Wow!

Bordeaux Blend, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

Wow in the barrel means it’s going to be amazing in the bottle.  We call it the “Wow Factor.”

And that’s exactly what we experienced recently when barrel-tasting with John Bigelow, winemaker and co-owner of JM Cellars in Woodinville.

On a recent visit, John poured us two wines from the barrel – a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, full of melon and citrus, and a robust Syrah from Boushey Vineyard, already a rich red color and bursting with flavors. We will be first in line when the Sauv Blanc is released next year. But our patience is required for the Syrah, which has another year before release.

We also were in for a special treat – John went to his wine library and opened a bottle of 2000 Columbia Valley Cuvee, his first vintage of the classic Bordeaux blend that is now known as Longevity.

To say the 2000 Cuvee is drinking nicely would be an understatement. Words do not describe how smooth this wine was on the palate. We definitely would have purchased some bottles for special occasions, but we were tasting from the last bottle.

Thanks so much, John, for sharing the exceptional experience.

Meanwhile, the 2012 harvest is set to be a record production for JM Cellars. John literally beamed when he told us about  the beauty of this year’s grapes.

But if you’re looking for wine to taste now – for your holiday table or to take to parties during the festive  season — look no further than JM Cellars. Here are some of our favorites from the lineup:

  • 2010 Bramble Bump Red, a perfect cool-weather wine to enjoy on a crisp fall afternoon or on a winter evening by the fire
  • 2011 Bramble Bump White, for the white wine drinker on your list – a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauv Blanc and Semillion; this wine sells out quickly, so we bought some to save for summer
  • 2010 Longevity, a classic Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot (Wine Spectator gave the 07 vintage 94 points)
  • 2009 Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red, a Cab-based Bordeaux blend

In addition to the wine tasting experience, we were delighted to see John back in shoes after more than eight months in a cast. In March, a filled-to-the-brim 60-gallon barrel of wine fell on his left foot and crushed it. John, congratulations on this latest milestone in your recovery.

Cheers!

Making a List of Thanksgiving Wines

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Syrah, Wine Comments Off

There is no doubt in our minds that some food-and-wine pairings are spectacular, creating a “wow factor.” We have experienced this explosion of flavors at winemakers’ dinners and at many special restaurants.

That being said, we are also strong believers that people should have whatever varieties of wine they want, including for special occasions. Our preference for Thanksgiving happens to be robust red wines – some with a bit of funk, such as 2009 Reynvaan In the Rocks Syrah, and some that are rich and smooth, such as 2009 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon, which we experienced for the first time at Taste of Tulalip last weekend.

In addition to those two beauties, here are the wines (in alphabetical order) that we are considering opening this Thanksgiving – all are from Washington unless otherwise noted:

What’s on your list of Thanksgiving wines?

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!

 

If you love blends …

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Events, Malbec, Marsanne, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Viognier, Wine Comments Off

… like we love blends, then mark your calendar right now for the third annual – you guessed it – BLEND event on Sept. 16 at Seattle waterfront’s Bell Harbor Conference Center.

We have not missed this event ever, because Bordeaux blends have been some of our favorite wines for years. I was asked to be a judge at this year’s BLEND blind tasting, but it’s during the day when I work at my “day job,” unfortunately.

But thankfully we can attend the event, which not only showcases Washington’s hottest blends, but also enticing gourmet food samples from some award-winning hotel restaurants.

Specifically, BLEND features more than 40 Washington wineries, barrel blending stations and international tasting stations, in addition to a “Bubble Lounge” with champagne, sparkling wines and cider and oysters.

While both of our palates favor Bordeaux-style blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, others prefer southern Rhone-style blends of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre.

Some of our favorites are unique-to-Washington blends of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, such as William Church 2008 2 Spires and Gorman 2009 Evil Twin. Unfortunately, neither will be at this event, but some of our other favorites, such as DiStefano 2007 Sogno (Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) will be definite pours for us.

Some white blends – perfect summer sippers — will also be available, such as the award-winning Shepherd’s Mark southern Rhone blend (Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne) from Alexandria Nicole Cellar and Optu White Bordeaux blend (Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion) from Fidelitas.

For a full list of wineries pouring at BLEND, in addition to tickets, visit the BLEND website. Net proceeds from the $49-per-person admission will benefit the Washington Wine Industry Foundation.

We hope to see you there!

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!

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!

Washington Wine Month-Our Faves

Barbera, Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Syrah, Tempranillo, Washington wineries, Wine, Zinfandel Comments Off

We love Washington state wine. So to us, every month is Washington Wine Month. But there is an official month to celebrate this state’s amazing wines – March — and it comes with its own website and promotions from participating wine shops, tasting rooms, restaurants and hotels.

In honor of Washington Wine Month, here is a list of some of our favorite reds (in alphabetical order).

  • 21 Grams 2008 Red Blend
  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2008 Destiny Bordeaux Blend; 2007 Mr. Big Petit Sirah; 2009 Petite Verdot
  • Barrage Cellars 2007 Outcast Cabernet Franc; 2007 Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon; 2008 Secret Weapon Cab Sauv
  • Cooper Wine Company 2007 L’Inizio; 2007 Cooper Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla
  • Darby 2009 Dark Side Syrah; 2008 Chaos
  • DiStefano 2007 Sogno Cabernet Franc Reserve; 2005 Sogno Cab Franc
  • EFESTE 2008 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon; 2009 Jolie Bouche Syrah; 2008 Ceidleigh Syrah
  • Fall Line 2009 El Otro Yakima Valley Tempranillo;  2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Fidelitas 2007 and 2008 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; 2008 Red Mountain Red Wine
  • Fielding Hills 2008, 2007 and 2005 Cabernet Franc
  • Forgeron Cellars 2006 Zinfandel; 2003 Vinfinity
  • Gilbert Cellars 2007 Cabernet Franc; 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Gorman Winery 2009 Evil Twin Syrah-Cab blend; 2008 Bully Cabernet Sauvignon (blended with Petit Verdot)
  • Hard Row to Hoe 2008 Burning Desire Estate Cabernet Franc; 2008 Pinot Noir
  • Heaven’s Cave 2009 Two Degrees Barbera; 2005 Angel’s Blend.
  • JM Cellars 2009 Boushey Vineyard Syrah; 2009 Tre; 2009 Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red
  • L’Ecole 41 2008 Apogee Pepper Bridge; 2008 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon; 2001 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Northwest Totem Cellars 2008 Qo-ne’ Cab Franc blend; 2006 Cab Franc
  • Otis Kenyon 2008 Syrah
  • Ross Andrews 2006 Syrah-Cab blend
  • Va Piano 2008 Walla Walla Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Vin du Lac 2007 Barrel Select Cab Franc
  • Walla Walla Vintners 2008 Columbia Valley Cab Franc
  • Watermill Winery 2007 Estate Cab Franc
  • Waters 2009 Forgotten Hills Syrah
  • The Woodhouse Wine Estates 2006 and 2004 Dussek Cabernet Sauvignon; every vintage of Darighe
  • Woodward Canyon 2009 and 2007 “Artist Series” Cabernet Sauvignon; 2003 Charbonneau
  • William Church 2009 and 2008 Bishop’s Blend; 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • We are really looking forward to tasting new releases from these wineries and trying pours from wineries that are new to us too at Taste Washington, the Super Bowl of wine events, March 31-April 1.

    We hope to see you there!

    Cheers!

    Head Out to JM Cellars

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

    If you’ve never been to JM Cellars in Woodinville, you are missing out on many wonderful Washington wines. Located on a hillside called Bramble Bump, JM Cellars offers first-class wines with a view.

    Luck was with us a couple of weeks ago, when we stumbled upon an unexpected release party at JM Cellars. Winemaker/co-owner John Bigelow was pouring with a smile and our friend Paige Leighton welcomed us with hugs. And the wines – oh my.

    We’ve been fans of JM Cellars signature blend Tre Fanciulli for years, so it was no surprise that we went home with the latest 2009 release. Tre Fanciulli is Italian for “three treasured lads” and named for John and Peggy Bigelow’s sons in 1999. With this new release, and the eleventh vintage, the name has been shortened to simply Tre. Love it!

    Of the 11 vintages, this was the fifth we have savored. The 2009 Tre is a rich blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 18% Syrah – simply heaven in a glass.

    The JM Cellars 2009 Boushey Vineyard Syrah is also outstanding. John told us the single-vineyard grapes came from old vines near the house of viticulturalist Dick Boushey, one of Washington’s finest grapegrowers. After Matt Sauer’s Red Willow Vineyard, Boushey was the next to plant Syrah grapes in Washington state. If you like big, peppery, savory Syrah, you simply must try this one.

    Another one of John’s wines that we’re particularly fond of is the 2009 Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red. We first tried this stellar wine as a pre-release at the Taste of Tulalip last November, and couldn’t wait to taste it a few months later at its official release party.

    It’s the inaugural vintage of a Bordeaux blend from vines that were planted in 2007 on the southern border of the Walla Walla appellation at the then-newly named Margaret’s Vineyard. The wine blends 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 17% Cab Franc, 17% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot and 6% Carmenere.

    JM Cellars is known for elegant blended reds. And regular readers know my preference for Cab-based Bordeaux blends, so you know we took this beauty home with us!

    Cheers!

    Sogno Superbo

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

    The first time we ever tasted Cabernet Franc is stamped in our memories because we immediately fell in love with this grape. The year was 1999, when we had just moved to Seattle and took our first drive to Woodinville wine country. The winery was DiStefano. We became instant fans and remain so today.

    Slightly more than a year ago, we included DiStefano’s 2005 Sogno Cab Franc in our Top 11 Washington state wineries that produce the Cab Franc grape as a shining single-varietal wine.

    We now add 2007 Sogno Reserve to the list. Wow!

    Released in July 2011, only 150 cases were made of this powerful 100% Cab Franc. From the tasting notes:

    “Intense dark chocolate, raspberry and toasted hazelnut push their way out of the glass. The palate is rich with silky chocolate and dried cherries, with hints of spicy oak, black pepper on the finish.”

    Cab Franc is typically used as a blending wine to add more complexity to Cabernet Sauvignon or more structure to Merlot.

    But when Cab Franc is created as a stand-alone wine and done well, like 2007 Sogno Reserve, it’s magic. Glorious. Superbo!

    Did we mention only 150 cases were produced? What are you waiting for?

    Cheers!

    What We’ve Opened Lately

    Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

    We’ve had the pleasure of enjoying many wonderful Washington, Oregon and California wines lately – and in a less-busy world, I would write separate posts about each of them. Unfortunately, busy is my middle name these days.

    So here is a list (in alphabetical order) of wines that we’ve celebrated in the last couple of months – they are sourced from Washington grapes, unless noted otherwise:

    Happy New Year – may your best day of 2011 be your worst day of 2012! We hope you had a wonderful holiday season and are ready to delve into ’12!

    Cheers!

    « Previous Entries Next Entries »