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

And the winner is … ANC Wines

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.34.37 PMJarrod Boyle of Alexandria Nicole Cellars is continuing his winning streak with a number of recent accolades for several of his stellar wines.

Knowing Jarrod, he would also credit Jose Yanez, the excellent foreman at Destiny Ridge Estate Vineyard, assistant winemaker Matt Dodson, and Jarrod’s amazing wife, co-owner and marketing manager, Ali Boyle.

And last, but definitely not least, Jarrod would point to Mother Nature.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.35.57 PMTwenty-three varietals are planted at Destiny Ridge, and the belief at ANC is that quality starts in the vineyard.

The winery’s motto is “approachable elegance” — and judging by the recent awards, and dozens and dozens of previous ones, Jarrod and his team are definitely succeeding.

Here are the most recent awards:

  • 2014 “Crawford” Viognier, Best of Class and Double Gold, Savor NW Awards
  • 2014 Shepherds Mark, Gold, Savor NW Awards
  • 2013 Jet Black Syrah, Best of Class and Gold, Seattle Wine and Food Experience
  • 2013 Shepherds Mark, Gold, Seattle Wine and Food Experience
  • Beverage Tasting Institute Ratings
    • 2012 “Gravity” Merlot, 92 points and Cellar Selection
    • 2012 “Little Big Man” Petit Verdot, 92 points and Cellar Selection
    • 2011 “Alderdale” Cabernet Sauvignon, 92 points
    • 2012 Quarry Butte, 91 points
    • 2014 A squared Pinot Gris, Best Buy

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.35.44 PMThe outstanding wines are what brought us to Alexandria Nicole Cellars almost 10 years ago. But the warmth of the ANC team and the winery’s fabulous events played a big role too.

Over the years, we have had the pleasure and honor of becoming friends with Jarrod and Ali, and we are so excited for their new venture, The Estate on Destiny Ridge — a breathtaking, luxurious and private venue for entertaining in the middle of wine country.

We also can’t wait for their glamping season to start up again this summer.

Congratulations to Jarrod, Ali and the ANC team on the latest accolades.

Stop by and see them at Taste Washington, or at their tasting rooms in Woodinville and Prosser.

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

Hope Family Wines

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 2.24.06 PMHope Family Wines is a pioneer in Paso Robles wine country, established 30 years ago and still family-owned and operated.

Five brands are in their barrels and bottles, three of which we experienced recently during a Twitter tasting sponsored by the winery and Boston Wine Expo.

2013 Liberty School Merlot, $16
This medium-bodied wine is ruby in color, and packed with flavors. Dense and earthy with blackberries, blueberries and plum, with a hint of dark chocolate and spice, this is one good-value, good-tasting Merlot. Try pairing it with pizza or burgers.

Troublemaker Blend 8, $20
Troublemaker is a Rhone-style blend that is distinctly Paso: 46% Syrah, 14% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre, 25% Zinfandel 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!

2012 Treana Red, $45
While we enjoyed the first two wines, our favorite is Treana, the flagship and benchmark blend of Hope Family Wines since 1996. Of course we liked it best — it’s Cab-based (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah) and has a velvety mouthfeel. Bold, rich and spicy, this beauty will definitely pair well with Valentine’s Day.

Special thanks to our hosts, who gave us free samples so we could participate in the Twitter tasting.

Cheers!

Margot and Dave

Columbia Crest Reserve Wines

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We recently sampled three red wines from the Columbia Crest Reserve program — a layered red blend and two robust Cab Sauvs — all of which we recommend if you like your wine big and smooth.

These wines were free samples provided by Columbia Crest, which is located in Horse Heaven Hills, next to the Columbia River in eastern Washington. After tasting them, we can say that we would buy all three, particularly the Reserve Cab from Red Mountain — it speaks to our palate!

Columbia Crest 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain
This big Cab received 91 points from Wine Spectator a couple of months ago, and if you like your Cabs chewy and juicy, this one is for you. Layered and dense, it has a mouthfeel that is classic Red Mountain. $38, 300 cases produced

Columbia Crest 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
Also receiving 91 points from Wine Spectator, this is one smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, true to its varietal character. Textured, big and bold, this wine pairs well with a big juicy steak. $45, 6,700 cases produced

Columbia Crest 2011 Walter Clore Private Reserve Red Wine Columbia Valley
Regular readers of this blog know we are big fans of good Bordeaux blends, and this one fits the bill. Spice and earthy notes flow into layers of flavor and texture in this blend of 68% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Cab Franc. $35, 4,990 cases produced

Any of these three wines would pair nicely with Valentine’s Day and chocolates!

Cheers,

Margot and Dave

William Church Winery-Try These Wines Over the Holidays

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 4.37.35 PMWe’ve been fans of William Church Winery since March, 2008, when our wine-expert nephew, Mathew, came to visit us with a bottle of their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon.

It was awesome, so we made a point to visit their tasting room in Woodinville’s winery warehouse district — William Church was one of the eight original warehouse wineries.

Unfortunately, this was not an easy feat at the time because they were only open on Saturdays.

But that situation didn’t last long; soon the tasting room was open more frequently, and then three years later, in July 2011, William Church opened their second tasting room in Woodinville’s Hollywood Schoolhouse wine area.

Fast forward to today, and we’re extremely happy to say that William Church Winery is one of Washington state’s success stories.

We recently visited their Schoolhouse tasting room, which is open every day (and until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), and it was thriving; packed with people cheerfully drinking some amazing juice.

This was the first time in a couple of years that we tasted their entire lineup, and wow! Winemaker (and co-owner) Rod Balsley has always produced quality wines, but these days, that quality has risen to a new level.

Rod currently produces seven award-winning wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Viognier and three blends: 2Spires, Bishop’s Blend and Sur La Mer.

We love all of them because they are solid, stand-alone sippers and also phenomenal when paired well with food.

2013 Viognier: This flagship wine has always been one of Washington state’s best examples of Viognier. Somehow, this Viognier is both rich and fresh, and understandably named one of Seattle Metropolitan‘s Top Washington Wines Under $25.

CabSauv22012 Cabernet Sauvignon: We brought this wine home to pair with a good meal — perhaps a juicy steak or a savory roast over the holidays. As mentioned, we’ve loved this classic Cab Sauv since the 2005 vintage, and it just keeps getting better and better.

2012 Syrah: Another perennial favorite, this Syrah is rich and full-bodied, and tastes the way a good Syrah should: balanced, with smoke and spice, and simply delicious. We first wrote about the 2006 Syrah, which was named in the Top 100 wines in Seattle Metropolitan.

2011 2Spires: William Church was one of the first Washington wineries to produce a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon (two wines=two spires). In the 2011 vintage, the blend is 63% Syrah and 37% Cab. Think big, bold and beautiful, and a double-gold winner at the Seattle Wine Awards.

2012 Bishop’s Blend: This full-bodied, robust wine blends 55% Cab Sauv, 20% Merlot, 15% Malbec and 10% Petit Verdot. It’s a steal at $25.

2011 Sur La Mer: This Merlot-based wine has all five Bordeaux varietals in the blend. A newer wine in the lineup — 2007 was the first vintage of this classic blend — Sur La Mer is named after the seaport city in France where co-owner Leslie Balsley was born.

2011 Malbec: Unfortunately for us, the 2011 Malbec is sold out — not surprisingly, since Seattle Met called this double-gold award winning wine a “textbook example of Washington Malbec.” We first tasted the 2006 vintage, and before we knew it, William Church Malbec was recognized as the best in the state.

We encourage you to try some or all of these wines, and you’ll understand why they are award-winning. They also make great gifts for the wine enthusiasts in your life, for the hostess at your holiday parties or to serve guests in your home.

Cheers!

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!

Caymus 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 11.03.32 AMBring on a juicy steak and a glass of Caymus Vineyards 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and celebrate the vineyard’s 40th anniversary in style. If you love big, velvety, opulent Cabernets, this one is for you.

So smooth and silky, this Cab glides across your palate, showing off the near-perfect conditions for the 2012 vintage in Napa Valley.  You don’t have to think twice about why Wine Spectator named this beauty “Wine of the Year.”

A true palate-pleaser, this luscious red packs in a lot of ripe, rich flavors with a long finish.

According to owner and winemaker Chuck Wagner: “This wine exemplifies our style of Cabernet out of a great vintage – deep color, rich, concentrated and balanced. 2012 celebrates 40 years of producing our pride and joy, Caymus Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.”

We first tasted a sample given to us by the winery for a virtual tasting in June. We loved this stellar wine so much that we bought a few bottles a month later.

We are cellaring most of them for a couple of years, but this wine is already so stunning, we opened a bottle last weekend.

An additional highlight: The Caymus Vineyards 2012 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon features a special commemorative bottle and label.

Cheers!