L’Ecole 41 Scores Again: Estate Cab Franc

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

We’ve been fans of L’Ecole No. 41 premium wines for decades. As the third-oldest winery in Washington state, L’Ecole No. 41 has been making consistently good wine since long before the state became home to more than 700 wineries.

Making good wine consistently, year over year, is a major feat.

L’Ecole 41 produces wine in the cellars of the historic Frenchtown School in Lowden, Washington, just outside Walla Walla. L’Ecole is French for school, and we first visited the winery in the turn-of-the-century schoolhouse — with original chalkboards, light fixtures and fir floors – in April 2007.

A few months later, this blog was born and one of our first posts, titled Who knew that “back to school” could be so much fun?, described a L’Ecole tasting at Vino Bello.

We have reveled in L’Ecole’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Apogee and Perigee blends for many vintages. You can tell by our blog post, written after a vertical tasting in 2010:

“What an experience tasting side-by-side verticals of these Bordeaux-style blends - the ’99, ’03 and ’07 Apogee from Pepper Bridge Vineyard and the ’03 and ’07 Estate Perigee from Seven Hills Vineyard. Apogee was rich, bold and earthy, while Perigee was elegant and complex. Comparing them over time sent me to Bordeaux heaven!”

Now we are adding L’Ecole’s Estate Cabernet Franc to our list of favorites.

The 2010 Estate Cabernet Franc, Seven Hills Vineyard, is one of L’Ecole’s exclusive bottlings. From time to time, with the right conditions, L’Ecole produces a limited amount of unique wines focusing on a specific block of fruit or a unique vineyard blend.  These wines are limited in quantity, a few hundred cases or less, and are typically available exclusively from the winery.

We opened a bottle (okay, let’s be honest, two bottles) on Friday night, and wow – L’Ecole’s 2010 Estate Cab Franc is one big, bold and beautiful red wine. From the winemaker and owner, Marty Clubb:

“Our Block 8 Cabernet Franc (planted 1997) from Seven Hills Vineyard historically played a blending role in our Estate Perigee and Estate Merlot. However with vines maturing, we had sufficient production to produce in addition, a small specialty bottling of this varietal beginning in 2006. In 14th leaf with this vintage, this robustly balanced and integrated wine shows a rich concentration of complex flavors that demanded to be bottled on its own.”

The acclaimed Seven Hills Vineyard, located in the south central portion of the Walla Walla Valley appellation, is co-owned by L’Ecole,  Leonetti Cellars and Pepper Bridge Winery. Approximately one-third of L’Ecole’s red wine production comes from Seven Hills, which was originally planted in 1981 and expanded to more than 230 acres.

There is still some of this luscious Cab Franc available on L’Ecole’s website – so what are you waiting for?

Cheers!

What’s in Our Glass?

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, California wineries, Carlton Wine Country, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville, Zinfandel Comments Off

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

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

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

What’s in your glass this summer?

Cheers!

 

Carmel Valley

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, California wineries, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Wine Comments Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

2013 Legends Winemaker

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Wine Comments Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations and cheers!

Such a pretty bottle, such a pleasing wine

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Wine Comments Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers to friends, dogs and fabulous wine!

P.S. We’re keeping the bottle!

Random Thoughts from Taste Washington-Part 2

Cabernet Sauvignon, Events, Sauvignon Blanc, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

This is a continuation of our random thoughts from Taste Washington, held March 23-24 in Seattle. To start at the beginning, please read Part 1 first.

Another perennial favorite, 2010 Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon, from Betz Family Winery, continues to showcase how this grape shines in Washington state.

Smart thinking from Col Solare — at their booth, they offered an educational (and tasty) experience of how wine develops over the years, with a side-by-side tasting of the 2007 and the 2003 vintages.

Somehow, we were lucky enough to taste Cooper Wine Company‘s stellar 2008 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon. This standout wine wasn’t on the tasting list provided when we arrived at the event.

Thank you to all our friends who poured us a little-extra-special something from under the table!

Speaking of friends, Bob Silver noted in his blog WA|Wine|PR that the Double Canyon 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon was “the favorite wine that I met at 2013 Taste Washington.” He described it as “Big honkin’ fruit from Horse Heaven Hills, wonderful structure and balance” – so you know we’ll be checking this wine out in the near future. Our palates are similar to Bob’s – he’s never steered us wrong with his many recommendations over the years.

Efeste‘s 2009 Big Papa is drinking so well right now that we need to get to Woodinville to pick up more, stat! Just one taste underlined why Washington wine expert Paul Gregutt described this beauty as capturing the best of Washington in a single bottle.

As expected, we enjoyed JM Cellars’ 2010 Longevity and 2010 Tre. We can’t wait until May, when John Bigelow’s 2012 Red Mountain Sauvignon Blanc is released. We savored a pour at Taste Washington, and indeed, this wine demonstrates the true characteristics of the grape. A perfect summer sipper on the deck!

Another favorite was Sparkman Cellars 2010 Kingpin Cabernet Sauvignon, also sourced from Red Mountain. I adored Sparky’s tasting notes: “Will develop for many years and last well past the end of the world.”

There were so many more wineries that we did not have the time (or fortitude) to visit! And then there was the food!

The standout restaurant booths that we visited were Anthony’s Pier 66Murray’s CheeseIvar’sRelish Burger BarRN74Sullivan’s SteakhouseThe Capital GrilleSweet TreatsThe Yellow Leaf Cupcake Company and every restaurant from Tulalip.

Did you go to Taste Washington 2013? What were your standouts?

Cheers!

 

 

March is Washington Wine Month

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

We recently tasted these Washington wine gems:

Do you see a trend here? We heart Cabs!

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

Happy Washington Wine Month!

Cheers!

 

Ethos Vertical Tasting Here We Come!

Cabernet Sauvignon, Events, Syrah, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

We hope to see you at the Ethos Reserve Vertical Tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle on Sunday March 3. We are really looking forward to this rare opportunity to taste past vintages – 2003, 2004 and 2005 Ethos Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Ethos Reserve Syrah from Columbia Valley.

Chateau Ste. Michelle produces many wines that make Washington state’s wine industry proud but, in our humble opinion, Ethos — the winery’s self-described “pinnacle wines” — reign supreme. These vintage wines will be paired with a special selection of cheeses to showcase how wine fares so much better with age.

Unfortunately, if you haven’t already purchased tickets, the Ethos vertical tasting is sold out. However, there are many more Chateau Ste. Micheel events to choose from, such as:

Chef without Borders Dinner
Saturday, March 16, 7:00 PM
Explore Chef Janet Hedstrom’s world of cuisine while sipping on perfectly paired wines from the Chateau.
Reservations required. 800-267-6793
Price: $120.00 plus tax

Spring Barrel Tasting
Saturday-Sunday, March 16 & March 17, 11:00AM-5:00PM
A unique opportunity to taste several wines that are in the process of barrel-aging and chat with a winemaker. Tickets will be available on 3/16 and 3/17 in the wine shop.
Price: $20.00 per person plus tax. (Includes all barrel tastings and an additional glass of a pre-selected finished wine)

Sip & Savor Sunday
Sunday, April 14, 3:30-6:00 PM
Wine and cheese pairings at the Chateau plus jazz musician Heather Sullivan.

Treasures of the Earth Dinner
Saturday, April 20, 7:00 PM
Join Chef Scott Harberts as he celebrates Earth Day with a menu that will feature ingredients that are sustainably grown and harvested. Dinner will be paired with wines from the chateau’s LIVE and Salmon Safe certified vineyards; Cold Creek Vineyard and Canoe Ridge Estate.
Reservations required. 800-267-6793
Price: $120.00 per person plus tax

Spring Fling Chef Dinner
Saturday, May 18, 7:00PM
Chef Kurt Olson will create a menu to highlight the flavors of spring, accompanied by “a few surprises” from the cellar.
Reservations required. 800-267-6793
Price: $120.00 per person plus tax.

Happy spring! Cheers!

New Tastes

Bordeaux Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, California wineries, Merlot, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

We recently tasted some good juice from two family operated wineries that are new to us – one from Washington state and one from California.

Starting close to home, we tried three wines from Two Mountain Winery in Rattlesnake Hills in Washington state’s Yakima Valley.

All three of these award-winning wines show great potential, and are vibrant, balanced and approachable.

Two Mountain 2009 Syrah won a gold medal at the 2013 World Wine Championships, a silver medal at the prestigious 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and a gold medal at the San Antonio Wine Competition.

Two Mountain 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Merlot both took silver at the San Antonio competition.

We will definitely visit the winery on our next trip to Yakima Valley – it sounds like the type of total wine experience that we enjoy so much;  just read the reviews on Yelp, and you’ll want to go too.

***

The other new wines that we tasted recently are from Trione Vineyards & Winery in Sonoma County. As mentioned in an earlier post, we received a sample pack of six small bottles to try. Our favorites were three reds — 2008 Russian River Syrah, 2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 2007 Alexander Valley Red.

All three were big, lush and fruit-forward.

To our surprise, Trione’s Syrah is one of the best we’ve tasted from California. We typically prefer the smoky, peppery Syrahs from Washington state, but this Russian RIver beauty is intense, velvety and drinking very well.

But our favorite was the ’07 Alexander Red. The nose, with distinct whiffs of dark chocolate, is magnificent; the full-bodied, classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet and Merlot left us wanting more.

***

Full disclosure: These wines were all free samples, given with the understanding that we only write about the wines we enjoy. See our sample policy for further details.

Cheers!

 

 

Update: A Great Idea for Wineries

Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Wine Comments Off

Back in October, I wrote about TastingRoom.com, a unique way to find wines you like among the thousands of brands that are available.

TastingRoom.com provides samplers from wineries around the world (including top-of-the-line Silver Oak and Duckhorn) that come in a minimum of six 50ml bottles – so you can taste first, before deciding if you want to invest in full-sized bottles that range from $11-$110.

In October, we received a free sample of A Taste Adventure – Cabernet Taste-Off with Cabs from Washington state and Sonoma.

Since that time, we have happily noticed that some California wineries are sending samplers from TastingRoom.com to wine writers and wine industry trade folks to showcase the variety of their wines in an easy-to-ship, easy-to-taste experience.

You might recall that I wrote in early December that we received a TastingRoom.com sampler for a Don & Sons virtual tasting on Twitter, which meant we  had an opportunity to taste six wines without having to open (or drink from) large bottles.

Last week, we received a similar six-bottle sampler from Trione Vineyards & Winery in Alexander Valley in SonomaValley. Trione is a small, family-run operation, much like many of our favorites in Washington state. The Trione team wanted to send out their wines to people like us, who don’t live in California and don’t have too many opportunities to visit their tasting room.

Instead, they turned to TastingRoom.com, so they could introduce us to each of their current vintages – in a “pour size” instead of a full-sized bottle.

We now have an opportunity to taste — from the comfort of our home — 2010 Trione Sauvignon Blanc, 2008 Chardonnay, 2008 Pinot Noir, 2008 Syrah, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2007 Red Wine blend (Cab and Merlot). We haven’t poured them yet, but look for another blog post when we do.

Now, we don’t own or work at a winery, but it would seem to me that wineries could save money by sending samplers of their wine instead of full bottles. As a wine writer, I appreciate being able to taste an entire line-up, without having too many open full-sized bottles sitting around the house waiting to be finished or possibly go bad.

It seems like more and more California wineries are moving in this direction. I hope Washington state wineries look into it too. And kudos to Gilbert Cellars for participating in the Washington state vs. Sonoma Cabernet sampler!

For more information about TastingRoom.com samplers, wine by the glass and a wine club, see my previous post An Innovative Way to Find the Wines You Like, or visit The TastingRoom.com.

Cheers!

 

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