Rosé Release and More from Lauren Ashton Cellars

There’s a reason we talk a lot about Lauren Ashton Cellars — Kit Singh makes great wine. It’s that simple.

His recent rosé release is solid proof, and two June releases — 2013 Cuvée Arlette and 2016 Cuvée Meline — seal the deal.

2016 Lauren Ashton Rosé ($21)
Just released on April 22, this is a perfect rosé for spring and summer. The blend of Grenache (52%), Counoise (28%) and Mourvedre (20%) features berry notes and some citrus and spices. This wine is bright, lively and fruity, yet dry. Pair it with salads, pasta and rice dishes, seafood, shellfish and cheesy dishes. Or simply drink it without food, pairing it with your patio or deck on a warm afternoon or evening.

A portion of proceeds during the Rosé release weekend will be donated to Susan G. Komen Puget Sound. “We have a belief in this community and a passion for giving back,” said Singh. “We are able to provide our wine and our time to recipients we believe in. With our Rosé release becoming so popular, we love doing something to get the community involved too.”
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Columbia Crest Wines: Good Juice, Great Value

We’ve been fans of Columbia Crest Winery for at least a decade — the winery produces good, easy-drinking wines at bargain prices. We’ve purchased cases over the years, and we were delighted to receive samples of their recent releases.

Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Merlot Columbia Valley ($12)
Merlot (87%) is blended with small amounts of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon; all fruit was sourced from Horse Heaven Hills for texture and body, and from the Wahluke Slope for aromatics and complexity. This is a rich Merlot with a balance of fruit and earthiness, punctuated by notes of dark cherries and chocolate. Pair this with blue cheese, dark chocolate, pork, grilled salmon or beef.

Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Red Blend Columbia Valley ($12)
This vintage’s blend combines Merlot (55%), Cabernet Franc (36%), Petit Verdot (8%) and a splash of other red varieties. The result is layers of dark berry flavors, with more layers of spice and caramel on the finish. Pair this with grilled meats or tomato-based meat dishes such as lasagne.

Columbia Crest 2014 H3 Merlot Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
This is a medium-bodied Merlot, lighter than the Grand Estates. The nose is beautiful with aromas of spice and blackberry, followed by cherry and cocoa on the palate. We have enjoyed several vintages of H3 Merlot, paired with cedar-plank barbecued salmon and grilled meats.

Columbia Crest 2015 Grand Estates Unoaked Chardonnay Columbia Valley ($12)
We much prefer unoaked Chardonnay like this one, which was fermented only in stainless steel. This is a refreshing summer sipper on the deck – or pour it any time of the year to accompany seafood dishes. Tart and crisp, this Chard has aromas of lemon, pear and orange blossoms, followed by citrus fruit and lively acidity. Where we live, Chardonnay pairs well with fresh crab in August and September, or crab cakes all year round, along with other shellfish, halibut or salmon, with a dash of lemon.

Other wines that we’ve tasted recently from Columbia Crest Winery:

Columbia Crest 2013 H3 Les Chevaux Red Wine Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
Named after the horses (Les Chevaux in French) that once roamed Horse Heaven Hills, this is a lovely, vibrant red blend of Merlot (59%), Syrah ($36%), Viognier (4%) and Cab Franc (1%). You can enjoy this with strong cheeses such as blue or stilton, or with well-seasoned pepper steaks, beef stew or lamb.

Columbia Crest 2014 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley ($12)
This is a great value estate Cab to pair with beef tenderloin, hearty pasta, blue cheese or chocolate. This wine features dark fruit, a wonderful mouthfeel, and a smoothness, complexity and structure not often seen at this price point.

Columbia Crest 2015 H3 Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Hills ($15)
We’ve enjoyed previous vintages of this Sauv Blanc as a summer sipper on the deck, but we recently tasted it on a rainy, windy day, paired with garlic prawns, and it was delicious. The Sauv Blanc features citrus notes and crisp minerality, just the way we like it. You can also pair it with halibut, crab or quiche.

With summer around the corner, we might open these wines with BBQ hamburger or fresh seafood. But at these prices, you can stock up for any season!

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Another Successful Taste Washington

Congratulations to the Washington State Wine Commission and Visit Seattle for another successful Taste Washington March 23-26, capping off Washington state Wine Month.

Thousands of people participated in the annual celebration of the excellent juice made in this state — at the Grand Tasting, educational seminars, lunches on local farms, and at restaurants, wineries, hotels and retailers that offered special deals and promotions throughout the month.

But we hope that people did more than taste the fine wine of Washington. We hope they appreciated it, and the hard work by people in our state’s wine industry – from farmers to vineyard managers to those in the production facilities, winemakers, distributors, marketing specialists, tasting room staff and more.

In particular, we applaud the workers in the vineyard who toil over the grapes and the terroir, the winemakers who balance creativity and science in every barrel and bottle, and their families who support this extreme effort.

We definitely appreciated every taste that was poured for us at the Grand Tasting.

And there were some delicious bites too. Our favorite was these amazing Salted Caramel Fudge Brownies from Blazing Bagels. (Their bagels were mouth-watering too, of course!)

We also enjoyed seafood from Anthony’s Pier 66, Ivar’s, Ray’s Boathouse and The Crab Pot. We munched on a lot of crab cakes this year!

Here are some of our favorite wines, in alphabetical order:

      • Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2014 Quarry Butte Red Bordeaux Blend ($26)
      • Ambassador Wines of Washington 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($38)
      • Andrew Will 2013 Champoux Vineyard Red Blend ($74)
      • Avennia 2015 Oliane Sauvignon Blanc ($28)
      • Barrage Cellars 2012 “Cease and Desist” Cabernet Franc ($35)
      • Barrister Winery 2013 Cabernet Franc ($31), pictured left with Petit Verdot & Barrister’s Block
      • Bartholomew Winery 2014 Tannat ($32)
      • Betz Family Winery 2013 Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon ($75)
      • Boudreaux Cellars 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($115); winemaker Rob Newsom and his daughter Keely are pictured below
      • Canvasback 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($40)
      • Cooper Wine Company 2014 L’inizio Bordeaux Blend, Red Mountain ($55)
      • Double Canyon 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)
      • Efeste 2013 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon ($60)
      • Fidelitas 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($50)
      • Figgins 2013 Estate Red Bordeaux Blend ($85)
      • Lauren Ashton Cellars 2013 Cuvee Estelle Red Bordeaux Blend ($50)
      • Maison Bleue 2014 Voyageur Syrah ($50)
      • Obelisco 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($50)
      • Saviah Cellars 2013 “The Stones Speak” Syrah ($55)
      • Secret Squirrel 2013 Red Bordeaux Blend ($25)
      • William Church 2014 Keystone Reserve Series, Reserve Syrah ($55)

There were so many other wonderful wineries pouring at Taste Washington, but we unfortunately could not visit every table.

As far as we’re concerned, every month is a good time to celebrate Washington state wine.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Matthews Winery – New Look, Same Great Wines

MatthewsTastingRoom097Matthews Winery is one of the first Woodinville tasting rooms we visited when we moved to Seattle more than 15 years ago. We bought our first three-bottle set of Washington wine in their tasting room — a 2001 Cabernet Franc to sigh for. We also enjoyed the winery’s flagship Bordeaux blend, Claret, that continues to dazzle in Matthews’ current lineup.

So it was with great interest to learn that Matthews’ historic winery building was recently remodeled, and a new venture created — Creekside Farm, an ecological produce garden adjacent to the winery building. This first commercial garden associated with a Woodinville winery provides produce and flowers to winery visitors, and to several restaurants.

In addition, tasting room guests can now pair their wine with farm-fresh produce and other products from local dairies, bakeries, creameries and charcuterie producers such as Cherry Valley Dairy and The Commons.

Located between the Woodinville Schoolhouse Wine District and the Warehouse Wine District, Matthews was a starting point for many well-known Washington state winemakers, including Brennon Leighton (B. Leighton Wines), Jerry Riener (Guardian Cellars), Mark McNeilly (Mark Ryan Winery), Ross Mickel (Ross Andrew Winery), Tim and Paige Stevens (Stevens Winery, Raige and Wines), Lance Baer (Baer Winery) and Aryn Morrell, who started his career there before making award-winning Napa wines for Silver Oak and Edgewood Estates. He now is back as Matthews’ current head winemaker.

Matthews co-owner Cliff Otis notes that nearly a dozen winemakers started or honed their craft at this location, and all of them have gone on to influence other generations of winemakers.

BarrelRoom4From the excellent winemakers to the classic wines, Matthews’ tasting room has always drawn a crowd — but according to Otis, a refresh was needed for its “dark barrel cave” atmosphere with dated wine-barrel table tops and stools. (This is a “before” photo.)

For the remodel, several interior walls were removed to expand and open up the space. Add fresh paint, new lighting, new windows, custom-made furniture and voila, a beautiful look, which also features an expanded outdoor seating area.

MatthewsTastingRoom052The building refresh is now generating applause and cheers for its bright, airy, roomy space, reminiscent of a French farm house.

These are two photos showing what Matthews Winery looks like now. Who is ready to visit?

MatthewsTastingRoom049In addition to the tasting room and farm, Matthews also offers the Estate House, a B&B and event center on a wooded, eight-acre hillside overlooking the Sammammish River Valley.

But the main spotlight remains on the wine. Since 2008, the Otis family and Morell have sharpened the focus of Matthews’ portfolio on the Bordeaux varieties – Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.

The winery kindly sent us samples of Matthews 2015 Sauvignon Blanc and a vertical of its Claret – 2011, 2012 and 2013. We were wowed.

Matthews 2015 Sauvignon Blanc
This is a perfect summer sipper on the deck – we enjoyed it paired with cilantro-lime prawns and a view of the lake. Ahh, summer. This Sauv Blanc rose above the super-hot 2015 vintage and is crisp and refreshing, but with more tropical than grapefruit flavors.

Winemaker tasting notes: “Pungent tropical tree fruit like pineapple and guava mixed with some citrus spice and fresh cut hay. Some air brings up white flowers, sweet honeysuckle and wet slate. The palate is rich and textured with enough acidity to keep it fresh but not bracing.”

Claret1Matthews Claret 2011, 2012, 2013
We were fortunate to do a side-by-side tasting of all three vintages. The 2013 Claret is a complex blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cab Franc, 11% Merlot, 3% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. With decanting, the wine opened up rich flavors, textures and depth, showcasing the classic Cabernet that we love.

Winemaker tasting notes for 2013 Claret: “Exotically perfumed with floral red fruits like raspberry puree and red currants mixed with sweet strawberry and crème brulee. Swirling releases rich blackberry, currants and plums with a hint of vanilla bean spice. The palate is thick and sweetly rich with perfect balance and long graceful finish. The 2012 was powerfully ripe and very Cabernet driven, this is all about grace and texture.”

As noted by Morell, the 2012 Claret is powerful but it also is an elegant, rich blend of 54% Cab Sauv, 25% Cab Franc, 10% Merlot, 5% Syrah, 3% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. This is slightly different than other vintages because of the addition of Syrah into the blend. We decanted it, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Winemaker tasting notes for 2012 Claret: “Sappy currants, plum skin and dark spices. The palate has volume but shows good density and has more of a Cabernet-driven tannin profile, giving the wine great composure and balance.”

The 2011 growing season was rougher than in 2012 and 2013, but Morell still created a beautiful red blend. The 2011 Claret is Merlot-based (unlike the 2012 and 2013 vintages driven by Cabernet) — 68% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. Like the other two vintages, this Claret will benefit from decanting.

Winemaker tasting notes for 2011 Claret: “Elegant mixture of currants, strawberries, spice and plums. Red flowers create a soft plushness to the profile. The palate is round with great texture and presence. Extremely silky and polished.”

With the dedication of co-owners Cliff and Diane Otis, along with the talented winemaking skills of Morrell, Matthews Winery is continuing to improve its already well-established footprint in Woodinville, and in Washington wine country.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Kenwood Vineyards

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 4.44.59 PMIf you haven’t tasted wine from Kenwood Vineyards in awhile, it’s time to rediscover it.

Kenwood Vineyards is one of the pioneers of premium wine in Sonoma, part of the wine region’s landscape since 1970. The winery is now undergoing a renaissance with a focus on small-lot winemaking and a new look.

We recently attended an online tasting with Pat Henderson, who has been a winemaker at Kenwood Vineyards since 2003, and became chief winemaker last year. Ahead of the tasting, we received four wines in a gorgeous wooden box. The bottles had a a new look and modern labels.

2014 Kenwood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($12.99)
Fruit from 28 vineyards went into this crisp summer sipper, and the result is a balance of citrus and tropical flavors plus some grassy characteristics and minerality. We will definitely be buying bottles of this Sauvignon Blanc to enjoy on our deck on the lake.

2014 Kenwood Vineyards Six Ridges Russian River Chardonnay ($21.99)
If you like your Chardonnays rich and creamy, this one is for you. Flavors of apple, peach, vanilla and spice combine in a chilled glass that will pair well with seafood or chicken.

Kenwood Zin2013 Kenwood Six Ridges Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($31.99)
Zin lovers take note! This is big, bold, beautiful and well-balanced. And somehow it is both silky and zesty at the same time, too. It will pair nicely with spicy foods but also is strong enough to stand alone without food; to simply share a bottle with friends or enjoy at a party.

2013 Jack London Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($35)
This beauty will pair perfectly with BBQ steaks in the summer and roast beef in the winter. This is our kind of cab – full-bodied, rich, robust, well-structured and elegant.

The samples were provided by Kenwood Vineyards, which, in the name of full disclosure, is a Pernod Ricard brand and a client at the PR agency where I (Margot) work. However, I attended the tasting as a wine blogger and adhered to Write for Wine’s sample policy. If I did’t like the wines, I simply would not write about them. Word.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Summer Sauvignon Blancs

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 11.46.58 AMSauvignon Blanc is our favorite summer-time white wine and these days, Washington state and California are producing some excellent juice that rivals the world-famous Bordeaux and New Zealand production.

Fun fact:
Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. During the 18th century in Bordeaux, the Sauvignon Blanc vine paired with Cabernet Franc to parent the Cabernet Sauvignon vine.

Here are some excellent Sauvignon Blancs that we recently tasted.

2014 Columbia Crest H3 Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Hills, $15
This rich wine from Columbia Crest in Washington state features some of the well-known characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc — tropical flavors of passion fruit, combined with citrus, pears and peaches. Crisp, fresh, clean with a layer of minerality means H3 pairs well with seafood, mild-flavored meats and even some richer dishes.

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 11.39.15 AM2014 Sbragia Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc, $22
Sauv Blanc is the signature grape of Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. Of the three we tasted from this area, this one from Zbragia was our favorite. Elegant, yet refreshing, and brimming with aromas and flavors of grapefruit, green apple and minerality, this beauty is tart, tangy and grassy – some classic features of an excellent Sauv Blanc. We adore this wine and just want to savor it with shrimp or prawn dishes.

2013 Gustafson Estate Sauvignon Blanc, $22
A blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Sauvignon Musque (an aromatic Sauvignon Blanc clone), this wine has a remarkable creamy texture with notes of peaches and melon, and is more floral and tropical than citrusy. The Gustafson is more complex than a typical Sauv Blanc, but still pairs well with shellfish — crabs, scallops, prawns and oysters.

2013 Dry Creek Vineyard DCV3 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, $25
The most expensive of the four Sauvignon Blancs that we tasted, the powerful DCV3 from Dry Creek Vineyard is still a value at $25. Mineralogy is prominent on the palate, along with peaches and apples, and lemon on the finish. This medium-bodied wine bursts with flavors, and goes well with shellfish and light chicken dishes. It also pairs with asparagus and other veggies on the grill.

Many thanks to these wineries for the samples to taste.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave