Recent Releases We’ve Enjoyed-Part 2

This is Part 2 of a two-part post looking at some new wines that we discovered late this year. Part 1 can be found here. In this post, you’ll find a variety of holiday red wines that won’t make you dig deep in your pocket — Cabernet, Zinfandel, Chianti and Pinot Noir.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 12.44.32 PMOak Ridge Winery OZV Red Blend 2012 ($14)
If you are a fan of big, lush, jammy Zinfandels, this blend is for you. We were not expecting such a robust Zinfandel-based blend when we opened the bottle, although we should have, since it comes from Lodi’s oldest operating winery, Oak Ridge. Wow, we were hit with strong aromatics of vanilla and blackberries immediately, which then transformed to a fruit-forward blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Merlot. This wine has a lot going on, with flavors of plum, licorice and blackberries. We had it with pasta, but this rich wine would also pair well with grilled steaks, smoked meats, chicken and pizza. By the way, Oak Ridge Winery first came to our attention with its Old Soul value-wines this summer.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 12.29.58 PMMark West 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($15-$25, depending on where you shop)
Mark West has been producing California Pinot Noir since 1978, but this is the first one crafted from grapes sourced in the esteemed Willamette Valley.

Representative of the Pinot characteristics in Oregon wine country, this wine is lighter, brighter and more delicate than its California counterparts, but it is definitely not a lightweight.

With notes of cranberry, cherry and apple, this Pinot will pair well with meats such as prime rib, but we think it would also be fabulous with salmon.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 11.42.09 AMSterling Vintner’s Collection 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($17) and 2013 Meritage ($14)
Sterling Vineyards introduced a few new releases for the holidays, including these two reds. The Cabernet Sauvignon is medium-bodied and juicy, filled with flavors of plum, cherries, blackberries and a touch of smoke and violets. If you can’t find the 2013, no worries – Sterling has already released the 2014 vintage.

The Meritage blends Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot into a good wine to pair with food. Both of these wines will go well with grilled steaks, meat pastas and even roasted chicken in a rich sauce.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 11.55.09 AMSanta Cristina 2013 Chianti Superiore ($16)
Santa Cristina produces Italy’s No. 1 selling red wine, Rosso; released its first wine in 1946; and is represented by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Washington state.

The 2013 Chianti Superiore is a ruby-colored blend of Sangiovese (95%) and Merlot (5%). This is a tasty, medium-bodied wine with aromas of plum and cherry that are also experienced on the palate.

We enjoyed it with pasta, but it would also go well with mushroom dishes, turkey or chicken.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 12.41.15 PMRed Diamond 2012 Limited Release Mysterious Red Blend ($10)
This wine was released in time for Halloween, but it works well for this holiday season too.

A blend of 56% Syrah, 40% Merlot, 3% Viognier and 1% other red varieties, this bold wine is described as mysteriously dark, with a palate of dark red berries and a hint of spice.

It pairs well with hearty dishes such as grilled steaks, rich stews or strong cheeses, or with sweets such as chocolate peanut butter cups.

At this price, how can you go wrong?

 

Thank you to Oak Ridge Winery, Mark West, Sterling Vineyards, Santa Cristina and Red Diamond for samples of these wines.

Happy holidays and cheers!
Margot and Dave

Recent Releases We’ve Enjoyed-Part 1

As 2015 winds down, we are happy to share information about some new wines and wineries that we discovered late this year. As regular readers know, our palates prefer big reds, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Bordeaux-style blends. So it’s not surprising that these are most of the wines we are writing about today.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 2.53.58 PMSeven Falls 2013 GPS Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 GPS Zinfandel ($40 each)
Launched in October, these two new Seven Falls Cellars single vineyard “GPS” tier of wines rocked us, and when we shared them with our neighbors, they loved them too. The Cabernet Sauvignon is rich, bold and beautiful, just the way we like it — full of layers and complexities of black fruit, minerality, graphite, leather, tea and tobacco, which will showcase themselves differently as the wine ages. Our neighbors declared the Zinfindel one of the best they’ve tasted — jammy, fruit-forward and aromatic, with chocolate, raspberries and hints of nutmeg and other spices.

Why is the label called GPS? According to Seven Falls, “To highlight the unique sense of place where the wines are from, the vineyard block Global Positioning System coordinates are included on each of the Seven Falls single-vineyard labels, so everyone has an opportunity to visit the Wahluke Slope from anywhere in the world.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 12.07.40 PMStottle Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($34) and 2012 Big Eddie ($35)
Stottle Winery is based in Lacey, just north of Olympia,where owners Josh and Amy Stottlemyer recently opened a new tasting room and facility. (They also have a tasting room in Hoodsport on Highway 101.) This was our first opportunity to taste Stottle wines, which have won numerous Seattle Wine Awards. After tasting Stottle 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2012 Big Eddie, we understand why. Stottle’s 2012 Cab also has a touch of Merlot (5%) and Malbec (2%), and is bursting with flavors of red and black berries, cherries vanilla and chocolate. With a great nose and structure, this wine can be opened now or cellared for a few years. Big Eddie is a medium-bodied blend of 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec, with juicy flavors of raspberry, blackberry and dark chocolate. What’s not to like, right?

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 12.10.30 PMColumbia Crest 2013 Limited Release “Gold” Red Wine Blend ($12)
We wrote about this wine back in September, but recently enjoyed it again and wanted to remind our readers about its good value. For only $12, this wine is a blend of 52% Cab Franc, 38% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot. 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. Think spicy, rich and textured – and great to pair with grilled beef, lamb, rich stews or simply with strong cheese. We’ve been delighted to find a number of value wines this year from Columbia Crest that we really like! This one is right up there with 2012 and 2013 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Thank you to Seven Falls, Stottle and Columbia Crest for samples of these wines. We plan on purchasing some in the weeks ahead.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

 

Double Canyon-New Winemaker, New Wine

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 3.52.31 PMWe recently became big fans of Double Canyon, established just seven years ago in Horse Heaven Hills, and named for the two ravines that run through the property in central Washington state.

Double Canyon’s first wine, a 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Double Canyon Vineyard, was awarded 93 points from Wine Spectator.

Earlier this year, at Taste Washington, we named Double Canyon’s 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, from Phinny Hill Vineyard, in our top three favorite wines.

At that time, we met new winemaker Jason Ledbetter, who had just come to Double Canyon from Pine Ridge Vineyards, Trefethen Vineyards and Cakebread Cellars in Napa.

We could tell immediately that Jason had a passion for appellation-focused estate wine, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, which is Double Canyon’s focus. In the months since then, he has frequently referred to Horse Heaven Hills as “a special place” and a leading area to produce Cabernet in Washington state.

One week ago, Double Canyon released its 2012 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon. In Jason’s words, “Classic wines from this appellation are lauded for their exceptional balance and acidity, and this wine is no exception.”

We can attest to this, and we are sure that our appreciation of this wine will be echoed by those who taste it. Obviously the wine is young, just released last week. But yes, it definitely rocked with potential. And after decanting it for a couple of hours, it paired very nicely with BBQ steak.

From the tasting notes:

“Luminous and dark purple in hue, this wine delivers a rich fruit and floral fragrance accented by an exotic vanilla spice. The palate opens with soft, rich flavors of bright red plum and dried red cherry accented by black tea leaf and fresh vanilla bean. The texture is smooth and luscious, and the wine’s balance and mouthwatering acidity make for a classic Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet.”

This 2012 wine is sourced from grapes at three well-known vineyards. Almost a quarter comes from the winery’s estate Double Canyon Vineyard, with the remainder sourced from Phinny Hill Vineyard, which is located across from Double Canyon and owned by vineyard manager Will Beightol’s family, and Zephyr Ridge, which Beightol previously managed.

AVA: Horse Heaven Hills
Blend: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Syrah, 3% Malbec
SRP: $25
Released: July 2014
Production: 698 cases
Sample provided  by winery

We are looking forward to watching how Jason expands the Cabernet Sauvignon program at Double Canyon. And of course, we plan on tasting many more of his Double Canyon Cabs.

Cheers!

 

 

Don’t Miss Chateau St. Michelle’s Summer Concert Series

There are still tickets left for some of the first-rate performers at Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Summer Concert Series, at the scenic outdoor amphitheater on the beautiful winery grounds in Woodinville.

It’s a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon or evening. And this week is supposed to be sunny and in the 80s, so you can’t miss!

Pretty surroundings, fine Chateau Ste. Michelle wine, summer weather and music for dancing = happy people!

We were fortunate to attend the John Legend “All of Me” concert on June 28 and had a fabulous time. His music was as phenomenal as expected, and he entertained a rapt audience with funny stories in addition to sultry tunes.

We paired his music with Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 2010 Artist Series Meritage, a layered rich blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc and 3% Malbec.

There are many more concerts to come this summer. While some concerts are already sold out, you can still find tickets for many performances.

  • July 16: Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band
  • July 17: Replay America with The Go-Go’s, Patty Smyth and Scandal, Martha Davis and The Motels, Cutting Crew & Naked Eyes featuring Pete Byrne
  • July 18: Lyle Lovett & His Large Band
  • Sold Out: Goo Goo Dolls & Daughtry with special guest Plain White T‘s
  • July 26: Festival of Jazz with Manhattan Transfer, Spyro Gyra, Lee Ritenour & Dave Grusin and Jessy J
  • July 27: Chris Isaak
  • Aug. 1: Nickel Creek
  • Sold Out: ZZ Top and Jeff Beck
  • Gipsy King’s 25th Anniversary Tour
  • Sold Out: Earth, Wind & Fire
  • Aug. 24: Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus Featuring Buddy Guy
  • Sold Out: Boston
  • Sept. 12: An Evening with Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
  • Sept. 14: Crosby, Stills & Nash (their first night, Sept. 13, is sold out)

So don’t wait – have a look at the Concert Calendar, where you can also get your tickets right now.

Have questions? Check out the concert FAQ.

Thanks for inviting us to be your guests, Chateau Ste. Michelle. There are many reasons why your winery is considered one of Seattle’s top summer concert venues, and why this series has been a winner since it was first introduced in 1984.

Cheers!

Delicious Darighe

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 12.53.56 PMAs March (the official Washington Wine Month) comes to an end, we decided to open one of the first bottles of wine that we tasted when we moved here: Darighe from The Woodhouse Wine Estates.

The 2008 vintage is as lovely as the first we tried – 2001 Darighe.

2008 Darighe is an excellent, traditional, old-world, left-bank Bordeaux blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 11% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot, sourced from Columbia Valley grapes.

A silver medal winner at the annual Savor Northwest Wine Competition, 2008 Darighe has a magnificent mouthfeel and a lengthy finish.

The bottle is heavy glass, as substantive as the juice inside.

Like its predecessors, the 2008 features a dense tannic structure that is a hallmark of Darighe.

According to the tasting notes:

“Darighe is ruby in color with the delicate, yet complicated scent of violet, mocha, smoke, truffle, blackberry, cassis and an array of spices. It is soft, refined and elegant with a persistent finish.”

In our opinion, these words best describe 2008 Darighe: Classic, stellar, beautiful, robust, rich and soft velvet.

We have recommended Darighe since we first experienced the 2001 vintage; the 2008 continues that tradition. If your palate prefers big reds, you will love 2008 Darighe.

Cheers!

 

Don & Sons Appellation Wines Tasting

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!

If you love blends …

… 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!

What we’ve been drinking lately

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?

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!

Washington Wine Goes to South Korea

If you follow Write for Wine on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know that I just spent a week in Seoul, South Korea for my job at a public relations agency. It was a first for me, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of wine.

My friend Jaimie at L’Ecole 41 in Walla Walla told me their wines have been available in Seoul for six years, but I didn’t see them – or any Washington wines for that matter.

Then again, I didn’t get out much because I was, after all, there to work. (No, I’m not complaining at all – it was a wonderful and valuable experience, and I met some smart, fun people who work around the world at the same PR agency.)

I did participate in a delicious dinner featuring Korean BBQ, where the beef was grilled on the table and cut with scissors. It was the most tender beef I have tasted in my life – ever! But not one Washington wine was on the menu. I also checked the wine lists at restaurants in two major hotels, with the same result.

So you can imagine my surprise when I came home to find out that Washington wine and South Korea were in the news! An historic free trade agreement between the U.S. and Korea kicked in while I was gone, which removes a 15% tariff on wine.

As a result, according to news reports, wine exports from Washington state are expected to increase by 40-50% in the first year. That’s because Korean cuisine, which relies heavily on beef, just happens to pair nicely with the fabulous reds that are produced in our state.

So next time I visit Seoul, I’ll be able to savor a robust, rich Cab Sauv from Washington state with my Korean BBQ. I’ll definitely lift my glass to that!

Cheers!