Tinhorn Creek-Beautiful British Columbia Part 2

B.C. Wineries, Cab Franc, Pinot Gris, Wine No Comments

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!

Don’t Miss Chateau St. Michelle’s Summer Concert Series

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Events, Malbec, Merlot, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

There are still tickets left for some of the first-rate performers at Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Summer Concert Series, at the scenic outdoor amphitheater on the beautiful winery grounds in Woodinville.

It’s a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon or evening. And this week is supposed to be sunny and in the 80s, so you can’t miss!

Pretty surroundings, fine Chateau Ste. Michelle wine, summer weather and music for dancing = happy people!

We were fortunate to attend the John Legend “All of Me” concert on June 28 and had a fabulous time. His music was as phenomenal as expected, and he entertained a rapt audience with funny stories in addition to sultry tunes.

We paired his music with Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 2010 Artist Series Meritage, a layered rich blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc and 3% Malbec.

There are many more concerts to come this summer. While some concerts are already sold out, you can still find tickets for many performances.

  • July 16: Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band
  • July 17: Replay America with The Go-Go’s, Patty Smyth and Scandal, Martha Davis and The Motels, Cutting Crew & Naked Eyes featuring Pete Byrne
  • July 18: Lyle Lovett & His Large Band
  • Sold Out: Goo Goo Dolls & Daughtry with special guest Plain White T‘s
  • July 26: Festival of Jazz with Manhattan Transfer, Spyro Gyra, Lee Ritenour & Dave Grusin and Jessy J
  • July 27: Chris Isaak
  • Aug. 1: Nickel Creek
  • Sold Out: ZZ Top and Jeff Beck
  • Gipsy King’s 25th Anniversary Tour
  • Sold Out: Earth, Wind & Fire
  • Aug. 24: Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus Featuring Buddy Guy
  • Sold Out: Boston
  • Sept. 12: An Evening with Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
  • Sept. 14: Crosby, Stills & Nash (their first night, Sept. 13, is sold out)

So don’t wait – have a look at the Concert Calendar, where you can also get your tickets right now.

Have questions? Check out the concert FAQ.

Thanks for inviting us to be your guests, Chateau Ste. Michelle. There are many reasons why your winery is considered one of Seattle’s top summer concert venues, and why this series has been a winner since it was first introduced in 1984.

Cheers!

Another Successful Taste Washington

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 12.02.07 PMEvery 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)

Longtime favorites (in alphabetical order)

Best bites (there were so many, but we only sampled a few)

Congratulations and thank you to the Washington Wine Commission and Visit Seattle for a such an excellent event and experience.

Cheers!

Delicious Darighe

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 12.53.56 PMAs 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.

Cheers!

 

Efeste – True Love on Valentine’s Day

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

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.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 4.58.43 PMOf 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.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 5.18.33 PM2010 Nana Right Bank Bordeaux Blend

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.

Cheers!

Windy Point-Beauty & Value

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

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 10.50.22 AMWhen 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:

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 10.48.51 AM2007 Pointless Red ($17): A blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Cabernet Franc and 3% Merlot, Pointless is known for its four “E”s: estate-grown, economical, easy-drinking and “endlessly pleasing.”

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.

Cheers!

 

 

 

Wines for Thanksgiving

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carlton Wine Country, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine, Zinfandel Comments Off

Wondering what wines to share over the Thanksgiving holidays? A special bottle to take to a family dinner or an evening with good friends? Here is our list of current favorite red wines of different vintages.

But first, a note: We strongly believe that people should drink whatever varieties of wine they want, red or white. 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.

In addition to those two beauties, here are the wines (in alphabetical order) that we recommend for Thanksgiving – all are from Washington state unless otherwise noted as from Oregon.

What’s on your list of Thanksgiving wines?

Cheers!

 

Fidelitas Cabernet Heaven

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine Comments Off

Put together Red Mountain fruit and an excellent winemaker such as Charlie Hoppes and what do you get? A slice of Fidelitas heaven in a glass. Or two.

On a recent trip to Red Mountain, we stopped at Fidelitas Wines, had a great chat (as always) with Charlie and tasted through his stellar line-up of red wines. As usual, we loved them all. But two in particular resonated with our palates.

2009 Fidelitas Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain Ciel du Cheval Vineyard

A beautiful rich red color with aromas of cherry and strawberry were the first things we noticed about this standout wine. The texture, the balance, the elegance were next. This is one silky, rich sip of velvety smooth, with a long, striking finish. According to Charlie’s tasting notes:

“Aromas of red cherry, ripe strawberry, and spice tones leap from the glass. Currant, dark cherry, tomato stem, and coffee flavors swirl through the palate, set in fine grained tannins.”

The beauty of this 100% Cab Sauv stems from the grapes from the warm slopes of one of the oldest vineyards on Red Mountain. This is a perfect special-occasion wine, ideal for the holiday season. But only 310 cases were produced, so don’t wait until next month to purchase a bottle or two.

2010 Fidelitas Cabernet Franc Red Mountain Ciel du Cheval Vineyard

When you think of Cabernet Franc, it’s probably in the context of a blending wine that adds more complexity to the robust Cabernet Sauvignon, or adds more structure to the softer Merlot. Indeed, Cab Franc is one of the main varieties in Bordeaux-style blends.

But regular readers of this blog know that we adore Cabernet Franc as a single varietal, a purebred. And this beauty — 100% Cab Franc — showcases the true expression of the wine, with complex aromas of cherry and berry, with notes of herbs, spices, chocolate and cedar.

The 2010 production is the second vintage from Fidelitas and the only varietal Cab Franc from the Ciel du Cheval Vineyard. According to Charlie’s tasting notes:

“The wine is a deep ruby tone, nearly opaque, showing aromas of blueberry, tart cherry, green bell peppers, and a hint of salted caramel. Tart yet balanced acids on the palate lift flavors of cranberry and dried thyme. Soft tannins carry a bright and lively, lingering finish.”

We heart Cab Franc, and this is one of the best we’ve tasted this year.

As big fans of Fidelitas, we were delighted to hear about the opening of a tasting room in Woodinville. We highly recommend you stop by there or at the Red Mountain winery, and taste Charlie’s wines for yourself.

There’s a reason why he was named Winemaker of the Year 2013 by Seattle Magazine‘s Washington Wine Awards.

Cheers!

 

What’s in Our Glasses Lately?

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carlton Wine Country, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

In the past couple of weeks, we have particularly enjoyed three bottles of red wine — two from Washington state and one from Carlton, Oregon.

2008 Barrage Cellars Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon

We’ve enjoyed Barrage Cellars 2009 and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignons and Cabernet Francs frequently this year, but on Friday night, we decided to dip into our cellar for this 2008 beauty.

Oh my, it is drinking well. We savoured every sip. The 08 Double Barrel is 100% Cab Sauv sourced from three excellent Washington state vineyards: Destiny Ridge, Red Willow and Sheridan. This is one big, beautiful and bold Cabernet. From winemaker Kevin Correll’s tasting notes:

A deep purple color reminiscent of a new world Syrah, but with that first taste there is no mistaking that this is a huge Cabernet Sauvignon. Flavors explode on the palette with complex layers of big red fruit, anise, tobacco and some graphite followed by huge. Fine grain tannins that are well integrated, but suited for aging.

2008 Northwest Totem Cellars Qo-ne

Another stellar Washington wine from our cellar, Qo-ne has long been one of our favorites from Northwest Totem Cellars. The 2008 blends Cab Franc (60%) with Cab Sauv (29%) along with 9% Syrah and 2% Petit Verdot to round off the distinct flavors.

Qo-ne means “friend” in Haida, the language of the First Nation by the same name in British Columbia. This wine has a special meaning for me, because I worked for the Haida years before I met Mike Sheridan, winemaker for Northwest Totem Cellars. Here are Mike’s tasting notes:

Rich with aromas of blackberry, vanilla, coffee and nicco wafers, this wine is well balanced with notes of chocolate and black cherry finishing with a hint of that signature Cab Franc white pepper on the finish.

2010 Troon Vineyard Cabernet Franc Reserve

We wish we had purchased more than a couple of bottles of this gem of a Cab Franc during our recent visit to Carlton, Oregon. This rich, structured wine consists of 80% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. Troon was recently named “One of the Top Ten Hottest Wine Brands” in the U.S. by Wine Business Monthly.

I know it’s early to think about Thanksgiving, but this Cab Franc will be on our list. Here are tasting notes from  owner and vintner Chris Martin:

Our effort is characterized by aromas of fresh mint and loam, with a structured, yet elegant finish. It is, as are all our reserve wines, unfined and unfiltered to perserve its body and integrity.

We recommend all three wines, if you like robust reds.

Cheers!

L’Ecole 41 Scores Again: Estate Cab Franc

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

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?

Cheers!

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