Wonderful Warm-Weather Whites

With the warm spring days easing into summer heat, an array of white wines have caught our fancy lately. These are all super summer sippers to pair with your patio or deck — or perhaps when serving fish, crab, scallops, oysters, shrimp, prawns, sushi or a tasty summer salad.

Our palates prefer Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris/Grigio, but there are many other choices are out there to try. We recently tasted the refreshing citrusy Albariño and the dry floral Viura, and were wowed!

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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

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

Panther Creek: Thirty Years of Pinot

panther-creekPanther Creek in Oregon’s Willamette Valley is celebrating its 30th anniversary of making Pinot Noir, which is a perfect reason to raise a glass or two of their fine wines over the holidays.

Renowned Oregon Pinot winemaker Ken Wright founded Panther Creek Cellars in 1986; in 1994, he sold the winery and opened Ken Wright Cellars in Carlton. Other winemakers succeeded him at Panther Creek and by 2013, current winemaker Tony Rynders of Domaine Serene took the helm. One year later, Panther Creek moved to its tasting room in Dundee.

Panther Creek specializes in Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, all of which go well with holiday meals; or you could take a bottle or two to those numerous parties on your calendar this month.

panther-creek-1The winery’s 2014 vintage was recently released, and we were fortunate to receive two samples, plus a bonus wine to pour in a side-by-side tasting.

Of note, all young pinots should be decanted for 2-3 hours so you can really enjoy the flavors. This gives you time to prepare your appetizers or your meal, so it’s a good thing!

 

2014 Panther Creek Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Cuvee ($30)

This classic Oregon Pinot Noir opens with spicy aromas and moves to red, ripe fruit flavors and earthy notes. It would pair well with turkey or even a turkey sandwich, or if you want something besides the big bird, you could try it with cedar-plank salmon, pork tenderloin or any dish with mushrooms.

From the winemaker tasting notes:
“Reminisce about those delicious La Vie de la Vosgienne Framboises candies in the round tins, highlighted by dark fruit and cola and balanced with fine grain tannins. A mélange of varying soil types create a youthful Pinot Noir with a beautiful blend of flavor profiles and textures…gorgeous and easy to enjoy.”

2013 and 2014 Panther Creek Schindler Vineyard Pinot Noir ($50)
Think big, think age-worthy and take a sip. You’ll understand why Tony Rynders refers to these wines as a “beast” or “monster.”

We opened both bottles at the same time, so we could do a side-by-side tasting. The 2013 showed black-cherry fruit with hints of cedar and earth. As mentioned earlier, these pinots should be decanted. But the 2013 should be cellared first for a few years to really enjoy it. Our friend, Jenise Stone, who has an incredible palate, put it this way: “Let this puppy sleep.”

From the winemaker tasting notes (2013):
“Watch out! This is a big, masculine black fruited beauty. Light smoke with delicate coffee undertones support the expansiveness and fine grain tannins of this monster. The silky explosion of black fruit leaves a lasting appropriately weighted finish…extremely cellar-worthy.”

The 2014 was bigger, a chewy wine with black fruit and classic Pinot Noir savory characteristics such as earth, mushrooms and dark fruit.

From the 2014 tasting notes:
“Dark and brooding blue, purple and black fruit, shrouding a monumental foundation of granite and incredible structure, this is a very big boy that will mature fantastically. Looking for a massive Pinot? This monster is it.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.13 PMYou can meet winemaker Tony Rynders and taste his wines at the 2nd annual Northwest Wine Encounter at the scenic Semiahmoo Resort, April 28-30, 2017. We attended last year’s inaugural event and are looking forward to the 2017 activities. (More about the event will be posted here in the new year.)

Cheers!
Margot and Dave