Delectable Dunham Cellars

We have been fans of Dunham Cellars since their inaugural vintage, a 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2007, when Write for Wine launched, we first visited Dunham’s friendly tasting room in a remodeled World-War II-era airplane hangar in Walla Walla.

Our most recent visit was in May, where we tasted through a wonderful lineup and enjoyed a lengthy conversation, and a trip down memory lane, with general manager John Blair. While all the wines are noteworthy, we thought the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon XIX topped the charts of all the Dunham wines we’ve enjoyed over the years.
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Figgins and Toil Oregon

During our last trip to Walla Walla, we had the good fortune to stop by the Figgins wine studio, where we enjoyed some wonderful wines expertly crafted by Chris Figgins.

“Crafted” might not be the best word — the Figgins’ website clearly states: Figgins wine is “grown” not “made” and as such, the wine quality is achieved through meticulous, sustainable farming practices and carefully controlled, yet “hands-off” winemaking.

We’ve been fans of Figgins wine for years; more recently, Chris introduced us to Toil Oregon wines at the Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo Resort. The silhouette on the Toil label is taken from a photo of Chris’ father and great uncle William Leonetti, planting the first Leonetti vineyard in 1974. The family history in the valley goes back even further; they moved to Walla Walla in 1902.
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Barrister Beautiful-Part 2

This is the second post in a two-part series about our recent trip to Barrister Winery in Spokane. The first post tells the story of Barrister’s unique “train-settling style” of winemaking, the signature style of soft mouthfeel and gentle tannins, and other information. Now here are some details about the beautiful wines that we tasted at Barrister.

 

2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Klipsun Vineyard ($19)
This single-vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and refreshing, with notes of citrus and the minerality that you might expect from wine fermented for two months in 100% stainless steel. We’ve always said that we never met a grape from Red Mountain that we didn’t like, and this is no exception. This Sauv Blanc captures the power of Red Mountain fruit, which comes from old vines planted in 1982. A true summer sipper!
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Murietta’s Well

Murrieta’s Well  is one of California’s original wineries, propagated in 1883 with vineyard cuttings from Chateau Margaux and Chateau d’Yquem in France. Need we say more? Oh, one more thing: The winery is owned by Philip Wente of Wente Vineyards, the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery.

We were recently invited by Snooth to a virtual tasting with Murietta’s Well talented winemaker Robbie Meyer. Unfortunately we couldn’t make it, but we thankfully received some of his wines to taste.

Murietta’s Well is well known for its popular blends, The Spur (red), and The Whip (white). But the Livermore Valley brand offers other wines in its portfolio too.
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Rosé Release and More from Lauren Ashton Cellars

There’s a reason we talk a lot about Lauren Ashton Cellars — Kit Singh makes great wine. It’s that simple.

His recent rosé release is solid proof, and two June releases — 2013 Cuvée Arlette and 2016 Cuvée Meline — seal the deal.

2016 Lauren Ashton Rosé ($21)
Just released on April 22, this is a perfect rosé for spring and summer. The blend of Grenache (52%), Counoise (28%) and Mourvedre (20%) features berry notes and some citrus and spices. This wine is bright, lively and fruity, yet dry. Pair it with salads, pasta and rice dishes, seafood, shellfish and cheesy dishes. Or simply drink it without food, pairing it with your patio or deck on a warm afternoon or evening.

A portion of proceeds during the Rosé release weekend will be donated to Susan G. Komen Puget Sound. “We have a belief in this community and a passion for giving back,” said Singh. “We are able to provide our wine and our time to recipients we believe in. With our Rosé release becoming so popular, we love doing something to get the community involved too.”
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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