Another Successful Taste Washington

Congratulations to the Washington State Wine Commission and Visit Seattle for another successful Taste Washington March 23-26, capping off Washington state Wine Month.

Thousands of people participated in the annual celebration of the excellent juice made in this state — at the Grand Tasting, educational seminars, lunches on local farms, and at restaurants, wineries, hotels and retailers that offered special deals and promotions throughout the month.

But we hope that people did more than taste the fine wine of Washington. We hope they appreciated it, and the hard work by people in our state’s wine industry – from farmers to vineyard managers to those in the production facilities, winemakers, distributors, marketing specialists, tasting room staff and more.

In particular, we applaud the workers in the vineyard who toil over the grapes and the terroir, the winemakers who balance creativity and science in every barrel and bottle, and their families who support this extreme effort.

We definitely appreciated every taste that was poured for us at the Grand Tasting.

And there were some delicious bites too. Our favorite was these amazing Salted Caramel Fudge Brownies from Blazing Bagels. (Their bagels were mouth-watering too, of course!)

We also enjoyed seafood from Anthony’s Pier 66, Ivar’s, Ray’s Boathouse and The Crab Pot. We munched on a lot of crab cakes this year!

Here are some of our favorite wines, in alphabetical order:

      • Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2014 Quarry Butte Red Bordeaux Blend ($26)
      • Ambassador Wines of Washington 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($38)
      • Andrew Will 2013 Champoux Vineyard Red Blend ($74)
      • Avennia 2015 Oliane Sauvignon Blanc ($28)
      • Barrage Cellars 2012 “Cease and Desist” Cabernet Franc ($35)
      • Barrister Winery 2013 Cabernet Franc ($31), pictured left with Petit Verdot & Barrister’s Block
      • Bartholomew Winery 2014 Tannat ($32)
      • Betz Family Winery 2013 Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon ($75)
      • Boudreaux Cellars 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($115); winemaker Rob Newsom and his daughter Keely are pictured below
      • Canvasback 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($40)
      • Cooper Wine Company 2014 L’inizio Bordeaux Blend, Red Mountain ($55)
      • Double Canyon 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)
      • Efeste 2013 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon ($60)
      • Fidelitas 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($50)
      • Figgins 2013 Estate Red Bordeaux Blend ($85)
      • Lauren Ashton Cellars 2013 Cuvee Estelle Red Bordeaux Blend ($50)
      • Maison Bleue 2014 Voyageur Syrah ($50)
      • Obelisco 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($50)
      • Saviah Cellars 2013 “The Stones Speak” Syrah ($55)
      • Secret Squirrel 2013 Red Bordeaux Blend ($25)
      • William Church 2014 Keystone Reserve Series, Reserve Syrah ($55)

There were so many other wonderful wineries pouring at Taste Washington, but we unfortunately could not visit every table.

As far as we’re concerned, every month is a good time to celebrate Washington state wine.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Bellingham NW Wine Festival

IMG_3924More than 100 wines were poured at the inaugural Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival on Aug. 6, which was presented by Brigadoon Service Dogs  in collaboration with Growing Veterans, and benefitted disabled veterans’ programs.

IMG_3934Of course we couldn’t taste all the wines from 36 participating wineries but between the two of us, we found quite a few new wines that we never tasted before and hope to again in the future (e.g., Tucannon Cellars, Two Mountain and Jones of Washington), along with new releases of old favorites from Forgeron Cellars, William Church Winery and Cooper Wine Company.

Here is the list (in alphabetical order by winery):

  • Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 10.12.50 AMCooper Wine Company: 2013 L’inzio (we’ve been fans of this Red Mountain beauty since its first vintage); 2012 Cabernet Franc; and Bud’s Blend “Gatekeeper,” named after Coop’s awesome winery dog
  • Dynasty Cellars: 2012 DCZ Zinfandel, a local Bellingham favorite
  • Forgeron Cellars: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, another fantastic release from our friend Marie-Eve Gilla in Walla Walla
  • Jones of Washington: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (the talk of the VIP room)
  • Lost River Winery: 2013 Cedars, a unique blend of 50% Cab Franc and 50% Merlot
  • Proper Wines: 2013 Estate Syrah for when you like your Syrah nice and funky
  • Revelry Vintners: 2013 “The Reveler” red blend
  • IMG_3926Tucannon Cellars: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, a great find from Red Mountain
  • Two Mountain Winery: 2013 Reserve Cabernet Franc
  • William Church Winery: 2013 Sur La Mer and 2013 Malbec (We’ve been long-time fans of both of these wines.)

Event organizer Zacchoreli Frescobaldi-Grimaldi told us that plans are already underway for the second festival in 2017, so mark your calendars now.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Winemaker Series at Semiahmoo Resort – JM Cellars

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 5.22.37 PMThe breathtakingly beautiful Semiahmoo Resort is continuing its popular Winemaker Series on May 26 with a reception and dinner with John Bigelow of JM Cellars. John’s excellent wines can be frequently found on our table: Tre, Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red (named after his lovely wife and winery co-owner, Peggy), Sauv Blanc and Bramble Bump Red, among others.

The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with a reception in Semiahmoo Resort’s Wine Room, followed by the Winemaker Dinner. JM Cellars wines will be paired with a mouth-watering five-course dinner created by Semiahmoo’s Executive Chef Bruno — including Scallops Sashimi with JM Cellars 2014 Bramble Bump White, and Spring Lamb Loin with JM Cellars 2012 Tre.

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.13 PMThis is a perfect opportunity for wine lovers in Seattle, Vancouver and well, everywhere, to come to Semiahmoo Resort for relaxation in a scenic location, excellent wine and a delicious meal. For those of us fortunate to live near Semiahmoo Resort, what a fantastic way to spend the evening!

If you are out of town, the package starts at $359, which includes two tickets to the Winemaker Dinner and a one-night stay for two in a newly renovated guest room at the resort. (Taxes and gratuity are not included in the price.) For reservations, phone 360-318-2000.

If you’re local, the price is $99 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity. Phone 360-318-2044 for reservations.

We hope to see you there! We’ve enjoyed JM Cellar wines since 1999 when we moved to Seattle; six years later, we finally met John at Taste Washington 2009. After the event, John wrote me a note to thank me — not just for our blog posts about JM Cellars, but about our support for Washington state wines in general.

Now that’s a class act!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

 

 

Charles Smith Wines Jet City

Photo credit; Charles Smith Wines

Photo credit: Charles Smith Wines

Now that we don’t live in Seattle anymore, we couldn’t visit Charles Smith Wines Jet City when it opened on July 25. So we decided to go on a road trip with our friends Jenise and Bob Stone (both have excellent palates), to see the new 32,000-square-foot winery in the Georgetown neighborhood, across from Boeing Field.

Jet City is located in a former Dr. Pepper bottling plant, which received a massive makeover by architect Tom Kundig. What a fantastic combination of steel, glass, concrete, barrels and big tanks, with 21-foot-tall windows looking out on the magnificent Mt. Rainier and the Boeing Field runways.

The downstairs tasting room also looks onto the first-floor production area. Unfortunately, the second floor, with its commercial kitchen, isn’t open yet, so we didn’t get a chance to check it out too. But according to reports from the grand opening, the area has an aviation theme, and the kitchen will be used to host harvest lunches and catered events.

As Charles said recently to the media, “Is this a restaurant? No. But will we have amazing dinners here? Yes. Is this a concert venue? No. But will we have great bands play live shows here? Yes.”

Jet City is billed as the largest urban winery on the west coast. What a giant place for such a giant personality with giant hair, giant billboards and a giant production of wines — 750,000 cases a year.

Charles has said he wants Jet City to be “big and loud and rock n’ roll.”

Charles Smith

Charles Smith, Jet City, Seattle

Fitting since Charles is one of Washington state’s rock-and-roll winemakers, along with our friend Brennon Leighton, former winemaker at Efeste who now leads the Jet City team. We were delighted see Brennon again yesterday and to discover that his new B. Leighton label is also available at Jet City.

We first met Charles at the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla. At midnight, he took some wine bloggers to his winery, where his rock and burlesque shows are legendary.

Charles has a commanding presence that is unique in the local wine industry. His showmanship could, but does not, overtake the impact of the wines he makes.

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 10.02.00 AM

His largest-production wines are Wines of Substance Cabernet Sauvignon and Kung Fu Girl Riesling.

His first release,1999 K Syrah from Walla Walla Valley, initiated his wine-making style that continues today: “Small lots of single vineyard Syrahs and blends of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Tempranillo and Viognier, all of which are hand-picked, foot-stomped, fermented with naturally occurring yeasts and basket pressed.”

In 2006, he created Charles Smith Wines, which are ready to be consumed immediately. These casual wines include Boom Boom Syrah! and The Velvet Devil Merlot, with funky black and white images on the labels.

Most recently, he created his sixth label, appropriately named Sixto, which features only Chardonnay, and is made in partnership with Brennon and Andrew Latta.

We wonder if there will soon be a new label, Charles Smith Wines Jet City. Until then, if the crowd there yesterday afternoon is any indication, Jet City looks like a success.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

 

 

Get Ready for Washington Wine Month!

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!

 

Mackey Vineyards, Walla Walla

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 5.34.39 PMWe recently had the opportunity to taste wine described as “hidden gems” from Walla Walla: Mackey Vineyards 2009 Syrah ($32), 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($32) and 2009 Concordia ($38). We give a thumbs up to all three.

Mackey Vineyards was launched in 2010 by Philip and Roger Mackey, who collaborated with winemaker Billo Naravane of Rasa Vineyards. Although gaining some local acclaim, the portfolio is not very well known across the state. As a result, Write for Wine received these samples to taste – and we are glad.

2009 Mackey Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley

This wine manages to pack a wallop, while being silky and elegant at the same time. Big and beautiful, this Syrah has a lovely nose with aromas of blackberry, vanilla and minerals, and is full of flavors of spice, black pepper and smoked meat — a showcase of the way this grape is crafted in Washington state. We enjoyed it with Dave’s amazing spaghetti, but this robust wine would also go well with grilled meats, game, beef stew and meat lover’s pizza. This Mackey Syrah is strong enough to simply pair with some tasty cheese, too – a mild but smokey blue cheese or a white cheddar.

2009 Mackey Vineyards Concordia, Columbia Valley

This deep, dark red wine is a Rhone blend of 77.4% Syrah, 12.9% Grenache, and 9.7% Mourvedre. In some circles, this big, peppery combination is known as GSM. Frankly, unlike many of our friends and colleagues, we are not big fans of Mouvedre or Grenache as stand-alone wines; there are many good ones in Washington state, but they aren’t to our palates. So we were always hesitant to taste a wine that blends those two grapes with Syrah. That is, until about a year ago, when Seven of Hearts in Carlton, Oregon encouraged us to stretch our palates and wowed us with their version. Thanks to Seven of Hearts, we decided to try again with this Concordia, and we loved it. The 2009 Mackey Vineyards Concordia showcases flavors of white pepper, black fruits, dark chocolate and vanilla. Mackey describes it as complex and decadent, and we agree.

2009 Mackey Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley

Our palates favor Bordeaux-style wines, so how could we not enjoy  a Cabernet Sauvignon that is rounded off with 15.8% Cabernet Franc and 5.3% Petit Verdot? This wine features a silky texture and good complexity, and we both talked about how it is a good every day wine to pair with some of our favorite home-cooked meals. But notably, we both also think it will age to become a special-occasion wine, if we cellar it for 5-8 years. In other words, it definitely is drinkable now, but has the potential to be be really powerful a few years down the road.

By the way, both the 2009 Mackey Vineyards Cab Sauv and Syrah won a gold at the 2012 Seattle Wine Awards and silver at the 2013 Tri-Cities Wine Festival last month. The 2009 Concordia received 92 points from The Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast, and 91 points from Wine Spectator.

Give all three a try and let us know what you think!

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Mike Dunham, R.I.P.

Washington state’s wine industry lost a great man last week — Mike Dunham, 69, co-owner of Dunham Cellars, passed away May 18 after a four-year battle with kidney cancer.

In 1995, Mike and his son Eric created one of the most respected wineries in Walla Walla and in the state. Mike was the general manager, a businessman and loved by many people.

He will be remembered fondly and deeply by so many, including Trey Busch, one of the first employees at Dunham Cellars, and now owner and winemaker of Sleight of Hand Cellars in Walla Walla.

Trey posted this photo of Mike on Facebook, and kindly agreed to let me repost it here. Thank you, Trey.

We were fortunate to share a table with Mike and his wife, Joanne a couple of years ago at the Washington Wines Festival at Waterfront Seafood Grill in Seattle. As I wrote then:

We also talked about their winery in the remodeled World War II-era airplane hangar in Walla Walla, and we shared many, many tales of all of our dogs. The two of them had us laughing throughout the delicious dinner and prestigious auction. We had met Mike and Joanne briefly at their winery and at several wine events in the last 10 years or so. But we never had the luxury of time to talk to them at length, particularly over good food and delicious wine …

… We’ve always said that Washington wine is about so much more than the juice itself – it’s about the people, the stories and the spirit. Mike and Joanne Dunham, and their award-winning wines, exemplify the passion of the wine industry in this state.

We experienced great sadness to learn of Mike’s passing last weekend. He will be remembered for his graciousness, his humor, his smarts and his love for his family. He will be missed by so many who were fortunate enough to know him.

Mike is survived by his loving wife, Joanne, his son, Eric, and daughters Katy Dunham in Colorado and Michelle Sikma in Alaska.

R.I.P. Mike. We lift a glass of Dunham Cellars wine in your honor.

Cheers!

 

Nothing says the holidays like Chester Kidder!

What better way to bring in the holiday week than with a glass (or two) of 2008 Chester Kidder Red from Long Shadows?

This beauty, created by winemaker Gilles Nicault, paired beautifully with spiced flank steak, as Dave and I toasted some rare time off together at the same time.

Released in September, we found ’08 Chester Kidder Red to be inky in color, balanced, silky and a rich blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Syrah, 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc.

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar gave 92 points to Chester Kidder Red with this description:

“Bright, deep ruby-red. Expressive nose offers currant, cherry cola, graphite and dark chocolate. Silky, sexy and intense, with firm, vibrant cabernet fruit complicated by licorice and spices. Finishes lively and very long, with sweet tannins and solid structure from the cabernet, some of which spent up to 40 days on its skins.”

Long Shadows is a collection of small production wineries, which brings together internationally acclaimed winemakers to showcase the superb grapes grown in Washington State’s Columbia Valley.

Gilles represents France; specifically, he made wine in the regions of Cote Du Rhone, Provence and Champagne, before moving to Washington state.

Prior to joining Allan Shoup’s state-of-the-art winemaking team, he was head of enology and production at Woodward Canyon.

We first met Gilles after he joined Long Shadows, when he and his wife, Marie-Eve Gilla — an excellent winemaker in her own right at Forgeron Cellarsheld a joint winemakers dinner at the Space Needle a few years back. They’ve both since become good friends – and we wish them, and you, a happy holiday season.

And thank you, Long Shadows, for sending us samples of your most-excellent Washington state wines.

Cheers!

Looking for a robust red for July 4th?

If you’re thinking about a juicy BBQ steak to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday (or July 1 for my family and friends in Canada), L’Ecole 41 has a multitude of choices of robust reds to pair with it.

We’ve been fans of L’Ecole for a long time – have a look at this 2010 blog post that references our L’Ecole tastings, starting in 2007. Every year since then, L’Ecole’s wines have either matched or superseded the previous vintage with character, complexity, flavors and balance.

 

My personal favorite is L’Ecole 41 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley. I had the opportunity to taste the 2001 library wine; the 2009 vintage continues the excellence – a blend of Cabernet from five prestigious vineyards that is sophisticated, structured and velvety rich.

According to winemaker and owner Marty Clubb, “Its old-world structure, dense dark fruit flavors and elegant tannins exemplify the best of Walla Walla.”

We have several bottles of this beauty – we had one last week, we’ll open another on July 4 and the rest remain in our cellar for what is sure to be years of good drinking.

 

In May, we reveled in L’Ecole 41 2008 Perigee, celebrated when the moon was in its perigee – a “super moon” when it passes closest to Earth.

The Perigee, L’Ecole’s estate Bordeaux blend, combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc with a dash of Petit Verdot and Malbec, sourced from the winery’s oldest and best blocks from Seven Hills Vineyard.

2008 Perigee is elegant, expressive and earthy – a delicious wine to enjoy over the holidays – or anytime.

Other robust reds from L’Ecole: 2008 Apogee Pepper Bridge, another of my favorites; 2008 Estate Merlot; and 2009 Estate Syrah, in addition to several from Columbia Valley.

Cheers!

Wonderful Walla Walla Wine

Regular readers of this blog know we are major fans of Walla Walla wine. We don’t get to visit Walla Walla nearly as often as we would like, so when Walla Walla comes to Seattle, it’s a must-go-to event.

So I dashed out to SoDo during my lunch break to visit friends and have a few (very small) tastes at “Walla Walla Wine @SoDo Park” last week.

I could only visit a few booths, and I know I missed out on lots of wineries. I wish I could have stayed longer, but work beckoned me back.

Here are the wines I tasted and would definitely purchase:

  • Abeja 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon – This fine Cab is blended with 4% Merlot, in John Abbot’s fashion of being true to the varietal and to the state.
  • L’Ecole 41 2009 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon – I’ve been a major fan of this wine since the 2001 vintage.
  • Otis Kenyon 2008 Syrah – It has that “In the Rocks” funk – yum!
  • Watermill 2008 Cabernet Franc – if you love Cab Franc like I do, this is a must-buy.
  • Woodward Canyon 2009 Estate Reserve – It won’t be released until summer but the potential is already magnificent.

There are many, many more excellent Walla Walla wineries – and we highly recommend you visit them in Walla Walla. Some of them have tasting rooms in Woodinville too.

Cheers!