Seasonal Wines from $18-$40

It’s that time of year when the calendar calls it spring but the cold nights make it seem like it is still winter. This means it’s a perfect time for winter reds that also drink well during spring weather.

Thanks to Kobrand, we received samples of wines that fit both seasons. You might not have heard of all of them, but don’t let that stop you. These are good wines!

BARDA By Bodega Charca 2015 ($29.99)
BARDA is a beautiful, balanced, smooth and 100% certified organic Pinot Noir from Argentina. This medium-bodied wine features red fruits, vanilla and spice. It’s also very food-friendly, which means you can try it with pasta, roast beef or salmon.

Agricola Punica Montessu Isola dei Nuraghi 2014 ($30.99)
This Italian beauty is primarily made from Carignano, a Spanish variety found in Sardinia, and blended with 10% each of Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Rich, silky, and intense depth with flavors of black fruit and hints of caramel, consider pairing it with tomato-based pasta dishes, lamb or pork.

St. Francis Winery and Vineyard: Reserve Merlot 2014 ($39.99)
The Reserve Sonoma Valley Merlot is rich and velvety with lush texture and flavors of blackberry, dark chocolate, spice and cassis. This wine will pair well with steaks or other meat dishes — on cooler nights, crisp spring evenings, or at summer barbecues — and you can also try it with dark chocolate brownies for dessert.

Masi Agricola Campofiorin 2012 ($18.99)
This easy-drinking, good-value wine features tart black cherry, licorice and dark chocolate on the palate, with vanilla, cinnamon and spice notes. Its versatility means it will complement lasagna and other pastas with rich sauces, beef dishes, and mature cheeses.

Tenuta di Salviano Lago di Corbara 2013 ($17.99)
A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this full-bodied wine is the described as the Umbrian answer to the Super Tuscans. A great value for all this richness in a hearty wine, which will pair well with pizza, grilled meats, risotto or hard cheeses.

So what are you waiting for? We recommend that you give these wines a try!

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

 

 

Washington State Crushes Wine Grape Harvest Record

The state’s record for its wine grape harvest was crushed in 2016, according to a report released by the Washington State Wine Commission.

The commission’s Annual Grape Production Report showed 2016 had the biggest wine grape harvest in the state’s history: the 2016 harvest totaled 270,000 tons, a 22-percent increase over 2015 and easily surpassing the previous record harvest of 227,000 tons in 2014.

The largest growth came from Cabernet Sauvignon, with a 23,700-ton increase. This also meant that Cab Sauv was the top-producing variety grown in the state — 71,100 tons or 26% of the total. Merlot was ranked second, at 48,400 tons or 18% of the total. Syrah came in third of the reds, at 21,300 tons, followed by Cab Franc at 4,300. Malbec rounded off the top five reds at 2,700.

Overall, red varieties accounted for 58% of the total production, compared to 51% in 2015.

Chardonnay was the top white grape and third overall at 45,000 tons, while Riesling was right behind it at 41,300 tons. Sauvignon Blanc was ranked third among whites, trailing with 9,800 tons, followed by Pinot Gris at 8,700 and Gewurtztraminer at 2,600.

A sign of further growth — there are now more than 900 winery licenses in Washington State.

“2016 was a year for the record books,” said Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission, which represents every licensed winery and grape grower in the state. “Not only did we see our biggest harvest ever – but it was a great harvest. The weather in Eastern Washington cooled down a bit to extend the growing season and allow the grapes some extra time to mature on the vine. Our growers and winemakers are extremely excited about these wines.”

Further details are available in Annual Grape Production Report.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Madrigal Family Winery

Nestled between Howell and Diamond Mountains in Napa Valley, Madrigal Family Winery is best known for its Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc. Winemaker Chris Madrigal is a third-generation vintner, which shows in the wines he crafts.

We were fortunate to receive samples of three Madrigal wines, as the winery celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Madrigal Family Winery Petite Sirah 2012 ($34)
The winery made its name with Petite Sirah, and just one sip of this vintage will explain why. This intense wine is inky in color, with aromas of berries, licorice and dark chocolate. On the palate, there are rich, yet smooth flavors of dark fruit with spices on a long finish. You could pair this wine with grilled meats or sausage dishes, or sip on it before the meal, while nibbling on hard cheeses such as parmesan or sharp cheddar.

Winemaker Tasting Notes: “Inky black-blue color precedes perfumed aromas of cassis, espresso, and dark chocolate. Intense dark currant, blackberry, and plush plum flavors initially fill the palate. This heady, explosive wine then finishes long with BBQ rub spices, sweet toasted oak, and round tannins.”

Madrigal Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($48)
An Australian winemaker told us that she thinks about wines based on their “Yum Factor.” This Cabernet Sauvignon definitely has you saying “Yum!” Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot are blended with the Cab Sauv, resulting a robust, rich and beautiful expression of Napa Valley, where Cab is King. Now let’s get some steaks on the grill to pair with it!

Winemaker Tasting Notes: “From the outstanding 2012 vintage, this is a big, rich Napa Valley Cabernet with dark fruit and spice aromas and a hearty core of currant and black cherry flavors. The wine has excellent balance, soft tannins and a long, delicious finish.”

 

Madrigal Family Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($20)
We typically enjoy Sauv Blancs on the deck on warm evenings, but this lovely wine also works well during these cooler nights, particularly when paired with seafood. (We enjoyed it with garlic prawns and rice.) We love Sauv Blanc with 100% stainless steel fermentation, like this one, which results in a crisp, fresh taste of summer. Citrus and grassy aromas turn into smooth flavors of vanilla, melon and green tea.

Winemaker Tasting Notes: “Light straw color with the brilliance of sunlight through a forest canopy. Aromas of grapefruit, pineapples and orange peel. Flavors of pineapples and honeydew melon that are creamy and viscous on the palate. Nice crisp acid that finishes clean and refreshing.”

Next time we are in Napa Valley, Madrigal Family Winery will definitely be on our list of wineries to visit.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Thanksgiving Wines

ThanksgivingWondering what wines to pour over the Thanksgiving holiday? A special bottle to take to a family dinner or an evening with good friends?

Below are some wines that were sent to us to sample in time for the holidays. Thank you to the wineries who shared their bounty! We think all of these wines would pair well with different courses of a Thanksgiving feast.

img_0323Feudo Maccari 2013 Saia Nero d’Avola ($25)
Nero D’Avola is a perfect pairing for the main course, whether you go with traditional turkey, holiday roast or even rack of venison. Or before the meal, you could also serve it with a charcuterie board of smoked meats, cheeses, olives and dried fruits. The wine opens up with aromas of espresso and black plum, followed by juicy ripe cherry, sweet spices and a long finish. Simply lovely. Be sure to decant it for a few hours before serving. This vintage received a score of 90 by Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. Nero D’Avola is the most widely planted grape in Sicily.

img_0321Willamette Valley Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir ($55)
This delightful medium-bodied Oregon Pinot Noir features spicy, earthy notes, along with Thanksgiving flavors of cranberry, tart cherry and savory pumpkin. Sourced from old vines in the Willamette Valley, this is one powerful wine that will pair well with any mushroom-based side dishes or butternut squash.

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2015 Pinot Blanc ($24)
We love the minerality of this Pinot Blanc, which has a beautiful nose of pears, oranges and other citrus notes. We would typically enjoy this as a summer sipper on the deck, but we also think this would go well with your Thanksgiving salad or even with turkey and stuffing, if you prefer white wine.

img_0324Terra Di Montenegro 2012 Toscana ($35)
Another wine from Italy caught our attention, because we first experienced wines from Monteverro in August. This full-bodied beauty blends Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) with Cabernet Franc (30%), Merlot (15%) and 5% of Petit Verdot to round out the flavors.

Dark ruby in color, the wine opens with black cherry and cassis, with a bit of spice and fresh ripe fruit on the palate. If your main course is steak or roast beef instead of turkey this year, this Bordeaux blend is for you. Wine Spectator gave this wine 90 points.

Enjoy your holiday feast – and have a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving with your family and friends.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Hard Row to Hoe – Wine with a Story

img_0004We’ve been fans of Hard Row to Hoe for years, and we finally made it to their intriguing tasting room in Lake Chelan Valley last month. Co-owner and winemaker Judy Phelps poured us tastes of many of her winning wines and shared some stories behind their names. First, the name of the winery itself has two meanings — one obviously related to vineyard management; the other is racy!

Back in the late 1930s, construction was winding down at the Grand Coulee Dam, and the area’s “professional ladies” decided to travel to the then-remote Lake Chelan, where a new mine had just opened near the town of Lucerne. The ladies moved into the Edgemont Lodge, located a few miles uplake from Lucerne at Point Lovely. Their goal: to take care of the miners. Yes, the lodge became a brothel.

As the story continues, a long-time resident, an entrepreneur some might think, ran a rowboat taxi service from Lucerne to Point Lovely to transport the miners to and from the brothel, in support of the soon-thriving enterprise at Edgemont Lodge. Eventually the miners’ wives decided to retaliate by burning down the brothel.

Fast forward to present times, and the decor in Hard Row to Hoe’s tasting room reflects the theme: an actual bed from the brothel, feather boas, pink panties and — well, let’s just use the word intriguing again – intriguing wall paper. The names of wines also contribute: Burning Desire, Shameless Hussy, Seduction, Good in Bed and S&M (Syrah and Malbec).

img_0005In addition to the names, the stories are also illustrated by little caricatures drawn on the wine bottles — one depicts the miners in the rowboat taxi, heading to the brothel. Others show the brothel beds or the building itself, with the shutters up when the brothel was open for business, or the shutters down when the miners were visiting. For example, Hard Row to Hoe’s stellar Cabernet Franc, Burning Desire, has a drawing (right) of the wives carrying torches in the rowboat taxi en route to burn down the Edgemont Lodge.

So let’s take a look at the Burning Desire, along with some of the other wines we tasted.

2014 Hard Row to Hoe Burning Desire Estate Cabernet Franc ($45)
This big juicy wine has made our list of favorite Cab Francs for years, and this vintage is no exception. Tasting notes: “Showing great purity of fruit with a long, vibrant finish. It is loaded with dark cherry and plum flavors with a complex aroma of herbs, spices and violets. Well-balanced, with richness, good acidity and a judicious use of new oak.”

2014 Hard Row to Hoe S&M ($38)
A delicious blend of 60% estate Syrah and 40% estate Malbec, this is one big beauty of a wine. Tasting notes: “Shows beautiful fruit flavors of black cherry, blackberry, black pepper and blueberry with aromas of black pepper, leather and tobacco.”

2014 Hard Row to Hoe Barbera ($40)
The Barbera grapes come from a single vineyard in Oroville near the Canadian border. We plan on pairing this wine with Dave’s famous spaghetti or maybe Margot’s beef stew. Tasting notes: “Offering flavors of cranberry, dried red currant, allspice and anise, the palate showcases the freshness and purity of this varietal, with pure cherry and dark berry flavors, alongside an earthiness of spiceand leather.”

2014 Hard Row to Hoe Primitivo ($49)
Oh do we love this wine – robust and beautiful with flair. Tasting notes: “Bold and delicious; filled with plum and cherry flavors. Aged in mostly neutral barrels so as not to overwhelm the fruit flavors with oak, this wine is incredibly food friendly and supple. It has an exotic spice finish that goes on forever.”

These were our favorites in Hard Row’s extensive lineup, and the ones we brought home to our cellar. All of these wines will drink well through 2020 or longer.

We highly recommend a visit to the winery tasting room if you are even remotely close to Lake Chelan. If not, you can purchase these wines at some wine shops or at the winery’s website.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Tildio Winery

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-1-07-32-pmOne of our biggest surprises on a recent trip to Lake Chelan was Tildio Winery. How did we miss these wines in the past? They are incredible.

Owners Katy and Milum Perry started planting Tildio’s vineyard in Lake Chelan in 2002; their tasting room opened three years later. Katy is the winemaker, with a history of working for such greats as Robert Mondavi, Stags Leap and Chateau Ste. Michelle. The result — a family-owned vineyard and boutique winery, offering some of the most elegant, beautiful wines in Lake Chelan Valley. Tildio Winery is a gem!

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-12-36-57-pmOur friend Cheryl, whom we met in Woodinville around the time we started this blog in 2007, is the hospitality director and sales manager. We spent a delightful afternoon with her in early September, tasting through the lineup, snacking on delicious cheeses and cured meats, and enjoying the view of Roses Lake.

We arrived at Tildio winery to catch up with Cheryl. We left with a new love of Tildio wines. Here are just some of our favorites.

Tildio Reserve Cabernet Franc 2012 ($35)
What a beauty! Suffice it to say we took some home with us. This is one big, bold, earthy Cab Franc with aromas of spice and cocoa and deep dark fruit on the finish.

Tildio Malbec 2011 ($38)
Inky in color, this wine shows flavors of blueberry, blackberry and hazelnut combining into one glorious mouthfeel. Words that came to mind when tasting this wine: lush, luxe,  delicious, more please!

tildioTildio The Phoenix 2012 ($35)
This is a unique blend of 67% Cab Franc and 33% Malbec — no surprise that it’s now in our cellar. It has the WOW factor and then some! The wine is dedicated to “the firefighters who fought the destructive wildfires of 2014 and the people who are rising from the ashes of their burned homes,” including some of Milum’s family.

Tildio The Hermit 2012 ($35)
A softer blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache, this wine would pair well with spicy foods, spaghetti and meatballs, or with cheeses and cured meats like we enjoyed on the deck.

If you are heading to Lake Chelan Valley, make sure to stop by Tildio and taste their wines. You will be very glad you made the trip.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Fielding Hills Winery

img_4131On a trip to Lake Chelan last month, we discovered that the new tasting room at Fielding Hills Winery is as  magnificent as the wines. (The tasting room isn’t really new, it’s two years old, but we hadn’t visited in six years, so it was new to us.) Located on the shores of Lake Chelan, the views are spectacular and a great backdrop to some wonderful Washington wines.

Winemaker Mike Wade released his first vintage in 2000, and two years later, he was named one of Washington’s Rising Stars by Wine Spectator. We first met Mike in 2010 at his vineyard, during our tour of Cascade Valley wine country. At the time, he told us that the winery’s history began a lot earlier.

“Fielding Hills Winery actually began in 1919 when my grandfather, Isham Fielding Wade, set off from Tennessee to find his place in the world. Settling in Eastern Washington, he started a family and a business, both tied to cultivating the land. The name of our winery is a tribute to him and the character qualities he lived. I believe his legacy is found in each glass of Fielding Hills wine.”

We’ve been fans of Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon for years, and these two beauties did not disappoint in their recent vintages. Here are our thoughts on them and the other wines we enjoyed during our visit.

img_4127 2010 Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc Estate Barrel Select
No surprise here, we love this library wine — one select barrel of 100% Cabernet Franc from Fielding Hills estate vineyard. This Cab Franc is beyond rich; it is luxe, pure, full-bodied and unique to the character of the grape and the 2010 harvest. This is a special occasion wine, so we purchased a couple of bottles for some milestone events coming up soon.

2012 Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc ($34)
This is another lovely wine — 90% Cabernet Franc blended with 5% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s drinking well now, but will be even better after a year or more in the cellar. “Aromas of coffee, cherry, vanilla, woodspice, mesquite and herbs lead to concentrated, rich cherry and chocolate flavors that linger.”

2012 Fielding Hills Cabernet Sauvignon ($44)
Deep, inky, complex, this Cab Sauv is bold, dense and opulent with a long finish. Smokey, silky and smooth, the tasting notes describe it as “revealing multiple layers and a hedonistic styling.” This is one of the best Cabs we’ve tasted in recent months. Pair it with steak or simply enjoy it with dark chocolate.

2012 Fielding Hills Tribute ($34)
In our opinion, this wine is a tribute to Washington state’s fine varietals, in addition to showcasing Fielding Hills lineup – a blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 20% Merlot with aromas of cocoa, spices, cedar and black cherries.

img_41322010 and 2011 Fielding Hills Merlot ($36)
We were split on which vintage we preferred; here are the tasting notes:

2010: “Lush and appealing with notes of vanilla and other barrel spices accenting herbs and red fruit. The palate is creamy in feel with tart, mouthwatering acids that draw out the flavors for a long finish.”

2011: “81% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Franc – Woodspice, coffee, raspberries, light gamy notes, richly flavorful and  balanced.”

2012 Fielding Hills Syrah ($40)
Rich, full-bodied and smooth, this wine is comprised of 94% Syrah, blended with 2 percent each of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Merlot, and displays the smokey, peppery notes we appreciate in the varietal.

If you’re looking for a weekend get-away, we highly recommend the Lake Chelan area — and Fielding Hills, with its lake and mountain views and excellent wines, is a must to visit.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Sbragia Family Vineyards

Sbragia Family Vineyards began in 2006 but its roots are in the love of wine by owner Ed Sbragia’s grandfather who moved to California from Tuscany in 1904. Much later, Ed’s father acquired his own vineyards near Healdsburg, growing zinfandel. And Ed himself began working for Beringer Vineyards in Napa in 1976.

The family tradition continues today, with Ed’s son and the rest of his family involved in Sbragia in the Dry Creek Valley. A 10th anniversary celebration is set for this fall.

The brand is well-known, so we were delighted to receive samples of two wines to taste.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 9.49.56 AM2012 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)
This beautiful red comes from old vines planted in the 1880s in an historic California vineyard, and was rated 93+ from Wine Advocate.

The Cabernet Sauvignon (95%) was blended with 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot to give it structure and depth.

This is a big red, with notes of cedar, dark berry, black licorice and a bit of earthiness — a ripe, juicy wine that is drinkable now through 2022.

Pair it with steak, grilled meats, savory stew or dark chocolate. Delicious!

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 9.49.14 AM

2014 Home Ranch Chardonnay ($30)
Home Ranch Vineyard is located at the southeast end of Dry Creek Valley, where temperatures are cooler than most of the appellation. This results in bright fruit flavors of apple, pear and citrus, a hint of oak with a gravelly minerality, good structure and balanced acidity.

On the nose of this 100% Chardonnay, you’ll find aromas of tropical fruit, pear and toasted almonds in addition to apples, vanilla and baking spice from the oak.

Pair it with smoked salmon or trout, crab, prawns, seafood pasta or with creamy vegetable soups in the cooler evenings.

Ed Sbragia is well-known for his Chardonnays. He established the Beringer Reserve Chardonnay program and currently serves as Winemaster Emeritus there. Robert Parker said, “Sbragia has always demonstrated a Midas touch with Chardonnay.”

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Murrieta’s Well

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 8.18.34 AMTwo years ago, we wrote about how we enjoyed Murrieta’s Well 2011 The Spur from Livermore Valley ($25). We just tasted the 2013 vintage, and we liked it even more. While the price has increased to $30, so have the flavors, with a higher percentage of Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc, and the addition of Merlot this year.

Crafted by the new director of winemaking, Robbie Meyer, this unique red wine blends 40% Petite Sirah, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon,10% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot,  8% Malbec and 8% Cabernet Franc. In other words, the Petite Sirah forms a beautiful foundation for the classic Bordeaux varietals.

Each type of grape was harvested, fermented and handcrafted separately to achieve their greatest varietal expression, and then blended into The Spur. From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

“Beautiful fruit aromas of black cherry and blueberry are highlighted by subtle notes of sweet oak and earthy spice. A ripe tannic structure and balanced acidity make this wine perfect by itself or paired with your favorite recipes from the grill.”

We think this big blend would pair well with roasted or grilled meats, dishes with red sauces or rich cheese.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 8.32.58 AMThanks to Murrieta’s Well for sending us a sample of The Spur, as well as 2014 The Whip, a white wine blend also from the Livermore Valley. While white blends aren’t our favorites, we know many people who would enjoy The Whip ($24).

The Whip blends 29% Semillon, 27% Chardonnay, 18% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Orange Muscat, 8% Muscat Canelli and 6% Viognier; as with The Spur, each varietal was fermented individually. From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

“This unique wine showcases juicy fruit flavors of white peach, pear and melon with bright acidity and a touch of sweetness that creates a smooth and creamy finish.”

Murrieta’s Well is one of California’s original wineries, propagated in 1883 with vineyard cuttings from Chateau Margaux and Chateau d’Yquem in France. Need we say more? Oh, one more thing — Murrieta’s Well is owned by Philip Wente of Wente Vineyards, the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Bellingham NW Wine Festival

IMG_3924More than 100 wines were poured at the inaugural Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival on Aug. 6, which was presented by Brigadoon Service Dogs  in collaboration with Growing Veterans, and benefitted disabled veterans’ programs.

IMG_3934Of course we couldn’t taste all the wines from 36 participating wineries but between the two of us, we found quite a few new wines that we never tasted before and hope to again in the future (e.g., Tucannon Cellars, Two Mountain and Jones of Washington), along with new releases of old favorites from Forgeron Cellars, William Church Winery and Cooper Wine Company.

Here is the list (in alphabetical order by winery):

  • Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 10.12.50 AMCooper Wine Company: 2013 L’inzio (we’ve been fans of this Red Mountain beauty since its first vintage); 2012 Cabernet Franc; and Bud’s Blend “Gatekeeper,” named after Coop’s awesome winery dog
  • Dynasty Cellars: 2012 DCZ Zinfandel, a local Bellingham favorite
  • Forgeron Cellars: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, another fantastic release from our friend Marie-Eve Gilla in Walla Walla
  • Jones of Washington: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (the talk of the VIP room)
  • Lost River Winery: 2013 Cedars, a unique blend of 50% Cab Franc and 50% Merlot
  • Proper Wines: 2013 Estate Syrah for when you like your Syrah nice and funky
  • Revelry Vintners: 2013 “The Reveler” red blend
  • IMG_3926Tucannon Cellars: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, a great find from Red Mountain
  • Two Mountain Winery: 2013 Reserve Cabernet Franc
  • William Church Winery: 2013 Sur La Mer and 2013 Malbec (We’ve been long-time fans of both of these wines.)

Event organizer Zacchoreli Frescobaldi-Grimaldi told us that plans are already underway for the second festival in 2017, so mark your calendars now.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave