Bellingham NW Wine Festival

IMG_3924More than 100 wines were poured at the inaugural Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival on Aug. 6, which was presented by Brigadoon Service Dogs  in collaboration with Growing Veterans, and benefitted disabled veterans’ programs.

IMG_3934Of course we couldn’t taste all the wines from 36 participating wineries but between the two of us, we found quite a few new wines that we never tasted before and hope to again in the future (e.g., Tucannon Cellars, Two Mountain and Jones of Washington), along with new releases of old favorites from Forgeron Cellars, William Church Winery and Cooper Wine Company.

Here is the list (in alphabetical order by winery):

  • Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 10.12.50 AMCooper Wine Company: 2013 L’inzio (we’ve been fans of this Red Mountain beauty since its first vintage); 2012 Cabernet Franc; and Bud’s Blend “Gatekeeper,” named after Coop’s awesome winery dog
  • Dynasty Cellars: 2012 DCZ Zinfandel, a local Bellingham favorite
  • Forgeron Cellars: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, another fantastic release from our friend Marie-Eve Gilla in Walla Walla
  • Jones of Washington: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (the talk of the VIP room)
  • Lost River Winery: 2013 Cedars, a unique blend of 50% Cab Franc and 50% Merlot
  • Proper Wines: 2013 Estate Syrah for when you like your Syrah nice and funky
  • Revelry Vintners: 2013 “The Reveler” red blend
  • IMG_3926Tucannon Cellars: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, a great find from Red Mountain
  • Two Mountain Winery: 2013 Reserve Cabernet Franc
  • William Church Winery: 2013 Sur La Mer and 2013 Malbec (We’ve been long-time fans of both of these wines.)

Event organizer Zacchoreli Frescobaldi-Grimaldi told us that plans are already underway for the second festival in 2017, so mark your calendars now.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Matthews Winery – New Look, Same Great Wines

MatthewsTastingRoom097Matthews Winery is one of the first Woodinville tasting rooms we visited when we moved to Seattle more than 15 years ago. We bought our first three-bottle set of Washington wine in their tasting room — a 2001 Cabernet Franc to sigh for. We also enjoyed the winery’s flagship Bordeaux blend, Claret, that continues to dazzle in Matthews’ current lineup.

So it was with great interest to learn that Matthews’ historic winery building was recently remodeled, and a new venture created — Creekside Farm, an ecological produce garden adjacent to the winery building. This first commercial garden associated with a Woodinville winery provides produce and flowers to winery visitors, and to several restaurants.

In addition, tasting room guests can now pair their wine with farm-fresh produce and other products from local dairies, bakeries, creameries and charcuterie producers such as Cherry Valley Dairy and The Commons.

Located between the Woodinville Schoolhouse Wine District and the Warehouse Wine District, Matthews was a starting point for many well-known Washington state winemakers, including Brennon Leighton (B. Leighton Wines), Jerry Riener (Guardian Cellars), Mark McNeilly (Mark Ryan Winery), Ross Mickel (Ross Andrew Winery), Tim and Paige Stevens (Stevens Winery, Raige and Wines), Lance Baer (Baer Winery) and Aryn Morrell, who started his career there before making award-winning Napa wines for Silver Oak and Edgewood Estates. He now is back as Matthews’ current head winemaker.

Matthews co-owner Cliff Otis notes that nearly a dozen winemakers started or honed their craft at this location, and all of them have gone on to influence other generations of winemakers.

BarrelRoom4From the excellent winemakers to the classic wines, Matthews’ tasting room has always drawn a crowd — but according to Otis, a refresh was needed for its “dark barrel cave” atmosphere with dated wine-barrel table tops and stools. (This is a “before” photo.)

For the remodel, several interior walls were removed to expand and open up the space. Add fresh paint, new lighting, new windows, custom-made furniture and voila, a beautiful look, which also features an expanded outdoor seating area.

MatthewsTastingRoom052The building refresh is now generating applause and cheers for its bright, airy, roomy space, reminiscent of a French farm house.

These are two photos showing what Matthews Winery looks like now. Who is ready to visit?

MatthewsTastingRoom049In addition to the tasting room and farm, Matthews also offers the Estate House, a B&B and event center on a wooded, eight-acre hillside overlooking the Sammammish River Valley.

But the main spotlight remains on the wine. Since 2008, the Otis family and Morell have sharpened the focus of Matthews’ portfolio on the Bordeaux varieties – Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.

The winery kindly sent us samples of Matthews 2015 Sauvignon Blanc and a vertical of its Claret – 2011, 2012 and 2013. We were wowed.

Matthews 2015 Sauvignon Blanc
This is a perfect summer sipper on the deck – we enjoyed it paired with cilantro-lime prawns and a view of the lake. Ahh, summer. This Sauv Blanc rose above the super-hot 2015 vintage and is crisp and refreshing, but with more tropical than grapefruit flavors.

Winemaker tasting notes: “Pungent tropical tree fruit like pineapple and guava mixed with some citrus spice and fresh cut hay. Some air brings up white flowers, sweet honeysuckle and wet slate. The palate is rich and textured with enough acidity to keep it fresh but not bracing.”

Claret1Matthews Claret 2011, 2012, 2013
We were fortunate to do a side-by-side tasting of all three vintages. The 2013 Claret is a complex blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cab Franc, 11% Merlot, 3% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. With decanting, the wine opened up rich flavors, textures and depth, showcasing the classic Cabernet that we love.

Winemaker tasting notes for 2013 Claret: “Exotically perfumed with floral red fruits like raspberry puree and red currants mixed with sweet strawberry and crème brulee. Swirling releases rich blackberry, currants and plums with a hint of vanilla bean spice. The palate is thick and sweetly rich with perfect balance and long graceful finish. The 2012 was powerfully ripe and very Cabernet driven, this is all about grace and texture.”

As noted by Morell, the 2012 Claret is powerful but it also is an elegant, rich blend of 54% Cab Sauv, 25% Cab Franc, 10% Merlot, 5% Syrah, 3% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. This is slightly different than other vintages because of the addition of Syrah into the blend. We decanted it, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Winemaker tasting notes for 2012 Claret: “Sappy currants, plum skin and dark spices. The palate has volume but shows good density and has more of a Cabernet-driven tannin profile, giving the wine great composure and balance.”

The 2011 growing season was rougher than in 2012 and 2013, but Morell still created a beautiful red blend. The 2011 Claret is Merlot-based (unlike the 2012 and 2013 vintages driven by Cabernet) — 68% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. Like the other two vintages, this Claret will benefit from decanting.

Winemaker tasting notes for 2011 Claret: “Elegant mixture of currants, strawberries, spice and plums. Red flowers create a soft plushness to the profile. The palate is round with great texture and presence. Extremely silky and polished.”

With the dedication of co-owners Cliff and Diane Otis, along with the talented winemaking skills of Morrell, Matthews Winery is continuing to improve its already well-established footprint in Woodinville, and in Washington wine country.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Woodinville Wineries

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 9.14.49 AMNow that we don’t live in Seattle anymore, we have to carefully choose the wineries we want to visit on our trips to Woodinville.

It is not an easy task! Woodinville Wine Country boasts 108 wineries now — an amazing growth rate since 30 tasting rooms when we started Write for Wine in 2007.

Here is a list of the wineries (in alphabetical order) that we tend to visit most often — they are among the best, although there are more. So spend your time wisely – do your homework and develop a plan before you go!

  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  • Ambassador Wines
  • Avennia
  • Baer
  • Barrage Cellars
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle (Estates)
  • Darby
  • DeLille Cellars
  • Efeste
  • Fidelitas
  • Forgeron
  • Gard Vintners
  • Gorman Winery
  • Guardian Cellars
  • JM Cellars
  • Laura Ashton
  • Obelisco
  • Otis Kenyon
  • Savage Grace
  • William Church
  • The Woodhouse Wine Estates

For a list of all wineries in the area (including maps), restaurants and events, check out the Woodinville Wine Country website.

We highly recommend visiting Woodinville wineries every month, because there are always new releases to taste and a warm, welcoming tasting room where you can learn about wine and have fun at the same time.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Cops and Reporters

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 2.59.50 PMWhat do cops and reporters have to do with wine? In Washington state, a lot! “Cops and Reporters” is the name of an email recently sent out by Guardian Cellars, whose winemakers and owners happen to be in those two professions.

Jerry Riener, a police officer, makes Guardian Cellars favorites such as The Wanted, Gun Metal, The Alibi, Confidential Source, The Rookie, The Informant and more. Do you sense a theme here?

His wife, Jennifer Sullivan, a journalist at KOMO-TV and previously at The Seattle Times, makes her wines under the appropriately named Newsprint label — Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Blend, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay and Rosé.

While maintaining their full-time jobs as a cop and a reporter, they opened a tasting room and production facility in 2007 in Woodinville’s Wine Warehouse. In the last nine years, their wines became so popular that Jerry and Jennifer just opened up a second tasting room in Woodinville’s Hollywood Schoolhouse district.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 3.12.32 PMTo celebrate, they released the 2013 Chalk Line – a big juicy blend that has an equally big fan base.

The new tasting room features the Guardian Cellars label, while Newsprint is located at the longtime spot in the Woodinville Wine Warehouse.

We recommend you try both, because wines under both labels are perfect for summer sipping on the deck, a summer BBQ, an evening with friends or to take to a party.

Here are their times of operation:

  • Guardian Cellars tasting room at 14525 148th Ave NE, Suite 122, in Woodinville’s Hollywood Schoolhouse district, is open seven days a week: 12 p.m.- 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 12-6 p.m. on Sunday.
  • Newsprint tasting room is located inside the main production facility at 19501 144th Ave NE, Suite E-600, in Woodinville’s Wine Warehouse District. This tasting room is open 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Since the total Newsprint production is fairly small, this tasting room is only open when wines are available. Check the winery’s Facebook page for hours and inventory.

Most Newsprint wines are priced at $18 (although the rosé is $14). Guardian Cellars wines range from $20-$39.

These are definitely wines to write home about!

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

UPDATE: Some Tickets Still Available for Chateau Ste. Michelle Concert Series

Dylan June 2016Our first sign of summer is not only the recent warm weather, but also the annual concert series at Chateau Ste. Michelle. We just saw the legendary Bob Dylan, with the incredible Mavis Staples, for an evening of great music and award-winning wine on the lush lawns of the beautiful winery in Woodinville.

Dylan was amazing — his May release of “Fallen Angels” is a return to his roots, and in our opinion, his best since “Blood on the Tracks.”

You too can attend a concert at Chateau Ste. Michelle this summer. While many are sold out, do not fear – a recent check shows there are tickets still available for ten concerts!

Have a look at the series’ concert calendar — there’s something for everybody. When we last checked, there were still tickets for: Tears for Fears (date TBD); Lyle Lovett (July 2); John Fogerty (July 29); Culture Club (Aug. 11); Jackson Browne (Aug. 12); Gipsy Kings (Aug. 25); Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons (Sept. 2); and Chris Isaak (Sept. 4) in addition to the Festival of Jazz (July 30) and the Wine Country Blues Festival (July 31).

Dylan1 June 2016Think about it: a lazy summer day or evening, kicking back on the manicured lawns of Chateau Ste. Michelle with a peacock or two sauntering by, as you sip on a refreshing summer wine, nibble on tasty munchies from a picnic basket and listen to some amazing music. Ah, summer!

Better yet, net proceeds from the annual concert series help fund Chateau Ste. Michelle’s charitable contributions program, which supports a broad range of non-profit organizations.

Have questions? No problem, there is an FAQ to help out.

So get your wine on and check it out.

And thank you, Chateau Ste. Michelle, for a wonderful evening.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Second Tasting Room for Obelisco Estate

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 5.33.17 PMIf you haven’t visited Obelisco‘s new, second tasting room in the Hollywood schoolhouse area of Woodinville, what are you waiting for? This is an opportunity to taste magnificent wine, kick back and enjoy good conversation in a relaxing environment. On weekends, you just might find live music, too.

Obelisco is one of our favorite wineries in Washington state. Winemaker Doug Long is as friendly as he is talented, creative and dedicated. He came here from Napa, where he started his first winery, David Arthur, which was named “Winery of the Decade” by Wine Spectator in 2000. The 1997 vintage scored 99 points.

Once here, he planted a vineyard in the incredible Red Mountain AVA in 2004. And then he applied his Napa Valley winemaking skills to Washington state grapes.

While Doug has received dozens of awards for many of Obelisco’s wines, from Syrahs to Malbecs, our favorites are his Cab-based productions — Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Electrum, Nefer and a refreshing Cabernet Rose’.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 5.30.09 PMAnd now you can experience these beauties in a comfy, cozy, conversation-friendly tasting room in the schoolhouse area, in addition to the original Obelisco tasting room in the Woodinville wine warehouse.

Shortly before the grand opening, we spent about an hour in the new location, chatting with Doug and manager Ken Abbott, tasting through the lineup and enjoying the ambiance — it was hard to leave!

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 5.30.41 PM

Obelisco’s second tasting room is located at 14525 148th Ave NE, suite 121 in the Apple Farm Village of Woodinville, near Otis Kenyon and Lauren Ashton and across the street from Alexandria Nicole Cellars.

The original tasting room at the Woodinville wine warehouse is located at 19495 144th Ave NE, suite B-220 in Woodinville.

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Seven Washington Cabs

We had a limited amount of time to visit wineries in Woodinville this past weekend before heading to a Jackson Browne concert, part of Chateau Ste. Michelle Summer Concert Series.

We knew we wanted some classic Washington state Cabernet Sauvignon, and we knew we only had a couple of hours to taste. So we found the most recent vintages of three of our favorite Cabs and one Cab-based blend. And we tasted one new Cab that will be released in the near future.

Here is the list:

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 5.50.32 PM

  • 2011 Efeste Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2012 Guardian The Wanted Cab-based blend (38% Cab Sauv, 38% Cab Franc, 24% Merlot)
  • 2012 William Church Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2011 Obelisco Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2012 Fidelitas Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

 

All five wines are big, bold and beautiful – it will be a tough choice to decide which one to pair with a big juicy BBQ steak.

We also recently stocked up on our favorite wine to pair with Seahawks football – 2012 Alexandria Nicole Cellars Quarry Butte (52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Syrah, 6% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot).

And by the way, the Jackson Browne concert was fantastic, and paired well with 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

An Evening of Excellence: Chihuly and Chateau Ste. Michelle

IMG_1678What do you get when you combine the highest quality Artist Series red blend from Chateau Ste. Michelle and the private boathouse and studio of world-renowned glass sculptor, Dale Chilhuly?

An evening of excellence.

We were fortunate to be invited to the reception last week at Chihuly’s boathouse to honor the 20th vintage of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Artist Series wines.

IMG_1685Chihuly designed the label on the first vintage, 1993, and was asked to present his artwork again 20 years later. For the 2012 commemorative bottle, Chihuly selected Cast Silver Venetian, his unique sculpture that was cast in sterling silver at the Walla Walla Foundry. 

“I’m honored to have my artwork on the 20th vintage Artist Series label,” Chihuly said. “This piece is one-of-a-kind and very special to me. I couldn’t think of a better use than portraying it on this significant wine project.”

The 2012 Artist Series red wine blends 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec. According to winemaker Bob Bertheau, this vintage is “a unique, collector’s wine that represents the highest quality and pedigree from Chateau Ste. Michelle … This is a beautifully layered, ageable wine and my vision of art in a bottle.”

We can attest that the 2012 Artist Series is a gorgeous, rich, robust and elegant wine that is well-deserving of high ratings. At the reception, we also tasted the 1997 and 2007 vintages; both were drinking very nicely, indeed.

IMG_1669And did we mention that the event was held at Chihuly’s boathouse? His private collection includes a series of aquariums of colorful fish circling around his beautiful glass sculptures and a swimming pool with his amazing work lining the bottom.

IMG_1687Chihuly is known for his art and architectural installations in museums, cities and gardens around the world. Close to home, you can enjoy his exhibits at Seattle Center and Tacoma Art Museum.

 

We highly recommend that you taste the 2012 Artist Series and also visit Chihuly’s exhibits.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Tickets Selling Quickly for Chateau Ste. Michelle Concert Series

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 6.34.20 PMUPDATE: Ten of 25 concerts are already sold out for the amazing Chateau Ste. Michelle Summer Concert Series. So run, don’t walk, to get your tickets at the wine shop at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville or through Ticketmaster.

The 2015 lineup of pop, jazz, rock and blues runs from June 13 through September 12 at the beautiful winery’s amphitheatre:  Garrison Keillor, Smash Mouth, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Tonic, Gregg Allman, Lyle Lovett & His Large Band, Chris Botti, Bob James, Earl Klugh, Morgan James, Taj Mahal, Blind Boys of Alabama, Charlie Musselwhite, Doug MacLeod, Jackson Browne, Brit Floyd, Steve Miller Band, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Chris Isaak, Gipsy Kings, Randy Newman and Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

Already sold out: Chicago, Sheryl Crow, Mark Knopfler, Harry Connick, Jr. and John Fogerty. In addition, one of two concerts each by Jackson Browne and Steve Miller are sold out, but tickets are still left for their second concerts.

For details, have a look at the concert calendar; you can also find answers to any questions you might have about how to prepare for, and what to expect from, a concert outdoors.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 6.34.08 PMAll shows feature general festival seating on the lawn, as well as reserved seating. And as a special bonus, the wine shop is open so you can purchase wine and picnic items to enjoy during the concert. You can also bring your own picnic baskets and non-alcoholic beverages.

So what are you waiting for? It’s a wonderful way to spend a lazy summer evening of music and wine in a beautiful location.

In addition, net proceeds help fund Chateau Ste. Michelle’s charitable contributions program, which supports a broad range of non-profit organizations.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Another Success for Taste Washington

Taste WA 2015Congratulations to the Washington State Wine Commission and Visit Seattle for another successful Taste Washington at the end of March, capping off Washington state Wine Month.

Thousands of people participated in the annual celebration of the excellent juice made in this state — at the Grand Tasting, educational seminars, lunches on local farms and at restaurants, wineries, hotels and retailers that offered special deals and promotions throughout the month.

IMG_2546But we hope that people did more than taste the fine wine of Washington. We hope they appreciated it, and the hard work by people in our state’s wine industry – from farmers to vineyard managers to those in the production facilities, winemakers, distributors, marketing specialists, tasting room staff and more.

In particular, we applaud the workers in the vineyard who toil over the grapes and the terroir, the winemakers who balance creativity and science in every barrel and bottle, and their families who support this extreme effort.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 8.22.51 AMWe definitely appreciated every taste that was poured for us at the Grand Tasting. With 225+ wineries participating, we needed a plan. This year, we only tasted reds, and between the two of us, sipped quite a few. (Yes, it is imperative to spit or spill at the Grand Tasting!)

Here are some of our favorites, in alphabetical order:

  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2012 Quarry Butte Red Bordeaux Blend
  • Andrew Will 2011 Two Blondes Red Bordeaux Blend
  • Barrage Cellars 2010 Outcast Cabernet Franc
  • Barrister Winery 2011 Washington Cabernet Franc
  • Canvasback 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Double Canyon 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Phinney Hills
  • Efeste 2011 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Fall Line 2011 Artz Vineyard Red Blend, Red Mountain
  • Fidelitas 2012 Optu, Red Mountain
  • Gramercy Cellars 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Guardian Cellars 2011 Gun Metal Red Bordeaux Blend
  • Hard Row to Hoe 2013 Barbera
  • Matthews Estate / Tenor 2010 1:1 Bordeaux Blend
  • Mercer Estates 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Obelisco 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
  • Sinclair Estate 2010 Pentatonic
  • Walla Walla Vintners 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 Cab Franc
  • William Church 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

As far as we’re concerned, every month is a good time to celebrate  Washington state wine.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave