Mr. Big, welcome to wine o’clock at the Savell residence!
That would be 2010 Mr. Big Petite Sirah created by — and some say named for — Jarrod Boyle, winemaker extraordinaire (and friend) at Alexandria Nicole Cellars.
Big, bold and beautiful, Mr. Big comes from grapes sourced at ANC’s Destiny Ridge estate vineyard; this luscious wine was aged 20 months in 70% new French Oak barrels and 30% neutral French Oak.
This dark purple beauty is 94% Petite Sirah and rounded out with 6% Syrah. The result is a rich mouthfeel of lush fruit with a hint of cedar.
We have loved this wine since its first vintage in 2007, when Paul Gregutt described it in his PG blog:
Very dark and concentrated, it wraps its fruit-powered flavors in sweet baking spices. Big and brawny as it is, it does not seem aggressively tannic, and the sweet barrel flavors – vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar – cut through and surround the round, ripe fruit.
Mr. Big, you’re a welcome guest at our table anytime!
Unfortunately, we had to miss the live Don & Sons wine tasting on Twitter yesterday because it was held during the work day on the west coast. But we tasted through the wine samples after work, and wanted to share my notes.
These wines were produced from grapes in vineyards all over California’s appellations – here is our order of preference (remember, your palate might prefer different wines than we do):
- 2011 The Crusher Petite Sirah, Clarksburg 2010 ($18)
- 2010 Project Paso Red Blend, Paso Robles ($15)
- 2009 Philosopher’s Blend, Napa Valley ($40)
- 2010 B Side Red Wine Blend ($30)
- Don & Sons Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($21)
- 2010 B Side Cabernet Sauvingnon, Napa Valley ($30)
Our favorite was The Crusher, and judging from our colleagues tweets from the weekend’s event, this opinion was shared by many. If you’re never tried Petite Sirah before, The Crusher is a good place to start. Sourced from grapes in California’s Sacramento Delta, this is a rich multi-layered wine that would pair nicely with lamb or steak – and its price point is less than $20.
Project Paso would be a great wine for the holiday table or to take to a party – jammy, spicy and cheerful, this blends many grapes: Grenache, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Merlot, Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Malbec, Barbera and a touch of Touriga Nacional. Although we’re not huge Grenache fans, we really loved this $15 beauty.
The full-bodied Philosopher’s Blend has a Cabernet Sauvignon-base and small quantities of Merlot and Petite Sirah, a rich combination of fruit, chocolate and smoky notes. This is the most expensive of the six wines at $40.
The B-Side wines also captured our attention. The $30 Napa Valley Red Blend features five different grapes in a lush, rich, complex and balanced combination. The Cab Sauv ($30) is not a typical Napa Valley wine; we’d like to revisit this one again. It seemed a bit harsh at first tasting, but we suspect it would smooth out with a bit of decanting.
We had the opportunity to receive and taste the 2010 Pinot Noir at the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland last summer. This is a medium-bodied Pinot is fruity but has depth, a good value at $21.
These samples were given to us by the winery. You can buy the full bottles on sale this month on the Don & Sons website.
Wow in the barrel means it’s going to be amazing in the bottle. We call it the “Wow Factor.”
And that’s exactly what we experienced recently when barrel-tasting with John Bigelow, winemaker and co-owner of JM Cellars in Woodinville.
On a recent visit, John poured us two wines from the barrel – a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, full of melon and citrus, and a robust Syrah from Boushey Vineyard, already a rich red color and bursting with flavors. We will be first in line when the Sauv Blanc is released next year. But our patience is required for the Syrah, which has another year before release.
To say the 2000 Cuvee is drinking nicely would be an understatement. Words do not describe how smooth this wine was on the palate. We definitely would have purchased some bottles for special occasions, but we were tasting from the last bottle.
Thanks so much, John, for sharing the exceptional experience.
Meanwhile, the 2012 harvest is set to be a record production for JM Cellars. John literally beamed when he told us about the beauty of this year’s grapes.
But if you’re looking for wine to taste now – for your holiday table or to take to parties during the festive season — look no further than JM Cellars. Here are some of our favorites from the lineup:
- 2010 Bramble Bump Red, a perfect cool-weather wine to enjoy on a crisp fall afternoon or on a winter evening by the fire
- 2011 Bramble Bump White, for the white wine drinker on your list – a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauv Blanc and Semillion; this wine sells out quickly, so we bought some to save for summer
- 2010 Longevity, a classic Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot (Wine Spectator gave the 07 vintage 94 points)
- 2009 Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red, a Cab-based Bordeaux blend
In addition to the wine tasting experience, we were delighted to see John back in shoes after more than eight months in a cast. In March, a filled-to-the-brim 60-gallon barrel of wine fell on his left foot and crushed it. John, congratulations on this latest milestone in your recovery.
There is no doubt in our minds that some food-and-wine pairings are spectacular, creating a “wow factor.” We have experienced this explosion of flavors at winemakers’ dinners and at many special restaurants.
That being said, we are also strong believers that people should have whatever varieties of wine they want, including for special occasions. 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, which we experienced for the first time at Taste of Tulalip last weekend.
In addition to those two beauties, here are the wines (in alphabetical order) that we are considering opening this Thanksgiving – all are from Washington unless otherwise noted:
- Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2010 Mr. Big Petite Sirah
- Avennia 2010 Sestina
- Barrage Cellars 2009 Outcast Cabernet Franc
- Burrowing Owl 2009 Cabernet Franc (B.C.)
- Cooper Wine Company 2008 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
- Efeste 2009 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon
- Fidelitas 2008 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
- Forgeron 2009 Primitivo
- Gilbert Cellars 2010 Cabernet Franc
- Goosecross Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet (Napa Valley)
- Guardian Cellars 2009 Gun Metal Red Bordeaux Blend
- Hall 2006 Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
- JM Cellars 2009 Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red
- K&M Wine 2009 Cuvee (Oregon)
- Ken Wright Cellars 2007 Abbott Claim Pinot Noir (Oregon)
- L’Ecole 41 2008 Perigee
- Long Shadows 2007 Feather Cabernet Sauvignon
- Mark Ryan 2009 Dead Horse Red Bordeaux Blend
- Northwest Totem Cellars 2009 Qo-ne’
- Obelisco 2009 Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon
- Plumpjack 2008 CADE Cuvee Cab (Napa Valley)
- Seven of Hearts Wine 2010 GSM (Oregon)
- Seven of Hearts 2010 Chateaux Figareaux Cabernet Franc (Oregon)
- Tinhorn Creek 2010 Cabernet Franc (B.C.)
- Va Piano 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
- William Church 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Woodhouse Wine Estates 2006 Dussek Cabernet Sauvignon
What’s on your list of Thanksgiving wines?
Those who follow Write for Wine on Facebook might have noticed near-daily updates on what’s been in our glass this week.
In case you missed it, here is the list.
- 09 Quarry Butte from Alexandria Nicole Cellars
- 08 Jennifer’s Syrah from William Church Winery
- 09 Outcast Cabernet Franc from Barrage Cellars
- 09 In the Rocks from Reynvaan Family Vineyards
We recommend some of these wines for special occasions and some, well, just because.
Hopefully next week, I’ll have more time to write a longer post about some new wines we’ve tasted recently.
In the meantime, if you’re on Facebook, please stop by the Write for Wine page and say hi. Or like it, if you wish!
Hundreds, no thousands upon thousands of wines await you, but how do you know which ones you’ll like? Or maybe you know you like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah or Chardonnay, so that narrows your choices … a little bit. But there are still so many to choose from. What to do?
Help is on the way!
Experience A Taste Adventure sampler from TastingRoom.com. The samplers come in a minimum of six 50ml bottles – so you can taste first, before deciding if you want to invest in full-sized bottles that range from $11-$110.
What an amazing idea! TastingRoom.com has partnered with wineries from around the world (including top wineries such as Silver Oak and Duckhorn), so you can try a variety of wines at reasonably low costs - from $22.95 to $39.95 for six mini-bottles, which come in a beautiful box with tasting notes, so it’s a learning experience while you sip.
For example, you can choose between two samplers of wines selected by New Orleans celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse – Emeril’s Everyday Sampler ($32.95) and Emeril’s Holiday Party Sampler ($39.95) to pair on holidays from Thanksgiving to New Years.
Or you may prefer a large number of other samplers including: Gary Vaynerchuk-Wines for Dudes; Several “Taste Adventures (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Reds for Picnics, Australian Gems, Red & White Essentials and many more); Party Packs such as Great Wines for BBQs; plus different samplers showcasing individual wine regions.
We received a free sample of A Taste Adventure – Cabernet Taste-Off, with this description: Over the past 35 years Sonoma County, California has attracted fame and fortune for producing powerful, fruit-driven Cabernet Sauvignons. In the last decade, though, Washington State has started producing Cabernet Sauvignons that many argue are better structured and better value wines.
The growing conditions in each region are different, so how did these wines stack up?
We’ve been cheerleaders for the Washington wine industry since we moved to Seattle in 1999, and even more so since Write for Wine launched in 2007. So not surprisingly, our palate preferred the Washington state wines over the Sonoma wines – but in some cases, it was a tight race!
Of the six wines, our favorite was a rich and elegant 2008 Gilbert Cellars Wahluke Slope Cab Sauv ($27.95 a bottle) — again, not surprising, since we’ve been fans since we first tasted Gilbert Cellars wines at Sexy Syrah at Salty’s in April, 2008.
An extremely close second was 2008 Amavi Cellars Walla Walla Valley Cab Sauv ($27.95 a bottle), which was also robust and powerful, as our palates prefer.
Our favorites from Sonoma were two we had never tasted before: 2008 Icaria Alexander Valley Cab Sauv ($27.95 a bottle) and 2008 Watkins Family Winery “Nuns Cliff” ($39.95)
We also enjoyed 2007 Cadaretta Columbia Valley ($36.95) and 2008 Dutcher Crossing Taylor Reserve Sonoma (442.95) – so the entire sample was indeed a fun adventure.
You can also order Wines by the Glass, Or “Wine Your Way,” which offers a single 100ml serving, so you can drink a single glass of wine whenever and wherever you want.
And then there’s an unique program called the Taste Explorer Wine Club, where you can taste the wines before choosing which bottles you want in your club shipments.
So many people have asked me over the years about which wines to choose. The answer depends on your palate. The TastingRoom.com helps you decide – in three different ways – samplers, pour sizes and a wine club. We recommend that you give it a whirl. Your palate will thank you.
It’s that time again – our favorite wine event of the year – the annual Harvest Party in the Vines, held by Alexandria Nicole Cellars at their Destiny Ridge Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills in central Washington.
Let me tell you, Ali and Jarrod Boyle know how to throw a party! This is our fourth, and we just keep having more and more fun each year.
This event is so well planned – from the special hotel rate at the Marriott in Richland, to the party buses to take us on the 45-minute drive to the Estate vineyard, to the amazing “surf and turf” menu created by awesome chef Frank Magana. In addition, there’s live music and harvest hoopla, including a skeet-shooting contest, wine balloon toss, grape stomping, barrel rolling and much more.
And let’s not forget the incredible wines. ANC’s Estate Vineyard, Destiny Ridge, contains 263 acres of planted vines with 23 varietals. Believe me, 23 varietals is huge in Washington state:
White Wines: Crawford Viognier, a2 Pinot Gris, Shepherds Mark southern Rhone white blend, Sauvignon Blanc, Late Harvest Riesling, Cabernet Franc Rosé.
Red Wines: Quarry Butte Red Table Wine, Gravity Merlot, Alderdale Cabernet Sauvignon, a2 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Syrah, Jet Black Syrah.
In addition, wine club members (like us) can also enjoy:
White Wines: Reserve Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne.
Red Wines: Block 17 Syrah, Destiny Bordeaux Blend, Member’s Only, Grenache, Mackay Duck Press Red, Lemberger, Malbec, Rock Star Red, Tempranillo, Mr. Big Petite Syrah, Primativo
We became wine club members in 2007, the same year I started this blog and when ANC first moved to Woodinville. Over the years, Ali and Jarrod became our good friends. But it all began with the wine.
We stopped by the fall release party at one of Woodinville’s newest wineries, Avennia, and became immediate fans of the wines and the owners. We highly recommend you see for yourself what talented winemaker Chris Peterson has created featuring Washington state grapes in the ”old-world style” of French wines.
The words and phrases that came to mind while tasting all five Avennia wines were classic, complex, balanced, structured, true to varietal, and a showcase of the beauty of Washington grapes.
One white, Oliane Sauvignon Blanc, and two Syrahs – 2010 Arnaut and 2010 Parapine - are now available.
They will be followed by the February 2013 release of two 2010 Bordeaux blends, Sestina and Gravura – both are showing such potential now, we know they will have that WOW factor for a number of years.
1. 2011 Oliane Sauvignon Blanc, Avennia’s only white wine, is true to the classic, crisp and elegant Sauvignon Blanc and perfect on a warm Seattle afternoon. Oliane is bursting with grapefruit aromas and citrus notes, along with that minerality we’ve come to love in good Sauv Blancs.
2. 2010 Arnaut is 100% Syrah from the fabulous Boushey Vineyard. This flagship Syrah ranked 16 in Seattle Met’s recently released 100 Best Washington Wines.
3. 2010 Parapine Syrah features grapes from Boushey and from Force Majeure’s (formerly Grand Reve) new vineyard on Red Mountain. But this Syrah will be replaced in the 2011 vintage with a Southern Rhone-style wine.
4. 2010 Sestina, the flagship Bordeaux blend, is my favorite: Cabernet Sauvignon (73%), Merlot (18%) and Cab Franc (9%). As mentioned, this complex wine tastes full of potential already, and we can’t wait to try it again in February. I hope we’ll have the patience to cellar some bottles for a few years too!
5. 2010 Gravura offers a closer split of the classic Bordeaux blend: Cabernet Sauvignon (54%) and Merlot (40%), rounding off the edges with 6% Cab Franc.
Interestingly, the $35 Parapine Syrah and the $35 Gravura blend have Seattle restaurants lined up to include on their tasting menus.
Regular readers of this blog know that the people behind the wine are also important to us. Winemaker/partner Chris Peterson and managing partner Marty Taucher are right up there with the finest in Washington’s wine industry.
Chris passionately talked to us about his wines and his wine-making style for about 30 minutes. He was the first graduate of Walla Walla Community College’s Enology and Viticulture program; he spent quality time in all of the major wine regions of France and Italy; and more recently, as assistant winemaker at DeLille Cellars, he helped create some of the state’s finest wines.
During the 2009 harvest at DeLille, Chris met Marty Taucher, a retired PR and Marketing leader at Microsoft, who has collected wine for 25 years. They shared similar interests and clicked – a close friendship that was obvious the minute we met them.
The following year, they founded Avennia, inspired by the Roman name for the city of Avignon, which signifies the heart of Old World winemaking to both of them. All the names of their wines have significance to Marty and Chris – we encourage you to read about it on the Avennia website.
… like we love blends, then mark your calendar right now for the third annual – you guessed it – BLEND event on Sept. 16 at Seattle waterfront’s Bell Harbor Conference Center.
We have not missed this event ever, because Bordeaux blends have been some of our favorite wines for years. I was asked to be a judge at this year’s BLEND blind tasting, but it’s during the day when I work at my “day job,” unfortunately.
But thankfully we can attend the event, which not only showcases Washington’s hottest blends, but also enticing gourmet food samples from some award-winning hotel restaurants.
Specifically, BLEND features more than 40 Washington wineries, barrel blending stations and international tasting stations, in addition to a “Bubble Lounge” with champagne, sparkling wines and cider and oysters.
While both of our palates favor Bordeaux-style blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, others prefer southern Rhone-style blends of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre.
Some of our favorites are unique-to-Washington blends of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, such as William Church 2008 2 Spires and Gorman 2009 Evil Twin. Unfortunately, neither will be at this event, but some of our other favorites, such as DiStefano 2007 Sogno (Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) will be definite pours for us.
Some white blends – perfect summer sippers — will also be available, such as the award-winning Shepherd’s Mark southern Rhone blend (Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne) from Alexandria Nicole Cellar and Optu White Bordeaux blend (Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion) from Fidelitas.
We hope to see you there!
Winemaker extraordinaire Brennon Leighton is becoming a consulting winemaker at EFESTE in Woodinville and after Crush 2012, he will be relocating to eastern Washington near EFESTE’s vineyards and taking on additional projects with other wineries.
He personally selected winemaker Peter Devison, formerly from Apex, Alder Ridge and Willow Creek, to join him on an expanded EFESTE winemaking team “because of his experience in reductive winemaking — a distinctive old-world style seldom seen in Washington.”
“Peter’s knowledge of our winemaking style is incredible,” Brennon explained. “We have similar philosophies and perspectives that will make for a great progression. It’s like being in a foreign country and finding someone who can speak your language.”
Regular readers of this blog know we’ve been fans of Brennon and EFESTE for years. My article about Brennon in Seattleite Magazine landed him in third spot in the magazine’s Top Ten newsmakers of the year (2011).
We first met him in 2008, when we barrel-tasted Jolie Bouche during a St. Nick’s event in Woodinville. We instantly became members of EFESTE’s Inner Circle wine club, and applauded when the next year, 2009, Seattle Magazine hailed Brennon as Winemaker to Watch and EFESTE as the Best New Winery.
As his star rose, Brennon remained constant – open, blunt, funny, sharp and passionate, a talented man whom my mother would have said “pulls no punches,” an artist who also likes to experiment and a thinker who reads several books a week.
We’ve also written numerous posts about Efeste’s award-winning wines such as Feral Sauvignon Blanc, Jolie Bouche Syrah, Lola Chardonnay and Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon, my personal favorite (although it’s hard to choose).
EFESTE’s new winemaker, Peter Devision, is fortunate to join Brennon and the owners whose last names make up the letters that spell EFESTE: Daniel and Helen Ferrelli, Patrick Smith, and Kevin and Angie Taylor are also passionate about wine, dedicated to several worthy causes, and fun to hang out with in the tasting room.
Devison began working with Brennon for crush 2012, taking place now.
We look forward to meeting him. In addition to talking wine, we have Canada in common – he’s from Nova Scotia and worked in my hometown, Vancouver before moving to Washington state.