What’s in Our Glasses Lately?

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carlton Wine Country, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

In the past couple of weeks, we have particularly enjoyed three bottles of red wine — two from Washington state and one from Carlton, Oregon.

2008 Barrage Cellars Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon

We’ve enjoyed Barrage Cellars 2009 and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignons and Cabernet Francs frequently this year, but on Friday night, we decided to dip into our cellar for this 2008 beauty.

Oh my, it is drinking well. We savoured every sip. The 08 Double Barrel is 100% Cab Sauv sourced from three excellent Washington state vineyards: Destiny Ridge, Red Willow and Sheridan. This is one big, beautiful and bold Cabernet. From winemaker Kevin Correll’s tasting notes:

A deep purple color reminiscent of a new world Syrah, but with that first taste there is no mistaking that this is a huge Cabernet Sauvignon. Flavors explode on the palette with complex layers of big red fruit, anise, tobacco and some graphite followed by huge. Fine grain tannins that are well integrated, but suited for aging.

2008 Northwest Totem Cellars Qo-ne

Another stellar Washington wine from our cellar, Qo-ne has long been one of our favorites from Northwest Totem Cellars. The 2008 blends Cab Franc (60%) with Cab Sauv (29%) along with 9% Syrah and 2% Petit Verdot to round off the distinct flavors.

Qo-ne means “friend” in Haida, the language of the First Nation by the same name in British Columbia. This wine has a special meaning for me, because I worked for the Haida years before I met Mike Sheridan, winemaker for Northwest Totem Cellars. Here are Mike’s tasting notes:

Rich with aromas of blackberry, vanilla, coffee and nicco wafers, this wine is well balanced with notes of chocolate and black cherry finishing with a hint of that signature Cab Franc white pepper on the finish.

2010 Troon Vineyard Cabernet Franc Reserve

We wish we had purchased more than a couple of bottles of this gem of a Cab Franc during our recent visit to Carlton, Oregon. This rich, structured wine consists of 80% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. Troon was recently named “One of the Top Ten Hottest Wine Brands” in the U.S. by Wine Business Monthly.

I know it’s early to think about Thanksgiving, but this Cab Franc will be on our list. Here are tasting notes from  owner and vintner Chris Martin:

Our effort is characterized by aromas of fresh mint and loam, with a structured, yet elegant finish. It is, as are all our reserve wines, unfined and unfiltered to perserve its body and integrity.

We recommend all three wines, if you like robust reds.

Cheers!

Long Shadows Scores for Charity

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At the Auction of Washington Wines Barrel Auction and Picnic last weekLong Shadows winemaker Gilles Nicault captured the highest bid — $3,000 for a case of a special Cabernet Sauvignon, bottled just for the event at Chateau Ste. Michelle.

This luxe wine was sourced from some of the oldest vines in Washington state — the 40-year-old Sagemoor block 208.

And wow, this winning Cab Sauv is a gem. We savoured every sip.

We raise our glasses to both Gilles and Long Shadows founder Allan Shoup, who was named honorary vintner at this 26th Auction of Washington Wines — an event he helped create and which has raised more than $30 million, with most of the funds going to Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Since Allan founded Long Shadows in 2003, Gilles has served as director of winemaking and viticulture. As resident winemaker, Gilles works with seven highly acclaimed vintners, called by Allan to Washington state from the major wine regions of the world. The result is a highly successful production of Columbia Valley wines that showcase the best of this growing region.

But the barrel tasting offered by Gilles at the picnic wasn’t the only Long Shadows Cabernet Sauvignon that we enjoyed in the last few days. Over the weekend, we opened a bottle of 2009 Long Shadows Feather, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon crafted from Columbia Valley grapes by renowned Napa Valley vintner Randy Dunn.

2009 Feather is Cabernet Sauvignon at its purest – a deep, dark ruby color, with a balance and complexity that does Washington state proud. Wine Advocate awarded 92 points to this vintage and 94 points to the recent 2010 release.

Frankly, we think the ’09 Feather should receive 96 points – it was that beautiful.

Cheers!

 

Big Papa, Big Red Wine

Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

It’s no secret that over the years, we’ve become friends with the wonderful folks at Efeste. And it’s also not a secret that we love Efeste wines.

So when we opened a bottle of 2010 Big Papa Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon the other night, we raised a glass to both fine Washington wine and friendship:

– to Brennon Leighton, who made the rich, complex 100% Cab Sauv

– to Daniel and Helen Ferrelli, Patrick Smith, and Kevin and Angie Taylor, the dedicated, passionate owners of Efeste (pronounced F-S-T for the first initials of their last names)

– and to Peter Devison, who joined the team as winemaker last year

We have many favorite Efeste wines, ranging from a superb Syrah, Jolie Bouche, to a crisp Feral Sauvignon Blanc, a perennial summertime winner.

But Big Papa has always topped the list — in 2011, I called the 2007 Big Papa a “Must-Have Cabernet Sauvignon” in my article, Must-Have Bottles of Wine in Seattlelite Magazine.

The 2010 vintage is no exception.

This is one beautiful wine. We first started drinking Big Papa with the 2005 vintage, and it’s won awards and/or recognition every year.

For example, 2010 Big Papa Cab Sauv earned 94 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate in June, naming it a Cellar Selection with this description:

“It’s vivid and textural, with terrific acidity, backbone, and length.”

Brennon used his signature minimalist approach with native fermentation, which encourages more complexity and produces fuller, richer wines than those inoculated with commercial yeast. The grapes were sourced from mature vines in five vineyards.

Although just released this year, Big Papa is already drinkable, and will continue to shine  until 2025.

We doubt it will be around that long though, so we recommend you buy it at the Woodinville winery or online soon!

Cheers!

L’Ecole 41 Scores Again: Estate Cab Franc

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

We’ve been fans of L’Ecole No. 41 premium wines for decades. As the third-oldest winery in Washington state, L’Ecole No. 41 has been making consistently good wine since long before the state became home to more than 700 wineries.

Making good wine consistently, year over year, is a major feat.

L’Ecole 41 produces wine in the cellars of the historic Frenchtown School in Lowden, Washington, just outside Walla Walla. L’Ecole is French for school, and we first visited the winery in the turn-of-the-century schoolhouse — with original chalkboards, light fixtures and fir floors – in April 2007.

A few months later, this blog was born and one of our first posts, titled Who knew that “back to school” could be so much fun?, described a L’Ecole tasting at Vino Bello.

We have reveled in L’Ecole’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Apogee and Perigee blends for many vintages. You can tell by our blog post, written after a vertical tasting in 2010:

“What an experience tasting side-by-side verticals of these Bordeaux-style blends - the ’99, ’03 and ’07 Apogee from Pepper Bridge Vineyard and the ’03 and ’07 Estate Perigee from Seven Hills Vineyard. Apogee was rich, bold and earthy, while Perigee was elegant and complex. Comparing them over time sent me to Bordeaux heaven!”

Now we are adding L’Ecole’s Estate Cabernet Franc to our list of favorites.

The 2010 Estate Cabernet Franc, Seven Hills Vineyard, is one of L’Ecole’s exclusive bottlings. From time to time, with the right conditions, L’Ecole produces a limited amount of unique wines focusing on a specific block of fruit or a unique vineyard blend.  These wines are limited in quantity, a few hundred cases or less, and are typically available exclusively from the winery.

We opened a bottle (okay, let’s be honest, two bottles) on Friday night, and wow – L’Ecole’s 2010 Estate Cab Franc is one big, bold and beautiful red wine. From the winemaker and owner, Marty Clubb:

“Our Block 8 Cabernet Franc (planted 1997) from Seven Hills Vineyard historically played a blending role in our Estate Perigee and Estate Merlot. However with vines maturing, we had sufficient production to produce in addition, a small specialty bottling of this varietal beginning in 2006. In 14th leaf with this vintage, this robustly balanced and integrated wine shows a rich concentration of complex flavors that demanded to be bottled on its own.”

The acclaimed Seven Hills Vineyard, located in the south central portion of the Walla Walla Valley appellation, is co-owned by L’Ecole,  Leonetti Cellars and Pepper Bridge Winery. Approximately one-third of L’Ecole’s red wine production comes from Seven Hills, which was originally planted in 1981 and expanded to more than 230 acres.

There is still some of this luscious Cab Franc available on L’Ecole’s website – so what are you waiting for?

Cheers!

Picnic & Barrel Auction

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August brings one of our favorite summer wine events — the Auction of Washington Wines and its Picnic & Barrel Auction on the scenic grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery.

On Aug. 15, more than 100 creative Washington state winemakers will be on hand, along with the talented chefs from Tulalip Resort, to provide fine wines and tasty treats. Talk about a gourmet picnic!

Notably, the largest and most prestigious selection of limited production bottles will be sold to the highest bidder, with proceeds going to Seattle Children’s Hospital and Washington State University’s Viticulture and Enology Program.

As you wander through the beautiful lawns, winemakers will be pouring their recent releases and more than happy to chat about Washington wine. So this is truly an event for both experienced wine enthusiasts and novices alike.

And if you want more tastes, barrel samples of yet-to-be-bottled wines are also available at the Barrel Auction. When you find one you like, place your bid on a case. The top-five highest bids for each winery will take home a medal, and be the first to receive the wine when it is released.

We love the Picnic & Barrel Auction because we can chat with our winemaker friends and make new ones. We can learn about the latest vintage, experience pours from many different wine regions, and feast on amazing appetizers such as “Rare Beef Tenderloin Lollipop with Roquefort Hazelnut Crust.”

At the Auction of Washington Wines website, you’ll find a full list of wineries participating in the auction, wineries pouring to guests, and the samples on the restaurant menus, along with an easy way to purchase tickets to an afternoon of fun and worthy causes.

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!

What’s in Our Glass?

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, California wineries, Carlton Wine Country, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville, Zinfandel Comments Off

Summertime means warm, lazy evenings on the deck and tasty weekend BBQs. And what better accompaniment than a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, a medium-bodied Pinot Noir or a robust Cabernet Sauvignon?

Yes, those have been in our glasses so far this summer – refreshing whites with prawns or humus on the deck, medium-bodied reds with unique, flavorful salads, and big and beautiful reds with hamburgers or on occasion, steaks.

Here are the wines in our glasses — at home or in tasting rooms — that we’ve loved in the past couple of months.

What’s in your glass this summer?

Cheers!

 

Time to Enjoy the Chateau Ste. Michelle Summer Concert Series

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You know it’s truly summer when Chateau Ste. Michelle is alive with the sound of music. We attend one of the concerts at the scenic outdoor amphitheater every year, and regardless of whom we see, we have a fabulous time.

How can you miss? Beautiful grounds, fine wine, summer weather and music for dancing!

This year, we saw Pat Benetar and Berlin, featuring original lead singer, Terri Nunn. We were asked not to take photos out of respect for the artists, so you can’t see them on stage here. But believe us, the stage was jamming and the place was hopping.

Concert-goers came early (the gates open two hours in advance) to enjoy the warm temperatures and picnic on the grass – we saw everything from fried chicken and potato salad to delicious-looking cheese plates. Some people brought their own food, while others purchased food from vendors in the amphitheater.

And of course, many of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s popular wines were omnipresent — and oh so tasty.

Once the music started, most people were on their feet, particularly during Berlin’s chart-breaking song “Take My Breath Away” from the 1986 movie “Top Gun,” and Pat Benetar’s signature “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.”

But frankly, even if the music isn’t your favorite, this concert series is a win. What’s not to like about sunshine, gorgeous grounds, fine wine and happy people?

So if you haven’t bought tickets yet, have a look at the concert calendar and go for it! Still to come: a range of pop, jazz, rock and blues through Aug. 25, including Gipsy Kings, Gladys Night & the O’Jays, Lyle Lovett, Chris Isaak and more.

Have questions? Check out the concert FAQ.

It’s a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon or evening.

Cheers!

A Long Weekend in Carlton Wine Country

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Carlton Wine Country in Oregon is a perfect getaway from Seattle, not only because of its close proximity but also because of the friendly people, the warm hospitality and naturally, the fine wine.

We recently spent a long weekend in Carlton at the beautiful Lobenhaus Bed & Breakfast, where eight other visitors, also from the Seattle area, shared stories of their positive experiences in the region. Each group had a list of wineries to visit, and we all compared notes as we dug into the absolutely delicious and plentiful breakfast served each morning by our delightful hosts, Shari and Joe Lobenstein.

In addition to Lobenhaus, here is our list of favorite places (in no particular order) to visit in Carlton Wine Country.

Seven of Hearts: Our first stop on Friday afternoon was to visit with Rachel Go and winemaker Byron Dooley <pictured above>, who showed us his amazing lineup of 30 wines in the 2012 vintage and 21 wines in 2011 – several of which we tasted, loved and brought home.

Carlton Cellars: We spent an hour on Saturday chatting with winemaker Dave Grooters <pictured right>, listening to his entertaining stories and trying several outstanding wines, ranging from crisp summer sippers, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, to several tasty Pinot Noirs.

K&M Winery: We had so much fun with Ken Morrison and Mauro Hernandez <pictured left>, who poured classic Pinots such as NV Pinot Noir Oveja, 08 Pinto Nori, 09 Pinot Noir Reserve and 2010 Pinot Noir Cuvee. (And that cheese spread throughout the tasting room – what a treat.)

Ken Wright Cellars: From a 2011 Pinot Blanc to a 2007 Pinot Noir, Ken Wright’s wine showcased the stunning grapes that put Oregon on the map.

Noble Pig: What we love about this tasting room is that each flight of wine is accompanied by unusual pairings. For example, it’s a unique experience to taste lemon oil shots (last visit) or orange oil shots (this time) right after a sip of white wine.

Barking Frog Winery: Known for bold, full-bodied reds, we particularly enjoyed the two Barberas and the 2009 Pinot Noir Bailey, which won a double gold at the 2013 Oregon Wine Awards.

Troon Vineyard: After so many pours of Oregon Pinots, Chelsea Janzen showed us a nice change of pace at this laughingly described “anti-Pinot” winery. Their fabulous big reds include a stellar 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, a 2010 Old Vine Meritage and a 2011 Zinfandel. Troon was recently named “One of the Top Ten Hottest Wine Brands” in the US by Wine Business Monthly.

We really experienced the Carlton wine country spirit at each of these wineries, but a trip to Carlton is never complete without a stop to see Lynette Shaw and Amy Wilder <pictured right> at Republic of Jam.

These two incredible women run their store like a jam tasting room with flights of jam paired with tasty treats. Here’s an example: Boysenberry Orange Teriyaki Chicken.

Wow, what an explosion of flavors at Republic of Jam! We tried so many, but my favorite was Blueberry Lemon while Dave preferred Cranberry Raspberry.

We intend to write more posts about our experiences in Carlton wine country. Until then, check out the websites in this post and think about planning your own visit soon.

Cheers!

 

Carmel Valley

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, California wineries, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Wine Comments Off

Our first visit to Carmel Valley wine country brought a discovery of unknown yet delightful wines, in addition to some educational and fun conversations with winemakers, winery owners and tasting room staff.

We were in the Carmel-Monterey region on vacation in April, to enjoy the gorgeous ocean views and sunshine, and to tour the wine region while celebrating my birthday. I wish we had planned even more time to stay in the area!

Here are the wineries that we visited and our favorite wines from each one.

Bernardus: For whites, 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Monterey County was my favorite, while Dave preferred 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Griva Vineyard. For reds, it was unanimous; we both chose two big Bordeaux blends: 2009 Marinus Estate Red Wine (92 points from Wine Enthusiast) and 2007 Signature Marinus Estate. This Bordeaux blend comes from grapes in the best barrels from the best lots from Marinus Estate Vineyard in the upper Carmel Valley.

Boekenoogen: 2010 Santa Lucia Highlands Estate Pinot Noir captured our attention, with its plush, lush, velvet mouthfeel and rich flavors. We also enjoyed the 2011 Carmel Valley Estate “Bell Ranch” Zinfandel, a bright light flavorful wine that would pair well with grilled prawns or marinated fish.

Carmel Ridge: When we were visiting Cannery Row on our first day in Monterey, we noticed the Carmel Ridge Winery tasting room, which has a beautiful view of the bay and was a perfect start to our wine experience in the region. Wine rep Stacy Silva not only educated us about the area, but she also suggested some the best wineries to visit. We took a bottle of 2010 Carmel Ridge Pinot Gris back to our hotel and enjoyed it with prawns and cheese on the deck.

Joyce Vineyards: Until a pour of 2011 Joyce Estate Syrah, we were never crazy about California Syrahs – we’re not sure if it’s because of the terroir or the unique winemaking style. But Joyce makes the best California Syrah we have ever tried, probably because it’s the closest in taste to the peppery, spicy Washington State Syrahs. This one was so good, we brought home a bottle, in addition to our other favorite, 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Russel’s Vineyard, a medium-bodied Cab with long, silky finish (87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec).

Parsonage Estate: The 2009 Estate Reserve “Tanner” Cabernet Sauvignon is one of those wines where all we could say after one sip was “WOW!” Tasting room manager Jessica Trask and winemaker Frank Melicia told us this Cab is rich, and we can certainly attest to it. A full nose, it’s “stunningly full on the palate with an exquisitely long finish.” This wine alone is worth a drive to Carmel Valley wine country, if you’re in the area.

Whether you’re planning a trip to see the amazing Monterey Aquarium or to cruise along the 17-Mile Drive along Pebble Beach, the Del Monte Forest and the dramatic Pacific Coast, be sure to save some time to visit the Carmel Valley wine country. We highly recommend it!

Cheers!

2013 Legends Winemaker

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Wine Comments Off

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!

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