Good-Value Wines

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 5.19.49 PMAs the summer winds down, we’re taking a look at some good-value wines that we and/or our neighbors enjoyed in the last five months. Summer sippers make us think of white wine on the deck or the patio, paired with tasty cheeses, seafood or chicken. But let’s not forget about robust reds to accompany delicious BBQs during the warm weather!

First, let’s talk about the featured wineries:

In 1836, Wente Vineyards began with 48 acres in Livermore Valley, California. Today the winery draws from approximately 3,000 acres of sustainably farmed Estate vineyards. While we’ve written about their reds in the past, Wente is known as California’s First Family of Chardonnay. In 1912, the Wente family brought Chardonnay cuttings from France and planted them in the Livermore Valley. Their 1936 vintage was the first varietally labeled Chardonnay in the United States. During crab season, we enjoyed 2013 Small Lot Eric’s Chardonnay, which was fermented and aged in stainless steel. But our neighbors preferred 2012 Riva Ranch Chard.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 5.18.18 PMFor five generations, two families — the Maggios and Reynolds — have grown grapes and made wine in the historic Lodi region of California. They transformed the oldest winery in Lodi, Oak Ridge Winery, into a state-of-art facility, where Old Soul wines were crafted because “the winery has an old soul.” You can definitely taste it in the rich 2012 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon, with a price point of $14.

Launched by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in 2005 as a restaurant-only brand, 14 Hands introduced its “The Reserve” label of wines sourced from the Horse Heaven Hills appellation in Washington state in 2012.

Santa Cristina produces Italy’s No. 1 selling red wine, Rosso, and is also represented by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. This Tuscan winery released its first wine in 1946 and has become a “benchmark” in Italian wines.

Motto Wines debuted this June, with a collection of distinct, dark, rich wines from California that offer a new take on that state’s wine. Motto is made by the renowned winemaking team at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, “putting a Washington spin” on California grapes. According to the winery, “the Motto winemaking team defies ordinary and makes it their motto.”

Of note, many of these wines are so reasonably priced that you can pour them at any time of the year. Just make sure to decant first for a few hours.

Summer Sipper Whites

  • Old Soul 2013 Lodi Chardonnay, $14
  • Wente Vineyards 2012 Morning Fog Chardonnay, $22
  • Wente Vineyards 2012 Riva Ranch Chardonnay, $22
  • Wente Vineyards 2013 Small Lot Eric’s Chardonnay, Small Lot (Unoaked) $25
  • Other good-value summer sippers

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 5.17.23 PMBBQ Reds

  • Santa Cristina 2013 Rosso, $12
  • 14 Hands 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley, $12
  • 14 Hands 2013 Merlot Columbia Valley, $12
  • Old Soul 2012 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon, $14
  • Old Soul 2012 Lodi “Pure Red” Blend, $14
  • Motto Wines 2013 Unabashed Zinfandel, $15
  • Motto Wines 2013 Gung Ho Red Blend, $15
  • Wente Vineyards 2012 Southern Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, $19
  • Wente Vineyards Charles Wetmore 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $30
  • 14 Hands 2012 The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills, $30
  • Other good-value BBQ Reds

 Thanks to Wente, Oak Ridge Winery and Ste. Michelle Estates for these and other samples provided in the last five months.

Margot and Dave


Party Hearty – Harvest Party in the Vines

UPDATE: Another successful Harvest Party in the Vines for wine club members took place last weekend, perfectly planned by the wonderful people at Alexandria Nicole Cellars at their estate Destiny Ridge Vineyard.

That perfect planning went down to the wire, as high winds in the area made it difficult to determine whether to hold the party outside, as per tradition, or move it inside. The final result – both!

As one would expect with wines from Jarrod Boyle and his team, the bottles of current releases and those from the library were amazing — from the 2012 Alderdale Cabernet Sauvignon to the older vintages of Destiny.

We also had an opportunity to see the new Tiny Houses at Destiny Ridge. Located in the heart of the vineyard overlooking the Columbia River, these tiny houses are incredibly designed, very small and fully functional. One of them even has a built-in wine tap, which in our books is straight out luxurious!

Almost all party guests were decked out in tie-dye clothes and/or bohemian apparel because this year’s Harvest Party was a special celebration of the “Art of Harvest.” To commemorate all of the exciting changes at the winery this year — those Tiny Houses, the Estate event facility and tasting room and more — renowned artist Guy Buffet created a whimsical painting that depicts the winery. He was an honored guest and unveiled his painting to a lot of oohs and ahhhh by those attending.

Buffet is known for his whimsical paintings of chefs, waiters and French cafés as well as his international culinary and wine themes. His work has appeared on Williams-Sonoma table top collections, handbags, books and a myriad of licensed products.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 12.41.51 PM

Last year’s party celebrated a Decade of Destiny – ten years since wines were created from grapes first planted in 1998 at Destiny Ridge. Now, 18 years later, ANC produces 10,000 cases of wine with more than 23 varietals planted in 267 acres of planted vineyard.

And that’s where the Harvest Party takes place every year!

We’ve been wine club members since 2007, inspired by some fabulous wine during our first visit to ANC’s Prosser tasting room, and further nudged by a Seattle Times article written by Washington state wine expert Paul Gregutt, who rated the ANC wine club as number 1.

Over the years, we’ve written about ANC wine often. We’ve also been lucky enough to become friends with winery owners Jarrod (winemaker) and Ali Boyle, who are as kind-hearted and generous as they are talented and skilled.

Congratulations Jarrod, Ali, and everyone at the winery, in the vineyard and in the tasting rooms for a job well done.

Margot and Dave

Taste of Tulalip Tickets On Sale

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 12.25.27 PMTickets to one of our favorite wine events in Washington state, Taste of Tulalip, are now available on pre-sale.

The fantastic 7th annual two-day festival doesn’t take place until Nov. 13-14, but tickets sell out quickly. And trust us, you don’t want to miss this collaboration of wine, food and art.

This year, Tulalip Resort Casino‘s talented wine expert, Tommy Thompson, and the event’s 2015 honorary winemaker, Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville, have created a unique blend of wine sourced from DuBrul Vineyard grapes — 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. As you can see in the photo, the artwork by Mike Gobin for the commemorative wine bottle and plate is a beautiful expression of the Tulalip culture.

Taste of Tulalip kicks off with the Celebration Dinner on Nov. 13 – an explosion of tastes and colors that amazes us year after year.

We were delighted to discover that this year, on Nov. 14, Taste of Tulalip is featuring an in-depth reserve wine tasting/seminar called “Turning Water Into Wine” with Sparky and Sarah Marquis of the award-winning Australian winery, Mollydooker Wines. The tasting lineup will include 12 of Mollydooker’s recently released 2014 wines.

When we visited their Cellar Door and vineyard in McLaren Vale last year, we had so much fun with Sparky and his dad, Leigh Gawith. We had a vineyard tour, tasted through their amazing lineup and had a truly wonderful time. For more information, see our blog posts and learn about Mollydooker’s Marquis Fruit Weight™ process and their “yum-worthy” wines:

Mollydooker Part 1
Mollydooker Part 2 

Back to Taste of Tulalip … also on Nov. 14, “All Access” pass holders will have early entrance to the Grand Taste and the edgy Rock and Roll Cooking Challenge; a wine seminar called “Washington State AVA Smackdown,” featuring some of the state’s top wine producers; a VIP seminar featuring a cooking demo from Chef Chris Cosentino (from San Francisco’s Cockscomb and Boccalone); a private Magnum Party with a selection of high-level wine and food pairings, and more.

The Grand Taste is always the weekend’s highlight. This year, more than 100 wines from Washington state, Oregon, California, Oporto, Maderia, will be poured, along with global selections of bubbles, late-harvest and ice wines, and craft beer.

Seats for the Nov. 13 Celebration Dinner may be purchased by calling (360) 716-6888, and the passes for the Nov. 14 events can be purchased via Ticketmaster.

We hope to see you there!

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.

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.

Margot and Dave

A Deeper Look at Sauvignon Blanc

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 1.26.51 PMWe love Sauvignon Blanc in the summer months, and after sharing our views on four bottles that we recently enjoyed, we decided to take a deeper look at this warm-weather wine.

Sauvignon Blanc is both an old-world and new-world wine, grown and produced in Washington state, California, British Columbia, Ontario, France, New Zealand and other wine regions.

The typical descriptions are crisp, refreshing and elegant. The most popular price point is $20 and below; however some Sauv Blancs are in the range of $40-$80, and you can even find an occasional bottle priced above $80.

While the most popular style is “light and crisp,” other styles include “fruity and smooth,”  “rich and creamy” and “elegant.” The flavors can range from grassy to tropical.

  • Fruit – Citrus (Grapefruit, Lemon), Melon, Tropical
  • Grassy – Grass, Herbs, Mineral
  • Oak – Vanilla, Spice, Smoke

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 1.27.04 PMSauvignon Blanc pairs well with shellfish such as prawns, scallops, crabs and oysters, in addition to other seafood dishes, sushi, some cheeses and grilled veggies such as asparagus.


Fun Facts:
Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. During the 18th century in Bordeaux, the Sauvignon Blanc vine paired with Cabernet Franc to parent the Cabernet Sauvignon vine.

International Sauvignon Blanc Day has been held on April 24, since 2010.


We love to sip on chilled, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc on warm sunny evenings on the deck or the patio. What is your favorite place or time?

Margot and Dave

Summer Sauvignon Blancs

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 11.46.58 AMSauvignon Blanc is our favorite summer-time white wine and these days, Washington state and California are producing some excellent juice that rivals the world-famous Bordeaux and New Zealand production.

Fun fact:
Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. During the 18th century in Bordeaux, the Sauvignon Blanc vine paired with Cabernet Franc to parent the Cabernet Sauvignon vine.

Here are some excellent Sauvignon Blancs that we recently tasted.

2014 Columbia Crest H3 Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Hills, $15
This rich wine from Columbia Crest in Washington state features some of the well-known characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc — tropical flavors of passion fruit, combined with citrus, pears and peaches. Crisp, fresh, clean with a layer of minerality means H3 pairs well with seafood, mild-flavored meats and even some richer dishes.

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 11.39.15 AM2014 Sbragia Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc, $22
Sauv Blanc is the signature grape of Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. Of the three we tasted from this area, this one from Zbragia was our favorite. Elegant, yet refreshing, and brimming with aromas and flavors of grapefruit, green apple and minerality, this beauty is tart, tangy and grassy – some classic features of an excellent Sauv Blanc. We adore this wine and just want to savor it with shrimp or prawn dishes.

2013 Gustafson Estate Sauvignon Blanc, $22
A blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Sauvignon Musque (an aromatic Sauvignon Blanc clone), this wine has a remarkable creamy texture with notes of peaches and melon, and is more floral and tropical than citrusy. The Gustafson is more complex than a typical Sauv Blanc, but still pairs well with shellfish — crabs, scallops, prawns and oysters.

2013 Dry Creek Vineyard DCV3 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, $25
The most expensive of the four Sauvignon Blancs that we tasted, the powerful DCV3 from Dry Creek Vineyard is still a value at $25. Mineralogy is prominent on the palate, along with peaches and apples, and lemon on the finish. This medium-bodied wine bursts with flavors, and goes well with shellfish and light chicken dishes. It also pairs with asparagus and other veggies on the grill.

Many thanks to these wineries for the samples to taste.

Margot and Dave

Good Value BBQ Reds

BBQ WineSummer time, and the living is easy. We have tasted some excellent good-value reds recently, so bring out the wine glasses and start up the BBQ!

Troublemaker Blend 8, $20
Troublemaker comes from Hope Family Wines, a pioneer in Paso Robles wine country — established 30 years ago and still family-owned and operated. Troublemaker is a Rhone-style blend that is distinctly Paso: 46% Syrah, 25% Zinfandel, 14% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre and 5% Petite Sirah. Think of it as GSM with a kick. Most of the wine comes from the 2013 vintage, but a mix of 2012 and 2011 brings a multi-vintage complexity that is unique. Fruit-forward characteristics make it pop; we’d say it’s trouble in glass!

Columbia Crest H3 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, $15
This is one enjoyable, good value Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Crest, bursting with flavor! Think bold — 99% Cab Sauv with 1% Cab Franc to round off the edges. This wine is ready to drink now, with flavors of cherries and blackberries and soft tannins. H3 will pair well with any kind of beef, lamb or your favorite strong cheese. And at $15, you can’t beat it for summer parties and barbecues.

Red Diamond Temperamental Red Blend Spain, $10
Red Diamond recently released new packaging with an eye-catching label, in addition to several food-friendly wines at the low price of $10. So far, we’ve just tasted the Temperamental, a rich blend of grapes sourced in Spain — Tempranillo (90%), Graciano (4%), Garnacha (3%) and Mazuelo (3%). With flavors of black fruit and berries, this isn’t a typical dry Spanish wine. We found it jammy, even semi-sweet, with a smooth finish. Pair it with BBQ steak or lamb.

All three wines were sent to us as samples for tasting.

Happy summer and cheers!
Margot and Dave

Wine and Cancer Research: Mark your calendars on July 9, Seattle

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 12.39.16 PMWhat a fantastic way to support the American Cancer Society – an exclusive wine tasting at Capital Grille in Seattle on July 9.

More than 25 highly rated wines from the Chairman’s personal reserve collection — 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintages — will be poured, and 100% of proceeds from the tasting will go to the American Cancer Society for cancer research.

Four of the featured wines are:

  • 2005 Andrew Will Sorella, rated 95 points by Wine Spectator and 96 points by Robert Parker
  • 2005 Joseph Phelps Backus Cabernet Sauvignon, rated 97 points by Wine Enthusiast
  • 2008 Betz La Cote Rousse Syrah, rated 95 points by Wine Spectator
  • 2008 Peter Michael Ma Belle Fille Chardonnay, rated 97 points by both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker

Instead of purchasing tickets, the American Cancer Society is seeking donation items, with a minimum value of $100 per person, as a price of admission. For example, these items could include large format wine bottles, vacation home rentals, airline tickets/miles (e.g., 10,000 miles from Alaska Airlines equal $100), hotel room/points, decorative art items, dinning experiences in your home or anything else you believe will help raise funds for cancer research. More details can be found on the society’s website.

Also mark your calendars for Sept. 12, when the Seattle Hope Gala – A Toast To Life – will be held at Fremont Studios. This event will feature a reception, music and entertainment, in addition to silent & live auctions. Gourmet small plates crafted by local celebrity chefs will be paired with regional wines from the high-rated wineries.

So please try to attend both events — it’s a wonderful way to support cancer survivors and pay tribute to friends and family members who sadly have been lost to this dreadful disease.

Margot and Dave

Taste of Tulalip – Beautiful Wine Enhanced by Beautiful Art

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 12.25.27 PMOne of our favorite wine events in Washington state, Taste of Tulalip, is still a few months down the road, but the collaboration of wine and art is well underway.

For the 7th annual Taste of Tulalip, Tulalip Resort Casino‘s talented wine expert, Tommy Thompson, and the event’s 2015 honorary winemaker, Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville, have created a unique blend of wine sourced from DuBrul Vineyard grapes — 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc.

Côte Bonneville is known for wines that are “age worthy and food friendly.” And we can’t wait to taste this special wine, particularly because both of our palates favor Cab-based Bordeaux blends.

As you can see in the photo, the artwork for the 7th annual Taste of Tulalip commemorative wine bottle and plate is a beautiful expression of the Tulalip culture. Mike Gobin, honored artist, explained his inspiration:

“My father’s Indian name means ‘Man soars with Eagles’ and my twin sister loved hummingbirds, and her Indian name means ‘Aunty to all’. They have both gone to be with our lord and the design depicts my father embracing my twin sister in heaven and is entitled ‘A father’s heavenly embrace’. The salmon represents our Tribal People: ‘People of the Salmon.'”

The 2015 Taste of Tulalip takes place November 13-14. This exclusive wine, in the breathtaking commemorative bottle, will be introduced during the November 13th “Celebration Dinner.” It will be available for purchase in the event’s wine shop during the festival weekend.

Tickets will go on sale in August, so mark it on your calendar now – tickets go quickly to this fantastic weekend event.

We hope to see you there!

Margot and Dave