Our List of Top 50 Washington Wineries

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NYE WineAs 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):

  • Airfield Estates
  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  • Avennia
  • Baer
  • Barrage Cellars
  • Barrister
  • Bartholomew
  • Betz Family
  • Boudreaux Cellars
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle
  • Columbia Crest
  • Cooper Wine Company
  • Darby
  • DiStefano
  • Double Canyon
  • Dunham Cellars
  • Efeste
  • Fall Line
  • Fidelitas
  • Fielding Hills
  • Figgins
  • Force Majeure
  • Forgeron Cellars
  • 14 Hands
  • Gard Vintners
  • Gilbert Cellars
  • Gorman Winery
  • Guardian Cellars
  • Hard Row to Hoe
  • JM Cellars
  • L’Ecole
  • Lauren Ashton
  • Long Shadows
  • Maryhill
  • Mercer Estates
  • Northstar
  • Northwest Totem Cellars
  • Obelisco Estate
  • Otis Kenyon
  • Quilceda Creek
  • Ross Andrew
  • Sleight of Hand
  • Sparkman Cellars
  • Va Piano
  • Vin du Lac
  • Walla Walla Vintners
  • William Church
  • Windy Point
  • Woodward Canyon
  • 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!

William Church Winery-Try These Wines Over the Holidays

Bordeaux Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Viognier, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 4.37.35 PMWe’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.

CabSauv22012 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.

Cheers!

What’s in Your Glass Lately?

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Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 8.37.48 AMYou 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:

Cheers – and Happy Holidays!

Good Value Reds for the Holidays

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If you’re looking for good value red wines for the holidays — for your dinner table or for a hostess gift — look no further. Here are four that we recently tasted and recommend: one from Washington state and three from Livermore Valley, located just east of San Francisco.

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 6.12.30 PMMurrieta’s Well The Spur, 2011 Livermore Valley ($25)
This unique red blend not only drinks well but also has a great label that is a perfect hostess gift. This Livermore Valley wine blends 31% Petite Sirah, 29% Petit Verdot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Franc, and pairs well with roasted and grilled meats, dishes with red sauces or rich cheese. Marietta’s Well is one of California’s original wineries, propagated in 1883 with vineyard cuttings from Chateau Margaux and Chateau d’Yquem in France. Need we say more? Oh, one more thing — Murrieta’s Well is owned by Philip Wente of Wente Vineyards, the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery.

Wente Vineyards Southern Hills 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley ($18)
This estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon combines 76% Cabernet Sauvignon with 9% Petit Verdot, 9% Petite Sirah, 3% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Merlot. This is a great everyday wine that is well balanced, with a depth and intensity that showcases the character of the grape. Just like Murrieta’s Well, vines at Wente Vineyards were planted in 1883. Today the winery draws from approximately 3,000 acres of sustainably farmed Estate vineyards.

TateDog 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley ($25)
TateDog’s slogan is “Great artisan wines at nice prices,” which perfectly describes the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. This flavorful, award-winning wine has a beautiful nose with a long finish. While medium-bodied, it pairs well with a ribeye or stands alone without food.

14 Hands Vineyards The Reserve 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills ($30)
Launched by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in 2005 as a restaurant-only brand, 14 Hands introduced “The Reserve” label of wines sourced from the Horse Heaven Hills appellation in Washington state in 2012. This is one gorgeous wine, which received 92 points from Wine Spectator. This beauty would also pair well with a ribeye or a rich mushroom tart. And if you are in Prosser, stop by their new tasting room, which opened earlier this year.

Thank you to these wineries who kindly provided us with samples of their wines. Our sample policy can be found here.

Cheers!

Beautiful British Columbia-Part 4

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Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 5.58.19 PMTo wrap up this series on B.C. wine country, we wanted to tell you about the Wines of British Columbia dinner that we were invited to a few weeks ago at Dahlia Lounge.

Each of the six delicious courses by Chef Brock Johnson and B.C. Chef Trevor Bird of Fable Restaurant in Vancouver were paired with B.C. VQA wines that are now available exclusively at Whole Foods Market stores in Washington and Oregon.

This was the amazing menu:

First course: Chef Brock Johnson, Dahlia Lounge
Canapés: Bacon jam and apple on toast
Tantalus Vineyards, 2012 Riesling

Second course: Chef Brock Johnson, Dahlia Lounge
British Columbia lingcod fritter, tarragon aioli and olive
St. Hubertus Estate Winery, 2013 Pinot Blanc
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, 2013 Pinot Gris

Third course: Chef Trevor Bird, Fable Kitchen, Vancouver, B.C.
Grilled fruit salad, Fable made ricotta, pickled berries, radish, end of the season strawberry vinaigrette
Quails’ Gate Winery, 2012 Pinot Noir

Fourth course: Chef Trevor Bird, Fable Kitchen
Confit Point Grey salmon, beet carpaccio, crispy business, herbed yogurt, pickled fennel and dill
Meyer Family Vineyards, 2012 Chardonnay

Fifth course: Chef Brock Johnson, Dahlia Lounge
Beef tenderloin and wine braised beef heart, smoked wild mushroom, parsnip and nutmeg
Black Hills Estate Winery, 2012 Nota Bene
Nk’Mip Cellars, 2012 Merlot

Sixth course: Chef Brock Johnson, Dahlia Lounge
British Columbia cheese plate, roasted fig, pecan flax toast
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, 2011 Cabernet Franc

As mentioned, wines from these participating wineries are now available at Whole Foods, so if you can’t visit Beautiful British Columbia’s growing wine country, you can still taste the wines right here.

Thanks for inviting us to the delicious dinner and introducing B.C. wines to Washington and Oregon, Wines of British Columbia.

Other posts in this series:

Beautiful British Columbia Part 1
Beautiful British Columbia Part 2: Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
Beautiful British Columbia Part 3: Fairview Cellars

Cheers!

Fairview Cellars-Beautiful British Columbia Part 3

B.C. Wineries, Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine Comments Off

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 1.38.52 PMSome of the best Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends in British Columbia can be found at Fairview Cellars, a small unassuming winery in Oliver, which we recommend as a stop in any tour of B.C. wine country.

While many wineries in B.C. (and Washington state) have become gorgeous destination resorts, Fairview Cellars has a rustic tasting room in a tiny log cabin about five minutes into the hills off the north end of the Benches of the Golden Mile. Sandra Oldfield of Tinhorn Creek suggested we stop by during our September visit, and we now know why.

In 1993, half Fairview’s 10-acre property was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. The remainder was split equally with Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Later, one row of Syrah and one row of Petit Verdot were added; Sauvignon Blanc was planted on a lower terraced bench in 2007.

We found the Cabs and Bordeaux blends the best. But we also enjoyed Fairview Cellars 2013 Sauvignon Blanc on the hot end-of-summer day we visited; it was crisp, well-balanced and delightful.

And the stories from winemaker/owner Bill Eggert and his brother, Chuck, were an entertaining accompaniment to our tastings.

Fairview Cellars 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
This is an amazing wine that is drinking beautifully right now and still has about 10 more years left in it. This classic cab is a special-occasion wine that will pair marvelously with savory and/or smoky meats. We loved it.

Iconoclast Premier Series
Bill only makes Iconoclast when he thinks the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are near perfect – the most recent vintage is 2009, and the next release is 2012. This is another special wine, rich, silky and with great structure and balance. This is one big cab, which would pair so very well with a big, juicy steak.

2011 & 2012 Two Hoots
The flagship Cab-Merlot-Cab Franc blend is “produced for daily consumption,” according to Bill. He also says that while there are many reasons for the name, the main one is “to honour the return every year of the Great-Horned Owls to nest on the Fairview property.”  This is a medium-weight blend with a flavorful punch. The 2011 vintage has floral notes and is one of the winery’s best sellers. The 2012 has the same blend, but is bigger and bolder, and we really enjoyed it.

2011 The Bear
Another favorite, The Bear is Cab-based (50-75%, depending on the vintage) with Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot to round it off. This is a classic Bordeaux blend, with grapes from the best barrels chosen, and stored from 14-20 months. Thinking of pairing? Think prime rib.

For our friends in B.C., you can find Fairview Cellars wines in a number of places, although we still recommend a visit to BC wine country.

As a young child, my family visited the Okanagan every summer, swimming in the numerous lakes and picking cherries. I said this in Part 1 of this series, and I’ll say it again now: Beautiful British Columbia, you’ve come a long way, baby!

Cheers!

Tinhorn Creek-Beautiful British Columbia Part 2

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Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.43.53 AMTinhorn Creek Vineyards, quite simply, is a must-stop destination for any visit to British Columbia wine country. September 23rd marked the 20th anniversary of Tinhorn Creek, which has grown from barrels of wine in the basement of a house to 150 acres of vines on a beautiful estate in Oliver Osoyoos wine country, in the south Okanagan’s “Golden Mile” region.

Over the years, Tinhorn Creek has also become known in Canada as one of the most progressive wineries, focusing on sustainability and being environmentally friendly.

This winery is the epitome of what we consider a top pick: Good juice, good people and good events such as concerts and winemaker dinners at their onsite restaurant, Miradoro.

Sandra Oldfield, co-owner, president, CEO, and the face and voice of Tinhorn Creek, has been active in the wine community on Twitter for years. She embodies the experience declared on their website:Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.11.39 AM

“We grow grapes and we make wine. There are many steps between the field and the bottle, but at the end of the day it’s about farming the land responsibly, having fun, and making wines to share with family and friends. Because that’s what we are: friends, family – and friends who become family.”

Sandra also was the winemaker until this year, when Andrew Windsor joined the team, after after spending the past eight years in wine regions of Australia, New Zealand and France.

The winemaking team works from vines on two very distinct parcels of land:

  • 50 acres at the Tinhorn Creek Vineyard on the west bench, which benefits from sunrise and morning light, and is perfect for Gewürztraminer and Muscat
  • 100 acres on the Black Sage bench of the Diamondback Vineyard across the valley, which soaks up the intense afternoon heat, and therefore works well for Cabernet Franc and Merlot

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 12.02.23 PMSo let’s talk about the wines, starting with Tinhorn Creek’s Cab Franc, surely the best in Canada. We’ve tasted two vintages and enjoy the rich flavors that exemplify the varietal characteristics. This is a fantastic food wine, particularly with hearty beef stew or prime rib.

Earlier this year, the B.C. Wine Appreciation Society held a blind tasting of eight B.C. Cab Francs against four from other wine regions of the world. Tinhorn Creek 2010 Oldfield Selection Cab Franc, the winery’s first reserve version, won by a wide margin.

Going back several years, our first taste of Tinhorn Creek wine was at Whistler, back in the late 1990s — a 1995 Pinot Gris that set the bar for all the Pinot Gris we tasted in the following years.

More recently, last month, we visited the vineyard and tasted the 2013 vintage, which is crisp, balanced and brimming with citrus, pear and apple aromas and flavors.

In the late summer heat, we were also wowed by the Oldfield Series 2013 2Bench White, a delightful blend of Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc that screams for seafood to pair with it.

Tinhorn Creek is also known for its Merlot; the 2012 vintage is not at all jammy, and has a bite at the front palate that will taste marvelous with steak.

And yes, most of us in the U.S. can enjoy Tinhorn Creek wines here too – Tinhorn Creek is one of eight B.C. VQA wineries that offer wine exclusively at Whole Foods Market stores in Washington and Oregon.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 12.17.56 PMIn addition, Tinhorn Creek now ships wines direct to consumer in 34 states.

Of course, it’s more fun to visit.

And if you’re lucky, you’ll see the newest member of the Tinhorn Creek family. Right after our visit ended, the winery became home to a new puppy, Sam.

How cute is he?

Yes, he’s grown a lot in the last two months, but he is still adorbs (a word that has never been used on this blog since it launched in 2007)!

According to Sandra, one of Sam’s favorite things to do is to nap on the cool tiles in the shower (without the water)!

So what are you waiting for?

Cheers!

Beautiful British Columbia-Part 1

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Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 6.48.00 PMEight B.C. VQA wines are now available exclusively at Whole Foods Market stores in Washington and Oregon, and we were invited to taste them at a special dinner last week at Dahlia Lounge.

Chef Brock Johnson and B.C. Chef Trevor Bird of Fable Restaurant in Vancouver (and Top Chef Canada) created west coast cuisine perfectly paired with the eight featured B.C. wines.

Coincidentally, this amazing evening came on the heels of a trip we took to parts of BC wine country in mid-September.

We will be writing in detail about both of those events in the future. In the meantime, we wanted to share the names of the wineries where we tasted some pretty good B.C. wine. I was born and raised in B.C., and I can truly say, “B.C. wine, you’ve come a long way, baby!”

Wines from these participating wineries are now available at Whole Foods:

  • Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
  • Nk’Mip Cellars
  • Tantalus Vineyards
  • St. Hubertus Estate Winery
  • Meyer Family Vineyards
  • Quails’ Gate Estate Winery
  • Black Hills Estate Winery
  • Burrowing Owl Estate Winery

Additional BC wineries we visited in Osoyoos and Kelowna:

  • Fairview Cellars
  • Gehringer Brothers
  • Hester Creek

Stay tuned for more details in future blog posts. In the meantime, we encourage you to visit Beautiful British Columbia and its growing wine country.

Cheers!

Taste of Tulalip Nov. 14-15

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Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 10.47.54 AMExcitement is growing for the sixth annual Taste of Tulalip, a major event that is widely recognized as one of the top Northwest foodie and wine “happenings.”

The superb reputation of Tulalip Resort Casino is underlined every year at this event, when its food and wine maestros — Executive Chef Perry Mascitti and his fabulous team of chefs, and Sommelier Tommy Thompson — unveil an explosion of flavors and aromas that merge into a premium, five-star experience.

This year, Food Network star Ming Tsai will prepare some signature dishes to complement pours at the Magnum party on Saturday Nov. 15, featuring  samples of limited and rare vintages from 21 elite wineries, including Chateau Cos d’Estournel, Krug Clos du Mesnil, Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Harlan Estate, Penfolds Grange, Chateau Lynch-Bages, Verite “La Muse,” M. Chapoutier L’Ermitage  Blanc, and CIRQ Pinot Noir.

Here are highlights of the other events planned this year:

The weekend kicks-off with Friday night’s multi-course Celebration Dinner, paired with premium wines from around the globe: Schramsberg Vineyards, Alleromb, Kosta Browne, Leonetti Cellar, Rasa Vineyards, and Inniskillin. This year’s Featured Winemaker is Sean Boyd of Woodinville Wine Cellars.

Saturday is action-packed with wine and food demos, chef challenges, a wine seminar, Rock & Roll Challenge, the Magnum party and the Grand Taste, featuring more than 120 wineries from Washington, Oregon, California, New Zealand and Germany, along with a craft beer “pool garden.” Washington state wineries include the stellar Quilceda Creek and Figgins.

Saturday’s “All Access” ticket is priced at $350 per person; the Celebration Dinner tickets cost $195 and the Grand Taste tickets are $95.

More details and tickets are available at the Taste of Tulalip website. Mark your calendars for Nov. 14 & 15 — we hope to see you there!

Cheers!

Caymus 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon

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Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 11.03.32 AMBring on a juicy steak and a glass of Caymus Vineyards 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and celebrate the vineyard’s 40th anniversary in style. If you love big, velvety, opulent Cabernets, this one is for you.

So smooth and silky, this Cab glides across your palate, showing off the near-perfect conditions for the 2012 vintage in Napa Valley.  You don’t have to think twice about why Wine Spectator named this beauty “Wine of the Year.”

A true palate-pleaser, this luscious red packs in a lot of ripe, rich flavors with a long finish.

According to owner and winemaker Chuck Wagner: “This wine exemplifies our style of Cabernet out of a great vintage – deep color, rich, concentrated and balanced. 2012 celebrates 40 years of producing our pride and joy, Caymus Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.”

We first tasted a sample given to us by the winery for a virtual tasting in June. We loved this stellar wine so much that we bought a few bottles a month later.

We are cellaring most of them for a couple of years, but this wine is already so stunning, we opened a bottle last weekend.

An additional highlight: The Caymus Vineyards 2012 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon features a special commemorative bottle and label.

Cheers!

 

 

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