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

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Recommended Wines From Taste Washington - $30 And Over

Here are wines for big splurges, special occasions, everyday wines for Microsoft millionaires. Quality does not necessarily correlate with price. Quality definitely does not go up in proportion to price, but these wines are delicious. I know, I tasted them. Interestingly, all of the wines in this group are red except for 2003 Januik Cold Creek Chardonnay ($30). Two other excellent whites produced by wineries in this group are the Semillon from DeLille and the Chardonnay from Boudreaux, both under $30. I would love to have any of these wines in my cellar, although with the exception of the McCrea Amerique and the Quilceda Creek Cabernet, they are all ready to drink today. Most of them will keep well or improve for two to four years. The "Amerique" definitely need a few years, but will be wonderful. The Quilceda Creek is great and will age well for at least ten years. Prices are approximate. Sometimes you can get substantial discounts by pre-ordering or joining a mailing list or wine club.


  • 2003 Baer "Arctos" ($34)
  • 2002 Red Sky ($30)
  • 2002 Brian Carter "L'Etalon" ($30 )
  • 2003 Fall Line Red ($30)
  • 2003 Cadence "Bel Canto"
  • 2003 Cadence "Ciel du Cheval"
  • 2004 DeLille "D2" ($30)
  • 2003 DeLille "Harrison" ($65)
  • 2004 DeLille Doyenne "Aix" ($32)
  • 2003 Hightower "Pepper Bridge Vineyard Walla Walla Red" ($30)

Cabernet Sauvignon

  • 2003 Amavi ($30)
  • 2003 Pepper Bridge ($45)
  • 2004 Syzygy ($30)
  • 2002 Reininger ($30)
  • 2003 Quilceda Creek ($140-$400)
  • 2003 Boudreaux ($40)


  • 2003 Pepper Bridge ($45)
  • 2002 Reininger ($30)
  • 2003 Januik ($30)


  • 2003 Amavi ($30)
  • 2003 Reininger ($30)
  • 2003 DeLille Doyenne Syrah ($42)
  • 2003 McCrea Amerique ($48)
  • 2003 McCrea Boushay Vineyard ($48)
  • 2003 McCrea Ciel du Cheval ($48)
  • 2003 Cuvee Orlean ($48)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Recommended Wines From Taste Washington - Under $30

Many excellent wines at Taste Washington were in this price range: $15-$30. There are so many wines in this group that I didn't have time to check many of the prices, so pricing information will be kind of sporadic. By the way, I just want to point out the fact that the fact that a wine or winery didn't make this list is no comment on the wine. It's just that, I didn't have a chance to taste many of the wines presented at Taste Washington. Here are my recommendations in this price range:

White Wines

  • 2003 Novelty Hill Chardonnay (about $20)
  • 2003 Alexander Nicole Viognier
  • 2004 McCrea Viognier (about $22)
  • 2004 McCrea Rousanne
  • 2004 Page Semillon (about $20)
  • 2004 L'Ecole Barrel Fermented Semillon (about $16)
  • 2004 Brian Carter "Byzance" (about $22)
  • 2003 McCrea Late Harvest Rousanne

Rose Wine

  • 2005 Syncline Rose

Red Wine

Cabernet Sauvignon

  • 2003 Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon (about $20)
  • 2003 Edmonds Cabernet Sauvignon (about $20)


  • 2003 Saint Laurent Merlot ( about $18)
  • 2003 Novelty Hill Merlot ( about $20)
  • 2004 Walla Walla Vintners Merlot ( about $25)


  • 2003 Animale
  • 2003 Novelty Hill (about $20)
  • 2004 McCrea Washington State

2004 Syncline "Milbrandt" (about $25)

  • Two Mountain Syrah
  • Cuillin Syrah
  • Des Voigne Syrah


  • 2003 Ash Hollow Nine MIle
  • 2004 McCrea Sirroco
  • 2004 Syzygy Red
  • 2004 Mark Ryan "The Dissident"

Miscellaneous Reds

  • 2001 Yakima Cellars "Red Willow" Sangiovese (about $16)
  • 2004 Walla Walla Vintners Sangiovese ( about $25)
  • Cuillin Sangiovese
  • Des Voigne Sangiovese
  • 2004 Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Franc ( about $28)
  • 2003 Red Sky Cabernet Franc ( about $20)
  • 2003 Chatter Creek Grenache ( about $16)
  • 2004 Yellow Hawk Barbera ( about $25)
  • Kana Winery Tempranillo

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Recommended Wines From Taste Washington - Under $15

I will try to summarize and organize my recommendations from Taste Washington. Here are some gems I found at Taste Washington for under $15. Look for more gems in future posts this week.

White Wine

  • 2004 Post & Pine Chardonnay (about $5)
  • 2004 Ryan Patrick Chardonnay (about $14) )
  • 2004 Chatter Creek Pinot Gris (about $12)
  • 2003 Saint Laurent Riesling ( about $13)

Rose Wine

  • 2005 Sageland Rose(about $10)

Red Wine

  • 2002 Sageland Merlot (about $13 )
  • 2003 Red Diamond Merlot (about $10)
  • 2003 Red Diamond Cabernet (about $10)
  • 2002 Red Diamond Shiraz ( about $10)

Splurge Of The Week - 2003 Red Sky Bordeaux Style Blend

We just opened a bottle of 2003 Red Sky Bordeaux Style Blend and it was just as beautiful as I remembered it at the winery. The label is confusing! It only says 2003 Red Sky. Look for the small print that says Cabernet Sauvignon 57%, Merlot 36%, Cabernet Franc 7%. The wine has a nice nose of raspberries and cedar, deep color, and good backbone. Not as austere as most Bordeaux, it is medium bodied and perfectly balanced. This wine is soft and elegant like a Margaux and ready to drink now. We had it with lamb and mild cheese such as Brie. It is delicious. Treat yourself and splurge on a bottle, or a case if you can afford it, although this is probably not a wine the lay down in your cellar as it will probably be at it's best during the next two years (about $30).

Monday, April 17, 2006

Extreme Wine -2001 Latcham Special Reserve Zinfandel

About fifty miles east of Sacramento, in the direction of Yosemite lies El Dorado County, home of some of the best Zinfandel in the country. Latcham Vneyards, one of the best wineries in the county is south of Placerville and the grapes for this beauty come from the Fair Play viticultural area. As usual, mountain grown grapes yielded a prodigious wine - rich, deep and fruity, but smooth, with intense flavors and depth. Not a sipping wine, this beast has a nose of cedar chips with blueberry flavors, green pepper, black pepper and spice. This wine showed at its best with a strong blue cheese such as Faume D'Aubert.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

2004 Heitz Napa Chardonnay - France Or Napa?

Fresh, crisp, and dry. This wine cries out for food and if I hadn't seen the label I would thought I was drinking a French white, maybe from Macon or St Veran. Where's the vanilla oakiness and the tropical fruit. Maybe it's time to stop stereotyping California wines. Somehow lately French wines tastes more like California and vice versa.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Taste Washington - Room A

Back to Room B for a second. Desert Wind makes wines with interesting names and reasonable prices. Their 2004 Bare Naked Chardonnay was good and so was the 1999 Ruah, a Merlot dominated blend. If you want to get the true spiritual meaning of wine, you have to drink the Ruah which roughly means cosmic spirit or soul in Hebrew. Probably not a bad wine for Passover (not Kosher) or Easter.

Room A was really crowded, so I missed Cedargreen which I've been meaning to check out and Cascade Cliffs which makes good values, especially their Syrah. Only had a chance to wave at Ben Smith from Cadence and missed talking to Don Corson at Camaraderie Cellars. You've already read about Brian Carter Cellars and Buty, but I did get to stop and taste Boudreaux 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon. Boudreaux makes an excellent white Burgundy styled chardonnay and their 2003 Cabernet is just as good. Blending Cab mostly from old vines from five outstanding Washington vineyards - Baccus, Champoux, Wallulu, Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills Vineyard, Rob Newsom has managed to make remarkably soft delicious Cabernet with the addition of only 1% Merlot and a touch of Syrah.

Basel and Apex almost always make good wines. Barnard Griffin makes good values. Ash Hollow made some good wines, especially the 2003 Nine Mile which will be released in May or June at $22. The 2003 Animale Syrah at $24 was good and and Alexander Nicole made a good Viognier. Amavi Syrah and Cabernet are both excellent, too. Last, but not least , was 2003 Andrew Will Sorella with Chris Carmada striving to express the "terroir" of Washington. I still prefer his vineyard specific wines from vineyards such as Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun.

So many wines, so little time. What a feast? So many wonderful wines from Washington. Look for them and ask for them wherever you live. Rovani and Parker have complained about the quality of Washington wines other than cult wines such as Quilceda and Leonetti, but, in fact, there are dozens of wineries producing extrordinarily delicious wines in a style somewhere between the more structured style of traditional European wine and the fruit forward style of many California wines.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Taste Washington - Room B

At this point, 2000 consumers entered the fray and tasting became a little more difficult. Besides I think I was beginning to fade. I would have liked to stop at Hogue because even though they are a very big producer owned by Vincor, a big Canadian corporation, they make lots of good value wines. Tim Hightower's Cabernet is delicious, not too big and huge. Would have liked to stop to talk with Jeff Gorden at Gorden Bros. another source great values. Check out the Merlot. Did visit with Charlie Hoppes and tasted his very good wines. Tim Sorensen 2003 Fall Line Red (Bordeaux-style blend) has gotten even better than the last time I tasted it. Desert Wind wines were good values. Eric Dunham's newest Cabernet and Syrah were quite good. Greg Lil poured his 2003 Chaleur, Harrison, and Doyenne Syrah - all excellent. There are only a few cases of each left. Cougar Crest makes award winning wines at reasonable prices. Missed Chinook Winery - they always make a great Cabernet Franc Rose.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Taste Washington - Room C

Onward! Room C was actually two small rooms. That's how you get five rooms labelled A to D. By the way, we missed our good friend Vicki Schlicker from Rulo Winery in Room D. We couldn't resist a taste of Pepper Bridge 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2003 Merlot. Delicious as usual. We tasted 2003 Page Cellars "Preface" before moving on to OS Winery. We skipped Novelty Hill, since we just tasted them at Woodinville Passport, and with difficulty we passed on the always wonderful Northstar. We also passed on Mark Ryan and Nicholas Cole and ended up tasting a vast range of Rhone style wines at McCrea.

The McCrea wines were superb. We started with the 2004 Viognier and the 2004 Rousanne. Both were much better than most French Rhone whites. The 2004 Washington State Syrah was typical. It was followed by a 2004 Counoise which was interesting, but a little on the thin side despite an infusion of 13% Syrah. The 2004 Grenache was quite good as was the 2003 Sirocco blend. The 2004 Mourvedre was, not surprisingly, big. The real treat was the four special 2003 Syrahs - Amerique, Boushay Vineyard, Ciel du Cheval and Cuvee Orlean. The Amerique really needs several years of ageing. These wines are glorious and worth the $40-50 price tag if you have the bread. We ended with the 2003 Late Harvest Rousanne which had only 10% residual sugar and so was not cloyingly sweet.

We pretty much skipped most of the rest of Room C, despite the fact that L'Ecole No. 41 was there, along with Januik and K Vintners. There were two winners here though - the best winery name goes to "Illusion" and the best wine name to Lake Missoula's "Deluge".

To be continued...

Monday, April 10, 2006

One Hundredth Posting

Congratulate us! We just passed our one hundredth posting and we are getting hits from all over Washington, the U.S. and the world - Mexico, Portugal, Italy, Singapore and many, many others. Thanks.

Flash! New Winery - Nisqually Winery

Liz Meyers was pouring for another winery, but Liz told me that she and her husband, Jim ,are making 450 cases of Bordeaux style wine which they plan to release in 2008. That gives us plenty of time to plan. They are also planning to make a Syrah. Keep you eye out for them!

Taste Washington - Room D continued

Okay, so where was I? Room D - hmm, still in the Q to Zs. Oh, yes, two-buck-chuck, or rather Post and Pine Chardonnay. Winemaker Mark Wysling was in Mexico, but his able deputy from Yakima Cellars poured me the 2002 Red Willow Sangiovese which may be the best sangio in the state. Mark definitely has a way with that grape and the price is a phenomenal $16. Mark also makes wine for Kana Winery. Their Tempranillo is outstanding. Next door, we tasted a beautiful 2004 Barbera from Yellow Hawk (not Yellowtail, Mate), which was true to type and comparable to the best Barberas from California's Sierra Foothills.

We made the sacrifice of bypassing Woodward Canyon where winemaker Rick Small was answering a question about acid and ageing wine. Yes, the more acid, the lower the ph, the better the wine will age, but if it has too much acid what will it taste like and will the fruit last as long as the acid. Answer: No, I can vouch for that with many fruitless older Burgundies I've tasted in recent years.

On to Walla Walla Vintners- wow, wonderful wines at reasonable prices. The 2004 Sangiovese was good at $22, but the 2004 Columbia Valley Cab Franc and the 2004 Merlot were great at $25 and $28, respectively. The Wind Rivers Cellars Wines were good, but we had to skip Wilridge which makes very good wines. Waters is a new Walla Walla winery but we skipped them, too.

We stopped at Two Mountain Winery (good Syrah), skipped Terra Blanca (great wine),and Three Rivers (check out their three vineyard designated Syrahs sometime), and went on to the Ss. Syzygy's Cab was quite beautiful, smooth and linear (about $30) and their 2004 Red, a blend of Cab, Syrah, Merlot and Malbec is a good buy at $20. You can also buy orange imprinted tea shirts and thongs at Syzygy. Summer is coming! Speaking of summer, Syncline had an exceptionally complex 2005 Rose made from Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Syrah. Their 2004 Milbrandt Syrah was smooth and a good value at $22.

Reininger has a new second label called "Helix" and the wines are really good. The 2004 Aspera is fruity, easy to drink, feels smooth and cool in your mouth. It is made from the unusual combination of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Viognier. The 2003 Helix Merlot has a bit of Cab Franc and Cab Sauv in it. It has great dark cherry flavors and more tannin than you would expect in the price range ( about $20?). The Helix Pomatia is the usual Washington State Bordeaux-style blend which includes 16% Syrah. It is round, fruity and easy to drink. Ah, now, some of my favorites - the mainstream Reiniger wines- 2002 Merlot, 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2003 Syrah. I always love the Merlot, but this time the Cab seemed fruitier than the Merlot which perhaps need a few years of bottle age. Phwew, finished room D. Time for a break. How about some smoked seafood and fish from Ray's Boathouse.

Northwest Wine Academy -- South Seattle Community College

So you want to be a wine maker! Maybe start your own winery. Or maybe you are already in the trade and want to progress in your profession. The Northwest Wine Academy at South Seattle Community College ( is the place in Western Washington to earn a certification in wine making, wine marketing or food and wine pairing. You will have an opportunity to study with topnotch professionals such as Vashon Winery owner, Ron Irvine. You don't have to go all the way to Davis, California or Walla Walla, Washington to get into wine. You can study enology right here in Seattle and then your mom can say that she's got "a son or daughter, a winemaker."

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Taste Washington

I was just looking at a map of Northwest Wineries and Vineyards which I published in 1977 with my partner Bill Getz, a copy of which I am planning to donate to the Auction for Washington Wine which will take place August 19, 2006. In the old days there were roughly 35 wineries in the entire Northwest. Oregon was way ahead of Washington with sixteen wineries compared to twelve for Washington and, of these, four were fruit wineries. Now there are over 400 grape wineries in Washington and the state is the largest producer of wine in America after California. At Taste Washington over 200 wineries poured over 700 wines yesterday.

For a compulsive wine taster like me this posed an overwhelming problem. How to taste all those wines in four hours. Even though I can be a speed taster and "it's hip to spit", that's only about one minute per winery and three wines per minute which doesn't leave much time to talk to old friends and winemakers. I did the best I could. This year the wineries were arranged in alphabetical order and spread out in five rooms. Food was available in each room, but mostly concentrated in one area. There were 2000 tickets available this year and approximately 100 tickets were available at the door.

I started at the back and worked my way forward which worked great at the trade tasting, but put me in the first part of the alphabet when the crush of consumers came in the door at 4:00 p.m. Consequently, I missed Buty and Gordon Bros. This week I will report on Taste Washington almost every day, by room, starting at the back of the alphabet. Perhaps the only way to convey the madness of immersing oneself in 200 wineries, 700 wines and 2000+ wine drinkers is a Joycean stream of consciousness (yes, there was a Bloom Winery, but I didn't have a chance to taste it).

Room D

I headed straight for Sheridan Vineyards as they had been closed the last time I was in Zillah. My hopes of tasting their wine were only partially fulfilled as they were offering tastes of only one bottle of their new second label. A brief visit with Ron Irvine of Vashon Winery was followed by a taste of 2003 Quilceda Creek Cabernet - beautiful and quite drinkable, but with enough tannin to age for years.

Next door, was Red Diamond where I tasted their Shiraz and Cabernet -every bit as good as their wine of the month Merlot(about $10 each). Last year, Saint Laurent medaled at the Seattle Wine Society's wine judging and this year their wines were just as good. The 2003 Merlot and the Bordeaux-style blend, "Boheme" were very good, and the Riesling at $13 is an excellent value. You know I generally don't like Riesling, but this one was exceptional with a perfect balance of dryness and fruit. The wine was made by the winemaker at Ryan Patrick Winery where their 2004 Chardonnay, at $14, also represents excellent value. It is clean, fresh, and nicely balanced between fruit and acid.

While we are on the subject of value, Sagelands made an outstanding Rose (about $10) which is easy to drink, fruity, but not sweet, and very much like the delicious Roses of Provence. Their Merlot at $13 dollars was not bad, either. Speaking of value, the ultimate bargain in room D was the Pine & Post Chardonnay at $5 - a really good wine and a hell of a lot better that two-buck-chuck(Charles Shaw) Chardonnay. To be continued...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Garagistes of Woodinville

Walla Walla is not the only place where people make wine in sheds and warehouses. Over half of the wineries in Woodinville are operating out of commercial warehouse space. I much prefer this unpretentious atmosphere of experimentation and innovation to the slick tourist-oriented tasting rooms of Highway 29 in the Napa Valley. Here families and individuals can get a start make wine without having to be megamillionaire celebrities.

Austin Robaire has been around for a while, as have Page and Mark Ryan. The only one of their wines I really liked this year was the 2002 "4th" Street Syrah which at $55 is a little pricey. The Semillon at Page was quite good with nicely balanced fruit and acidity (about $20). My favorite wine at Mark Ryan was the 2004 The Dissident (about $25), a blend of leftover Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. This red wine will probably go great with almost any red meat dish. I must admit that I was taken with the name and secretly hope that next year Mark will make "2005 The Wobblie". Chris Sparkman was pouring the wine and he is fortunate to be starting a new winery with the able assistance of Mark. Look for Sparkman Cellars next year. Also, look for the first vintage of Arlington Road Cellars.

Cuillin Hills Winery and Des Voigne Cellars were started by two brothers and share space. Hopefully having separate wineries will help maintain a good brotherly relationship. Cuillin (cool-in) is Scottish, named, I imagine, after the Cuillin Mountains on the Isle of Skye. The young lass who poured my wine told me that the water used in the winery was imported from Loch Lomand and I think I detected a hint of peat in the taste of the wine and a bit of fire in the finish. Nah, they're normal well made Northwest wines at reasonable prices. I particularly liked the Claret (about $18) , a light Bordeaux-style blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 22% Cabernet Franc with good fruit and a hint of vanilla from American oak barrels. This is what the English (not the Scots) meant Claret to be. The Sangiovese and Syrah from both Cuillin and DesVoigne are also quite good in a somewhat lighter and easy drinking style and priced in the mid-$20s. In the same complex we found Red Sky Winery, another family owned business. Virtually all their wines were good. I particularly liked the 2002 Bordeaux blend (about $30) and the 2003 Cabernet Franc (about $20) which has limited availability.

A little to the south in another industrial park we found Covington Cellars and Stevens Winery.
At Covington, we liked the 2005 Viognier (about $19) which had a nice balance of fruit, acid and body. Unfortunately, the wine we brought home apparently had not completed its fermentation in its stainless steel tank and fermented in the bottle causing the wine to become slightly "spritsig," an unintended sparkling wine which really did not go that well with the accompanying asparagus wrapping in prosciutto. I tasted barrel samples of 2004 Starr Syrah and 2004 Tuscan Red which can be pre-ordered for $28 and $29 respectively. They were good wines. At Stevens, we tasted the 2002 Big Easy which is a blend from Sheridan Vineyard, Inland Desert Vineyard, Champoux Vineyard and Conner Lee Vineyard. The Cabernet Sauvignon has 10% Merlot in it and it was aged half in new French Oak and half in used French oak. The wine is, indeed, easy to drink in the way that many Merlots are easy to drink ( price -n/a). Around the corner at the new Chatter Creek winery, Gordy Rawson and his wife were pouring seven wines including a limited bottling of Grenache which was light in style but quite flavorful ($16 at the winery). I particularly liked the wines at each end of the price spectrum, a Pinot Gris at $12 and the Clifton Hill Syrah at $35.

As a bonus, several wineries that were technically not part of Woodinville Passport were also open. At Saint Paulia, I tasted two cabs - 2000 Red Mountain Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon (about $28) and 2000 Red Mountain (about $18) which were both good, so I would probably go with the regular version. Winemaker Paul Shinoda is a charming man. Another bonus was a visit to Edmonds Winery, another family operation (it seemed that every family member was there), where Doug Peterson offered up a very good Cabernet Sauvignon at $20 a bottle.

If you missed Woodinville Passport , don't despair. There will be at least two more opportunities to taste many of these wines - some of these wineries will be at Taste Washington tomorrow and many of them will enter the premier wine judging in the Seattle area put on by the Seattle Wine Society(aka Enological Society). You will be able to taste the award winners at the Seattle Wine Festival from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at South Community Community College on Saturday August 5th, 2006. Check out the particulars at: And be sure to purchase your tickets to Woodinville Passport early next year as they sell out quickly.

There's Baers In Them Woods

After leaving DeLille, Passport weekend, we really wanted to be sure to get to Baer Winery, so we headed out highway 522 toward Duvall and after we left civilization, we turned off onto Paradise Lake Road and after a few turns we pulled into a mobbed dirt parking lot in front of a modest shed and followed the sound of country music to the wine.

It was worth the trip. Baer offered two wines - 2003 Ursa and 2003 Arctos. The Ursa is their "signature" wine and comes 90% from Stillwater Creek vineyard (thanks, Alborgs) and 10% from Boushey Vineyards (thank you, Dick Boushay) and is 50% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Malbec. In other words it is a right bank Bordeaux-style blend. Baer describes it as feminine, but I found it hard and linear, needing age. Perhaps I got a sample from the bottom of the bottle (about $29).

The Arctos (which was sold out at the winery, but will be available at retail outlets in the coming weeks) has beautiful fruit and would definitely get a rating of "90." My wine note just says "Wow." Arctos is 72% Cabernet Sauvignon 10$% Merlot, 8% Cabernet France, 7% Petite Verdot, and 3% Malbec. The grapes are 100% from Stillwater Creek Vineyard and, like the Ursa, the wine is aged entirely in new French oak barrels for 21 months and bottled unfined and unfiltered. A classic left bank Bordeaux style blend, dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine proves that I am not biased in favor of fruit-forward Merlot dominated wines (about $34).

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Woodinville Passport - Januik Winery

It is easy to get from Novelty Hill to Januik Winery, just go to the other side of the winery. Mike Januik's wines are exquisite examples of varietal type. And his wines always have his signature taste of almost creamy smoothness depending, of course, on the varietal. Once again, I preferred the 2003 Columbia Valley Merlot(about $25) to the 2003 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (about$30).The Cabernet was a bigger wine that should improve with ageing. The Merlot is medium bodied with complex aromas and flavors of raspberries and cedar. It, too, will improve with age, but is great right now. The flavors are so interesting, it almost seems better to linger over it without food - maybe some cheese. The 2003 Columbia Valley Syrah ($30) is typical of so many Washington State Syrahs - smooth with lots of fruit, a hint of vanilla, and gentle spice and pepper. The 2004 Cold Creek Vineyard Chardonnay ($30) reminds me of the minerality of a great Meursault from Burgundy which is not surprising since it was fermented in new French oak barrels sur lie for ten months. With it's beautiful balance of citrus flavors, minerality, and creamy texture, I would rather drink the Cold Creek Chardonnay than many white Burgundies at much higher prices.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Three Consumer's Views Of Wine

I spoke with three people about wine today. One is an art gallery owner who loves Joel Gott's Zinfandel. Having grown up in Paris, he is completely comfortable with wine. The other man, a very intelligent and perceptive person, also, with some European background, is totally frustrated with wine. He believes he doesn't catch the nuances of wine, is allergic to wine (only in the United States), feels that the terminology is florid and meaningless, and that he can't remember enough information about a wine to find it again, if he likes it. He once liked a Gevrey Chambertin and even remembered the year, only to be frustrated by not being able to remember the name of the producer out of the dozens of producers of Gevrey Chambertin. Wine terminology is a major source of frustration, confusion and intimidation for many consumers. Even if you remember the vintage, the name of the wine, the varietal, and the winery, you may still be confronted with the AVA(wine growing region) or the specific vineyard that produced the grapes that went into the wine. The third person I conversed with today is an established wine retailer, who complained that some of his customers are overly impressed with highly rated, high-priced wines that are living off their reputations based on hype, spin and marketing. He likes to find people real wines at reasonable prices. Now that's integrity, a rare quality these days.

Wines Of The Week - Novelty Hill Merlot And Chardonnay

I've never had a bad wine from Novelty Hill. It is the perfect pick from a wine list - easy to remember and reasonably priced. Novelty Hill is owned by the Alborg family who recently planted a variety of clones at their Stillwater Creek Vineyard on Royal Slope. Most of their wines until now have been sourced from some of the best vineyards in the Columbia Valley by winemaker Mike Januik who makes Novelty Hill wines for the Alborgs in a jointly shared facility. Novelty Hill will be building a brand new modern winery down the road in the near future. In the meanwhile, Januik has been turning out beautiful wines. The wines are very similar in style to Januik Winery bottles, but not quite as big and complex.

I tasted four wines from Novelty Hill at the Woodinville Passport weekend and they were all delicious. They all have the signature Januik style and capture the essence of each varietal. I preferred the 2003 Columbia Valley Merlot (about $20) and the 2004 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Chardonnay (about $20) to the 2003 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (about $22) and the 2003 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Syrah (about$28), but they are all excellent wines. The 2003 Columbia Valley Merlot is loaded with ripe berry aromas and flavors. It is medium bodied and balanced with a supple texture. This is a great wine to serve with or without food. It would be perfect with chicken or rack of lamb. The Chardonnay is nice, clean, and fresh, almost crisp. More of a dinner wine - fish or seafood. The hint of citrus and mineral mouthfeel is reminiscent of a European wine. Definitely not California in-your-face vanilla oak and tropical fruit. The consistency and quality of Januik made wines is truly amazing.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Woodinville Passport Weekend - DeLille

A wine writer from California, recently wrote about the Woodinville wine country, comparing it to the Napa Valley. Well, he went to the wrong wineries. He missed DeLille, Januik, Mark Ryan and many others that open their doors for Passport Weekend.

The mob scene at DeLille on Saturday was too much for us so we returned on Sunday when things were much calmer. At 11:00 in the morning there was a groaning board full of wonderful treats, enough for what the Norwegians call mittagessen, to accompany barrel tastings of two wines to be released in November. As usual, the wines were wonderful.

The 2004 D2 Bordeaux-Style is a blend of four of the five classic Bordeaux grapes - 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petite Verdot. Sixty percent of the grapes come from Red Mountain vineyards Ciel de Cheval and Klipsun Vineyards. 'D2'', by the way, is the "2nd wine of DeLille" and is also the main route through the Medoc region of Bordeaux. The 2004 has a nose of berry fruit and vanilla oak. In the mouth there are tastes of tobacco, plums, and berry fruit with a hint of tannin in the finish. An elegant, silky textured wine that is absolutely delicious (about $34, Pre-order from winery -$30)

The Doyenne 2004 "Aix" is a blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon and 26% Syrah that tastes more like a Syrah than a Cab. "Aix" is an allusion to Aix-en-Provence in the Rhone Valley of France. Bigger and fuller than the D2, it, too, has delicious berry flavors and a soft texture. This wine tastes like a melange of black fruit served on a plush goose down comforter ($36, pre-order -$32)

The wine writer from California missed the "Chateau Lafite of Washington." He missed Mike Januik's perfect Merlot and Chardonnay, and he missed most of the wonderful Woodinville "garagistes."

WOW! World Wide Wine Lovers

Even though the bulk of our readers are from Washington, the West Coast and the U.S., we get hits from all over the world - Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, U.A.E., Brazil, Argentina, Chile, France, England, Germany, Italy, Spain and, of course, Canada, to name a few. Thanks for your interest in the Seattle Wine Blog.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Woodinville Wine Country Passport Weekend

Just got back from the Woodinville Passport Weekend. It was a great event, despite some mishaps. A tour bus bottomed out in DeLille's driveway causing all kinds of havoc and distress among wine tasters whose vehicles were trapped in the parking lot and wine tasters who couldn't get in. There were the usual dented fenders and one lady somehow manage to drop her glass (the wine , the wine!) causing a major massive injury to her friend, all the while telling everyone she can't stand blood. Actually they were great gals and loads of fun.

I tried to focus on the wineries that are not normally open to the public. DeLille, Betz, Januik and Novelty Hill were great as usual, but the most interesting tastings were at the smaller, newer wineries such as Edmonds, Cuillin, Des Voignes, Stevens, Chatter Creek, Saint Paulia, Covington and lots of others.

Tune in most days this week to read about exciting new wineries and great wines from great winemakers.
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