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.
Lauren Ashton Cellars launched in Washington wine country in 2009, when Kit Singh, a dentist, decided to apply his knowledge of chemistry with his appreciation of wine and his training in viticulture and enology. Keeping it in the family, he named his winery after his two children and reflected his wife’s Estonian heritage by creating bottle labels with photos of her home country.
By late 2012, Lauren Ashton Cellars wines emerged on the Seattle wine scene, and by the following year, rave reviews started to come in.
Shortly after that, we too became quick fans of Kit’s handcrafted wines after stopping by the Lauren Ashton Cellars booth at numerous Washington wine events. The winery’s motto “True Washington Character” was indeed reflected in every sip we tasted.
No wonder why Robert Parker called the 2009 Cuvee Mirabelle “a perfect blend of juiciness and richness.” Closer to home, Washington wine experts and writers Sean Sullivan and Paul Gregutt described some of the Lauren Ashton wines as impressive and exceptional.
Our first experience was with the 2011 Columbia Valley Syrah, a robust, complex 100% Syrah that is smooth and rich. The tasting notes recommend that this full-bodied wine pairs “perfectly with garlicky lamb, sausages and grilled meats, alongside asparagus, mushrooms and potatoes.” (Sample provided by the winery)
The 2011 Red Mountain Reserve Syrah is even better. This silky, elegant wine is only available at the Lauren Ashton Cellars Tasting Studio in Woodinville. The recommended pairing is “roast pork accompanied by fresh fig skewers or grilled meats of all kinds.”
Kit also created a handful of 2011 Columbia Valley red blends, which we can’t wait to taste; we are also hoping to stop by the tasting studio soon to try the 2011 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, which received 94 points from the Wine Enthusiast.
The 2011 blends also generated high scores from the Wine Enthusiast: Cuvee Arlette (94 points), Cuvee Meline (92 points), Proprieter’s Cuvee (92 points) and Cuvee Mirabelle (91 points).
Notably, the 2009 vintage of two blends were sourced from Red Mountain and received even higher scores from Robert Parker: 2009 Proprietor’s Cuvee (95 points) and 2009 Cuvee Mirabelle (94 points).
The bottom line: We highly recommend stopping by Lauren Ashton Cellars Tasting Studio in Woodinville or finding out more about these impressive wines at their website.
This August marks the 27th year of the event, which has raised more than $30 million since 1988. The weekend kicks off early with the Picnic & Barrel Auction at Chateau Ste. Michelle on Aug. 14, beginning at 4 p.m. We have attended the picnic for the last few years, and always have such a good time tasting the fine wines of Washington state, talking to winemakers and bidding on some futures.
2014 Barrel Auction participants include: Adams Bench, Andrew Will Winery, Avennia, Baer Winery, Boudreaux Cellars, Buty, Cadence, Double Canyon, Efeste, Fidelitas, Hedges Family Estate, Kevin White Winery, Result of a Crush, Reynvaan Family Vineyards, Sleight of Hand Cellars, Sparkman Cellars, Spring Valley Vineyard, Va Piano, Walla Walla Vintners, Woodward Canyon and others. More than 30 additional Washington wineries will also be pouring wine during the picnic.
And what would a picnic be without great bites? Chefs from the Tulalip Resort Casino will provide gourmet fare to pair with the wine, including tents devoted to cheese and a themed dessert station.
Other AWW weekend events:
Winemaker Dinner Series: Friday, August 15
In one evening, 10 dinners featuring winemakers will take place at private locations around the Puget Sound. Enjoy a gourmet meal created by a guest chef paired with fabulous Washington wine.
Columbia Winery Charity 10K Race and 5K Run/Walk: Sat. August 16
The Columbia Winery Charity 10K Race and 5K Run/Walk & Kids Dash (formerly the Covey Run) provides fun for the whole family through a scenic course through the heart of Woodinville wine country. The event will also feature food, beverages, kids’ activities, music and more.
- Featured chefs include: Eric Triglas (Semiahomoo Resort), Josh Henderson (Hollywood Tavern), Jake Crenshaw (Olive Catering), Brett Teegardin (Purple Café and Wine Bar), Brian Scheehser (Trellis), Josh Sarich (Chateau Ste. Michelle), Janet Hedstrom (Chateau Ste. Michelle), Peter Birk (BOKA), Paul Duncan (Ray’s Boathouse), Roy Breiman (Copperleaf Restaurant at Cedarbrook Lodge), Perry Mascitti (Tulalip Resort Casino), Nikol Nakamura (Tulalip Casino)
Tickets for all events are available at the Auction of Washington Wines website.
We hope to see you there!
The first sign of summer, to us, isn’t the arrival of the magnificent cherry blossoms or the longer hours of daylight. Rather, it’s the announcement of the first-rate performers at Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Summer Concert Series.
We attend one of the concerts at the scenic outdoor amphitheater every year, and regardless of whom we see, we always have a fabulous time.
The 2014 lineup, which kicks off June 13, is even better than previous years. While some concerts are already sold out, you can still find tickets for many performances.
- Allen Stone
- Sarah McLachlan (sold out)
- Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell
- John Legend (sold out)
- Steve Winwood
- Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band
- Replay America with The Go-Go’s, Patty Smyth and Scandal, Martha Davis and The Motels, Cutting Crew & Naked Eyes featuring Pete Byrne
- Lyle Lovett & His Large Band
- Goo Goo Dolls & Daughtry with special guest Plain White T‘s (sold out)
- Festival of Jazz with Manhattan Transfer, Spyro Gyra, Lee Ritenour & Dave Grusin and Jessy J
- Chris Isaak
- Nickel Creek
- ZZ Top and Jeff Beck (sold out)
- Gipsy King’s
- Earth, Wind & Fire (sold out)
- Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus Featuring Buddy Guy
- Boston (sold out)
- An Evening with Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
- Crosby, Stills & Nash (tickets are still available for the second night, the first is sold out)
So don’t wait – have a look at the Concert Calendar, where you can also get your tickets right now.
How can you miss? Beautiful grounds, fine Chateau Ste. Michelle wine, summer weather and music for dancing = happy people all around! There are many reasons why Chateau Ste. Michelle is considered one of Seattle’s top summer concert venues, and why this series has been a winner since it was first introduced in 1984.
Have questions? Check out the concert FAQ.
It’s a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon or evening.
We also found some good-value reds lately — how can you miss at $14-$16 for Washington state juice?
So here is a mix of Washington state wine, at a wide range of prices — from $14-$75 — in alphabetical order. (Note: Some of these were small pours at the Woodinville Wine Country event, Reserve; others were bottles shared with friends.)
- Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2010 Quarry Butte, $25
- Angel Vine 2010 Primitivo, $20
- Au Clair 2011 Left Blend, $54
- Avennia 2010 Sestina, $55
- Barrage Cellars 2009 Outcast Cabernet Franc, $35
- Betz Family 2011 Clos de Betz Red Blend, $55
- Efeste 2010 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon, $54
- McKinley Springs 2010 Bombing Range Red, $16
- Columbia Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, $14
- Force Majeure 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, $75
- Forgeron Cellars 2010 Zinfandel, $30
- Gorman Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, $50
- JM Cellars 2011 Tre, $45
- Long Shadows 2011 Sequel, $50
- Lauren Ashton 2011 Syrah, $35
- Obelisco 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, $45
- William Church Winery 2010 Bishop’s Blend, $22
We hope you also have a chance to taste some of these beauties; if the above vintages are sold out, chances are the next ones are very drinkable too.
Special thanks to Angel Vine, Columbia Winery and McKinley Springs for the samples to taste.
Let us start out by saying run, don’t walk, to this gorgeous spot on the pier, where you will experience an explosion of tastes sure to please every palate.
The spring menu is as inspiring as the restaurant’s breath-taking views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, and the spectacular sunsets as well.
We were recently invited to join a group of food and wine bloggers who were lucky enough to sample delectable choices from Chef John Roberts’ new spring menu, featuring Northwest-inspired dishes crafted with the freshest and finest ingredients.
We also enjoyed the 2010 Baer Winery Ursa, a distinctive signature blend of 42% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, and always a crowd-pleaser.
Here is the menu of the delicious dishes we were served.
Carpaccio of Beef (perfect appetizer, signaling what to expect in the next courses) with black truffle, shaved artichokes, baby arugula, parmesan and crisp capers
Caesar Salad (so unique) consisting of baby romaine hearts, boursin, spanish white anchovies, brioche, parmesan and creamy caesar dressing
Intermezzo (an incredible, refreshing palate cleanser) of Apple Ice and Apple Pucker
Seared Diver Scallops (amazing!) with cauliflower two ways, blistered green onions, cherry tomatoes and spanish salsa verde
Chocolate Cake, beyond delicious
Not only do we recommend Six Seven as a must-visit (often) restaurant, but also we encourage you to stop by the luxury waterfront Edgewater Hotel where the restaurant is located.
The Edgewater is the only over-water and waterfront hotel in the Seattle area. Shortly after it was built, zoning changes prevented additional construction of further hotels on piers.
In its early years, many hotel rooms offered fishing poles, so guests could cast-off from their rooms’ windows. The Beatles stayed at The Edgewater in 1964, followed by the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.
But back to the present – we highly recommend that Seattle residents and tourists alike stop by for a meal at Six Seven and a visit to the historic hotel.
We also want to thank Chef Roberts at Six Seven and Sarah Kiepe and her Edgewater team for one of the tastiest and fun evenings we’ve had this spring.
Run, don’t walk, to pick up tickets to the newest wine tasting event in the Seattle area, featuring two unique opportunities to experience the best wines in Woodinville – all rated above 90. And that’s why we say “Hurry!”
This stellar lineup will be poured on April 25 at Willows Lodge in Woodinville:
- Reserve: Featuring more than 30 wineries pouring 90+ rated wines, this event starts at 7 p.m. and costs $90 per person.
- North of 95: Wines rated at 95+ will be poured 30 minutes earlier, at 6:30 p.m. These VIP tickets also provide access to Reserve and cost $160 per person.
So who is pouring? Some of our favorites!
North of 95 wineries (in alphabetical order): Baer Winery, Betz Family Winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, DeLille Cellars, Gorman Winery, EFESTE, Januik Winery, J. Bookwalter Wines, Lauren Ashton Cellars, Long Shadows and Mark Ryan Winery.
Reserve wineries (in alphabetical order): Ancestry Cellars, Auclair Winery, Brian Carter Cellars, Bunnell Family Cellars, Chandler Reach Winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Convergence Zone Cellars, EFESTE, Elevation Cellars, Gard Vintners, Goose Ridge, J. Bookwalter, Kaella, Lauren Ashton Cellars, Mark Ryan, Matthews, Michael Florentino Cellars, Obelisco, Novelty Hill, Page Cellars, Patterson Cellars, Pondera, Sparkman Cellars, William Church Winery and Woodinville Wine Cellars.
With this much good juice in the house, please consider booking a hotel room for the night. If not, make sure you have a designated driver, even if you sip ‘n spit or spill.
There are only a limited number of tickets left — you can purchase them through Brownpapertickets.com.
For more information, visit the Woodinville Wine Country website, where you can also find the full list of wineries.
We hope to see you there!
Every year, we find more things to rave about Washington state wine, celebrated in all its glory last week at Taste Washington.
Taste Washington is the country’s largest single-region wine and food event, which we like to describe as ”the Super Bowl of Washington state wine events.”
More than 200 wineries poured at Century Link Field, 70 restaurants shared tasty bites, and there were all kinds of ways to discover more about the state’s wine industry.
Our plan this year was to visit friends at wineries we know well and try some new wines. We decided to only taste red wines this year, because there were so very many wines to sample.
These our the highlights of our experience:
Top three favorite new (to us) wines, with brief descriptors
- Walla Walla Vintners 2012 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley — Sassy, stunning, stellar, superlative
- Double Canyon 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills — Velvety, vibrant, vivacious, victorious
- Boudreaux Cellars 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon — Lovely, luscious, luxurious, luxe
Other favorites (in alphabetical order)
- Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2010 Destiny (Happy 10th Anniversary, ANC!)
- Andrew Will 2011 Two Blondes Red Bordeaux Blend, Yakima Valley
- Bartholomew Winery 2010 Reciprocity Red Blend, Columbia Valley
- Betz Family Winery 2011 Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
- Buty Winery 2011 Rediviva of the Stones Red Blend, Walla Walla Valley
- Cooper Wine Company 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
- Fall Line Winery 2011 Red Willow Red Blend, Yakima Valley
- Fidelitas 2010 Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain
- FIGGINS 2010 Estate Red Bordeaux Blend, Walla Walla Valley
- Force Majeure Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Collaboration Series, Force Majeure Vineyard, Red Mountain
- Gorman Winery 2011 The Pixie Syrah, Red Mountain
- Lauren Ashton Cellars 2011 Syrah, Columbia Valley
- Sinclair Estate 2010 Vixen Red Blend, Columbia Valley
Longtime favorites (in alphabetical order)
- Forgeron Cellars
- JM Cellars
- L’Ecole No 41
- Long Shadows Vintners
- Obelisco Estate Wines
- Va Piano Vineyards
- Woodward Canyon
Best bites (there were so many, but we only sampled a few)
- Andaluca: Cauliflower soup
- Anthony’s Pier 66: Scallop BLT
- Blazing Bagels: Multi-flavors of bagels and shmears
- Cheeseland Inc and Mt. Townsend Creamery: Assortment of artisan cheeses
- Pike Place Chowder: Traditional New England clam chowder
- The Capital Grille: Porcini rubbed dry-aged sirloin (where we’re celebrating our anniversary this week)
As March (the official Washington Wine Month) comes to an end, we decided to open one of the first bottles of wine that we tasted when we moved here: Darighe from The Woodhouse Wine Estates.
The 2008 vintage is as lovely as the first we tried – 2001 Darighe.
2008 Darighe is an excellent, traditional, old-world, left-bank Bordeaux blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 11% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot, sourced from Columbia Valley grapes.
A silver medal winner at the annual Savor Northwest Wine Competition, 2008 Darighe has a magnificent mouthfeel and a lengthy finish.
The bottle is heavy glass, as substantive as the juice inside.
Like its predecessors, the 2008 features a dense tannic structure that is a hallmark of Darighe.
According to the tasting notes:
“Darighe is ruby in color with the delicate, yet complicated scent of violet, mocha, smoke, truffle, blackberry, cassis and an array of spices. It is soft, refined and elegant with a persistent finish.”
In our opinion, these words best describe 2008 Darighe: Classic, stellar, beautiful, robust, rich and soft velvet.
We have recommended Darighe since we first experienced the 2001 vintage; the 2008 continues that tradition. If your palate prefers big reds, you will love 2008 Darighe.
On Valentine’s Day, I fell in love with Big Papa all over again and developed a new crush on Nana. Thankfully, Dave feels the same way.
Of course, we’re referring to Efeste‘s 2010 Big Papa Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 Nana, a three-vineyard and three-varietal blend, both made by winemaker extraordinaire Brennon Leighton. (Current Efeste winemaker Peter Devision has some magic up his sleeve too.)
2010 Big Papa Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon
This robust 100% Cabernet Sauvignon was drinking well in August 2013, when we last tasted it. Six months later, on Valentine’s Day, Big Papa demonstrated further why Wine Advocate bestowed Efeste with 94 points for this beauty and Wine Enthusiast just named it a Cellar Selection with 92 points.
Brennon used his signature minimalist approach with native fermentation, which resulted in a big, bold, complex and balanced wine, made from grapes sourced from mature vines in five of the state’s best vineyards: Klipsun, Bacchus, Sagemoor, Kiona and Red Willow.
We’ve been a fan of Big Papa since 2009, and I can guarantee that we will continue to advocate buying it year after year. It’s true love.
This is the only time I’ve written about Nana, but only because this is the first vintage. Elegant, refined, robust, strong yet supple, Nana showcases all the classic characteristics of a stellar Bordeaux blend from the Right Bank.
The mouthfeel is amazing, likely because my palate favors Cab Franc and Cab Sauv, both plentiful in this fine wine: 18% Stone Tree Cabernet Franc, 18% Angela’s Vineyard (Efeste’s Estate) Cabernet Franc and 18% Red Willow Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with 46% Red Willow Merlot.
Brennon also fermented this wine with indigenous yeast, which encourages more complexity and produces fuller, richer wines than those inoculated with commercial yeast.
We are new fans of this new wine, and I can guarantee that we will be buying more of this vintage, and in the years to come.
Both wines combine elegant aromas and flavors, ripe tannins and bright, juicy acidity, and are drinkable for another 10 years.
Now to see if we have the patience to cellar them instead of popping the cork in the near future.