Happy Holidays!

wine treeHappy holidays! And here’s to a healthy, happy and prosperous 2011! We hope you enjoy your favorite wines during the holiday season – and pick a special one to ring in the new year.

We also hope you like this wine tree; the photo was sent to me by Katie Paine, my friend in social media measurement and a wine enthusiast, too.

Consider this a “recycle tree,” which can live all year round!

Have a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year! We lift our glasses to you.


Margot and Dave, Write for Wine

The Essential Guide is the Perfect Gift

Washington Wines & WineriesWashington Wines & Wineries, The Essential Guide (Second Edition) is the best gift you could give anyone who is remotely interested in the world-class wines of Washington state.

Written in a straightforward yet entertaining style, author and wine expert Paul Gregutt pulls no punches about his opinions about Washington wines, wineries and people in the industry. 

He also notes, early on, that the wines he compliments are not just good wines for the region, but good wines for the world.

His opinions are supported by his transparent methodology and his palate preferences. He is accountable. And he has earned the admiration and respect of most people in the Washington state wine industry. Simply put, Paul Gregutt is uniquely qualified to write this tome.

Frankly, the book had me at its introduction. How often does that happen? “Reading this book should feel like a tour through a state with an old friend who happens to be a local and who knows it well. I am that friend.”

Gregutt plays that role well. But Washington Wines & Wineries is not just another guidebook. Gregutt takes you on a successful journey that begins with down-to-earth explanations of why he knows so much about Washington wine; why he feels so strongly in his belief that Washington state will become one of the greatest wine regions of the world; and why there is something magical about the terroir and what he calls “a delicious moment in time” for a wine lover.

“How many people in the history of the world have witnessed the flowering of a brand-new, world-class wine region? Who among us has tasted, in each new vintage, wines that push the envelope a bit further than it has previously been pushed, that reveal unknown or unsuspected layors of flavor and bouquet, nuances previously locked away in a piece of scrub desert, or a rocky riverbed, or a mountainside blanketed in volcanic dust?”

This passion is evident throughout the book, as Gregutt writes about the state’s history, its terroir, viticultural areas, grapes and the top twenty vineyards. He then profiles wineries that he has categorized in lists ranked with three-to-five stars, and a list of rising stars. Specifically, 20 wineries were awarded five stars, 45 were ranked with four stars, 60 received three stars, and 80 were classified as rising stars. In total, 205 wineries, less than one third of those in Washington state, made the cut.

Do I agree with his list and rankings of wineries? In many cases, yes. In some cases, no. But my criteria and my palate are different than his. And I’m simply a wine enthusiast, while Gregutt is an expert — a columnist for the Seattle Times and a contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast — who tastes six thousand to eight thousand wines each year.

In my opinion, Washington Wines & Wineries is a perfect reference book for a wine library and a perfect travel companion on any tour through the state’s wine regions.

But don’t just take my word. The New York Times states: “Critical, in-depth look at the wine culture of Washington. . . Essential.” And the Wine Economist calls it: “A serious analysis of Washington wine that is seriously interesting.”

So think about purchasing Washington Wines & Wineries for the wine lover on your list. Or get it for yourself! The price is $23.00 on Amazon.

Happy holiday cheers!

Gifts for the Wine Enthusiasts on Your List

If you’re looking for a special gift for the wine enthusiast on your list, look no further. Here are some fun and different ideas for whatever holiday you celebrate!

Guided Tasting Courses and TipsWine Tasting Uncorked: This is a great gift for someone who wants to learn more about wine, wine-tasting terms, wine and food pairings or for people who would like to host their own tasting party, but don’t know where to start. That covers a lot of territory for only $14.99! These tips, techniques and a list of necessary tools come in what looks like a small recipe box, with tabs for wine basics, grape varietals, tasting techniques and nine tasting lessons.


Washington Wines & WineriesWashington Wines & Wineries, the Essential Guide, Second Edition: This fascinating and educational book by local expert Paul Gregutt is the perfect gift for anyone even remotely interested in the fine wines of Washington state. The New York Times says: “Critical, in-depth look at the wine culture of Washington. . . Essential.” And the Wine Economist calls it: “A serious analysis of Washington wine that is seriously interesting.” The price is $23.00 on Amazon.

Wine Soiree is an easy-to-use aerator that decants red and white wines. This wine accessory fits snuggly on top of a bottle and prevents drips. In addition, it travels well, is easy to clean, and comes in a classy package. Prices range from $25-$50, and you can buy it on sale for $19.99 at Amazon or order it gift-wrapped from the website.

Custom T-Shirts: For t-shirt-loving wine enthusiasts, you can order a variety of styles, colors and your favorite “wine line,” including “Let it Breathe,” “Big, Bold and Fruity,” and “Our grapes are more stressed than you.” These high-quality t-shirts are available as individual orders ($20 plus $4.95 for shipping and handling) or in bulk ($14 per shirt with a 40-shirt minimum, including a mix of men’s and women’s sizes).

WineBoxes_HeaderFor more gift ideas, have a look at True Fabrications, a Seattle-based company that offers 25 gifts under $25 or beautiful wine boxes ranging from $19.99 to $52.99. The best-selling Six-Bottle Treasure Chest Wine Box, pictured, costs $35.99 and would be perfect for that special someone.

You can also purchase True Fabrications gifts and many others at Seattle’s new wine superstore, Wine World, which is just off I-5 at NE 45th St.

Of course, wine enthusiasts also love bottles of wine for the holidays, and Washington state wineries offer bottles for every palate – from Cabernet and Merlot to Syrah and blends, from Malbec and Tempranillo to Grenache and Lemberger, from Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier to Rousanne and Chardonnay.

(Disclosure: Free samples were sent to me for review for everything but the t-shirts. Please see our sample policy for more information.)

Happy shopping!


East Comes West to Urban Enoteca

Photo: Jeremy Quant

Tucked away in the SoDo area of Seattle, a new, elegant tasting center offers wines from eastern Washington, along with some unique rooms to further enjoy the experience. It’s called Urban Enoteca, and I know its convenient Seattle location will be enticing Dave and me to visit often.

The opening of Urban Enoteca means we can now easily taste and purchase wines from Fidelitas, Fielding Hills, Kiona, Cave B, Five Star Cellars and McCrea.

To think that a taste of Fieldings Cab Franc or Fidelitas Optu is just a few minutes away is wonderful news in time for the holidays! Photo: Jeremy Quant

The official opening is Thursday (Dec. 9), but we were fortunate to get a sneak peek last week. Here are my initial recommendations:

  • On your first visit, taste one wine — Cabernet for example — from each winery and then come back again another day for other pours.
  • Or focus on one winery per visit and come back another time for tastes from a different winery.
  • Spit or spill if you plan on tasting many wines, and have a designated driver.
  • Enjoy free covered parking – it’s also landscaped and lighted.
  • Check out the distinctly decorated rooms that are available for events. Even if you aren’t planning a holiday party, a wedding, corporate offsite or a tasting event, don’t miss out seeing the incredible Blanc de Blanc room, a stunning contemporary space, which seats 25 people and is completely decorated in white (but photographs in blue). The rustic Riddling Room seats 175 people (200 for a reception) and the delightful Barrel Room seats 40.
  • Seriously, take a tour. Hewn wood beam ceilings are complemented by a distinctive skylight and atrium. Twelve vintage metal gates were repurposed as accent screens and room dividers.  And parts of barrels are recycled in surprising ways. The fireplace and the fountain are beautiful backdrops to your sipping experience.

If you book an event, you also get to taste mouth-watering dishes from Chef Jason Wilson, an award-winning (James Beard) chef. At the pre-opening, we really enjoyed the small bites that Wilson prepared and presented.

We didn’t get a chance to taste all the wines last week, but here are the first tastes of wine that we recommend:

  • Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc – a standout Cab Franc from Riverbend Vineyards
  • Fidelitas Cabernet Sauvignon – a first-class Cab Sauv from Champoux Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills
  • Kiona Cabernet Sauvignon – a classic Cabernet that’s smooth and elegant
  • Five Star Stellar – a stylish, silky Bordeaux blend

Photo: Jeremy Quant

So what’s with the name Urban Enoteca? Enoteca is an Italian word, which literally means “wine repository,” a European tradition of how small, local wineries bring their best wines to one location – the Enoteca – to make it easier for locals and travelers to enjoy the wonderful wines of a region.

In keeping with this tradition, there’s more great news – there are plans to add six more wineries from eastern Washington to the seven already ensconced in the tasting center.

We hope to see you there!

Special thanks to Jeremy Quant for the photos.