Sbragia Family Vineyards

Sbragia Family Vineyards began in 2006 but its roots are in the love of wine by owner Ed Sbragia’s grandfather who moved to California from Tuscany in 1904. Much later, Ed’s father acquired his own vineyards near Healdsburg, growing zinfandel. And Ed himself began working for Beringer Vineyards in Napa in 1976.

The family tradition continues today, with Ed’s son and the rest of his family involved in Sbragia in the Dry Creek Valley. A 10th anniversary celebration is set for this fall.

The brand is well-known, so we were delighted to receive samples of two wines to taste.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 9.49.56 AM2012 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)
This beautiful red comes from old vines planted in the 1880s in an historic California vineyard, and was rated 93+ from Wine Advocate.

The Cabernet Sauvignon (95%) was blended with 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot to give it structure and depth.

This is a big red, with notes of cedar, dark berry, black licorice and a bit of earthiness — a ripe, juicy wine that is drinkable now through 2022.

Pair it with steak, grilled meats, savory stew or dark chocolate. Delicious!

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 9.49.14 AM

2014 Home Ranch Chardonnay ($30)
Home Ranch Vineyard is located at the southeast end of Dry Creek Valley, where temperatures are cooler than most of the appellation. This results in bright fruit flavors of apple, pear and citrus, a hint of oak with a gravelly minerality, good structure and balanced acidity.

On the nose of this 100% Chardonnay, you’ll find aromas of tropical fruit, pear and toasted almonds in addition to apples, vanilla and baking spice from the oak.

Pair it with smoked salmon or trout, crab, prawns, seafood pasta or with creamy vegetable soups in the cooler evenings.

Ed Sbragia is well-known for his Chardonnays. He established the Beringer Reserve Chardonnay program and currently serves as Winemaster Emeritus there. Robert Parker said, “Sbragia has always demonstrated a Midas touch with Chardonnay.”

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Murrieta’s Well

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 8.18.34 AMTwo years ago, we wrote about how we enjoyed Murrieta’s Well 2011 The Spur from Livermore Valley ($25). We just tasted the 2013 vintage, and we liked it even more. While the price has increased to $30, so have the flavors, with a higher percentage of Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc, and the addition of Merlot this year.

Crafted by the new director of winemaking, Robbie Meyer, this unique red wine blends 40% Petite Sirah, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon,10% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot,  8% Malbec and 8% Cabernet Franc. In other words, the Petite Sirah forms a beautiful foundation for the classic Bordeaux varietals.

Each type of grape was harvested, fermented and handcrafted separately to achieve their greatest varietal expression, and then blended into The Spur. From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

“Beautiful fruit aromas of black cherry and blueberry are highlighted by subtle notes of sweet oak and earthy spice. A ripe tannic structure and balanced acidity make this wine perfect by itself or paired with your favorite recipes from the grill.”

We think this big blend would pair well with roasted or grilled meats, dishes with red sauces or rich cheese.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 8.32.58 AMThanks to Murrieta’s Well for sending us a sample of The Spur, as well as 2014 The Whip, a white wine blend also from the Livermore Valley. While white blends aren’t our favorites, we know many people who would enjoy The Whip ($24).

The Whip blends 29% Semillon, 27% Chardonnay, 18% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Orange Muscat, 8% Muscat Canelli and 6% Viognier; as with The Spur, each varietal was fermented individually. From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

“This unique wine showcases juicy fruit flavors of white peach, pear and melon with bright acidity and a touch of sweetness that creates a smooth and creamy finish.”

Murrieta’s Well is one of California’s original wineries, propagated in 1883 with vineyard cuttings from Chateau Margaux and Chateau d’Yquem in France. Need we say more? Oh, one more thing — Murrieta’s Well is owned by Philip Wente of Wente Vineyards, the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Summer Sippers and BBQ Reds

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 12.37.47 PMSummer make us think of white wine on the deck or patio. But let’s not forget about robust reds to accompany tasty BBQs during the warm weather! Here are some good-value whites to sip with a summer salad or seafood such as prawns, scallops, sushi, crab or halibut, and some good-value reds for your BBQ. And there are also some bonus wines that are a bit pricier, and also work as a celebratory toast to Independence Day with friends.

 

Summer Sipper Whites

  • 2014 Kenwood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($13): Fruit from 28 vineyards went into this crisp summer sipper, and the result is a balance of citrus and tropical flavors plus some grassy characteristics and minerality.
  • Louis Jadot Macon-Villages 2014 ($15): This is a Chardonnay that is clean rather than oaky, with apple and citrus aromas, mineral notes and fresh fruit on the palate.
  • Santa Cristina 2015 Cipresseto Toscana ($14): If you like your rosé dry, try this one, with notes of jasmine and raspberry.
  • Santa Cristina 2015 Pinot Grigio delle Venezie ($12): Refreshing with aromas of tropical fruit and orange flowers, we will be sipping on this during lazy afternoons on the lake.
  • Drumheller Columbia Valley Chardonnay ($12): Smoky mineral notes on the palate make this a summer pleaser from a new label from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates — “a more restrained, yet elegant version of Washington’s expressive fruit.”

 Bonus Whites: These whites are a slice of heaven on a warm evening by the lake, by the pool, on the deck or the patio.

Efeste 2014 Feral Sauvignon Blanc ($20): This beauty of a Sauv Blanc brought us back to drinking whites in 2009 after years of reds only. Feral, with native yeast fermentation, is a wild and lively wine with intense minerality and the perfect amount of citrus to keep us sipping on the deck until the sun goes down.

JM Cellars 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($25): We first tasted this amazing white wine in 2009, shortly after we tried Feral for the first time. JM’s Sauv Blanc was fermented in 100% stainless steel, features both tropical and citrusy flavors, and is a refreshing favorite every summer.

Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Chardonnay 2014 ($28): This Napa wine shows aromas of pear, lychee, citrus zest and almonds, with a full range of flavors. We particularly like the citrus zest, which sets this apart from many Chardonnays that we’ve tasted.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 5.45.41 PMBBQ Reds: 

  • Double Barrel Shiraz ($20):
    The rich Australian Shiraz was aged in Scotch whiskey barrels to provide complex, well-developed characteristics.
  • Drumheller 2014 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($12): A distinct Washington wine, we noted the delicate flavors and texture, with a silky finish.
  • Drumheller 2014 Columbia Valley Merlot ($12): Another distinct Drumheller red, this merlot has lively aromas of blueberry and spice, with hints of cocoa and a soft texture.

 Bonus Reds: These rich reds pair well with BBQ meat dishes, at a summer party or as a stand-alone wine by a beach bonfire.

Résonance Pinot Noir Résonance Vineyard 2013 ($65) – From the  Yamhill-Carlton AVA within Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this lovely wine is a produced by winemaker Jacques Lardière, and is  Louis Jadot’s first project outside of France.

2013 Jack London Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($35)
This beauty will pair perfectly with BBQ steaks in the summer (and also roast beef in the winter). This is our kind of cab – full-bodied, rich, robust, well-structured and elegant.

2012 Ferrari-Carano Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley ($65)
With such a beautiful nose, lovely aromas and concentrated fruit, this Reserve Cab is simply delicious.

Any of these wines would add to your July 4 celebrations too!

Of note, all of these wines except Efeste and JM Cellars were samples provided by the wineries. Thank you!

Cheers to the long lazy days of summer BBQ’s and sipping wine outside.
Margot and Dave

Cops and Reporters

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 2.59.50 PMWhat do cops and reporters have to do with wine? In Washington state, a lot! “Cops and Reporters” is the name of an email recently sent out by Guardian Cellars, whose winemakers and owners happen to be in those two professions.

Jerry Riener, a police officer, makes Guardian Cellars favorites such as The Wanted, Gun Metal, The Alibi, Confidential Source, The Rookie, The Informant and more. Do you sense a theme here?

His wife, Jennifer Sullivan, a journalist at KOMO-TV and previously at The Seattle Times, makes her wines under the appropriately named Newsprint label — Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Blend, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay and Rosé.

While maintaining their full-time jobs as a cop and a reporter, they opened a tasting room and production facility in 2007 in Woodinville’s Wine Warehouse. In the last nine years, their wines became so popular that Jerry and Jennifer just opened up a second tasting room in Woodinville’s Hollywood Schoolhouse district.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 3.12.32 PMTo celebrate, they released the 2013 Chalk Line – a big juicy blend that has an equally big fan base.

The new tasting room features the Guardian Cellars label, while Newsprint is located at the longtime spot in the Woodinville Wine Warehouse.

We recommend you try both, because wines under both labels are perfect for summer sipping on the deck, a summer BBQ, an evening with friends or to take to a party.

Here are their times of operation:

  • Guardian Cellars tasting room at 14525 148th Ave NE, Suite 122, in Woodinville’s Hollywood Schoolhouse district, is open seven days a week: 12 p.m.- 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 12-6 p.m. on Sunday.
  • Newsprint tasting room is located inside the main production facility at 19501 144th Ave NE, Suite E-600, in Woodinville’s Wine Warehouse District. This tasting room is open 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Since the total Newsprint production is fairly small, this tasting room is only open when wines are available. Check the winery’s Facebook page for hours and inventory.

Most Newsprint wines are priced at $18 (although the rosé is $14). Guardian Cellars wines range from $20-$39.

These are definitely wines to write home about!

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Kenwood Vineyards

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 4.44.59 PMIf you haven’t tasted wine from Kenwood Vineyards in awhile, it’s time to rediscover it.

Kenwood Vineyards is one of the pioneers of premium wine in Sonoma, part of the wine region’s landscape since 1970. The winery is now undergoing a renaissance with a focus on small-lot winemaking and a new look.

We recently attended an online tasting with Pat Henderson, who has been a winemaker at Kenwood Vineyards since 2003, and became chief winemaker last year. Ahead of the tasting, we received four wines in a gorgeous wooden box. The bottles had a a new look and modern labels.

2014 Kenwood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($12.99)
Fruit from 28 vineyards went into this crisp summer sipper, and the result is a balance of citrus and tropical flavors plus some grassy characteristics and minerality. We will definitely be buying bottles of this Sauvignon Blanc to enjoy on our deck on the lake.

2014 Kenwood Vineyards Six Ridges Russian River Chardonnay ($21.99)
If you like your Chardonnays rich and creamy, this one is for you. Flavors of apple, peach, vanilla and spice combine in a chilled glass that will pair well with seafood or chicken.

Kenwood Zin2013 Kenwood Six Ridges Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($31.99)
Zin lovers take note! This is big, bold, beautiful and well-balanced. And somehow it is both silky and zesty at the same time, too. It will pair nicely with spicy foods but also is strong enough to stand alone without food; to simply share a bottle with friends or enjoy at a party.

2013 Jack London Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($35)
This beauty will pair perfectly with BBQ steaks in the summer and roast beef in the winter. This is our kind of cab – full-bodied, rich, robust, well-structured and elegant.

The samples were provided by Kenwood Vineyards, which, in the name of full disclosure, is a Pernod Ricard brand and a client at the PR agency where I (Margot) work. However, I attended the tasting as a wine blogger and adhered to Write for Wine’s sample policy. If I did’t like the wines, I simply would not write about them. Word.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Bellingham Grape and Gourmet

Grape & GourmetThe 12th annual Bellingham Grape and Gourmet is less than a month away, and we are really looking forward to attending. This year, the event will be held at Silver Reef Casino on Nov. 1. 

The evening of “sensational wines and exquisite food” is hosted by Bellingham Bay Rotary Club.

The event is also a fundraiser — all proceeds will be donated to local non-profits.

Almost 40 Washington and Oregon wineries will be pouring — including our friends at William Church, Forgeron Cellars, L’Ecole 41, Walla Walla Vintners, Dunham Cellars, Airfield Estates and Hightower. Wines range from Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Viognier to Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir. And there’s more, including both white and red blends.

If you find a wine that’s a real palate pleaser, you can purchase it at a 20% discount right on site. You can also sample tasty bites from local restaurants, including one of our favorites, The Steakhouse at Silver Reef Casino.

Last week, we were fortunate to be invited to a pre-tasting, hosted by BB Rotary Club event organizer Bryant Engebretson and his wife Hillary. Our two favorites were William Church Winery’s 2 Spires and Walla Walla Vintners Cuvee, but we know there will be more to add to that list on Nov. 1 at Bellingham Grape and Gourmet.

Grape & Gourmet 1So what are you waiting for – get your tickets now!

Sunday, Nov. 1 at Silver Reef Casino, 5:00 – 8:30 p.m.

VIP Tickets ($100) give you early admission at 5 p.m., which means 90 minutes without the crowds!

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for regular admission ($80).

We hope to see you there!

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

 

Columbia Crest Fall Release Wines

If you’re one of those people who look for good-value wines at a $10-$15 price point, this blog post is for you. We are very pleased with some Columbia Crest winery samples that pair well with the fall season.

First, you might recall that we praised Columbia Crest H3 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon In  a July post about Good Value BBQ Reds. H3 became our go-to, every-day wine over the summer ($10-$15, depending on where you look). We were not surprised to find out that H3 was a Double Gold winner at the 2015 Seattle Wine Awards.

And now, Columbia Crest offers their 2013 Limited Release “Gold” Red Wine Blend, in addition to several other new 2013 releases, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

We particularly enjoyed these four wines, all from Columbia Valley, all priced at $12.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 5.53.39 PMColumbia Crest 2013 Limited Release “Gold” Red Wine Blend
According to the winery, a couple barrels of wine that represent the “gold standard” of Columbia Valley grapes are blended into this limited release Gold Red Wine. Harvested in September 2012, when Cabernet Franc had an excellent year, this wine features 52% Cab Franc, 38% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot. Think spicy, rich and textured – and great to pair with grilled beef, lamb, rich stews or simply with strong cheese.

Columbia Crest 2012 Grand Estates Red Blend
This is a Syrah-Cab Sauv blend, specifically 57% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Viognier, 6% Merlot and 3% other varietals. Tasting Notes: “This complex red blend marries together a variety of characteristics and layers that complement each other, including lively flavors of red and black fruit punctuated with layers of spice and caramel on the finish.” We paired it with rich spaghetti and meatballs, and it was delicious.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 6.11.45 PMColumbia Crest 2013 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon
The 81% Cab Sauv is rounded out with 15% Merlot, 2% Syrah and 2% of other varietals. Tasting Notes: “This bold style Cabernet Sauvignon displays great complexity and structure. There are aromas of dark berry fruits and plum on the nose with chocolate and vanilla on the palate. This wine pairs well with beef tenderloin or hearty pasta.” We think it also is wonderful paired with blue cheese and/or dark chocolate.

Columbia Crest 2013 Grand Estates Syrah
In this classic, 95% Syrah is co-fermented with 5% Viognier. Tasting Notes: “Elegant smoky tones lead to notes of currant, dried herbs and hints of pepper. The supple texture is complemented by flavors of cedar and dark fruits.” Pair with grilled salmon, pork tenderloin or soft cheeses.

Although we haven’t yet tasted Columbia Crest 2013 Grand Estates Unoaked Chardonnay, Wine Spectator called it out as providing the biggest bang for your buck.

We know it seems too early to start thinking about holiday wines, but at this price point, do you really want to wait? You can pour them at any party – your own or ones you attend as a guest — from Hallowe’en to Thanksgiving and beyond.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Good-Value Wines

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 5.19.49 PMAs the summer winds down, we’re taking a look at some good-value wines that we and/or our neighbors enjoyed in the last five months. Summer sippers make us think of white wine on the deck or the patio, paired with tasty cheeses, seafood or chicken. But let’s not forget about robust reds to accompany delicious BBQs during the warm weather!

First, let’s talk about the featured wineries:

In 1836, Wente Vineyards began with 48 acres in Livermore Valley, California. Today the winery draws from approximately 3,000 acres of sustainably farmed Estate vineyards. While we’ve written about their reds in the past, Wente is known as California’s First Family of Chardonnay. In 1912, the Wente family brought Chardonnay cuttings from France and planted them in the Livermore Valley. Their 1936 vintage was the first varietally labeled Chardonnay in the United States. During crab season, we enjoyed 2013 Small Lot Eric’s Chardonnay, which was fermented and aged in stainless steel. But our neighbors preferred 2012 Riva Ranch Chard.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 5.18.18 PMFor five generations, two families — the Maggios and Reynolds — have grown grapes and made wine in the historic Lodi region of California. They transformed the oldest winery in Lodi, Oak Ridge Winery, into a state-of-art facility, where Old Soul wines were crafted because “the winery has an old soul.” You can definitely taste it in the rich 2012 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon, with a price point of $14.

Launched by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in 2005 as a restaurant-only brand, 14 Hands introduced its “The Reserve” label of wines sourced from the Horse Heaven Hills appellation in Washington state in 2012.

Santa Cristina produces Italy’s No. 1 selling red wine, Rosso, and is also represented by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. This Tuscan winery released its first wine in 1946 and has become a “benchmark” in Italian wines.

Motto Wines debuted this June, with a collection of distinct, dark, rich wines from California that offer a new take on that state’s wine. Motto is made by the renowned winemaking team at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, “putting a Washington spin” on California grapes. According to the winery, “the Motto winemaking team defies ordinary and makes it their motto.”

Of note, many of these wines are so reasonably priced that you can pour them at any time of the year. Just make sure to decant first for a few hours.

Summer Sipper Whites

  • Old Soul 2013 Lodi Chardonnay, $14
  • Wente Vineyards 2012 Morning Fog Chardonnay, $22
  • Wente Vineyards 2012 Riva Ranch Chardonnay, $22
  • Wente Vineyards 2013 Small Lot Eric’s Chardonnay, Small Lot (Unoaked) $25
  • Other good-value summer sippers

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 5.17.23 PMBBQ Reds

  • Santa Cristina 2013 Rosso, $12
  • 14 Hands 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley, $12
  • 14 Hands 2013 Merlot Columbia Valley, $12
  • Old Soul 2012 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon, $14
  • Old Soul 2012 Lodi “Pure Red” Blend, $14
  • Motto Wines 2013 Unabashed Zinfandel, $15
  • Motto Wines 2013 Gung Ho Red Blend, $15
  • Wente Vineyards 2012 Southern Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, $19
  • Wente Vineyards Charles Wetmore 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $30
  • 14 Hands 2012 The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills, $30
  • Other good-value BBQ Reds

 Thanks to Wente, Oak Ridge Winery and Ste. Michelle Estates for these and other samples provided in the last five months.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

 

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 1.16.32 PM Chateau Montelena is a Napa Valley winery established in 1882 and famous for putting California on the international wine map in 1976. That’s when the winery’s 1973 Chardonnay won a blind tasting at the prestigious Judgment of Paris wine competition.

The historic victory was surprising to many, particularly in Europe where the expectation was for a French winner; a fictional version of the amazing event was featured in the 2008 film, Bottle Shock. (Notably, the Paris competition is just one highlight of Chateau Montelena’s rich history.)

Winemaker Mike Grgich — who later joined with Austin Hills to establish Grgich Hills — crafted the 1973 Chardonnay, which remains on display at Chateau Montelena’s only satellite tasting room in California, just off the lobby at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco.

The St. Francis was where I happened to be speaking about social media analytics at the Dreamforce 2013 conference last November and, not surprisingly, I was drawn to the tasting room to try the lineup

I was very lucky that the knowledgeable and friendly sommelier Cassandra Brown happened to be pouring that day. (Cassandra pours at several events and locations in the Bay area, so be sure to stop by to see her, if you have a chance. I know you’ll have both an educating and enjoyable time.)

First, I must applaud three of the winery’s whites: 2012 Potter Valley Riesling, which has a beautiful nose, layers of rich peach and apple, and only a touch of sugar;  2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay, so opulent and creamy; and the crisper 2010 Chard.

But what really captured my attention was Chateau Montelena’s Cabernet Sauvignon.

2009 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 1.52.32 PMThis is a wine with the “wow” factor: earthy, silky, rich and full-bodied, with berries and spice flavors, and an enticing mouthfeel. The Cabernet Sauvignon (98.25%) is rounded off with a splash of Cabernet Franc (1.75%).

According to the tasting notes:

The nose opens with big black cherry, currants, and plum spice cake notes. Underpinning all that fruit are layers of smoke, anise, and very subtle oak tones. The palate entry is soft and round, but builds quickly with loads of fine velvety tannin, huge black cherry, and red fruits that persist through to a rich finish layered with spice. A firm core of acid and barrel spice integrate beautifully across all layers, enhancing the structure and balance of this massive but approachable wine.

This winning wine is drinkable now, but the wow factor will be even more prominent in 7-10 years.

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 2.00.59 PM2010 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

In Napa Valley, Cabernet is King and this is one royal, robust red — a big, dense wine with concentrated fruit, and layers of berries woven with tones of vanilla and spice.

The Cabernet Sauvignon (91%) is blended with 7% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc.

Try drinking it now with a big juicy steak, like we did with the bottle I brought home from San Francisco, or if you have more patience, put it in the cellar for a few more years.

Cheers!

 

 

March is Washington Wine Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

We recently tasted these Washington wine gems:

Do you see a trend here? We heart Cabs!

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

Happy Washington Wine Month!

Cheers!