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


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:

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  • 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

Taste of Tulalip – Beautiful Wine Enhanced by Beautiful Art

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 12.25.27 PMOne of our favorite wine events in Washington state, Taste of Tulalip, is still a few months down the road, but the collaboration of wine and art is well underway.

For the 7th annual Taste of Tulalip, 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.

Côte Bonneville is known for wines that are “age worthy and food friendly.” And we can’t wait to taste this special wine, particularly because both of our palates favor Cab-based Bordeaux blends.

As you can see in the photo, the artwork for the 7th annual Taste of Tulalip commemorative wine bottle and plate is a beautiful expression of the Tulalip culture. Mike Gobin, honored artist, explained his inspiration:

“My father’s Indian name means ‘Man soars with Eagles’ and my twin sister loved hummingbirds, and her Indian name means ‘Aunty to all’. They have both gone to be with our lord and the design depicts my father embracing my twin sister in heaven and is entitled ‘A father’s heavenly embrace’. The salmon represents our Tribal People: ‘People of the Salmon.'”

The 2015 Taste of Tulalip takes place November 13-14. This exclusive wine, in the breathtaking commemorative bottle, will be introduced during the November 13th “Celebration Dinner.” It will be available for purchase in the event’s wine shop during the festival weekend.

Tickets will go on sale in August, so mark it on your calendar now – tickets go quickly to this fantastic weekend event.

We hope to see you there!

Margot and Dave


Another Success for Taste Washington

Taste WA 2015Congratulations to the Washington State Wine Commission and Visit Seattle for another successful Taste Washington at the end of March, 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.

IMG_2546But 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.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 8.22.51 AMWe definitely appreciated every taste that was poured for us at the Grand Tasting. With 225+ wineries participating, we needed a plan. This year, we only tasted reds, and between the two of us, sipped quite a few. (Yes, it is imperative to spit or spill at the Grand Tasting!)

Here are some of our favorites, in alphabetical order:

  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2012 Quarry Butte Red Bordeaux Blend
  • Andrew Will 2011 Two Blondes Red Bordeaux Blend
  • Barrage Cellars 2010 Outcast Cabernet Franc
  • Barrister Winery 2011 Washington Cabernet Franc
  • Canvasback 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Double Canyon 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Phinney Hills
  • Efeste 2011 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Fall Line 2011 Artz Vineyard Red Blend, Red Mountain
  • Fidelitas 2012 Optu, Red Mountain
  • Gramercy Cellars 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Guardian Cellars 2011 Gun Metal Red Bordeaux Blend
  • Hard Row to Hoe 2013 Barbera
  • Matthews Estate / Tenor 2010 1:1 Bordeaux Blend
  • Mercer Estates 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Obelisco 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Sinclair Estate 2010 Pentatonic
  • Walla Walla Vintners 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 Cab Franc
  • William Church 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

As far as we’re concerned, every month is a good time to celebrate  Washington state wine.

Margot and Dave

And the winner is … ANC Wines

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.34.37 PMJarrod Boyle of Alexandria Nicole Cellars is continuing his winning streak with a number of recent accolades for several of his stellar wines.

Knowing Jarrod, he would also credit Jose Yanez, the excellent foreman at Destiny Ridge Estate Vineyard, assistant winemaker Matt Dodson, and Jarrod’s amazing wife, co-owner and marketing manager, Ali Boyle.

And last, but definitely not least, Jarrod would point to Mother Nature.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.35.57 PMTwenty-three varietals are planted at Destiny Ridge, and the belief at ANC is that quality starts in the vineyard.

The winery’s motto is “approachable elegance” — and judging by the recent awards, and dozens and dozens of previous ones, Jarrod and his team are definitely succeeding.

Here are the most recent awards:

  • 2014 “Crawford” Viognier, Best of Class and Double Gold, Savor NW Awards
  • 2014 Shepherds Mark, Gold, Savor NW Awards
  • 2013 Jet Black Syrah, Best of Class and Gold, Seattle Wine and Food Experience
  • 2013 Shepherds Mark, Gold, Seattle Wine and Food Experience
  • Beverage Tasting Institute Ratings
    • 2012 “Gravity” Merlot, 92 points and Cellar Selection
    • 2012 “Little Big Man” Petit Verdot, 92 points and Cellar Selection
    • 2011 “Alderdale” Cabernet Sauvignon, 92 points
    • 2012 Quarry Butte, 91 points
    • 2014 A squared Pinot Gris, Best Buy

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.35.44 PMThe outstanding wines are what brought us to Alexandria Nicole Cellars almost 10 years ago. But the warmth of the ANC team and the winery’s fabulous events played a big role too.

Over the years, we have had the pleasure and honor of becoming friends with Jarrod and Ali, and we are so excited for their new venture, The Estate on Destiny Ridge — a breathtaking, luxurious and private venue for entertaining in the middle of wine country.

We also can’t wait for their glamping season to start up again this summer.

Congratulations to Jarrod, Ali and the ANC team on the latest accolades.

Stop by and see them at Taste Washington, or at their tasting rooms in Woodinville and Prosser.


Margot and Dave


The Woodhouse Wine Estates

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 9.16.18 AMWe’ve been fans of the old-world style wines at The Woodhouse Wine Estates for ten years, well before this blog was created in 2007. So we were delighted to hear that two of our favorite wines in their stellar line-up recently won recognition from the Seattle Wine and Food Experience (SFWE) Wine Awards.

Both Darighe 2010, a velvety Bordeaux blend, and Dussek 2010, an elegant big and bold Cabernet Sauvignon, won Best of Class Gold, making Woodhouse the only winery to win two of these coveted SWFE awards. In addition, Woodhouse’s 2010 Maghee Merlot won Gold and 2010 Cabernet Franc won Silver.

We first fell in love with Darighe’s 2001 vintage, and have included it in our favorites ever since. Dussek Cab was top of our list for its 2004 and 2006 vintages, and we are pleased to see the recent 2010 winning top honors.

For a blast from the past, check out our blog post, Darighe Time, in August 2007 when we wrote about how the 2002 Darighe was going to be as highly coveted as the 2001. Fast forward almost eight years, and the rich Bordeaux blend is still bringing home the gold!

We’re also happy that Maghee Merlot won Gold as well – this is the wine that first brought us to the Woodhouse tasting room in Woodinville because we read somewhere the Maghee was a “big boy” Merlot, which appealed to us because we prefer big robust reds to any other wine.

And while we haven’t yet tasted the Silver-winning Cabernet Franc, stay tuned – we will be tasting it in the months ahead and expect to be adding it to our favorite Cab Franc list.

We strongly recommend that you visit The Woodhouse Wine Estates warehouse-chic tasting room in Woodinville — either now, during Washington Wine Month, or any time you are looking for a good Washington wine to savor.

Last, but not least, congratulations to excellent Woodhouse winemaker, Jean Claude Beck and winery owners, Bijal and Sinead Shah.


Margot and Dave

There’s nothing like a stellar Cab Franc from Washington State

Cab FrancOne of our favorite wines is Cabernet Franc, which is one of the main varieties in Bordeaux blends.

Many people don’t realize that Cab Franc is one of the genetic parents to Cabernet Sauvignon; the other is Sauvignon Blanc. In addition to Washington state, you can find it planted in California and in the Bordeaux and Loire regions in France.

Cab Franc is typically used as a blending wine to add more complexity to the robust Cabernet Sauvignon or more structure to the softer Merlot. But Cab Franc is also created as a single-varietal wine; in other words, a stand-alone wine.

When blended, it adds both a subtly and an “oomph” to Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties. But on its own, quite simply, Cabernet Franc is amazing.

Cab Franc is known for its complex aromas of cherry and berry, with notes of herbs, spices, chocolate, cedar, and even violets. Frequently wine enthusiasts describe the nose as a peppery perfume.

The hot climate in Walla Walla and Yakima Valley is perfectly suited to ripen the Cab Franc fruit. Wineries in Lake Chelan have also produced some fine vintages.

We’ve enjoyed many excellent stand-alone Washington state Cab Francs over the years, including a beautiful Matthews Estate 2003 Conner Lee Cab Franc, an elegant 2004 from Corliss Estates, a robust 2012 Outcast from Barrage Cellars, and a rich 2012 Cooper Estate Red Mountain Cabernet Franc.

Here are some other Washington state wineries that, in our opinion, produce the Cab Franc grape as a shining single-varietal wine.

What Cab Francs do you like best from Washington state? Please share your favorites with us!

Margot and Dave

Hope Family Wines

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 2.24.06 PMHope Family Wines is a pioneer in Paso Robles wine country, established 30 years ago and still family-owned and operated.

Five brands are in their barrels and bottles, three of which we experienced recently during a Twitter tasting sponsored by the winery and Boston Wine Expo.

2013 Liberty School Merlot, $16
This medium-bodied wine is ruby in color, and packed with flavors. Dense and earthy with blackberries, blueberries and plum, with a hint of dark chocolate and spice, this is one good-value, good-tasting Merlot. Try pairing it with pizza or burgers.

Troublemaker Blend 8, $20
Troublemaker is a Rhone-style blend that is distinctly Paso: 46% Syrah, 14% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre, 25% Zinfandel and 5% Petite Sirah. Think of it as GSM with a kick. Most of the wine comes from the 2013 vintage, but a mix of 2012 and 2011 brings a multi-vintage complexity that is unique. Fruit-forward characteristics make it pop; we’d say it’s trouble in glass!

2012 Treana Red, $45
While we enjoyed the first two wines, our favorite is Treana, the flagship and benchmark blend of Hope Family Wines since 1996. Of course we liked it best — it’s Cab-based (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah) and has a velvety mouthfeel. Bold, rich and spicy, this beauty will definitely pair well with Valentine’s Day.

Special thanks to our hosts, who gave us free samples so we could participate in the Twitter tasting.


Margot and Dave

Columbia Crest Reserve Wines

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We recently sampled three red wines from the Columbia Crest Reserve program — a layered red blend and two robust Cab Sauvs — all of which we recommend if you like your wine big and smooth.

These wines were free samples provided by Columbia Crest, which is located in Horse Heaven Hills, next to the Columbia River in eastern Washington. After tasting them, we can say that we would buy all three, particularly the Reserve Cab from Red Mountain — it speaks to our palate!

Columbia Crest 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain
This big Cab received 91 points from Wine Spectator a couple of months ago, and if you like your Cabs chewy and juicy, this one is for you. Layered and dense, it has a mouthfeel that is classic Red Mountain. $38, 300 cases produced

Columbia Crest 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
Also receiving 91 points from Wine Spectator, this is one smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, true to its varietal character. Textured, big and bold, this wine pairs well with a big juicy steak. $45, 6,700 cases produced

Columbia Crest 2011 Walter Clore Private Reserve Red Wine Columbia Valley
Regular readers of this blog know we are big fans of good Bordeaux blends, and this one fits the bill. Spice and earthy notes flow into layers of flavor and texture in this blend of 68% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Cab Franc. $35, 4,990 cases produced

Any of these three wines would pair nicely with Valentine’s Day and chocolates!


Margot and Dave