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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Don Sebastiani Delicious

Don Sebastiani & Sons Pinot Noir has always graced our wine collection, so we were delighted to find out about how this California winery has expanded its portfolio to 14 brands with Big Smooth wines — a beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon and a lush Old Vine Zinfandel packaged in a bottle with a velvet label.

“Big Smooth is inspired by the understanding that wine itself is an experience,” said Donny Sebastiani, CEO of Don Sebastiani & Sons. “Our vision for Big Smooth is to deliver big, mouth-filling wines that are not only smooth and sensual to drink, but extend that feeling all the way from first glance on the shelf to the last sip from your glass.”

The Sonoma-based winery also reinvigorated The Crusher wine series, with a new label design and new California label designation. The Crusher line-up: Merlot, Red Blend, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and the debut of Unoaked Chardonnay.

We recently enjoyed these samples, kindly provided by the winery.
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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.”
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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

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

Adler Fels

Just in time for the holidays, Adler Fels has a reenergized vision and new releases of 2014 Pinot Noir and 2015 Chardonnay.

Although Adler Fels has been producing award-winning wines in California for more than 35 years, the winery decided on a rebirth in 2016 by focusing on “artisan wines with intense varietal character.” To do this, winemakers Aaron Bader and Linda Trotta “searched for the best vineyards in the best regions, grown by interesting people in interesting places.”

We joined the celebration by tasting samples, provided by the winery, of these two new releases.

Adler Fels 2014 The Eagle Rock Pinot Noir ($27.99)
Adler Fels is German for “Eagle Rock” — a fitting name since the winery is high on a crest in the Mayacamas mountains, with a fantastic view of many of California’s Napa and Sonoma vineyards.

This luscious wine is sourced from grapes in the Santa Rita Hills (76%) and the Russian River Valley (24%), and shows the true character of Pinot Noir. It features notes of black olives, earth, cedar, cherries, licorice and smoke, with a hint of caramel, vanilla and spices. We recommend decanting for a few hours, or cellaring this wine for a couple of years to truly bring out the flavors.

This lovely Pinot could be paired with turkey, mushroom dishes and hearty salads. Adler Fels recommends pairing it with grilled portobello mushrooms with garlic and baked brie. Yum!

Winemaker Aaron Bader says: “Making good Pinot is both a physical and mental exercise. And then it’s so darn delicious. It’s sexy, luscious, with that sweet perfume, a hint of maple syrup and lush fruit.”

Adler Fels 2015 The Eagle Rock Chardonnay ($19.99)
Also from grapes in the Russian River Valley (50%) in addition to Monterey County (50%), this is a wonderful wine for Chardonnay lovers. Well balanced, complex, creamy, yet fruit-forward, this true-to-character California Chardonnay features aromas and flavors of mango, peaches, pears and  honey comb.

You could pair this full-bodied, easy-drinking Chard with with tuna, salmon, vegetarian dishes or even pork chops. Adler Fels recommends pairing it with salmon rillettes.

Winemaker Linda Trotta says: “Subtlety is key for well-made Chardonnay — a challenge I relish.” She describes this vintage as refreshing, balanced and rich on the palate. “The bright acidity makes it a delicious and food-friendly wine.”

You can enjoy both wines for any occasion, including your holiday meals or parties.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave