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!

 

If you love blends …

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Events, Malbec, Marsanne, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Viognier, Wine Comments Off

… like we love blends, then mark your calendar right now for the third annual – you guessed it – BLEND event on Sept. 16 at Seattle waterfront’s Bell Harbor Conference Center.

We have not missed this event ever, because Bordeaux blends have been some of our favorite wines for years. I was asked to be a judge at this year’s BLEND blind tasting, but it’s during the day when I work at my “day job,” unfortunately.

But thankfully we can attend the event, which not only showcases Washington’s hottest blends, but also enticing gourmet food samples from some award-winning hotel restaurants.

Specifically, BLEND features more than 40 Washington wineries, barrel blending stations and international tasting stations, in addition to a “Bubble Lounge” with champagne, sparkling wines and cider and oysters.

While both of our palates favor Bordeaux-style blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, others prefer southern Rhone-style blends of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre.

Some of our favorites are unique-to-Washington blends of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, such as William Church 2008 2 Spires and Gorman 2009 Evil Twin. Unfortunately, neither will be at this event, but some of our other favorites, such as DiStefano 2007 Sogno (Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) will be definite pours for us.

Some white blends – perfect summer sippers — will also be available, such as the award-winning Shepherd’s Mark southern Rhone blend (Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne) from Alexandria Nicole Cellar and Optu White Bordeaux blend (Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion) from Fidelitas.

For a full list of wineries pouring at BLEND, in addition to tickets, visit the BLEND website. Net proceeds from the $49-per-person admission will benefit the Washington Wine Industry Foundation.

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!

A New Fave Stop in Woodinville: Obelisco Estate

Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville 2 Comments

We have several favorite stops when we go wine tasting in Woodinville – the newest is Obelisco Estate, which meets our personal criteria for incredible wine and great people.

Let’s start with the wine.

Obelisco’s Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon wins Double Gold awards every year and constantly sells out. Just a wee taste of the 09 vintage more than demonstrates why. This deep purple, complex wine delights with layers of pleasing aromas and robust, rich — no make that luxe — flavors. Electrum showcases Red Mountain Cabernet to the max.

Red Mountain is the location of Obelisco Estate Vineyard, next to Hedges, and now in its fourth year — 30 sun-bathed acres owned by Doug Long, a Napa Valley veteran, who is as friendly as he is experienced in the wine industry. (The 1997 vintage from his David Arthur winery in Napa was awarded 99 points by Wine Spectator.)

We first met Doug in April at a Washington state wine event in the other Washington, D.C. But we first tasted the 07 Electrum, its first vintage, a couple of years earlier.

Winemakers Pete Hedges and Sara Goedhart’s love of the grape is evident in every glass of Obelisco wine that we’ve tasted. (And Dave always says he’s never met a grape from Red Mountain that he didn’t like.)

Last weekend we paired Obelisco 09 Cabernet Sauvignon with marinated flat iron steaks on the grill, and wow, it was a heavenly combination. Lush and lively, this is one Cabernet that we will be revisiting over and over again — which means Doug can expect to see us again soon at his tasting room in the Woodinville Wine Warehouse.

The Obelisco tasting room was recently renovated, by the way, and well worth a stop to admire the non-warehouse look of rich wood and intricate carpets. It would be a great place to have a party too!

Cheers!

 

 

Big Winemaker News at EFESTE

Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

Winemaker extraordinaire Brennon Leighton is becoming a consulting winemaker at EFESTE in Woodinville and after Crush 2012, he will be relocating to eastern Washington near EFESTE’s vineyards and taking on additional projects with other wineries.

He personally selected winemaker Peter Devison, formerly from Apex, Alder Ridge and Willow Creek, to join him on an expanded EFESTE winemaking team “because of his experience in reductive winemaking — a distinctive old-world style seldom seen in Washington.”

“Peter’s knowledge of our winemaking style is incredible,” Brennon explained. “We have similar philosophies and perspectives that will make for a great progression. It’s like being in a foreign country and finding someone who can speak your language.”

Regular readers of this blog know we’ve been fans of Brennon and EFESTE for years. My article about Brennon in Seattleite Magazine landed him in third spot in the magazine’s Top Ten newsmakers of the year (2011).

We first met him in 2008, when we barrel-tasted Jolie Bouche during a St. Nick’s event in Woodinville. We instantly became members of EFESTE’s Inner Circle wine club, and applauded when the next year, 2009, Seattle Magazine hailed Brennon as Winemaker to Watch and EFESTE as the Best New Winery.

As his star rose, Brennon remained constant – open, blunt, funny, sharp and passionate, a talented man whom my mother would have said “pulls no punches,” an artist who also likes to experiment and a thinker who reads several books a week.

We’ve also written numerous posts about Efeste’s award-winning wines such as Feral Sauvignon Blanc, Jolie Bouche Syrah,  Lola Chardonnay and Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon, my personal favorite (although it’s hard to choose).

EFESTE’s new winemaker, Peter Devision, is fortunate to join Brennon and the owners whose last names make up the letters that spell EFESTE: Daniel and Helen Ferrelli, Patrick Smith, and Kevin and Angie Taylor are also passionate about wine, dedicated to several worthy causes, and fun to hang out with in the tasting room.

Devison began working with Brennon for crush 2012, taking place now.

We look forward to meeting him. In addition to talking wine, we have Canada in common – he’s from Nova Scotia and worked in my hometown, Vancouver before moving to Washington state.

Cheers!

What we’ve been drinking lately

Barbera, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

I’ve been traveling so much lately that it’s been hard to find time to write individual posts about the wonderful Washington state wines we’ve enjoyed in the last couple of months. But I still want to share them with you, in hopes that you’ll also taste them one day soon.

We recommend all of them — cheers!

Looking for a robust red for July 4th?

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

If you’re thinking about a juicy BBQ steak to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday (or July 1 for my family and friends in Canada), L’Ecole 41 has a multitude of choices of robust reds to pair with it.

We’ve been fans of L’Ecole for a long time – have a look at this 2010 blog post that references our L’Ecole tastings, starting in 2007. Every year since then, L’Ecole’s wines have either matched or superseded the previous vintage with character, complexity, flavors and balance.

 

My personal favorite is L’Ecole 41 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley. I had the opportunity to taste the 2001 library wine; the 2009 vintage continues the excellence – a blend of Cabernet from five prestigious vineyards that is sophisticated, structured and velvety rich.

According to winemaker and owner Marty Clubb, “Its old-world structure, dense dark fruit flavors and elegant tannins exemplify the best of Walla Walla.”

We have several bottles of this beauty – we had one last week, we’ll open another on July 4 and the rest remain in our cellar for what is sure to be years of good drinking.

 

In May, we reveled in L’Ecole 41 2008 Perigee, celebrated when the moon was in its perigee – a “super moon” when it passes closest to Earth.

The Perigee, L’Ecole’s estate Bordeaux blend, combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc with a dash of Petit Verdot and Malbec, sourced from the winery’s oldest and best blocks from Seven Hills Vineyard.

2008 Perigee is elegant, expressive and earthy – a delicious wine to enjoy over the holidays – or anytime.

Other robust reds from L’Ecole: 2008 Apogee Pepper Bridge, another of my favorites; 2008 Estate Merlot; and 2009 Estate Syrah, in addition to several from Columbia Valley.

Cheers!

Travels to Napa Valley

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Wine 2 Comments

We just came back from Napa Valley, where we visited five wineries that we highly recommend. Here are the highlights:

Goosecross Cellars: The Howell Mountain Cab from Goosecross has always been a favorite, and this year did not disappoint. In fact, it exceeded expectations. This full-bodied Cab is rich and elegant with so many layers of lovely that I wish I could buy a few cases. Goosecross also produces one of the best stand-alone Cab Francs we tasted in Napa Valley. Cab Franc is my #1 choice, and Goosecross is as excellent as my favorite Washington state Cab Francs.

In addition, Goosecross makes a crisp refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, which is perfect for a warm, sunny day on the deck. (Note: We credit our summer passion for Sauv Blanc to Goosecross along with two Washington state wineries, Efeste and JM Cellars.) Goosecross’ popular tasting room underlines the superb customer service, friendliness and wow-worthy wines.

Grgich Hills: The first time I went to Napa Valley – more years ago than I care to admit! – Grgich was on my list of must-visit wineries. We didn’t know then that winemaker Mike Grgich crafted the 1973 Chardonnay, which won the Paris Competition that put California and Chateau Montelena on the worldwide wine map in 1976 and again in 2009 when the movie Bottle Shock was released.

So it was no surprise to find that Grgich Carneros Selection Chardonnay 2008, was simply, beautiful. We also were lucky to be invited to two side-by-side tastings while we were there. The first was Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 and 2008, plus the Yountville Selection 2007, from some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Napa Valley. The second was a “decades tasting” of Napa Valley Cab Sauv from 1982,1992, 2002. What a treat! I preferred the 02, while Dave’s preference was the ’92. Frankly, every Grgich wine we tasted was stellar.

Hall: We had so much fun at Hall, partly because their wine educator, Kendra Wax, hails from Walla Walla, so we could compare Napa wines to our glorious juice from Washington state. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Hall wines are also glorious. We took home a library release, 2006 Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which was rated 94 points by Wine Spectator. We also recommend 2009 “Jack’s Masterpiece” Cab Sauv and 2006 “Bergfeld” St. Helena Cab Sauv. Beauty!

Plumpjack: We added Plumpjack to our list of Top Napa Wineries to visit last year, and continue to suggest it, along with the other four mentioned in this post, as a must-stop. The 2008 CADE Napa Cuvee Cab was spectacular and the Sauv Blanc was zesty and cool on a warm California afternoon. Most of all, we give full props to Plumpjack’s 2009 Syrah – a big, juicy, spicy and peppery Syrah that stands out as the best California Syrah we’ve tasted, because it’s so close to the Washington- state style that our palates embrace. Frankly, we find most California Syrahs bland, and hadn’t even planned on trying Plumpjack’s pour until Guest Services Manager, Heather Manross described it as the most Northern Rhone-like Syrah they’ve ever produced. Bring it!

Cornerstone Cellars: This was our first visit to Cornerstone, chosen because of their high-profile presence on Twitter from both Craig Camp and Allison Zickfeld. Their tweets beckoned us, and we are glad they did. Cornerstone wines are complemented by a bright and beautiful tasting room and knowledgeable and fun staff, such as Kerry Hourigan. The 2010 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Corallina was an impressive rose’ named for its beautiful, pale copper-coral color and its balanced, supple and bright flavors. We brought home a bottle to savor on our deck this summer. We also enjoyed the 2008 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, with a unique raspberry flavor.

Their new label, Cornerstone Oregon, is a collaboration between Cornerstone Napa’s Craig Camp and Oregon winemaker Tony Rynders from Domaine Serene. We tasted the 2009 Cornerstone Oregon Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, a supple, well-balanced medium-body Pinot, which received 91 points from Wine Spectator. We’re looking forward to tasting more close-to-home Pinots, when Craig brings them to the annual Wine Bloggers Conference, held this August in Portland.

Cheers!

Washington in Washington

Barbera, Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Events, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine 1 Comment

A day of double-takes comprised what I like to call our experience of “Washington in Washington.”

Dave and I were in Washington, D.C. at the same time as this state’s Washington Wine Commission held a trade and media tasting there.

Ryan Pennington, the Commission’s social-media-savvy PR director, saw my Facebook update that we were headed to D.C., so he kindly invited us to stop by the tasting event at the Rooftop Terrace at The John F. Kennedy Center.

Of course we went! The tasting area was packed, and we listened with pride as many D.C.-area wine experts, restaurant owners, media and wine enthusiasts extolled the virtues of Washington state wine.

And we laughed at the looks on the faces of several winemakers and winery owners when they saw us, out of context, in “the other Washington!”

“What are you doing here?” exclaimed Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas, Mike White of Barrister, Lisa Baer of Baer, John Abbott of Abeja, Darcey Fugman-Small of Woodward Canyon, Jerry Riener of Guardian Cellars and Doug Long of Obelisco.

“We just happened to be in the neighborhood and heard some excellent Washington state wine was being poured here,” we replied.

We also had an opportunity to taste wine and talk to Daniel Wampfler of Dunham Cellars, Kristi and Lou Facelli of Facelli, Kim Bolander of L’Ecole 41, Debbie Hansen of Cougar Crest, and Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan.

These were the wines we tasted and recommend (in alphabetical order):

  • Abeja 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla ($52)
  • Baer 2009 Ursa Red Bordeaux Blend, Columbia Valley ($39)
  • Cougar Crest 2007 Estate Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla ($38)
  • Dunham Cellars 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon XIV, Columbia Valley ($45)
  • Facelli 2008 Barbera, Columbia Valley ($25)
  • Fidelitas 2008 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($55)
  • Guardian Cellars 2009 Gun Metal Red Bordeaux Blend, Columbia Valley ($37)
  • L’Ecole 41 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla ($37)
  • Long Shadows 2007 Feather Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley ($55)
  • Mark Ryan 2009 Dead Horse Red Bordeaux Blend, Red Mountain ($52)
  • Obelisco 2009 Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($65)
  • Woodward Canyon 2009 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State ($54)

Frankly, I couldn’t say it any better than the Washington Wine Commission’s brochure:

“Washington State’s exceptional grapes reach their potential in the hands of extraordinary winemakers, who create bright and balanced expressions of our region with world-class wines.”

Cheers to Washington state winemakers!

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