Speaking of Alexandria Nicole Cellars …

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We just got back from our annual trip to Destiny Ridge Vineyard for Alexandria Nicole Cellars‘ Harvest Party in the Vines. This wine club event sparkles with fun every single year.

The weather in central Washington was much cooler this year than previous ones when the thermometer soared to near 100 degrees. But a little wind and rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the amazing ANC team, who worked for days preparing for the festivities.

In addition to the favorites of years past — a wine-balloon toss, grape stomp and dancing, accompanied by a vast array of stellar ANC wines and a delicious menu from Chef Frank Magana — this year’s Harvest Party also had a theme.

Cirque du Harvest 2013 featured entertainers in bright costumes and white face makeup, dancing on stilts, doing magic and passing out unusual appetizers, such as alligator bites.

The ANC team joined the fun, wearing top hats and multi-colored rings with flashing lights, and encouraged party revelers to step into a photo booth set up for the occasion.

Our hosts, ANC co-owners Ali and Jarrod Boyle, displayed their trademark warmth and humility, along with grace and down-home friendliness that permeated through everyone who attended.

We would be remiss if we didn’t flag the wine, created with talent, skill and passion by Jarrod and his hard-working vineyard and winery teams. In addition to old favorites and library wines such as Block 17, Destiny and Quarry Butte, wine club members tasted Little Big Man, Cabernet Franc, Jet Black, Shepherds Mark and Pinot Gris.

We’ve been members of the Alexandria Nicole Cellars wine club for years; it is the epitome of what we look for — stellar wine, fabulous people and incredible events. If you’re not a member, think about it. Seriously.

For party photos, have a look at ANC’s Facebook page. We hope to see you there next year.

Cheers!

 

Little Big Man vs. Mr. Big

Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

Since its first vintage in 2007, we’ve been fans of Mr. Big Petite Sirah from Alexandria Nicole Cellars. But now there’s a new ANC Big Man in Town – Little Big Man Petit Verdot. And he is another winner from winemaker extraordinaire (and friend), Jarrod Boyle.

The name, Little Big Man, represents a diminutive grape and an enormous and expressive wine.

The 2010 vintage is Jarrod’s second bottling of his lush stand-alone Petit Verdot. This grape is typically used in classic red blends — a tradition that spans centuries since the grape was grown in Medoc on the left bank of Bordeaux.

The 2010 Little Big Man (94% Petit Verdot rounded off with 6% Cabernet Sauvignon) is an exceptional, full-bodied, robust red that showcases the grapes from ANC’s Estate Vineyard, Destiny Ridge.

From Jarrod’s tasting notes:

“This wine’s dark and inky black color foreshadows the seductively alluring earthy aromas of blackberries, violets, eucalyptus and cedar. The approach to the palate is generous and easy with deep black currants, more blackberries, tobacco and some plum.  The lengthy finish is complex, yet velvety smooth with hints of black cherry, espresso, and spice, backed up by solid tannins.  Enjoy this robust wine on its own or with a hearty steak.”

Our new love of Little Big Man does not take away from the long-standing appreciation of Mr. Big, which boasts huge flavors and bold structure, also from grapes sourced at Destiny Ridge.

From Jarrod’s tasting notes:

“Deep dark and purple in color, this wine offers a complex aroma of toffee, caramel, smoked meats and earth with distinct blackberry notes and a hint of spicy French Oak. A savory and rich-mouth feel ushers in flavors of ripe fruit, brown sugar, boysenberry and cedar for this big bodied wine. A perfect balance of acid and fruit, Mr. Big finishes long with bold drying tannins. Although drinking well now, this wine is showing all the signs of being cellar worthy for years to come.”

We highly recommend both of these big wines from Alexandria Nicole Cellars, along with many others. Keep in mind that Jarrod grows 22 different varieties at Destiny Ridge Vineyard; there is no way we could choose a favorite!

Cheers!

A is for Albatross and Amazing: Gorman Winery

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Hot on the heels of raving about Chris Gorman’s Force Majeure 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Collaboration Series, we opened a bottle of Gorman Winery 2009 The Albatross.

This exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is another Red Mountain beauty with the identifiable stamp of Chris Gorman’s winemaking.

The Albatross exemplifies power in a bottle, with 20% Petit Verdot blended with 80% Red Mountain Cab Sauv.

This big, bold red packs a punch – but from a boxing glove encased in luxurious velvet.

In this case, power is accompanied by elegance and a richness so strong that the wine can be enjoyed alone; it does not need to be paired with food.

That being said, just one sip immediately generates a craving for a big juicy steak.

If your favorite red wine is Cabernet Sauvignon, this is one wine you simply must taste. We wish we had the wealth for a never-ending supply! That being said, only 145 cases were made, so quantities are limited.

We first tasted The Albatross at Taste Washington last March, and immediately knew we had to bring a bottle home for a special occasion.

The Albatross received 94 points from Wine Enthusiast. In our opinion, The Albatross deserves an A+.

A is for Albatross and Amazing.

Cheers!

Two Washington Reds for a Special Occasion (or Because You Can)

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We were fortuate to have two special occasions in the last two weeks, so we opened a special bottle of red wine to celebrate on each evening.

Both were 2010 Cabernet Sauvignons from Red Mountain: Force Majeure Collaboration Series and Obelisco Estate Electrum.

These are two stellar Washington wines that both have the WOW factor!

Force Majeure 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Collaboration Series, Force Majeure Vineyard, Red Mountain

This Red Mountain beauty is 100% Cab Sauv created by rockstar winemaker, Chris Gorman. This is one big, intense, complex, bold, inky red that exemplifies the terroir, the attributes of our favorite grape and the stamp of Chris Gorman.

We’ve been fans of Chris’s red wines for a few years now, but this one takes the prize — an amazing, heaven-in-a-glass special-occasion wine.

Force Majeure is French for “superior force” and was chosen to describe “the relentless, powerful elements of Nature that form the terroir of our vineyards.” The Wine Advocate recently scored all of the Force Majeure Collaboration Series red wines from the 2010 and 2011 vintages between 94 and 97 points.

2010 Obelisco Estate Electrum, Obelisco Estate Vineyard, Red Mountain

We’ve applauded Obelisco’s Electrum since we first met winemaker Doug Long a few years ago. But this vintage is our favorite, probably because the estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon is blended with 7.5% Merlot and 2.5% Malbec to round out the rich flavors.

The 2010 is almost black in color, full-bodied, lush, velvety and simply exceptional. Not surprisingly, Electrum wins Double Golds every year at the Seattle Wine Awards and sells out quickly.

In case you’re wondering, Electrum is an alloy of gold, silver and other trace metals, carefully layered at the top of a Pharoah’s obelisk to reflect the sun.

These two show-stopper reds are our recommendations for your next special occasion … or just because you can!

Cheers!

 

 

It’s Not Too Late For Summer Sippers! Five Whites for $16-$25

Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

Who says summer is over with Labour Day? No way – there is still a month left for summer sippers on the deck in Washington state!

Here are five white Washington state wines to enjoy in the weeks ahead.

2012 Wysling Band of Sisters, Parejas  Cellars: $16

This refreshing white wine “bands” together a unique blend of 55% Marsanne, 34% Roussanne and 11% Grenache Blanc. Frankly, I wasn’t sure if we’d like it because our choice in whites tends to favor Sauvignon Blancs and Viogniers. But this dry white was a pleasant surprise and is well worth the price point. According to the tasting notes: “Band of Sisters has “exotic & refreshing perfumed aromas of spiced herbal tea, spring blossoms, Asian pears, Greengages, and honeysuckle.” Interestingly, we experienced grapefruit, which is one of the reasons we enjoyed it so much. We also appreciated its full body – this wine drinks well alone or with food. (Note: We were sent this wine to sample; as stated in our sample policy, we accept free samples with the understanding that we only write about wine that we like.)

2012 Feral Sauvignon Blanc, Efeste: $20; 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, JM Cellars: $25

2012 Efeste Feral follows in the footsteps of previous award-winning vintages by a different winemaker. Brennon Leighton created Feral using indigenous, wild yeast, which showcases the crisp, clean minerality pure to this varietal. Current winemaker Peter Devison continued this style, crafting another winner for Efeste. From the tasting notes: “On the palate lemon, yellow grapefruit, and sugarcane flavors are supported by ripe phenolics and gooseberry-like acidity, which is persistent and mouthwatering. The finish is long and elegant. This wine demands shellfish.”

2012 JM Cellars Sauv Blanc is another stellar white from winemaker John Bigelow. We have enjoyed several bottles of this beauty on our deck throughout the summer and saved one for the perfect warm September evening ahead. It is thoroughly refreshing alone or paired with prawns or some excellent cheese. From the tasting notes: “We ferment the juice in stainless steel tanks to show off beautiful tropical fruit aromas and flavors found in Klipsun Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp and dry, our Sauvignon Blanc pairs perfectly with a summer picnic.”

A few years ago, these two Washington Sauvignon Blancs, along with one from Goosecross in Napa Valley, brought us back to loving white wine in the summer after a decade of strictly reds.

2012 Viognier, Alexandria Nicole Cellars: $20; 2012 Viognier, William Church Winery: $23

Jarrod Boyle, ANC’s winemaker and co-owner, describes his 2012 Alexandria Nicole Viognier as a “golden gem,” and we couldn’t agree more. The lavender, peach and citrus aromas are gorgeously summer. This Viognier has generated numerous accolades with its textured mouth-feel and luscious flavors. We found it pairs well with grilled seafood or some chicken dishes. From the tasting notes: “Beautifully balanced it lingers with the richness of apricot and orange blossom, with a lively mouth feel of crisp granny smith apple and a touch of pear on the finish. A clean and refreshing wine that pairs well with food or a summertime patio.”

William Church Viognier is known as the winery’s signature, winning many awards over the years. Winemaker Rod Balsley recommends pairing this fragrant, lush wine with creamy cheeses or foods with a dash of asian spice. We’ve also appreciated it without food. From the tasting notes: “Our flagship Viognier has beautiful aromatics of fresh pear and honeysuckle. What follows are rich peach flavors and citrus with enough acidity to keep the wine fresh and lively.”

So raise a glass of refreshing Washington wine to Summer 2013 – and its continuation into September.

Cheers!

What’s in Our Glasses Lately?

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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

Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

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!

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