Avennia-Look for These Wines

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

We stopped by the fall release party at one of Woodinville’s newest wineries, Avennia, and became immediate fans of the wines and the owners. We highly recommend you see for yourself what talented winemaker Chris Peterson has created featuring Washington state grapes in the “old-world style” of French wines.

The words and phrases that came to mind while tasting all five Avennia wines were classic, complex, balanced, structured, true to varietal, and a showcase of the beauty of Washington grapes.

One white, Oliane Sauvignon Blanc, and two Syrahs – 2010 Arnaut and 2010 Parapine – are now available.

They will be followed by the February 2013 release of two 2010 Bordeaux blends, Sestina and Gravura – both are showing such potential now, we know they will have that WOW factor for a number of years.

 

1. 2011 Oliane Sauvignon Blanc, Avennia’s only white wine,  is true to the classic, crisp and elegant Sauvignon Blanc and perfect on a warm Seattle afternoon. Oliane is bursting with grapefruit aromas and citrus notes, along with that minerality we’ve come to love in good Sauv Blancs.

2. 2010 Arnaut is 100% Syrah from the fabulous Boushey Vineyard. This  flagship Syrah ranked 16 in Seattle Met’s recently released 100 Best Washington Wines.

3. 2010 Parapine Syrah features grapes from Boushey and from Force Majeure’s (formerly Grand Reve) new vineyard on Red Mountain. But this Syrah will be replaced in the 2011 vintage with a Southern Rhone-style wine.

4. 2010 Sestina, the flagship Bordeaux blend, is my favorite: Cabernet Sauvignon (73%), Merlot (18%) and Cab Franc (9%). As mentioned, this complex wine tastes full of potential already, and we can’t wait to try it again in February. I hope we’ll have the patience to cellar some bottles for a few years too!

5. 2010 Gravura offers a closer split of the classic Bordeaux blend: Cabernet Sauvignon (54%) and Merlot (40%), rounding off the edges with 6% Cab Franc.

Interestingly, the $35 Parapine Syrah and the $35 Gravura blend have Seattle restaurants lined up to include on their tasting menus.

Regular readers of this blog know that the people behind the wine are also important to us. Winemaker/partner Chris Peterson and managing partner Marty Taucher are right up there with the finest in Washington’s wine industry.

Chris passionately talked to us about his wines and his wine-making style for about 30 minutes. He was the first graduate of Walla Walla Community College’s Enology and Viticulture program; he spent quality time in all of the major wine regions of France and Italy; and more recently, as assistant winemaker at DeLille Cellars, he helped create some of the state’s finest wines.

During the 2009 harvest at DeLille, Chris met  Marty Taucher, a retired PR and Marketing leader at Microsoft, who has collected wine for 25 years. They shared similar interests and clicked – a close friendship that was obvious the minute we met them.

The following year, they founded Avennia, inspired by the Roman name for the city of Avignon, which signifies the heart of Old World winemaking to both of them. All the names of their wines have significance to Marty and Chris – we encourage you to read about it on the Avennia website.

Cheers!

 

Blitz Carlton!

Cab Franc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine Comments Off

After the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland last month, I had an opportunity to join a few friends – and make new ones – on a post-conference tour to Carlton, Oregon.

And I can’t say enough good things about the people, the wine, the food, the accomodations and the amazing hospitality. I will most definitely return to Carlton – and I highly recommend you think about visiting too.

I will definitely write more in future posts, but I’m traveling a lot in the weeks ahead, so for now, I’d like to give big thanks to the wonderful people in Carlton Wine Country,  Republic of Jam, Seven of Hearts Wine, K&M Wine, Lobenhaus Bed & Breakfastwith special shout-outs to Thea, Lena, Bethany, Lynette, Byron and Ken.

Here are some of my tweets I posted while I was visiting the wonderful Carlton on a Blitz bus (hence, the Twitter hashtag, #BlitzCarlton). Enjoy!

  • First stop for #blitzcarlton #WBC12 is Seven of Hearts http://twitpic.com/alhrn2
  • Wine bloggers at Carlton’s Walk on the Park. Post #WBC12 #blitzcarlton http://twitpic.com/ali7my
  • Pinot Gris @7ofheartswine is refreshingly crisp on a warm day. (Stainless steel & barrel fermented #mustbuy #blitzcarlton
  • K & M 2010 chardonnay an understandable award winner #blitzcarlton
  • 09 Cuvee from K&M Wines is bright, beautiful & a new fave @kandmwines #blitzcarlton
  • 2010 Luminous Hills Estate Pinot Noir wins Mr. Personality and only $28. Wow! #blitzcarlton
  • Mmm pepper. Thank you @marycressler for encouraging me to taste GSM 2010 @7ofheartswine Bring on the steak! I am a new fan! #blitzcarlton
  • Yea! RT @melanie0: @republicofjam Lovely ladies rocking hospitality. Some of my fav folks of all times #blitzcarlton pic.twitter.com/8wHHGOwb
  • Ben Rice band is rocking the house @horseradish restaurant in Carlton. And love their blues. Oh yeah. #blitzcarlton #WBC12
  • Late night with Lena @7ofheartswine: Cab Franc and chocolates Yummy! #blitzcarlton
  • The Lobenhaus B&B in Carlton wine country is beautiful. Make time to stop over if you are near Portland OR #blitzcarlton #WBC12
  • 3 cheers, no 10 for the wonderful people in Carlton wine country @CarltonWine So friendly, nice & mighty fine wine & food #blitzcarlton
  • Good morning beautiful Lobenhaus B&B @Carltonwine. View from my patio! #blitzcarlton http://twitpic.com/als2f0
  • This is definitely one place I am coming back to visit. Lobenhaus B & B @CarltonWine #blitzcarlton thanks! http://twitpic.com/alsoae
  • Finally! I have wanted to taste @KenWrightCellars wine since 1997. And Ken is brilliant and funny #blitzcarlton http://twitpic.com/altw8w
  • Love to learn – side by side cooperage tasting at @lemelsomwinery #blitzcarlton
  • 06 Estate Reserve from @carloandjulian – wow that is special! @CarltonWine #blitzcarlton
  • Brilliant! @CuveeRestaurant Thanks for a beautiful lunch #blitzcarlton @carltonwine @alexanawinery @bellepente and Carlo & Julian
  • 2011 Cannon Beach Pinot Gris, Carlton Cellars, the crispest Pinot Gris in Oregon @Carltonwine #blitzcarlton http://twitpic.com/alvegv
  • Pinot Blanc is the new burrito wine! @noblepig? #blitzcarlton
  • Big reds loaded with fruit, 2010 Cab Franc is smooth & the Maserati of Cab Franc! @terravinawines #blitzcarlton @CarltonWine
  • If you like big red wine, @terravinawines in @Carltonwine is a must stop in Oregon wine country. #blitzcarlton
  • Donna Jean 09 Pinot Noir from Mouvance @Carltonwine is savory, silky & makes me want to sing like Michael Jackson #blitzcarlton
  • 09 Old Vine Meritage: Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot, Malbec & Petit Verdot & I love it @trooncarlton #blitzcarlton http://twitpic.com/alwiee

So again, if you’re thinking about taking an Oregon wine country tour, plan to spend a day or two in Carlton!

Cheers!

 

If you love blends …

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Events, Malbec, Marsanne, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Viognier, Wine Comments Off

… like we love blends, then mark your calendar right now for the third annual – you guessed it – BLEND event on Sept. 16 at Seattle waterfront’s Bell Harbor Conference Center.

We have not missed this event ever, because Bordeaux blends have been some of our favorite wines for years. I was asked to be a judge at this year’s BLEND blind tasting, but it’s during the day when I work at my “day job,” unfortunately.

But thankfully we can attend the event, which not only showcases Washington’s hottest blends, but also enticing gourmet food samples from some award-winning hotel restaurants.

Specifically, BLEND features more than 40 Washington wineries, barrel blending stations and international tasting stations, in addition to a “Bubble Lounge” with champagne, sparkling wines and cider and oysters.

While both of our palates favor Bordeaux-style blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, others prefer southern Rhone-style blends of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre.

Some of our favorites are unique-to-Washington blends of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, such as William Church 2008 2 Spires and Gorman 2009 Evil Twin. Unfortunately, neither will be at this event, but some of our other favorites, such as DiStefano 2007 Sogno (Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) will be definite pours for us.

Some white blends – perfect summer sippers — will also be available, such as the award-winning Shepherd’s Mark southern Rhone blend (Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne) from Alexandria Nicole Cellar and Optu White Bordeaux blend (Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion) from Fidelitas.

For a full list of wineries pouring at BLEND, in addition to tickets, visit the BLEND website. Net proceeds from the $49-per-person admission will benefit the Washington Wine Industry Foundation.

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!

What we’ve been drinking lately

Barbera, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

I’ve been traveling so much lately that it’s been hard to find time to write individual posts about the wonderful Washington state wines we’ve enjoyed in the last couple of months. But I still want to share them with you, in hopes that you’ll also taste them one day soon.

We recommend all of them — cheers!

Looking for a robust red for July 4th?

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

If you’re thinking about a juicy BBQ steak to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday (or July 1 for my family and friends in Canada), L’Ecole 41 has a multitude of choices of robust reds to pair with it.

We’ve been fans of L’Ecole for a long time – have a look at this 2010 blog post that references our L’Ecole tastings, starting in 2007. Every year since then, L’Ecole’s wines have either matched or superseded the previous vintage with character, complexity, flavors and balance.

 

My personal favorite is L’Ecole 41 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley. I had the opportunity to taste the 2001 library wine; the 2009 vintage continues the excellence – a blend of Cabernet from five prestigious vineyards that is sophisticated, structured and velvety rich.

According to winemaker and owner Marty Clubb, “Its old-world structure, dense dark fruit flavors and elegant tannins exemplify the best of Walla Walla.”

We have several bottles of this beauty – we had one last week, we’ll open another on July 4 and the rest remain in our cellar for what is sure to be years of good drinking.

 

In May, we reveled in L’Ecole 41 2008 Perigee, celebrated when the moon was in its perigee – a “super moon” when it passes closest to Earth.

The Perigee, L’Ecole’s estate Bordeaux blend, combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc with a dash of Petit Verdot and Malbec, sourced from the winery’s oldest and best blocks from Seven Hills Vineyard.

2008 Perigee is elegant, expressive and earthy – a delicious wine to enjoy over the holidays – or anytime.

Other robust reds from L’Ecole: 2008 Apogee Pepper Bridge, another of my favorites; 2008 Estate Merlot; and 2009 Estate Syrah, in addition to several from Columbia Valley.

Cheers!

Travels to Napa Valley

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Wine 2 Comments

We just came back from Napa Valley, where we visited five wineries that we highly recommend. Here are the highlights:

Goosecross Cellars: The Howell Mountain Cab from Goosecross has always been a favorite, and this year did not disappoint. In fact, it exceeded expectations. This full-bodied Cab is rich and elegant with so many layers of lovely that I wish I could buy a few cases. Goosecross also produces one of the best stand-alone Cab Francs we tasted in Napa Valley. Cab Franc is my #1 choice, and Goosecross is as excellent as my favorite Washington state Cab Francs.

In addition, Goosecross makes a crisp refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, which is perfect for a warm, sunny day on the deck. (Note: We credit our summer passion for Sauv Blanc to Goosecross along with two Washington state wineries, Efeste and JM Cellars.) Goosecross’ popular tasting room underlines the superb customer service, friendliness and wow-worthy wines.

Grgich Hills: The first time I went to Napa Valley – more years ago than I care to admit! – Grgich was on my list of must-visit wineries. We didn’t know then that winemaker Mike Grgich crafted the 1973 Chardonnay, which won the Paris Competition that put California and Chateau Montelena on the worldwide wine map in 1976 and again in 2009 when the movie Bottle Shock was released.

So it was no surprise to find that Grgich Carneros Selection Chardonnay 2008, was simply, beautiful. We also were lucky to be invited to two side-by-side tastings while we were there. The first was Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 and 2008, plus the Yountville Selection 2007, from some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Napa Valley. The second was a “decades tasting” of Napa Valley Cab Sauv from 1982,1992, 2002. What a treat! I preferred the 02, while Dave’s preference was the ’92. Frankly, every Grgich wine we tasted was stellar.

Hall: We had so much fun at Hall, partly because their wine educator, Kendra Wax, hails from Walla Walla, so we could compare Napa wines to our glorious juice from Washington state. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Hall wines are also glorious. We took home a library release, 2006 Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which was rated 94 points by Wine Spectator. We also recommend 2009 “Jack’s Masterpiece” Cab Sauv and 2006 “Bergfeld” St. Helena Cab Sauv. Beauty!

Plumpjack: We added Plumpjack to our list of Top Napa Wineries to visit last year, and continue to suggest it, along with the other four mentioned in this post, as a must-stop. The 2008 CADE Napa Cuvee Cab was spectacular and the Sauv Blanc was zesty and cool on a warm California afternoon. Most of all, we give full props to Plumpjack’s 2009 Syrah – a big, juicy, spicy and peppery Syrah that stands out as the best California Syrah we’ve tasted, because it’s so close to the Washington- state style that our palates embrace. Frankly, we find most California Syrahs bland, and hadn’t even planned on trying Plumpjack’s pour until Guest Services Manager, Heather Manross described it as the most Northern Rhone-like Syrah they’ve ever produced. Bring it!

Cornerstone Cellars: This was our first visit to Cornerstone, chosen because of their high-profile presence on Twitter from both Craig Camp and Allison Zickfeld. Their tweets beckoned us, and we are glad they did. Cornerstone wines are complemented by a bright and beautiful tasting room and knowledgeable and fun staff, such as Kerry Hourigan. The 2010 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Corallina was an impressive rose’ named for its beautiful, pale copper-coral color and its balanced, supple and bright flavors. We brought home a bottle to savor on our deck this summer. We also enjoyed the 2008 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, with a unique raspberry flavor.

Their new label, Cornerstone Oregon, is a collaboration between Cornerstone Napa’s Craig Camp and Oregon winemaker Tony Rynders from Domaine Serene. We tasted the 2009 Cornerstone Oregon Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, a supple, well-balanced medium-body Pinot, which received 91 points from Wine Spectator. We’re looking forward to tasting more close-to-home Pinots, when Craig brings them to the annual Wine Bloggers Conference, held this August in Portland.

Cheers!

Washington in Washington

Barbera, Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Events, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine 1 Comment

A day of double-takes comprised what I like to call our experience of “Washington in Washington.”

Dave and I were in Washington, D.C. at the same time as this state’s Washington Wine Commission held a trade and media tasting there.

Ryan Pennington, the Commission’s social-media-savvy PR director, saw my Facebook update that we were headed to D.C., so he kindly invited us to stop by the tasting event at the Rooftop Terrace at The John F. Kennedy Center.

Of course we went! The tasting area was packed, and we listened with pride as many D.C.-area wine experts, restaurant owners, media and wine enthusiasts extolled the virtues of Washington state wine.

And we laughed at the looks on the faces of several winemakers and winery owners when they saw us, out of context, in “the other Washington!”

“What are you doing here?” exclaimed Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas, Mike White of Barrister, Lisa Baer of Baer, John Abbott of Abeja, Darcey Fugman-Small of Woodward Canyon, Jerry Riener of Guardian Cellars and Doug Long of Obelisco.

“We just happened to be in the neighborhood and heard some excellent Washington state wine was being poured here,” we replied.

We also had an opportunity to taste wine and talk to Daniel Wampfler of Dunham Cellars, Kristi and Lou Facelli of Facelli, Kim Bolander of L’Ecole 41, Debbie Hansen of Cougar Crest, and Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan.

These were the wines we tasted and recommend (in alphabetical order):

  • Abeja 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla ($52)
  • Baer 2009 Ursa Red Bordeaux Blend, Columbia Valley ($39)
  • Cougar Crest 2007 Estate Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla ($38)
  • Dunham Cellars 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon XIV, Columbia Valley ($45)
  • Facelli 2008 Barbera, Columbia Valley ($25)
  • Fidelitas 2008 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($55)
  • Guardian Cellars 2009 Gun Metal Red Bordeaux Blend, Columbia Valley ($37)
  • L’Ecole 41 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla ($37)
  • Long Shadows 2007 Feather Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley ($55)
  • Mark Ryan 2009 Dead Horse Red Bordeaux Blend, Red Mountain ($52)
  • Obelisco 2009 Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($65)
  • Woodward Canyon 2009 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State ($54)

Frankly, I couldn’t say it any better than the Washington Wine Commission’s brochure:

“Washington State’s exceptional grapes reach their potential in the hands of extraordinary winemakers, who create bright and balanced expressions of our region with world-class wines.”

Cheers to Washington state winemakers!

Back to B.C.

Cab Franc, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine Comments Off

Regular readers of Write for Wine know that I live in Seattle but I’m from Vancouver, and I occasionally write about B.C. wines. This is one of those occasions.

On two recent visits to my hometown, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver and experienced two delightful B.C. reds – to my admitted surprise, considering that B.C. is known mainly for its fine whites.

First, 2008 Burrowing Owl Merlot: This rich wine was drinking nicely a couple of months ago, with aromas of dark cherry and cassis particularly noticeable. It was the best B.C. merlot I’ve tasted and equals some of our favorite Washington state merlots, hands down. Not surprisingly, it won a bronze at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition 2011.

In fact, I was so pleased to find a fabulous B.C. red, that I’d like to try Burrowing Owl’s Cab Franc one of these days. And it just so happens that their 08 Cab Franc won gold at the same SF International Wine Competition.

We are heading to B.C.’s wine country in 2013 for the Wine Bloggers Conference, but if we get to Oliver before hand, Burrowing Owl is definitely on our must-see list. More than a winery, Burrowing Owl offers a restaurant and accommodations, overlooking 140 acres of picturesque vineyard. The “Guest House” contains 10 spacious rooms with fireplaces and private decks.

The second B.C. red that I tasted at Vancouver Hyatt a few weeks later came from Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Vineyard. Jackson-Triggs, the most-awarded winery in Canada, is well-known for its Niagara (Ontario) wine.

But its award-winning merlots and cabernet sauvignons are made with grapes from B.C.’s Okanagan region, also near Oliver.

We tasted the latest release, a 2009 Black Series Merlot (formerly Proprietors’ Reserve), which was velvety smooth and silky at the same time. This wine is so new that it hasn’t been entered into international wine competitions yet, but my bet is on awards in the future.

If you’re looking for recommendations about B.C. whites, Washington wine expert Paul Gregutt gives full marks to “gems such as Sperling Old Vine riesling, Le Vieux Pin sauvignon blanc and Poplar Grove pinot gris.”

Cheers!

Taste Washington Weekend

Cab Franc, Events, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

Taste Washington weekend is here, and from all accounts we’ve heard, opening day Saturday was a huge success! See below for a sampling of tweets from our friends and colleagues. We’ll be there Sunday, so be sure to follow my live Twitter stream @WriteforWine.

A plan is necessary at Taste Washington, where there are more than 200 Washington wineries pouring from several bottles – and if you’re a Facebook fan or Twitter friend, chances are you’ll be offered a “little something special” from under the table.

Just be sure to spit or spill – it’s acceptable and appreciated. Enjoy the tasty bites from some of Washington state’s best restaurants. And please do take a cab!

We’re going to follow our plan from last year:

  1. Taste Cabernet Franc
  2. Taste new releases from wineries we know
  3. Taste releases from wineries we are not familiar with
  4. Last but not least, visit friends at wineries to say hello

Again, you can follow my tweets live from Taste Washington Sunday at @WriteforWine. Meanwhile, here are some tweets highlighting Saturday’s tasting and seminars:

@TasteWashington: The doors are open and the clinking of glasses can already be heard. Welcome to #TasteWA 2012! http://pic.twitter.com/1TqUOcIv

@WmChurchwinery: Headed to #tastewa? See u there right by the Viking stage..in the back this yr. search & u will find

@MsTerroir: #TasteWa check out @NWTotemCellars @GardVintners @WmChurchwinery @ForgeronCellars @TreveriCellars @grapegeek….+ more! #wawine

@44vines: It’s #TasteWA Visit me at Table 5B when you walk in @redmtnava

@lecole41: fantastic, glad everyone is enjoying the merlot ! #tastewa #seminar

@Forgeron Cellars: Ready to pour! #tastewa don’t forget to mention twitter & ’07 Vinfinity

@BlackPearlSEA: ’02 @colsolare Red. Get it before it’s gone! #TasteWA #WAwine

@SeattleMaven: @ElGauchoSteak Good gawd … you spoil me! #TasteWA http://pic.twitter.com/BorQSK7c

@WaWineReport: Make sure to check out the Northridge Vineyard table and other vineyard tables. #tastewa

@wild4wawine: @cougarcrest @tastewashington out of the park #wawine

@LaurelhurstWine: Sweet Decadence artisan chocolates pairing @TasteWashington come by booth 12A

@WinePeeps: Amazing! RT @TulalipResort: try our Fried Chocolate Bread Pudding and Bourbon Caramel-Vanilla Milkshakes at #TasteWA

Hope to see you Sunday at Taste Washington – come celebrate Washington Wine Month!

Cheers!

 

Wonderful Walla Walla Wine

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

Regular readers of this blog know we are major fans of Walla Walla wine. We don’t get to visit Walla Walla nearly as often as we would like, so when Walla Walla comes to Seattle, it’s a must-go-to event.

So I dashed out to SoDo during my lunch break to visit friends and have a few (very small) tastes at “Walla Walla Wine @SoDo Park” last week.

I could only visit a few booths, and I know I missed out on lots of wineries. I wish I could have stayed longer, but work beckoned me back.

Here are the wines I tasted and would definitely purchase:

  • Abeja 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon – This fine Cab is blended with 4% Merlot, in John Abbot’s fashion of being true to the varietal and to the state.
  • L’Ecole 41 2009 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon – I’ve been a major fan of this wine since the 2001 vintage.
  • Otis Kenyon 2008 Syrah – It has that “In the Rocks” funk – yum!
  • Watermill 2008 Cabernet Franc – if you love Cab Franc like I do, this is a must-buy.
  • Woodward Canyon 2009 Estate Reserve – It won’t be released until summer but the potential is already magnificent.

There are many, many more excellent Walla Walla wineries – and we highly recommend you visit them in Walla Walla. Some of them have tasting rooms in Woodinville too.

Cheers!

« Previous Entries Next Entries »