Avennia-Look for These Wines

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

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.

Cheers!

 

If you love blends …

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Events, Malbec, Marsanne, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Viognier, Wine Comments Off

… 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.

For a full list of wineries pouring at BLEND, in addition to tickets, visit the BLEND website. Net proceeds from the $49-per-person admission will benefit the Washington Wine Industry Foundation.

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!

Big Winemaker News at EFESTE

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

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.

Cheers!

What we’ve been drinking lately

Barbera, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

I’ve been traveling so much lately that it’s been hard to find time to write individual posts about the wonderful Washington state wines we’ve enjoyed in the last couple of months. But I still want to share them with you, in hopes that you’ll also taste them one day soon.

We recommend all of them — cheers!

Looking for a robust red for July 4th?

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

If you’re thinking about a juicy BBQ steak to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday (or July 1 for my family and friends in Canada), L’Ecole 41 has a multitude of choices of robust reds to pair with it.

We’ve been fans of L’Ecole for a long time – have a look at this 2010 blog post that references our L’Ecole tastings, starting in 2007. Every year since then, L’Ecole’s wines have either matched or superseded the previous vintage with character, complexity, flavors and balance.

 

My personal favorite is L’Ecole 41 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley. I had the opportunity to taste the 2001 library wine; the 2009 vintage continues the excellence – a blend of Cabernet from five prestigious vineyards that is sophisticated, structured and velvety rich.

According to winemaker and owner Marty Clubb, “Its old-world structure, dense dark fruit flavors and elegant tannins exemplify the best of Walla Walla.”

We have several bottles of this beauty – we had one last week, we’ll open another on July 4 and the rest remain in our cellar for what is sure to be years of good drinking.

 

In May, we reveled in L’Ecole 41 2008 Perigee, celebrated when the moon was in its perigee – a “super moon” when it passes closest to Earth.

The Perigee, L’Ecole’s estate Bordeaux blend, combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc with a dash of Petit Verdot and Malbec, sourced from the winery’s oldest and best blocks from Seven Hills Vineyard.

2008 Perigee is elegant, expressive and earthy – a delicious wine to enjoy over the holidays – or anytime.

Other robust reds from L’Ecole: 2008 Apogee Pepper Bridge, another of my favorites; 2008 Estate Merlot; and 2009 Estate Syrah, in addition to several from Columbia Valley.

Cheers!

Travels to Napa Valley

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Wine 2 Comments

We just came back from Napa Valley, where we visited five wineries that we highly recommend. Here are the highlights:

Goosecross Cellars: The Howell Mountain Cab from Goosecross has always been a favorite, and this year did not disappoint. In fact, it exceeded expectations. This full-bodied Cab is rich and elegant with so many layers of lovely that I wish I could buy a few cases. Goosecross also produces one of the best stand-alone Cab Francs we tasted in Napa Valley. Cab Franc is my #1 choice, and Goosecross is as excellent as my favorite Washington state Cab Francs.

In addition, Goosecross makes a crisp refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, which is perfect for a warm, sunny day on the deck. (Note: We credit our summer passion for Sauv Blanc to Goosecross along with two Washington state wineries, Efeste and JM Cellars.) Goosecross’ popular tasting room underlines the superb customer service, friendliness and wow-worthy wines.

Grgich Hills: The first time I went to Napa Valley – more years ago than I care to admit! – Grgich was on my list of must-visit wineries. We didn’t know then that winemaker Mike Grgich crafted the 1973 Chardonnay, which won the Paris Competition that put California and Chateau Montelena on the worldwide wine map in 1976 and again in 2009 when the movie Bottle Shock was released.

So it was no surprise to find that Grgich Carneros Selection Chardonnay 2008, was simply, beautiful. We also were lucky to be invited to two side-by-side tastings while we were there. The first was Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 and 2008, plus the Yountville Selection 2007, from some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Napa Valley. The second was a “decades tasting” of Napa Valley Cab Sauv from 1982,1992, 2002. What a treat! I preferred the 02, while Dave’s preference was the ’92. Frankly, every Grgich wine we tasted was stellar.

Hall: We had so much fun at Hall, partly because their wine educator, Kendra Wax, hails from Walla Walla, so we could compare Napa wines to our glorious juice from Washington state. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Hall wines are also glorious. We took home a library release, 2006 Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which was rated 94 points by Wine Spectator. We also recommend 2009 “Jack’s Masterpiece” Cab Sauv and 2006 “Bergfeld” St. Helena Cab Sauv. Beauty!

Plumpjack: We added Plumpjack to our list of Top Napa Wineries to visit last year, and continue to suggest it, along with the other four mentioned in this post, as a must-stop. The 2008 CADE Napa Cuvee Cab was spectacular and the Sauv Blanc was zesty and cool on a warm California afternoon. Most of all, we give full props to Plumpjack’s 2009 Syrah – a big, juicy, spicy and peppery Syrah that stands out as the best California Syrah we’ve tasted, because it’s so close to the Washington- state style that our palates embrace. Frankly, we find most California Syrahs bland, and hadn’t even planned on trying Plumpjack’s pour until Guest Services Manager, Heather Manross described it as the most Northern Rhone-like Syrah they’ve ever produced. Bring it!

Cornerstone Cellars: This was our first visit to Cornerstone, chosen because of their high-profile presence on Twitter from both Craig Camp and Allison Zickfeld. Their tweets beckoned us, and we are glad they did. Cornerstone wines are complemented by a bright and beautiful tasting room and knowledgeable and fun staff, such as Kerry Hourigan. The 2010 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Corallina was an impressive rose’ named for its beautiful, pale copper-coral color and its balanced, supple and bright flavors. We brought home a bottle to savor on our deck this summer. We also enjoyed the 2008 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, with a unique raspberry flavor.

Their new label, Cornerstone Oregon, is a collaboration between Cornerstone Napa’s Craig Camp and Oregon winemaker Tony Rynders from Domaine Serene. We tasted the 2009 Cornerstone Oregon Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, a supple, well-balanced medium-body Pinot, which received 91 points from Wine Spectator. We’re looking forward to tasting more close-to-home Pinots, when Craig brings them to the annual Wine Bloggers Conference, held this August in Portland.

Cheers!

Wonderful Walla Walla Wine

Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Events, Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

Regular readers of this blog know we are major fans of Walla Walla wine. We don’t get to visit Walla Walla nearly as often as we would like, so when Walla Walla comes to Seattle, it’s a must-go-to event.

So I dashed out to SoDo during my lunch break to visit friends and have a few (very small) tastes at “Walla Walla Wine @SoDo Park” last week.

I could only visit a few booths, and I know I missed out on lots of wineries. I wish I could have stayed longer, but work beckoned me back.

Here are the wines I tasted and would definitely purchase:

  • Abeja 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon – This fine Cab is blended with 4% Merlot, in John Abbot’s fashion of being true to the varietal and to the state.
  • L’Ecole 41 2009 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon – I’ve been a major fan of this wine since the 2001 vintage.
  • Otis Kenyon 2008 Syrah – It has that “In the Rocks” funk – yum!
  • Watermill 2008 Cabernet Franc – if you love Cab Franc like I do, this is a must-buy.
  • Woodward Canyon 2009 Estate Reserve – It won’t be released until summer but the potential is already magnificent.

There are many, many more excellent Walla Walla wineries – and we highly recommend you visit them in Walla Walla. Some of them have tasting rooms in Woodinville too.

Cheers!

Washington Wine Month-Our Faves

Barbera, Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Syrah, Tempranillo, Washington wineries, Wine, Zinfandel Comments Off

We love Washington state wine. So to us, every month is Washington Wine Month. But there is an official month to celebrate this state’s amazing wines – March — and it comes with its own website and promotions from participating wine shops, tasting rooms, restaurants and hotels.

In honor of Washington Wine Month, here is a list of some of our favorite reds (in alphabetical order).

  • 21 Grams 2008 Red Blend
  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2008 Destiny Bordeaux Blend; 2007 Mr. Big Petit Sirah; 2009 Petite Verdot
  • Barrage Cellars 2007 Outcast Cabernet Franc; 2007 Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon; 2008 Secret Weapon Cab Sauv
  • Cooper Wine Company 2007 L’Inizio; 2007 Cooper Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla
  • Darby 2009 Dark Side Syrah; 2008 Chaos
  • DiStefano 2007 Sogno Cabernet Franc Reserve; 2005 Sogno Cab Franc
  • EFESTE 2008 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon; 2009 Jolie Bouche Syrah; 2008 Ceidleigh Syrah
  • Fall Line 2009 El Otro Yakima Valley Tempranillo;  2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Fidelitas 2007 and 2008 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; 2008 Red Mountain Red Wine
  • Fielding Hills 2008, 2007 and 2005 Cabernet Franc
  • Forgeron Cellars 2006 Zinfandel; 2003 Vinfinity
  • Gilbert Cellars 2007 Cabernet Franc; 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Gorman Winery 2009 Evil Twin Syrah-Cab blend; 2008 Bully Cabernet Sauvignon (blended with Petit Verdot)
  • Hard Row to Hoe 2008 Burning Desire Estate Cabernet Franc; 2008 Pinot Noir
  • Heaven’s Cave 2009 Two Degrees Barbera; 2005 Angel’s Blend.
  • JM Cellars 2009 Boushey Vineyard Syrah; 2009 Tre; 2009 Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red
  • L’Ecole 41 2008 Apogee Pepper Bridge; 2008 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon; 2001 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Northwest Totem Cellars 2008 Qo-ne’ Cab Franc blend; 2006 Cab Franc
  • Otis Kenyon 2008 Syrah
  • Ross Andrews 2006 Syrah-Cab blend
  • Va Piano 2008 Walla Walla Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Vin du Lac 2007 Barrel Select Cab Franc
  • Walla Walla Vintners 2008 Columbia Valley Cab Franc
  • Watermill Winery 2007 Estate Cab Franc
  • Waters 2009 Forgotten Hills Syrah
  • The Woodhouse Wine Estates 2006 and 2004 Dussek Cabernet Sauvignon; every vintage of Darighe
  • Woodward Canyon 2009 and 2007 “Artist Series” Cabernet Sauvignon; 2003 Charbonneau
  • William Church 2009 and 2008 Bishop’s Blend; 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • We are really looking forward to tasting new releases from these wineries and trying pours from wineries that are new to us too at Taste Washington, the Super Bowl of wine events, March 31-April 1.

    We hope to see you there!

    Cheers!

    2009 Waters Forgotten Hills Syrah

    Syrah, Wine Comments Off

    2009 Waters Syrah from Forgotten Hills vineyard is a wine that only comes along once every four years, so we were delighted to secure a few bottles for our cellar.

    As winemaker Jamie Brown says, “This vineyard dances along the edge” because it is a cooler site composed of cobblestone, silt loam and sandy loam.

    In the cool-climate years, the Syrah can’t get ripe enough. That’s why this exquisite wine was not produced in 2008, 2010 or 2011. And that’s one reason why we think it’s special.

    The other reason: wow, this 100% Syrah is stunning, spectacular and stellar, complex with a perfect amount of earthy funk that represents the region.

    According to our friend Paul Zitarelli of Full Pull Wines: “Because the folks at Waters know they won’t be able to release a new vintage of Forgotten Hills Syrah until 2013 at the earliest, they are holding the vast majority of the 2009 at the winery, to be doled out slowly through the tasting room over the next few years.”

    From Jamie’s tasting notes: “Loaded with classic aromatics that scream Northern Rhône, expect notes of black fruits, oil-cured olives, smoky bacon fat and a gravelly minerality. Rich, ripe, round and pleasure-full, this wine leaves you wanting more. And the finish gives you just that—it’s so long, you’ll find yourself begging it to fade, just to have the next sip. A remarkable red plum-acidity provides a refreshing, balancing levity to a deliciously, deep and brooding wine. A gorgeous match for roasted meats.”

    Only 514 cases were produced and because of its rarity, the price has increased to $60-$65, depending where you can find it.

    If you have a special occasion in the future, this wine is for you.

    Cheers!

    Head Out to JM Cellars

    Bordeaux Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

    If you’ve never been to JM Cellars in Woodinville, you are missing out on many wonderful Washington wines. Located on a hillside called Bramble Bump, JM Cellars offers first-class wines with a view.

    Luck was with us a couple of weeks ago, when we stumbled upon an unexpected release party at JM Cellars. Winemaker/co-owner John Bigelow was pouring with a smile and our friend Paige Leighton welcomed us with hugs. And the wines – oh my.

    We’ve been fans of JM Cellars signature blend Tre Fanciulli for years, so it was no surprise that we went home with the latest 2009 release. Tre Fanciulli is Italian for “three treasured lads” and named for John and Peggy Bigelow’s sons in 1999. With this new release, and the eleventh vintage, the name has been shortened to simply Tre. Love it!

    Of the 11 vintages, this was the fifth we have savored. The 2009 Tre is a rich blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 18% Syrah – simply heaven in a glass.

    The JM Cellars 2009 Boushey Vineyard Syrah is also outstanding. John told us the single-vineyard grapes came from old vines near the house of viticulturalist Dick Boushey, one of Washington’s finest grapegrowers. After Matt Sauer’s Red Willow Vineyard, Boushey was the next to plant Syrah grapes in Washington state. If you like big, peppery, savory Syrah, you simply must try this one.

    Another one of John’s wines that we’re particularly fond of is the 2009 Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red. We first tried this stellar wine as a pre-release at the Taste of Tulalip last November, and couldn’t wait to taste it a few months later at its official release party.

    It’s the inaugural vintage of a Bordeaux blend from vines that were planted in 2007 on the southern border of the Walla Walla appellation at the then-newly named Margaret’s Vineyard. The wine blends 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 17% Cab Franc, 17% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot and 6% Carmenere.

    JM Cellars is known for elegant blended reds. And regular readers know my preference for Cab-based Bordeaux blends, so you know we took this beauty home with us!

    Cheers!

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