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.
Here are five white Washington state wines to enjoy in the weeks ahead.
2012 Wysling Band of Sisters, Parejas Cellars: $16
This refreshing white wine “bands” together a unique blend of 55% Marsanne, 34% Roussanne and 11% Grenache Blanc. Frankly, I wasn’t sure if we’d like it because our choice in whites tends to favor Sauvignon Blancs and Viogniers. But this dry white was a pleasant surprise and is well worth the price point. According to the tasting notes: “Band of Sisters has “exotic & refreshing perfumed aromas of spiced herbal tea, spring blossoms, Asian pears, Greengages, and honeysuckle.” Interestingly, we experienced grapefruit, which is one of the reasons we enjoyed it so much. We also appreciated its full body – this wine drinks well alone or with food. (Note: We were sent this wine to sample; as stated in our sample policy, we accept free samples with the understanding that we only write about wine that we like.)
2012 Efeste Feral follows in the footsteps of previous award-winning vintages by a different winemaker. Brennon Leighton created Feral using indigenous, wild yeast, which showcases the crisp, clean minerality pure to this varietal. Current winemaker Peter Devison continued this style, crafting another winner for Efeste. From the tasting notes: “On the palate lemon, yellow grapefruit, and sugarcane flavors are supported by ripe phenolics and gooseberry-like acidity, which is persistent and mouthwatering. The finish is long and elegant. This wine demands shellfish.”
2012 JM Cellars Sauv Blanc is another stellar white from winemaker John Bigelow. We have enjoyed several bottles of this beauty on our deck throughout the summer and saved one for the perfect warm September evening ahead. It is thoroughly refreshing alone or paired with prawns or some excellent cheese. From the tasting notes: “We ferment the juice in stainless steel tanks to show off beautiful tropical fruit aromas and flavors found in Klipsun Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp and dry, our Sauvignon Blanc pairs perfectly with a summer picnic.”
A few years ago, these two Washington Sauvignon Blancs, along with one from Goosecross in Napa Valley, brought us back to loving white wine in the summer after a decade of strictly reds.
Jarrod Boyle, ANC’s winemaker and co-owner, describes his 2012 Alexandria Nicole Viognier as a “golden gem,” and we couldn’t agree more. The lavender, peach and citrus aromas are gorgeously summer. This Viognier has generated numerous accolades with its textured mouth-feel and luscious flavors. We found it pairs well with grilled seafood or some chicken dishes. From the tasting notes: “Beautifully balanced it lingers with the richness of apricot and orange blossom, with a lively mouth feel of crisp granny smith apple and a touch of pear on the finish. A clean and refreshing wine that pairs well with food or a summertime patio.”
William Church Viognier is known as the winery’s signature, winning many awards over the years. Winemaker Rod Balsley recommends pairing this fragrant, lush wine with creamy cheeses or foods with a dash of asian spice. We’ve also appreciated it without food. From the tasting notes: “Our flagship Viognier has beautiful aromatics of fresh pear and honeysuckle. What follows are rich peach flavors and citrus with enough acidity to keep the wine fresh and lively.”
So raise a glass of refreshing Washington wine to Summer 2013 – and its continuation into September.
In our family, every month is Washington Wine Month, but the official celebration occurs in this state every March.
That’s when you will find great deals at wineries, wine shops, big grocery stores and many restaurants. For example, some promotions include discounts on full or half cases of Washington state wine, purchase discounts off any bottle or Washington wine or in-store free wine tastings.
For specifics, have a look at the Washington Wine Month Calendar.
As for us, we celebrate by telling anyone who will listen about the great juice Washington state wineries produce.
Whether you like big, bold reds (like us), crispy Sauvignon Blanc, rich Viognier or buttery Chardonnay, you can find the best right in your own backyard, so to speak, from Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Tri-Cities, Walla Walla, Cascade Valley, Woodinville and many more.
We recently tasted these Washington wine gems:
- 2006 The Woodhouse Wine Estates Dussek Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2007 Long Shadows “Feather” Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2007 Va Piano Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2008 Cooper Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2008 Northwest Totem Cellars Cabernet Franc
- 2009 Efeste “Big Papa” Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2009 Forgeron Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2009 L’Ecole 41 Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2009 Fidelitas Cabernet Franc
- 2009 Barrage Cellars “Outcast” Cabernet Franc
- 2009 William Church Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2010 Alexandria Nicole Cellars “Wild One” Cabernet Franc
- 2010 Obelisco Electrum Cabernet
- 2010 Gilbert Cellars Cabernet Franc
Do you see a trend here? We heart Cabs!
And these are just some of the amazing wines you can find from Washington state. We encourage you to do so!
Happy Washington Wine Month!
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!
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.
… 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!
A night under the stars — which, by the way, light up the sky in an extraordinary show that you’d never see in the city — in a vineyard that overlooks the Columbia River in central Washington. Gorgeous!
So what does glamourous camping really mean? A large canvas tent with a luxurious queen-size bed on a Persian carpet, a down duvet, towels, a French Press coffee pot, mugs, dishes, a mini-refrigerator, an air-conditioning unit and a space heater. And don’t forget the enclosed, roofless shower, a propane barbecue on the deck, a propane fire pit to sit around a campfire and — of course — sip on award-winning Alexandria Nicole wines.
The tough choice is which wine to drink – perhaps the amazing 2009 Crawford Viognier during the warm days and the just-released rich and distinct Mr. Big Petite Sirah in the cooler evening. Or maybe the perennial favorite Quarry Butte? Or the refreshing Sauvignon Blanc? Or — well, here’s the list – you decide!
By day or by night, the views are spectacular.
No mobile phone. No laptop.
I first wrote about William Church 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon in March 2008. Since then, I’ve frequently written about Rod, Leslie and assistant winemaker, Marcus Rafanelli, and raved about many of their wines, from Bishop’s Blend to Two Spires to Sur La Mer, and from Viognier to Malbec to Syrah.
So you can imagine our delight to hear that William Church is opening a second tasting room on July 16. Now we – and you – can enjoy William Church wines in the Hollywood School area of Woodinville, in addition to their existing location in the wine warehouse district.
The grand opening of the new tasting room — located right next to Purple Cafe — is from noon to 6 p.m. on July 16. And, in addition to Leslie, Rod and Marcus, another good friend has joined the wonderful William Church team – Cheryl Cardwell is the new tasting room manager. How cool is that?
We will definitely be there to celebrate with all of them – and we hope to see you there too.
First, Dave and I wish all our Canadian family and friends a Happy Canada Day today. Tonight, we shall sip on both white and red wine (the colour of the flag) in your honour.
Then on Monday, we wish all our American family and friends a wonderful Fourth of July. In your honor, we plan to start with white wine on the deck, moving to a robust red later with some blue steak (the color of the flag).
What wines will you be drinking this holiday weekend on both sides of the border? Sauv Blanc, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Marsanne, Riesling, Chard? Cabernet, Cab Franc, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Zinfandel, Primitivo, Counoise or perhaps a nice Bordeaux blend? Let us know in the comments below.
We hope your holiday is wonderful and safe.
Margot & Dave