Columbia Crest Wines: Good Juice, Great Value

We’ve been fans of Columbia Crest Winery for at least a decade — the winery produces good, easy-drinking wines at bargain prices. We’ve purchased cases over the years, and we were delighted to receive samples of their recent releases.

Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Merlot Columbia Valley ($12)
Merlot (87%) is blended with small amounts of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon; all fruit was sourced from Horse Heaven Hills for texture and body, and from the Wahluke Slope for aromatics and complexity. This is a rich Merlot with a balance of fruit and earthiness, punctuated by notes of dark cherries and chocolate. Pair this with blue cheese, dark chocolate, pork, grilled salmon or beef.

Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Red Blend Columbia Valley ($12)
This vintage’s blend combines Merlot (55%), Cabernet Franc (36%), Petit Verdot (8%) and a splash of other red varieties. The result is layers of dark berry flavors, with more layers of spice and caramel on the finish. Pair this with grilled meats or tomato-based meat dishes such as lasagne.

Columbia Crest 2014 H3 Merlot Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
This is a medium-bodied Merlot, lighter than the Grand Estates. The nose is beautiful with aromas of spice and blackberry, followed by cherry and cocoa on the palate. We have enjoyed several vintages of H3 Merlot, paired with cedar-plank barbecued salmon and grilled meats.

Columbia Crest 2015 Grand Estates Unoaked Chardonnay Columbia Valley ($12)
We much prefer unoaked Chardonnay like this one, which was fermented only in stainless steel. This is a refreshing summer sipper on the deck – or pour it any time of the year to accompany seafood dishes. Tart and crisp, this Chard has aromas of lemon, pear and orange blossoms, followed by citrus fruit and lively acidity. Where we live, Chardonnay pairs well with fresh crab in August and September, or crab cakes all year round, along with other shellfish, halibut or salmon, with a dash of lemon.

Other wines that we’ve tasted recently from Columbia Crest Winery:

Columbia Crest 2013 H3 Les Chevaux Red Wine Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
Named after the horses (Les Chevaux in French) that once roamed Horse Heaven Hills, this is a lovely, vibrant red blend of Merlot (59%), Syrah ($36%), Viognier (4%) and Cab Franc (1%). You can enjoy this with strong cheeses such as blue or stilton, or with well-seasoned pepper steaks, beef stew or lamb.

Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley ($12)
This is a great value estate Cab to pair with beef tenderloin, hearty pasta, blue cheese or chocolate. This wine features dark fruit, a wonderful mouthfeel, and a smoothness, complexity and structure not often seen at this price point.

Columbia Crest 2015 H3 Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
We’ve enjoyed previous vintages of this Sauv Blanc as a summer sipper on the deck, but we recently tasted it on a rainy, windy day, paired with garlic prawns, and it was delicious. The Sauv Blanc features citrus notes and crisp minerality, just the way we like it. You can also pair it with halibut, crab or quiche.

With summer around the corner, we might open these wines with BBQ hamburger or fresh seafood. But at these prices, you can stock up for any season!

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Our Top 65 Washington Wineries

NYE WineHappy New Year! As we begin 2017, it’s time for our annual Top Washington Wineries List. Why 65 wineries? The list grew to 65 from 60 last year, and from 50 the year before, as we were introduced to new wines or new wine experiences.

The way to get on our list is fairly simple; we only have two criteria: wineries must offer great juice and good people who provide an excellent wine experience. Perhaps we had fun or learned something in a tasting room or at a wine event such as Taste Washington, Taste of Tulalip, Seattle Wine and Food Experience, Bellingham Bay Rotary Grape and Gourmet or Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival. Perhaps someone from the winery gave us a call, or sent us a personal note or samples. Or perhaps we were invited to an incredible winery party.

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 or the amazing workers in the vineyards where it all begins.

We welcome ten newcomers to our list this year, and thank you for the 2016 wine experiences you brought us — Ambassador Wines of Washington, CanvasbackDeLille Cellars, Matthews Winery, Mullan Road CellarsSavage GraceSpring Valley VineyardTildio Winery, Upchurch Vineyard and Two Vintners.

Write for Wine’s Top 70 Washington Wineries (in alphabetical order):

  1. Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  2. Ambassador Wines of Washington
  3. Andrew Will
  4. Avennia
  5. B. Leighton
  6. Barrage Cellars
  7. Barrister Winery
  8. Bartholomew Winery
  9. Betz Family Winery
  10. Boudreaux Cellars
  11. Buty Winery
  12. Canvasback
  13. Chateau Ste. Michelle
  14. Columbia Crest
  15. Cooper Wine Company
  16. Cote Bonneville
  17. Darby
  18. DeLille Cellars
  19. DiStefano
  20. Double Canyon
  21. Dunham Cellars
  22. Dynasty Winery
  23. Efeste
  24. Ensemble Cellars
  25. Fall Line
  26. Fidelitas
  27. Fielding Hills
  28. Figgins
  29. Force Majeure
  30. Forgeron Cellars
  31. Gard
  32. Gorman Winery
  33. Guardian Cellars
  34. Hard Row to Hoe
  35. JM Cellars
  36. L’Ecole 41
  37. Lauren Ashton
  38. Leonetti
  39. Long Shadows
  40. Maryhill
  41. Matthews Winery
  42. Mercer Estates
  43. Mullan Road Cellars
  44. Obelisco Estate
  45. Otis Kenyon
  46. Passing Time
  47. Quilceda Creek
  48. Reynvaan
  49. Ross Andrew
  50. Savage Grace
  51. Seven Falls Cellars
  52. Sinclair Estate
  53. Sleight of Hand
  54. Spring Valley Vineyard
  55. Stottle Winery
  56. Tildio
  57. Two Vintners
  58. Upchurch Vineyard
  59. Va Piano
  60. Vin du Lac
  61. Walla Walla Vintners
  62. William Church
  63. Windy Point
  64. Woodward Canyon
  65. Woodhouse Wine Estates

To these people, we thank you; we support you. Cheers to Washington state wine!

Happy new year!
Margot and Dave
Write for Wine — it’s Wine O’clock Somewhere!

Crowdsourced Cabernet

Crowdsourced CabWord first came out two years ago that Columbia Crest was planning to become the first winery in the world to crowdsource a wine through an interactive online experience.

A new website, Crowdsourced Cabernet, was launched, so voters could make decisions through every step of creating the wine — bud break, harvest, fermentation, the final blend and the label.

On June 3, 2016, Columbia Crest’s 2014 Crowdsourced™ Cabernet was released (1,000 cases) and can now be purchased online and in the winery’s tasting room in Paterson, Washington. ($30 SRP)

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 8.46.29 AMThe two-year journey began when Columbia Crest’s head winemaker, Juan Muñoz-Oca, chose a five-acre estate block in one of his best vineyards, which is used for his highly acclaimed reserve program.

The vineyard can be seen in a series of YouTube videos made during the crowdsourcing program. Throughout the process, he educated and guided the crowd, explaining how much water to apply to the vines, how the temperature impacts harvest and other key factors needed in winemaking decisions. Voters were then given a series of choices to make.

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Ultimately, they decided harvesting should take place at night, the wine should be created with a lot of complexity and soft tannins, and be aged 16 months in 30% new oak barrels.

More than 6,000 people participated in the adventure. Depending on which voter you ask, the crowdsourced experiment was a lark, an adventure and/or an educational experience about the craft of winemaking. The outcome? From the tasting notes:

The result is a beautifully integrated and layered Cabernet Sauvignon from the Horse Heaven Hills. The 2014 Crowdsourced Cabernet Sauvignon has a delicate nose of tobacco, dried herbs, bright cherries and anise. On the palate, the wine develops warm blueberry pie flavors and a silky texture with dark chocolate and toffee undertones. It finishes with a bright, elegant and refined texture.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 8.32.58 AMBut the program isn’t over. Columbia Crest is embarking on another journey for the 2015 vintage of Crowdsourced Cabernet. Decisions are still in progress so if you are interested, you can place your votes on the website, Crowdsourced Cabernet. You can also follow #crowdsourcedcabernet on Twitter and Instagram.

We enjoyed our glasses of this one-of-a-kind Cab Sauv on the deck, as pictured above and on Instagram. As expected with a new release, the wine was a bit tight when we opened the bottle, but after some decanting, the flavors developed into one delightful sip after another.

Thanks to Columbia Crest for sending us a sample.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

What’s in Our Glasses?

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 3.40.36 PMWe’ve had many reasons to celebrate in recent weeks — birthdays, anniversaries and vacations. What better times to pull out a bottle of fine Washington state and/or California wine from our collection?

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For example, on our anniversary we enjoyed two Washington state beauties, Obelisco 2012 Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon and Force Majeure 2010 Collaboration V, Estate Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.

Yes, these are definitely special-occasion wines.

In the last few months, we also opened some good-value reds — how can you miss at $15?

So here are some of the wines in our glasses lately — at a wide range of prices, from $15-$70 — in alphabetical order. Some of these were small pours at wine events; others were glasses at restaurants or bottles shared with friends.

Note: Sometimes you can find lower prices at Costco, through wine apps or wine stores.

  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2012 Destiny, $48
  • Ambassador 2012 Plenipotentiary Cabernet Sauvignon, $50
  • Avennia 2010 Sestina, $50
  • Bartholomew Primitivo 2013, $24
  • Columbia Crest 2013 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, $15
  • Corliss 2012 Secret Squirrel Cabernet Sauvignon, $25
  • Decoy 2013 Red Wine, $24
  • Des Voigne 2012 The Duke Zinfandel, $30
  • Double Canyon 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, $65
  • Eagle Eye 2007 Proprietary Red Limited Edition Heritage, $50
  • Efeste 2010 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon, $54
  • Force Majeure 2010 Estate Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, $65
  • Guardian Cellars 2012 The Wanted, $37
  • Lauren Ashton 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, $50
  • Mercer Estates 2011 Ode to Brothers GSM, $42
  • Michael David 2013 Petite Petit, $17
  • Oak Ridge 2013 OZV Zin, $14
  • Obelisco 2012 Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon, $70
  • Seghesio 2014 Sonoma Zinfandel, $26
  • Seven Falls 2013 Jones Vineyard Zinfandel, $40
  • Stags’ Leap 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, $50
  • William Church Winery 2010 Bishop’s Blend, $22
  • The Woodhouse Wine Estates 2012 Darighe, $65

We hope you also have a chance to taste some of these delicious wines; if the above vintages are sold out, chances are the next ones are very drinkable too.

Special thanks to Lauren Ashton, Double Canyon and Oak Ridge for the samples to taste.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Our List of Top 60 Washington Wineries

NYE WineAs the new year begins, we want to reflect on the wineries in Washington state that made our list of Top 60 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 or at a major wine event such as Taste Washington, Taste of Tulalip or Seattle Wine and Food Experience. Perhaps someone from the winery gave us a call, or sent us a personal note or samples. Or perhaps we were invited to an incredible winery party.

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 or the amazing workers in the vineyards where it all begins.

Why 60 wineries? The list grew to 60 from 50 last year, as we were introduced to new wineries or new wine experiences in 2015. We welcome the newcomers to the list, and thank you for the 2015 wine experiences you brought us — Andrew Will, B. Leighton, Cote Bonneville, Dynasty Cellars, Ensemble Cellars Kiona, Leonetti, Passing Time, Reynvaan, Seven Falls and Stottle Winery.

Write for Wine’s Top 60 Washington Wineries (in alphabetical order):

  1. Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  2. Andrew Will
  3. Avennia
  4. B. Leighton
  5. Baer
  6. Barrage Cellars
  7. Barrister
  8. Bartholomew
  9. Betz Family
  10. Boudreaux Cellars
  11. Buty Winery
  12. Chateau Ste. Michelle
  13. Columbia Crest
  14. Cooper Wine Company
  15. Cote Bonneville
  16. Darby
  17. DiStefano
  18. Double Canyon
  19. Dunham Cellars
  20. Dynasty Winery
  21. Efeste
  22. Ensemble Cellars
  23. Fall Line
  24. Fidelitas
  25. Fielding Hills
  26. Figgins
  27. Force Majeure
  28. Forgeron Cellars
  29. Gard
  30. Gorman Winery
  31. Guardian Cellars
  32. Hard Row to Hoe
  33. JM Cellars
  34. Kiona
  35. L’Ecole 41
  36. Lauren Ashton
  37. Leonetti
  38. Long Shadows
  39. Maryhill
  40. Mercer Estates
  41. Northstar
  42. Northwest Totem Cellars
  43. Obelisco Estate
  44. Otis Kenyon
  45. Passing Time
  46. Quilceda Creek
  47. Reynvaan
  48. Ross Andrew
  49. Sleight of Hand
  50. Seven Falls Cellars
  51. Sinclair Estate
  52. Sparkman Cellars
  53. Stottle Winery
  54. Va Piano
  55. Vin du Lac
  56. Walla Walla Vintners
  57. William Church
  58. Windy Point
  59. Woodward Canyon
  60. Woodhouse Wine Estates

To these people, we thank you; we support you. Cheers to Washington state wine!

Happy new year!
Margot and Dave
Write for Wine — it’s Wine O’clock Somewhere!

Recent Releases We’ve Enjoyed-Part 1

As 2015 winds down, we are happy to share information about some new wines and wineries that we discovered late this year. As regular readers know, our palates prefer big reds, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Bordeaux-style blends. So it’s not surprising that these are most of the wines we are writing about today.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 2.53.58 PMSeven Falls 2013 GPS Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 GPS Zinfandel ($40 each)
Launched in October, these two new Seven Falls Cellars single vineyard “GPS” tier of wines rocked us, and when we shared them with our neighbors, they loved them too. The Cabernet Sauvignon is rich, bold and beautiful, just the way we like it — full of layers and complexities of black fruit, minerality, graphite, leather, tea and tobacco, which will showcase themselves differently as the wine ages. Our neighbors declared the Zinfindel one of the best they’ve tasted — jammy, fruit-forward and aromatic, with chocolate, raspberries and hints of nutmeg and other spices.

Why is the label called GPS? According to Seven Falls, “To highlight the unique sense of place where the wines are from, the vineyard block Global Positioning System coordinates are included on each of the Seven Falls single-vineyard labels, so everyone has an opportunity to visit the Wahluke Slope from anywhere in the world.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 12.07.40 PMStottle Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($34) and 2012 Big Eddie ($35)
Stottle Winery is based in Lacey, just north of Olympia,where owners Josh and Amy Stottlemyer recently opened a new tasting room and facility. (They also have a tasting room in Hoodsport on Highway 101.) This was our first opportunity to taste Stottle wines, which have won numerous Seattle Wine Awards. After tasting Stottle 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2012 Big Eddie, we understand why. Stottle’s 2012 Cab also has a touch of Merlot (5%) and Malbec (2%), and is bursting with flavors of red and black berries, cherries vanilla and chocolate. With a great nose and structure, this wine can be opened now or cellared for a few years. Big Eddie is a medium-bodied blend of 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec, with juicy flavors of raspberry, blackberry and dark chocolate. What’s not to like, right?

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 12.10.30 PMColumbia Crest 2013 Limited Release “Gold” Red Wine Blend ($12)
We wrote about this wine back in September, but recently enjoyed it again and wanted to remind our readers about its good value. For only $12, this wine is a blend of 52% Cab Franc, 38% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot. According to the winery, a couple barrels of wine that represent the “gold standard” of Columbia Valley grapes are blended into this limited release Gold Red Wine. Think spicy, rich and textured – and great to pair with grilled beef, lamb, rich stews or simply with strong cheese. We’ve been delighted to find a number of value wines this year from Columbia Crest that we really like! This one is right up there with 2012 and 2013 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Thank you to Seven Falls, Stottle and Columbia Crest for samples of these wines. We plan on purchasing some in the weeks ahead.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

 

Big Reds, Good Value

Looking for a reasonably priced big, bold Cabernet Sauvignon to take to that holiday party? Or maybe you want to serve it at your holiday open house? Perhaps you want to pour it before or during a holiday meal?

If so, you’ve come to the right place. Over the last few months we’ve found some big Cabs at good price points.

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Seven Falls Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)
100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker’s Notes: “Ripe black cherry and boysenberry layered with notes of caramel, mocha and black tea. Concentrated, full body with a smooth lasting finish.”

Wine Enthusiast“This wine has immediate appeal showing aromas of milk chocolate, cherry and dried herbs. The flavors are plump and rich in feel yet backed by soft tannins.”

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Columbia Crest 2012 and 2013 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon
($10-$14, depending on where you shop)
99% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc

Winemaker’s Notes: “This bold Cabernet opens with flavors of black cherries and blackberries with a touch of currants and vanilla, complemented by earth and mineral notes. Deep berry flavors lead to a soft tannin cocoa finish.”

Wine Spectator: 91 points (2013); 92 points (2012)

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Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 2.56.52 PMGiant Wine, 2013 Ghost of 413 Cabernet Sauvignon ($16-$19, depending on where you shop)
This is the fourth vintage of a great red wine created by Chris Gorman from Gorman Winery and Mark McNeill from Mark Ryan.

Full Pull Tasting Notes by Editor-in-Chief Paul Zitarelli: This begins with a nose of smoky crème de cassis fruit, complicated by notes of dried herb and soil. At its heart, it is a deep, black-fruit driven Cab, full of blackcurrants and blackberries and black plums.

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If you like your Cabernet Sauvignon big, bold and beautiful, don’t let these low prices fool you. We think some of them would surprise you in a blind tasting next to more expensive Cabs.

Of note, samples were provided by Seven Falls and Columbia Crest; however we enjoyed these wines so much, we purchased additional bottles.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Special Wines for the Holidays

Holiday WinesGood wine over the holidays helps to make the season fabulous. Here is the list of special wines that we started to open and share over the Thanksgiving holiday and will continue to do so through New Year’s day — either pouring them for guests, taking to parties or enjoying at home.

Some of these wines are special because of their high quality and high price point. Others are simply special good-value wines enjoy in our home throughout the year.

They are listed in alphabetical order:

Of note, all but three of these wines are from the wonderful Washington state wine country.

Cheers – and happy holidays!
Margot and Dave

Columbia Crest Fall Release Wines

If you’re one of those people who look for good-value wines at a $10-$15 price point, this blog post is for you. We are very pleased with some Columbia Crest winery samples that pair well with the fall season.

First, you might recall that we praised Columbia Crest H3 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon In  a July post about Good Value BBQ Reds. H3 became our go-to, every-day wine over the summer ($10-$15, depending on where you look). We were not surprised to find out that H3 was a Double Gold winner at the 2015 Seattle Wine Awards.

And now, Columbia Crest offers their 2013 Limited Release “Gold” Red Wine Blend, in addition to several other new 2013 releases, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

We particularly enjoyed these four wines, all from Columbia Valley, all priced at $12.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 5.53.39 PMColumbia Crest 2013 Limited Release “Gold” Red Wine Blend
According to the winery, a couple barrels of wine that represent the “gold standard” of Columbia Valley grapes are blended into this limited release Gold Red Wine. Harvested in September 2012, when Cabernet Franc had an excellent year, this wine features 52% Cab Franc, 38% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot. Think spicy, rich and textured – and great to pair with grilled beef, lamb, rich stews or simply with strong cheese.

Columbia Crest 2012 Grand Estates Red Blend
This is a Syrah-Cab Sauv blend, specifically 57% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Viognier, 6% Merlot and 3% other varietals. Tasting Notes: “This complex red blend marries together a variety of characteristics and layers that complement each other, including lively flavors of red and black fruit punctuated with layers of spice and caramel on the finish.” We paired it with rich spaghetti and meatballs, and it was delicious.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 6.11.45 PMColumbia Crest 2013 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon
The 81% Cab Sauv is rounded out with 15% Merlot, 2% Syrah and 2% of other varietals. Tasting Notes: “This bold style Cabernet Sauvignon displays great complexity and structure. There are aromas of dark berry fruits and plum on the nose with chocolate and vanilla on the palate. This wine pairs well with beef tenderloin or hearty pasta.” We think it also is wonderful paired with blue cheese and/or dark chocolate.

Columbia Crest 2013 Grand Estates Syrah
In this classic, 95% Syrah is co-fermented with 5% Viognier. Tasting Notes: “Elegant smoky tones lead to notes of currant, dried herbs and hints of pepper. The supple texture is complemented by flavors of cedar and dark fruits.” Pair with grilled salmon, pork tenderloin or soft cheeses.

Although we haven’t yet tasted Columbia Crest 2013 Grand Estates Unoaked Chardonnay, Wine Spectator called it out as providing the biggest bang for your buck.

We know it seems too early to start thinking about holiday wines, but at this price point, do you really want to wait? You can pour them at any party – your own or ones you attend as a guest — from Hallowe’en to Thanksgiving and beyond.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Good Value BBQ Reds

BBQ WineSummer time, and the living is easy. We have tasted some excellent good-value reds recently, so bring out the wine glasses and start up the BBQ!

Troublemaker Blend 8, $20
Troublemaker comes from Hope Family Wines, a pioneer in Paso Robles wine country — established 30 years ago and still family-owned and operated. Troublemaker is a Rhone-style blend that is distinctly Paso: 46% Syrah, 25% Zinfandel, 14% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre 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!

Columbia Crest H3 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, $15
This is one enjoyable, good value Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Crest, bursting with flavor! Think bold — 99% Cab Sauv with 1% Cab Franc to round off the edges. This wine is ready to drink now, with flavors of cherries and blackberries and soft tannins. H3 will pair well with any kind of beef, lamb or your favorite strong cheese. And at $15, you can’t beat it for summer parties and barbecues.

Red Diamond Temperamental Red Blend Spain, $10
Red Diamond recently released new packaging with an eye-catching label, in addition to several food-friendly wines at the low price of $10. So far, we’ve just tasted the Temperamental, a rich blend of grapes sourced in Spain — Tempranillo (90%), Graciano (4%), Garnacha (3%) and Mazuelo (3%). With flavors of black fruit and berries, this isn’t a typical dry Spanish wine. We found it jammy, even semi-sweet, with a smooth finish. Pair it with BBQ steak or lamb.

All three wines were sent to us as samples for tasting.

Happy summer and cheers!
Margot and Dave