What Have We Opened Lately?

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We’ve had the pleasure of enjoying many, many wonderful Washington wines lately – and in a less-busy world, I would write separate posts about each of them. Unfortunately, busy is my middle name these days.

So here is a list (in alphabetical order) of Washington wines that we’ve celebrated in the last couple of months, and recommend — plus three of our Napa Valley and Sonoma faves too!

Wait – there’s more! For my list of favorite wines at Taste Washington, see my post in Seattleite Magazine.


More Dussek and Gilbert Cabs Please!

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I’ve written numerous times about my wonderful sister with the amazing palate. She’s influenced my life in so many positive ways — from inspiring me to participate in online media back in 1994 to opening up the wonderful world of wine to me. And many, many more!

My sister remains my inspiration — so when she puts her stamp of approval on a wine that I recommend, it makes my day.

That happened recently when she phoned me from Vancouver to tell me her opinions on a few bottles of Washington state wine that I gave her the last time I went home for a visit. She thought some of the wines were okay (her husband loved them), but there were only two that she raved about: Dussek Family Cellars 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon and Gilbert Cellars 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. And she wants more!

The price point of Dussek is super for such an excellent Cab – $36. Here are the tasting notes from Woodhouse, which produces the Dussek label (and four others — Kennedy Shah, Darighe, Maghee and Hudson Shah):

“The Dussek Cabernet Sauvignon is Woodhouse Family Cellars’ take on what is likely the world’s most famous grape. Combining an oaky, fruit forward, style with the classic minerality and earth character found in the Cabernet based wines of Europe, Dussek perfectly exhibits Washington state’s ability to straddle the line between the old world and the new.”

The price point for the Cab from Gilbert Cellars is only $26 a bottle. Here are the Gilbert tasting notes:

“This juicy, decadent Cabernet Sauvignon offers an aroma of savory dried fruit and crushed herbs that leads into supple, sweet tannins accompanied by unbridled flavors of blackberry jam, fresh cedar, pipe tobacco, and black licorice.”

Only 312 cases of Gilbert Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon were produced, and only 840 cases of Dussek 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon were produced, so I’d better go order a few bottles for my sister right now! (And maybe some for us, too!)


If you like Cab Franc…

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Woodhouse Family Cellars released their first Reserve Cab Franc recently and what a release it is! Winemaker Tom Campbell hit another one out of the ballpark! (Can you tell that it’s baseball season again?)

Tom is one of the original Washington state winemakers and uncle of Bijal Shah, the personable owner of Woodhouse Family Cellars. We’ve been fans of Tom’s Darighe, Tempranillo, Syrah and Merlot for a couple of years now.

A couple of weekends ago, we had a great evening at the packed Woodhouse wine club release party for the Reserve Cab Franc. The wine was flowing, along with many entertaining and informative stories from Tom and Bijal.

Shortly afterward, I was delighted to read a comment by Bob on a recent post in this blog. He decided to join the Woodhouse wine club “to take advantage of their Cab Franc.”

If you are a fan of Cab Franc, I recommend that you head to the tasting room at Woodhouse Family Cellars in Woodinville pronto!


Wonderful Woodhouse Wine Weekend

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What a wonderful “Woodhouse Wine Weekend” this has been! The experience began on Friday night. After working very late, we opened a bottle of Kennedy Shah 2005 Merlot from Woodhouse Family Cellars in Woodinville. It was so amazing that we easily polished off the bottle.

Winemaker Tom Campbell really scored with this smooth wine. Here are his tasting notes: A medium weight Merlot with raspberries, blueberries, smoky earth and spice on the nose and palate. Bright acidity supports the fruit through the palate and into the finish. The wine will find natural pairings with many foods from earthy vegetarian dishes to meat based dishes with beef or pork.”

My “Woodhouse Wine Weekend” continued on Saturday. I stopped by Woodhouse Family Cellars to say hello to owner Bijal Shah, and there was Tom himself, crafting some old-world style blends in the barrel room. 

I sat down with both of them, heard some fascinating stories and tasted some incredible wines. The tasting room was very busy on Saturday, despite a downpour and threats of snow!

I’ve written several posts in the past about Woodhouse Family Cellars, and I’m still as passionate, if not more so, about these fine Washington state wines.

I highly recommend that you stop by the winery, which features a tasting bar, barrel room and organic garden. If you’re lucky, Bijal will be pouring that day, and will tell you the unusal stories behind each of the winery’s five labels. In the meantime, you can read about them on the Woodhouse Family Cellars’ Web site.


This cab just keeps getting better!

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I love Cabernets. Years ago, I bought my husband a mouse-pad with the then-little-known statement: “Life is a Cabernet. ” These days, you can find the saying on hats, aprons and t-shirts, too.

But I digress. What I really want to talk about is the pleasant surprise we had during a recent trip to one of our favorite wineries, Woodhouse Family Cellars. We’ve always loved their Maghee Merlot-one of the best we’ve ever tasted. But this time, we visited the Woodinville tasting room to place our pre-order for the elegant flagship wine, 2002 Darighe.

While we were there, we sampled some wines from their tasting menu, including the 2001 Kennedy Shah Cabernet Sauvignon. It was not our first time with this fine Cab. But it was the best time! This bold Cab just keeps getting better and better with age. This old-World style wine is a plush blend of 75% Cab, 15% Merlot and 10% Cab Franc.

The tasting notes state: “A bold, ripe and plush wine with tiers of black currant, boysenberry and bing cherry. Herbs, cedar and spices linger in the finish.” My taste doesn’t always mirror tasting notes, but in this case, I could really taste the cherry in addition to the spices in the finish. I always liked the 2001 Kennedy Shah Cab. But now, I absolutely love it!


Wine Trails of Washington, Part 2

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We were at our favorite local wine bar, Vino Bello, on Saturday to meet Steve Roberts, author of Wine Trails of Washington and taste some wines from Pepper Bridge Winery in Walla Walla. Our favorite wine from Pepper Bridge remains the 2004 Pepper Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley. But I’ll write more about the tasting later. Right now, I’d like to tell you about my chat with Steve Roberts about his book.

Steve, as I mentioned in a previous post, is the uncle of Kelly Roberts, with whom I work. So I arrived at Vino Bello prepared to like both him and his book. I was not disappointed. Steve is open, friendly and completely unassuming. His book, Wine Trails of Washington, is a guide to more than 225 wineries in the state and suggests 32 different tasting trails to visit. I know I will refer to it every time I visit the many wine-tasting areas of our state.

Steve told me that he didn’t always dream of writing a book. And he didn’t always contemplate writing about wine. With a chuckle, he said, “I’m not a writer. I’m not a wine connoisseur. I’m an outsider–I have never worked in the wine industry. But I think that was an advantage because I was not there [at the wineries] to judge their wines.”

Instead, Steve spent 18 months learning about the tales of the wineries and winemakers. “There are no adjectives about wine in the book. I found out about the stories, the history and the philosphy of the wineries,” he explained.

So I leafed through the almost 600-page book to check the listing on Woodhouse Family Cellars, one of my favorite Woodinville wineries. Sure enough, the book discusses winery owner Bjiah Shah, winemaker Tom Campbell and the history of the winery and its five labels, Kennedy Shah, Darighe, Dussek, Maghie and Hudson.

And I totally agreed with Steve’s assessment of Woodhouse Family Cellars in the book: “Just when you were beginning to think that all Woodinville-based business-park winery settings were the same, Woodhouse Family Cellars shatters that image. It offers a top-notch tasting room designed to encourage its visitors to relax and enjoy its wines. That makes it a mandatory stop along the Woodinville Wine Trail South route.”

That listing is just one of many that will help readers decide which wineries to visit. The book also lists Steve’s favorites — favorite destination wineries, favorite winery views, favorite wineries for dining, favorite winery gift shops, favorite wineries to picnic and to wed!

In summary, the book is a celebration of Washington wineries and I can’t wait to read every single page!


Woodhouse Family Cellars Expands to Eastern Washington

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Puget Sound Business Journal broke the news on July 4th — Woodhouse Family Cellars eyes Yakima for new wine facility. Here’s the first part of the article, written by PSBJ staff writer Heidi Dietrich: (A subscription is required to read the rest of the article online.)

“A boutique Woodinville winery is raising $4 million to set up shop in Eastern Washington.

Woodhouse Family Cellars wants to buy land and build production facilities and tasting rooms in the Rattlesnake Hills area near Yakima. The move will allow Woodhouse to begin separating its five wine label brands.

Currently, all brands — Darighe, Dussek, Maghee, Kennedy Shah and Hudson Shah — are made and promoted at the winery’s single facility in Woodinville.

Woodhouse owner Bijal Shah wants to create distinct facilities and tasting rooms. He plans to begin by building wineries for Dussek and Maghee on the new Rattlesnake Hills property.”

Regular readers of this blog know I’m a big fan of Woodhouse Family Cellars wine and am a member of their wine club. I’ve also mentioned that we consider Bijal and his family as our friends now.

Best of luck, Bijal!


Wonderful Woodhouse

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As mentioned in a previous post, I recently took our friends from Vancouver, Sue and Robin, on a wine-tasting trip in Woodinville. Our first stop was Woodhouse Family Cellars. Sue and Robin loved it there because of the superb wines and the fun and knowledgeable people (Jennifer and Steve) who were pouring. Robin raved about the smoky 2003 Kennedy Shah Malbec, which he purchased and later opened to pair with barbequed steaks that weekend. Delicious on all counts!

I just had to pick up a few bottles because so many are our favorites — 2001 Darighe (Woodhouse’s high-end Bordeaux-style flagship wine), BLT Barrel Select Cabernet Sauvignon and 2006 Kennedy Shah Auntie Meredith’s Picnic Blend, which is perfect for a hot summer day on the deck.

In fact we sipped on some Picnic Blend last evening, after temperatures reached record highs in the Seattle area.


100 Best Wines of the Northwest

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Seattle Metropolitan magazine’s latest issue features “100 Best Wines of the Northwest” on the cover. The list contains some surprises by writers/tasters Condé Cox and Jessica Voelker. For example, 2005 Woodward Canyon Old Vines Cab ($79) has the top spot (congratulations!) while 2005 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon ($115) comes in at #12 .

But there are other choices that were comfortably predictable. The top ten list includes two favorites from Leonetti: 2006 Columbia Valley Merlot ($65) at #4 and 2005 Walla Walla Reserve blend ($125) at #7. Others in the top ten include 2005 DeLille Chaleur Estates Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot ($72) at #5 and 2005 Betz Pere de Famille blend ($55) at #9.  All three wineries placed more than once in the Top 100 list, also no surprise.

And one of our favorite wineries in Oregon, Domaine Drouhin, came in at #18 for its 2005 Lauréne Pinot Noir ($65) and at #67 for its 2006 Oregon Estate Pinot Noir ($45).

It was nice to see 2006 Guardian Cellars Gun Metal blend at #25 — we just picked up a couple of bottles a few weeks ago. And we welcomed the addition of Fall Line’s 2005 Horse Heaven Hills Red Blend at #82. Brian Carter Cellars hit the list for our favorite 2005 Solece at #51, along with 2005 Byzance at #68 and 2005 Tuttorosso blend at #92.

Other favorites: #31 was 2005 Otis Kenyon Syrah while 2004 Goose Ridge Sol Duc Meritage came in at #61, 2005 Nota Bene Cellars Syrah at #74, 2006 William Church Jennifer Syrah (which will be released very soon) at #76, and 2005 Arlington Road Monolith at #80.

But we were disappointed that Woodhouse Family Cellars didn’t enough recognition. Yes, it was listed for its fine 2005 Hudson Shah Viognier at #96. But what about the Woodhouse flagship wine, Darighe? I’m surprised that didn’t show up high on the list, let alone be omitted altogether.

Other favorites of ours are also missing (Alexandria Nicole, Nicholas Cole, Page, to name a few) but some did make the cut (Di Stefano, Buty, Erath, Zerba among others).

For the complete list of 100, you’ll have to get an issue of the magazine. Not only is the list a good read (even if I don’t agree with all of it) but there also is some cool wine photography by Jim Henkins.


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