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!

An Innovative Way to Find the Wines You Like

Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

Hundreds, no thousands upon thousands of wines await you, but how do you know which ones you’ll like? Or maybe you know you like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah or Chardonnay, so that narrows your choices … a little bit. But there are still so many to choose from. What to do?

Help is on the way!

Experience A Taste Adventure sampler from TastingRoom.com. The samplers 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.

What an amazing idea! TastingRoom.com has partnered with wineries from around the world (including top wineries such as Silver Oak and Duckhorn), so you can try a variety of wines at reasonably low costs - from $22.95 to $39.95 for six mini-bottles, which come in a beautiful box with tasting notes, so it’s a learning experience while you sip.

For example, you can choose between two samplers of wines selected by New Orleans celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse – Emeril’s Everyday Sampler ($32.95) and Emeril’s Holiday Party Sampler ($39.95) to pair on holidays from Thanksgiving to New Years.

Or you may prefer a large number of other samplers including: Gary Vaynerchuk-Wines for Dudes; Several “Taste Adventures (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Reds for Picnics, Australian Gems, Red & White Essentials and many more); Party Packs such as Great Wines for BBQs; plus different samplers showcasing individual wine regions.

We received a free sample of A Taste Adventure – Cabernet Taste-Off, with this description: Over the past 35 years Sonoma County, California has attracted fame and fortune for producing powerful, fruit-driven Cabernet Sauvignons. In the last decade, though, Washington State has started producing Cabernet Sauvignons that many argue are better structured and better value wines.

The growing conditions in each region are different, so how did these wines stack up?

We’ve been cheerleaders for the Washington wine industry since we moved to Seattle in 1999, and even more so since Write for Wine launched in 2007. So not surprisingly, our palate preferred the Washington state wines over the Sonoma wines – but in some cases, it was a tight race!

Of the six wines, our favorite was a rich and elegant 2008 Gilbert Cellars Wahluke Slope Cab Sauv ($27.95 a bottle) — again, not surprising, since we’ve been fans since we first tasted Gilbert Cellars wines at Sexy Syrah at Salty’s in April, 2008.

An extremely close second was 2008 Amavi Cellars Walla Walla Valley Cab Sauv ($27.95 a bottle), which was also robust and powerful, as our palates prefer.

Our favorites from Sonoma were two we had never tasted before: 2008 Icaria Alexander Valley Cab Sauv ($27.95 a bottle) and 2008 Watkins Family Winery “Nuns Cliff” ($39.95)

We also enjoyed 2007 Cadaretta Columbia Valley ($36.95) and 2008 Dutcher Crossing Taylor Reserve Sonoma (442.95) – so the entire sample was indeed a fun adventure.

You can also order Wines by the Glass, Or “Wine Your Way,” which offers a single 100ml serving, so you can drink a single glass of wine whenever and wherever you want.

And then there’s an unique program called the Taste Explorer Wine Club, where you can taste the wines before choosing which bottles you want in your club shipments.

So many people have asked me over the years about which wines to choose. The answer depends on your palate. The TastingRoom.com helps you decide – in three different ways – samplers, pour sizes and a wine club. We recommend that you give it a whirl. Your palate will thank you.

Cheers!

Harvest Party

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Marsanne, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Gris, Primitivo, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

It’s that time again – our favorite wine event of the year – the annual Harvest Party in the Vines, held by Alexandria Nicole Cellars at their Destiny Ridge Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills in central Washington.

Let me tell you, Ali and Jarrod Boyle know how to throw a party! This is our fourth, and we just keep having more and more fun each year.

This event is so well planned – from the special hotel rate at the Marriott in Richland, to the party buses to take us on the 45-minute drive to the Estate vineyard, to the amazing “surf and turf” menu created by awesome chef Frank Magana. In addition, there’s live music and harvest hoopla, including a skeet-shooting contest, wine balloon toss, grape stomping, barrel rolling and much more.

And let’s not forget the incredible wines. ANC’s Estate Vineyard, Destiny Ridge, contains 263 acres of planted vines with 23 varietals. Believe me, 23 varietals is huge in Washington state:

White Wines: Crawford Viognier, a2 Pinot Gris, Shepherds Mark southern Rhone white blend, Sauvignon Blanc, Late Harvest Riesling, Cabernet Franc Rosé.

Red Wines: Quarry Butte Red Table Wine, Gravity Merlot, Alderdale Cabernet Sauvignon, a2 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Syrah, Jet Black Syrah.

In addition, wine club members (like us) can also enjoy:

White Wines: Reserve Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne.

Red Wines: Block 17 Syrah, Destiny Bordeaux Blend, Member’s Only, Grenache, Mackay Duck Press Red, Lemberger, Malbec, Rock Star Red, Tempranillo, Mr. Big Petite Syrah, Primativo

We became wine club members in 2007, the same year I started this blog and when ANC first moved to Woodinville. Over the years, Ali and Jarrod became our good friends. But it all began with the wine.

Cheers!

 

Avennia-Look for These Wines

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

We stopped by the fall release party at one of Woodinville’s newest wineries, Avennia, and became immediate fans of the wines and the owners. We highly recommend you see for yourself what talented winemaker Chris Peterson has created featuring Washington state grapes in the ”old-world style” of French wines.

The words and phrases that came to mind while tasting all five Avennia wines were classic, complex, balanced, structured, true to varietal, and a showcase of the beauty of Washington grapes.

One white, Oliane Sauvignon Blanc, and two Syrahs – 2010 Arnaut and 2010 Parapine - are now available.

They will be followed by the February 2013 release of two 2010 Bordeaux blends, Sestina and Gravura – both are showing such potential now, we know they will have that WOW factor for a number of years.

 

1. 2011 Oliane Sauvignon Blanc, Avennia’s only white wine,  is true to the classic, crisp and elegant Sauvignon Blanc and perfect on a warm Seattle afternoon. Oliane is bursting with grapefruit aromas and citrus notes, along with that minerality we’ve come to love in good Sauv Blancs.

2. 2010 Arnaut is 100% Syrah from the fabulous Boushey Vineyard. This  flagship Syrah ranked 16 in Seattle Met’s recently released 100 Best Washington Wines.

3. 2010 Parapine Syrah features grapes from Boushey and from Force Majeure’s (formerly Grand Reve) new vineyard on Red Mountain. But this Syrah will be replaced in the 2011 vintage with a Southern Rhone-style wine.

4. 2010 Sestina, the flagship Bordeaux blend, is my favorite: Cabernet Sauvignon (73%), Merlot (18%) and Cab Franc (9%). As mentioned, this complex wine tastes full of potential already, and we can’t wait to try it again in February. I hope we’ll have the patience to cellar some bottles for a few years too!

5. 2010 Gravura offers a closer split of the classic Bordeaux blend: Cabernet Sauvignon (54%) and Merlot (40%), rounding off the edges with 6% Cab Franc.

Interestingly, the $35 Parapine Syrah and the $35 Gravura blend have Seattle restaurants lined up to include on their tasting menus.

Regular readers of this blog know that the people behind the wine are also important to us. Winemaker/partner Chris Peterson and managing partner Marty Taucher are right up there with the finest in Washington’s wine industry.

Chris passionately talked to us about his wines and his wine-making style for about 30 minutes. He was the first graduate of Walla Walla Community College’s Enology and Viticulture program; he spent quality time in all of the major wine regions of France and Italy; and more recently, as assistant winemaker at DeLille Cellars, he helped create some of the state’s finest wines.

During the 2009 harvest at DeLille, Chris met  Marty Taucher, a retired PR and Marketing leader at Microsoft, who has collected wine for 25 years. They shared similar interests and clicked – a close friendship that was obvious the minute we met them.

The following year, they founded Avennia, inspired by the Roman name for the city of Avignon, which signifies the heart of Old World winemaking to both of them. All the names of their wines have significance to Marty and Chris – we encourage you to read about it on the Avennia website.

Cheers!

 

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