We’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.
2012 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.
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.
Some 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!
Bring 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.
When we were in Australia in May, we received many recommendations to stop by Kay Brothers Amery Vineyards, the oldest McLaren Vale winery still in founding family hands.
We are so glad we followed that advice.
The Shiraz is spectacular, and the vineyards are steeped in history. Kay Brothers was established on February 2, 1891, and a diary has been kept every day since. This gives new meaning to the word “awesome.”
The diary pages meticulously describe the weather, the vintages and insights into the people, their lives and their hard work.
Equally as amazing were the wonderful people we met at Kay Brothers Cellar Door (the Australian term for “tasting room”). In particular, Michelle Taylor entertained us for an hour or more with stories and enthusiasm about the winery’s history and the wine region, as we savored some pretty magnificent pours of Kay Brothers wine. Wow.
We became fans of each wine we tasted at Kay Brothers Cellar Door. But our favorite, and the wine we brought home to Seattle, was the spectacular Kay Brothers 2011 Block 6 Shiraz, handpicked from 119-year-old vines.
Did we say wow?
Specifically, this stellar wine was sourced from vines that were planted on July 18, 1892. Known as one of the best Shiraz produced in McLaren Vale, Block 6 Shiraz is robust, rich, complex, structured, smooth and simply beautiful.
The outstanding 2011 vintage is the 27th release of this single vineyard wine, produced in the tradition of open-top fermentation and basket-pressing used for more than a century.
We also were impressed with Kay Brothers 2011 Cuthbert Cabernet. In wine country known worldwide for Shiraz, it was a breath of fresh air to experience a Cabernet Sauvignon of this quality. The Cabernet vines also go back more than a century but over the years, the grapes were mainly blended with Shiraz for full-bodied Australian Claret.
The 2011 is the fourth release of this commemorative wine honoring Cuthbert “Cud” Kay, who was responsible for the development of Cabs at Kay Brothers. (Only made in years when the grapes are deemed worthy, just four vintages have been made so far.) In the family tradition, this Cabernet is rich, vibrant and structured.
As you can see from the photo at the beginning of this post, Kay Brothers produces numerous other wines too, including Cabernet Merlot, the award-winning Mataro (Mouvedre) and Grenache.
If you travel to Australia, we highly recommend that you make a point of stopping by this outstanding cellar door. You can also buy Kay Brothers wines in the U.S. from distributor Quintessential Wines, and in Canada from Inland Trading.
We recently became big fans of Double Canyon, established just seven years ago in Horse Heaven Hills, and named for the two ravines that run through the property in central Washington state.
Double Canyon’s first wine, a 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Double Canyon Vineyard, was awarded 93 points from Wine Spectator.
Earlier this year, at Taste Washington, we named Double Canyon’s 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, from Phinny Hill Vineyard, in our top three favorite wines.
At that time, we met new winemaker Jason Ledbetter, who had just come to Double Canyon from Pine Ridge Vineyards, Trefethen Vineyards and Cakebread Cellars in Napa.
We could tell immediately that Jason had a passion for appellation-focused estate wine, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, which is Double Canyon’s focus. In the months since then, he has frequently referred to Horse Heaven Hills as “a special place” and a leading area to produce Cabernet in Washington state.
One week ago, Double Canyon released its 2012 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon. In Jason’s words, “Classic wines from this appellation are lauded for their exceptional balance and acidity, and this wine is no exception.”
We can attest to this, and we are sure that our appreciation of this wine will be echoed by those who taste it. Obviously the wine is young, just released last week. But yes, it definitely rocked with potential. And after decanting it for a couple of hours, it paired very nicely with BBQ steak.
From the tasting notes:
“Luminous and dark purple in hue, this wine delivers a rich fruit and floral fragrance accented by an exotic vanilla spice. The palate opens with soft, rich flavors of bright red plum and dried red cherry accented by black tea leaf and fresh vanilla bean. The texture is smooth and luscious, and the wine’s balance and mouthwatering acidity make for a classic Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet.”
This 2012 wine is sourced from grapes at three well-known vineyards. Almost a quarter comes from the winery’s estate Double Canyon Vineyard, with the remainder sourced from Phinny Hill Vineyard, which is located across from Double Canyon and owned by vineyard manager Will Beightol’s family, and Zephyr Ridge, which Beightol previously managed.
AVA: Horse Heaven Hills
Blend: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Syrah, 3% Malbec
Released: July 2014
Production: 698 cases
Sample provided by winery
We are looking forward to watching how Jason expands the Cabernet Sauvignon program at Double Canyon. And of course, we plan on tasting many more of his Double Canyon Cabs.
There are still tickets left for some of the first-rate performers at Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Summer Concert Series, at the scenic outdoor amphitheater on the beautiful winery grounds in Woodinville.
It’s a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon or evening. And this week is supposed to be sunny and in the 80s, so you can’t miss!
Pretty surroundings, fine Chateau Ste. Michelle wine, summer weather and music for dancing = happy people!
We were fortunate to attend the John Legend “All of Me” concert on June 28 and had a fabulous time. His music was as phenomenal as expected, and he entertained a rapt audience with funny stories in addition to sultry tunes.
We paired his music with Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 2010 Artist Series Meritage, a layered rich blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc and 3% Malbec.
There are many more concerts to come this summer. While some concerts are already sold out, you can still find tickets for many performances.
- July 16: Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band
- July 17: Replay America with The Go-Go’s, Patty Smyth and Scandal, Martha Davis and The Motels, Cutting Crew & Naked Eyes featuring Pete Byrne
- July 18: Lyle Lovett & His Large Band
- Sold Out: Goo Goo Dolls & Daughtry with special guest Plain White T‘s
- July 26: Festival of Jazz with Manhattan Transfer, Spyro Gyra, Lee Ritenour & Dave Grusin and Jessy J
- July 27: Chris Isaak
- Aug. 1: Nickel Creek
- Sold Out: ZZ Top and Jeff Beck
- Gipsy King’s 25th Anniversary Tour
- Sold Out: Earth, Wind & Fire
- Aug. 24: Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus Featuring Buddy Guy
- Sold Out: Boston
- Sept. 12: An Evening with Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
- Sept. 14: Crosby, Stills & Nash (their first night, Sept. 13, is sold out)
So don’t wait – have a look at the Concert Calendar, where you can also get your tickets right now.
Have questions? Check out the concert FAQ.
Thanks for inviting us to be your guests, Chateau Ste. Michelle. There are many reasons why your winery is considered one of Seattle’s top summer concert venues, and why this series has been a winner since it was first introduced in 1984.
So we were delighted to receive samples of 2011 Franciscan Estate Cab and Merlot to taste.
2011 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Although 2011 was a challenging, cool growing season, the Franciscan Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon offers beautiful aromas of red fruit and a silky mouthfeel. Comprised of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 2% Petite Verdot, 1% Syrah and 1% Cabernet Franc, this Bordeaux-style blend pairs well with hamburgers and other meat dishes.
While it is drinkable now, we recommend putting it down for a couple of years to further enhance the flavors. This is a good example of a quality Napa Cabernet Sauvignon with a $28 price point.
2011 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Merlot
Despite being produced in the challenging growing season of 2011, Franciscan Napa Valley Merlot shows richness, body and what the winemaker calls “generous shoulders.” A blend of 82% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec and 2% Syrah, this wine offers vibrant aromas and flavors, with soft tannins and supple texture.
This wine is approachable now or could be cellared for a couple more years. This is a good example of an everyday wine at $20.
Every year, we find more things to rave about Washington state wine, celebrated in all its glory last week at Taste Washington.
Taste Washington is the country’s largest single-region wine and food event, which we like to describe as ”the Super Bowl of Washington state wine events.”
Our plan this year was to visit friends at wineries we know well and try some new wines. We decided to only taste red wines this year, because there were so very many wines to sample.
These our the highlights of our experience:
Top three favorite new (to us) wines, with brief descriptors
- Walla Walla Vintners 2012 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley — Sassy, stunning, stellar, superlative
- Double Canyon 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills — Velvety, vibrant, vivacious, victorious
- Boudreaux Cellars 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon — Lovely, luscious, luxurious, luxe
Other favorites (in alphabetical order)
- Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2010 Destiny (Happy 10th Anniversary, ANC!)
- Andrew Will 2011 Two Blondes Red Bordeaux Blend, Yakima Valley
- Bartholomew Winery 2010 Reciprocity Red Blend, Columbia Valley
- Betz Family Winery 2011 Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
- Buty Winery 2011 Rediviva of the Stones Red Blend, Walla Walla Valley
- Cooper Wine Company 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
- Fall Line Winery 2011 Red Willow Red Blend, Yakima Valley
- Fidelitas 2010 Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
- FIGGINS 2010 Estate Red Bordeaux Blend, Walla Walla Valley
- Force Majeure Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Collaboration Series, Force Majeure Vineyard, Red Mountain
- Gorman Winery 2011 The Pixie Syrah, Red Mountain
- Lauren Ashton Cellars 2011 Syrah, Columbia Valley
- Sinclair Estate 2010 Vixen Red Blend, Columbia Valley
Longtime favorites (in alphabetical order)
- Forgeron Cellars
- JM Cellars
- L’Ecole No 41
- Long Shadows Vintners
- Obelisco Estate Wines
- Va Piano Vineyards
- Woodward Canyon
Best bites (there were so many, but we only sampled a few)
- Andaluca: Cauliflower soup
- Anthony’s Pier 66: Scallop BLT
- Blazing Bagels: Multi-flavors of bagels and shmears
- Cheeseland Inc and Mt. Townsend Creamery: Assortment of artisan cheeses
- Pike Place Chowder: Traditional New England clam chowder
- The Capital Grille: Porcini rubbed dry-aged sirloin (where we’re celebrating our anniversary this week)
As March (the official Washington Wine Month) comes to an end, we decided to open one of the first bottles of wine that we tasted when we moved here: Darighe from The Woodhouse Wine Estates.
The 2008 vintage is as lovely as the first we tried – 2001 Darighe.
2008 Darighe is an excellent, traditional, old-world, left-bank Bordeaux blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 11% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot, sourced from Columbia Valley grapes.
A silver medal winner at the annual Savor Northwest Wine Competition, 2008 Darighe has a magnificent mouthfeel and a lengthy finish.
The bottle is heavy glass, as substantive as the juice inside.
Like its predecessors, the 2008 features a dense tannic structure that is a hallmark of Darighe.
According to the tasting notes:
“Darighe is ruby in color with the delicate, yet complicated scent of violet, mocha, smoke, truffle, blackberry, cassis and an array of spices. It is soft, refined and elegant with a persistent finish.”
In our opinion, these words best describe 2008 Darighe: Classic, stellar, beautiful, robust, rich and soft velvet.
We have recommended Darighe since we first experienced the 2001 vintage; the 2008 continues that tradition. If your palate prefers big reds, you will love 2008 Darighe.
Chateau Montelena is a Napa Valley winery established in 1882 and famous for putting California on the international wine map in 1976. That’s when the winery’s 1973 Chardonnay won a blind tasting at the prestigious Judgment of Paris wine competition.
The historic victory was surprising to many, particularly in Europe where the expectation was for a French winner; a fictional version of the amazing event was featured in the 2008 film, Bottle Shock. (Notably, the Paris competition is just one highlight of Chateau Montelena’s rich history.)
Winemaker Mike Grgich — who later joined with Austin Hills to establish Grgich Hills — crafted the 1973 Chardonnay, which remains on display at Chateau Montelena’s only satellite tasting room in California, just off the lobby at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco.
The St. Francis was where I happened to be speaking about social media analytics at the Dreamforce 2013 conference last November and, not surprisingly, I was drawn to the tasting room to try the lineup
I was very lucky that the knowledgeable and friendly sommelier Cassandra Brown happened to be pouring that day. (Cassandra pours at several events and locations in the Bay area, so be sure to stop by to see her, if you have a chance. I know you’ll have both an educating and enjoyable time.)
First, I must applaud three of the winery’s whites: 2012 Potter Valley Riesling, which has a beautiful nose, layers of rich peach and apple, and only a touch of sugar; 2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay, so opulent and creamy; and the crisper 2010 Chard.
But what really captured my attention was Chateau Montelena’s Cabernet Sauvignon.
2009 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
This is a wine with the “wow” factor: earthy, silky, rich and full-bodied, with berries and spice flavors, and an enticing mouthfeel. The Cabernet Sauvignon (98.25%) is rounded off with a splash of Cabernet Franc (1.75%).
According to the tasting notes:
The nose opens with big black cherry, currants, and plum spice cake notes. Underpinning all that fruit are layers of smoke, anise, and very subtle oak tones. The palate entry is soft and round, but builds quickly with loads of fine velvety tannin, huge black cherry, and red fruits that persist through to a rich finish layered with spice. A firm core of acid and barrel spice integrate beautifully across all layers, enhancing the structure and balance of this massive but approachable wine.
This winning wine is drinkable now, but the wow factor will be even more prominent in 7-10 years.
In Napa Valley, Cabernet is King and this is one royal, robust red — a big, dense wine with concentrated fruit, and layers of berries woven with tones of vanilla and spice.
The Cabernet Sauvignon (91%) is blended with 7% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc.
Try drinking it now with a big juicy steak, like we did with the bottle I brought home from San Francisco, or if you have more patience, put it in the cellar for a few more years.