Summer Sauvignon Blancs

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 11.46.58 AMSauvignon Blanc is our favorite summer-time white wine and these days, Washington state and California are producing some excellent juice that rivals the world-famous Bordeaux and New Zealand production.

Fun fact:
Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. During the 18th century in Bordeaux, the Sauvignon Blanc vine paired with Cabernet Franc to parent the Cabernet Sauvignon vine.

Here are some excellent Sauvignon Blancs that we recently tasted.

2014 Columbia Crest H3 Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Hills, $15
This rich wine from Columbia Crest in Washington state features some of the well-known characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc — tropical flavors of passion fruit, combined with citrus, pears and peaches. Crisp, fresh, clean with a layer of minerality means H3 pairs well with seafood, mild-flavored meats and even some richer dishes.

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 11.39.15 AM2014 Sbragia Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc, $22
Sauv Blanc is the signature grape of Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. Of the three we tasted from this area, this one from Zbragia was our favorite. Elegant, yet refreshing, and brimming with aromas and flavors of grapefruit, green apple and minerality, this beauty is tart, tangy and grassy – some classic features of an excellent Sauv Blanc. We adore this wine and just want to savor it with shrimp or prawn dishes.

2013 Gustafson Estate Sauvignon Blanc, $22
A blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Sauvignon Musque (an aromatic Sauvignon Blanc clone), this wine has a remarkable creamy texture with notes of peaches and melon, and is more floral and tropical than citrusy. The Gustafson is more complex than a typical Sauv Blanc, but still pairs well with shellfish — crabs, scallops, prawns and oysters.

2013 Dry Creek Vineyard DCV3 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, $25
The most expensive of the four Sauvignon Blancs that we tasted, the powerful DCV3 from Dry Creek Vineyard is still a value at $25. Mineralogy is prominent on the palate, along with peaches and apples, and lemon on the finish. This medium-bodied wine bursts with flavors, and goes well with shellfish and light chicken dishes. It also pairs with asparagus and other veggies on the grill.

Many thanks to these wineries for the samples to taste.

Margot and Dave

Good Value BBQ Reds

BBQ WineSummer time, and the living is easy. We have tasted some excellent good-value reds recently, so bring out the wine glasses and start up the BBQ!

Troublemaker Blend 8, $20
Troublemaker comes from Hope Family Wines, a pioneer in Paso Robles wine country — established 30 years ago and still family-owned and operated. Troublemaker is a Rhone-style blend that is distinctly Paso: 46% Syrah, 25% Zinfandel, 14% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre 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!

Columbia Crest H3 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, $15
This is one enjoyable, good value Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Crest, bursting with flavor! Think bold — 99% Cab Sauv with 1% Cab Franc to round off the edges. This wine is ready to drink now, with flavors of cherries and blackberries and soft tannins. H3 will pair well with any kind of beef, lamb or your favorite strong cheese. And at $15, you can’t beat it for summer parties and barbecues.

Red Diamond Temperamental Red Blend Spain, $10
Red Diamond recently released new packaging with an eye-catching label, in addition to several food-friendly wines at the low price of $10. So far, we’ve just tasted the Temperamental, a rich blend of grapes sourced in Spain — Tempranillo (90%), Graciano (4%), Garnacha (3%) and Mazuelo (3%). With flavors of black fruit and berries, this isn’t a typical dry Spanish wine. We found it jammy, even semi-sweet, with a smooth finish. Pair it with BBQ steak or lamb.

All three wines were sent to us as samples for tasting.

Happy summer and cheers!
Margot and Dave

Wine and Cancer Research: Mark your calendars on July 9, Seattle

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 12.39.16 PMWhat a fantastic way to support the American Cancer Society – an exclusive wine tasting at Capital Grille in Seattle on July 9.

More than 25 highly rated wines from the Chairman’s personal reserve collection — 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintages — will be poured, and 100% of proceeds from the tasting will go to the American Cancer Society for cancer research.

Four of the featured wines are:

  • 2005 Andrew Will Sorella, rated 95 points by Wine Spectator and 96 points by Robert Parker
  • 2005 Joseph Phelps Backus Cabernet Sauvignon, rated 97 points by Wine Enthusiast
  • 2008 Betz La Cote Rousse Syrah, rated 95 points by Wine Spectator
  • 2008 Peter Michael Ma Belle Fille Chardonnay, rated 97 points by both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker

Instead of purchasing tickets, the American Cancer Society is seeking donation items, with a minimum value of $100 per person, as a price of admission. For example, these items could include large format wine bottles, vacation home rentals, airline tickets/miles (e.g., 10,000 miles from Alaska Airlines equal $100), hotel room/points, decorative art items, dinning experiences in your home or anything else you believe will help raise funds for cancer research. More details can be found on the society’s website.

Also mark your calendars for Sept. 12, when the Seattle Hope Gala – A Toast To Life – will be held at Fremont Studios. This event will feature a reception, music and entertainment, in addition to silent & live auctions. Gourmet small plates crafted by local celebrity chefs will be paired with regional wines from the high-rated wineries.

So please try to attend both events — it’s a wonderful way to support cancer survivors and pay tribute to friends and family members who sadly have been lost to this dreadful disease.

Margot and Dave

Taste of Tulalip – Beautiful Wine Enhanced by Beautiful Art

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 12.25.27 PMOne of our favorite wine events in Washington state, Taste of Tulalip, is still a few months down the road, but the collaboration of wine and art is well underway.

For the 7th annual Taste of Tulalip, Tulalip Resort Casino‘s talented wine expert, Tommy Thompson, and the event’s 2015 honorary winemaker, Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville, have created a unique blend of wine sourced from DuBrul Vineyard grapes — 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc.

Côte Bonneville is known for wines that are “age worthy and food friendly.” And we can’t wait to taste this special wine, particularly because both of our palates favor Cab-based Bordeaux blends.

As you can see in the photo, the artwork for the 7th annual Taste of Tulalip commemorative wine bottle and plate is a beautiful expression of the Tulalip culture. Mike Gobin, honored artist, explained his inspiration:

“My father’s Indian name means ‘Man soars with Eagles’ and my twin sister loved hummingbirds, and her Indian name means ‘Aunty to all’. They have both gone to be with our lord and the design depicts my father embracing my twin sister in heaven and is entitled ‘A father’s heavenly embrace’. The salmon represents our Tribal People: ‘People of the Salmon.'”

The 2015 Taste of Tulalip takes place November 13-14. This exclusive wine, in the breathtaking commemorative bottle, will be introduced during the November 13th “Celebration Dinner.” It will be available for purchase in the event’s wine shop during the festival weekend.

Tickets will go on sale in August, so mark it on your calendar now – tickets go quickly to this fantastic weekend event.

We hope to see you there!

Margot and Dave


Double Canyon 2013 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 2.03.52 PMOne of our favorite Cabernet Sauvignons from Washington state comes from Double Canyon, established eight years ago in Horse Heaven Hills, and named for the two ravines that run through the property.

We were big fans of Double Canyon’s first wine, a 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, which was awarded 93 points from Wine Spectator.

We also enjoyed the winery’s 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and not surprisingly, felt the same way about the 2012 Horse Heaven Hills vintage.

Are you sensing a pattern here?

The hits just keep on coming from winemaker Jason Ledbetter, who has a passion for appellation-focused estate Cabs. His wines have become so popular that Double Canyon expanded its distribution of the recently released 2013 Double Canyon Horse Heaven Hills Cab Sauv to 15 markets: Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Like its predecessors, the 2013 vintage is a classic Washington state Cabernet with excellent balance, fresh fruit characteristics and juicy acidity. Of course, it pairs well with rich steak on the barbecue or grill, but it is a standalone wine too, to sip and savor with friends.

Cabernet Sauvignon (75%) is blended with Syrah (17%) and rounded out by Malbec and Petit Verdot (4% each) for extra complexity. The majority of the grapes were sourced from Double Canyon Estate Vineyard, with the remainder from Phinny Hill and Champoux Vineyards.

From the tasting notes: This Cabernet embodies a delectable mix of fresh ripe red and black plum, intermingled with hints of dried red cherry. The addition of Syrah leads to a full and rich texture on the mid-palate, further accented by luscious blackberry notes supplied by the Malbec and bright acidity from the Petit Verdot. The soft and supple mouthfeel is supported by the complexity of sweet oak tannins and fresh fruit character, finishing with the juicy acidity that is characteristic of Horse Heaven Hills.

AVA: Horse Heaven Hills
Blend: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Syrah, 4% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot
SRP: $25
Released: March 2015
Production: 4,200 cases
Sample provided  by winery

We highly recommend all the wines we’ve tasted to date from Double Canyon.

Margot and Dave

Summer Sippers

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 9.08.12 AMOur recent sunny May weather makes us think of summer sippers while it is still spring. So here are some recent releases of good-value whites and rosés that pair perfectly with warm evenings on the deck or patio.

14 Hands 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Washington State
Our favorite white wine is Sauvignon Blanc, particularly when it shows aromas and flavors of grapefruit. This beauty does just that, and pairs nicely with prawns or other fresh seafood dishes. It also is a refreshing crisp taste of summer to sip and savor on its own on the deck. ($10)

14 Hands 2014 Pinot Gris Washington State
After Sauv Blanc, our second favorite white wine is Pinot Gris, which also pairs best with seafood. Similarly refreshing, this Pinot Gris is rounded with flavors of pears and honeysuckle, and contains 2.5% Pinot Blanc. We recommend it to accompany seafood pasta. ($10)

Santa Cristina 2014 Pinot Grigio
This wine comes from an established growing region outside Venice, Italy. Think of orange blossoms and tropical fruit, and you’ll travel to the Tuscan sun without leaving your patio. In addition to seafood, this elegant and fragrant wine also pairs with chicken salad — or any salad, actually. ($12)

Santa Cristina 2014 Cipresseto Toscana Rosato
Cipresseto is one of the first rosés produced in Italy. Named for the Cyprus trees near the vineyards, this dry rosé blends Sangiovese and Canaiolo. Fermentation and time in stainless steel tanks generated a crisp wine with distinctive aromas of raspberry and jasmine. According to the tasting notes, its savory undertones mean it will pair well with tomato dishes or calamari.  ($14)

Other Summer Sippers from 14 Hands and Santa Cristina

  • Santa Cristina 2014 Campogrande, $12
  • 14 Hands 2013 Chardonnay Washington State, $12
  • 14 Hands 2013 Hot to Trot White Blend Washington State, $10

Samples were provided by 14 Hands and Santa Christina, both of which are part of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

Margot and Dave


Wine Rocks – In More Ways Than One

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 8.28.05 AMAnyone who reads this blog shares our passion and belief that wine rocks. But did you know that Wine Rocks is also an event that is in its 8th year in Seattle?

Wine Rocks returns to Seattle’s waterfront on July 9, when you can taste excellent wine, rock the night away and also help a good cause.

You can join in the fun at the 8th annual Wine Rocks Seattle at Elliott Hall & Pier (Bell Harbor – Pier 66), where more than 45 wineries, breweries and cider houses will pour their best on the city’s beautiful waterfront.

Washington winemaker and music lover Trey Busch of Sleight of Hand Cellars will serve as  emcee. Four bands will take the stage — and three of them feature Washington winemakers, including Gordy Rawson of Chatter Creek Winery, Darren Des Voigne of Des Voigne Cellars and Karris Nicklaus of Michael Florentino Cellars.

The headliner will be Seattle-based band, the Timbre Barons. But the music won’t stop between the live performances — DJ Dubreezy will also be spinning tunes on the pier.

In addition, the event has some new features this year:

  • Rhone Zone Wine Bar – taste Rhone-inspired red, white and rose wines
  • Restaurant Zoe American Lamb Spit – grab a tasty American lamb bite from Chef Scott Staples
  • Rockin’ Cocktail Samples from BevMo! – stay cool with these summer sips
  • Yakima Valley Palate Pleasers – Sips and bites from Washington’s craft beverage and food hub
  • Feast on offerings from six of Seattle’s hottest food trucks and light snacks from special food purveyors

Jamie Peha, of Peha Promotions and the producer of Wine Rocks Seattle, is passionate about both wine and music. She says, “Wine Rocks Seattle has kicked up the music this year with DJ tunes outside on the Pier and new musical performances including Joyfield an Indie-alternative with powerful female vocals and intriguing instrumentals and the Timbre Barons an indie guitar rock band seen at the Tractor Tavern.”

And there’s a good cause too. This year, Wine Rocks Seattle benefits the University District Food Bank, which has helped prevent hunger in northeast Seattle neighborhoods for 32 years.

Tickets to Wine Rocks are $45. Here is the full list of participating wineries, breweries and other vendors.

We hope to see you there.

Margot and Dave


Tickets Selling Quickly for Chateau Ste. Michelle Concert Series

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 6.34.20 PMUPDATE: Ten of 25 concerts are already sold out for the amazing Chateau Ste. Michelle Summer Concert Series. So run, don’t walk, to get your tickets at the wine shop at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville or through Ticketmaster.

The 2015 lineup of pop, jazz, rock and blues runs from June 13 through September 12 at the beautiful winery’s amphitheatre:  Garrison Keillor, Smash Mouth, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Tonic, Gregg Allman, Lyle Lovett & His Large Band, Chris Botti, Bob James, Earl Klugh, Morgan James, Taj Mahal, Blind Boys of Alabama, Charlie Musselwhite, Doug MacLeod, Jackson Browne, Brit Floyd, Steve Miller Band, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Chris Isaak, Gipsy Kings, Randy Newman and Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

Already sold out: Chicago, Sheryl Crow, Mark Knopfler, Harry Connick, Jr. and John Fogerty. In addition, one of two concerts each by Jackson Browne and Steve Miller are sold out, but tickets are still left for their second concerts.

For details, have a look at the concert calendar; you can also find answers to any questions you might have about how to prepare for, and what to expect from, a concert outdoors.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 6.34.08 PMAll shows feature general festival seating on the lawn, as well as reserved seating. And as a special bonus, the wine shop is open so you can purchase wine and picnic items to enjoy during the concert. You can also bring your own picnic baskets and non-alcoholic beverages.

So what are you waiting for? It’s a wonderful way to spend a lazy summer evening of music and wine in a beautiful location.

In addition, net proceeds help fund Chateau Ste. Michelle’s charitable contributions program, which supports a broad range of non-profit organizations.

Margot and Dave

Passing Time Winery’s Inaugural Release

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 12.44.32 PMPassing Time Winery was launched last June by Dan Marino and Damon Huard, two former National Football League quarterbacks and teammates with the Miami Dolphins. If you’re skeptical about the kind of wine NFL stars can make, think again.

We were delighted to pass the time with a couple of glasses of their first release, Passing Time 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Horse Heaven Hills.

This is not surprising to those of us who are fans of winemaker Chris Peterson, whom we first met when he co-founded Avennia with Marty Taucher in 2010. Chris is widely considered as one of the hottest winemakers in Washington state, and was named “Winemaker to Watch” by Seattle Magazine in 2013.

This inaugural Passing Time wine blends 86% Cabernet Sauvignon from Discovery Vineyard with 9% Klipsun Merlot and 5% Champoux Cabernet Franc. It shows a balance of fruit and mineral elements, with a beautiful mouthfeel and a chewy finish; this is an elegant, complex and expressive Cabernet that showcases the unique character of the grape in Washington state.

From Chris’s tasting notes: “This wine is opaque purple-black out to the rim, with beautiful, complex aromas of black cherry, cassis, vanilla, toast, fresh-cut violets, cedar, and hints of bergamot. The mouth feel is palate-coating, yet light on its feet with dark red fruits, vanilla bean, flowers, and balanced acidity to give lift and brightness. The well-structured finish is long and complex, promising a long life in the cellar.”

We encourage Cabernet lovers to keep their eyes on Passing Time winery, which plans to produce three Cabernets: from Horse Heaven, Red Mountain and Walla Walla. Rumor has it that they are already fantastic in the barrel.

AVA: Horse Heaven Hills
Blend: 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc
SRP: $75
Cases: 500
Sample provided  by winery

Margot & Dave

Pair this 14 Hands wine with the Kentucky Derby

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 12.04.35 PM14 Hands Winery created a special wine to commemorate its continued partnership with the Kentucky Derby® on May 2 — but this tasty red blend from the Columbia Valley is a good value wine to drink even after the 141st ‘Run for the Roses™ is over.

The 14 Hands 2012 Kentucky Derby Red is a blend of 62% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Syrah, and showcases the juicy fruit character in grapes from Washington state.

At $12 bottle, you can’t go wrong! But be sure to buy it soon, since it’s a limited release and has already sold out at the winery. You can still find it in wine and/or grocery stores.

“Our goal when crafting this unique wine was to capture the fun yet sophisticated essence of the Kentucky Derby,” said 14 Hands winemaker Keith Kenison. “What makes this red blend so unique are the layers and structure you’ll discover with each sip, from dark fruit flavors to light touches of white pepper. We are always striving to make a style of wine that everyone can enjoy, and we think the Kentucky Derby Red Blend is perfect for those who want to take a taste of the Derby home with them.”

14 Hands kicked off Derby week at the sixth annual Taste of Derby™ yesterday (April 30). Several 14 Hands wines will also be featured on Kentucky Oaks day, today (May 1), and during Kentucky Derby day itself, tomorrow (May 2).

In other winery news, 14 Hands recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of its winery and tasting room in Prosser and was named “Hot Brand for 2014” by Impact for the seventh consecutive year. Special kudos to 14 Hands for being the list’s sole winner that wasn’t from California.

Thanks to 14 Hands for the sample of 2012 Kentucky Derby Red.

Margot and Dave