Special Wines for New Year’s Eve

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!

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.



L’Ecole 41 Scores Again: Estate Cab Franc

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?


New Tastes

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.





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.


Making a List of Thanksgiving Wines

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?


Avennia-Look for These Wines

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.



If you love blends …

… 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!


Looking for a robust red for July 4th?

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.


Washington in Washington

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!