrah is co-fermented with 5% Viognier. Tasting Notes: “Elegant smoky tones lead to notes of currant, dried herbs and hints of pepper. The supple texture is complemented by flavors of cedar and dark fruits.” Pair with grilled salmon, pork tenderloin or soft cheeses.

Although we haven’t yet tasted Columbia Crest 2013 Grand Estates Unoaked Chardonnay, Wine Spectator called it out as providing the biggest bang for your buck.

We know it seems too early to start thinking about holiday wines, but at this price point, do you really want to wait? You can pour them at any party – your own or ones you attend as a guest — from Hallowe’en to Thanksgiving and beyond.

Margot and Dave

A Chance to Support Lake Chelan Wine Valley

Crush-2015As you no doubt heard in the news this summer, wildfire destroyed Ventimiglia Cellars in Lake Chelan. The so-called Chelan Complex Fire took at least 70 buildings, blazed across 135,000 acres and left more than 750 people without work.

Many of the winemakers and grape growers in Lake Chelan Wine Valley, including Judy and Don Phelps of  Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards, had to evacuate their homes.

The local economy, particularly tourism, suffered after the devastating fires; according to the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce, business in August dropped about 75 percent.

You have a chance to help support the economy in Lake Chelan Wine Valley — a scenic community of 25 wineries — by attending the Valley’s annual Crush festival: two weekends of wine tasting and a behind-the-scenes look at winemaking on Oct. 2-4 and Oct. 10-11.

Over both weekends, the wineries will feature live concerts, barbecues, grape stomping, vineyard tours and more. And of course, there is the beautiful 50-mile lake, mountain biking, hiking and golf to enjoy.

And a special shout-out to Tildio Winery for a new red blend called The Phoenix, “dedicated to the fire fighters and the people who are rising from the ashes.”

Find out more details about Crush at Lake Chelan Wine Valley’s website.

Our friends in the area hope to see you there.

Margot and Dave

Charles Smith Wines Jet City

Photo credit; Charles Smith Wines

Photo credit: Charles Smith Wines

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Smith

Charles Smith, Jet City, Seattle

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 10.02.00 AM

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

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

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

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

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

Margot and Dave



Good-Value Wines

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 5.19.49 PMAs the summer winds down, we’re taking a look at some good-value wines that we and/or our neighbors enjoyed in the last five months. Summer sippers make us think of white wine on the deck or the patio, paired with tasty cheeses, seafood or chicken. But let’s not forget about robust reds to accompany delicious BBQs during the warm weather!

First, let’s talk about the featured wineries:

In 1836, Wente Vineyards began with 48 acres in Livermore Valley, California. Today the winery draws from approximately 3,000 acres of sustainably farmed Estate vineyards. While we’ve written about their reds in the past, Wente is known as California’s First Family of Chardonnay. In 1912, the Wente family brought Chardonnay cuttings from France and planted them in the Livermore Valley. Their 1936 vintage was the first varietally labeled Chardonnay in the United States. During crab season, we enjoyed 2013 Small Lot Eric’s Chardonnay, which was fermented and aged in stainless steel. But our neighbors preferred 2012 Riva Ranch Chard.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 5.18.18 PMFor five generations, two families — the Maggios and Reynolds — have grown grapes and made wine in the historic Lodi region of California. They transformed the oldest winery in Lodi, Oak Ridge Winery, into a state-of-art facility, where Old Soul wines were crafted because “the winery has an old soul.” You can definitely taste it in the rich 2012 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon, with a price point of $14.

Launched by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in 2005 as a restaurant-only brand, 14 Hands introduced its “The Reserve” label of wines sourced from the Horse Heaven Hills appellation in Washington state in 2012.

Santa Cristina produces Italy’s No. 1 selling red wine, Rosso, and is also represented by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. This Tuscan winery released its first wine in 1946 and has become a “benchmark” in Italian wines.

Motto Wines debuted this June, with a collection of distinct, dark, rich wines from California that offer a new take on that state’s wine. Motto is made by the renowned winemaking team at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, “putting a Washington spin” on California grapes. According to the winery, “the Motto winemaking team defies ordinary and makes it their motto.”

Of note, many of these wines are so reasonably priced that you can pour them at any time of the year. Just make sure to decant first for a few hours.

Summer Sipper Whites

  • Old Soul 2013 Lodi Chardonnay, $14
  • Wente Vineyards 2012 Morning Fog Chardonnay, $22
  • Wente Vineyards 2012 Riva Ranch Chardonnay, $22
  • Wente Vineyards 2013 Small Lot Eric’s Chardonnay, Small Lot (Unoaked) $25
  • Other good-value summer sippers

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 5.17.23 PMBBQ Reds

  • Santa Cristina 2013 Rosso, $12
  • 14 Hands 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley, $12
  • 14 Hands 2013 Merlot Columbia Valley, $12
  • Old Soul 2012 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon, $14
  • Old Soul 2012 Lodi “Pure Red” Blend, $14
  • Motto Wines 2013 Unabashed Zinfandel, $15
  • Motto Wines 2013 Gung Ho Red Blend, $15
  • Wente Vineyards 2012 Southern Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, $19
  • Wente Vineyards Charles Wetmore 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $30
  • 14 Hands 2012 The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills, $30
  • Other good-value BBQ Reds

 Thanks to Wente, Oak Ridge Winery and Ste. Michelle Estates for these and other samples provided in the last five months.

Margot and Dave


Party Hearty – Harvest Party in the Vines

UPDATE: Another successful Harvest Party in the Vines for wine club members took place last weekend, perfectly planned by the wonderful people at Alexandria Nicole Cellars at their estate Destiny Ridge Vineyard.

That perfect planning went down to the wire, as high winds in the area made it difficult to determine whether to hold the party outside, as per tradition, or move it inside. The final result – both!

As one would expect with wines from Jarrod Boyle and his team, the bottles of current releases and those from the library were amazing — from the 2012 Alderdale Cabernet Sauvignon to the older vintages of Destiny.

We also had an opportunity to see the new Tiny Houses at Destiny Ridge. Located in the heart of the vineyard overlooking the Columbia River, these tiny houses are incredibly designed, very small and fully functional. One of them even has a built-in wine tap, which in our books is straight out luxurious!

Almost all party guests were decked out in tie-dye clothes and/or bohemian apparel because this year’s Harvest Party was a special celebration of the “Art of Harvest.” To commemorate all of the exciting changes at the winery this year — those Tiny Houses, the Estate event facility and tasting room and more — renowned artist Guy Buffet created a whimsical painting that depicts the winery. He was an honored guest and unveiled his painting to a lot of oohs and ahhhh by those attending.

Buffet is known for his whimsical paintings of chefs, waiters and French cafés as well as his international culinary and wine themes. His work has appeared on Williams-Sonoma table top collections, handbags, books and a myriad of licensed products.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 12.41.51 PM

Last year’s party celebrated a Decade of Destiny – ten years since wines were created from grapes first planted in 1998 at Destiny Ridge. Now, 18 years later, ANC produces 10,000 cases of wine with more than 23 varietals planted in 267 acres of planted vineyard.

And that’s where the Harvest Party takes place every year!

We’ve been wine club members since 2007, inspired by some fabulous wine during our first visit to ANC’s 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, who are as kind-hearted and generous as they are talented and skilled.

Congratulations Jarrod, Ali, and everyone at the winery, in the vineyard and in the tasting rooms for a job well done.

Margot and Dave

Taste of Tulalip Tickets On Sale

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 12.25.27 PMTickets to one of our favorite wine events in Washington state, Taste of Tulalip, are now available on pre-sale.

The fantastic 7th annual two-day festival doesn’t take place until Nov. 13-14, but tickets sell out quickly. And trust us, you don’t want to miss this collaboration of wine, food and art.

This year, Tulalip Resort Casino‘s talented wine expert, Tommy Thompson, and the event’s 2015 honorary winemaker, Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville, have created a unique blend of wine sourced from DuBrul Vineyard grapes — 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. As you can see in the photo, the artwork by Mike Gobin for the commemorative wine bottle and plate is a beautiful expression of the Tulalip culture.

Taste of Tulalip kicks off with the Celebration Dinner on Nov. 13 – an explosion of tastes and colors that amazes us year after year.

We were delighted to discover that this year, on Nov. 14, Taste of Tulalip is featuring an in-depth reserve wine tasting/seminar called “Turning Water Into Wine” with Sparky and Sarah Marquis of the award-winning Australian winery, Mollydooker Wines. The tasting lineup will include 12 of Mollydooker’s recently released 2014 wines.

When we visited their Cellar Door and vineyard in McLaren Vale last year, we had so much fun with Sparky and his dad, Leigh Gawith. We had a vineyard tour, tasted through their amazing lineup and had a truly wonderful time. For more information, see our blog posts and learn about Mollydooker’s Marquis Fruit Weight™ process and their “yum-worthy” wines:

Mollydooker Part 1
Mollydooker Part 2 

Back to Taste of Tulalip … also on Nov. 14, “All Access” pass holders will have early entrance to the Grand Taste and the edgy Rock and Roll Cooking Challenge; a wine seminar called “Washington State AVA Smackdown,” featuring some of the state’s top wine producers; a VIP seminar featuring a cooking demo from Chef Chris Cosentino (from San Francisco’s Cockscomb and Boccalone); a private Magnum Party with a selection of high-level wine and food pairings, and more.

The Grand Taste is always the weekend’s highlight. This year, more than 100 wines from Washington state, Oregon, California, Oporto, Maderia, will be poured, along with global selections of bubbles, late-harvest and ice wines, and craft beer.

Seats for the Nov. 13 Celebration Dinner may be purchased by calling (360) 716-6888, and the passes for the Nov. 14 events can be purchased via Ticketmaster.

We hope to see you there!

Margot and Dave


Seven Washington Cabs

We had a limited amount of time to visit wineries in Woodinville this past weekend before heading to a Jackson Browne concert, part of Chateau Ste. Michelle Summer Concert Series.

We knew we wanted some classic Washington state Cabernet Sauvignon, and we knew we only had a couple of hours to taste. So we found the most recent vintages of three of our favorite Cabs and one Cab-based blend. And we tasted one new Cab that will be released in the near future.

Here is the list:

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 5.50.32 PM

  • 2011 Efeste Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2012 Guardian The Wanted Cab-based blend (38% Cab Sauv, 38% Cab Franc, 24% Merlot)
  • 2012 William Church Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2011 Obelisco Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2012 Fidelitas Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon


All five wines are big, bold and beautiful – it will be a tough choice to decide which one to pair with a big juicy BBQ steak.

We also recently stocked up on our favorite wine to pair with Seahawks football – 2012 Alexandria Nicole Cellars Quarry Butte (52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Syrah, 6% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot).

And by the way, the Jackson Browne concert was fantastic, and paired well with 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon.

Margot and Dave

An Evening of Excellence: Chihuly and Chateau Ste. Michelle

IMG_1678What do you get when you combine the highest quality Artist Series red blend from Chateau Ste. Michelle and the private boathouse and studio of world-renowned glass sculptor, Dale Chilhuly?

An evening of excellence.

We were fortunate to be invited to the reception last week at Chihuly’s boathouse to honor the 20th vintage of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Artist Series wines.

IMG_1685Chihuly designed the label on the first vintage, 1993, and was asked to present his artwork again 20 years later. For the 2012 commemorative bottle, Chihuly selected Cast Silver Venetian, his unique sculpture that was cast in sterling silver at the Walla Walla Foundry. 

“I’m honored to have my artwork on the 20th vintage Artist Series label,” Chihuly said. “This piece is one-of-a-kind and very special to me. I couldn’t think of a better use than portraying it on this significant wine project.”

The 2012 Artist Series red wine blends 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec. According to winemaker Bob Bertheau, this vintage is “a unique, collector’s wine that represents the highest quality and pedigree from Chateau Ste. Michelle … This is a beautifully layered, ageable wine and my vision of art in a bottle.”

We can attest that the 2012 Artist Series is a gorgeous, rich, robust and elegant wine that is well-deserving of high ratings. At the reception, we also tasted the 1997 and 2007 vintages; both were drinking very nicely, indeed.

IMG_1669And did we mention that the event was held at Chihuly’s boathouse? His private collection includes a series of aquariums of colorful fish circling around his beautiful glass sculptures and a swimming pool with his amazing work lining the bottom.

IMG_1687Chihuly is known for his art and architectural installations in museums, cities and gardens around the world. Close to home, you can enjoy his exhibits at Seattle Center and Tacoma Art Museum.


We highly recommend that you taste the 2012 Artist Series and also visit Chihuly’s exhibits.

Margot and Dave

A Deeper Look at Sauvignon Blanc

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 1.26.51 PMWe love Sauvignon Blanc in the summer months, and after sharing our views on four bottles that we recently enjoyed, we decided to take a deeper look at this warm-weather wine.

Sauvignon Blanc is both an old-world and new-world wine, grown and produced in Washington state, California, British Columbia, Ontario, France, New Zealand and other wine regions.

The typical descriptions are crisp, refreshing and elegant. The most popular price point is $20 and below; however some Sauv Blancs are in the range of $40-$80, and you can even find an occasional bottle priced above $80.

While the most popular style is “light and crisp,” other styles include “fruity and smooth,”  “rich and creamy” and “elegant.” The flavors can range from grassy to tropical.

  • Fruit – Citrus (Grapefruit, Lemon), Melon, Tropical
  • Grassy – Grass, Herbs, Mineral
  • Oak – Vanilla, Spice, Smoke

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 1.27.04 PMSauvignon Blanc pairs well with shellfish such as prawns, scallops, crabs and oysters, in addition to other seafood dishes, sushi, some cheeses and grilled veggies such as asparagus.


Fun Facts:
Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. During the 18th century in Bordeaux, the Sauvignon Blanc vine paired with Cabernet Franc to parent the Cabernet Sauvignon vine.

International Sauvignon Blanc Day has been held on April 24, since 2010.


We love to sip on chilled, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc on warm sunny evenings on the deck or the patio. What is your favorite place or time?

Margot and Dave