Thanksgiving Wines

ThanksgivingWondering what wines to pour over the Thanksgiving holiday? A special bottle to take to a family dinner or an evening with good friends?

Below are some wines that were sent to us to sample in time for the holidays. Thank you to the wineries who shared their bounty! We think all of these wines would pair well with different courses of a Thanksgiving feast.

img_0323Feudo Maccari 2013 Saia Nero d’Avola ($25)
Nero D’Avola is a perfect pairing for the main course, whether you go with traditional turkey, holiday roast or even rack of venison. Or before the meal, you could also serve it with a charcuterie board of smoked meats, cheeses, olives and dried fruits. The wine opens up with aromas of espresso and black plum, followed by juicy ripe cherry, sweet spices and a long finish. Simply lovely. Be sure to decant it for a few hours before serving. This vintage received a score of 90 by Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. Nero D’Avola is the most widely planted grape in Sicily.

img_0321Willamette Valley Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir ($55)
This delightful medium-bodied Oregon Pinot Noir features spicy, earthy notes, along with Thanksgiving flavors of cranberry, tart cherry and savory pumpkin. Sourced from old vines in the Willamette Valley, this is one powerful wine that will pair well with any mushroom-based side dishes or butternut squash.

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2015 Pinot Blanc ($24)
We love the minerality of this Pinot Blanc, which has a beautiful nose of pears, oranges and other citrus notes. We would typically enjoy this as a summer sipper on the deck, but we also think this would go well with your Thanksgiving salad or even with turkey and stuffing, if you prefer white wine.

img_0324Terra Di Montenegro 2012 Toscana ($35)
Another wine from Italy caught our attention, because we first experienced wines from Monteverro in August. This full-bodied beauty blends Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) with Cabernet Franc (30%), Merlot (15%) and 5% of Petit Verdot to round out the flavors.

Dark ruby in color, the wine opens with black cherry and cassis, with a bit of spice and fresh ripe fruit on the palate. If your main course is steak or roast beef instead of turkey this year, this Bordeaux blend is for you. Wine Spectator gave this wine 90 points.

Enjoy your holiday feast – and have a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving with your family and friends.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Fantastic Value Wines – Columbia Crest H3+

img_0191We’ve been fans of H3 Cabernet Sauvignon since Columbia Crest Winery sent us samples of the 2012 vintage a couple of years ago. We ended up buying cases of this extremely good value wine during the year, and the pattern continued for the 2013 vintage. Columbia Crest recently sent us samples of their 2014 lineup, and we are happy to say that their winning streak continues.

Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, 2013, 2014 ($15)
We recently decided to taste through a vertical of H3 Cab Sauv. Not surprisingly, the 2012 was the most complex of the three vintages, and drinking very nicely with a couple of extra years under its belt. But to us, at this vertical tasting, the 2013 was the clear winner. That being said, the new 2014 release is lovely, showing promise of outperforming both previous vintages. We can’t wait to try it again in about six months – we have a feeling it will end up being our favorite. Enjoy this wine with almost any beef dish, hearty pasta or even before a meal with strong cheese.

Other new releases sent to us were:

Columbia Crest 2014 Limited Release Gold Red Wine ($12)
Every year, this limited release wine is popular for the Thanksgiving table. (You also could pair it with grilled meats and vegetables.) Columbia  Crest’s winemaker sets aside a couple of barrels of wine each year that represent what he considers to be the gold standard vineyards and grapes in the Columbia Valley. This year’s blend combines Cabernet Franc (45%) with Syrah (36%), Malbec (17%) and other varietals to round it out. As you can tell by the grapes in this blend, you’ll find a big, rich and flavorful glass of delicious.

Columbia Crest 2013 H3 Les Chevaux Red Wine Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
Named after the horses (Les Chevaux in French) that once roamed Horse Heaven Hills, this is a lovely, vibrant red blend of Merlot (59%), Syrah ($36%), Viognier (4%) and Cab Franc (1%). You can enjoy this with strong cheeses such as blue or stilton, or with well-seasoned pepper steaks, beef stew or lamb.

Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley ($12)
This is a great value estate Cab to pair with beef tenderloin, hearty pasta, blue cheese or chocolate. This wine features dark fruit, a wonderful mouthfeel, and a smoothness, complexity and structure not often seen at this price point.

Columbia Crest 2015 H3 Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
We’ve enjoyed previous vintages of this Sauv Blanc as a summer sipper on the deck, but this fall, we tasted it on a rainy, windy day, paired with garlic prawns, and it was delicious. The Sauv Blanc features citrus notes and crisp minerality, just the way we like it. You can also pair it with halibut, crab or quiche.

Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Chardonnay Columbia Valley ($12)
If you like Chardonnay with creamy, buttery notes, with a bit of creme brûlée and butterscotch, this one is for you. Interestingly, 22% was fermented in stainless steel, which brings a freshness to the taste as well. Where we live, Chardonnay pairs well with fresh crab in August and September, or crab cakes all year round, along with chicken pot pie or pork tenderloin.

Any of these wines would be paired well with different Thanksgiving dishes — and at these prices, you can stock up for the whole family!

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Stag’s Leap at Semiahmoo

img_0136We’ve been fans of Stag’s Leap wines for years, so we were delighted to find out the winery was holding a dinner on Nov. 3 at nearby Semiahmoo Resort. What an evening of taste sensations!

Chef Bruno paired each of Stag’s Leaps wines with a delicious five-course meal, while Kirk Grace, Stag’s Leap director of California vineyard operations, talked about the winery’s history and  winemaking. He made time to talk to everyone throughout the evening, and we learned that Stag’s Leap is one of California’s earliest wine estates, growing grapes in Napa Valley since the 1880s.

img_0150We enjoyed the company of two couples from Semiahmoo and Bellingham at our table, with a beautiful sunset forming a backdrop to the festivities at the scenic resort.

We are fortunate to live in this beautiful part of Washington state, and so close to friends and family in B.C. too.

Now onto the explosions of tastes that we enjoyed that night!

First Course: In a word, heaven.
Maple Cured Sockeye Salmon, Smoked Salmon Roe Pickled Cucumber, Red Miso Mayonnaise
— 2015 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Aveta” Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, CA

img_0137Second Course: A wonderful pairing
Pan Seared Neah Bay Black Cod Penn Cove Mussels “Paella”
— 2014 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Karia” Chardonnay, Napa Valley, CA

Third Course: A lovely red blend
Foie Gras Terrine, Candied Purple Grapes
Sour Apple & Charred Blood Orange
— 2013 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Hands of Time” Red Blend, Napa Valley, CA

img_0147Fourth Course: Absolutely delicious – our favorite course and favorite wine
Japanese Wagyu Beef Tenderloin
Black Truffle Spätzle, Chanterelles, Red Wine Jus
— 2013 Stag’s Leap Cellars “Artemis”, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA

img_0149

 

Dessert: Yummy!
Warm Roasted Plum Tart, Pomegranate Sauce
— Chateau St. Michelle Late Harvest Ethos Riesling, WA

Congratulations to Stag’s Leap and Semiahmoo Resort for a special evening.

This event was part of the resort’s Vintner’s Dinner Series.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

 

 

Wine & Halloween Candy, Oh My!

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 3.32.47 PMVivino’s popular guide to decide which wines to pair with Halloween candy has been updated this year — what a fun initiative. And c’mon, who hasn’t thought about a glass of wine while handing out treats or going to a Halloween party?

According to Vivino: “The most important things in a Halloween Survival Kit for adults are wine, candy, and more wine.”

In this year’s “Halloween Candy and Wine Match Maker” list, there are tasting notes on pairings, too, for those who want to “really nerd out.”

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-9-42-42-amFor example, this is from the notes about the pairing of Whoppers and Cabernet Sauvignon: “The huge malty character of whoppers needs a wine with backbone and depth to keep from being overpowered by the malt and chocolate.”

For Hershey Kisses and Zinfandel: “The best wine contrasts creamy milk chocolate with ripe berry flavors. America’s sweetheart, Zinfandel, turns every bite into a raspberry cordial on the palate.”

These notes are just a taste (pun intended) of the fun pairings you can find in the guide. Have a look before, during and after Halloween!

Vivino’s Ultimate Guide to Pairing Wine with Halloween Candy

Yes, we are major fans of Vivino, and back in February, recommended downloading the free Vivino Wine App. We use Vivino to help us find details about wines before we purchase them — either online, from a retail outlet or in a restaurant. We also use the premium feature to organize our wine cellar. Love it!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Fielding Hills Winery

img_4131On a trip to Lake Chelan last month, we discovered that the new tasting room at Fielding Hills Winery is as  magnificent as the wines. (The tasting room isn’t really new, it’s two years old, but we hadn’t visited in six years, so it was new to us.) Located on the shores of Lake Chelan, the views are spectacular and a great backdrop to some wonderful Washington wines.

Winemaker Mike Wade released his first vintage in 2000, and two years later, he was named one of Washington’s Rising Stars by Wine Spectator. We first met Mike in 2010 at his vineyard, during our tour of Cascade Valley wine country. At the time, he told us that the winery’s history began a lot earlier.

“Fielding Hills Winery actually began in 1919 when my grandfather, Isham Fielding Wade, set off from Tennessee to find his place in the world. Settling in Eastern Washington, he started a family and a business, both tied to cultivating the land. The name of our winery is a tribute to him and the character qualities he lived. I believe his legacy is found in each glass of Fielding Hills wine.”

We’ve been fans of Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon for years, and these two beauties did not disappoint in their recent vintages. Here are our thoughts on them and the other wines we enjoyed during our visit.

img_4127 2010 Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc Estate Barrel Select
No surprise here, we love this library wine — one select barrel of 100% Cabernet Franc from Fielding Hills estate vineyard. This Cab Franc is beyond rich; it is luxe, pure, full-bodied and unique to the character of the grape and the 2010 harvest. This is a special occasion wine, so we purchased a couple of bottles for some milestone events coming up soon.

2012 Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc ($34)
This is another lovely wine — 90% Cabernet Franc blended with 5% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s drinking well now, but will be even better after a year or more in the cellar. “Aromas of coffee, cherry, vanilla, woodspice, mesquite and herbs lead to concentrated, rich cherry and chocolate flavors that linger.”

2012 Fielding Hills Cabernet Sauvignon ($44)
Deep, inky, complex, this Cab Sauv is bold, dense and opulent with a long finish. Smokey, silky and smooth, the tasting notes describe it as “revealing multiple layers and a hedonistic styling.” This is one of the best Cabs we’ve tasted in recent months. Pair it with steak or simply enjoy it with dark chocolate.

2012 Fielding Hills Tribute ($34)
In our opinion, this wine is a tribute to Washington state’s fine varietals, in addition to showcasing Fielding Hills lineup – a blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 20% Merlot with aromas of cocoa, spices, cedar and black cherries.

img_41322010 and 2011 Fielding Hills Merlot ($36)
We were split on which vintage we preferred; here are the tasting notes:

2010: “Lush and appealing with notes of vanilla and other barrel spices accenting herbs and red fruit. The palate is creamy in feel with tart, mouthwatering acids that draw out the flavors for a long finish.”

2011: “81% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Franc – Woodspice, coffee, raspberries, light gamy notes, richly flavorful and  balanced.”

2012 Fielding Hills Syrah ($40)
Rich, full-bodied and smooth, this wine is comprised of 94% Syrah, blended with 2 percent each of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Merlot, and displays the smokey, peppery notes we appreciate in the varietal.

If you’re looking for a weekend get-away, we highly recommend the Lake Chelan area — and Fielding Hills, with its lake and mountain views and excellent wines, is a must to visit.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Boudreaux Cellars – Part One

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-9-25-31-amBoudreaux Cellars produces some of the best wine in Washington state, and winemaker Rob Newsom creatively crafts it in his own unique way, off the power grid — specifically in the only bonded off-grid (self-powered) winery in the U.S.

Yes, four miles off the power grid in the Icicle Canyon in Leavenworth, Washington, Rob’s winery is amazing. In a word, wow!

The picturesque property has been the location of both Rob’s family home and Boudreaux Cellars since 1981. Rob’s wine roots began with many long discussions with his extraordinary winemaking friends such as Gary and Chris Figgins (Leonetti Cellars) and John Abbott (Abeja).

Rob is both mellow and one of the most colorful characters in Washington’s wine industry, with a Louisiana drawl and a dry sense of humor. Over the years, we tasted his classic wines, heard his music, read ditties on his wine bottles (“Drink this Merlot, eat smoked Coho, kick off your flip-flops, dance on rooftops”) and listened to his jokes, including those about the Cajun folklore character Boudreaux, after whom the winery is named. Over those same years, Rob asked us to visit the winery but we never had an opportunity. In early September, we finally  made it, and brought our friends, Jenise (a wine expert with an incredible palate) and Bob Stone.

img_4095During our visit, Rob and assistant winemaker Caylan Haehl were busy with harvest, which he said was going well; he still found time to chat with us and be a gracious host. He also introduced us to his spunky and smart daughter, Keely, who is the general manager of Boudreaux Cellars, her adorable toddler and two very friendly dogs (brown Labs). Keely shared stories about how she helped her dad build the winery and spent hours with some of Washington’s finest winemakers over the years. After college, she moved to Walla Walla, where she worked at Dunham Cellars, Revelry, and Forgeron wineries before heading back home to the family business in 2012.

Keely took us on a tour and explained their winemaking process as well as poured some excellent wines. They are stored in a man-made underground cave that is kept cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Photo: Jenise Stone

Photo: Jenise Stone

According to Rob, “The winery is powered by a propane-fired 15 KW Onan generator. Power is supplied to and from a large bank of Trojan L-16 batteries. Battery power is inverted from DC to AC through a Magna Sine Magnum inverter. The property has 3,000 gallons of propane storage capacity. The winery is heated in winter with propane. Due to our location in the mountains with underground cellars, high ceilings and thick walls, we require no cooling whatsoever.”

Keely added, “The generator only runs a few hours a day at best, and then charges the batteries. This way we’re not constantly running the generator. We try to run as green as possible. We have an appointment with a solar company in the next month or so; we’re hoping we can go primarily solar. We are off the power grid not because it’s currently trending, but because we were fortunate enough to buy property in the middle of the national forest reserve and as a result, the county quits running power about four miles downstream from us at Snow Lakes Trailhead.”

The resulting wines are luscious. Rob sources grapes from some of the finest vineyards in the state; he is one of the few to get grapes from Leonetti Estate Vineyard. Words that came to mind as we tasted through his current lineup: big, powerful, complex, smooth, deep and layered. We loved every one of them, but our favorites are featured in Boudreaux Cellars – Part Two.

We highly recommend that you visit Boudreaux, particularly if you are going to be in the Leavenworth area. Or make a special trip – it’s well worth it. But note that the winery is only open by appointment, so be sure to call ahead to set up a time.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Boudreaux Cellars – Part Two

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-9-25-31-amAs mentioned in Boudreaux Cellars – Part One, winemaker Rob Newsom sources grapes from some of the finest vineyards in the state; he is one of the few to get grapes from Leonetti Estate Vineyard.

The wines in his current lineup are powerful, complex, smooth, deep and layered. These are wines for a special occasion, with high price-points and lush flavors. We loved every one of those that general manager Keely Newsom poured for us during our visit in early September, but these were our favorites.

2010 Boudreaux Cellars Merlot ($50)
A 100% Washington Merlot from four vineyards in Columbia Valley, this wine is elegant and aromatic. In Rob’s words, “Showy, gorgeous body like having a date with a super model, all amazing but more legs than most. This wine is a masterpiece of special blocks blended to perfection after three years of gentle handling and cool underground aging.”

img_40902012 Boudreaux Cellars Syrah ($60)
A classic showing of Washington Syrah, robust, powerful, and spicy. In Rob’s words, “This is the one I’ve been trying to make. Shows typical Syrah ‘good stinky’ on the nose, full mid-palate, and nice long finish of dark fruit flavors. Balanced with good acidity. Bring me some smokey ribs, saffron quail, and roast a pig. A am ready now.” (Read in southern drawl.)

2011 Boudreaux Cellars Malbec ($60)
This is a smooth, plush, full-bodied Malbec, compelling and textured, with grapes sourced from Gamache Vineyard. It will pair well with spicy food and chicken dishes, or share a bottle during an evening with friends.

2010 Boudreaux Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ($60)
An outstanding, rich and complex Cab Sauv, this excellent wine is sourced from ten, yes ten! Washington state vineyards and aged three years. In Rob’s words, “I will basically drive my Silverado to Egypt to get the best Cab possible if I have to. Our Cabs have become famous for being full-bodied, long, and fine. There is not another one like it in the world. No one would go to the trouble of getting grapes from ten vineyards for the blend, working hard to get the oldest, best blocks in the state.”

2010 Boudreaux Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($115)
Our favorite, this luxe wine showcases what an experienced, talented winemaker can craft with good fruit and Washington state terroir. Balanced, bold and beautiful, supple and velvety, this magnificent wine drinks very well now and will continue to develop for years. In Rob’s words, “Get ready to smile big with the high-toned, smoky, toasted pecan, molasses, cassis with dried cherries and violets. Tastes like a giant smooth Old World Cabernet Sauvignon. You will smell and taste plenty of deep fruit, with some backyard dirt, and gorgeous long fine tannins. We have held it for a long time so that when you get it you will have a freak-out in your glass. Do not be afraid to drink some now but definitely plan to cellar some for another ten-fifteen years.”

As we noted earlier, these are special-occasion wines, to savor, pair with excellent meals and enjoy with like-minded friends.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Sbragia Family Vineyards

Sbragia Family Vineyards began in 2006 but its roots are in the love of wine by owner Ed Sbragia’s grandfather who moved to California from Tuscany in 1904. Much later, Ed’s father acquired his own vineyards near Healdsburg, growing zinfandel. And Ed himself began working for Beringer Vineyards in Napa in 1976.

The family tradition continues today, with Ed’s son and the rest of his family involved in Sbragia in the Dry Creek Valley. A 10th anniversary celebration is set for this fall.

The brand is well-known, so we were delighted to receive samples of two wines to taste.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 9.49.56 AM2012 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)
This beautiful red comes from old vines planted in the 1880s in an historic California vineyard, and was rated 93+ from Wine Advocate.

The Cabernet Sauvignon (95%) was blended with 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot to give it structure and depth.

This is a big red, with notes of cedar, dark berry, black licorice and a bit of earthiness — a ripe, juicy wine that is drinkable now through 2022.

Pair it with steak, grilled meats, savory stew or dark chocolate. Delicious!

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 9.49.14 AM

2014 Home Ranch Chardonnay ($30)
Home Ranch Vineyard is located at the southeast end of Dry Creek Valley, where temperatures are cooler than most of the appellation. This results in bright fruit flavors of apple, pear and citrus, a hint of oak with a gravelly minerality, good structure and balanced acidity.

On the nose of this 100% Chardonnay, you’ll find aromas of tropical fruit, pear and toasted almonds in addition to apples, vanilla and baking spice from the oak.

Pair it with smoked salmon or trout, crab, prawns, seafood pasta or with creamy vegetable soups in the cooler evenings.

Ed Sbragia is well-known for his Chardonnays. He established the Beringer Reserve Chardonnay program and currently serves as Winemaster Emeritus there. Robert Parker said, “Sbragia has always demonstrated a Midas touch with Chardonnay.”

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Murrieta’s Well

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 8.18.34 AMTwo years ago, we wrote about how we enjoyed Murrieta’s Well 2011 The Spur from Livermore Valley ($25). We just tasted the 2013 vintage, and we liked it even more. While the price has increased to $30, so have the flavors, with a higher percentage of Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc, and the addition of Merlot this year.

Crafted by the new director of winemaking, Robbie Meyer, this unique red wine blends 40% Petite Sirah, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon,10% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot,  8% Malbec and 8% Cabernet Franc. In other words, the Petite Sirah forms a beautiful foundation for the classic Bordeaux varietals.

Each type of grape was harvested, fermented and handcrafted separately to achieve their greatest varietal expression, and then blended into The Spur. From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

“Beautiful fruit aromas of black cherry and blueberry are highlighted by subtle notes of sweet oak and earthy spice. A ripe tannic structure and balanced acidity make this wine perfect by itself or paired with your favorite recipes from the grill.”

We think this big blend would pair well with roasted or grilled meats, dishes with red sauces or rich cheese.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 8.32.58 AMThanks to Murrieta’s Well for sending us a sample of The Spur, as well as 2014 The Whip, a white wine blend also from the Livermore Valley. While white blends aren’t our favorites, we know many people who would enjoy The Whip ($24).

The Whip blends 29% Semillon, 27% Chardonnay, 18% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Orange Muscat, 8% Muscat Canelli and 6% Viognier; as with The Spur, each varietal was fermented individually. From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

“This unique wine showcases juicy fruit flavors of white peach, pear and melon with bright acidity and a touch of sweetness that creates a smooth and creamy finish.”

Murrieta’s Well is one of California’s original wineries, propagated in 1883 with vineyard cuttings from Chateau Margaux and Chateau d’Yquem in France. Need we say more? Oh, one more thing — Murrieta’s Well is owned by Philip Wente of Wente Vineyards, the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Kaiken Winery in Argentina

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 10.07.34 AMBeat the August heat with a new summer sipper from Argentina — Kaiken Terroir Series Sauvignon Blanc 2015.

We paired it with cilantro-lime prawns on the deck, savored the refreshing flavors, and then kicked back and enjoyed our view of the lake. You could also pair this Sauv Blanc with fish tacos or grilled chicken. The aromas were intense on the nose; on the palate, this wine was fresh, with peach and citrus flavors and mineral notes.

A couple of weeks later, we barbecued flank steak skewers to pair with Kaiken’s 2013 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, also part of the winery’s Terroir Series. According to the winery, BBQ has been big in Argentina for longer than the U.S. has been a country, so it seemed like a perfect choice.

Blended with a touch of Malbec and Petit Verdot, this Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep red color and medium-bodied. The wine is still young, so we decanted it for a few hours. Once it opened up, the potential was apparent. A smooth wine, this Cab Sauv revealed a predominance of red fruits like plums, in addition to a touch of chocolate and vanilla. Its fruity aromas and flavors would also pair well with a number of other meat dishes, such as a juicy hamburger or lamb chop.

Both wines have a price point of $17, making them great choices for an every-day value wine.

Thank you, Kaiken for the samples.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave