Big Washington Wine Weekend

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The Washington Wine Wench reminds everyone that this weekend is major in Washington wine country! As mentioned earlier, the annual St. Nick’s weekend is in Woodinville on Saturday and Sunday. It’s one of our favorite wine events of the year because we can visit our favorites plust lots of wineries that are rarely or never open to the public.

Participating wineries include: Adams Bench, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Anton Ville, Arlington Road Cellars, Brian Carter Cellars, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Winery, Covington Cellars, Cuillin Hills Winery, Des Voignes Cellars, Di Stefano Winery, Edmonds Winery, Efeste Wine Cellars, Hestia Cellars, Hollywood Hill Vineyards, Januik Winery, J. Bookwalter Winery, Matthews Estate, Northwest Totem Cellars, Novelty Hill Winery, Page Cellars, Red Sky Winery, Ross Andrew Winery, Silver Lake Winery, Sparkman Cellars, Stevens Winery, William Church Winery, Woodhouse Family Cellars, Woodinville Wine Cellars and XSV Wines.

Meanwhile, it’s also a big weekend in Walla Walla. From Thursday through Sunday, more than 80 wineries are  celebrating harvest with special barrel tastings, food, music and good cheer. Find out details at the Walla Walla Wine News website.

Information about St. Nicks can be found at Woodinville Wine Country’s web site. Note: Sunday-only tickets are sold out.


Excellent Efeste

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We heard the buzz about Efeste Wines for months but could never organize our schedule with their openings in Woodinville. So I am delighted to tell you that Efeste’s tasting room is now open every weekend — Fridays through Sundays — from noon to 4 p.m.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, we stopped by on St. Nick’s weekend earlier this month and met Brennon Leighton, winemaker extraordinaire, along with owners Kevin and Angie Taylor, who are very passionate about their wines.

Now, as much as I rave about Washington wines, I do not call all winemakers “extraordinaire.” If you try Brennon’s wines, you will understand. His wines are most excellent — he is creating some softer wines with native fermentation, and they really are unique. And what a mouthfeel!

For example, “Jolie Bouche,” which appropriately means “pretty mouth” in French, is the name of Brennon’s 2006 Syrah, expected to be released in March. We pre-ordered it after barrel-tasting the 2007 Jolie Bouche, which was such a winner!  We would have taken a bottle (or two) home with us then and there, if we could have.

Other Efeste wines that we enjoyed: 2005 Ceidleigh Syrah (pronounced kay-lee), which is dense, lush and elegant and 2005 Final-Final — it’s the last or final blend that Efeste makes. Chris Upchurch of DeLille Cellars, known for his bold reds, consulted on the creation of both these two big reds.

If you haven’t stopped by Efeste, I recommend that you make it a priority in the future!

And in case you’re wondering, their website explains the cool name — Efeste, pronounced F-S-T, is an acronym for Daniel & Helen Ferrelli – Patrick Smith – and Kevin & Angela Taylor, the winery founders.


Did you go to Passport or Taste Washington?

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Unfortunately, I was not able to attend either of these awesome Washington wine events after all. Did you go? What are your thoughts? What were your favorite wines and/or wineries? Did you meet any interesting winemakers? Other industry peeps? New friends? Did you get to wineries that aren’t usually open to the public? How were the appetizers at Passport wineries? (They were awesome at St. Nick’s wine weekend last December!)

Please share your thoughts and observations about Passport and/or Taste Washington with all my readers, since I wasn’t there! On the bright side, I am planning to attend Washington Wine Highway next month!



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Anything with a name like WineCHATr is naturally going to pique my interest! And I decided that it was finally time to blog about it.

We first saw WineCHATr promoted at Woodinville Wine Country’s St. Nick’s weekend last December. A few months earlier, I had discovered WineCOW (Wine Connection of Washington) when I linked to it in this blog. But it wasn’t until early this month that I made the connection between WineCHATr and WineCOW. Perhaps the caps in both names should have been a hint?

That connection is Marcus Pape, who also happens to be an author!

Earlier this month, I discovered that Marcus was holding a signing for his new book, Eat & Drink in the Northwestat Brian Carter Cellars in Woodinville. So it seemed time to finally meet him and also taste the latest vintage of Brian Carter’s flagship wine, Solesce. My conclusions? The BCC Bordeaux-style wine continues to be rich and robust. Eat & Drink in the Northwest is an inspiring collection of seasonal “Northwest-inspired” food and wine pairings. And finally, Marcus has some great ideas for WineCHATr.

What is WineCHATr? Let’s go to the Web site to see how it’s described: is bringing both sides of the wine community together, wine drinkers and wine businesses, in order to create the ultimate online resource for everything wine related. … We’ve built upon the popularity of social networking and added a purpose. That purpose is to connect people and businesses with similar interests, in this case WINE, and provide them a space to share and learn.

The Web site goes on to explain the benefits to both individuals who love wine and businesses in the wine industry. Stay tuned for some exciting growth in the months ahead.


Cheers for Chatter Creek!

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Once again my marvellous nephew, Mathew, introduced us to a winner — Chatter Creek, which we finally had a chance to visit during St. Nick’s weekend earlier this month. As I mentioned at the time, owner and winemaker Gordon Rawson poured us some very balanced, fruit-forward wines and one of our favorites was 2005 Chatter Creek Blend 105.

We brought some home with us and decided it was perfect to open it during the holidays. The bottle modestly calls it “red table wine.” Well, yes it is, but so much more! This is a balanced blend of Merlot (39.6%), Cabernet Sauvignon (35.8%), Malbec (7.2%), Cab Franc (12.4%) and Petit Verdot (5%). And what a finish. Here are the tasting notes:

“This wine sparkles with bright, ruby color. Ripe and forward, a blend of violets, cassis, and black cherry, jump from the nose. Good acid on the attack of this wine carries through the lead pencil and quartz notes, warming to plummy cherry and blueberry fruit. The finish continues the interplay of the fruit and terroir, framed in by notes of toasted almonds and vanilla bean. A wine that boasts of tremendous balance and attentive winemaking.”

According to Gordon, when he makes blends, “I let whimsy take me where it will.” We adored it! And with a $22 price point, we recommend you stop by their tasting room in Woodinville and pick up a bottle or more.


EFESTE Rocks Reds and Whites

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efesteIn the last couple of months, we found ourselves drawn, like magnets, to several EFESTE wines – the rich Big Papa Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon, the smooth Final Final red blend and the robust Eleni Syrah, in addition to long-time favorites, Ceidleigh and Jolie Bouche Syrah.

We’re in good company for recognizing EFESTE’s fine wines, created with an individual twist and an amazing talent by winemaker Brennon Leighton.

For example, Washington wine expert Paul Gregutt recently recognized Brennon’s Lola Chardonnay:

“Leighton’s Lola is the sort of wine that makes you rethink domestic chardonnay entirely – it is light years beyond the dull, apple-flavored juice, sometimes slathered in new oak, that generally typifies the category. … When first opened, the 2009 Lola had me immediately gushing: “This is as good as the best from California – textural, creamy, a delicious mix of lemon custard, meringue, caramel, papaya and toasted coconut. At one third the price of comparable bottles, this young wine just seduces from the instant it hits the tongue.”

Gregutt also named EFESTE’s 2007 Big Papa Cab as No. 26 on the list of Top 100 Washington wines in The Seattle Times. Meanwhile, I called Big Papa a “Must-Have Cabernet Sauvignon” in my article, Must-Have Bottles of Wine in Seattlelite Magazine.

Brennon at EFESTE

In 2009, Seattle Magazine hailed Brennon as Winemaker to Watch and Efeste Wines as the Best New Winery. These days, Brennon is indeed considered a star  in the Washington wine world.

But he remains exactly the same as when we first met him in 2008 – open, blunt, sharp and passionate, a talented man whom my mother would have said “pulls no punches,” and an artist who also likes to experiment.

Actually, everyone from EFESTE is passionate, smart and fun – Daniel and Helen Ferrelli, Kevin and Angie Taylor, and Patrick Smith. I’m happy to say that Dave and I have become friends with the wonderful group at EFESTE, and I’ve helped them with Twitter for almost a year.

But it began with the wine. We first tasted the wine at St. Nick’s in 2008 and instantly became members of EFESTE’s Inner Circle wine club. The friendships developed over time.

If you’re in the Woodinville area, stop by EFESTE’s tasting room. Try their wines, chat to anyone there, and we fully expect you’ll have a great time.


Who Has a Pretty Mouth?

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"Pretty Mouth"

EFESTE, that’s who – with their oh-so-drinkable Jolie Bouche Syrah. “Jolie Bouche” translates from French to “pretty mouth” – a perfect name for a Syrah with a wonderful mouthfeel.

Back on Dec. 8, 2008, my blog post declared EFESTE’s Jolie Bouche Syrah a winner.  Year after year, it remains a favorite.

The previous day, Dec. 7,  2008 at St. Nick’s Open House Weekend in Woodinville, was when we a) first barrel-tasted the 2007 Jolie Bouche release at EFESTE; b) pre-ordered 2006 Jolie Bouche; and c) joined EFESTE’s Inner Circle Wine Club.

Ever since, we’ve been big advocates of EFESTE , winemaker Brennon Leighton, and winery owners Daniel and Helen Ferrelli, Patrick Smith and Kevin and Angela Taylor.” (EFESTE is pronounced like the letters “F, S, T” for the first initials of the last names of the owners.)

We’re not particularly patient when it comes to wines we love – we drank most of our 2006 Jolie Bouche within a couple of months of its arrival. But somehow we managed to cellar one bottle, which we savored last week.

"EFESTE Jolie Bouche"As we tasted it, we were reminded of a review in Wine Advocate,  which rated 2006 Jolie Bouche at 90 points:

The purple-colored 2006 Jolie Bouche Syrah spent 20 months in 24% new French oak. It offers up an expressive nose of cedar, incense, violets, blueberry, and blackberry. Medium to full-bodied, ripe and savory on the palate, it displays some elegance, good balance, and a fruit-filled finish. It will continue to blossom for another 2-3 years and drink well through 2018. -Jay Miller for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

This beautiful wine did indeed blossom in the three years since we first tasted it, becoming even more elegant and full-bodied. In fact, the pretty mouth developed into a gorgeous mouthfeel.

We now, of course, wish we had cellared more!

Not surprisingly, the most-recent release, 2008 Jolie Bouche Syrah is sold out. After all, it received 95 points from Wine Spectator. But the good news is 2009 Jolie Bouche will be released in the fall of 2011 – just  few months away.

We can’t wait!

To find out more about EFESTE and winemaker Brennon Leighton, read my article in Seattleite Magazine.


Big Winemaker News at EFESTE

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Winemaker extraordinaire Brennon Leighton is becoming a consulting winemaker at EFESTE in Woodinville and after Crush 2012, he will be relocating to eastern Washington near EFESTE’s vineyards and taking on additional projects with other wineries.

He personally selected winemaker Peter Devison, formerly from Apex, Alder Ridge and Willow Creek, to join him on an expanded EFESTE winemaking team “because of his experience in reductive winemaking — a distinctive old-world style seldom seen in Washington.”

“Peter’s knowledge of our winemaking style is incredible,” Brennon explained. “We have similar philosophies and perspectives that will make for a great progression. It’s like being in a foreign country and finding someone who can speak your language.”

Regular readers of this blog know we’ve been fans of Brennon and EFESTE for years. My article about Brennon in Seattleite Magazine landed him in third spot in the magazine’s Top Ten newsmakers of the year (2011).

We first met him in 2008, when we barrel-tasted Jolie Bouche during a St. Nick’s event in Woodinville. We instantly became members of EFESTE’s Inner Circle wine club, and applauded when the next year, 2009, Seattle Magazine hailed Brennon as Winemaker to Watch and EFESTE as the Best New Winery.

As his star rose, Brennon remained constant – open, blunt, funny, sharp and passionate, a talented man whom my mother would have said “pulls no punches,” an artist who also likes to experiment and a thinker who reads several books a week.

We’ve also written numerous posts about Efeste’s award-winning wines such as Feral Sauvignon Blanc, Jolie Bouche Syrah,  Lola Chardonnay and Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon, my personal favorite (although it’s hard to choose).

EFESTE’s new winemaker, Peter Devision, is fortunate to join Brennon and the owners whose last names make up the letters that spell EFESTE: Daniel and Helen Ferrelli, Patrick Smith, and Kevin and Angie Taylor are also passionate about wine, dedicated to several worthy causes, and fun to hang out with in the tasting room.

Devison began working with Brennon for crush 2012, taking place now.

We look forward to meeting him. In addition to talking wine, we have Canada in common – he’s from Nova Scotia and worked in my hometown, Vancouver before moving to Washington state.


Mark Ryan Winery

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One of the highlights of St. Nick’s weekend earlier this month was finally visiting Mark Ryan Winery’s tasting room and having an opportunity to chat with the winemaker himself. We have tried frequently in the past to stop by the Woodinville tasting room, but it’s not always open. All I can say is it was worth the wait!

First, we tasted a barrel sample of the new 2006 Wild Eyed Syrah from Red Mountain. This powerhouse red rocked! According to the tasting notes, “Deeply colored, dense and rich, the wine exudes black plum and berries with notes of chocolate, smoke and bacon.” We wanted to take some of it home, but its release date isn’t until March. Instead, we lapped up the most delicious meatballs in the world! (Yes, in true Woodinville wine weekend style, some of the wineries went all out with excellent selections of appetizers to taste along with the wine.)

Mark Ryan himself is frequently called Woodinville’s rising star, but he’s as down to earth as he looks in photos on his Web site. I talked to him about his fabulous wines and his new venture, Guardian Cellars, with Jerry Reiner.

Back in November, we first tried Mark Ryan’s 2005 Dead Horse when my nephew Mathew, with his excellent palate, ordered a bottle with a lucious dinner at Daniel’s Broiler in Bellevue. We also read rave reviews of 2005 The Dissident. (Who wouldn’t love a wine with a name like that?) So it was no surprise that we bought a couple of bottles of those two wines to take home with us.

And we’ll be in line in March for the new 2006 Wild Eyed Syrah, most definitely!


William Church 2006 Bishop’s Blend

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If you’re looking for a value red blend that’s a super Washington wine, stop by William Church Winery and pick up a bottle of 2006 Bishop’s Blend. At a $19 price point, it’s a winner!

But you’ll have to wait until Saturday March 7, when it’s released at the Woodinville tasting room from noon to 5 p.m. Trust me, it will be worth the trip from the Seattle area.

Leslie and Rod of William Church can’t wait to release this all-occasion red wine “that is truly a labor of love as we blended and blended until we got it just right.  Primarily Cabernet Sauvignon it also contains Merlot, Malbec, Petite Verdot, Syrah and Sangiovese. See what we mean! Layers of rich fruit create an exceptionally complex wine priced for the times at only $19/bottle.”

We first tasted this fine wine at St. Nick’s weekend and recently picked up a pre-release (or two). It paired very well with London Broil – and it also paired nicely on another evening with some sharp cheese.

We hope to see you at the winery on March 7.


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