Seven Washington Cabs

We had a limited amount of time to visit wineries in Woodinville this past weekend before heading to a Jackson Browne concert, part of Chateau Ste. Michelle Summer Concert Series.

We knew we wanted some classic Washington state Cabernet Sauvignon, and we knew we only had a couple of hours to taste. So we found the most recent vintages of three of our favorite Cabs and one Cab-based blend. And we tasted one new Cab that will be released in the near future.

Here is the list:

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  • 2011 Efeste Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2012 Guardian The Wanted Cab-based blend (38% Cab Sauv, 38% Cab Franc, 24% Merlot)
  • 2012 William Church Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2011 Obelisco Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2012 Fidelitas Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

 

All five wines are big, bold and beautiful – it will be a tough choice to decide which one to pair with a big juicy BBQ steak.

We also recently stocked up on our favorite wine to pair with Seahawks football – 2012 Alexandria Nicole Cellars Quarry Butte (52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Syrah, 6% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot).

And by the way, the Jackson Browne concert was fantastic, and paired well with 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Good Value BBQ Reds

BBQ WineSummer time, and the living is easy. We have tasted some excellent good-value reds recently, so bring out the wine glasses and start up the BBQ!

Troublemaker Blend 8, $20
Troublemaker comes from Hope Family Wines, a pioneer in Paso Robles wine country — established 30 years ago and still family-owned and operated. Troublemaker is a Rhone-style blend that is distinctly Paso: 46% Syrah, 25% Zinfandel, 14% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre and 5% Petite Sirah. Think of it as GSM with a kick. Most of the wine comes from the 2013 vintage, but a mix of 2012 and 2011 brings a multi-vintage complexity that is unique. Fruit-forward characteristics make it pop; we’d say it’s trouble in glass!

Columbia Crest H3 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, $15
This is one enjoyable, good value Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Crest, bursting with flavor! Think bold — 99% Cab Sauv with 1% Cab Franc to round off the edges. This wine is ready to drink now, with flavors of cherries and blackberries and soft tannins. H3 will pair well with any kind of beef, lamb or your favorite strong cheese. And at $15, you can’t beat it for summer parties and barbecues.

Red Diamond Temperamental Red Blend Spain, $10
Red Diamond recently released new packaging with an eye-catching label, in addition to several food-friendly wines at the low price of $10. So far, we’ve just tasted the Temperamental, a rich blend of grapes sourced in Spain — Tempranillo (90%), Graciano (4%), Garnacha (3%) and Mazuelo (3%). With flavors of black fruit and berries, this isn’t a typical dry Spanish wine. We found it jammy, even semi-sweet, with a smooth finish. Pair it with BBQ steak or lamb.

All three wines were sent to us as samples for tasting.

Happy summer and cheers!
Margot and Dave

Taste of Tulalip – Beautiful Wine Enhanced by Beautiful Art

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 12.25.27 PMOne of our favorite wine events in Washington state, Taste of Tulalip, is still a few months down the road, but the collaboration of wine and art is well underway.

For the 7th annual Taste of Tulalip, Tulalip Resort Casino‘s talented wine expert, Tommy Thompson, and the event’s 2015 honorary winemaker, Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville, have created a unique blend of wine sourced from DuBrul Vineyard grapes — 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc.

Côte Bonneville is known for wines that are “age worthy and food friendly.” And we can’t wait to taste this special wine, particularly because both of our palates favor Cab-based Bordeaux blends.

As you can see in the photo, the artwork for the 7th annual Taste of Tulalip commemorative wine bottle and plate is a beautiful expression of the Tulalip culture. Mike Gobin, honored artist, explained his inspiration:

“My father’s Indian name means ‘Man soars with Eagles’ and my twin sister loved hummingbirds, and her Indian name means ‘Aunty to all’. They have both gone to be with our lord and the design depicts my father embracing my twin sister in heaven and is entitled ‘A father’s heavenly embrace’. The salmon represents our Tribal People: ‘People of the Salmon.'”

The 2015 Taste of Tulalip takes place November 13-14. This exclusive wine, in the breathtaking commemorative bottle, will be introduced during the November 13th “Celebration Dinner.” It will be available for purchase in the event’s wine shop during the festival weekend.

Tickets will go on sale in August, so mark it on your calendar now – tickets go quickly to this fantastic weekend event.

We hope to see you there!

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

 

Passing Time Winery’s Inaugural Release

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 12.44.32 PMPassing Time Winery was launched last June by Dan Marino and Damon Huard, two former National Football League quarterbacks and teammates with the Miami Dolphins. If you’re skeptical about the kind of wine NFL stars can make, think again.

We were delighted to pass the time with a couple of glasses of their first release, Passing Time 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Horse Heaven Hills.

This is not surprising to those of us who are fans of winemaker Chris Peterson, whom we first met when he co-founded Avennia with Marty Taucher in 2010. Chris is widely considered as one of the hottest winemakers in Washington state, and was named “Winemaker to Watch” by Seattle Magazine in 2013.

This inaugural Passing Time wine blends 86% Cabernet Sauvignon from Discovery Vineyard with 9% Klipsun Merlot and 5% Champoux Cabernet Franc. It shows a balance of fruit and mineral elements, with a beautiful mouthfeel and a chewy finish; this is an elegant, complex and expressive Cabernet that showcases the unique character of the grape in Washington state.

From Chris’s tasting notes: “This wine is opaque purple-black out to the rim, with beautiful, complex aromas of black cherry, cassis, vanilla, toast, fresh-cut violets, cedar, and hints of bergamot. The mouth feel is palate-coating, yet light on its feet with dark red fruits, vanilla bean, flowers, and balanced acidity to give lift and brightness. The well-structured finish is long and complex, promising a long life in the cellar.”

We encourage Cabernet lovers to keep their eyes on Passing Time winery, which plans to produce three Cabernets: from Horse Heaven, Red Mountain and Walla Walla. Rumor has it that they are already fantastic in the barrel.

AVA: Horse Heaven Hills
Blend: 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc
SRP: $75
Cases: 500
Sample provided  by winery

Cheers!
Margot & Dave

Another Success for Taste Washington

Taste WA 2015Congratulations to the Washington State Wine Commission and Visit Seattle for another successful Taste Washington at the end of March, capping off Washington state Wine Month.

Thousands of people participated in the annual celebration of the excellent juice made in this state — at the Grand Tasting, educational seminars, lunches on local farms and at restaurants, wineries, hotels and retailers that offered special deals and promotions throughout the month.

IMG_2546But we hope that people did more than taste the fine wine of Washington. We hope they appreciated it, and the hard work by people in our state’s wine industry – from farmers to vineyard managers to those in the production facilities, winemakers, distributors, marketing specialists, tasting room staff and more.

In particular, we applaud the workers in the vineyard who toil over the grapes and the terroir, the winemakers who balance creativity and science in every barrel and bottle, and their families who support this extreme effort.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 8.22.51 AMWe definitely appreciated every taste that was poured for us at the Grand Tasting. With 225+ wineries participating, we needed a plan. This year, we only tasted reds, and between the two of us, sipped quite a few. (Yes, it is imperative to spit or spill at the Grand Tasting!)

Here are some of our favorites, in alphabetical order:

  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2012 Quarry Butte Red Bordeaux Blend
  • Andrew Will 2011 Two Blondes Red Bordeaux Blend
  • Barrage Cellars 2010 Outcast Cabernet Franc
  • Barrister Winery 2011 Washington Cabernet Franc
  • Canvasback 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Double Canyon 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Phinney Hills
  • Efeste 2011 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Fall Line 2011 Artz Vineyard Red Blend, Red Mountain
  • Fidelitas 2012 Optu, Red Mountain
  • Gramercy Cellars 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Guardian Cellars 2011 Gun Metal Red Bordeaux Blend
  • Hard Row to Hoe 2013 Barbera
  • Matthews Estate / Tenor 2010 1:1 Bordeaux Blend
  • Mercer Estates 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Obelisco 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Sinclair Estate 2010 Pentatonic
  • Walla Walla Vintners 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 Cab Franc
  • William Church 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

As far as we’re concerned, every month is a good time to celebrate  Washington state wine.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Three Classics from The Woodhouse Wine Estates

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 1.34.11 PMWe have now opened and tasted two of the wines from The Woodhouse Wine Estates mentioned in our March 8th post, and one other wine recently released by the winery.

We were not surprised to discover that Woodhouse wines continue to drink well and provide an experience, whether paired with food, or paired with good friends.

One of many reasons that Woodhouse is unique: they release wines a bit later than most, so the wines have time to rest, integrate, and express their fullest flavor complexities, similar to many well-respected wineries in Europe.

And we have never forgotten that back in 2007, Woodhouse co-owners Bijal and Sinead Shah told us that Washington wines are so spectacular because Washington state has old-world terroir and new world fruit. This holds true today.

2010 Dussek Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley ($36)
This elegant, big and bold beauty has 8% Cabernet Franc, which adds both a subtly and an “oomph”  to the Cab Sauv. From the first sip, it was apparent why the 2010 Dussek won Best of Class Gold at  Seattle Wine and Food Experience (SFWE) Wine Awards. As with previous vintages, this rich wine has a long finish, and would pair well with a big juicy rare steak.

2012 Kennedy Shah Syrah Reserve, Yakima Valley ($42)
This is 100% Syrah goodness, an earthy, robust wine that reminded us of the best of both Washington state and Napa Syrahs we’ve tasted in the past. This Syrah was a perfect complement to Dave’s famous spaghetti and meatballs, but it could also be paired with lamb, stew or grilled meat.

2010 Kennedy Shah Cabernet Franc Reserve, Columbia Valley ($45)
At SWFE, a silver medal was given to the 2010 Kennedy Shah Cab Franc, which contains 2% Cab Sauv. But at the San Diego International Wine Competition, this luscious Cab Franc took home the gold. Complex and smooth, you can take this bottle to a special dinner party or enjoy it at home with a steak over a charcoal barbecue or even with Copper River salmon – it’s almost that time of year again.

Note: These wines were provided by the winery as samples.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Previous post on March 8, 2015

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We’ve been fans of the old-world style wines at The Woodhouse Wine Estates for ten years, well before this blog was created in 2007. So we were delighted to hear that two of our favorite wines in their stellar line-up recently won recognition from the Seattle Wine and Food Experience (SFWE) Wine Awards.

Both Darighe 2010, a velvety Bordeaux blend, and Dussek 2010, an elegant big and bold Cabernet Sauvignon, won Best of Class Gold, making Woodhouse the only winery to win two of these coveted SWFE awards. In addition, Woodhouse’s 2010 Maghee Merlot won Gold and 2010 Cabernet Franc won Silver.

We first fell in love with Darighe’s 2001 vintage, and have included it in our favorites ever since. Dussek Cab was top of our list for its 2004 and 2006 vintages, and we are pleased to see the recent 2010 winning top honors.

For a blast from the past, check out our blog post, Darighe Time, in August 2007 when we wrote about how the 2002 Darighe was going to be as highly coveted as the 2001. Fast forward almost eight years, and the rich Bordeaux blend is still bringing home the gold!

We’re also happy that Maghee Merlot won Gold as well – this is the wine that first brought us to the Woodhouse tasting room in Woodinville because we read somewhere the Maghee was a “big boy” Merlot, which appealed to us because we prefer big robust reds to any other wine.

And while we haven’t yet tasted the Silver-winning Cabernet Franc, stay tuned – we will be tasting it in the months ahead and expect to be adding it to our favorite Cab Franc list.

We strongly recommend that you visit The Woodhouse Wine Estates warehouse-chic tasting room in Woodinville — either now, during Washington Wine Month, or any time you are looking for a good Washington wine to savor.

Last, but not least, congratulations to excellent Woodhouse winemaker, Jean Claude Beck and winery owners, Bijal and Sinead Shah.

Cheers!

Margot and Dave

The Woodhouse Wine Estates

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 9.16.18 AMWe’ve been fans of the old-world style wines at The Woodhouse Wine Estates for ten years, well before this blog was created in 2007. So we were delighted to hear that two of our favorite wines in their stellar line-up recently won recognition from the Seattle Wine and Food Experience (SFWE) Wine Awards.

Both Darighe 2010, a velvety Bordeaux blend, and Dussek 2010, an elegant big and bold Cabernet Sauvignon, won Best of Class Gold, making Woodhouse the only winery to win two of these coveted SWFE awards. In addition, Woodhouse’s 2010 Maghee Merlot won Gold and 2010 Cabernet Franc won Silver.

We first fell in love with Darighe’s 2001 vintage, and have included it in our favorites ever since. Dussek Cab was top of our list for its 2004 and 2006 vintages, and we are pleased to see the recent 2010 winning top honors.

For a blast from the past, check out our blog post, Darighe Time, in August 2007 when we wrote about how the 2002 Darighe was going to be as highly coveted as the 2001. Fast forward almost eight years, and the rich Bordeaux blend is still bringing home the gold!

We’re also happy that Maghee Merlot won Gold as well – this is the wine that first brought us to the Woodhouse tasting room in Woodinville because we read somewhere the Maghee was a “big boy” Merlot, which appealed to us because we prefer big robust reds to any other wine.

And while we haven’t yet tasted the Silver-winning Cabernet Franc, stay tuned – we will be tasting it in the months ahead and expect to be adding it to our favorite Cab Franc list.

We strongly recommend that you visit The Woodhouse Wine Estates warehouse-chic tasting room in Woodinville — either now, during Washington Wine Month, or any time you are looking for a good Washington wine to savor.

Last, but not least, congratulations to excellent Woodhouse winemaker, Jean Claude Beck and winery owners, Bijal and Sinead Shah.

Cheers!

Margot and Dave

There’s nothing like a stellar Cab Franc from Washington State

Cab FrancOne of our favorite wines is Cabernet Franc, which is one of the main varieties in Bordeaux blends.

Many people don’t realize that Cab Franc is one of the genetic parents to Cabernet Sauvignon; the other is Sauvignon Blanc. In addition to Washington state, you can find it planted in California and in the Bordeaux and Loire regions in France.

Cab Franc is typically used as a blending wine to add more complexity to the robust Cabernet Sauvignon or more structure to the softer Merlot. But Cab Franc is also created as a single-varietal wine; in other words, a stand-alone wine.

When blended, it adds both a subtly and an “oomph” to Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties. But on its own, quite simply, Cabernet Franc is amazing.

Cab Franc is known for its complex aromas of cherry and berry, with notes of herbs, spices, chocolate, cedar, and even violets. Frequently wine enthusiasts describe the nose as a peppery perfume.

The hot climate in Walla Walla and Yakima Valley is perfectly suited to ripen the Cab Franc fruit. Wineries in Lake Chelan have also produced some fine vintages.

We’ve enjoyed many excellent stand-alone Washington state Cab Francs over the years, including a beautiful Matthews Estate 2003 Conner Lee Cab Franc, an elegant 2004 from Corliss Estates, a robust 2012 Outcast from Barrage Cellars, and a rich 2012 Cooper Estate Red Mountain Cabernet Franc.

Here are some other Washington state wineries that, in our opinion, produce the Cab Franc grape as a shining single-varietal wine.

What Cab Francs do you like best from Washington state? Please share your favorites with us!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Fairview Cellars-Beautiful British Columbia Part 3

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 1.38.52 PMSome 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!

Cheers!

Tinhorn Creek-Beautiful British Columbia Part 2

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.43.53 AMTinhorn Creek Vineyards, quite simply, is a must-stop destination for any visit to British Columbia wine country. September 23rd marked the 20th anniversary of Tinhorn Creek, which has grown from barrels of wine in the basement of a house to 150 acres of vines on a beautiful estate in Oliver Osoyoos wine country, in the south Okanagan’s “Golden Mile” region.

Over the years, Tinhorn Creek has also become known in Canada as one of the most progressive wineries, focusing on sustainability and being environmentally friendly.

This winery is the epitome of what we consider a top pick: Good juice, good people and good events such as concerts and winemaker dinners at their onsite restaurant, Miradoro.

Sandra Oldfield, co-owner, president, CEO, and the face and voice of Tinhorn Creek, has been active in the wine community on Twitter for years. She embodies the experience declared on their website:Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.11.39 AM

“We grow grapes and we make wine. There are many steps between the field and the bottle, but at the end of the day it’s about farming the land responsibly, having fun, and making wines to share with family and friends. Because that’s what we are: friends, family – and friends who become family.”

Sandra also was the winemaker until this year, when Andrew Windsor joined the team, after after spending the past eight years in wine regions of Australia, New Zealand and France.

The winemaking team works from vines on two very distinct parcels of land:

  • 50 acres at the Tinhorn Creek Vineyard on the west bench, which benefits from sunrise and morning light, and is perfect for Gewürztraminer and Muscat
  • 100 acres on the Black Sage bench of the Diamondback Vineyard across the valley, which soaks up the intense afternoon heat, and therefore works well for Cabernet Franc and Merlot

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 12.02.23 PMSo let’s talk about the wines, starting with Tinhorn Creek’s Cab Franc, surely the best in Canada. We’ve tasted two vintages and enjoy the rich flavors that exemplify the varietal characteristics. This is a fantastic food wine, particularly with hearty beef stew or prime rib.

Earlier this year, the B.C. Wine Appreciation Society held a blind tasting of eight B.C. Cab Francs against four from other wine regions of the world. Tinhorn Creek 2010 Oldfield Selection Cab Franc, the winery’s first reserve version, won by a wide margin.

Going back several years, our first taste of Tinhorn Creek wine was at Whistler, back in the late 1990s — a 1995 Pinot Gris that set the bar for all the Pinot Gris we tasted in the following years.

More recently, last month, we visited the vineyard and tasted the 2013 vintage, which is crisp, balanced and brimming with citrus, pear and apple aromas and flavors.

In the late summer heat, we were also wowed by the Oldfield Series 2013 2Bench White, a delightful blend of Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc that screams for seafood to pair with it.

Tinhorn Creek is also known for its Merlot; the 2012 vintage is not at all jammy, and has a bite at the front palate that will taste marvelous with steak.

And yes, most of us in the U.S. can enjoy Tinhorn Creek wines here too – Tinhorn Creek is one of eight B.C. VQA wineries that offer wine exclusively at Whole Foods Market stores in Washington and Oregon.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 12.17.56 PMIn addition, Tinhorn Creek now ships wines direct to consumer in 34 states.

Of course, it’s more fun to visit.

And if you’re lucky, you’ll see the newest member of the Tinhorn Creek family. Right after our visit ended, the winery became home to a new puppy, Sam.

How cute is he?

Yes, he’s grown a lot in the last two months, but he is still adorbs (a word that has never been used on this blog since it launched in 2007)!

According to Sandra, one of Sam’s favorite things to do is to nap on the cool tiles in the shower (without the water)!

So what are you waiting for?

Cheers!