It’s Not Too Late For Summer Sippers! Five Whites for $16-$25

Who says summer is over with Labour Day? No way – there is still a month left for summer sippers on the deck in Washington state!

Here are five white Washington state wines to enjoy in the weeks ahead.

2012 Wysling Band of Sisters, Parejas  Cellars: $16

This refreshing white wine “bands” together a unique blend of 55% Marsanne, 34% Roussanne and 11% Grenache Blanc. Frankly, I wasn’t sure if we’d like it because our choice in whites tends to favor Sauvignon Blancs and Viogniers. But this dry white was a pleasant surprise and is well worth the price point. According to the tasting notes: “Band of Sisters has “exotic & refreshing perfumed aromas of spiced herbal tea, spring blossoms, Asian pears, Greengages, and honeysuckle.” Interestingly, we experienced grapefruit, which is one of the reasons we enjoyed it so much. We also appreciated its full body – this wine drinks well alone or with food. (Note: We were sent this wine to sample; as stated in our sample policy, we accept free samples with the understanding that we only write about wine that we like.)

2012 Feral Sauvignon Blanc, Efeste: $20; 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, JM Cellars: $25

2012 Efeste Feral follows in the footsteps of previous award-winning vintages by a different winemaker. Brennon Leighton created Feral using indigenous, wild yeast, which showcases the crisp, clean minerality pure to this varietal. Current winemaker Peter Devison continued this style, crafting another winner for Efeste. From the tasting notes: “On the palate lemon, yellow grapefruit, and sugarcane flavors are supported by ripe phenolics and gooseberry-like acidity, which is persistent and mouthwatering. The finish is long and elegant. This wine demands shellfish.”

2012 JM Cellars Sauv Blanc is another stellar white from winemaker John Bigelow. We have enjoyed several bottles of this beauty on our deck throughout the summer and saved one for the perfect warm September evening ahead. It is thoroughly refreshing alone or paired with prawns or some excellent cheese. From the tasting notes: “We ferment the juice in stainless steel tanks to show off beautiful tropical fruit aromas and flavors found in Klipsun Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp and dry, our Sauvignon Blanc pairs perfectly with a summer picnic.”

A few years ago, these two Washington Sauvignon Blancs, along with one from Goosecross in Napa Valley, brought us back to loving white wine in the summer after a decade of strictly reds.

2012 Viognier, Alexandria Nicole Cellars: $20; 2012 Viognier, William Church Winery: $23

Jarrod Boyle, ANC’s winemaker and co-owner, describes his 2012 Alexandria Nicole Viognier as a “golden gem,” and we couldn’t agree more. The lavender, peach and citrus aromas are gorgeously summer. This Viognier has generated numerous accolades with its textured mouth-feel and luscious flavors. We found it pairs well with grilled seafood or some chicken dishes. From the tasting notes: “Beautifully balanced it lingers with the richness of apricot and orange blossom, with a lively mouth feel of crisp granny smith apple and a touch of pear on the finish. A clean and refreshing wine that pairs well with food or a summertime patio.”

William Church Viognier is known as the winery’s signature, winning many awards over the years. Winemaker Rod Balsley recommends pairing this fragrant, lush wine with creamy cheeses or foods with a dash of asian spice. We’ve also appreciated it without food. From the tasting notes: “Our flagship Viognier has beautiful aromatics of fresh pear and honeysuckle. What follows are rich peach flavors and citrus with enough acidity to keep the wine fresh and lively.”

So raise a glass of refreshing Washington wine to Summer 2013 – and its continuation into September.


Goosecross Cellars Howell Mountain Cab

There’s a reason we always tell friends, family and colleagues to stop at Goosecross Cellars during their trip to Napa Valley. Well, actually there are several reasons: great wine, super people and a fun atmosphere.

Let’s start with the wine, specifically our favorite Goosecross red over the years: Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.

Every year we buy a bottle (or several), and each vintage always impresses. Every year, we plan to cellar this robust wine for as long as possible. But, not being particularly patient people, our Goosecross Howell Mountain Cab rarely lasts more than 18 months in our cellar.

This year was no different. Yes, the 2007 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is drinkable through 2016. But guess what? We popped open a bottle a few days ago, and like its previous vintages, this deep, dark and intense wine already has what we like to call the “wow factor.”

Goosecross Howell Mountain Cab is rich and elegant with so many layers of lovely that we wish we had a few cases.

A full-bodied Cab with aromas of dark cherry, plum and anise, and wisps of chocolate, smoke and spice, this beauty pairs well with ribeye steaks, roast beef, prime rib and more. In fact, Colleen Topper, co-owner of Goosecross, has seven recipes that pair with this big red, including a delicious Grilled Ribeye Steak with Garlic Butter.

You can find it, along with hundreds of recipes matched to Goosecross wines, at David Topper, CEO and webmaster, was one of the first winery owners in Napa Valley to prominently place social media on their website. Back in 2005, he created a popular podcast, Napa Valley Wine Radio, as one of several educational resources provided by the winery. These days, you’ll find links to wine articles, Colleen’s recipes, a free concierge service, reviews on Yelp, and to Goosecross’ pages on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Over the years of visiting Gooscross Cellars, David and Colleen have become our valued friends. We enjoy their company as much as we enjoy their wines. But it all began in their tasting room, where hospitality reigns supreme.

Back to the wine: In Napa Valley, Cabernet is king. And, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from Goosecross Cellars is a king of a Cab!


Wines of Chile

Virtual tastings and tweet-ups are becoming a weekly occurrence in the wine industry, and one of the best organized in my recent experience was by Wines of Chile.

At this tasting, we explored three styles of wines from four different varietals: Sauvignon Blanc, Carménère (Chile’s signature grape), Pinot Noir (relatively new to Chile) and Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile’s star red grape).

I think many of us who were invited to this event were surprised to discover that Chilean wines are unique and expressive, in addition to offering a low price point.

The tasting, attended by 60 U.S. wine bloggers, was moderated by Master Sommelier and Wines of Chile Educator Fred Dexheimer, who was in the same room as the winemakers. Bloggers watched them live on an online video screen, while tasting from the complimentary bottles shipped to us the previous week. As we experienced the lineup. we could ask questions of the winemakers and comment in a live micro-blogging stream located on the same web page as the video screen; others posted live on Twitter.

And now to the wine …

As regular readers know, we are big fans of Sauvignon Blanc, particularly with prawns or blue cheese on summer evenings relaxing on the deck. Our preference has been Sauv Blancs from Washington (Efeste and JM Cellars) and Napa Valley (Goosecross Cellars), and we are just starting to enjoy this refreshing, zesty wine from New Zealand.

Now, we are adding Sauv Blanc from Chile to our collection. Although these three wines are very different, they all made our list: Viña Casablanca Nimbus Single Vineyard 2012 ($13), San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard 2011 ($19) and Casa Silva Cool Coast 2011 ($25). We particularly favored the last two because of their grapefruit flavors.

Of the 12 wines that were tasted, other standouts (to us) representing each grape were Morandé Casablanca Valley Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2009 ($18), Koyle Royale 2009 Carménère ($26) and Viña Los Vascos 2009 Le Dix Cabernet Sauvignon ($65).

Here is the full list:

  • Viña Casablanca Casablanca Valley Nimbus Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2012
  • San Pedro Leyda Valley 1865 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  • Casa Silva Colchagua Valley Paredones Estate Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  • Emiliana Casablanca Valley Novas Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2010
  • Cono Sur Casablanca Valley 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2009
  • Morandé Casablanca Valley Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2009
  • Concha y Toro Cachapoal Valley Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere 2010
  • Carmen Colchagua Valley Alpata Vineyard Gran Reserva Carmenere 2010
  • Koyle Royale Alto Colchagua Carmenere
  • Viña Ventisquero Maipo Valley Grey Glacier Single Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
  • Viña Maquis Colchagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
  • Viña Los Vascos Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) Colchagua Valley Le Dix Cabernet Sauvignon

Thanks Wines of Chile and Emily Denton for inviting me to this educational and fun event.


Want to Take Wine on Your Holiday Travels?

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, mainly by plane and car, for both work and play. And with a crazy work schedule continuing in the next couple of months, there will be even more travel in my future – and with the holidays just weeks away, most likely in your future, too.

Well, there is a way to take that bottle or two of amazing Washington wine with you to share with friends and colleagues in other states, provinces and countries. You can also buy local wine on a trip or take a gift home.

How can that be? Airport security restrictions require us to pack wine bottles in our checked suitcases. I used to worry that my clothes and other items would be wrecked if a bottle broke en route and a mess was made. In the past, I tried wineskins and other containers for my precious cargo. They offered some protection, but occasionally stuff happens, right?

Then I heard about the Jet Bag, which promises to protect your wine, even if your checked suitcase is thrown onto luggage belts or tossed around an airport. So I packed a special bottle of Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from Goosecross Cellars in a Jet Bag and placed it in my checked luggage, so we could toast Dave’s birthday while we were on vacation last month. It worked!

What makes this travel solution better than others is the same reason why the Jet Bag used to be described as a “wine diaper” — it’s lined with the same absorbent materials found in baby diapers. So if by chance a bottle does break, the Jet Bag rapidly absorbs the spill and keeps the messy liquid away from your clothing and other important articles that you packed in your suitcase.

This handy, biodegradable carrier is 18 inches tall, weighs only a third of an ounce and can easily hold a 750 mL bottle of wine within its protective padding. With a re-sealable closure, you also can use it over and over – as long as a bottle doesn’t break in it. Ours didn’t.

It’s reasonably priced, too – so it’s perfect to give as a gift or to share with friends and family who are traveling with you. The company’s official Web site offers a three-pack of Jet Bags for $15.

Of course, you can also use the Jet Bag in the car or on a boat; and you can carry other liquids, from water bottles to liquor, in it, too.

Note: I was given a free sample of a JetBag, which I took on our recent trip.

Safe travels, and happy times!