What’s in Our Glasses Lately?

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

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!

What’s in Our Glass?

Summertime means warm, lazy evenings on the deck and tasty weekend BBQs. And what better accompaniment than a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, a medium-bodied Pinot Noir or a robust Cabernet Sauvignon?

Yes, those have been in our glasses so far this summer – refreshing whites with prawns or humus on the deck, medium-bodied reds with unique, flavorful salads, and big and beautiful reds with hamburgers or on occasion, steaks.

Here are the wines in our glasses — at home or in tasting rooms — that we’ve loved in the past couple of months.

What’s in your glass this summer?

Cheers!

 

Carmel Valley

Our first visit to Carmel Valley wine country brought a discovery of unknown yet delightful wines, in addition to some educational and fun conversations with winemakers, winery owners and tasting room staff.

We were in the Carmel-Monterey region on vacation in April, to enjoy the gorgeous ocean views and sunshine, and to tour the wine region while celebrating my birthday. I wish we had planned even more time to stay in the area!

Here are the wineries that we visited and our favorite wines from each one.

Bernardus: For whites, 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Monterey County was my favorite, while Dave preferred 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Griva Vineyard. For reds, it was unanimous; we both chose two big Bordeaux blends: 2009 Marinus Estate Red Wine (92 points from Wine Enthusiast) and 2007 Signature Marinus Estate. This Bordeaux blend comes from grapes in the best barrels from the best lots from Marinus Estate Vineyard in the upper Carmel Valley.

Boekenoogen: 2010 Santa Lucia Highlands Estate Pinot Noir captured our attention, with its plush, lush, velvet mouthfeel and rich flavors. We also enjoyed the 2011 Carmel Valley Estate “Bell Ranch” Zinfandel, a bright light flavorful wine that would pair well with grilled prawns or marinated fish.

Carmel Ridge: When we were visiting Cannery Row on our first day in Monterey, we noticed the Carmel Ridge Winery tasting room, which has a beautiful view of the bay and was a perfect start to our wine experience in the region. Wine rep Stacy Silva not only educated us about the area, but she also suggested some the best wineries to visit. We took a bottle of 2010 Carmel Ridge Pinot Gris back to our hotel and enjoyed it with prawns and cheese on the deck.

Joyce Vineyards: Until a pour of 2011 Joyce Estate Syrah, we were never crazy about California Syrahs – we’re not sure if it’s because of the terroir or the unique winemaking style. But Joyce makes the best California Syrah we have ever tried, probably because it’s the closest in taste to the peppery, spicy Washington State Syrahs. This one was so good, we brought home a bottle, in addition to our other favorite, 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Russel’s Vineyard, a medium-bodied Cab with long, silky finish (87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec).

Parsonage Estate: The 2009 Estate Reserve “Tanner” Cabernet Sauvignon is one of those wines where all we could say after one sip was “WOW!” Tasting room manager Jessica Trask and winemaker Frank Melicia told us this Cab is rich, and we can certainly attest to it. A full nose, it’s “stunningly full on the palate with an exquisitely long finish.” This wine alone is worth a drive to Carmel Valley wine country, if you’re in the area.

Whether you’re planning a trip to see the amazing Monterey Aquarium or to cruise along the 17-Mile Drive along Pebble Beach, the Del Monte Forest and the dramatic Pacific Coast, be sure to save some time to visit the Carmel Valley wine country. We highly recommend it!

Cheers!

2013 Legends Winemaker

Congratulations to Greg Lipsker, co-owner of Barrister Winery in Spokane, who was chosen as the winemaker to create the blend for 2013 Legends of Washington Wine Gala, an annual fundraising program in support of the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser.

Legends honors those whose contributions to the community and the wine industry are of historical and lasting significance.

The news was announced on May 30, but I was traveling and unable to congratulate Greg and Barrister’s Winery until now.

Barrister is known for limited production red wines. Our favorite, consistent over the years, has been the stellar Barrister Cabernet Franc. As we noted at Taste Washington last year, the 09 Barrister Cab Franc was a standout.

Don’t just take our word for it! Barrister’s Cab Franc has won awards at the L.A. World of Wines Competition, the Northwest Wine Summit, and the Tri-Cities Wine Festival.

Although we don’t get to Spokane often, we make a point to stop by Barrister’s table at numerous Washington wine events throughout the year. If we’re lucky, Greg and Barrister Winery co-owner Michael White will be pouring and have time for a chat.

The fruit for the multi-vintage 2013 Legends blend was sourced by Greg from seven different vineyards:

  • 38% Merlot from Red Mountain, Walla Walla Valley, Wahluke Slope, and Columbia Valley
  • 33% Syrah from Wahluke Slope and Columbia Valley
  • 20% Cabernet Franc from Yakima Valley and Columbia Valley
  • 9% Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain and Columbia Valley

The Legends 2013 blend will be released on August 9 at the 2013 Legends of Washington Wine Gala.

Greg is the seventh winemaker to make an exclusive blend to commemorate an annual inductee into the Washington Wine Hall of Fame.

Congratulations and cheers!

Such a pretty bottle, such a pleasing wine

We finally decided to open our beautifully engraved bottle of 2008 Red Wine from Barrage Cellars – Kevin Correll’s featured wine of 2011 Taste of Tulalip, the annual wine and food extravaganza at Tulalip Resort.

Kevin’s 2008 Red was originally known as Stealth, a new wine label in honor of his and Rebecca’s beloved dog, Murphy — a gorgeous chocolate Lab, known for his playfulness and surreptitiousness around the wine barrels.

“Stealth,” a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cab Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, sold out almost immediately. We weren’t surprised to hear this news, because we’ve never met a wine from Barrage Cellars that we didn’t like, or more often, love.

Back in 2011, with the announcement that Barrage Cellars was honored as the official winery partner of Taste of Tulalip, Kevin rebottled what little remained of Stealth and renamed it ”Murphy’s Blend.” He and Rebecca lovingly poured the nectar into engraved bottles that were featured at the event.

We bought a bottle there, and later wished we had purchased more.

But we decided to hold off on opening it; the bottle is so pretty, and filled with wine that we knew would be so, so pleasing.

But last night, we did it – we uncorked the bottle, and raised our glasses to Murphy (who is now romping around in doggy heaven with our beloved retrievers, Sam and Shadow) and also to Kevin and Rebecca, whom we are happy to call our friends.

Cheers to friends, dogs and fabulous wine!

P.S. We’re keeping the bottle!

March is Washington Wine Month

In our family, every month is Washington Wine Month, but the official celebration occurs in this state every March.

That’s when you will find great deals at wineries, wine shops, big grocery stores and many restaurants. For example, some promotions include discounts on full or half cases of Washington state wine, purchase discounts off any bottle or Washington wine or in-store free wine tastings.

For specifics, have a look at the Washington Wine Month Calendar.

One that caught our eye is a 20%-off promotion for Northwest Totem Cellars at Wine World on March 16th. And thanks Wine World, for quoting this blog in your promotion!

As for us, we celebrate by telling anyone who will listen about the great juice Washington state wineries produce.

Whether you like big, bold reds (like us), crispy Sauvignon Blanc, rich Viognier or buttery Chardonnay, you can find the best right in your own backyard, so to speak, from Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Tri-Cities, Walla Walla, Cascade Valley, Woodinville and many more.

We recently tasted these Washington wine gems:

Do you see a trend here? We heart Cabs!

And these are just some of the amazing wines you can find from Washington state. We encourage you to do so!

Happy Washington Wine Month!

Cheers!

 

January is Barrage Month

Halfway through January, we discovered it’s all about Barrage, baby! Barrage Cellars, that is.

Let me explain why.

In November, we stopped by (with our dog, Sir Winston) at the Barrage Cellars tasting room in Woodinville’s Wine Warehouse district, and fell in love all over again with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc created by winemaker Kevin Correll.

We had a great time tasting some fine juice and catching up with Kevin and Rebecca, and walked away with quite a few bottles of more than one vintage of Barrage Cellars Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon and Outcast Cab Franc.

As a result, January has become Barrage Month at our house, as we opened some of the bottles. It is hard to cellar these very drinkable wines.

We are captivated with 2007 Double Barrel and the 2009 Outcast is simply superlative. These two wines are our favorite varietals these days, and Barrage Cellars is high on our list of must-haves.

This is not surprising — Barrage Cellars Outcast has made our list of favorite Cab Francs more than once — just try searching Write for Wine for Barrage Cellars. And it’s not just us – Seattle Magazine voted 2007 Outcast the best Cab Franc in Washington state in 2011, and Seattle Wine Awards gave Outcast a silver medal the same year.

But let me tell you, Kevin’s wines simply get better and better with each vintage. Every time we think we’ve tasted his best yet, he surprises us the following year with better yet.

Like many winemakers in Washington state, Kevin started making wine as a hobby in his garage; from there, he moved his craft to the barn. Put the two words barn and garage together – Bar+rage – and voila, Barrage Cellars was born.

But unlike many winemakers who blend different grapes together into one wine, Kevin prefers to blend wine with the same grape from different vineyards.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to stop by Barrage Cellars in Woodinville for Kevin’s red and white wines, make a point of it. You won’t be disappointed.

Sir Winston wants to go back too because Kevin and Rebecca love puppy dogs!

Cheers!

Nothing says the holidays like Chester Kidder!

What better way to bring in the holiday week than with a glass (or two) of 2008 Chester Kidder Red from Long Shadows?

This beauty, created by winemaker Gilles Nicault, paired beautifully with spiced flank steak, as Dave and I toasted some rare time off together at the same time.

Released in September, we found ’08 Chester Kidder Red to be inky in color, balanced, silky and a rich blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Syrah, 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc.

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar gave 92 points to Chester Kidder Red with this description:

“Bright, deep ruby-red. Expressive nose offers currant, cherry cola, graphite and dark chocolate. Silky, sexy and intense, with firm, vibrant cabernet fruit complicated by licorice and spices. Finishes lively and very long, with sweet tannins and solid structure from the cabernet, some of which spent up to 40 days on its skins.”

Long Shadows is a collection of small production wineries, which brings together internationally acclaimed winemakers to showcase the superb grapes grown in Washington State’s Columbia Valley.

Gilles represents France; specifically, he made wine in the regions of Cote Du Rhone, Provence and Champagne, before moving to Washington state.

Prior to joining Allan Shoup’s state-of-the-art winemaking team, he was head of enology and production at Woodward Canyon.

We first met Gilles after he joined Long Shadows, when he and his wife, Marie-Eve Gilla — an excellent winemaker in her own right at Forgeron Cellarsheld a joint winemakers dinner at the Space Needle a few years back. They’ve both since become good friends – and we wish them, and you, a happy holiday season.

And thank you, Long Shadows, for sending us samples of your most-excellent Washington state wines.

Cheers!

Making a List of Thanksgiving Wines

There is no doubt in our minds that some food-and-wine pairings are spectacular, creating a “wow factor.” We have experienced this explosion of flavors at winemakers’ dinners and at many special restaurants.

That being said, we are also strong believers that people should have whatever varieties of wine they want, including for special occasions. Our preference for Thanksgiving happens to be robust red wines – some with a bit of funk, such as 2009 Reynvaan In the Rocks Syrah, and some that are rich and smooth, such as 2009 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon, which we experienced for the first time at Taste of Tulalip last weekend.

In addition to those two beauties, here are the wines (in alphabetical order) that we are considering opening this Thanksgiving – all are from Washington unless otherwise noted:

What’s on your list of Thanksgiving wines?

Cheers!