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!

 

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!

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