And the winner is … ANC Wines

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.34.37 PMJarrod Boyle of Alexandria Nicole Cellars is continuing his winning streak with a number of recent accolades for several of his stellar wines.

Knowing Jarrod, he would also credit Jose Yanez, the excellent foreman at Destiny Ridge Estate Vineyard, assistant winemaker Matt Dodson, and Jarrod’s amazing wife, co-owner and marketing manager, Ali Boyle.

And last, but definitely not least, Jarrod would point to Mother Nature.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.35.57 PMTwenty-three varietals are planted at Destiny Ridge, and the belief at ANC is that quality starts in the vineyard.

The winery’s motto is “approachable elegance” — and judging by the recent awards, and dozens and dozens of previous ones, Jarrod and his team are definitely succeeding.

Here are the most recent awards:

  • 2014 “Crawford” Viognier, Best of Class and Double Gold, Savor NW Awards
  • 2014 Shepherds Mark, Gold, Savor NW Awards
  • 2013 Jet Black Syrah, Best of Class and Gold, Seattle Wine and Food Experience
  • 2013 Shepherds Mark, Gold, Seattle Wine and Food Experience
  • Beverage Tasting Institute Ratings
    • 2012 “Gravity” Merlot, 92 points and Cellar Selection
    • 2012 “Little Big Man” Petit Verdot, 92 points and Cellar Selection
    • 2011 “Alderdale” Cabernet Sauvignon, 92 points
    • 2012 Quarry Butte, 91 points
    • 2014 A squared Pinot Gris, Best Buy

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.35.44 PMThe outstanding wines are what brought us to Alexandria Nicole Cellars almost 10 years ago. But the warmth of the ANC team and the winery’s fabulous events played a big role too.

Over the years, we have had the pleasure and honor of becoming friends with Jarrod and Ali, and we are so excited for their new venture, The Estate on Destiny Ridge — a breathtaking, luxurious and private venue for entertaining in the middle of wine country.

We also can’t wait for their glamping season to start up again this summer.

Congratulations to Jarrod, Ali and the ANC team on the latest accolades.

Stop by and see them at Taste Washington, or at their tasting rooms in Woodinville and Prosser.

Cheers!

Margot and Dave

 

There’s nothing like a stellar Cab Franc from Washington State

Cab FrancOne of our favorite wines is Cabernet Franc, which is one of the main varieties in Bordeaux blends.

Many people don’t realize that Cab Franc is one of the genetic parents to Cabernet Sauvignon; the other is Sauvignon Blanc. In addition to Washington state, you can find it planted in California and in the Bordeaux and Loire regions in France.

Cab Franc is typically used as a blending wine to add more complexity to the robust Cabernet Sauvignon or more structure to the softer Merlot. But Cab Franc is also created as a single-varietal wine; in other words, a stand-alone wine.

When blended, it adds both a subtly and an “oomph” to Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties. But on its own, quite simply, Cabernet Franc is amazing.

Cab Franc is known for its complex aromas of cherry and berry, with notes of herbs, spices, chocolate, cedar, and even violets. Frequently wine enthusiasts describe the nose as a peppery perfume.

The hot climate in Walla Walla and Yakima Valley is perfectly suited to ripen the Cab Franc fruit. Wineries in Lake Chelan have also produced some fine vintages.

We’ve enjoyed many excellent stand-alone Washington state Cab Francs over the years, including a beautiful Matthews Estate 2003 Conner Lee Cab Franc, an elegant 2004 from Corliss Estates, a robust 2012 Outcast from Barrage Cellars, and a rich 2012 Cooper Estate Red Mountain Cabernet Franc.

Here are some other Washington state wineries that, in our opinion, produce the Cab Franc grape as a shining single-varietal wine.

What Cab Francs do you like best from Washington state? Please share your favorites with us!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Hope Family Wines

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 2.24.06 PMHope Family Wines is a pioneer in Paso Robles wine country, established 30 years ago and still family-owned and operated.

Five brands are in their barrels and bottles, three of which we experienced recently during a Twitter tasting sponsored by the winery and Boston Wine Expo.

2013 Liberty School Merlot, $16
This medium-bodied wine is ruby in color, and packed with flavors. Dense and earthy with blackberries, blueberries and plum, with a hint of dark chocolate and spice, this is one good-value, good-tasting Merlot. Try pairing it with pizza or burgers.

Troublemaker Blend 8, $20
Troublemaker is a Rhone-style blend that is distinctly Paso: 46% Syrah, 14% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre, 25% Zinfandel and 5% Petite Sirah. Think of it as GSM with a kick. Most of the wine comes from the 2013 vintage, but a mix of 2012 and 2011 brings a multi-vintage complexity that is unique. Fruit-forward characteristics make it pop; we’d say it’s trouble in glass!

2012 Treana Red, $45
While we enjoyed the first two wines, our favorite is Treana, the flagship and benchmark blend of Hope Family Wines since 1996. Of course we liked it best — it’s Cab-based (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah) and has a velvety mouthfeel. Bold, rich and spicy, this beauty will definitely pair well with Valentine’s Day.

Special thanks to our hosts, who gave us free samples so we could participate in the Twitter tasting.

Cheers!

Margot and Dave

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!

Franciscan Estate

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 1.54.44 PMSince 1975, Franciscan Estate has produced wine in the Napa Valley, where Cabernet Sauvignon is king.

So we were delighted to receive samples of 2011 Franciscan Estate Cab and Merlot to taste.

2011 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Although 2011 was a challenging, cool growing season, the Franciscan Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon offers beautiful aromas of red fruit and a silky mouthfeel. Comprised of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 2% Petite Verdot, 1% Syrah and 1% Cabernet Franc, this Bordeaux-style blend pairs well with hamburgers and other meat dishes.

While it is drinkable now, we recommend putting it down for a couple of years to further enhance the flavors. This is a good example of a quality Napa Cabernet Sauvignon with a $28 price point.

2011 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Merlot

Despite being produced in the challenging growing season of 2011, Franciscan Napa Valley Merlot shows richness, body and what the winemaker calls “generous shoulders.” A blend of 82% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec and 2% Syrah, this wine offers vibrant aromas and flavors, with soft tannins and supple texture.

This wine is approachable now or could be cellared for a couple more years. This is a good example of an everyday wine at $20.

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!

 

Efeste – True Love on Valentine’s Day

On Valentine’s Day, I fell in love with Big Papa all over again and developed a new crush on Nana. Thankfully, Dave feels the same way.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 4.58.43 PMOf course, we’re referring to Efeste‘s 2010 Big Papa Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 Nana, a three-vineyard and three-varietal blend, both made by winemaker extraordinaire Brennon Leighton. (Current Efeste winemaker Peter Devision has some magic up his sleeve too.)

2010 Big Papa Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon

This robust 100% Cabernet Sauvignon was drinking well in August 2013, when we last tasted it. Six months later, on Valentine’s Day, Big Papa demonstrated further why Wine Advocate bestowed Efeste with 94 points for this beauty and Wine Enthusiast just named it a Cellar Selection with 92 points.

Brennon used his signature minimalist approach with native fermentation, which resulted in a big, bold, complex and balanced wine, made from grapes sourced from mature vines in five of the state’s best vineyards: Klipsun, Bacchus, Sagemoor, Kiona and Red Willow.

We’ve been a fan of Big Papa since 2009, and I can guarantee that we will continue to advocate buying it year after year. It’s true love.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 5.18.33 PM2010 Nana Right Bank Bordeaux Blend

This is the only time I’ve written about Nana, but only because this is the first vintage. Elegant, refined, robust, strong yet supple, Nana showcases all the classic characteristics of a stellar Bordeaux blend from the Right Bank.

The mouthfeel is amazing, likely because my palate favors Cab Franc and Cab Sauv, both plentiful in this fine wine: 18% Stone Tree Cabernet Franc, 18% Angela’s Vineyard (Efeste’s Estate) Cabernet Franc and 18% Red Willow Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with 46% Red Willow Merlot.

Brennon also fermented this wine with indigenous yeast, which encourages more complexity and produces fuller, richer wines than those inoculated with commercial yeast.

We are new fans of this new wine, and I can guarantee that we will be buying more of this vintage, and in the years to come.

Both wines combine elegant aromas and flavors, ripe tannins and bright, juicy acidity, and are drinkable for another 10 years.

Now to see if we have the patience to cellar them instead of popping the cork in the near future.

Cheers!

Windy Point-Beauty & Value

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 10.50.22 AMWhen you drive between Seattle and Prosser or Walla Walla, be sure to stop at Windy Point Vineyards for a pour of some excellent value wines in a beautiful tasting room. Or if you’re looking for something different to do over a weekend, it’s worth the trip to Windy Point.

With stunning architecture and beautiful views of Yakima Valley, the well-designed tasting room is airy and comfortable, with a professional kitchen as the centerpiece.

Outside, you are surrounded by gently rolling hills, a small waterfall and a pond. And if you’re lucky, you’ll see some Mississippi sawbuck turtles raised at the vineyards.

And talk about value – our favorite Windy Point reds are priced between $17-$23, and we always seem to go home with a case. You can purchase the wine outside the tasting room but it’s much more fun to visit.

Here are the wines we enjoyed:

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 10.48.51 AM2007 Pointless Red ($17): A blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Cabernet Franc and 3% Merlot, Pointless is known for its four “E”s: estate-grown, economical, easy-drinking and “endlessly pleasing.”

2005 Cab Franc ($18): This vintage was awarded a platinum by Wine Press Northwest and a gold medal at the Washington State Wine Competition; the more recent 2006 Cab Franc ($20) won a silver medal at the Washington State Wine Competition.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20): Showing excellent potential, this Cab was just released. We were big fans of the 2004 Cab, so we’re cellaring the more recent vintage for a couple of years.

2007 !Exclamation Point! ($21): Windy Point’s signature wine is a rich blend of 60% Cab Franc and 40% Merlot, one of the winery’s best-sellers, a two-time gold medal winner and “best in show” at the Washington State Wine Competition.

2008 Moot Point ($23): This is an elegant Bordeaux-style blend at such a low price point: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% CabFranc and a splash of Malbec.

While some of these wines were lovely to drink on their own or with almonds and cheese, they also pair well with different foods. On the Windy Point website, you can find recipes, such as  Apple Wood Smoked Pork Loin Sandwich, Seared Halibut, Braised Colorado Lamb Shank or Wine Infused Beef Flank Steak with Savory Mushroom Napoleon, Crispy Root Vegetable Cakes & Red Wine Cream Sauce.

Cheers!

 

 

 

Time to Try Gard

Gard Vintners was created in 2006 by the Lawrence family, who has been farming the Royal Slope, near Royal City in the Columbia Valley, for more than 45 years. We enjoyed some of Gard wines a few years ago, but hadn’t tasted any recently.

So we were delighted when we received three samples of Gard wines from Lawrence Estate Vineyards on the Frenchman Hills in the Columbia Valley AVA.

We had been told that Gard wines had developed over the years and indeed, that is absolutely right.

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 5.11.18 PM2009 Syrah Reserve packed a punch from the minute we opened the bottle.

Super dark, super ripe, super layered and super intense, this magnificent wine is smoky, earthy and powerful with a hint of black pepper.

Pair it with barbecued anything or a nice spicy bowl of spaghetti, or drink it alone, simply enjoying the lingering taste that builds sip after sip. (Released May 2012, $45)

2010 Syrah is an incredible value at $29. We recommend decanting this medium-bodied wine for an hour or two to truly experience its evolution into a rich and silky mouthfeel. Or better yet, cellar it for 2-4 years and prepare to be wowed. (Released May 2013)

2011 Don Isidro Red is a medium-bodied blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Syrah and 8% Merlot that will complement a meal such as roast beef, beef stew or even a good steak. At $22, this red could be described as an easy-drinking, food-friendly value wine that could grace any table. (Released September 2013)

Props to Gard winemaker Aryn Morell – we are adding Gard Vintners to our list of favorites.

Cheers!

 

2013 Legends Winemaker

Congratulations to Greg Lipsker, co-owner of Barrister Winery in Spokane, who was chosen as the winemaker to create the blend for 2013 Legends of Washington Wine Gala, an annual fundraising program in support of the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser.

Legends honors those whose contributions to the community and the wine industry are of historical and lasting significance.

The news was announced on May 30, but I was traveling and unable to congratulate Greg and Barrister’s Winery until now.

Barrister is known for limited production red wines. Our favorite, consistent over the years, has been the stellar Barrister Cabernet Franc. As we noted at Taste Washington last year, the 09 Barrister Cab Franc was a standout.

Don’t just take our word for it! Barrister’s Cab Franc has won awards at the L.A. World of Wines Competition, the Northwest Wine Summit, and the Tri-Cities Wine Festival.

Although we don’t get to Spokane often, we make a point to stop by Barrister’s table at numerous Washington wine events throughout the year. If we’re lucky, Greg and Barrister Winery co-owner Michael White will be pouring and have time for a chat.

The fruit for the multi-vintage 2013 Legends blend was sourced by Greg from seven different vineyards:

  • 38% Merlot from Red Mountain, Walla Walla Valley, Wahluke Slope, and Columbia Valley
  • 33% Syrah from Wahluke Slope and Columbia Valley
  • 20% Cabernet Franc from Yakima Valley and Columbia Valley
  • 9% Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain and Columbia Valley

The Legends 2013 blend will be released on August 9 at the 2013 Legends of Washington Wine Gala.

Greg is the seventh winemaker to make an exclusive blend to commemorate an annual inductee into the Washington Wine Hall of Fame.

Congratulations and cheers!