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

Friday, July 28, 2006

Last Chance - Northwest Wine Festival

Don't procrastinate! The last chance to purchase tickets for the Northwest Wine Festival is Monday, July 31st. Do it this weekend! This is a chance to taste close to 200 wines from over 80 Northwest wineries. You can compare your impressions with five internationally known wine judges'. Taste exciting new wines and reliable old standbys from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. Be the first one on your block to know the results of the 32nd annual wine judging put on by the Seattle Wine Society. More importantly, taste the wines yourself, and know for sure which Northwest wines you want to buy and drink in the coming year. The festival will take place 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Saturday, August 5th at South Seattle Community College. Eat, drink, be merry, and dance the evening away.

Tickets cost $65 for members and $75 for non-members. Tickets are available online at: or call Paul Schumacker at: 1-360-301-6722.

Washington Wine Month

August will be Washington Wine Month with promotions at the state liquor stores and supermarkets. The state liquor stores will have wine from many of the wineries we review on sale. Get ready to stock up! Olympic Cellars Working Girl White and Go Girl Red will be available, as well as wines from Avery Lane, Barnard Griffin, Hogue, Hogue Genesis, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest Grand Estates, Red Diamond, and Sagelands. Barnard Griffin Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah will be on sale all on which are excellent wines. There will be Merlot from Red Diamond and Sagelands, as well as Barnard Griffin. Among whites there will be Chardonnay from Avery Lane, Barnard Griffin, Columbia Crest Grand Estates, Hogue Genesis, and Willow Crest. Rock Island Red from Ryan Patrick, which I haven't tasted in a while, will also be available.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Wine of the Week - 2004 L'Ecole #41 "Barrel Fermented" Semillon

Marty Clubb, winemaker at L'Ecole, makes wonderful Semillons. In addition to the "Barrel Fermented", he makes Fries Vineyard and Seven Hills Vineyard. I usually prefer the "barrel fermented". Maybe that's because I like the smoothness that comes from fermentation in neutral oak. It is also not as big bodied as the others. The 2004 L'Ecole "Barrel Fermented" Semillon is not quite as smooth as the 2003. Nevertheless, it is soft and feels great as it enters your mouth. It is cool and crisp, medium bodied, flavorful with a slightly tangy finish. You may have to hunt and peck for this one. Yesterday, I found the 2005 L'Ecole Semillion at Trader Joe's. I'll try to taste it soon and let you what I find. By the way, it is barrel fermented, but just says Columbia Valley on the label. Available at wine shops and better supermarkets (about $15).

Monday, July 24, 2006

Escape The Heat - A Weekend Getaway

Being ever alert for all things wine related, I've frequently read the North Sound Wineries Brochure which jumps out at me from the brochure rack on the Washington State ferries. This time I did it - toured the "North Sound." You would be hard put to get as far as Harbinger Winery, just past Port Angeles, in one day, so plan to stay overnight. I had the good fortune to stay with my cousins Barry and Susan in Sequim. They like their wine a little softer, slightly sweeter and fruity. They loved the Elk Cove Pinot Gris we had with crab. They love Olympic Cellars Dungeness White, too.

Most of these wineries have small production and their wines are frequently only available at their tasting rooms or in local restaurants. Most of the wines are somewhat lighter and less expensive than those from Seattle or Eastern Washington wineries. Some of the wineries attempt bigger Bordeaux varietals with varying success. Their wines are fun and easy, as is visiting their tasting rooms. In two days, I only made it to five wineries, but then I wasn't speed tasting, just having a leisurely good time.

Camaraderie is the exception. Don Corson is much more serious about his wine and sources grapes from great vineyards such as Artz in Eastern Washington to make his mainly Bordeaux varietals. This year Don has a new white wine called Trinquer (Tran-kay) which mean to clink glasses in French. The 2004 Trinquer is made from equal parts Viognier, Semillon, and Sauvignon Blanc. It is fresh, crisp, refreshing, balanced with good body - a mouthful of pleasure. Probably best enjoyed on its own or with appetizers. The 2002 Cabernet Franc, sourced from Clifton and Artz vineyards tastes of tobacco, tobacco, tobacco. The 2002 Merlot still has good fruit and should age well for another few years. It's on sale at the winery for only $15. The 2003 Cab Franc is soft and delicious with lots of bright black fruit flavors. It should be released soon at $25. Camaraderie wines are available in Seattle at the Tasting Room in the Pike Place Market and at better supermarkets.

Black Diamond Winery is a fun place to visit. It fits my image of a sleepy hollow somewhere in Kentucky. Very rural and down home in feel, it is really mainly a fruit winery. Their raspberry wine is quite good. Harbinger is the end of the wine trail in an old warehouse. Read more about Harbinger in the next post. Sara Gagnon was winemaker at Olympic Cellars for five years before leaving to start Harbinger. Now, Frenchman Benoit Murat is winemaker at Olympic. He is a charming young man from Toulouse who trained in France and escaped from a six month stint in Eastern Washington to the cooler climes of the Olympic Peninsula. Working Girl White is probably Olympic's most popular wine. Enjoy the incredible lightness of Working Girl white after a long hard day. Rose The Riveter, works almost as well as a pick me up, but is probably better with food. The 2005 Dungeness White seems to have shifted in style to a semi-sweet Riesling and quite a good one at that. Kick back with a glass of Go Girl Red which is soft, light, and easy. Handyman red is a blend of Merlot and Lemberger in the style of a simple light bodied Bordeaux. It would go great with cold smoked salmon. The 2003 Cab Franc is delicious and made from grapes from Sagemore Vineyards, one of the oldest in the state. Thirty five hundred cases are made at the winery and another 15,000 are made at a facility in Eastern Washington. Olympic Cellars wines are available in eighteen states and , finally, our prayers are answered, you can get a decent glass of wine on Alaska Airlines from Olympic Cellars.

On our way back to Seattle we took a short detour toward Port Townsend where we checked out Fairwinds Winery and Sorensen Winery. The most interesting wine at Fairwinds was an Aligote that tasted better than most of the Burgundian Aligote I've tasted. They also had a classic dry Gewurztraminer that brought back the good old days when Gewurz and Riesling were the grapes of choice in Washington. The 2004 Sorensen Sangiovese tasted like the real thing. It's the only American Sangio I've tasted that actually tastes like a real Chianti. Come to think of it, it tastes more like traditional Chianti than most so-called Super-Tuscans - good fruit with a tangy finish. Definitely Italiano! Meatballs and speghetti are a must with this wine. The only thing missing is the straw fiasco bottle. The 2001 Sorensen Cabernet Sauvignon is a beautifully complex wine with an intense berry nose and delicious berry fruit flavors balanced by soft tannins. The flavor profile reminded me of Ben Smith's Cadence Ciel du Cheval and, in fact, the grapes for this wine were sourced from Ciel du Cheval. A good example of the power of "terroir."

For more information on the North Sound go to: You can get a touring map on the Washington State Ferries

Even Working Girls Get The Blues

I don't know if Sara got the Blues, maybe she's just a rolling stone. Sara moved on from Olympic Cellars to start Harbinger Winery. Sara Gagnon is my kind of gal - the real thing, straightforward, honest, a native of the Port Angeles area where her winery is located only a few miles from the family homestead. When Sara was winemaker at Olympic Winery, she made Working Girl wines. Now she does all the work herself. Before that she worked as a claims adjuster and before that she started her own expresso business.

Dynamo Red is a great red table wine made from 45% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 5% Sangiovese - sort of a super-super Tuscan Rhone. A great food wine, it works on it's own, too ($15). The Dynamo White has a beautiful nose - floral Reisling and classic Sauvignon Blanc grassiness. It is made from 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Riesling. The aromatic nose is followed by a dry crisp invigorating wine that would go well with spicy food. The 2005 Cabernet Franc Rose has good body for a rose with strawberry and pineapple flavors. It's a lovely Rose which reminds me of a Rose from the Loire Valley. I only wish it were a little drier.

It's worth the drive to visit Harbinger and certainly a must stop on your way around the peninsula. Let us hope that it will be a harbinger of even better things to come.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

2006 Classification of Washington State Wineries

Washington state's Columbia Valley is, indeed, "a grand cru wine region", as DeLille winemaker, Chris Upchurch says. Here is my 2006 Classification of Grand Cru Washington State Wines. Clive Coates, the English wine guru, describes the history of the classification of Bordeaux wines including the classification of 1855 which still has some waning influence today. At the time, it was a great marketing device for the Bordeaux Chateaux. I can just hear the howls and moans of winery owners and winemakers over my modest proposal to order the wonderful world of Washington wine. I must be either crazy or foolish or both to attempt this. It is only my way of helping comsumer's keep track of what's going on in Washington wine. As they might say in academia, this is "a tentative, heurisitic, approach to a possible paradigm for the classification of Washington wine." This is not meant to be set in stone. I am not interested in producing a set of concretions, here. This is only my opinion about wineries this year. A list such as this has to be flexible and evolving. This is limited to wineries I am familiar with and the omission of a winery from this list is in no way a reflection on the winery or the winemaker. I hope to hear opinions from all of you. This may seem grandiose and audacious, but, hey, somebody's got to do it.

2006 Classification of Washington State Wineries

To a large extent, the wineries in each category make wines in different styles that serve different purposes. For example, many of the very good wineries mostly make great everyday and picnic wines, whereas wines made by the extraordinary wineries are more suitable for an elegant dinner or a special occasion. Of course, most wineries make a broad range of wine, so this is definitely a very broad generalization. Any of you who are disturbed by the idea of a classification of Washington Wineries, just think of this as a “best” list similar to “best” lists published by the Weekly or Seattle Magazine. Or just think of it as Gene's List.

Premier Grand Cru (Extraordinary)

Quilceda Creek

Deuxieme Grand Cru (Outstanding)

Andrew Will
Januik *
K Vintner
Pepper Bridge

Troisieme Grand Cru (Exceptional)

Brian Carter
Canon de Sol
Columbia Crest Reserve
Terra Blanca
Three Rivers
Spring Valley
Walla Walla Vineyards *
Woodwood Canyon

Quatrieme Grand Cru (Excellent)

Cougar Crest*
Dusted Valley*
El Mirador
Lake Missoula
Mark Ryan
Novelty Hill*
Red Sky
Saint Laurent
Thurston Wolfe
Willow Crest*
Yakima Cellars

Cinqieme Cru ( Very Good)

Cascade Cliffs*
Chatter Creek
Desert Wind
Gordon Brothers*
Hogue Genesis*
Ryan Patrick
Yellow Hawk

* Good value

New Wineries (Unclassified)

Fall Line
Poet's Leap

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Wine Of The Week - 2004 Jadot Macon-Villages

This is a rare opportunity to buy French white burgundy from an excellent shipper at a reasonable price at the supermarket. The 2004 Jadot Macon-Villages(Jah-doh Mah-cone Vil-ahge) is made from Chardonnay, but if you are used to California Chardonnay you would never guess it. Macon-Villages comes from the Macon area just south of the Cotes D'Or Burgundy region. I have always loved these wines even more than many higher priced wines from Meursault, Chassagne Montrachet and Puligny Montrachet to the north. The wines are flinty and dry and at their best have a wonderful minerality. This one is dry, slightly tart and crisp, tasting mildly of green apples with the slightest hint of lemon. This is definitely a food wine and will go great with fish and seafood, not really a wine to sip as a cocktail. We had it with Thai food. Great for those cracked crab dinners, grilled shrimp, oysters, any fish dish. This wine is widely available at most supermarkets and, I think, the state liquor stores about($10- $15)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Discovery of the Pacific Northwest

Did Juan de Fuca or Lewis and Clark ever envision over 400 wineries in Washington state? Did John Jacob Astor foresee over 300 wineries and 700 vineyards in Oregon? Did David Lett, Dick Erath, Bob Betz, Allan Shoup, Mike Wallace or the Hogues ever imagine over 700 wineries in the Northwest? In Washington, we went from six vinifera wineries to over 400 in less than thirty years. When my friends and neighbors, Dave and Liza, discovered Walla Walla wines five or ten years ago, they knew they were on to something really special. I suspect they regret that the secret is out. The Wine Enthusiast was the first of the big wine publications to get it. In 2001, they named Washington State, "Wine Region of the Year." The Wine Spectator and the Wine Advocate, also, seem to have finally figured it out, although the Wine Advocate still seems hesitant about Oregon. All I know is that on average, Oregon Pinot Noirs are more consistent and more enjoyable than most Burgundies.

Pierre-Antoine Rovani says in the Wine Advocate, "Washington State's Columbia Valley, long described as having potential has fulfilled many expectations and its future is as bright today as any viticultural region's on earth." The one hundred point rating awarded to 2003 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon by Rovani and Parker marks an inflection point similar to the Paris Spurrier tasting that put California wine on the world wine map in 1976. After California, Washington State is the biggest wine producer in the U.S. and can no longer be considered a regional producer. Washington's world class wines have been discovered. Chris Upchurch, winemaker at DeLille Cellars, is right when he describes the Columbia Valley as " a grand cru wine region."

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Great Summer Wine At A Great Price!

Here is a wine for all the rest of us non-multimillionaires.We found this 1999 Columbia Crest Cote du Columbia Grenache on sale at the state liquor store for only $4. This is a great picnic wine. Dark in color, fairly light in body, with good fruit flavors. Not in-your-face fruity, but easy to drink, this wine will go great with virtually any summer food. It was exceptional with prosciutto, but will go great with hamburgers, pizza, cold cuts, you name it. A state liquor store employee told me this wine is available in the system, but I'm not sure whether this is available at all liquor stores. Ask for Item # 456610.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Investing in 2005 Bordeaux - For MultiMillionaires Only

My advice is simple. Only invest in First Growth Futures. In 2000, First Growths sold for a mere $350 a bottle and up. Now, the 2005s are being offered for more than twice as much. Best bets in 2005 are Petrus, Ausone, Haut Brion, Latour, Margaux, and Lafite. If I had to pick only two of these, it would probably be Latour and Margaux. Whatever you do, don't just invest in one wine. Diversification is a must. Outrageous as these prices might seem they are opening prices and will only go up after the first tranche is sold. By the time the wine is delivered the price will probably be much higher. In terms of return on the dollar, ten years might be a reasonable holding period. Of course, if for some reason, 2005 defies history and the prices don't increase, you can always invite your friends over to help you drink up your liquid assets

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I Won't Say I Told You So!

I won't say I told you so, but you read it first here in the Seattle Wine Blog. In the current issue of the Wine Spectator, Harvey Steiman reviews the current wave of Washington State red wine successes. Wine Spectator gives 2003 Quilceda Creek Cabernet a score of 95, in contrast to Robert Parker's score of 100. While I am certainly glad that a Washington state wine scored "100", I'm more inclined to agree with Steiman. When I tasted the 2003 Quilceda Cab it was wonderful and delicious, but not necessarily one of the greatest wines I've ever tasted. But enough quibbling, wine scores and ratings are basically subjective and the numbers just create a false impression of objectivity anyway.

Novelty Hill Merlot and Chardonnay were Seattle Wine Blog Wines of the Week. The Merlot garnered a "92" from Steiman. Wine of the Week Bergevin Lane's 2003 Calico Red scored "89'. I told you about Desert Wind's Ruah which rated an "86". We told you about Ben Smith's Bel Canto from Cadence a long time ago. It captured a "93". We told you about 2003 Columbia Crest Reserve Syrah last year. It scored "91". I told you that Hogue Genesis, Barnard Griffin, and Gordon Brothers wines are great values. Many of them scored in the high 80s. You can count on the Seattle Wine Blog for timely information on Washington State wines!

Enough advertising for myself! There's a nice piece in the Spectator on local winemaker and Master of Wine, Bob Betz and in the back in the Buying Guide there are lots of notes on other Washington state wines. This is much better coverage of Washington wines than the Wine Advocate offered, but there are some glaring omissions. First and foremost Mike Januik and Brian Carter. Somehow Cristophe Baron gets to be in the spotlight even though many Cayuse wines only rated in the 80s in in the Wine Advocate. Other significant omissions include Rulo, Dusted Valley, Zerba, Terra Blanca, Beresan, K Vintner, Basel Cellars, Thurston Wolfe, Amavi, and Fall Line.

With the major exception of Pepper Bridge, I think the Spectator got it pretty much right on Apex, Buty, Cadence, Columbia Crest, Cougar Crest, DeLille, Dunham, Gordon Brothers, Graeagle, Barnard Griffin, Hogue, Isenhauer, L'Ecole, Northstar, Novelty Hill, OS, Pavin & Riley, Reininger, Andrew Rich, Russel Creek, Ryan Patrick, Sagelands, Saint Laurent, Spirng Valley, Stella Maris, Syncline, Syzygy, and Walter Dacon.

My apologies for my own omissions.

2005 Bordeaux - Most Expensive Vintage Ever

Two or three times in a decade Bordeaux revs up the spin machine to top speed. For reasons that are mysterious, this frequently happens at the beginning or end of a decade and mid-decade. For reasons that are even more mysterious, the mid-decade hype is usually about a vintage that the French call a "Vin du Gard", a wine to keep. Also referred to as "Classic", these vintages are usually less fruit forward and more tannic than other great vintages. Sometimes this works out reasonably well as in 1995/1996, but more often the wines are difficult and temperamental as in 1975 or 1986. Descriptions of the 2005 vintage suggest it will be more tannic than 1982, 1989, 1990, 2000 or 2003. Of course, many great "keepers" have come from similar vintages. But beware, many of these wines may not be user friendly to the American palate. It seems the friendliest wine will come from Margaux. Margaux wines I would bet on include Chateaux Margaux, Palmer, Angludet, Kirwan, D'Issan, Rausan Segla, Giscours, Prieure-Lichine, Lascombes, Malescot Saint-Exupery, Du Tertre, Dauzac, and La Lagune. This will be by far the most expensive vintage of Bordeaux ever. Relatively inexpensive wines to look for are Pipeau, Charmail, Fombrauge, Cambon La Pelouse, Senejac, d'Escurac, Forcas-Dupre, Labegorce, Labegorce-Zede, Lanessan, La Tour dy By, Mille Roses, and Tayac

Monday, July 10, 2006

Summer Wine At The Supermarket

With summer upon us, many of us get out the BBQ and invite over large groups of friends. Here are some brands that are usually reliable and widely available at supermarkets:

1) Beringer Founder's Estate
2) Columbia Crest Grand Estate
3) Clos du Bois
4) Kendall Jackson
5) Chateau St Jean
6) Hogue Genesis

Check the archives for other supermarket wines, especially November 2005.

Buying Wine At Costco

While it is generally true that Costco usually has the best price for a given wine, there is not really a huge selection of inexpensive wines at Costco. Costco usually has great prices on Bordeaux First Growths, but these wines are very expensive. Dom Perignon 1998 at around $100 is a great price compared to other retailers, but most of us want a wine at under $15. Good values in this price range at Costco include 2005 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris at $11, 2004 Cambria Katherine's Vineyard Chardonnay at $12, and 2004 Coppola Merlot or Claret at $14. 2001 Reininger Merlot priced in the $20s is also a good value.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

2002 Januik Petit Verdot

Petit Verdot is generally considered a blending grape. It is usually listed as the fifth varietal among the five Bordeaux blending grapes. These days most Bordeaux is simply a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In Pomerol and St. Emilion it is frequently a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Malbec has pretty much disappeared from Bordeaux and when Petit Verdot is used, it is usually only 3% to 15% of the blend. In American Bordeaux style blends it is also normally kept to less than 15%.

When Seattle winemaker, Mike Januik, bought some Petit Verdot grapes from Ciel Du Cheval vineyard on Red Mountain recently he was planning to blend it with Merlot and/or Cab. When he tasted the Petite Verdot in barrel, he was so taken with the marvelous quality of the wine that he decided to bottle 100% pure Petit Verdot. This was truly a rare opportunity to taste wine made from this grape. When I was doing tastings of Bordeaux style wines, the one varietal I could never find was Petit Verdot.

The 2002 Januik Petit Verdot was dark claret in color with lots of black berry fruit and lots of backbone. The wine was big and structured, but not in an in-your-face way. Definitely not a fruit forward wine, but balanced and powerful. You could see why small amounts of Petit Verdot are used as a kind of pick-me-up to cab/Merlot blends. By bottling a 100% Petit Verdot, Mike was following in a proud Washington maverick winemaking tradition of experimenting with new things.

Carrying on that tradition as a wine drinker, I decided to make my own unconventional Bordeaux style blend of 50% leftover Willow Crest Cab Franc, 20% Norton Malbec and 30% Januik Petit Verdot. This really picked up the Willow Crest which was a little tired. It is easy to see why Malbec and Petit Verdot have become less popular as blending grapes. In these days of fruit forward wines, one doesn't necessarily want to do anything to distract from the intense fruitiness and incredible lightness of Merlot. If Washington wine makers want to blend for color or more fruitiness they seem to more often use ripe Syrah or sometimes Carmenere. Malbec adds color and backbone. Petit Verdot adds color, bockbone, and jazz.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Willow Crest Winery - A Well Kept Secret

The Minick Family has been growing grapes for other winemakers since 1982. Several years ago Dave Minick decided to make his own wine from his own grapes. The wines are reasonably priced ranging from $8 for the Rose to $24 for the Cab. Visiting the winery, six miles north of Prosser is almost a spiritual experience. The 360 degree view of the vineyard and the Yakima Valley creates a beautiful, magical experience of peace and oneness in the universe. The wines are pretty damn good, too. The 2002 Cabernet Franc was a velvety delight when we tasted it at the winery several years ago. When we tasted it recently it had done what so many Washington state reds do - it had changed from fresh fruit and velvet to a more mahoganied quality. This is a common phenomenon which is why we advised Ryan to drink most of his Washington state wines when they are fresh. Many Bordeaux taste great when they are young, too, then they go through an awkward adolescence and emerge as buff young adults. Many Washington wines don't seem to emerge into adulthood, but head straight into old age. Just drink them young! Last time we tasted the Merlot and Syrah, they were excellent. The Pinot Gris from Willow Crest is true to type with lots of cool minerality and at a very reasonable price, too.

1998 Archery Summit Pinot Noir

Last night we opened a bottle of 1998 Archery Summit with Salmon. The wine was great. Complex, flavorful, structured - no wilting lily, this one. No prune flavors of aging fruit. Almost European in style, this wine had backbone! This is one that definitely could have gone into Ryan's cellar. Perfect at eight years of age, it can probably keep going at least another two years, maybe longer, who knows? Aging wine is definitely a guessing game, although Jancis Robinson published a fascinating book on the aging curves of wine several years ago. Oh, and, of course, it went great with the salmon. The wine was definitely dominant.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Ryan's Wine Cellar

Ryan told me he's thinking of building an underground cave or wine cellar. I asked him what he is going to put in it. Like me, he likes Washington state reds, but most Washington state wines are better young. Ninety-five per cent of wines are drunk the night they are purchased and in the past twenty years winemakers have been taking this into account. These days most wine is ready to drink off the shelf. Some winemakers succeed in making wine that has a large drinking window, say, from right now to ten years. In Washington, "cult" wines such as Quilceda Creek and Leonetti age well, although I recently had a 1989 Leonetti that wasn't in the best of shape. Basel Cellars and Terra Blanca have made Syrahs that benefit from age. K Vintners, too. McCrea special cuvee Syrahs require some bottle age, especially the Amerique. The 1998 Nelms Road Merlot is still coming around. Forgeron and Kestrel have made wines that need to age.

Generally speaking, Cabs and Cab Blends are the best agers from Washington. Many reds may benefit from a few years in the cellar, but why wait until they lose that luscious upfront fruit. Whites are best at two years, so if you buy one that is younger than that it might improve for a few months. Most whites over four years are too old. I've had some Oregon Pinot Noirs that aged well. A 1992 Domaine Drouhin was in prime shape in 2002, as was a 1992 Van Duzer. The best way to tell if a wine will age is to taste it yourself. The wine must have good fruit AND a little extra roughness(tannin) and tartness(acid). This is not always possible, so then you must depend on a reliable wine taster such as Robert Parker or yours truly. Red Bordeaux is the wine that ages best. Unfortunately, these have gotten quite expensive. In my experience, red Burgundy does not age very well any more. For the most part,they seem to be best at about four to six years or less. Italian Barolo, Brunello, Barbera, and Dolcetto benefit from age. Sweet wines such as Port, Sauternes, and late harvest wines age well. Very generally, the more expensive the wine, the better it will age, but this is not always true.

I once asked a winemaker why he didn't mention the aging potential of his wine on the back label. He said there was already too much stuff to put there and the marketing people would give him trouble, etc., etc,. The marketing people, indeed! Just sell the wine! There oughta be a law!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wine of the Week - 2005 Norton Malbec

Ever since Malbec emigrated to Argentina from pre-phylloxxera 19th century Bordeaux, it has become the dominant grape grown in Argentina. While technically speaking Malbec is still considered one of the classic five varietals in Bordeaux along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot, modern Bordeaux rarely contains Malbec. Although the grape can be quite tannic the Argentinians give it extra hang time, producing a fruitier New World version.

Bodega Norton was founded in 1895. The 2005 Norton Malbec has a fruity, but dry almost cedary nose and tastes like a blend of dried chukar cherries and dried cranberries in a nicely balanced straight up berry martini. Just kidding! It actually does taste of chukar cherries wrapped in velvet with an ever so slightly tangy finish. We saw some 2003 Norton Malbec on the shelf and they also make a reserve wine (about $10).

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Northwest Wine Festival

What to do when confronted with hundreds of wines on the shelf? You could ask the wine shop owner or the wine steward if there is one, but the best way to choose a wine is to taste it yourself. Of course, you can always consult the Seattle Wine Blog, too. The Northwest Wine Festival, put on by the Seattle Wine Society, is a royal opportunity for you to taste over 200 wines from Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. And you get to compare your notes with five internationally known wine judges, too.

On August 5th, from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., the Seattle Wine Society will hold its 32nd annual Wine Judging of Northwest wines. There will be dinner and dancing as well as a raffle for a basket of wines from wineries new and old. The raffle will benefit Farestart which trains homeless people in the culinary arts and will provide a scholarship for a Farestart student to attend the culinary program at South Seattle Community College. Ticket will cost $65 for society members and $75 for non-members. Tickets and more information are available at:

It's going to be a great event. See you there!
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