Big Papa, Big Red Wine

It’s no secret that over the years, we’ve become friends with the wonderful folks at Efeste. And it’s also not a secret that we love Efeste wines.

So when we opened a bottle of 2010 Big Papa Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon the other night, we raised a glass to both fine Washington wine and friendship:

— to Brennon Leighton, who made the rich, complex 100% Cab Sauv

— to Daniel and Helen Ferrelli, Patrick Smith, and Kevin and Angie Taylor, the dedicated, passionate owners of Efeste (pronounced F-S-T for the first initials of their last names)

— and to Peter Devison, who joined the team as winemaker last year

We have many favorite Efeste wines, ranging from a superb Syrah, Jolie Bouche, to a crisp Feral Sauvignon Blanc, a perennial summertime winner.

But Big Papa has always topped the list — in 2011, I called the 2007 Big Papa a “Must-Have Cabernet Sauvignon” in my article, Must-Have Bottles of Wine in Seattlelite Magazine.

The 2010 vintage is no exception.

This is one beautiful wine. We first started drinking Big Papa with the 2005 vintage, and it’s won awards and/or recognition every year.

For example, 2010 Big Papa Cab Sauv earned 94 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate in June, naming it a Cellar Selection with this description:

“It’s vivid and textural, with terrific acidity, backbone, and length.”

Brennon used his signature minimalist approach with native fermentation, which encourages more complexity and produces fuller, richer wines than those inoculated with commercial yeast. The grapes were sourced from mature vines in five vineyards.

Although just released this year, Big Papa is already drinkable, and will continue to shine  until 2025.

We doubt it will be around that long though, so we recommend you buy it at the Woodinville winery or online soon!

Cheers!

What’s in Our Glass?

Summertime means warm, lazy evenings on the deck and tasty weekend BBQs. And what better accompaniment than a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, a medium-bodied Pinot Noir or a robust Cabernet Sauvignon?

Yes, those have been in our glasses so far this summer – refreshing whites with prawns or humus on the deck, medium-bodied reds with unique, flavorful salads, and big and beautiful reds with hamburgers or on occasion, steaks.

Here are the wines in our glasses — at home or in tasting rooms — that we’ve loved in the past couple of months.

What’s in your glass this summer?

Cheers!

 

Time to Enjoy the Chateau Ste. Michelle Summer Concert Series

You know it’s truly summer when Chateau Ste. Michelle is alive with the sound of music. We attend one of the concerts at the scenic outdoor amphitheater every year, and regardless of whom we see, we have a fabulous time.

How can you miss? Beautiful grounds, fine wine, summer weather and music for dancing!

This year, we saw Pat Benetar and Berlin, featuring original lead singer, Terri Nunn. We were asked not to take photos out of respect for the artists, so you can’t see them on stage here. But believe us, the stage was jamming and the place was hopping.

Concert-goers came early (the gates open two hours in advance) to enjoy the warm temperatures and picnic on the grass – we saw everything from fried chicken and potato salad to delicious-looking cheese plates. Some people brought their own food, while others purchased food from vendors in the amphitheater.

And of course, many of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s popular wines were omnipresent — and oh so tasty.

Once the music started, most people were on their feet, particularly during Berlin’s chart-breaking song “Take My Breath Away” from the 1986 movie “Top Gun,” and Pat Benetar’s signature “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.”

But frankly, even if the music isn’t your favorite, this concert series is a win. What’s not to like about sunshine, gorgeous grounds, fine wine and happy people?

So if you haven’t bought tickets yet, have a look at the concert calendar and go for it! Still to come: a range of pop, jazz, rock and blues through Aug. 25, including Gipsy Kings, Gladys Night & the O’Jays, Lyle Lovett, Chris Isaak and more.

Have questions? Check out the concert FAQ.

It’s a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon or evening.

Cheers!

Rockin’ Sips

We don’t often write about events, but this one is important. Rockin’ Sips is an annual fundraiser held by Efeste for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

This event was originally inspired by heartbreak, when Efeste owners Kevin and Angela Taylor learned their five-year-old son, Joe, was diagnosed with leukemia. Thankfully, five years later, Joe completed his treatment – and the fundraiser has turned into a celebration.

According to Angie, “We are so grateful to LLS for bringing medical advances so far along in making this blood disease and treatment a story of survivorship, not just for our family but the thousands of others.”

Between Rockin’ Sips and Tough Guy wine, named in honor of Joe, Efeste has raised more than $57,000, with support from its community of friends, colleagues and wine enthusiasts. (Beer drinkers are also welcomed at Rockin’ Sips.)

Seattle cover band, the Slacks, are headlining at the event, which also features raffles and a silent auction in addition to wines and beer from Rôtie Cellars,Côte BonnevilleSparkman CellarsTreveri CellarsPike Brewing, and Black Raven Brewing Company.

The fundraiser will be held at 4:30 p.m. on June 8 at the winery in Woodinville.

Tickets are available at the winery tasting room or onlinethey cost $35 until May 24, and then increase to $45.

Well, what are you waiting for?

Cheers!

 

What’s in our glasses, recently?

In the dark, damp winter months, it’s all about the reds. But with a spate of warm weather in Seattle in the last few weeks, out pop the whites too! Here is a list of red, white and rosé wines that have recently graced our glasses.

2011 JM Cellars Bramble Bump White: A blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvingon Blanc and a touch of Semillon, winemaker John Bigelow calls this crisp beauty a “Conundrum.” Not surprisingly, the 2010 vintage was named “Editor’s Choice” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. We enjoyed this refreshing summer sipper with prawns on the deck.

2011 Bernardus Sauvignon Blanc: We first tasted this bright wine on a recent trip to Carmel for my birthday. There are some fine wines being crafted in the Carmel Valley, and this one was one of our favorites because it shows classic Sauv Blanc characteristics.

2012 Obelisco Red Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé: This amazing summer sipper was jointly created by winemakers Doug Long from Obelisco and Kevin Correll from Barrage Cellars. You will find it to be unlike anything you’ve ever expected or experienced in a Rosé. Unfortunately, only a small quantity was produced, so we recommend you head to Woodinville to pick up some quickly.

2010 L’Ecole 41 Candy Mountain Vineyard Red Wine: L’Ecole released this red blend as part of their 30th Anniversary celebration. Candy Mountain is adjacent to our favorite Red Mountain; this seductive wine — a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon and 43% Merlot —  is just one of many reasons why L’Ecole has been named “Winery of the Year” for 11 consecutive years by Wine & Spirits.

2010 William Church Cabernet Sauvignon: This standout wine has what we like to call the WOW factor. But don’t just take our word for it! The winemakers of Woodinville judged this beauty as the winner of the 2013 Golden Grape Best Cabernet Award. Very impressive!

2009 Alexandria Nicole Cellars Destiny: When I walk into ANC’s Woodinville tasting room, they know to bring out this luscious blend. That’s because year after year, it’s been at top of my list of stellar ANC wines – and it’s a long list! Winemaker Jarrod Boyle calls Destiny “voluptuous” – and for good reason. This vintage is Cab-Sauv based (67%), with equal parts Cab Franc and Merlot (10% each), plus 8% Malbec, and rounded out by a touch of Petit Verdot and Carmenere.

2010 Forgeron Cellars Zinfandel: On Facebook, I used the term “beauty in a glass” to describe both ANC’s Destiny and Forgeron’s Zinfandel. We have not tasted a Washington state Zin that comes even close to Marie Eve Gilla’s creation, which blends 77% Zinfandel and 23% Primitivo. This is one powerful wine that cried out to be paired with Dave’s zesty spaghetti. Delicious!

We recommend all of these seven wines — the whites and Rosé in warm weather, and the three reds with BBQ burgers or steak.

Cheers!

 

 

March is Washington Wine Month

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.

One that caught our eye is a 20%-off promotion for Northwest Totem Cellars at Wine World on March 16th. And thanks Wine World, for quoting this blog in your promotion!

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:

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!

Cheers!

 

Ethos Vertical Tasting Here We Come!

We hope to see you at the Ethos Reserve Vertical Tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle on Sunday March 3. We are really looking forward to this rare opportunity to taste past vintages – 2003, 2004 and 2005 Ethos Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Ethos Reserve Syrah from Columbia Valley.

Chateau Ste. Michelle produces many wines that make Washington state’s wine industry proud but, in our humble opinion, Ethos — the winery’s self-described “pinnacle wines” — reign supreme. These vintage wines will be paired with a special selection of cheeses to showcase how wine fares so much better with age.

Unfortunately, if you haven’t already purchased tickets, the Ethos vertical tasting is sold out. However, there are many more Chateau Ste. Micheel events to choose from, such as:

Chef without Borders Dinner
Saturday, March 16, 7:00 PM
Explore Chef Janet Hedstrom’s world of cuisine while sipping on perfectly paired wines from the Chateau.
Reservations required. 800-267-6793
Price: $120.00 plus tax

Spring Barrel Tasting
Saturday-Sunday, March 16 & March 17, 11:00AM-5:00PM
A unique opportunity to taste several wines that are in the process of barrel-aging and chat with a winemaker. Tickets will be available on 3/16 and 3/17 in the wine shop.
Price: $20.00 per person plus tax. (Includes all barrel tastings and an additional glass of a pre-selected finished wine)

Sip & Savor Sunday
Sunday, April 14, 3:30-6:00 PM
Wine and cheese pairings at the Chateau plus jazz musician Heather Sullivan.

Treasures of the Earth Dinner
Saturday, April 20, 7:00 PM
Join Chef Scott Harberts as he celebrates Earth Day with a menu that will feature ingredients that are sustainably grown and harvested. Dinner will be paired with wines from the chateau’s LIVE and Salmon Safe certified vineyards; Cold Creek Vineyard and Canoe Ridge Estate.
Reservations required. 800-267-6793
Price: $120.00 per person plus tax

Spring Fling Chef Dinner
Saturday, May 18, 7:00PM
Chef Kurt Olson will create a menu to highlight the flavors of spring, accompanied by “a few surprises” from the cellar.
Reservations required. 800-267-6793
Price: $120.00 per person plus tax.

Happy spring! Cheers!

January is Barrage Month

Halfway through January, we discovered it’s all about Barrage, baby! Barrage Cellars, that is.

Let me explain why.

In November, we stopped by (with our dog, Sir Winston) at the Barrage Cellars tasting room in Woodinville’s Wine Warehouse district, and fell in love all over again with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc created by winemaker Kevin Correll.

We had a great time tasting some fine juice and catching up with Kevin and Rebecca, and walked away with quite a few bottles of more than one vintage of Barrage Cellars Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon and Outcast Cab Franc.

As a result, January has become Barrage Month at our house, as we opened some of the bottles. It is hard to cellar these very drinkable wines.

We are captivated with 2007 Double Barrel and the 2009 Outcast is simply superlative. These two wines are our favorite varietals these days, and Barrage Cellars is high on our list of must-haves.

This is not surprising — Barrage Cellars Outcast has made our list of favorite Cab Francs more than once — just try searching Write for Wine for Barrage Cellars. And it’s not just us – Seattle Magazine voted 2007 Outcast the best Cab Franc in Washington state in 2011, and Seattle Wine Awards gave Outcast a silver medal the same year.

But let me tell you, Kevin’s wines simply get better and better with each vintage. Every time we think we’ve tasted his best yet, he surprises us the following year with better yet.

Like many winemakers in Washington state, Kevin started making wine as a hobby in his garage; from there, he moved his craft to the barn. Put the two words barn and garage together – Bar+rage – and voila, Barrage Cellars was born.

But unlike many winemakers who blend different grapes together into one wine, Kevin prefers to blend wine with the same grape from different vineyards.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to stop by Barrage Cellars in Woodinville for Kevin’s red and white wines, make a point of it. You won’t be disappointed.

Sir Winston wants to go back too because Kevin and Rebecca love puppy dogs!

Cheers!

Wow!

Wow in the barrel means it’s going to be amazing in the bottle.  We call it the “Wow Factor.”

And that’s exactly what we experienced recently when barrel-tasting with John Bigelow, winemaker and co-owner of JM Cellars in Woodinville.

On a recent visit, John poured us two wines from the barrel – a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, full of melon and citrus, and a robust Syrah from Boushey Vineyard, already a rich red color and bursting with flavors. We will be first in line when the Sauv Blanc is released next year. But our patience is required for the Syrah, which has another year before release.

We also were in for a special treat – John went to his wine library and opened a bottle of 2000 Columbia Valley Cuvee, his first vintage of the classic Bordeaux blend that is now known as Longevity.

To say the 2000 Cuvee is drinking nicely would be an understatement. Words do not describe how smooth this wine was on the palate. We definitely would have purchased some bottles for special occasions, but we were tasting from the last bottle.

Thanks so much, John, for sharing the exceptional experience.

Meanwhile, the 2012 harvest is set to be a record production for JM Cellars. John literally beamed when he told us about  the beauty of this year’s grapes.

But if you’re looking for wine to taste now – for your holiday table or to take to parties during the festive  season — look no further than JM Cellars. Here are some of our favorites from the lineup:

  • 2010 Bramble Bump Red, a perfect cool-weather wine to enjoy on a crisp fall afternoon or on a winter evening by the fire
  • 2011 Bramble Bump White, for the white wine drinker on your list – a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauv Blanc and Semillion; this wine sells out quickly, so we bought some to save for summer
  • 2010 Longevity, a classic Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot (Wine Spectator gave the 07 vintage 94 points)
  • 2009 Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red, a Cab-based Bordeaux blend

In addition to the wine tasting experience, we were delighted to see John back in shoes after more than eight months in a cast. In March, a filled-to-the-brim 60-gallon barrel of wine fell on his left foot and crushed it. John, congratulations on this latest milestone in your recovery.

Cheers!

A Wonderful Week of Wine

What a week it’s been. A very busy time. But a wonderful week of wine, at that.

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.

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!

Cheers!