We’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.
2012 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.
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.
Some 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!
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.
Every 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)
- Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2010 Destiny (Happy 10th Anniversary, ANC!)
- Andrew Will 2011 Two Blondes Red Bordeaux Blend, Yakima Valley
- Bartholomew Winery 2010 Reciprocity Red Blend, Columbia Valley
- Betz Family Winery 2011 Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
- Buty Winery 2011 Rediviva of the Stones Red Blend, Walla Walla Valley
- Cooper Wine Company 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
- Fall Line Winery 2011 Red Willow Red Blend, Yakima Valley
- Fidelitas 2010 Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
- FIGGINS 2010 Estate Red Bordeaux Blend, Walla Walla Valley
- Force Majeure Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Collaboration Series, Force Majeure Vineyard, Red Mountain
- Gorman Winery 2011 The Pixie Syrah, Red Mountain
- Lauren Ashton Cellars 2011 Syrah, Columbia Valley
- Sinclair Estate 2010 Vixen Red Blend, Columbia Valley
Longtime favorites (in alphabetical order)
- Forgeron Cellars
- JM Cellars
- L’Ecole No 41
- Long Shadows Vintners
- Obelisco Estate Wines
- Va Piano Vineyards
- Woodward Canyon
Best bites (there were so many, but we only sampled a few)
- Andaluca: Cauliflower soup
- Anthony’s Pier 66: Scallop BLT
- Blazing Bagels: Multi-flavors of bagels and shmears
- Cheeseland Inc and Mt. Townsend Creamery: Assortment of artisan cheeses
- Pike Place Chowder: Traditional New England clam chowder
- The Capital Grille: Porcini rubbed dry-aged sirloin (where we’re celebrating our anniversary this week)
As 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.
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.
Of 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.
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.
When 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:
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.
We 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.
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!
- Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2010 Destiny
- Avennia 2010 Sestina
- Barrage Cellars 2008 Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon
- Barrage Cellars 2010 Outcast Cabernet Franc
- Doubleback 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Efeste 2010 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon
- Fidelitas 2009 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain
- Force Majeure 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Collaboration Series, Force Majeure Vineyard Red Mountain
- Gorman 2009 The Albatross
- Long Shadows 2009 Feather Cabernet Sauvignon
- Mercer 2009 Columbia Valley Reserve
- Northwest Totem Cellars 2008 Qo-ne’
- Obelisco 2010 Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain
- Obelisco 2010 Nefer III Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain
- Quilceda Creek 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
- William Church 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
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
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.
- 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.