Your Car + Their Driver When Wine Tasting in the Seattle Area

There’s a new, safe way to visit the numerous winery tasting rooms in the Seattle area — now you can order Main Street Drivers to be the designated driver of your car. In other words, the company’s “your car + our driver” concept means a professional chauffeur drives your vehicle.

It’s less expensive than renting a car or a limo service. And whether you are with your spouse, family or a group of friends, everyone can enjoy the day wine tasting without having to worry about safe driving afterward.

Think about it – customized transportation at taxi prices to take you around Seattle Urban Wineries and Woodinville Wine Country — popular wine destinations in the Seattle area.

This is particularly helpful if you want to participate in Spring Release Weekend or other winery events, have a fun night on the town, during special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries and birthdays, or even in the busy summer tourism season (so you don’t have to worry about finding a parking space).

Founded in 2011, Main Street Drivers began offering its services in the Hamptons, and now operates in the wine regions of Finger Lakes and North Fork in New York, Willamette Valley in Oregon and the Walla Walley Valley, in addition to the new service in the Seattle area.

All drivers have professional driving experience, background checks and insurance.

Reservations are $35/hour, plus a 20% service fee/gratuity, and can be made at the Main Street Drivers website, where you can also find additional information.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Data Science to Easily Pair Wine and Cheese? Yes!

How many times have you wondered which cheeses pair well with your favorite wines? Or perhaps you’ve debated which wines complement your favorite cheeses.

You might have conducted online searches or looked at books for advice. Ultimately you probably found the answers, but how long did it take?

Now, thanks to data science and a Canadian professor, you can find results in an instant.

University of Toronto professor Gary Bader specializes in biological network analysis; he and a team of computer scientists and molecular geneticists developed a free interactive website, Wine and Cheese Map, to suggest pairings for about 100 red and white wines, and about 270 cheeses.

“You just quickly look at a picture and see patterns that would be very difficult to find if you were looking through data spreadsheets one row at a time,” Bader told the BBC.

The website process is very simple. To find which wines pair best with your favorite cheese, just type the name of the cheese in the search box. In an instant, you will be shown red and white wines that pair well with it. Similar cheeses will also be identified.

For example, if you have some delicious Gorgonzola in your fridge, and wonder what wine to drink with it, simply type in “Gorgonzola.” You will discover that it goes very well with California Cabernet Sauvignon, as do three similar cheeses, Cashel Blue, Stilton and Fourme d’Ambert.

Or if you have a bottle of Shiraz ready to pour, and want to know what cheese to pair with it, simply type in “Shiraz” and you will see the answer (as shown in the map below): Gruyere, Winchester Aged Gouda and many other cheeses.

In addition, the map’s interactive features allow you to move between different wines and cheeses. For example, if you click on “Gruyere” in the above map about Shiraz, you will be shown a new map (below); and you will discover that Gruyere also goes well with California Sauvignon Blanc, Tuscan Sangiovese, Syrah and California Zinfandel. Again, other similar cheeses are also noted.

The map can be used for planning parties or even when you’re shopping. So next time you are visiting a cheese bar in your favorite grocery or specialty store, or choosing wine from your cellar to go with that special cheese in your fridge, open up Wine and Cheese Map on your mobile device to help make your selections.

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

It’s Back! The Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo

The second annual Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo Resort will be held April 28-30, when some of the northwest’s most talented winemakers and viticulturists will be holding seminars, tastings and attending a gala dinner:

We have had the pleasure of meeting Mike Sauer, Chris Upchurch and Walter Gehringer in the past, and have tasted wines from all of the attending wineries and vineyards. We also attended last year’s inaugural Northwest Wine Encounter — so we can personally attest to the experiences awaiting you this year at Semiahmoo Resort.

The event is packed with educational and fun times, opening on Friday, April 28 with a “Winemaker’s Reception,” followed by a private beach bonfire with gourmet s’mores at the spectacular resort.

Saturday’s activities include educational seminars hosted by Andy Perdue of Wine Press Northwest, who is also a wine columnist for The Seattle Times. Keynote speaker will be retailer and collector Doug Charles of Compass Wines.

Participants will also have the unique opportunity to taste wines one-on-one with participating winemakers at Saturday’s “Wine Speed Dating.”

Saturday culminates with an intimate Vintner’s Dinner Gala — a five-course meal crafted by Bruno Feldeisen, executive chef at Semiahmoo Resort’s Pierside Kitchen, and celebrity chef Roy Breiman of Coastal Hotels. The courses will be paired by wines from all wineries in attendance.

Sunday’s seminar, “Importance of Place,” looks at the importance of a vineyard’s location (or a location within a vineyard) to the grape-growing process.

The entire weekend package — including two nights at the gorgeous resort — starts at $475 per person. Local residents can phone for more details: (360) 318-2000. Further information is available at Semiahmoo Resort’s website.

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

 

Happy 50th Anniversary to Chateau Ste. Michelle

This year marks an historical milestone for Chateau Ste. Michelle and the Washington wine industry — it’s the 50th anniversary of the oldest winery in the state, so let the celebrations begin!

Ste. Michelle’s anniversary activities include a commemorative Cabernet bottling, library wine releases, a special anniversary Summer Concert Series, the opening of a newly expanded visitor center and other events to honor the state’s founding winery.

According to the winery, “Chateau Ste. Michelle has become the number two premium domestic wine brand sold in the U.S. (Nielsen-Dollars), with wines available in all 50 states and more than 100 countries.”

“It is truly remarkable what Chateau Ste. Michelle and the Washington wine industry have accomplished in a relatively short period of time through a pioneering spirit, collaboration and hard work,” said Ted Baseler, President and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. “With significant new vineyard plantings, industry investment in research and the education of future grape growers and winemakers, we can honestly say the best is yet to come.”

Here are the “50 cheers to 50 years” events and projects planned by the winery this year; you can also view the winery’s 50th Anniversary video or view a Celebration page on its website.

Special Bottling Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley 
In April, to kick off the anniversary celebrations, the winery will release a commemorative label 50th Anniversary special bottling of its Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (750ml, SRP: $15), which will pay tribute to the first 1967 vintage. In addition, a one-time magnum (1.5L) bottling will be released for retail and restaurants and serve as a great collector’s item.

Golden Cork Sweepstakes
From April 1 to Sept. 30, inside every 50th Anniversary special bottling of Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a chance to win one of 50 prizes. Four Grand Prize winners will be selected to win a trip for two to visit Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville.

2017 Summer Concert Series
From June to September, the winery will host its popular annual Summer Concert Series with special artists to be announced in April 2017. Launched in 1984, the Summer Concert Series has featured top artists including Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, John Legend, Harry Connick, Jr. and many more.

IMPETUS
In September, the winery will release 4,800 numbered bottles of IMPETUS (750ml, SRP $125) by Chateau Ste. Michelle, the brand’s wine showcasing the three varieties that are stellar in the Washington region but are not traditionally blended together (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Malbec).

Chateau Ste. Michelle History Book
The winery will release a highly illustrated coffee-table style book to tell the rich story of the Washington wine industry and Ste. Michelle’s role in bringing it to the forefront, commemorating the winery’s five decades of tradition and innovation.

Newly Expanded Visitor Center
Targeted for August 2017, Chateau Ste. Michelle will unveil an expansion of the winery’s visitor center — the largest in the company’s history. Doubling the size to 22,731 sq. ft., the new visitor center will feature a modern 70-seat theater, an interactive blending room (where guests create their own bottle of wine from the winery’s iconic estate vineyards), private tasting salons, a Club Room, an Enoteca to sell wines from sister wineries in the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates portfolio, a new outdoor terrace and more. A grand opening celebration will take place during Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-3.

Congratulations and thank you, Chateau Ste. Michelle!

50 Cheers to 50 Years!
Margot and Dave

 

The Super Bowl of Wine Events Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

Taste Washington celebrates its 20th anniversary in Seattle on March 23-26, with almost 300 wineries, more than 70 restaurants and top national chefs. It’s an explosion of tastes, fun and education, all rolled into one.

As far back as we can remember, we’ve always called Taste Washington “the Super Bowl of Wine Events” because it is the country’s largest single-region wine and food event. Period.

And this year’s expanded lineup offers four days packed with diverse activities. First up is “super-exclusive wine pours” at the VIP Red & White Party.

Taste Washington on the Farm gives you an opportunity to explore the northwest’s bounty, alongside farmers, chefs and winemakers. And then there’s The New Vintage with its trendy Rosé Lounge.

Don’t forget the super-informative and fun wine seminars, which include tastings and interactive panels, where you can find out — from top winemakers, Master Sommeliers and national wine personalities — why Washington state is a world-class wine region.

We love to go every year and encourage you to run, don’t walk, to get your tickets. If you’re planning to attend multiple Taste Washington events, you might be interested in The Connoisseur festival pass for four days of VIP access.

Note: Before you enter the Grand Tasting doors, we highly recommend that you develop a plan. Because once there, you will be hit with a massive amount of taste potentials — and it can be overwhelming.

For example, one year we decided to only taste Cabernet Franc, as a standalone varietal. Another year, we decided to visit booths of some of our tried and favorite wineries plus five new ones.

But we always leave room for some flexibility; chances are something will catch our eye as we walk through the aisles, and we’ll make an on-the-spot decision to deviate from the plan. There could be a new wine release that grabbed our attention or a mouth-watering dish, whose scent wafted our way.

Of note, we recommend tasting and spitting wine (or pouring it into the buckets at each booth) at this major event, but if you think you might want more than a sip or two, many hotels in the area are offering special weekend packages. Otherwise, be sure to have a designated driver, or take cabs or local transit home.

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave