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!

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!

Back to B.C.

Cab Franc, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine Comments Off

Regular readers of Write for Wine know that I live in Seattle but I’m from Vancouver, and I occasionally write about B.C. wines. This is one of those occasions.

On two recent visits to my hometown, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver and experienced two delightful B.C. reds – to my admitted surprise, considering that B.C. is known mainly for its fine whites.

First, 2008 Burrowing Owl Merlot: This rich wine was drinking nicely a couple of months ago, with aromas of dark cherry and cassis particularly noticeable. It was the best B.C. merlot I’ve tasted and equals some of our favorite Washington state merlots, hands down. Not surprisingly, it won a bronze at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition 2011.

In fact, I was so pleased to find a fabulous B.C. red, that I’d like to try Burrowing Owl’s Cab Franc one of these days. And it just so happens that their 08 Cab Franc won gold at the same SF International Wine Competition.

We are heading to B.C.’s wine country in 2013 for the Wine Bloggers Conference, but if we get to Oliver before hand, Burrowing Owl is definitely on our must-see list. More than a winery, Burrowing Owl offers a restaurant and accommodations, overlooking 140 acres of picturesque vineyard. The “Guest House” contains 10 spacious rooms with fireplaces and private decks.

The second B.C. red that I tasted at Vancouver Hyatt a few weeks later came from Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Vineyard. Jackson-Triggs, the most-awarded winery in Canada, is well-known for its Niagara (Ontario) wine.

But its award-winning merlots and cabernet sauvignons are made with grapes from B.C.’s Okanagan region, also near Oliver.

We tasted the latest release, a 2009 Black Series Merlot (formerly Proprietors’ Reserve), which was velvety smooth and silky at the same time. This wine is so new that it hasn’t been entered into international wine competitions yet, but my bet is on awards in the future.

If you’re looking for recommendations about B.C. whites, Washington wine expert Paul Gregutt gives full marks to “gems such as Sperling Old Vine riesling, Le Vieux Pin sauvignon blanc and Poplar Grove pinot gris.”

Cheers!

Head Out to JM Cellars

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

If you’ve never been to JM Cellars in Woodinville, you are missing out on many wonderful Washington wines. Located on a hillside called Bramble Bump, JM Cellars offers first-class wines with a view.

Luck was with us a couple of weeks ago, when we stumbled upon an unexpected release party at JM Cellars. Winemaker/co-owner John Bigelow was pouring with a smile and our friend Paige Leighton welcomed us with hugs. And the wines – oh my.

We’ve been fans of JM Cellars signature blend Tre Fanciulli for years, so it was no surprise that we went home with the latest 2009 release. Tre Fanciulli is Italian for “three treasured lads” and named for John and Peggy Bigelow’s sons in 1999. With this new release, and the eleventh vintage, the name has been shortened to simply Tre. Love it!

Of the 11 vintages, this was the fifth we have savored. The 2009 Tre is a rich blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 18% Syrah – simply heaven in a glass.

The JM Cellars 2009 Boushey Vineyard Syrah is also outstanding. John told us the single-vineyard grapes came from old vines near the house of viticulturalist Dick Boushey, one of Washington’s finest grapegrowers. After Matt Sauer’s Red Willow Vineyard, Boushey was the next to plant Syrah grapes in Washington state. If you like big, peppery, savory Syrah, you simply must try this one.

Another one of John’s wines that we’re particularly fond of is the 2009 Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red. We first tried this stellar wine as a pre-release at the Taste of Tulalip last November, and couldn’t wait to taste it a few months later at its official release party.

It’s the inaugural vintage of a Bordeaux blend from vines that were planted in 2007 on the southern border of the Walla Walla appellation at the then-newly named Margaret’s Vineyard. The wine blends 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 17% Cab Franc, 17% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot and 6% Carmenere.

JM Cellars is known for elegant blended reds. And regular readers know my preference for Cab-based Bordeaux blends, so you know we took this beauty home with us!

Cheers!

Sogno Superbo

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Wine Comments Off

The first time we ever tasted Cabernet Franc is stamped in our memories because we immediately fell in love with this grape. The year was 1999, when we had just moved to Seattle and took our first drive to Woodinville wine country. The winery was DiStefano. We became instant fans and remain so today.

Slightly more than a year ago, we included DiStefano’s 2005 Sogno Cab Franc in our Top 11 Washington state wineries that produce the Cab Franc grape as a shining single-varietal wine.

We now add 2007 Sogno Reserve to the list. Wow!

Released in July 2011, only 150 cases were made of this powerful 100% Cab Franc. From the tasting notes:

“Intense dark chocolate, raspberry and toasted hazelnut push their way out of the glass. The palate is rich with silky chocolate and dried cherries, with hints of spicy oak, black pepper on the finish.”

Cab Franc is typically used as a blending wine to add more complexity to Cabernet Sauvignon or more structure to Merlot.

But when Cab Franc is created as a stand-alone wine and done well, like 2007 Sogno Reserve, it’s magic. Glorious. Superbo!

Did we mention only 150 cases were produced? What are you waiting for?

Cheers!

2009 Ghost of 413 Red

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine 2 Comments

This is one of the best value wines we have had in a long time: 2009 Ghost of 413 Red. And we put our money where our mouths are – after buying two bottles from our friends at Full Pull Wine, we put in an order for a case.

Ghost of 413 is released by Giant Wine Co., a collaboration between Chris Gorman of Gorman Winery and Mark McNeilly from Mark Ryan Winery.

The first vintage came in 2005 when, the story goes, Mark and Chris weren’t sure how the wine would taste, so they decided to keep their names invisible and the “ghost” was born.

No need to hide behind Casper this vintage — 2009 Ghost of 413 Red  is not a phantom wine! You’ll discover a ripe rich wine that blends 90% Cabernet Sauvingnon with a 10% pinch of Syrah and Merlot. Or as it’s described on the Giant Wine website, “Dark and velvety rich with plenty of stuffing to scare wines at twice the price.”

We agree – 2009 Ghost of 413 Red is worth much more than its $15 price point.

Five thousand cases were produced, and according to Paul Zitarelli at Full Pull, he expects the wine to be sold out by late February or early March. So what are you waiting for?

Cheers!

Tweets from Taste of Tulalip

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Wine Comments Off

We had an exceptional time at Taste of Tulalip, where we were guests of the Tulalip Resort. In the next couple of weeks, I plan to write a full blog post about our two days there – from the Celebratory dinner to the Magnum Party of elite wines and the Grand Tasting. Until then, here is a sample of some of my tweets live from Taste of Tulalip.

Friday Night Celebratory Dinner

Saturday Magnum Party

Grand Tasting

As you can see, there was an explosion of tastes and flavors at Taste of Tulalip. The resort is beautiful and the staff superb. Special thanks to Allan, Norma, Cheryl Kyle, Chef Perry Mascitti and his fabulous team, Sommelier Tommy Thompson, and Lisa Severn.

We will be back!

Cheers!

 

It’s a Perfect Time to Visit Swiftwater Cellars

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Events, Merlot, Syrah, Wine Comments Off

The summer tourists have gone home and the skiiers are waiting for the season to kick off, so now is the time to visit Swiftwater Cellars, a destination within a destination at Suncadia Resort - a one-hour drive from Seattle in the heart of the Cascade Mountains.

We visited a couple of months ago, and it was gorgeous – mountain views, a 360-degree bar, a two-story stone fireplace, a shop with unique gifts and collectibles, and Swiftwater Cellars premium wine – what’s not to like? If you’re lucky, owners Don and Lori Watts, both consummate storytellers, will regale you with anecdotes about their lives and about the former Roslyn Coal Mine No. 9 that the winery sits atop.

And let’s not forget the wine! Veteran winemakers Tony Rynders and Linda Trotta create a number of outstanding wines with fruit sourced from a selection of vineyards in Washington and Oregon. The Watts family also owns Zephyr Ridge in Horse Heaven Hills.

Not surprisingly to regular readers of this blog, my favorite was Swiftwater’s Proprietary Red – a beautiful Bordeaux blend of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cab Franc, 16% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot and 10% Syrah. But full props also go to Swiftwater’s Syrah and Pinot Noir (sourced from Willamette Valley).

We also enjoyed some white wines from their second label, Number 9, naturally named after the coal mine. At the moment, Switfwater Cellars produces a total of 2,500 cases of wine, with plans to double that in the future.

But Swiftwater Cellars is more than fine wine – the Fireside Lounge offers an all-day menu and The Hoist House dinner menu has many mouth-watering choices.

And there are frequent events; for example, this weekend you’ll find live music and “Experience the Crush.”

Did I mention this destination winery would also be an awesome location for a wedding or holiday party?

Whether you’re looking for a day-trip, a wonderful weekend or a unique place to hold an event, we recommend checking out Swiftwater Cellars. We plan on going back!

Cheers!

Glorious Cabernet Franc

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine 2 Comments

Cab FrancOne of my favorite wines is Cabernet Franc, which is one of the main varieties in Bordeaux blends. Cab Franc is typically used as a blending wine to add more complexity to Cabernet Sauvignon or more structure to Merlot.

But Cab Franc is also created as a single-varietal wine; in other words, a stand-alone wine. And one of the best we’ve tasted recently was a 2004 Cab Franc from Corliss Estates in Walla Walla.

This beauty was elegant and balanced, with a complex bouquet of cherry, spice, cassis, pepper and cocoa. We found it so rich that it was excellent without food. However, parmesan cheese went well with it, and later, we paired it nicely with a slow-cooked savory stew.

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

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 glorious.

Corliss 2004 Columbia Valley Cab Franc is a prime example.

Cheers!

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