Figgins and Toil Oregon

During our last trip to Walla Walla, we had the good fortune to stop by the Figgins wine studio, where we enjoyed some wonderful wines expertly crafted by Chris Figgins.

“Crafted” might not be the best word — the Figgins’ website clearly states: Figgins wine is “grown” not “made” and as such, the wine quality is achieved through meticulous, sustainable farming practices and carefully controlled, yet “hands-off” winemaking.

We’ve been fans of Figgins wine for years; more recently, Chris introduced us to Toil Oregon wines at the Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo Resort. The silhouette on the Toil label is taken from a photo of Chris’ father and great uncle William Leonetti, planting the first Leonetti vineyard in 1974. The family history in the valley goes back even further; they moved to Walla Walla in 1902.
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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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Seasonal Wines from $18-$40

It’s that time of year when the calendar calls it spring but the cold nights make it seem like it is still winter. This means it’s a perfect time for winter reds that also drink well during spring weather.

Thanks to Kobrand, we received samples of wines that fit both seasons. You might not have heard of all of them, but don’t let that stop you. These are good wines!

BARDA By Bodega Charca 2015 ($29.99)
BARDA is a beautiful, balanced, smooth and 100% certified organic Pinot Noir from Argentina. This medium-bodied wine features red fruits, vanilla and spice. It’s also very food-friendly, which means you can try it with pasta, roast beef or salmon.

Agricola Punica Montessu Isola dei Nuraghi 2014 ($30.99)
This Italian beauty is primarily made from Carignano, a Spanish variety found in Sardinia, and blended with 10% each of Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Rich, silky, and intense depth with flavors of black fruit and hints of caramel, consider pairing it with tomato-based pasta dishes, lamb or pork.

St. Francis Winery and Vineyard: Reserve Merlot 2014 ($39.99)
The Reserve Sonoma Valley Merlot is rich and velvety with lush texture and flavors of blackberry, dark chocolate, spice and cassis. This wine will pair well with steaks or other meat dishes — on cooler nights, crisp spring evenings, or at summer barbecues — and you can also try it with dark chocolate brownies for dessert.

Masi Agricola Campofiorin 2012 ($18.99)
This easy-drinking, good-value wine features tart black cherry, licorice and dark chocolate on the palate, with vanilla, cinnamon and spice notes. Its versatility means it will complement lasagna and other pastas with rich sauces, beef dishes, and mature cheeses.

Tenuta di Salviano Lago di Corbara 2013 ($17.99)
A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this full-bodied wine is the described as the Umbrian answer to the Super Tuscans. A great value for all this richness in a hearty wine, which will pair well with pizza, grilled meats, risotto or hard cheeses.

So what are you waiting for? We recommend that you give these wines a try!

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

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

More Thanksgiving Wines

ThanksgivingThanksgiving is behind us, but we bet we’re not the only ones still eating leftovers! So here are some more wines to pair with turkey, in addition to the ones we told you about before the holiday.

Again, these are wines that were sent to us to sample over the holidays. Thank you to the wineries who shared their bounty!

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-5-23-05-pmJoseph Phelps Vineyard 2014 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($55)
This is the 10th vintage of Pinot Noir sourced from two of the winery’s estate vineyards in Freestone, CA — 51% from the Quarter Moon Vineyard and 49% from the Pastorale Vineyard.

The 2014 Pinot Noir is a powerful combination of fruity and savory, with earthy notes and flavors of black fruit and spices. Enjoy it now (with decanting) or over the next five years. From the winemaker:

“The 2014 Pinot Noir showcases aromatic red fruit, fragrant violet and savory spices. Fresh and focused on the palate with concentrated red raspberry and cherry, currant, baking spices and a hint of smoked meat. Nicely textured with firm acidity and a lingering finish.”

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-6-11-45-pmCraggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 ($45)
We loved (and wrote about) the 2009 vintage of this beautiful New Zealand Pinot Noir, so we knew we wanted to open the 2013 vintage with our Thanksgiving feast. It received a unanimous thumbs up from everyone at the table — an elegant, silky, smooth and complex wine from the Martinborough wine region of New Zealand. This Pinot is stellar, featuring smoky, earthy and savory aromas and flavors. From the winemaker:

“Deep brick red colour. Vibrant aromatics of red and black cherries, rose petal, sandalwood and wet earth. On the palate, fresh red fruits and fine dry tannins provide a soft yet complex finish.”

We were fortunate to visit Craggy Range during a trip to New Zealand in 2014, and the people in the tasting room were as lovely as the wines.

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-5-51-12-pmSequoia Grove Chardonnay 2015 ($30)
We enjoyed the 2013 vintage of Sequoia Grove Chardonnay with cilantro-lime prawns on the deck on a warm summer evening. But we recently discovered that this food-friendly Chardonnay also pairs well with many Thanksgiving side dishes.

Somehow, it’s rich and creamy, with light custard flavors — yet also refreshing with citrus zest, which will complement the heaviness of a holiday meal. We found it a little to oaky for our palates, but we know people who will absolutely love it.

And if you’re finished with turkey leftovers, pair this Chardonnay with seafood or cheeses.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave