Snoqualmie Wines for Earth Day

April 22 is Earth Day, a great time to open a bottle of value wine from Snoqualmie Vineyards. According to the winery, they have the largest certified organic vineyard in Washington state.

“Whether it’s in our vineyard, the winery or in our packaging, Snoqualmie wines are made using sustainable and organic practices and are designed to showcase the best winemaking techniques and vineyard selections.”

  • Vineyard – Weather stations and soil moisture-measuring probes monitor water use and eliminate wasted water.
  • Winery – A recycling program includes paper, glass, cork and aluminum waste that reduces solid waste by more than 8%. Eco-friendly energy options in the winery have reduced electricity usage by 30% in the last five years.
  • Packaging – ECO glass bottles are among the lightest in the industry, printed materials are on 100% post-consumer waste material stock, and corks and labels are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Part of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Snoqualmie Vineyards sent us a few samples of the latest releases of their good value, every-day wines to taste. We recommend them as a great entry-level experience into the world of wines – on Earth Day or any day of the year.

Snoqualmie 2015 ECO Chardonnay ($13)
Snoqualmie’s ECO wines are produced from 100% organically grown grapes from USDA-certified organic vineyards in the Columbia Valley. No oak was used in this Chardonnay, so the result is a refreshing taste of crisp fruit flavors. Pair it with crab, other seafood dishes, chicken or a summer salad.

Snoqualmie 2015 ECO Cabernet Sauvignon ($13)
This Cabernet Sauvignon is also made from organically grown fruit in the Columbia Valley. It is a good value if you like fruity Cabs; you’ll find it bursting with fruit aromas and jammy flavors. Pair it with most meat dishes or fragrant cheeses.

Snoqualmie 2014 Syrah Columbia Valley ($10)
This value Syrah offers dark fruit on the nose, with flavors of chocolate, smoke and a bit of spice, coffee and pepper. Pair it with pizza, lasagna or pasta.

Snoqualmie 2015 Winemaker’s Select Riesling ($8)
If you like your Rieslings crisp and refreshing, sweet but tart, give this Winemaker’s Select a try. Almost 6% of Viognier was added to round out the Riesling. The nose is a lovely blend of pear, apple, honey and apricot aromas, followed by a light mouthfeel of spice and fruit. Pair it with seafood dishes, crab or smoked salmon.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

 

 

Washington State Crushes Wine Grape Harvest Record

The state’s record for its wine grape harvest was crushed in 2016, according to a report released by the Washington State Wine Commission.

The commission’s Annual Grape Production Report showed 2016 had the biggest wine grape harvest in the state’s history: the 2016 harvest totaled 270,000 tons, a 22-percent increase over 2015 and easily surpassing the previous record harvest of 227,000 tons in 2014.

The largest growth came from Cabernet Sauvignon, with a 23,700-ton increase. This also meant that Cab Sauv was the top-producing variety grown in the state — 71,100 tons or 26% of the total. Merlot was ranked second, at 48,400 tons or 18% of the total. Syrah came in third of the reds, at 21,300 tons, followed by Cab Franc at 4,300. Malbec rounded off the top five reds at 2,700.

Overall, red varieties accounted for 58% of the total production, compared to 51% in 2015.

Chardonnay was the top white grape and third overall at 45,000 tons, while Riesling was right behind it at 41,300 tons. Sauvignon Blanc was ranked third among whites, trailing with 9,800 tons, followed by Pinot Gris at 8,700 and Gewurtztraminer at 2,600.

A sign of further growth — there are now more than 900 winery licenses in Washington State.

“2016 was a year for the record books,” said Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission, which represents every licensed winery and grape grower in the state. “Not only did we see our biggest harvest ever – but it was a great harvest. The weather in Eastern Washington cooled down a bit to extend the growing season and allow the grapes some extra time to mature on the vine. Our growers and winemakers are extremely excited about these wines.”

Further details are available in Annual Grape Production Report.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

More Thanksgiving Wines

ThanksgivingThanksgiving is behind us, but we bet we’re not the only ones still eating leftovers! So here are some more wines to pair with turkey, in addition to the ones we told you about before the holiday.

Again, these are wines that were sent to us to sample over the holidays. Thank you to the wineries who shared their bounty!

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-5-23-05-pmJoseph Phelps Vineyard 2014 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($55)
This is the 10th vintage of Pinot Noir sourced from two of the winery’s estate vineyards in Freestone, CA — 51% from the Quarter Moon Vineyard and 49% from the Pastorale Vineyard.

The 2014 Pinot Noir is a powerful combination of fruity and savory, with earthy notes and flavors of black fruit and spices. Enjoy it now (with decanting) or over the next five years. From the winemaker:

“The 2014 Pinot Noir showcases aromatic red fruit, fragrant violet and savory spices. Fresh and focused on the palate with concentrated red raspberry and cherry, currant, baking spices and a hint of smoked meat. Nicely textured with firm acidity and a lingering finish.”

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-6-11-45-pmCraggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 ($45)
We loved (and wrote about) the 2009 vintage of this beautiful New Zealand Pinot Noir, so we knew we wanted to open the 2013 vintage with our Thanksgiving feast. It received a unanimous thumbs up from everyone at the table — an elegant, silky, smooth and complex wine from the Martinborough wine region of New Zealand. This Pinot is stellar, featuring smoky, earthy and savory aromas and flavors. From the winemaker:

“Deep brick red colour. Vibrant aromatics of red and black cherries, rose petal, sandalwood and wet earth. On the palate, fresh red fruits and fine dry tannins provide a soft yet complex finish.”

We were fortunate to visit Craggy Range during a trip to New Zealand in 2014, and the people in the tasting room were as lovely as the wines.

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-5-51-12-pmSequoia Grove Chardonnay 2015 ($30)
We enjoyed the 2013 vintage of Sequoia Grove Chardonnay with cilantro-lime prawns on the deck on a warm summer evening. But we recently discovered that this food-friendly Chardonnay also pairs well with many Thanksgiving side dishes.

Somehow, it’s rich and creamy, with light custard flavors — yet also refreshing with citrus zest, which will complement the heaviness of a holiday meal. We found it a little to oaky for our palates, but we know people who will absolutely love it.

And if you’re finished with turkey leftovers, pair this Chardonnay with seafood or cheeses.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Sbragia Family Vineyards

Sbragia Family Vineyards began in 2006 but its roots are in the love of wine by owner Ed Sbragia’s grandfather who moved to California from Tuscany in 1904. Much later, Ed’s father acquired his own vineyards near Healdsburg, growing zinfandel. And Ed himself began working for Beringer Vineyards in Napa in 1976.

The family tradition continues today, with Ed’s son and the rest of his family involved in Sbragia in the Dry Creek Valley. A 10th anniversary celebration is set for this fall.

The brand is well-known, so we were delighted to receive samples of two wines to taste.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 9.49.56 AM2012 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)
This beautiful red comes from old vines planted in the 1880s in an historic California vineyard, and was rated 93+ from Wine Advocate.

The Cabernet Sauvignon (95%) was blended with 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot to give it structure and depth.

This is a big red, with notes of cedar, dark berry, black licorice and a bit of earthiness — a ripe, juicy wine that is drinkable now through 2022.

Pair it with steak, grilled meats, savory stew or dark chocolate. Delicious!

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 9.49.14 AM

2014 Home Ranch Chardonnay ($30)
Home Ranch Vineyard is located at the southeast end of Dry Creek Valley, where temperatures are cooler than most of the appellation. This results in bright fruit flavors of apple, pear and citrus, a hint of oak with a gravelly minerality, good structure and balanced acidity.

On the nose of this 100% Chardonnay, you’ll find aromas of tropical fruit, pear and toasted almonds in addition to apples, vanilla and baking spice from the oak.

Pair it with smoked salmon or trout, crab, prawns, seafood pasta or with creamy vegetable soups in the cooler evenings.

Ed Sbragia is well-known for his Chardonnays. He established the Beringer Reserve Chardonnay program and currently serves as Winemaster Emeritus there. Robert Parker said, “Sbragia has always demonstrated a Midas touch with Chardonnay.”

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Summer Sippers and BBQ Reds

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 12.37.47 PMSummer make us think of white wine on the deck or patio. But let’s not forget about robust reds to accompany tasty BBQs during the warm weather! Here are some good-value whites to sip with a summer salad or seafood such as prawns, scallops, sushi, crab or halibut, and some good-value reds for your BBQ. And there are also some bonus wines that are a bit pricier, and also work as a celebratory toast to Independence Day with friends.

 

Summer Sipper Whites

  • 2014 Kenwood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($13): Fruit from 28 vineyards went into this crisp summer sipper, and the result is a balance of citrus and tropical flavors plus some grassy characteristics and minerality.
  • Louis Jadot Macon-Villages 2014 ($15): This is a Chardonnay that is clean rather than oaky, with apple and citrus aromas, mineral notes and fresh fruit on the palate.
  • Santa Cristina 2015 Cipresseto Toscana ($14): If you like your rosé dry, try this one, with notes of jasmine and raspberry.
  • Santa Cristina 2015 Pinot Grigio delle Venezie ($12): Refreshing with aromas of tropical fruit and orange flowers, we will be sipping on this during lazy afternoons on the lake.
  • Drumheller Columbia Valley Chardonnay ($12): Smoky mineral notes on the palate make this a summer pleaser from a new label from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates — “a more restrained, yet elegant version of Washington’s expressive fruit.”

 Bonus Whites: These whites are a slice of heaven on a warm evening by the lake, by the pool, on the deck or the patio.

Efeste 2014 Feral Sauvignon Blanc ($20): This beauty of a Sauv Blanc brought us back to drinking whites in 2009 after years of reds only. Feral, with native yeast fermentation, is a wild and lively wine with intense minerality and the perfect amount of citrus to keep us sipping on the deck until the sun goes down.

JM Cellars 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($25): We first tasted this amazing white wine in 2009, shortly after we tried Feral for the first time. JM’s Sauv Blanc was fermented in 100% stainless steel, features both tropical and citrusy flavors, and is a refreshing favorite every summer.

Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Chardonnay 2014 ($28): This Napa wine shows aromas of pear, lychee, citrus zest and almonds, with a full range of flavors. We particularly like the citrus zest, which sets this apart from many Chardonnays that we’ve tasted.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 5.45.41 PMBBQ Reds: 

  • Double Barrel Shiraz ($20):
    The rich Australian Shiraz was aged in Scotch whiskey barrels to provide complex, well-developed characteristics.
  • Drumheller 2014 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($12): A distinct Washington wine, we noted the delicate flavors and texture, with a silky finish.
  • Drumheller 2014 Columbia Valley Merlot ($12): Another distinct Drumheller red, this merlot has lively aromas of blueberry and spice, with hints of cocoa and a soft texture.

 Bonus Reds: These rich reds pair well with BBQ meat dishes, at a summer party or as a stand-alone wine by a beach bonfire.

Résonance Pinot Noir Résonance Vineyard 2013 ($65) – From the  Yamhill-Carlton AVA within Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this lovely wine is a produced by winemaker Jacques Lardière, and is  Louis Jadot’s first project outside of France.

2013 Jack London Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($35)
This beauty will pair perfectly with BBQ steaks in the summer (and also roast beef in the winter). This is our kind of cab – full-bodied, rich, robust, well-structured and elegant.

2012 Ferrari-Carano Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley ($65)
With such a beautiful nose, lovely aromas and concentrated fruit, this Reserve Cab is simply delicious.

Any of these wines would add to your July 4 celebrations too!

Of note, all of these wines except Efeste and JM Cellars were samples provided by the wineries. Thank you!

Cheers to the long lazy days of summer BBQ’s and sipping wine outside.
Margot and Dave

East to the Other Washington

I heart Hyatt hotels. A few weeks ago, I wrote about wine at my go-to hotel in my home town, Hyatt Vancouver. Then last week, we tasted wine in an amazing experience at the Grand Hyatt Washington D.C.

In fact, a funny thing happened on the way to the Grand Hyatt D.C. And it demonstrates the potential and the power of social media.

Shortly after arriving at the hotel, I received a message from Front Desk Agent Emanuel Lessey. He told me that he recently received an email from his sister with a link to my blog post about wine at the Hyatt Vancouver.

Emanuel has a sharp eye, in addition to a savvy business sense. And he gets social media.

He recognized my name on the his hotel’s guest list, and called to ask if we would be interested in a flight of local wine in Cure Bar & Bistro on the hotel’s main floor.

No surprise to you, I’m sure – the answer was yes, please.

Cure is a great, casual restaurant and bar that spans four floors, with high ceilings, an open fireplace, and stone and oak walls. The artisan cheese selection is almost as extensive as the wine list. We were treated to three wines from Barboursville Vineyards in Virginia, home to an incredible story as well as captivating wines.

Barboursville is located on the plantation of former Governor James Barbour, whose mansion was designed in 1814 by Thomas Jefferson, who also had a lifelong passion for fine wine. As it turns out, Jefferson envisioned a vineyard at this beautiful location, which finally happened more than 150 years later: in 1976, Gianni Zonin — 6th generation heir to a family wine enterprise active since 1821 in the Veneto — acquired the plantation.

Fast forward to April, 2012, when we enjoyed Barboursville Vintage Rose’, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay at Cure at the Grand Hyatt D.C., thanks to Emanuel Lessey.

The city had been hit with an unexpected heat wave, with 90 degrees that day, so we welcomed the cool Rose’ blend of Nebbiolo, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Merlot.

The Sauvignon Blanc was also refreshing, with aromas and flavors of grapefruit for me, although Dave got more of the tangerine and kiwi.

And if you prefer steel-barrel aging for a crisp Chardonnay, this one from Barboursville is for you.

Harun, who poured for us at Cure, was as knowledgeable about local wines as he was friendly. And a visit to our table by Cure’s popular and creative general manager, Ken Hood, added more insight into the wine list and the care given by everyone we met who worked at the Grand Hyatt D.C.

And then Emanuel took customer service one step further – by surprising me on my birthday, with a card from everyone at the front desk. Somehow, he found out that my birthday was taking place during our D.C. visit, and he helped make that day even more special.

So please join us in giving a round of applause to Emanuel and his sister, along with special cheer to Ken, Harun, the front desk staff and others at the Grand Hyatt D.C. We will return!

Cheers!