Franciscan Estate

Bordeaux Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, California wineries, Merlot, Wine Comments Off

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 1.54.44 PMSince 1975, Franciscan Estate has produced wine in the Napa Valley, where Cabernet Sauvignon is king.

So we were delighted to receive samples of 2011 Franciscan Estate Cab and Merlot to taste.

2011 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Although 2011 was a challenging, cool growing season, the Franciscan Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon offers beautiful aromas of red fruit and a silky mouthfeel. Comprised of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 2% Petite Verdot, 1% Syrah and 1% Cabernet Franc, this Bordeaux-style blend pairs well with hamburgers and other meat dishes.

While it is drinkable now, we recommend putting it down for a couple of years to further enhance the flavors. This is a good example of a quality Napa Cabernet Sauvignon with a $28 price point.

2011 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Merlot

Despite being produced in the challenging growing season of 2011, Franciscan Napa Valley Merlot shows richness, body and what the winemaker calls “generous shoulders.” A blend of 82% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec and 2% Syrah, this wine offers vibrant aromas and flavors, with soft tannins and supple texture.

This wine is approachable now or could be cellared for a couple more years. This is a good example of an everyday wine at $20.

Cheers!

Another Successful Taste Washington

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

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 12.02.07 PMEvery year, we find more things to rave about Washington state wine, celebrated in all its glory last week at Taste Washington.

Taste Washington is the country’s largest single-region wine and food event, which we like to describe as ”the Super Bowl of Washington state wine events.”

More than 200 wineries poured at Century Link Field, 70 restaurants shared tasty bites, and there were all kinds of ways to discover more about the state’s wine industry.

Our plan this year was to visit friends at wineries we know well and try some new wines. We decided to only taste red wines this year, because there were so very many wines to sample.

These our the highlights of our experience:

Top three favorite new (to us) wines, with brief descriptors

  • Walla Walla Vintners 2012 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley — Sassy, stunning, stellar, superlative
  • Double Canyon 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills — Velvety, vibrant, vivacious, victorious
  • Boudreaux Cellars 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon — Lovely, luscious, luxurious, luxe

Other favorites (in alphabetical order)

Longtime favorites (in alphabetical order)

Best bites (there were so many, but we only sampled a few)

Congratulations and thank you to the Washington Wine Commission and Visit Seattle for a such an excellent event and experience.

Cheers!

Delicious Darighe

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

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 12.53.56 PMAs March (the official Washington Wine Month) comes to an end, we decided to open one of the first bottles of wine that we tasted when we moved here: Darighe from The Woodhouse Wine Estates.

The 2008 vintage is as lovely as the first we tried – 2001 Darighe.

2008 Darighe is an excellent, traditional, old-world, left-bank Bordeaux blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 11% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot, sourced from Columbia Valley grapes.

A silver medal winner at the annual Savor Northwest Wine Competition, 2008 Darighe has a magnificent mouthfeel and a lengthy finish.

The bottle is heavy glass, as substantive as the juice inside.

Like its predecessors, the 2008 features a dense tannic structure that is a hallmark of Darighe.

According to the tasting notes:

“Darighe is ruby in color with the delicate, yet complicated scent of violet, mocha, smoke, truffle, blackberry, cassis and an array of spices. It is soft, refined and elegant with a persistent finish.”

In our opinion, these words best describe 2008 Darighe: Classic, stellar, beautiful, robust, rich and soft velvet.

We have recommended Darighe since we first experienced the 2001 vintage; the 2008 continues that tradition. If your palate prefers big reds, you will love 2008 Darighe.

Cheers!

 

Efeste – True Love on Valentine’s Day

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

On Valentine’s Day, I fell in love with Big Papa all over again and developed a new crush on Nana. Thankfully, Dave feels the same way.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 4.58.43 PMOf course, we’re referring to Efeste‘s 2010 Big Papa Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 Nana, a three-vineyard and three-varietal blend, both made by winemaker extraordinaire Brennon Leighton. (Current Efeste winemaker Peter Devision has some magic up his sleeve too.)

2010 Big Papa Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon

This robust 100% Cabernet Sauvignon was drinking well in August 2013, when we last tasted it. Six months later, on Valentine’s Day, Big Papa demonstrated further why Wine Advocate bestowed Efeste with 94 points for this beauty and Wine Enthusiast just named it a Cellar Selection with 92 points.

Brennon used his signature minimalist approach with native fermentation, which resulted in a big, bold, complex and balanced wine, made from grapes sourced from mature vines in five of the state’s best vineyards: Klipsun, Bacchus, Sagemoor, Kiona and Red Willow.

We’ve been a fan of Big Papa since 2009, and I can guarantee that we will continue to advocate buying it year after year. It’s true love.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 5.18.33 PM2010 Nana Right Bank Bordeaux Blend

This is the only time I’ve written about Nana, but only because this is the first vintage. Elegant, refined, robust, strong yet supple, Nana showcases all the classic characteristics of a stellar Bordeaux blend from the Right Bank.

The mouthfeel is amazing, likely because my palate favors Cab Franc and Cab Sauv, both plentiful in this fine wine: 18% Stone Tree Cabernet Franc, 18% Angela’s Vineyard (Efeste’s Estate) Cabernet Franc and 18% Red Willow Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with 46% Red Willow Merlot.

Brennon also fermented this wine with indigenous yeast, which encourages more complexity and produces fuller, richer wines than those inoculated with commercial yeast.

We are new fans of this new wine, and I can guarantee that we will be buying more of this vintage, and in the years to come.

Both wines combine elegant aromas and flavors, ripe tannins and bright, juicy acidity, and are drinkable for another 10 years.

Now to see if we have the patience to cellar them instead of popping the cork in the near future.

Cheers!

Windy Point-Beauty & Value

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 10.50.22 AMWhen you drive between Seattle and Prosser or Walla Walla, be sure to stop at Windy Point Vineyards for a pour of some excellent value wines in a beautiful tasting room. Or if you’re looking for something different to do over a weekend, it’s worth the trip to Windy Point.

With stunning architecture and beautiful views of Yakima Valley, the well-designed tasting room is airy and comfortable, with a professional kitchen as the centerpiece.

Outside, you are surrounded by gently rolling hills, a small waterfall and a pond. And if you’re lucky, you’ll see some Mississippi sawbuck turtles raised at the vineyards.

And talk about value – our favorite Windy Point reds are priced between $17-$23, and we always seem to go home with a case. You can purchase the wine outside the tasting room but it’s much more fun to visit.

Here are the wines we enjoyed:

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 10.48.51 AM2007 Pointless Red ($17): A blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Cabernet Franc and 3% Merlot, Pointless is known for its four “E”s: estate-grown, economical, easy-drinking and “endlessly pleasing.”

2005 Cab Franc ($18): This vintage was awarded a platinum by Wine Press Northwest and a gold medal at the Washington State Wine Competition; the more recent 2006 Cab Franc ($20) won a silver medal at the Washington State Wine Competition.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20): Showing excellent potential, this Cab was just released. We were big fans of the 2004 Cab, so we’re cellaring the more recent vintage for a couple of years.

2007 !Exclamation Point! ($21): Windy Point’s signature wine is a rich blend of 60% Cab Franc and 40% Merlot, one of the winery’s best-sellers, a two-time gold medal winner and “best in show” at the Washington State Wine Competition.

2008 Moot Point ($23): This is an elegant Bordeaux-style blend at such a low price point: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% CabFranc and a splash of Malbec.

While some of these wines were lovely to drink on their own or with almonds and cheese, they also pair well with different foods. On the Windy Point website, you can find recipes, such as  Apple Wood Smoked Pork Loin Sandwich, Seared Halibut, Braised Colorado Lamb Shank or Wine Infused Beef Flank Steak with Savory Mushroom Napoleon, Crispy Root Vegetable Cakes & Red Wine Cream Sauce.

Cheers!

 

 

 

Four Great Wines from Guardian Cellars

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

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 4.05.31 PMWe have been fans of Guardian Cellars since first tasting the heavenly 2004 Gun Metal, the winery’s flagship Bordeaux blend. We happily joined the crowds at the 2007 opening of the winery’s tasting room in Woodinville.

Since the beginning, owner and winemaker Jerry Riener has maintained a policy: to cellar each premium red at least one year before release, something not common in new world winemaking styles.

The result is beauty in a glass.

From three wines and 300 cases in those early days, Riener increased production to nine wines and about 5,000 cases in 2013.

We visited the Guardian Cellars tasting room over the holidays and were not surprised to find out that the 2010 Gun Metal sold out shortly after its release. But we were delighted to find three more beautiful reds:

2011 Chalk Line is a scrumptious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot, rounded off with a splash of Malbec, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. Jerry describes this sixth vintage as “a bona fide buffet of delicious grapes” and we couldn’t agree more.

2010 The Alibi is a stellar blend of Red Mountain fruit — 54% Cab Sauv, 31% Merlot and 15% Cab Franc from three vineyards, Obelisco, Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun. The Alibi is absolutely gorgeous in its third vintage, in our humble opinion.

In its fifth vintage, the 2010 The Rookie is 100% Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, blended from grapes grown at Obelisco, Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun vineyards. The Rookie was aged for 21 months in 100% new French oak, and 17 months in the bottle, before being released a couple of months ago and is, simply, amazing.

Next time you’re in the Woodinville wine warehouse district during a weekend, be sure to stop Guardian Cellars and try these wines for yourself.

Cheers!

Special Wines for New Year’s Eve

Bordeaux Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 9.30.32 AMSome wines are just perfect for special occasions, and bringing in a new year seems like a great time to pop open the cork on one of them.

There are so many to choose from, we decide to list several special-occasion wines from Washington state and decide later which one we will open!

We highly recommend all of them!

Let us know some of your favorites.

Cheers to a healthy, happy and prosperous 2014 from your friends at Write for Wine!

Margot and Dave

Beautiful food, wine and oh, what a view!

Bordeaux Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine Comments Off

Oh what a night! We were fortunate to be invited to a bloggers’ tasting of the fall menu from Six Seven Restaurant at The Edgewater recently.

Let us start out by saying run, don’t walk, to this gorgeous spot on the pier, if you are looking for a special evening out or well, just because you can.

The food was as inspiring as the stunning views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, and the spectacular sunset as well.

Chef John Roberts prepared delectable choices from his new fall menu, paired with the just-released 2011 Delille Cellars D2 and Woodward Canyon 2010 “Artist Series” Cabernet Sauvignon. The D2 shows much promise, while the Cab Sauvignon is highly drinkable right now, and wow, heaven in a glass.

Here is the menu of the scrumptious dishes we were served.

  • Salmon Crudo appetizer with sweet chili pepper puree, apple salsa, avocado and yellow curry oil
  • Sweet Potato and Leek soup with kale, pine nuts and chanterelles
  • Golden Beet salad with candied pecans, craisins, oranges, blue cheese, fuji apples and sherry reduction
  • Pan Roasted Halibut with mussels over a saffron risotto
  • Roasted Rack of Lamb and rosemary roasted vegetables, which was enhanced by the rich, robust Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Pear and Frangipane Tart

These tasty dishes are described in our live tweets on Twitter @writeforwine on Oct. 17. For mouth-watering photos and descriptions, we also suggest that you visit the blog of our new friends and well-respected Seattle-area foodies, Mary and Joy, at A Passionate Plate.

Not only do we recommend Six Seven as a must-visit (often) restaurant, but also we encourage you to stop by the luxury waterfront Edgewater Hotel where the restaurant is located.

The Edgewater is a wonderful place to stay — check out these photos and you’ll see why one of my colleagues said he never wanted to leave — and also has such a rich history.

The Edgewater is the only over-water and waterfront hotel in the Seattle area. Shortly after it was built, zoning changes prevented additional construction of further hotels on piers.

In its early years, many hotel rooms offered fishing poles, so guests could cast-off from their rooms’ windows. The Beatles stayed at The Edgewater in 1964, followed by the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

But back to the present – we highly recommend that Seattle residents and visitors to the area stop by for a meal at Six Seven and a visit to the historic hotel.

We also want to thank Chef Roberts at Six Seven and Sarah Kiepe and her  Edgewater team for one of the tastiest and fun evenings we’ve had this fall.

Cheers!

 

L’Ecole 41 Scores Again: Estate Cab Franc

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

We’ve been fans of L’Ecole No. 41 premium wines for decades. As the third-oldest winery in Washington state, L’Ecole No. 41 has been making consistently good wine since long before the state became home to more than 700 wineries.

Making good wine consistently, year over year, is a major feat.

L’Ecole 41 produces wine in the cellars of the historic Frenchtown School in Lowden, Washington, just outside Walla Walla. L’Ecole is French for school, and we first visited the winery in the turn-of-the-century schoolhouse — with original chalkboards, light fixtures and fir floors — in April 2007.

A few months later, this blog was born and one of our first posts, titled Who knew that “back to school” could be so much fun?, described a L’Ecole tasting at Vino Bello.

We have reveled in L’Ecole’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Apogee and Perigee blends for many vintages. You can tell by our blog post, written after a vertical tasting in 2010:

“What an experience tasting side-by-side verticals of these Bordeaux-style blends – the ’99, ’03 and ’07 Apogee from Pepper Bridge Vineyard and the ’03 and ’07 Estate Perigee from Seven Hills Vineyard. Apogee was rich, bold and earthy, while Perigee was elegant and complex. Comparing them over time sent me to Bordeaux heaven!”

Now we are adding L’Ecole’s Estate Cabernet Franc to our list of favorites.

The 2010 Estate Cabernet Franc, Seven Hills Vineyard, is one of L’Ecole’s exclusive bottlings. From time to time, with the right conditions, L’Ecole produces a limited amount of unique wines focusing on a specific block of fruit or a unique vineyard blend.  These wines are limited in quantity, a few hundred cases or less, and are typically available exclusively from the winery.

We opened a bottle (okay, let’s be honest, two bottles) on Friday night, and wow – L’Ecole’s 2010 Estate Cab Franc is one big, bold and beautiful red wine. From the winemaker and owner, Marty Clubb:

“Our Block 8 Cabernet Franc (planted 1997) from Seven Hills Vineyard historically played a blending role in our Estate Perigee and Estate Merlot. However with vines maturing, we had sufficient production to produce in addition, a small specialty bottling of this varietal beginning in 2006. In 14th leaf with this vintage, this robustly balanced and integrated wine shows a rich concentration of complex flavors that demanded to be bottled on its own.”

The acclaimed Seven Hills Vineyard, located in the south central portion of the Walla Walla Valley appellation, is co-owned by L’Ecole,  Leonetti Cellars and Pepper Bridge Winery. Approximately one-third of L’Ecole’s red wine production comes from Seven Hills, which was originally planted in 1981 and expanded to more than 230 acres.

There is still some of this luscious Cab Franc available on L’Ecole’s website – so what are you waiting for?

Cheers!

New Tastes

Bordeaux Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, California wineries, Merlot, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

We recently tasted some good juice from two family operated wineries that are new to us – one from Washington state and one from California.

Starting close to home, we tried three wines from Two Mountain Winery in Rattlesnake Hills in Washington state’s Yakima Valley.

All three of these award-winning wines show great potential, and are vibrant, balanced and approachable.

Two Mountain 2009 Syrah won a gold medal at the 2013 World Wine Championships, a silver medal at the prestigious 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and a gold medal at the San Antonio Wine Competition.

Two Mountain 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Merlot both took silver at the San Antonio competition.

We will definitely visit the winery on our next trip to Yakima Valley – it sounds like the type of total wine experience that we enjoy so much;  just read the reviews on Yelp, and you’ll want to go too.

***

The other new wines that we tasted recently are from Trione Vineyards & Winery in Sonoma County. As mentioned in an earlier post, we received a sample pack of six small bottles to try. Our favorites were three reds — 2008 Russian River Syrah, 2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 2007 Alexander Valley Red.

All three were big, lush and fruit-forward.

To our surprise, Trione’s Syrah is one of the best we’ve tasted from California. We typically prefer the smoky, peppery Syrahs from Washington state, but this Russian RIver beauty is intense, velvety and drinking very well.

But our favorite was the ’07 Alexander Red. The nose, with distinct whiffs of dark chocolate, is magnificent; the full-bodied, classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet and Merlot left us wanting more.

***

Full disclosure: These wines were all free samples, given with the understanding that we only write about the wines we enjoy. See our sample policy for further details.

Cheers!

 

 

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