Ferrari-Carano Virtual Tasting; plus Winemaker Dinner Soon at Semiahmoo Resort

FCWineWe recently had an opportunity to taste three wines from Ferrari-Carano: 2014 Fumé Blanc, 2013 Merlot and 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The virtual tasting was timely because the Sonoma winery will soon be part of the popular Winemaker Series at the near-by and breathtakingly beautiful Semiahmoo Resort here in northwest Washington state, near the Canadian border.

We are hoping to attend the Winemaker Dinner at Semiahmoo on June 16, so we were delighted when Ferrari-Carano coincidentally invited us to a virtual tasting for wine writers, and sent us samples of these three wines.

2014 Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc Sonoma County ($14)
Hello summer! This crisp, refreshing Fumé Blanc blends Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River Valleys. The wine has aromas and flavors of peach, pear and ripe fruit. Enjoy it on the patio or deck on a warm summer day, or pair it with spicy dishes, sushi, seafood, chicken or even a simple salad.

2013 Ferrari-Carano Merlot Sonoma County ($25)
This is a lovely Merlot, rich and fleshy, yet velvety, complex and well-balanced, with a soft, elegant finish. This easy-drinking wine will go well with Italian dishes, roasted chicken, steaks or pretty much any red meat course.

2012 Ferrari-Carano Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley ($65)
Cabernet is King in our family, so this big beauty is our favorite in a very good lineup. With such a beautiful nose, lovely aromas and concentrated fruit, this Reserve Cab is simply delicious. Try it with BBQ steaks, lamb, pork or strong cheese such Cambozola triple cream blue cheese or sharp cheddar. And check out this winery recipe for Gorgonzola, Walnut and Cabernet Spread. Wow!

The Winemaker Dinner at Semiahmoo will feature Ferrari-Carano wines paired with a mouth-watering meal created by the resort’s Executive Chef Bruno. Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.13 PMThis is a perfect opportunity for wine lovers and foodies in Seattle, Vancouver and well, everywhere, to come to Semiahmoo Resort for relaxation in a scenic location, excellent wine and a delicious dinner. For those of us fortunate to live near Semiahmoo Resort, what a fantastic way to spend the evening!

Of note, the wines at the dinner might be different than the ones listed above. More details about the Winemaker Dinner will be posted here soon. We hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Kenwood Vineyards

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 4.44.59 PMIf you haven’t tasted wine from Kenwood Vineyards in awhile, it’s time to rediscover it.

Kenwood Vineyards is one of the pioneers of premium wine in Sonoma, part of the wine region’s landscape since 1970. The winery is now undergoing a renaissance with a focus on small-lot winemaking and a new look.

We recently attended an online tasting with Pat Henderson, who has been a winemaker at Kenwood Vineyards since 2003, and became chief winemaker last year. Ahead of the tasting, we received four wines in a gorgeous wooden box. The bottles had a a new look and modern labels.

2014 Kenwood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($12.99)
Fruit from 28 vineyards went into this crisp summer sipper, and the result is a balance of citrus and tropical flavors plus some grassy characteristics and minerality. We will definitely be buying bottles of this Sauvignon Blanc to enjoy on our deck on the lake.

2014 Kenwood Vineyards Six Ridges Russian River Chardonnay ($21.99)
If you like your Chardonnays rich and creamy, this one is for you. Flavors of apple, peach, vanilla and spice combine in a chilled glass that will pair well with seafood or chicken.

Kenwood Zin2013 Kenwood Six Ridges Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($31.99)
Zin lovers take note! This is big, bold, beautiful and well-balanced. And somehow it is both silky and zesty at the same time, too. It will pair nicely with spicy foods but also is strong enough to stand alone without food; to simply share a bottle with friends or enjoy at a party.

2013 Jack London Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($35)
This beauty will pair perfectly with BBQ steaks in the summer and roast beef in the winter. This is our kind of cab – full-bodied, rich, robust, well-structured and elegant.

The samples were provided by Kenwood Vineyards, which, in the name of full disclosure, is a Pernod Ricard brand and a client at the PR agency where I (Margot) work. However, I attended the tasting as a wine blogger and adhered to Write for Wine’s sample policy. If I did’t like the wines, I simply would not write about them. Word.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Winemaker Series at Semiahmoo Resort – JM Cellars

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 5.22.37 PMThe breathtakingly beautiful Semiahmoo Resort is continuing its popular Winemaker Series on May 26 with a reception and dinner with John Bigelow of JM Cellars. John’s excellent wines can be frequently found on our table: Tre, Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red (named after his lovely wife and winery co-owner, Peggy), Sauv Blanc and Bramble Bump Red, among others.

The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with a reception in Semiahmoo Resort’s Wine Room, followed by the Winemaker Dinner. JM Cellars wines will be paired with a mouth-watering five-course dinner created by Semiahmoo’s Executive Chef Bruno — including Scallops Sashimi with JM Cellars 2014 Bramble Bump White, and Spring Lamb Loin with JM Cellars 2012 Tre.

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.13 PMThis is a perfect opportunity for wine lovers in Seattle, Vancouver and well, everywhere, to come to Semiahmoo Resort for relaxation in a scenic location, excellent wine and a delicious meal. For those of us fortunate to live near Semiahmoo Resort, what a fantastic way to spend the evening!

If you are out of town, the package starts at $359, which includes two tickets to the Winemaker Dinner and a one-night stay for two in a newly renovated guest room at the resort. (Taxes and gratuity are not included in the price.) For reservations, phone 360-318-2000.

If you’re local, the price is $99 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity. Phone 360-318-2044 for reservations.

We hope to see you there! We’ve enjoyed JM Cellar wines since 1999 when we moved to Seattle; six years later, we finally met John at Taste Washington 2009. After the event, John wrote me a note to thank me — not just for our blog posts about JM Cellars, but about our support for Washington state wines in general.

Now that’s a class act!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

 

 

Another Successful Taste of Tulalip

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 12.25.27 PMTaste of Tulalip 2015 is now behind us and once again, it was a taste sensation that featured a collaboration of wine, food and art.

We applaud Lisa Severn, the director of food and beverage at Tulalip Resort Casino, and her entire team for their incredible efforts to make this amazing event so enjoyable.

Let’s start with the art. We had the pleasure of meeting Mike Gobin, the talented artist and master woodcarver who created the commemorative wine bottle and plate featured in this photo. He showed us several pictures of his work, all of which represent a beautiful expression of his Tulalip culture. He had our complete attention as he shared stories of his people and his craft. We also were delighted to meet his super-nice family.

His commemorative bottle contains a unique blend of wine created by Tulalip‘s talented wine expert, Tommy Thompson, and the event’s 2015 honorary winemaker, Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville. Sourced from DuBrul Vineyard grapes, this stellar wine blends 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. We somehow had never met Kerry before, so we were glad to have that opportunity, and hope to taste more of her wines in the future.

Sparky TOT2We were fortunate to spend considerable time with Sparky Marquis, co-winemaker/owner of the award-winning Australian winery, Mollydooker Wines. His seminar, “Turning Water Into Wine,” was both informative and fun. We also chatted with him throughout the weekend, at the Celebration Dinner, the Grand Taste and at Tulalip Bay, one of our favorite Seattle-area restaurants where we ended off the event enjoying a fantastic meal with our very good friends, Robin and Sue from British Columbia.

We are big fans of Mollydooker wines: Carnival of Love, the #2 wine in the world, according to Wine Spectator, in addition to the coveted Velvet Glove, Enchanted Path, Blue Eyed Boy and seven more!

We first met Sparky last year at his Cellar Door in McLaren Vale, Australia. For more information, see our blog posts, Mollydooker Part 1 and  Mollydooker Part 2 and learn about Mollydooker’s Marquis Fruit Weight™ process and their “yum-worthy” wines.

Throughout the weekend, we sipped our way through dozens of wines and send kudos to these wineries, whose teams poured some of our favorites.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 1.30.35 PMWashington State

  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  • Betz Family Winery
  • Cote Bonneville
  • Double Canyon / Archery Summit
  • Fidelitas
  • Figgins Wine
  • Gorman Winery
  • Karma Vineyards
  • Leonetti Cellars
  • Obelisco Estate
  • Quilceda Creek
  • Reynvaan Family Vineyards

California

  • Caymus VIneyards
  • Silver Oak Cellars
  • Stone Street

Global

  • Chateau Coutet, Bordeaux, France
  • Domaine Huet, Loire Valley, France
  • Inskillin, Ontario, Canada
  • Mollydooker WInes, McLaren Vale, AustraliaRocca di Frassinello, Maremma, Italy

Flowers TOTAnd then there was the excellent food experience at the Italian-themed Celebration Dinner and at various seminars and booths throughout Saturday.

Executive Chef Perry Mascitti and his talented culinary team were joined by special guest Chris Cosentino, the award-winning Chef/Owner of San Francisco’s Cockscomb and Boccalone, to prepare the delicious dishes. From extravagant gourmet treats to tasty snacks, there was something sensational to pair with every wine.

Antipasta TOT Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 1.56.48 PMThe Celebration Dinner was the Friday night highlight that kicked off the weekend activities. The mouth-watering dinner started out with “Amuse Bouche” Dungeness Crab and Lemon Cannoli Ricotta by Chef Gerry Schultz, followed by Antipasti Carni and Formaggio (pictured) by Chef JP Ponticelli.

Next up was Rustic Polenta Lasgna by Chef Brent Clarkson; Intermezzo by Chef John Jadamec; Seared Chilean Sea Bass by Chef David Buchanan; Filet Mignon Braciole by Tulalip Executive Chef Perry Mascitti; and Semplice Insalata also by Chef JP Ponticelli. Rounding out the explosion of flavors was Tiramisu (pictured) and a pink box of assorted Italian cookies, including chocolate biscotti and wedding cookies, by Chef Nikol Nakamura.

Last, but definitely not least, Taste of Tulalip 2015 supported the charity, Heartbeat Serving Wounded Warriors, which provides emergency assistance and numerous programs for wounded service members and their families in Washington state.

If you didn’t attend this year’s event, you missed something great. Be sure to stay tuned at this time next year, so you won’t miss out again.

Many thanks to Lisa Severn and Allan Aquila for inviting us to this extravaganza. It was a weekend that we will be raving about for a long time to come.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Villa Maria Pinot Noir for Thanksgiving

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 5.12.52 PMRaise your hand if you knew that New Zealand’s Pinot Noir is right up there with its Sauvignon Blanc in terms of taste and value.

Good for you, because we didn’t!

Located at the northeast corner of New Zealand’s South Island, Marlborough is known internationally for its Sauv Blancs. But the region is also becoming popular for Pinot Noir.

We recently discovered this when we participated in a Nov. 4 Twitter tasting of two Villa Maria Pinot Noirs from Marlborough. Our main takeaway: Either one of these wines would pair very well with turkey and an assortment of sides during a Thanksgiving feast.

Villa Maria 2014 Private Bin Pinot Noir ($17)
This good-value Pinot Noir is very approachable and food-friendly, displaying the hallmarks of the region — the aromas of sweet red cherry and berries. This medium-bodied wine is ruby red, with a juicy palate of red berries, cinnamon and herbs. In addition to pairing well with turkey, this Pinot will complement red meats, smoked salmon or aged cheddar throughout the year.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 5.12.26 PMVilla Maria 2013 Cellar Selection Pinot Noir ($25.00)
Also from Marlborough vineyards, this Cellar Selection has subtle smoky aromas along with red cherries on the nose, and red berry, black cherry and plum flavors on the palate. We preferred this Pinot for its silky mouthfeel, spice and earthiness, and plan to enjoy it during our family’s Thanksgiving extravaganza. Of note, it will also pair well with many traditional sides, including beet salad. Other fall and winter meals, such as lamb or wild game, will go nicely with this wine too.

Villa Maria has been a family-owned winery since 1961. In the 1990s, Villa Maria pioneered sustainable viticulture and winemaking in New Zealand, and became the country’s first wine company to declare the winery “a cork-free zone.” Villa Maria has used screw caps from the 2001 vintage onward.

There is a Washington state connection — Villa Maria wines are imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

Thank you to Villa Maria and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates for inviting us to the Twitter chat and providing samples to taste.

Enjoy these wines at your Thanksgiving table!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Bellingham Grape and Gourmet

Grape & GourmetThe 12th annual Bellingham Grape and Gourmet is less than a month away, and we are really looking forward to attending. This year, the event will be held at Silver Reef Casino on Nov. 1. 

The evening of “sensational wines and exquisite food” is hosted by Bellingham Bay Rotary Club.

The event is also a fundraiser — all proceeds will be donated to local non-profits.

Almost 40 Washington and Oregon wineries will be pouring — including our friends at William Church, Forgeron Cellars, L’Ecole 41, Walla Walla Vintners, Dunham Cellars, Airfield Estates and Hightower. Wines range from Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Viognier to Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir. And there’s more, including both white and red blends.

If you find a wine that’s a real palate pleaser, you can purchase it at a 20% discount right on site. You can also sample tasty bites from local restaurants, including one of our favorites, The Steakhouse at Silver Reef Casino.

Last week, we were fortunate to be invited to a pre-tasting, hosted by BB Rotary Club event organizer Bryant Engebretson and his wife Hillary. Our two favorites were William Church Winery’s 2 Spires and Walla Walla Vintners Cuvee, but we know there will be more to add to that list on Nov. 1 at Bellingham Grape and Gourmet.

Grape & Gourmet 1So what are you waiting for – get your tickets now!

Sunday, Nov. 1 at Silver Reef Casino, 5:00 – 8:30 p.m.

VIP Tickets ($100) give you early admission at 5 p.m., which means 90 minutes without the crowds!

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for regular admission ($80).

We hope to see you there!

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

 

Good-Value Wines

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 5.19.49 PMAs the summer winds down, we’re taking a look at some good-value wines that we and/or our neighbors enjoyed in the last five months. Summer sippers make us think of white wine on the deck or the patio, paired with tasty cheeses, seafood or chicken. But let’s not forget about robust reds to accompany delicious BBQs during the warm weather!

First, let’s talk about the featured wineries:

In 1836, Wente Vineyards began with 48 acres in Livermore Valley, California. Today the winery draws from approximately 3,000 acres of sustainably farmed Estate vineyards. While we’ve written about their reds in the past, Wente is known as California’s First Family of Chardonnay. In 1912, the Wente family brought Chardonnay cuttings from France and planted them in the Livermore Valley. Their 1936 vintage was the first varietally labeled Chardonnay in the United States. During crab season, we enjoyed 2013 Small Lot Eric’s Chardonnay, which was fermented and aged in stainless steel. But our neighbors preferred 2012 Riva Ranch Chard.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 5.18.18 PMFor five generations, two families — the Maggios and Reynolds — have grown grapes and made wine in the historic Lodi region of California. They transformed the oldest winery in Lodi, Oak Ridge Winery, into a state-of-art facility, where Old Soul wines were crafted because “the winery has an old soul.” You can definitely taste it in the rich 2012 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon, with a price point of $14.

Launched by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in 2005 as a restaurant-only brand, 14 Hands introduced its “The Reserve” label of wines sourced from the Horse Heaven Hills appellation in Washington state in 2012.

Santa Cristina produces Italy’s No. 1 selling red wine, Rosso, and is also represented by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. This Tuscan winery released its first wine in 1946 and has become a “benchmark” in Italian wines.

Motto Wines debuted this June, with a collection of distinct, dark, rich wines from California that offer a new take on that state’s wine. Motto is made by the renowned winemaking team at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, “putting a Washington spin” on California grapes. According to the winery, “the Motto winemaking team defies ordinary and makes it their motto.”

Of note, many of these wines are so reasonably priced that you can pour them at any time of the year. Just make sure to decant first for a few hours.

Summer Sipper Whites

  • Old Soul 2013 Lodi Chardonnay, $14
  • Wente Vineyards 2012 Morning Fog Chardonnay, $22
  • Wente Vineyards 2012 Riva Ranch Chardonnay, $22
  • Wente Vineyards 2013 Small Lot Eric’s Chardonnay, Small Lot (Unoaked) $25
  • Other good-value summer sippers

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 5.17.23 PMBBQ Reds

  • Santa Cristina 2013 Rosso, $12
  • 14 Hands 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley, $12
  • 14 Hands 2013 Merlot Columbia Valley, $12
  • Old Soul 2012 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon, $14
  • Old Soul 2012 Lodi “Pure Red” Blend, $14
  • Motto Wines 2013 Unabashed Zinfandel, $15
  • Motto Wines 2013 Gung Ho Red Blend, $15
  • Wente Vineyards 2012 Southern Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, $19
  • Wente Vineyards Charles Wetmore 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $30
  • 14 Hands 2012 The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills, $30
  • Other good-value BBQ Reds

 Thanks to Wente, Oak Ridge Winery and Ste. Michelle Estates for these and other samples provided in the last five months.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

 

A Deeper Look at Sauvignon Blanc

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 1.26.51 PMWe love Sauvignon Blanc in the summer months, and after sharing our views on four bottles that we recently enjoyed, we decided to take a deeper look at this warm-weather wine.

Sauvignon Blanc is both an old-world and new-world wine, grown and produced in Washington state, California, British Columbia, Ontario, France, New Zealand and other wine regions.

The typical descriptions are crisp, refreshing and elegant. The most popular price point is $20 and below; however some Sauv Blancs are in the range of $40-$80, and you can even find an occasional bottle priced above $80.

While the most popular style is “light and crisp,” other styles include “fruity and smooth,”  “rich and creamy” and “elegant.” The flavors can range from grassy to tropical.

  • Fruit – Citrus (Grapefruit, Lemon), Melon, Tropical
  • Grassy – Grass, Herbs, Mineral
  • Oak – Vanilla, Spice, Smoke

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 1.27.04 PMSauvignon Blanc pairs well with shellfish such as prawns, scallops, crabs and oysters, in addition to other seafood dishes, sushi, some cheeses and grilled veggies such as asparagus.

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Fun Facts:
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.

International Sauvignon Blanc Day has been held on April 24, since 2010.

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We love to sip on chilled, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc on warm sunny evenings on the deck or the patio. What is your favorite place or time?

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

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.

Cheers,
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.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave