We’ve been fans of William Church Winery since March, 2008, when our wine-expert nephew, Mathew, came to visit us with a bottle of their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon.
It was awesome, so we made a point to visit their tasting room in Woodinville’s winery warehouse district — William Church was one of the eight original warehouse wineries.
Unfortunately, this was not an easy feat at the time because they were only open on Saturdays.
But that situation didn’t last long; soon the tasting room was open more frequently, and then three years later, in July 2011, William Church opened their second tasting room in Woodinville’s Hollywood Schoolhouse wine area.
Fast forward to today, and we’re extremely happy to say that William Church Winery is one of Washington state’s success stories.
We recently visited their Schoolhouse tasting room, which is open every day (and until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), and it was thriving; packed with people cheerfully drinking some amazing juice.
This was the first time in a couple of years that we tasted their entire lineup, and wow! Winemaker (and co-owner) Rod Balsley has always produced quality wines, but these days, that quality has risen to a new level.
Rod currently produces seven award-winning wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Viognier and three blends: 2Spires, Bishop’s Blend and Sur La Mer.
We love all of them because they are solid, stand-alone sippers and also phenomenal when paired well with food.
2013 Viognier: This flagship wine has always been one of Washington state’s best examples of Viognier. Somehow, this Viognier is both rich and fresh, and understandably named one of Seattle Metropolitan‘s Top Washington Wines Under $25.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon: We brought this wine home to pair with a good meal — perhaps a juicy steak or a savory roast over the holidays. As mentioned, we’ve loved this classic Cab Sauv since the 2005 vintage, and it just keeps getting better and better.
2012 Syrah: Another perennial favorite, this Syrah is rich and full-bodied, and tastes the way a good Syrah should: balanced, with smoke and spice, and simply delicious. We first wrote about the 2006 Syrah, which was named in the Top 100 wines in Seattle Metropolitan.
2011 2Spires: William Church was one of the first Washington wineries to produce a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon (two wines=two spires). In the 2011 vintage, the blend is 63% Syrah and 37% Cab. Think big, bold and beautiful, and a double-gold winner at the Seattle Wine Awards.
2012 Bishop’s Blend: This full-bodied, robust wine blends 55% Cab Sauv, 20% Merlot, 15% Malbec and 10% Petit Verdot. It’s a steal at $25.
2011 Sur La Mer: This Merlot-based wine has all five Bordeaux varietals in the blend. A newer wine in the lineup — 2007 was the first vintage of this classic blend — Sur La Mer is named after the seaport city in France where co-owner Leslie Balsley was born.
We encourage you to try some or all of these wines, and you’ll understand why they are award-winning. They also make great gifts for the wine enthusiasts in your life, for the hostess at your holiday parties or to serve guests in your home.
We recently became big fans of Double Canyon, established just seven years ago in Horse Heaven Hills, and named for the two ravines that run through the property in central Washington state.
Double Canyon’s first wine, a 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Double Canyon Vineyard, was awarded 93 points from Wine Spectator.
Earlier this year, at Taste Washington, we named Double Canyon’s 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, from Phinny Hill Vineyard, in our top three favorite wines.
At that time, we met new winemaker Jason Ledbetter, who had just come to Double Canyon from Pine Ridge Vineyards, Trefethen Vineyards and Cakebread Cellars in Napa.
We could tell immediately that Jason had a passion for appellation-focused estate wine, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, which is Double Canyon’s focus. In the months since then, he has frequently referred to Horse Heaven Hills as “a special place” and a leading area to produce Cabernet in Washington state.
One week ago, Double Canyon released its 2012 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon. In Jason’s words, “Classic wines from this appellation are lauded for their exceptional balance and acidity, and this wine is no exception.”
We can attest to this, and we are sure that our appreciation of this wine will be echoed by those who taste it. Obviously the wine is young, just released last week. But yes, it definitely rocked with potential. And after decanting it for a couple of hours, it paired very nicely with BBQ steak.
From the tasting notes:
“Luminous and dark purple in hue, this wine delivers a rich fruit and floral fragrance accented by an exotic vanilla spice. The palate opens with soft, rich flavors of bright red plum and dried red cherry accented by black tea leaf and fresh vanilla bean. The texture is smooth and luscious, and the wine’s balance and mouthwatering acidity make for a classic Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet.”
This 2012 wine is sourced from grapes at three well-known vineyards. Almost a quarter comes from the winery’s estate Double Canyon Vineyard, with the remainder sourced from Phinny Hill Vineyard, which is located across from Double Canyon and owned by vineyard manager Will Beightol’s family, and Zephyr Ridge, which Beightol previously managed.
AVA: Horse Heaven Hills
Blend: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Syrah, 3% Malbec
Released: July 2014
Production: 698 cases
Sample provided by winery
We are looking forward to watching how Jason expands the Cabernet Sauvignon program at Double Canyon. And of course, we plan on tasting many more of his Double Canyon Cabs.
Every year, we find more things to rave about Washington state wine, celebrated in all its glory last week at Taste Washington.
Taste Washington is the country’s largest single-region wine and food event, which we like to describe as ”the Super Bowl of Washington state wine events.”
Our plan this year was to visit friends at wineries we know well and try some new wines. We decided to only taste red wines this year, because there were so very many wines to sample.
These our the highlights of our experience:
Top three favorite new (to us) wines, with brief descriptors
- Walla Walla Vintners 2012 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley — Sassy, stunning, stellar, superlative
- Double Canyon 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills — Velvety, vibrant, vivacious, victorious
- Boudreaux Cellars 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon — Lovely, luscious, luxurious, luxe
Other favorites (in alphabetical order)
- Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2010 Destiny (Happy 10th Anniversary, ANC!)
- Andrew Will 2011 Two Blondes Red Bordeaux Blend, Yakima Valley
- Bartholomew Winery 2010 Reciprocity Red Blend, Columbia Valley
- Betz Family Winery 2011 Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
- Buty Winery 2011 Rediviva of the Stones Red Blend, Walla Walla Valley
- Cooper Wine Company 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
- Fall Line Winery 2011 Red Willow Red Blend, Yakima Valley
- Fidelitas 2010 Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
- FIGGINS 2010 Estate Red Bordeaux Blend, Walla Walla Valley
- Force Majeure Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Collaboration Series, Force Majeure Vineyard, Red Mountain
- Gorman Winery 2011 The Pixie Syrah, Red Mountain
- Lauren Ashton Cellars 2011 Syrah, Columbia Valley
- Sinclair Estate 2010 Vixen Red Blend, Columbia Valley
Longtime favorites (in alphabetical order)
- Forgeron Cellars
- JM Cellars
- L’Ecole No 41
- Long Shadows Vintners
- Obelisco Estate Wines
- Va Piano Vineyards
- Woodward Canyon
Best bites (there were so many, but we only sampled a few)
- Andaluca: Cauliflower soup
- Anthony’s Pier 66: Scallop BLT
- Blazing Bagels: Multi-flavors of bagels and shmears
- Cheeseland Inc and Mt. Townsend Creamery: Assortment of artisan cheeses
- Pike Place Chowder: Traditional New England clam chowder
- The Capital Grille: Porcini rubbed dry-aged sirloin (where we’re celebrating our anniversary this week)
Gard Vintners was created in 2006 by the Lawrence family, who has been farming the Royal Slope, near Royal City in the Columbia Valley, for more than 45 years. We enjoyed some of Gard wines a few years ago, but hadn’t tasted any recently.
So we were delighted when we received three samples of Gard wines from Lawrence Estate Vineyards on the Frenchman Hills in the Columbia Valley AVA.
We had been told that Gard wines had developed over the years and indeed, that is absolutely right.
Super dark, super ripe, super layered and super intense, this magnificent wine is smoky, earthy and powerful with a hint of black pepper.
Pair it with barbecued anything or a nice spicy bowl of spaghetti, or drink it alone, simply enjoying the lingering taste that builds sip after sip. (Released May 2012, $45)
2010 Syrah is an incredible value at $29. We recommend decanting this medium-bodied wine for an hour or two to truly experience its evolution into a rich and silky mouthfeel. Or better yet, cellar it for 2-4 years and prepare to be wowed. (Released May 2013)
2011 Don Isidro Red is a medium-bodied blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Syrah and 8% Merlot that will complement a meal such as roast beef, beef stew or even a good steak. At $22, this red could be described as an easy-drinking, food-friendly value wine that could grace any table. (Released September 2013)
Props to Gard winemaker Aryn Morell – we are adding Gard Vintners to our list of favorites.
We recently had the opportunity to taste wine described as “hidden gems” from Walla Walla: Mackey Vineyards 2009 Syrah ($32), 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($32) and 2009 Concordia ($38). We give a thumbs up to all three.
Mackey Vineyards was launched in 2010 by Philip and Roger Mackey, who collaborated with winemaker Billo Naravane of Rasa Vineyards. Although gaining some local acclaim, the portfolio is not very well known across the state. As a result, Write for Wine received these samples to taste – and we are glad.
2009 Mackey Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley
This wine manages to pack a wallop, while being silky and elegant at the same time. Big and beautiful, this Syrah has a lovely nose with aromas of blackberry, vanilla and minerals, and is full of flavors of spice, black pepper and smoked meat — a showcase of the way this grape is crafted in Washington state. We enjoyed it with Dave’s amazing spaghetti, but this robust wine would also go well with grilled meats, game, beef stew and meat lover’s pizza. This Mackey Syrah is strong enough to simply pair with some tasty cheese, too – a mild but smokey blue cheese or a white cheddar.
2009 Mackey Vineyards Concordia, Columbia Valley
This deep, dark red wine is a Rhone blend of 77.4% Syrah, 12.9% Grenache, and 9.7% Mourvedre. In some circles, this big, peppery combination is known as GSM. Frankly, unlike many of our friends and colleagues, we are not big fans of Mouvedre or Grenache as stand-alone wines; there are many good ones in Washington state, but they aren’t to our palates. So we were always hesitant to taste a wine that blends those two grapes with Syrah. That is, until about a year ago, when Seven of Hearts in Carlton, Oregon encouraged us to stretch our palates and wowed us with their version. Thanks to Seven of Hearts, we decided to try again with this Concordia, and we loved it. The 2009 Mackey Vineyards Concordia showcases flavors of white pepper, black fruits, dark chocolate and vanilla. Mackey describes it as complex and decadent, and we agree.
2009 Mackey Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
Our palates favor Bordeaux-style wines, so how could we not enjoy a Cabernet Sauvignon that is rounded off with 15.8% Cabernet Franc and 5.3% Petit Verdot? This wine features a silky texture and good complexity, and we both talked about how it is a good every day wine to pair with some of our favorite home-cooked meals. But notably, we both also think it will age to become a special-occasion wine, if we cellar it for 5-8 years. In other words, it definitely is drinkable now, but has the potential to be be really powerful a few years down the road.
By the way, both the 2009 Mackey Vineyards Cab Sauv and Syrah won a gold at the 2012 Seattle Wine Awards and silver at the 2013 Tri-Cities Wine Festival last month. The 2009 Concordia received 92 points from The Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast, and 91 points from Wine Spectator.
Give all three a try and let us know what you think!
Wondering what wines to share over the Thanksgiving holidays? A special bottle to take to a family dinner or an evening with good friends? Here is our list of current favorite red wines of different vintages.
But first, a note: We strongly believe that people should drink whatever varieties of wine they want, red or white. Our preference for Thanksgiving happens to be robust red wines – some with a bit of funk, such as 2009 Reynvaan In the Rocks Syrah, and some that are rich and smooth, such as 2009 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon.
In addition to those two beauties, here are the wines (in alphabetical order) that we recommend for Thanksgiving – all are from Washington state unless otherwise noted as from Oregon.
- Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2010 Mr. Big Petite Sirah
- Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2010 Little Big Man Petit Verdot
- Avennia 2010 Sestina
- Barrage Cellars 2009 Outcast Cabernet Franc
- Barrage Cellars 2008 Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon
- Cooper Wine Company 2008 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
- Efeste 2010 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon
- Fidelitas 2009 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain
- Fidelitas 2010 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Franc Red Mountain
- Force Majeure 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Collaboration Series, Force Majeure Vineyard Red Mountain
- Forgeron Cellars 2010 Zinfandel
- Gorman 2009 The Albatross
- JM Cellars 2009 Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red
- K&M Wine 2009 Cuvee (Oregon)
- L’Ecole 41 2010 Estate Cabernet Franc, Seven Hills Vineyard
- Long Shadows 2009 Feather Cabernet Sauvignon
- Mercer 2009 Columbia Valley Reserve
- Northwest Totem Cellars 2008 Qo-ne’
- Obelisco 2010 Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain
- Seven of Hearts Wine 2010 GSM (Oregon)
- Troon Vineyard 2010 Cabernet Franc Reserve (Oregon)
- Va Piano 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
- William Church 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Woodhouse Wine Estates 2006 Dussek Cabernet Sauvignon
- Woodward Canyon Estate 2010 “Artist Series” Cabernet Sauvignon
What’s on your list of Thanksgiving wines?
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
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!
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.
- Zinfandel from Forgeron Cellars
- Cabernet Franc from Barrister Winery, Barrage Cellars, Seven of Hearts, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Northwest Totem Cellars and DiStefano
- Cabernet Sauvignon from William Church Winery, L’Ecole41, Fidelitas, Barrage Cellars, Efeste, Obelisco Estate, Gorman Winery, The Woodhouse Wine Estates, Troon Vineyard and Parsonage Estate
What’s in your glass this summer?
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!
We finally decided to open our beautifully engraved bottle of 2008 Red Wine from Barrage Cellars – Kevin Correll’s featured wine of 2011 Taste of Tulalip, the annual wine and food extravaganza at Tulalip Resort.
Kevin’s 2008 Red was originally known as Stealth, a new wine label in honor of his and Rebecca’s beloved dog, Murphy — a gorgeous chocolate Lab, known for his playfulness and surreptitiousness around the wine barrels.
“Stealth,” a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cab Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, sold out almost immediately. We weren’t surprised to hear this news, because we’ve never met a wine from Barrage Cellars that we didn’t like, or more often, love.
Back in 2011, with the announcement that Barrage Cellars was honored as the official winery partner of Taste of Tulalip, Kevin rebottled what little remained of Stealth and renamed it ”Murphy’s Blend.” He and Rebecca lovingly poured the nectar into engraved bottles that were featured at the event.
We bought a bottle there, and later wished we had purchased more.
But we decided to hold off on opening it; the bottle is so pretty, and filled with wine that we knew would be so, so pleasing.
But last night, we did it – we uncorked the bottle, and raised our glasses to Murphy (who is now romping around in doggy heaven with our beloved retrievers, Sam and Shadow) and also to Kevin and Rebecca, whom we are happy to call our friends.
Cheers to friends, dogs and fabulous wine!
P.S. We’re keeping the bottle!