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

Lauren Ashton Scores Again

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 4.17.09 PM The motto of Lauren Ashton Cellars — “True Washington Character” — has been noticeable in every sip we have tasted of Kit Singh’s elegant wines in the last five years.

This continues to be the case in his two recent releases, which we were fortunate enough to sample last week, courtesy of the winery: 2013 Proprietor’s Cuvée and 2013 Cuvée Estelle.

As with any new release, the wines are still young; but both are very approachable with decanting. They also have great aging potential.

Lauren Ashton Cellars 2013 Proprietor’s Cuvée ($65)
This is an elegant, complex and impressive Cab-based Bordeaux-style blend — 70.4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.3% Merlot, 13.3% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec — showing structure and balance immediately, followed by plush tannins after opening up. Luscious dark-fruit flavors follow a nose of violets, black cherries and plums. Pair this wine with beef, pork, lamb or any rich meat dishes. Kit wowed fans with the 2009 and 2011 vintages, and we predict that he is set to do the same with this stellar release.

Lauren Ashton Cellars 2013 Cuvée Estelle ($40)
This is another elegant Bordeaux-style blend, with Merlot (64%), Cabernet Sauvignon (27%) and Petit Verdot (9%). The Merlot brings aromas of violets and black fruit, the Cab Sauv adds depth and weight, and the Petit Verdot offers hint of spice to sweet cherry flavors. Enjoy this wine with grilled meats, or pour it as a stand-alone wine to enjoy with friends.

The bottom line: We highly recommend stopping by Lauren Ashton Cellars Tasting Studio in the Hollywood District of Woodinville or finding out more about these notable wines at their website.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Little Black Dress

The dress code for your holiday party doesn’t call for your little black dress, but there’s no reason you can’t bring a bottle of Little Black Dress (LBD) wines from Mendocino County.

According to LBD Wines (of California), “a good bottle of wine is your best accessory” and their wines  are “the perfect fit for every palate, party or holiday meal.”

To demonstrate it, the winery kindly sent us four samples to taste. While we don’t think these wines are for every palate, they are crowd-pleasers for those who like basic, simple, easy-drinking and affordable wines.

LBD Pinot Grigio ($11.99)
The predominant Pinot Grigio is blended with a bit of Chardonnay, Muscat and Viognier, which provides a pleasant combination of citrus and floral flavors. It pairs well with salads, sushi (or any soy-sauce-based dishes) or fish with lemon, to complement the citrus flavors of the wine. From the tasting notes: “Aromas of apple, melon and lemongrass before a zesty tangerine finish.”

LBD Cabernet Sauvignon ($11.99)
Cabernet Sauvignon is rounded off with Petite Sirah, Syrah and other red varietals to provide multi-layers to a medium-bodied wine. As with most Cab Sauvs, this goes well with juicy burgers and other grilling meats. Or you could try it with strong cheeses or chocolate. From the tasting notes: “Rich aromas of dark berries and toasted oak, a hint of vanilla spice and a lasting finish.”

LBD Diva Red ($11.99)
This Cab-based red blend contains a medley of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Petite Sirah, with small amounts of Zinfandel, Tannat, Mouvedre, Garnacha, Malbec and “other red grapes.” A fruit-forward wine, the Diva not surprisingly has a juicy finish. From the tasting notes: “Decadent notes of dark plum, cocoa and caramel leading to a finish accented by hints of cinnamon and chocolate-dipped strawberries.”

LBD Merlot ($11.99)
A small amount of Petite Sirah rounds off this rich Merlot, which has aromas of red licorice and plum, moving into flavors of berries and vanilla. Like the Cab, this wine pairs with meats and hearty dishes. From the tasting notes: “Plush aromas of ripe black cherry, rich mocha and spicy plum before a seductive vanilla and oak finish.”

Be sure to decant all of these wines before pouring, and enjoy!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Locations Wine by Dave Phinney

You might have heard of Dave Phinney because of his popular red blend, The Prisoner, or through Orin Swift Cellars, which he recently sold as a premium brand to E. & J. Gallo.

In addition to remaining with Orin Swift, his latest focus is on Locations Wine — as the name suggests, he is making the best value wines possible across the locations of all of the major wine-producing regions of the world.

In Dave Phinney’s words: “I seek out high-quality vineyards, and forward-thinking growers, across appellations to create a wine that proudly represents the best viticultural parcels of that country or location. Our quest is for old vines with low yields, to bring out the best of a specific vineyard and area. We then combine these parcels of place to craft a wine that pays homage to the country of origin; a wine that makes all of us proud.”

And better yet – these attractive wines are also affordable and approachable. Accolades for Phinney have been swift.

“Dave Phinney might be my “value winemaker of the year” candidate … If there are better wines for under $20 a bottle in the world today, please share that information with The Wine Advocate. These are all remarkable efforts. Kudos to Dave Phinney!” — Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate, July 27, 2016

We were fortunate to be provided with samples of six Locations wines, which have basic labels (the letters of the region) and a release number — in this case, the numbers 4 and 5 represent the most recent vintages. We’ve only tasted two so far, and were impressed.

WA4 – Washington Red Wine, $19.99
A unique blend of Syrah, Merlot and Petite Sirah, we knew immediately this would be a big Washington state red that our palates favor. We were right.  A beautiful nose of blueberries, almonds and licorice was followed by flavors of dark fruit, chocolate and spices on the finish. There is a lot going on with this complex wine.

CA4 – California Red Wine, $19.99
This is another unusual blend — Petite Sirah, Barbera, Tempranillo, Syrah and Grenache, from California’s diverse appellations: Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and the Sierra Foothills. Deep ruby in color, this is a robust red, offering flavors of intense berries, black fruits, smoke and savory notes, with a peppery finish that one might expect from Syrah.

These two wines were delightful, and we are looking forward to experiencing the remaining four samples. Until then, here are their tasting notes and price points.

OR4 – Oregon Red Wine, $23.99
“100% Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley; vivid red with a deep purple core, the nose is generous with ripe cherry, black raspberry, acacia flowers and hint of forest floor. Immediately, the palate is treated to a textural mélange of sweet cherry, pomegranate, rose petal and sappy strawberry. A lively mid-palate reveals a mineral twist and exotic spice notes juxtaposed with fine tannins and superb clarity on the finish.”

F4 – French Red Wine, $18.99
“A blend of Grenache, Syrah and assorted Bordeaux varieties; a dominant nose of raspberry, rhubarb and wild strawberry are complemented by savory aromas of humid tobacco, lavender and rose petal. An immediate entry of cranberry and other red fruit leads to a touch of savoriness. the wine is fresh and lively with great acidity and approachable tannins.”

E4 – Spanish Red Wine, $18.99
“A blend of Grenache/Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell and Carignan/Carinena; the wine presents a dark, polished amethyst with aromatic notes of white pepper, tobacco and black currant emerging from the glass. A silky mouthfeel with a palate of dark plums, black raspberry and hints of French vanilla closes with subtle tart black cherry and a lengthy, structural finish.”

AR5 – Argentinian Red Wine, $17.99
“A blend primarily of Malbec with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon; garnet in the glass, the wine exudes aromas of brambly boysenberry complemented by hints of antique rosewood and lavender. Immediately, the wine presents a rich entry of ripe red currant, hints of dark berries and subtle minerality, which transitions into an elegant and lingering finish of thyme and sage.>

The vision of Locations Wines is “Simple. Complex. Fun.”

Simple: “Make the best possible wine from a given country or location”

Complex: “Going out and tracking down the vineyards which are capable of delivering the quality of wine needed”

Fun: “Traveling the world to visit incredible sites and meeting amazing people that challenge each other to make the best wine possible”

Our final note: At this price point, we highly recommend that you try some, if not all, of the wines in this unique portfolio.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Thanksgiving Wines

ThanksgivingWondering what wines to pour over the Thanksgiving holiday? A special bottle to take to a family dinner or an evening with good friends?

Below are some wines that were sent to us to sample in time for the holidays. Thank you to the wineries who shared their bounty! We think all of these wines would pair well with different courses of a Thanksgiving feast.

img_0323Feudo Maccari 2013 Saia Nero d’Avola ($25)
Nero D’Avola is a perfect pairing for the main course, whether you go with traditional turkey, holiday roast or even rack of venison. Or before the meal, you could also serve it with a charcuterie board of smoked meats, cheeses, olives and dried fruits. The wine opens up with aromas of espresso and black plum, followed by juicy ripe cherry, sweet spices and a long finish. Simply lovely. Be sure to decant it for a few hours before serving. This vintage received a score of 90 by Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. Nero D’Avola is the most widely planted grape in Sicily.

img_0321Willamette Valley Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir ($55)
This delightful medium-bodied Oregon Pinot Noir features spicy, earthy notes, along with Thanksgiving flavors of cranberry, tart cherry and savory pumpkin. Sourced from old vines in the Willamette Valley, this is one powerful wine that will pair well with any mushroom-based side dishes or butternut squash.

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2015 Pinot Blanc ($24)
We love the minerality of this Pinot Blanc, which has a beautiful nose of pears, oranges and other citrus notes. We would typically enjoy this as a summer sipper on the deck, but we also think this would go well with your Thanksgiving salad or even with turkey and stuffing, if you prefer white wine.

img_0324Terra Di Montenegro 2012 Toscana ($35)
Another wine from Italy caught our attention, because we first experienced wines from Monteverro in August. This full-bodied beauty blends Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) with Cabernet Franc (30%), Merlot (15%) and 5% of Petit Verdot to round out the flavors.

Dark ruby in color, the wine opens with black cherry and cassis, with a bit of spice and fresh ripe fruit on the palate. If your main course is steak or roast beef instead of turkey this year, this Bordeaux blend is for you. Wine Spectator gave this wine 90 points.

Enjoy your holiday feast – and have a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving with your family and friends.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Fielding Hills Winery

img_4131On a trip to Lake Chelan last month, we discovered that the new tasting room at Fielding Hills Winery is as  magnificent as the wines. (The tasting room isn’t really new, it’s two years old, but we hadn’t visited in six years, so it was new to us.) Located on the shores of Lake Chelan, the views are spectacular and a great backdrop to some wonderful Washington wines.

Winemaker Mike Wade released his first vintage in 2000, and two years later, he was named one of Washington’s Rising Stars by Wine Spectator. We first met Mike in 2010 at his vineyard, during our tour of Cascade Valley wine country. At the time, he told us that the winery’s history began a lot earlier.

“Fielding Hills Winery actually began in 1919 when my grandfather, Isham Fielding Wade, set off from Tennessee to find his place in the world. Settling in Eastern Washington, he started a family and a business, both tied to cultivating the land. The name of our winery is a tribute to him and the character qualities he lived. I believe his legacy is found in each glass of Fielding Hills wine.”

We’ve been fans of Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon for years, and these two beauties did not disappoint in their recent vintages. Here are our thoughts on them and the other wines we enjoyed during our visit.

img_4127 2010 Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc Estate Barrel Select
No surprise here, we love this library wine — one select barrel of 100% Cabernet Franc from Fielding Hills estate vineyard. This Cab Franc is beyond rich; it is luxe, pure, full-bodied and unique to the character of the grape and the 2010 harvest. This is a special occasion wine, so we purchased a couple of bottles for some milestone events coming up soon.

2012 Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc ($34)
This is another lovely wine — 90% Cabernet Franc blended with 5% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s drinking well now, but will be even better after a year or more in the cellar. “Aromas of coffee, cherry, vanilla, woodspice, mesquite and herbs lead to concentrated, rich cherry and chocolate flavors that linger.”

2012 Fielding Hills Cabernet Sauvignon ($44)
Deep, inky, complex, this Cab Sauv is bold, dense and opulent with a long finish. Smokey, silky and smooth, the tasting notes describe it as “revealing multiple layers and a hedonistic styling.” This is one of the best Cabs we’ve tasted in recent months. Pair it with steak or simply enjoy it with dark chocolate.

2012 Fielding Hills Tribute ($34)
In our opinion, this wine is a tribute to Washington state’s fine varietals, in addition to showcasing Fielding Hills lineup – a blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 20% Merlot with aromas of cocoa, spices, cedar and black cherries.

img_41322010 and 2011 Fielding Hills Merlot ($36)
We were split on which vintage we preferred; here are the tasting notes:

2010: “Lush and appealing with notes of vanilla and other barrel spices accenting herbs and red fruit. The palate is creamy in feel with tart, mouthwatering acids that draw out the flavors for a long finish.”

2011: “81% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Franc – Woodspice, coffee, raspberries, light gamy notes, richly flavorful and  balanced.”

2012 Fielding Hills Syrah ($40)
Rich, full-bodied and smooth, this wine is comprised of 94% Syrah, blended with 2 percent each of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Merlot, and displays the smokey, peppery notes we appreciate in the varietal.

If you’re looking for a weekend get-away, we highly recommend the Lake Chelan area — and Fielding Hills, with its lake and mountain views and excellent wines, is a must to visit.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave