Wonderful Walla Walla Wine

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

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

    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

    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!

    2009 Chateau Smith Cab Sauv

    Continuing with our trend of trying value wines in 2012, we want to give a shout-out to 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon “Chateau Smith” by Charles Smith Wines

     This reasonably priced wine received 91 points from Wine Spectator:

    “Supple and inviting, with complex flavors of dark berries and plum shaded with hints of bacon and star anise. The finish rolls along unimpeded by the polished tannins.”

    Not bad for a wine that sells for $15-$20, depending where you look. This Cab — blended with 14% Petit Verdot and 6% Syrah — is perfect for a weekday evening or during an afternoon game. (C’mon, not everybody drinks beer at games!)

    Chateau Smith is the value label of Washington state wine maker, Charles Smith of K Vintners, who is known for his distinct-looking hair, black-and-white wine labels, and excellent reviews of his wines.

    Give it a try and let us know what you think!

    Cheers!

    2009 Ghost of 413 Red

    This is one of the best value wines we have had in a long time: 2009 Ghost of 413 Red. And we put our money where our mouths are – after buying two bottles from our friends at Full Pull Wine, we put in an order for a case.

    Ghost of 413 is released by Giant Wine Co., a collaboration between Chris Gorman of Gorman Winery and Mark McNeilly from Mark Ryan Winery.

    The first vintage came in 2005 when, the story goes, Mark and Chris weren’t sure how the wine would taste, so they decided to keep their names invisible and the “ghost” was born.

    No need to hide behind Casper this vintage — 2009 Ghost of 413 Red  is not a phantom wine! You’ll discover a ripe rich wine that blends 90% Cabernet Sauvingnon with a 10% pinch of Syrah and Merlot. Or as it’s described on the Giant Wine website, “Dark and velvety rich with plenty of stuffing to scare wines at twice the price.”

    We agree – 2009 Ghost of 413 Red is worth much more than its $15 price point.

    Five thousand cases were produced, and according to Paul Zitarelli at Full Pull, he expects the wine to be sold out by late February or early March. So what are you waiting for?

    Cheers!

    Maryhill Winery

    Back in June, 2010, I wrote a blog post about how we wanted to visit Maryhill Winery, known for its breathtaking views of the Columbia Gorge and very good value-priced wines. Another year has gone by, and try as we did, we could not get there in 2011. I was so busy traveling for my “day job” that I couldn’t make as many winery trips as we had hoped.

    Thankfully, we still had an opportunity to taste some of Maryhill’s wines, even though we didn’t make it to the winery, which is the state’s 15th largest in terms of production (80,000 cases) and located on the Washington-Oregon border.

    We recently tried three samples that were sent to us:  2006 Syrah Proprietor’s Reserve ($20), 2006 Sangiovese ($18) and 2007 Zinfandel ($22). (You can find newer Maryhill releases; we waited for more than a year before tasting these ones.)

    The 2006 Syrah Proprietor’s Reserve received 92 points from Robert Parker, along with a Double Gold for Syrah under $20 in the 2009 Seattle Wine Awards and a Gold from the 14th Annual Northwest Wine Summit 2009. More than two years later, we could see why this rich and silky Syrah is a winner. We enjoyed it with a savoury stew; it would also pair nicely with a hearty roast.

    The 2006 Sangiovese paired perfectly with Dave’s delicious spaghetti, but it would have worked well with barbeque ribs, pasta or pizza too. More than a year after its release, this medium-bodied wine exhibited an earthiness that we weren’t expecting, with cherry, orange peel and mineral on the palate often associated with Sangiovese.

    The 2007 Zinfandel  was crafted for “pure palate pleasure.”  Fruit-forward and jammy, with a deep ruby color, this wine has character. We nibbled on strong, stinky cheese, a perfect match for this dry red.

    Although we waited to taste these wines, we hopefully won’t have to wait too much longer to visit the winery. It’s a new year, and hopefully 2012 will be the one!

    Cheers!

    What We’ve Opened Lately

    We’ve had the pleasure of enjoying many wonderful Washington, Oregon and California wines lately – and in a less-busy world, I would write separate posts about each of them. Unfortunately, busy is my middle name these days.

    So here is a list (in alphabetical order) of wines that we’ve celebrated in the last couple of months – they are sourced from Washington grapes, unless noted otherwise:

    Happy New Year – may your best day of 2011 be your worst day of 2012! We hope you had a wonderful holiday season and are ready to delve into ’12!

    Cheers!

    An Evening with the Grape Killers

    Six of seven Woodinville wineries that make up the Grape Killers generated lots of fans and fun at their annual “Holiday in the ‘Hood” wine tasting event last night in Woodinville’s Wine Warehouse District.

    Winemakers, and friends, from Gorman Winery (Chris Gorman), Mark Ryan Winery (Mark Ryan McNeilly), Darby Winery (Darby English), Guardian Cellars (Jerry Riener), Baer Winery (Lisa Baer) and Sparkman Cellars  (Chris Sparkman) offered some amazing wines, appetizers and good cheer. Perfect example? Chris Sparkman appeared dressed as Elvis. (Photo courtesy of our friend Taryn Miller)

    Not surprisingly, we enjoyed all the wines we tasted at Grape Killers Holiday in the ‘Hood party. But these were our favorites:

    • Gorman Winery 2008 Bully Cabernet Sauvignon (blended with Petit Verdot), Red Mountain
    • Sparkman Cellars 2009 Kingpin Old Vine Cab (blended with Petit Verdot), Red Mountain
    • Darby Winery 2009 Dark Side Syrah (100% Syrah), Yakima Valley
    • Baer Winery 2009 Arctos, a Cabernet-driven blend, Columbia Valley
    • Guardian Cellars 2008 The Rookie Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
    • Mark Ryan Winery 2009 Dead Horse Red, Bordeaux blend, Red Mountain

    Do you sense a trend here? Indeed, our palates prefer Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends, and as Dave said, “I never met a grape from Red Mountain that I didn’t like.”

    You could tell the six winemakers (plus Tim Stevens of Stevens Winery who couldn’t participate this time) are pals who hang out together in their spare time. Their camaraderie was evident at each of their tasting rooms. This was a night full of smiles and laughter!

    And to top off the good fun, a portion of all wine sales will benefit Woodinville’s Homeward Pet Adoption Shelter.

    If you didn’t make it to the Grape Killers event last night, be sure to stop by these wineries in the future. They make good juice!

    Cheers!

    Tweets from Taste of Tulalip

    We had an exceptional time at Taste of Tulalip, where we were guests of the Tulalip Resort. In the next couple of weeks, I plan to write a full blog post about our two days there – from the Celebratory dinner to the Magnum Party of elite wines and the Grand Tasting. Until then, here is a sample of some of my tweets live from Taste of Tulalip.

    Friday Night Celebratory Dinner

    Saturday Magnum Party

    Grand Tasting

    As you can see, there was an explosion of tastes and flavors at Taste of Tulalip. The resort is beautiful and the staff superb. Special thanks to Allan, Norma, Cheryl Kyle, Chef Perry Mascitti and his fabulous team, Sommelier Tommy Thompson, and Lisa Severn.

    We will be back!

    Cheers!