Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Return of the Rhone Rangers

You can't taste everything, so I limited myself to a few new wines from old friends and wines from wineries new to me, but there were so many good wines I had to skip last time that I just thought I would return to tell you about some great old standbys such as Bonny Doon and Cline Cellars. Bonny Doon fancies itself an experimental cutting edge winery and they do lots of interesting things, but sometimes they go to far. In fact, many of their wines are too fruity and simple for my taste, but their labels are fun, their wines are fun, and some of their prices are fun, too. Cline makes excellent Zins and Rhone style wines across the whole price range. Columbia Crest 2002 Syrah Reserve won a Gold Medal at the Seattle Wine Society Competition ( and might be the perfectly balanced Syrah at $30/bottle. The 2003 Dunham is a splurge at $45. If you don't want to spend $45 on a bottle of wine, check out the labels by Wei on the Doyenne Cellars wines. They are a feast for the eyes and you don't have to fork out $45 just to look. You can find the Rhone Rangers at: .

Monday, August 22, 2005

Make your own blend

Somehow the wine in the bottle is considered sacrosanct. Even though the winemaker blends different vineyards, different varietals, sometimes even different vintages, there is an element of horror at the thought of of one of us lesser mortals altering what was in the bottle. Perhaps this is as it should be, after all, we do need to respect the art of the winemaker. On the other hand, sometimes a wine needs a little help like the other evening when we had a 2000 Bordeaux that was very bright, but a little too acidic, and a 2002 Washington State Merlot that was softer, but somewhat dull and flat, so we blended the two: two thirds Merlot, one third Bordeaux. The new blend, dubbed Gene's wine, was balanced and delicious -lively with good fruit. And it was good for Franco-American relations.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Hoodsport - the long way around

Last weekend we desperately wanted to get to the Olympic Music Festival, but the Hood Canal Bridge was closed, so we drove around. It was a looonngg drive, but it was worth it. The music was great and on the way back, we stopped at Hoodsport winery. Well, they've been making wine for tweny-seven years. It's one of the oldest wineries in Washington and they used to be famous for their fruit wine. Now they have a whole line of vinifera wines - Cab, Merlot, Chard, etc., which they outsource to a winery in Eastern Washington which makes sense since the vinifera grapes come from Eastern Washington. The labels are eye-catching with a very appealing image of the Hood Canal, but the wines... stick to the fruit wines. The Raspberry wine is probably the best - the perfect after dinner wine in the summer, rather than heavy Port. Try it with strawberrys and chilled chocolate, or, if you like sweet wine with your main dish, try it with lamb or game.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

BBQ with neighbors

The other day, our neighbors served a wonderful BBQ on their sunny deck. It was Atkin's paradise - Lamb, Pork Spare Ribs, Beef and Scallops. Who could ask for anything more? Some wine? Yes, indeed! Columbia Crest Reserve Syrah was just the perfect choice. By the way, it won a Gold Medal at the Seattle Wine Society Wine Judging -see August 10th posting. It has lots of good, soft, velvety fruit with enough rounded tannic umph to match the barbeque marinades and smokey flavors. Even though Columbia Crest produces a huge amount of wine they seem to take enough care in making the Reserve wines that they don't at all seem like factory wines and, in fact, taste like they were handcrafted in a small winery.

By the way, check out the Columbia Crest Reserve Merlot! I have a friend who drinks it as her everyday wine, but at $30 a throw, most of us will have to settle for an occasional splurge. One of these days I will write about "pricepoints", but, for right now, I just want to point out that even though most of us can't afford $30 a bottle very often, this is the point where you get the most bang for your buck. There are probably more really great wines at this pricepoint than at any other. Many thirty dollar wines really are at least twice as good as $15 wines, but very few sixty dollar bottles are twice as good as thirty. Anyway, it's all relative and very good wine can be had for as little as $2 these days thanks to the likes of "Charles Shaw." Go ahead, splurge!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Hi Ho Silver! - The Rhone Rangers were in Town

Last week, the Rhone Rangers arrived in town with a flourish of Ranger Hats and red bandanas. Jayne Cathcart organized a well planned tasting of Rhone Ranger wine at the Seattle Opera House, of all places. The tasting proceeds will benefit Farestart.

What is a Rhone Ranger you might ask? The Rhone Rangers are American winemakers from 170 wineries dedicated to making wine from varietals grown in the Rhone Valley of France. They make wonderful wines from varietals such as Syrah, Mourvedre, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. Unfortunately, this time, some of the wines were disappointing. Fortunately, there were some really wonderful wines.

"Silo" and the regular Syrah from Rulo were delicious. McCrea continues to make wonderful wines - check out the Sirocco. The Terre Rouge whites were good -clean and fresh, but this year's "Noir", a "Chateauneuf" blend, was disappointing. Their 2001 Sentinal Ridge, on the other hand, was a well made Syrah, as was the 2001 Black Bear Block Syrah from Zaca Mesa. Check out the Zaca Mesa Viognier. The 2003 Zefina Serience White, a blend of 50% Viognier and 50% Roussanne, was refreshingly free of oakiness having been barrel fermented in two to three year old barrels for seven months.

Syncline 2004 Revision was a good value at $20. All the whites at Tablas Creek were good and their 2003 Mourvedre was fabulous. Dusted Vineyards 2003 Syrah will stain your teeth after filling your mouth. Their Viognier is good in a slightly fruitier style. Owen Roe "Sinister Hand" is a tasty blend of 36% Grenache, 32% Syrah, 22% Mourvedre, and 10% Counoise from Elderling Vineyard. The 2003 Dubrul Syrah is definitely a splurge at fifty some odd dollars as is the Rockblock 2002 Seven Hills Vineyard Syrah. Curtis Winery made some good whites and there were others too numerous to mention. That's the roundup, folks, tune in next year.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Dinner with friends

Old friends... Simon & Garfunckel... such dear friends, so many years of wine and food together. As usual, the food and wine were great, but being together, the conversation, the familiar habits, the acceptance, or should we say tolerance,or love of each other's quirks and eccentricities makes such an evening a pleasure. Of course, the wine wasn't bad either. The 2002 Wineglass Chardonnay could fool almost anyone, except my wife, Diane, of course, into thinking they were drinking French wine. What a pleasure - no "California" tropical fruit, buttery texture and bouquet. Crisp, tart and fresh - what a lively treat on a hot summer evening. Chablis or Macon, anyone? That and a nice Sancerre were complemented by Japanese Kazu Halibut, Seaweed Salad and Cucumber Salad. Light, refreshing, exquiste flavor pairings with exquisite friends.

What a week!

What a week! Tuesday we tasted 1986 Bordeaux at Mistral. As usual William outdid himself , the food was excellent. We tasted a dozen 1986s. Some had volatile acidity, some were simply too old and some were corked, but others were real beauties. The La Lagune was somewhat light and rustic compared to the elegant, round, complex Pichon-Longueville Comtesse.
The Sociando Mallet was simply over the hill and the Ducru, quite a nice wine, was corked. The Pape Clement was on the light side, but had interesting flavors of mineral and earth. The Leoville Barton was mahogany colored, a bit old, but went quite well with the cheese It was complemented by the Montrose which was not the monster one might expect, but had enough beautiful fruit and relatively soft tannins to keep going for another five years. The highlight of the evening was the Sauternes and Foie Gras. The Rieussec retained the best features of its youth while showing the complex honeyed nector quality of an older Sauternes. Six hours at the table almost set a record for us.
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