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!

 

January is Barrage Month

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

Halfway through January, we discovered it’s all about Barrage, baby! Barrage Cellars, that is.

Let me explain why.

In November, we stopped by (with our dog, Sir Winston) at the Barrage Cellars tasting room in Woodinville’s Wine Warehouse district, and fell in love all over again with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc created by winemaker Kevin Correll.

We had a great time tasting some fine juice and catching up with Kevin and Rebecca, and walked away with quite a few bottles of more than one vintage of Barrage Cellars Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon and Outcast Cab Franc.

As a result, January has become Barrage Month at our house, as we opened some of the bottles. It is hard to cellar these very drinkable wines.

We are captivated with 2007 Double Barrel and the 2009 Outcast is simply superlative. These two wines are our favorite varietals these days, and Barrage Cellars is high on our list of must-haves.

This is not surprising — Barrage Cellars Outcast has made our list of favorite Cab Francs more than once — just try searching Write for Wine for Barrage Cellars. And it’s not just us – Seattle Magazine voted 2007 Outcast the best Cab Franc in Washington state in 2011, and Seattle Wine Awards gave Outcast a silver medal the same year.

But let me tell you, Kevin’s wines simply get better and better with each vintage. Every time we think we’ve tasted his best yet, he surprises us the following year with better yet.

Like many winemakers in Washington state, Kevin started making wine as a hobby in his garage; from there, he moved his craft to the barn. Put the two words barn and garage together – Bar+rage – and voila, Barrage Cellars was born.

But unlike many winemakers who blend different grapes together into one wine, Kevin prefers to blend wine with the same grape from different vineyards.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to stop by Barrage Cellars in Woodinville for Kevin’s red and white wines, make a point of it. You won’t be disappointed.

Sir Winston wants to go back too because Kevin and Rebecca love puppy dogs!

Cheers!

Ringing in 2013

Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine Comments Off

When you’re a wine enthusiast, you tend to have a lot of bottles of wine in your cellar. Many of them hold promises of a spectacular wine experience, and what better way to ring in a new year?

The problem, however, is finding just one bottle that best represents such a special occasion.

We talked about pulling two bottles of reds from our cellar, but there were simply too many excellent ones to choose. (Such a problem to have, eh?)

So first, we reduced the options by restricting the list to Cabernet Sauvignon. Then we limited it to the great juice produced in Washington state and some wine from Napa Valley, where Cab is King.

Believe it or not, the list was still big, so we decided to hold our unique version of a blind tasting. Sort of.

On one side of the counter, we placed several bottles of Washington state Cabernet Sauvignon; on the other, a few bottles of Napa Cab. We put each one in a wine bag, so we couldn’t see the labels, and chose one from each side.

Let’s keep this in perspective though – all the wine was highly rated, so we knew in advance we couldn’t lose!

And the winners were (drum roll please):

It was a complete coincidence that both bottles were the 2007 vintage. Interestingly, the Wine Spectator gave a grade “A” to the overall 2007 vintage in Washington state, while awarding 99 points to the overall 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon vintage.

We’ve long been fans of Fidelitas wines produced by Charlie Hoppes and his team at Red Mountain, and we’ve been drinking wine from Grgich Hills for more years than I can remember (although not as far back as 1976, when Mike Grgich brought Napa Chardonnay to world acclaim at the famed Paris Tasting).

So we rang in 2013 with some marvelous Cabs, and wish you a healthy, happy and prosperous new year.

Cheers!

Goosecross Cellars Howell Mountain Cab

Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine Comments Off

There’s a reason we always tell friends, family and colleagues to stop at Goosecross Cellars during their trip to Napa Valley. Well, actually there are several reasons: great wine, super people and a fun atmosphere.

Let’s start with the wine, specifically our favorite Goosecross red over the years: Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.

Every year we buy a bottle (or several), and each vintage always impresses. Every year, we plan to cellar this robust wine for as long as possible. But, not being particularly patient people, our Goosecross Howell Mountain Cab rarely lasts more than 18 months in our cellar.

This year was no different. Yes, the 2007 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is drinkable through 2016. But guess what? We popped open a bottle a few days ago, and like its previous vintages, this deep, dark and intense wine already has what we like to call the “wow factor.”

Goosecross Howell Mountain Cab is rich and elegant with so many layers of lovely that we wish we had a few cases.

A full-bodied Cab with aromas of dark cherry, plum and anise, and wisps of chocolate, smoke and spice, this beauty pairs well with ribeye steaks, roast beef, prime rib and more. In fact, Colleen Topper, co-owner of Goosecross, has seven recipes that pair with this big red, including a delicious Grilled Ribeye Steak with Garlic Butter.

You can find it, along with hundreds of recipes matched to Goosecross wines, at goosecross.com. David Topper, CEO and webmaster, was one of the first winery owners in Napa Valley to prominently place social media on their website. Back in 2005, he created a popular podcast, Napa Valley Wine Radio, as one of several educational resources provided by the winery. These days, you’ll find links to wine articles, Colleen’s recipes, a free concierge service, reviews on Yelp, and to Goosecross’ pages on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Over the years of visiting Gooscross Cellars, David and Colleen have become our valued friends. We enjoy their company as much as we enjoy their wines. But it all began in their tasting room, where hospitality reigns supreme.

Back to the wine: In Napa Valley, Cabernet is king. And, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from Goosecross Cellars is a king of a Cab!

Cheers!

Nothing says the holidays like Chester Kidder!

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

What better way to bring in the holiday week than with a glass (or two) of 2008 Chester Kidder Red from Long Shadows?

This beauty, created by winemaker Gilles Nicault, paired beautifully with spiced flank steak, as Dave and I toasted some rare time off together at the same time.

Released in September, we found ’08 Chester Kidder Red to be inky in color, balanced, silky and a rich blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Syrah, 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc.

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar gave 92 points to Chester Kidder Red with this description:

“Bright, deep ruby-red. Expressive nose offers currant, cherry cola, graphite and dark chocolate. Silky, sexy and intense, with firm, vibrant cabernet fruit complicated by licorice and spices. Finishes lively and very long, with sweet tannins and solid structure from the cabernet, some of which spent up to 40 days on its skins.”

Long Shadows is a collection of small production wineries, which brings together internationally acclaimed winemakers to showcase the superb grapes grown in Washington State’s Columbia Valley.

Gilles represents France; specifically, he made wine in the regions of Cote Du Rhone, Provence and Champagne, before moving to Washington state.

Prior to joining Allan Shoup’s state-of-the-art winemaking team, he was head of enology and production at Woodward Canyon.

We first met Gilles after he joined Long Shadows, when he and his wife, Marie-Eve Gilla — an excellent winemaker in her own right at Forgeron Cellarsheld a joint winemakers dinner at the Space Needle a few years back. They’ve both since become good friends – and we wish them, and you, a happy holiday season.

And thank you, Long Shadows, for sending us samples of your most-excellent Washington state wines.

Cheers!

Don & Sons Appellation Wines Tasting

Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Tempranillo, Wine, Zinfandel Comments Off

Unfortunately, we had to miss the live Don & Sons wine tasting on Twitter yesterday because it was held during the work day on the west coast. But we tasted through the wine samples after work, and wanted to share my notes.

First, these wines arrived in sample sizes from the TastingRoom.com, which I wrote about in October, and meant that we had an opportunity to taste six wines without having to open large bottles.

These wines were produced from grapes in vineyards all over California’s appellations – here is our order of preference (remember, your palate might prefer different wines than we do):

  1. 2011 The Crusher Petite Sirah, Clarksburg 2010 ($18)
  2. 2010 Project Paso Red Blend, Paso Robles ($15)
  3. 2009 Philosopher’s Blend, Napa Valley ($40)
  4. 2010 B Side Red Wine Blend ($30)
  5. Don & Sons Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast  ($21)
  6. 2010 B Side Cabernet Sauvingnon, Napa Valley ($30)

Our favorite was The Crusher, and judging from our colleagues tweets from the weekend’s event, this opinion was shared by many. If you’re never tried Petite Sirah before, The Crusher is a good place to start. Sourced from grapes in California’s Sacramento Delta, this is a rich multi-layered wine that would pair nicely with lamb or steak – and its price point is less than $20.

Project Paso would be a great wine for the holiday table or to take to a party – jammy, spicy and cheerful, this blends many grapes: Grenache, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Merlot, Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Malbec, Barbera and a touch of Touriga Nacional. Although we’re not huge Grenache fans, we really loved this $15 beauty.

The full-bodied Philosopher’s Blend has a Cabernet Sauvignon-base and small quantities of Merlot and Petite Sirah, a rich combination of fruit, chocolate and smoky notes. This is the most expensive of the six wines at $40.

The B-Side wines also captured our attention. The $30 Napa Valley Red Blend features five different grapes in a lush, rich, complex and balanced combination. The Cab Sauv ($30) is not a typical Napa Valley wine; we’d like to revisit this one again. It seemed a bit harsh at first tasting, but we suspect it would smooth out with a bit of decanting.

We had the opportunity to receive and taste the 2010 Pinot Noir at the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland last summer. This is a medium-bodied Pinot is fruity but has depth, a good value at $21.

These samples were given to us by the winery. You can buy the full bottles on sale this month on the  Don & Sons website.

Cheers!

Wines of Chile

Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine Comments Off

Virtual tastings and tweet-ups are becoming a weekly occurrence in the wine industry, and one of the best organized in my recent experience was by Wines of Chile.

At this tasting, we explored three styles of wines from four different varietals: Sauvignon Blanc, Carménère (Chile’s signature grape), Pinot Noir (relatively new to Chile) and Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile’s star red grape).

I think many of us who were invited to this event were surprised to discover that Chilean wines are unique and expressive, in addition to offering a low price point.

The tasting, attended by 60 U.S. wine bloggers, was moderated by Master Sommelier and Wines of Chile Educator Fred Dexheimer, who was in the same room as the winemakers. Bloggers watched them live on an online video screen, while tasting from the complimentary bottles shipped to us the previous week. As we experienced the lineup. we could ask questions of the winemakers and comment in a live micro-blogging stream located on the same web page as the video screen; others posted live on Twitter.

And now to the wine …

As regular readers know, we are big fans of Sauvignon Blanc, particularly with prawns or blue cheese on summer evenings relaxing on the deck. Our preference has been Sauv Blancs from Washington (Efeste and JM Cellars) and Napa Valley (Goosecross Cellars), and we are just starting to enjoy this refreshing, zesty wine from New Zealand.

Now, we are adding Sauv Blanc from Chile to our collection. Although these three wines are very different, they all made our list: Viña Casablanca Nimbus Single Vineyard 2012 ($13), San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard 2011 ($19) and Casa Silva Cool Coast 2011 ($25). We particularly favored the last two because of their grapefruit flavors.

Of the 12 wines that were tasted, other standouts (to us) representing each grape were Morandé Casablanca Valley Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2009 ($18), Koyle Royale 2009 Carménère ($26) and Viña Los Vascos 2009 Le Dix Cabernet Sauvignon ($65).

Here is the full list:

  • Viña Casablanca Casablanca Valley Nimbus Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2012
  • San Pedro Leyda Valley 1865 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  • Casa Silva Colchagua Valley Paredones Estate Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  • Emiliana Casablanca Valley Novas Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2010
  • Cono Sur Casablanca Valley 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2009
  • Morandé Casablanca Valley Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2009
  • Concha y Toro Cachapoal Valley Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere 2010
  • Carmen Colchagua Valley Alpata Vineyard Gran Reserva Carmenere 2010
  • Koyle Royale Alto Colchagua Carmenere
  • Viña Ventisquero Maipo Valley Grey Glacier Single Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
  • Viña Maquis Colchagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
  • Viña Los Vascos Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) Colchagua Valley Le Dix Cabernet Sauvignon

Thanks Wines of Chile and Emily Denton for inviting me to this educational and fun event.

Cheers!

Making a List of Thanksgiving Wines

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Syrah, Wine Comments Off

There is no doubt in our minds that some food-and-wine pairings are spectacular, creating a “wow factor.” We have experienced this explosion of flavors at winemakers’ dinners and at many special restaurants.

That being said, we are also strong believers that people should have whatever varieties of wine they want, including for special occasions. Our preference for Thanksgiving happens to be robust red wines – some with a bit of funk, such as 2009 Reynvaan In the Rocks Syrah, and some that are rich and smooth, such as 2009 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon, which we experienced for the first time at Taste of Tulalip last weekend.

In addition to those two beauties, here are the wines (in alphabetical order) that we are considering opening this Thanksgiving – all are from Washington unless otherwise noted:

What’s on your list of Thanksgiving wines?

Cheers!

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