One of our favorite wines is Cabernet Franc, which is one of the main varieties in Bordeaux blends.
Many people don’t realize that Cab Franc is one of the genetic parents to Cabernet Sauvignon; the other is Sauvignon Blanc. In addition to Washington state, you can find it planted in California and in the Bordeaux and Loire regions in France.
Cab Franc is typically used as a blending wine to add more complexity to the robust Cabernet Sauvignon or more structure to the softer Merlot. But Cab Franc is also created as a single-varietal wine; in other words, a stand-alone wine.
When blended, it adds both a subtly and an “oomph” to Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties. But on its own, quite simply, Cabernet Franc is amazing.
Cab Franc is known for its complex aromas of cherry and berry, with notes of herbs, spices, chocolate, cedar, and even violets. Frequently wine enthusiasts describe the nose as a peppery perfume.
The hot climate in Walla Walla and Yakima Valley is perfectly suited to ripen the Cab Franc fruit. Wineries in Lake Chelan have also produced some fine vintages.
We’ve enjoyed many excellent stand-alone Washington state Cab Francs over the years, including a beautiful Matthews Estate 2003 Conner Lee Cab Franc, an elegant 2004 from Corliss Estates, a robust 2012 Outcast from Barrage Cellars, and a rich 2012 Cooper Estate Red Mountain Cabernet Franc.
Here are some other Washington state wineries that, in our opinion, produce the Cab Franc grape as a shining single-varietal wine.
Hope Family Winesis a pioneer in Paso Robles wine country, established 30 years ago and still family-owned and operated.
Five brands are in their barrels and bottles, three of which we experienced recently during a Twitter tasting sponsored by the winery and Boston Wine Expo.
2013 Liberty School Merlot, $16
This medium-bodied wine is ruby in color, and packed with flavors. Dense and earthy with blackberries, blueberries and plum, with a hint of dark chocolate and spice, this is one good-value, good-tasting Merlot. Try pairing it with pizza or burgers.
Troublemaker Blend 8, $20 Troublemaker is a Rhone-style blend that is distinctly Paso: 46% Syrah, 14% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre, 25% Zinfandel 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!
2012 Treana Red, $45 While we enjoyed the first two wines, our favorite is Treana, the flagship and benchmark blend of Hope Family Wines since 1996. Of course we liked it best — it’s Cab-based (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah) and has a velvety mouthfeel. Bold, rich and spicy, this beauty will definitely pair well with Valentine’s Day.
Special thanks to our hosts, who gave us free samples so we could participate in the Twitter tasting.
We recently sampled three red wines from the Columbia Crest Reserve program — a layered red blend and two robust Cab Sauvs — all of which we recommend if you like your wine big and smooth.
These wines were free samples provided by Columbia Crest, which is located in Horse Heaven Hills, next to the Columbia River in eastern Washington. After tasting them, we can say that we would buy all three, particularly the Reserve Cab from Red Mountain — it speaks to our palate!
Columbia Crest 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain
This big Cab received 91 points from Wine Spectator a couple of months ago, and if you like your Cabs chewy and juicy, this one is for you. Layered and dense, it has a mouthfeel that is classic Red Mountain. $38, 300 cases produced
Columbia Crest 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
Also receiving 91 points from Wine Spectator, this is one smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, true to its varietal character. Textured, big and bold, this wine pairs well with a big juicy steak. $45, 6,700 cases produced
Columbia Crest 2011 Walter Clore Private Reserve Red Wine Columbia Valley
Regular readers of this blog know we are big fans of good Bordeaux blends, and this one fits the bill. Spice and earthy notes flow into layers of flavor and texture in this blend of 68% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Cab Franc. $35, 4,990 cases produced
Any of these three wines would pair nicely with Valentine’s Day and chocolates!
Congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks and their NFC Championship win – wow, what a nail biter.
And three cheers to Quarry Butte from Alexandria Nicole Cellars, which was our drink of choice during the Hawks’ playoff games to the Super Bowl in 2014, and through their run to the Super Bowl this season.
During Sunday’s intense game against the Packers, we opened two bottles, counting on our lucky Quarry Butte to keep us cheering while the dogs, wearing their Seahawks bandanas, barked at the TV!
What a comeback! Seattle, Washington state and the 12th Man everywhere went crazy! So did our #12thDogs!
Up next the Super Bowl – Go Hawks! We will continue our superstitious tradition of drinking Quarry Butte throughout the big game!
We have been fans of Quarry Butte since 2007, when we first tasted the 2004 and 2005 vintages. And the current 2011 vintage pairs well with Hawks wins, just like the 2010 vintage did last year.
The 2010 vintage — a double gold winner at Seattle Wine Awards — is a beautiful blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 12% Syrah, 9% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.
At $25, it’s a perfect showcase for ANC’s theme of “Approachable Elegance.”
We have been fans of Quarry Butte since 2007, when we first tasted the 2004 and 2005 vintages.
More recently, we opened a bottle of 2010 Quarry Butte during the Jan. 19 game between the Seahawks and 49ers, and the Hawks won. Being superstitious, it seemed fitting to also open a bottle during the Super Bowl. The Hawks won!
We also heard that the recently released 2011 Quarry Butte is a winner!
Regardless of vintage, Quarry Butte has always been a complex wine with bold flavors. It drinks well with a rich steak or a robust beef stew.
But best of all, it drinks well with a winning Seahawks team!
There are handful of annual wine events in the Seattle area that we think are “must-go-to” good times. Seattle Wine and Food Experience (SWFE) is one of them. It’s a super popular event, so we suggest that you run, don’t walk, to get tickets for this wine and food extravaganza on Feb. 22 at Seattle Center Exhibition Hall.
As in previous years, this event showcases wine, food, beer, cider and spirits, starting with a tour of the wine world right at home in Woodinville wine country. Seriously, what’s not to love?
In addition to a long list of Washington wineries, SWFE also showcases wine from Oregon, California, Idaho, Argentina, France, Italy, Portugal, Israel and Uruguay.
You’ll even find beer, cider, vodka, rum, gin and bourbon. And don’t forget Top Pot Doughnut and Coffee Bar.
Gourmet bites will be prepared by Northwest chefs, and “featured experiences” include the Les Dames d’Escofier Alley’s culinary products, food and beverages.
And this year, a new stellar event has been added to the already fantastic lineup: a Saturday night kick-off event hosted by Seattle magazine. POP! Bubbles & Seafood will feature Northwest seafood from many of Seattle’s best restaurants and Champagne, sparkling wine, cider and beer.
Both events benefit Les Dames d’Escoffier Seattle, a non-profit organization of women leaders in food, beverage and hospitality, focusing on raising funds for scholarships for women in the culinary, beverage, and hospitality industries, and also supports community outreach programs and sustainable-agriculture projects based in Washington state.
As 2014 winds down and a new year begins, we want to reflect on the wineries in Washington state that made our list of Top 50 Washington Wineries.
The way to get on our list is fairly simple; we only have two criteria: wineries must offer good juice and good people who provide an excellent wine experience. Perhaps we had fun or learned something in a tasting room. Perhaps someone from the winery gave us a call, sent us a personal note or samples. Or perhaps we were invited to an incredible wine event.
These people might be the winemakers or the winery owners; in some cases, they are the hard-working staff in a tasting room who went out of their way to make us feel welcome.
To these people, we thank you; we support you. Cheers to Washington state wine!
Top 50 Washington Wineries (in alphabetical order):
Alexandria Nicole Cellars
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Cooper Wine Company
Hard Row to Hoe
Northwest Totem Cellars
Sleight of Hand
Vin du Lac
Walla Walla Vintners
Woodhouse Wine Estates
We wanted to add Leonetti, Reynvaan, Cayuse, Andrew Will, Abeja, Amavi and others to the list because of their stellar wines, but we haven’t yet experienced their tasting rooms or met people from those wineries. Hopefully in 2015!
Cheers – happy holidays and happy new year!
Margot and Dave
Write for Wine — it’s Wine O’clock Somewhere!
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.
2011 Malbec: Unfortunately for us, the 2011 Malbec is sold out — not surprisingly, since Seattle Met called this double-gold award winning wine a “textbook example of Washington Malbec.” We first tasted the 2006 vintage, and before we knew it, William Church Malbec was recognized as the best in the state.
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.
You might have seen the phrase “What’s in Your Glass Lately” on your social network channels. We decided to answer with some excellent wines that we’ve enjoyed over the past six months. In no particular order:
Taste of Tulalip is always one of the best wine and food events in the Seattle area, and this year was no exception. The sixth annual Taste of Tulalip was an explosion of flavours for every palate.
Kicking off the event Friday evening at Tulalip Resort was the Celebration Dinner, an incredible six-course meal paired with excellent wines. While the entire dinner was beyond magnificent, our ultimate favorites were:
Creamy Jerusalem Artichoke soup, pumpkin seed pesto, creme fruit and crispy leek straws (Chef Brent Clarkson), paired with d’s Wicked Hard Cider “Baked Apple,” Kennewick, WA
Seared scallop with green papaya slaw, micro Asian mallow, golden edamame shoots, with ginger lime vinaigrette and aged balsamic (Chef John Ponticelli), paired with 2012 Alleromb Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, WA
Blackberry sockeye salmon lox popsicle and salmon souse vide over toasted hazelnut pesto (Chef David Buchanan), paired with 2012 Kosta Browne Russian River Pinot Noir, CA
New York strip, dry aged 46 days, tarragon beurre blanc and New York strip, aged 28 days, wild cranberry demi, with cambazola-mascarpone “Twinkie” (Executive Chef Perry Mascitti), paired with 2011 Leonetti Cellars Reserve blend, Walla Walla, WA
Chef Perry also provided another special treat during the dinner. He not only wowed the house with his, and his team’s, creative and delicious dishes, but also brought down the house with his showmanship by joining the band for a rocking version of “All Night Long.”
There were several musicians entertaining during the dinner, but Daniel Parks of Las Vegas had people on their feet dancing. From old-school Beatles and Neil Diamond tunes to perfect covers of Happy and Blurred Lines, this young man was a star. We hope to see him again; we can’t say enough good things about Daniel Park’s talent.
Can you tell that we totally enjoyed the Celebration Dinner?
Saturday offered a wide variety of things to do at Taste of Tulalip. We decided to spend our time at the Magnum Party and Grand Tasting.
There were two Magnum parties held simultaneously — one for old-world wine and one for new world wine. At the old-world tasting, we sipped an incredible 1985 Bordeaux blend from Chateau Lynch-Bages Pauillac in France — a chateau we visited during our trip to that wine region in 2005. This wine is drinking marvelously right now! We also tasted a pour from a $300-bottle of a Bordeaux blend, which combined Merlot and Cabernet Franc from St Emillion, France.
Hard as it was to leave the old-world event, we thoroughly delighted in excellent new-world wines too: Opus One 2007 Bordeaux blend from California; a lovely 2008 Shiraz from Penfolds in Australia; and our home-grown beauty, 2011 Betz Pere de Famille.
I also won a very cool gift pack that featured the Taste of Tulalip wine blend from the event’s honorary 2014 winemaker, Sean Boyd from Woodinville Wine Cellars. Special coffee and a gorgeous Tulalip medallion were also included in the gift.
How did I win it? Simple – I knew the answer to the trivia question, “Who is the Executive Chef at Tulalip Resort?” Even if I hadn’t already known it, how could I miss after his star musical performance the night before?
Next came the Grand tasting; how could this event make a mark after the activities already outlined above? Easy – we had an opportunity to see our friends and sip wine from some of our favorite Washington wineries: Obelisco Estate, Barrage Cellars, Avennia, Doubleback, Efeste, Gorman Winery, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Figgins, Force Majeure and Woodinville Wine Cellars.
Plus we had a taste of a magnificent red blend from Craggy Range, a winery we enjoyed when we were in New Zealand last May.
Special thanks to Norma Rosenthal and Allan Aquila for the invitation!
If you’ve never been to Taste of Tulalip, please bookmark this page, so you will remember to get your tickets for the 2015 event!