Taste Washington: The Super Bowl of Wine Events

Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 12.02.23 PMMarch is officially Washington Wine Month, although we celebrate the state’s fabulous juice every month.

The March festivities culminate on March 29-30 at Taste Washington, the country’s largest single-region wine and food event. That’s just one of the reasons we call it “the Super Bowl of Washington state wine events.”

More than 200 wineries will be pouring at Century Link Field, 70 restaurants will be preparing tasty bites, and you can discover more about Washington wine at special seminars about the state’s wine industry, in addition to learning about wine-and-food pairings, wine blending and cooking with wine.

We highly recommend that you develop a plan for Taste Washington’s Grand Tasting before you enter the doors. Because once there, you will be hit with an explosion of taste potentials — and it can be overwhelming.

For example, one year we decided to only taste wines made from Cabernet Franc, as a standalone varietal. Another year, we decided to visit booths of some of our tried and favorite wineries plus five new ones.

Below is our initial list of the winery booths that we hope to visit this year. We will narrow the list down before the event, where we will taste at some booths and just stop by to say hello at others. And chances are something will catch our eye occasionally as we walk through the aisles, and we’ll make an on-the-spot decision to deviate from the list.

Note: We recommend tasting and spitting wine (or pouring it into the buckets at each booth) at this major event, but if you think you might want more than a sip or two, many hotels in the area are offering special weekend packages. Otherwise, be sure to have a designated driver, or take cabs or local transit home.

Of the 200 wineries pouring at Taste Washington, here is our long list of 35 of our favorites (in alphabetical order):

  1. Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  2. Amavi Cellars
  3. Andrew Will
  4. Avennia
  5. Barrister Winery
  6. Bartholomew Winery
  7. Betz Family Winery
  8. Boudreaux Cellars
  9. Buty Winery
  10. Charles Smith Wines/K Vintners
  11. Cooper Wine Company
  12. Double Canyon
  13. Doubleback
  14. Dunham Cellars
  15. EFESTE
  16. Fall Line Winery
  17. Fidelitas
  18. FIGGINS
  19. Force Majeure Vineyards
  20. Forgeron Cellars
  21. Gilbert Cellars
  22. Gorman Winery
  23. Guardian Cellars
  24. JM Cellars
  25. L’Ecole No 41
  26. Lauren Ashton Cellars
  27. Long Shadows Vintners
  28. Matthews & Tenor Wines
  29. Obelisco Estate Wines
  30. Sinclair Estate VIneyards
  31. Sleight of Hand Cellars
  32. Sparkman Cellars
  33. Va Piano Vineyards
  34. Walla Walla Vintners
  35. Woodward Canyon

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!

 

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon, California wineries, Chardonnay, Wine Comments Off

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 1.16.32 PM Chateau Montelena is a Napa Valley winery established in 1882 and famous for putting California on the international wine map in 1976. That’s when the winery’s 1973 Chardonnay won a blind tasting at the prestigious Judgment of Paris wine competition.

The historic victory was surprising to many, particularly in Europe where the expectation was for a French winner; a fictional version of the amazing event was featured in the 2008 film, Bottle Shock. (Notably, the Paris competition is just one highlight of Chateau Montelena’s rich history.)

Winemaker Mike Grgich — who later joined with Austin Hills to establish Grgich Hills — crafted the 1973 Chardonnay, which remains on display at Chateau Montelena’s only satellite tasting room in California, just off the lobby at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco.

The St. Francis was where I happened to be speaking about social media analytics at the Dreamforce 2013 conference last November and, not surprisingly, I was drawn to the tasting room to try the lineup

I was very lucky that the knowledgeable and friendly sommelier Cassandra Brown happened to be pouring that day. (Cassandra pours at several events and locations in the Bay area, so be sure to stop by to see her, if you have a chance. I know you’ll have both an educating and enjoyable time.)

First, I must applaud three of the winery’s whites: 2012 Potter Valley Riesling, which has a beautiful nose, layers of rich peach and apple, and only a touch of sugar;  2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay, so opulent and creamy; and the crisper 2010 Chard.

But what really captured my attention was Chateau Montelena’s Cabernet Sauvignon.

2009 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 1.52.32 PMThis is a wine with the “wow” factor: earthy, silky, rich and full-bodied, with berries and spice flavors, and an enticing mouthfeel. The Cabernet Sauvignon (98.25%) is rounded off with a splash of Cabernet Franc (1.75%).

According to the tasting notes:

The nose opens with big black cherry, currants, and plum spice cake notes. Underpinning all that fruit are layers of smoke, anise, and very subtle oak tones. The palate entry is soft and round, but builds quickly with loads of fine velvety tannin, huge black cherry, and red fruits that persist through to a rich finish layered with spice. A firm core of acid and barrel spice integrate beautifully across all layers, enhancing the structure and balance of this massive but approachable wine.

This winning wine is drinkable now, but the wow factor will be even more prominent in 7-10 years.

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 2.00.59 PM2010 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

In Napa Valley, Cabernet is King and this is one royal, robust red — a big, dense wine with concentrated fruit, and layers of berries woven with tones of vanilla and spice.

The Cabernet Sauvignon (91%) is blended with 7% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc.

Try drinking it now with a big juicy steak, like we did with the bottle I brought home from San Francisco, or if you have more patience, put it in the cellar for a few more years.

Cheers!

 

 

Efeste – True Love on Valentine’s Day

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

On Valentine’s Day, I fell in love with Big Papa all over again and developed a new crush on Nana. Thankfully, Dave feels the same way.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 4.58.43 PMOf course, we’re referring to Efeste‘s 2010 Big Papa Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 Nana, a three-vineyard and three-varietal blend, both made by winemaker extraordinaire Brennon Leighton. (Current Efeste winemaker Peter Devision has some magic up his sleeve too.)

2010 Big Papa Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon

This robust 100% Cabernet Sauvignon was drinking well in August 2013, when we last tasted it. Six months later, on Valentine’s Day, Big Papa demonstrated further why Wine Advocate bestowed Efeste with 94 points for this beauty and Wine Enthusiast just named it a Cellar Selection with 92 points.

Brennon used his signature minimalist approach with native fermentation, which resulted in a big, bold, complex and balanced wine, made from grapes sourced from mature vines in five of the state’s best vineyards: Klipsun, Bacchus, Sagemoor, Kiona and Red Willow.

We’ve been a fan of Big Papa since 2009, and I can guarantee that we will continue to advocate buying it year after year. It’s true love.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 5.18.33 PM2010 Nana Right Bank Bordeaux Blend

This is the only time I’ve written about Nana, but only because this is the first vintage. Elegant, refined, robust, strong yet supple, Nana showcases all the classic characteristics of a stellar Bordeaux blend from the Right Bank.

The mouthfeel is amazing, likely because my palate favors Cab Franc and Cab Sauv, both plentiful in this fine wine: 18% Stone Tree Cabernet Franc, 18% Angela’s Vineyard (Efeste’s Estate) Cabernet Franc and 18% Red Willow Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with 46% Red Willow Merlot.

Brennon also fermented this wine with indigenous yeast, which encourages more complexity and produces fuller, richer wines than those inoculated with commercial yeast.

We are new fans of this new wine, and I can guarantee that we will be buying more of this vintage, and in the years to come.

Both wines combine elegant aromas and flavors, ripe tannins and bright, juicy acidity, and are drinkable for another 10 years.

Now to see if we have the patience to cellar them instead of popping the cork in the near future.

Cheers!

Facts about Washington Wine

Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 9.31.42 AMEvery year around this time, we love to share facts about the wonderful wine industry in Washington state.

We hope you enjoy the 2014 version, courtesy of the Washington State Wine Commission.

Note: The average amount of summer sunshine in Washington state, compared to California, might surprise you!

Scroll down for details.

 

Facts about the Washington State Wine Industry

National rank: Second- largest premium wine producer in the United States

Number of wineries: 750+

Winery growth:

  • 1981 – 19 wineries
  • 1996 – 80 wineries
  • 1997 – 101 wineries
  • 1998 – 129 wineries
  • 1999 – 160 wineries
  • 2000 – 163 wineries
  • 2001 – 170 wineries
  • 2002 – 208 wineries
  • 2003 – 240 wineries
  • 2004 – 300 wineries
  • 2005 – 360 wineries
  • 2006 – 460 wineries
  • 2007 – 540 wineries
  • 2008 – 580 wineries
  • 2009 – 650 wineries
  • 2010 – 700 wineries
  • 2011 – 740 wineries
  • 2012 – 760 wineries
  • 2013 – 780 wineries

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 3.59.19 PM Number of wine grape growers: 350+

Appellations:
Thirteen American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), as recognized and defined by the United States Treasury Department; Alcohol & Tobacco Taxes & Trade Bureau.

  • Yakima Valley – 1983
  • Walla Walla Valley – 1984
  • Columbia Valley – 1984
  • Puget Sound – 1995
  • Red Mountain – 2001
  • Columbia Gorge – 2004
  • Horse Heaven Hills – 2005
  • Wahluke Slope – 2006
  • Rattlesnake Hills – 2006
  • Snipes Mountain – 2009
  • Lake Chelan – 2009
  • Naches Heights – 2011
  • Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley – 2012

Varieties produced: 30+ varietals

Leading white varietals:

  • Riesling
  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Gris
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Viognier
  • Semillon
  • Chenin Blanc

Leading red varietals:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Syrah
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Malbec
  • Pinot Noir
  • Sangiovese
  • Lemberger

Ratio of white to red:
55% white to 45% red

Wine production:
12-million cases

Wine grape acreage:
43,000+ acres

Estimated Direct Revenue:
Winery Revenue = $1 billion; Wine Related Tourism = $1.06 billion

Full-time equivalent wine-related jobs:
27,455 in Washington, 68,719 nationwide*

Average hours of summer sunlight:
16 hours per day, about 1 more hour than California’s prime growing region

Annual rainfall:
Eight inches (20.32 cm) in Eastern Washington (the major grape growing region) 48 inches (121.92 cm) in Western Washington

Wine production growth

  • 1981 – 2.0 million gallons (7.5 m liters)
  • 1996 – 5.3 million gallons (19.9 m liters)
  • 1997 – 9.6 million gallons (36.3 m liters)
  • 1998 – 10.9 million gallons (41.5 m liters)
  • 1999 – 10.0 million gallons (38.0 m liters)
  • 2000 – 14.0 million gallons (52.7 m liters)
  • 2001 – 15.5 million gallons (58.5 m liters)
  • 2002 – 17.7 million gallons (67.3 m liters)
  • 2003 – 17.3 million gallons (65.5 m liters)
  • 2004 – 16.5 million gallons (62.9 m liters)
  • 2005 – 19.0 million gallons (72.0 m liters)
  • 2006 – 20.0 million gallons (75.8 m liters)
  • 2007 – 20.0 million gallons (75.8 m liters)
  • 2008 – 21.4 million gallons (81 m liters)
  • 2009 – 25 million gallons (94.6 m liters)
  • 2010 – 20.1 million gallons (76.1 m liters)

*figures from the 2012 Economic Impact Study by Stonebridge Research

Cheers!

 

 

 

Get Ready for Washington Wine Month!

Walla Walla, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 12.02.23 PMAs far as we’re concerned, every month is Washington wine month, because we are major supporters of our state’s abundance of good juice.

From Woodinville to Walla Walla, vineyards (where it all begins) and wineries come together to produce exceptional wines to please every palate.

But March is officially Washington Wine Month, so please celebrate with us. If you haven’t joined the parade yet, now is a perfect time.

In addition to celebrating our state’s award-winning wine, the Washington Wine Commission offers March promotions at participating restaurants, wine shops, winery tasting rooms and even some hotels. The Commission’s website provides a calendar to see what is going on any day of the month.

The festivities culminate in what we call “the Super Bowl of Washington state wine events,” Taste Washington on March 29-30. (And you know how well the real one turned out! Go Hawks!)

Taste Washington is the country’s largest single-region wine and food event. More than 200 wineries will be pouring at Century Link Field, 70 restaurants will be preparing tasty bites, and you can learn more about Washington wine at special seminars about the state’s one industry, wine-and-food pairings, wine blending and cooking with wine.

It is important to note that we recommend tasting and spitting wine during your time at this major event, but if you think you might want more than a sip or two, many hotels in the area are offering special weekend packages.

We’ll be writing more about Taste Washington in the weeks ahead but until then, stop by some of the 750+ wineries in our state and celebrate Washington Wine Month.

Cheers!

 

Washington State Barbera

Barbera, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 3.59.19 PM Relatively speaking, Barbera is a newer grape in Washington state, often found near the cool growing climate of the Columbia Valley, in Horse Heaven Hills and Walla Walla.

Its native home is in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy; the grape arrived in California in the 19th century.

When crafted by experienced winemakers, Barbera somehow tastes both rich and light-bodied, with flavors of dark cherry, strawberries, plums, blackberries, vanilla and anise.

With low tannins, high acidity and juicy flavors, Barbera is a food-friendly palate-pleaser, particularly when paired with turkey, grilled chicken, pizza or spaghetti with meatballs. Or for something simple, try it with rich blue cheese or Reggiano Parmigiano. Delicious!

We have found a few excellent Barberas in Washington state:

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 3.59.02 PM

Unfortunately, many of these are now sold out, so please let us know if you’ve found an excellent Washington state Barbera.

Cheers!

Go Hawks & Go Quarry Butte!

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Congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks and their Super Bowl win! What an exciting time to be a Seahawks fan/12th Man.

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 2.11.33 PMWhat was in our glasses during the game? Quarry Butte from Alexandria Nicole Cellars!

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!

Go HAWKS!

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!

Go Seahawks!

Go Quarry Butte!

Cheers!

Windy Point-Beauty & Value

Bordeaux Blend, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Washington wineries, Wine Comments Off

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 10.50.22 AMWhen you drive between Seattle and Prosser or Walla Walla, be sure to stop at Windy Point Vineyards for a pour of some excellent value wines in a beautiful tasting room. Or if you’re looking for something different to do over a weekend, it’s worth the trip to Windy Point.

With stunning architecture and beautiful views of Yakima Valley, the well-designed tasting room is airy and comfortable, with a professional kitchen as the centerpiece.

Outside, you are surrounded by gently rolling hills, a small waterfall and a pond. And if you’re lucky, you’ll see some Mississippi sawbuck turtles raised at the vineyards.

And talk about value – our favorite Windy Point reds are priced between $17-$23, and we always seem to go home with a case. You can purchase the wine outside the tasting room but it’s much more fun to visit.

Here are the wines we enjoyed:

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 10.48.51 AM2007 Pointless Red ($17): A blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Cabernet Franc and 3% Merlot, Pointless is known for its four “E”s: estate-grown, economical, easy-drinking and “endlessly pleasing.”

2005 Cab Franc ($18): This vintage was awarded a platinum by Wine Press Northwest and a gold medal at the Washington State Wine Competition; the more recent 2006 Cab Franc ($20) won a silver medal at the Washington State Wine Competition.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20): Showing excellent potential, this Cab was just released. We were big fans of the 2004 Cab, so we’re cellaring the more recent vintage for a couple of years.

2007 !Exclamation Point! ($21): Windy Point’s signature wine is a rich blend of 60% Cab Franc and 40% Merlot, one of the winery’s best-sellers, a two-time gold medal winner and “best in show” at the Washington State Wine Competition.

2008 Moot Point ($23): This is an elegant Bordeaux-style blend at such a low price point: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% CabFranc and a splash of Malbec.

While some of these wines were lovely to drink on their own or with almonds and cheese, they also pair well with different foods. On the Windy Point website, you can find recipes, such as  Apple Wood Smoked Pork Loin Sandwich, Seared Halibut, Braised Colorado Lamb Shank or Wine Infused Beef Flank Steak with Savory Mushroom Napoleon, Crispy Root Vegetable Cakes & Red Wine Cream Sauce.

Cheers!

 

 

 

Coming Soon! Seattle Wine & Food Experience

California wineries, Carlton Wine Country, Events, Oregon wineries, Washington wineries, Wine, Woodinville Comments Off

You’d better move quickly – tickets are now on sale for the Seattle Wine and Food Experience at Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. If you like good wine, beer and food, mark your calendars for this delicious experience on Feb. 23, from 1-5 p.m.

New this year is a VIP experience,which includes a one-hour early entry, an event tote bag, wine glass and tasting plate, plus an opportunity to win a variety of wine-related prizes.

This year’s featured region is Woodinville Wine Country, with pours from many excellent wineries, including Alexandria Nicole Cellars,  Lauren AshtonObelisco and The Woodhouse Wine Estates. Other Washington AVAs are represented by Double Canyon, Kiona and Red Mountain AVA Alliance, among others.

Some of our Oregon favorites — Seven of HeartsKing Estate and Willamette Valley Vineyards – will be be pouring, along with wineries from California, Idaho, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Argentina.

You can find a full list of wineries that will be pouring, along with beer and ciderspirits, and coffeein addition to information about numerous restaurants serving gourmet bites, at the Seattle Wine and Food Experience websiteTickets are $55.

It’s important to note – this is the sixth annual SWFE, which is testimony to the reputation and following that this event, with its explosion of tastes, has generated in Seattle. 

So run, don’t walk to get your tickets! We hope to see you there.

Cheers!

Time to Try Gard

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Wine Comments Off

Gard Vintners was created in 2006 by the Lawrence family, who has been farming the Royal Slope, near Royal City in the Columbia Valley, for more than 45 years. We enjoyed some of Gard wines a few years ago, but hadn’t tasted any recently.

So we were delighted when we received three samples of Gard wines from Lawrence Estate Vineyards on the Frenchman Hills in the Columbia Valley AVA.

We had been told that Gard wines had developed over the years and indeed, that is absolutely right.

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 5.11.18 PM2009 Syrah Reserve packed a punch from the minute we opened the bottle.

Super dark, super ripe, super layered and super intense, this magnificent wine is smoky, earthy and powerful with a hint of black pepper.

Pair it with barbecued anything or a nice spicy bowl of spaghetti, or drink it alone, simply enjoying the lingering taste that builds sip after sip. (Released May 2012, $45)

2010 Syrah is an incredible value at $29. We recommend decanting this medium-bodied wine for an hour or two to truly experience its evolution into a rich and silky mouthfeel. Or better yet, cellar it for 2-4 years and prepare to be wowed. (Released May 2013)

2011 Don Isidro Red is a medium-bodied blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Syrah and 8% Merlot that will complement a meal such as roast beef, beef stew or even a good steak. At $22, this red could be described as an easy-drinking, food-friendly value wine that could grace any table. (Released September 2013)

Props to Gard winemaker Aryn Morell – we are adding Gard Vintners to our list of favorites.

Cheers!

 

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