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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

2004 Merryvale Starmont Napa Chardonnay

We've had this wine many times before. The 2004 is pale straw in color with a slight hint of green. It smells of creamy vanilla and toast and tastes like a crisp green apple. At first it is tangy, salty and crisp, although eventually you can taste some of that California "tropical fruit." It's a relatively asthenic wine that cries out for food - shellfish in particular. The 2004 is just not as luxuriant as previous vintages. Starmont used to be an old standby for us, especially when it was consistently on sale for around $15 (available in some supermarkets for $16 to $20).

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Walla Walla Syrah - 2002 Beresan

We had this wine with cheese at the end of the meal. It elicited a lot of oohs and aahs! In fact, it is typical of Walla Walla Syrah. Big, soft, velvety, fruity and spicy - delicious! An exuberant, out there, kind of personality - not really in your face - soft, warm, loving, spirited, sexy - very appealing. Washington state Syrahs have winning personalities - upbeat, happy and free. The Beresan is made from grapes grown at Pepper Bridge vineyard. Most good Washington state Syrahs cost $30 and are worth every penny. The $45 versions are worth it, too. They tend to be bigger than life versions of the same thing - more macho! And there are some $20 versions which are not exactly puny little things either. They are all pretty much fabulous. Like Port, Chinon, and Dolcetto , the average quality of Washington Syrah is quite high and the wines are consistently of good quality.

Wine Of The Week - 2005 Drouhin Macon Villages

Much fruitier than the Louis Jadot Macon Villages, this is another one of those rare French delights available in the supermarket. Pale green with hints of citrus and pear in the nose, this wine is fresh, slightly tart, but with balancing body and green apple flavors. Acerbic and intelligent, you might expect this one to be wearing wire-rimmed glasses and you know it could talk back, but it is a good companion and a good bicyclist! Thin, wiry, reasonably powerful, but with a hint of roundness in the middle (about $12 in supermarkets). Oh, and, yes, this is the same Drouhin family that makes Domaine Drouhin in Oregon.

Monday, August 28, 2006

2003 Vashon Merlot - Another Small Puget Sound Winery

Our friends, Al & Maxine, who live on Vashon Island, brought a bottle of 2003 Vashon Merlot to dinner Saturday night and it went quite well with Foie Gras, Buffalo, and a variety of cheeses including Beecher's, Drunken Goat, Stilton, and Port du Salut. The wine smells of berries and sherry, with a creamy raspberry flavor and a soft entry to the mouth. It is medium bodied in a somewhat light and elegant style. It has a slightly hot finish which may diminish with a little more bottle age (six months to a year).

We had occasion to taste other good Vashon wines at Taste Washington and more recently tasted the 2002 Anniversary Reserve Red which won a bronze medal at the Northwest Wine Festival. This Bordeaux style blend was full and more balanced than the Merlot, also, a year older. I thought it definitely merited at least a Silver medal. By the way, as with so many wines made in the Puget Sound area, most of the grapes used are grown in sunny eastern Washington and trucked over the Cascade mountains to the winery at harvest time.

Vashon Winery is owned by Ron Irvine who has tried his hand at many aspects of the wine trade. Ron was one of the early owners of Pike and Western Wine Shop in the Pike Place Market in Seattle. He sold his interest and retired to Vashon Island to write a book about the history of Washington state wine. Now he is winemaker and owner of Vashon Winery with a production of about 750 cases on Vashon Island. Vashon wines may be a little hard to find. A day trip to Vashon Island would be a lovely weekend excursion and rewarding way to obtain some Vashon wine, but it would be best to call ahead to make sure the winery is open.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

More Northwest Wine Festival Winners - Part II

As I wrote earlier, the highlights of the Northwest Wine Festival came from Kestrel, Willis Hall, Zerba, and Lone Canary. One of the neat things about the Northwest Wine Festival is the chance to taste wine from all over the Northwest, not just Washington state. Here are red medal winners I think are worth a try. For a complete list of winners go to:

Bordeaux Style Red

  • 2003 Cave B Estate Cuvee du Soleil (WA)
  • 2003 Lone Canary Rouge (WA)
  • 2002 Brian Carter L'Etalon (WA)
  • 2003 Chateau Faire Le Pont Confluence (WA)
  • 2003 L'Ecole Apogee (WA)
  • 2003 Lone Canary Red(WA)
  • 2003 Stella Maris (WA)
  • 2003 Nota Bene Ciel du Cheval (WA)
  • 2002 Vashon 2002 Anniversary Reserve (WA)

Cabernet Sauvignon

  • 2002 Apex Cellars (WA)
  • 2004 Barnard Griffin Reserve (WA)
  • 2003 Canoe Ridge (WA)
  • 2003 Kestrel (WA)
  • 2003 Sagelands (WA)
  • 2004 Barnard Griffin (WA)
  • 2003 Ch. Ste. Michelle Indian Wells (WA)
  • 2003 Maryhill (WA)
  • 2004 Sockeye (WA)


  • 2003 Sagelands Four Corners (WA)
  • 2004 Zerba Cellars (WA)
  • 2003 Columbia Crest Reserve (WA)
  • 2003 L'Ecole Seven Hills Vineyard (WA)
  • 2004 Barnard Griffin (WA)
  • 2003 Reininger Helix (WA)

Cabernet Franc

  • 2004 Church & State Harmony Vineyard (BC)
  • 2003 Willis Hall Reserve Charbonneau Farms (WA)
  • 2003 Willis Hall (WA)

Other Red

  • 2004 Willow Crest XIII (WA)
  • 2002 Byzance (WA)
  • 2002 Sandidge Boushay Syrah (WA)
  • 2003 Columbia Crest Reserve Syrah (WA)
  • 2004 Cave B Syrah (WA)
  • 2003 Note Bene Syrah (WA)
  • 2003 Kiona Lemberger (WA)
  • 2002 Kestrel Raptor Red (WA)
  • NV 4th Edition Kestrel Lady In Red (WA)
  • 2004 San Juan Island Cab-Syrah (WA)
  • 2004 Two Mountain Lemberger (WA)
  • 2003 Okanogan Estate Bench Rock Red (WA)
  • 2003 Yellow Hawk Sangiovese (WA)
  • 2004 Yellow Hawk Barbera (WA)
  • 2004 Maryhill Winemaker's Blend (WA)
  • 2004 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (OR)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More Northwest Wine Festival Winners - Part I

The Northwest Wine Festival put on by the Seattle Wine Society is a great source of ideas for Northwest wines to try. Here are some award winning whites ( Go to www.seattlewinesociety.orgf for the complete list):

  • 2004 Ch. Ste. Michelle Cold Creek (WA)
  • 2004 Covey Run "Winemaker's Collection" (WA)
  • 2004 Mission Hills S.L.C. (BC)

Pinot Gris

  • 2005 Willamette Valley Vineyards (OR)
  • 2005 King Estate Winery (OR)
  • 2005 Sweet Cheeks (OR)
  • 2005 Wild Rose (OR)
  • 2005 Ridgefield (WA)

Rhone Style

  • 2004 Brian Carter Oriana (WA)
  • 2004 Kana (WA)


  • 2005 Viento (WA)
  • 2005 Ch. Ste. Michelle Indian Wells (WA)
  • 2005 Carpenter Creek (WA)
  • 2005 Hogue Genesis (WA)

Sauvignon Blanc

  • 2005 Church and State (BC)
  • 2005 Preston (WA)
  • 2005 Ste. Chapelle (ID)


  • 2005 L'Ecole No. 41 (WA)
  • 2005 Red Sky (WA)


  • 2005 Viento (WA)


  • Mountain Dome (WA)
  • Dom. Ste. Michelle Non-Vintage Brut
  • Dom. Ste. Michelle NV Blanc de Noir
  • Camas Prairie (ID)

Late/Special Harvest

  • 2005 Kiona Chenin Blanc Ice Wine (WA)
  • NV King Estate Vin Glace Pinot Gris (OR)
  • 2004 Ste. Chapelle Ice Wine Riesling ID)
  • 2005 Ste. Chapelle Special Harvest Riesling (ID)
  • NV Camas Prairie Late Harvest Orange Muscat (WA)
  • 2005 Washington Hills Late Harvest Riesling (WA)


  • 2005 Maryhill Rose of Sangiovese (WA)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Dog Days of August - End of Washington Wine Month Specials

Only ten more days of Washington Wine Month, so buy up! Here are some final ideas!

  • Barnard Griffin
  • Columbia Crest Two Vines
  • Columbia Crest Grand Estates
  • Hogue
  • Hogue Genesis
  • Red Diamond

Sauvignon Blanc

  • Barnard Griffin Fume Blanc

Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Barnard Griffin
  • Red Diamond
  • Sagelands


  • Barnard Griffin
  • Columbia Crest Grand Estates
  • Columbia Crest Two Vines
  • Hogue Genesis
  • Red Diamond
  • Sagelands


  • Barnard Griffin


  • Kiona

"Special Purchase Wines" - One Time Only

  • Willow Crest Chardonnay
  • Kiona Late Harvest
  • Working Girl White
  • Helix Merlot
  • Ryan Patrick Rock Island Red
  • Waterbrook Melange
  • Go Girl Red
  • Kiona Ice Wine

There are lots of other interesting wines to try. Since I'm not a fan of Riesling and Gewurz, your on your own with these varietals. Please let me know your favorites. Any others you would recommend?

Friday, August 18, 2006

2001 Hyatt Merlot Yakima Valley

Finally, a useful back label. Here's a wine that's just about to go over the hill - sort of a pre-aged wine, but at $4 who can complain? Certainly, a chance to taste what aging will do to a Washington State wine. The back label says, "... a soft silky wine with aromas of berries, tobacco and spice. Enjoy now, or cellar 2-5 years." Well it's almost five years since the grapes were harvested and the wine is well aged. Even though the fruit is a little raisiny, you can still taste the berries, tobacco and spice. It's hard to know if the wine was ever silky, which it most definitely is not now, but you can easily imagine that it once was. The wine works well with food, but not on its own. Try it with salami! Or any strongly flavored meat dish, pasta, too! At four dollars, this would be a great cooking wine, too, better than the horrors they try to pass off as cooking wine in the supermarket at the same price. This wine won't keep in the bottle after you open it, so drink up or make vinegar with the leftovers! It will not keep in your cellar either. So just buy enough to drink in the next few months. Better yet, buy a bottle and check it out to see if it's to your taste, but don't wait as it is disappearing from the state liquor stores at a rapid rate.

Wine Of The Week - 2005 L'Ecole No 41 Semillon

L'Ecole moved the "barrel fermented" part to the back label, but as far as I can see it's the same wine. I guess they figured only wine geeks were interested in the fact that the wine is barrel fermented. In any event, the 2005 is even better than the 2004. First Impression -fresh cut grass! This one has a fairly full, but perky body, kind of "HWP", with a slightly stoney quality and a crisp citrus aftertaste. It is fresh, tart, and fruity with tastes of pear and apples. It is a little stand-offish, but substantial and will come together even better in three to six months. The price is right - about $15.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Chardonnay

This Washington State Chardonnay tastes like it wants to be an old fashioned Puligny Montrachet. You can almost make out the Cold Creek fruit buried in the toasty oak. Truly, this wine tastes more like a French White Burgundy than most California Chards, even Kistler. No vanilla and tropical fruit here. This is a real contrast with Mike Januik's Cold Creek Chardannay which had the fresh stony minerality of a great Meursault. Mike was the winemaker at Ste Michelle for many years and after he left he was able to make the Cold Creek Chardonnay under his own label for a short while. This is an interesting example of a winemaker's style or signature overriding "terroir" or the microclimate of Cold Creek vineyard. At least neither one tastes like a factory wine and each has it's own character, even though Ste Michelle has the biggest production in Washington State. If you want an idea of what Puligny Montrachet tastes like at less than half the price check this out this month on sale at around $22.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Washington Wine Month

I do wish there were more explicit references to Washington Wine Month both in the retail stores and on the net. The Washington Wine Commission needs to be a little more forward in it's efforts to promote Washington wine in state. The Tampa experiment was a big success (sales increased more than 45%), so hopefully we will see more end displays and Washington Wine sections both here at home in Washington and in other markets.

Many retailers are having big sales of Washington wines this month. Fred Meyer has lots of Washington wines on special this month and QFC is offering some real winners at great savings. For example, award winning 2002 Sagelands Four Corners Cabernet is on sale at QFC for $9 and is only $7 at Fred Meyer. The 2002 Sagelands Merlot is also on sale at QFC for $9. The highly rated 2003 Gordon Brothers Merlot is on sale at QFC for only $15. The 2005 Gordon Bros. Chardonnay is available at $10, and Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot and Chardonnay are offered at $6.

In addition to all these great Washington wines ,there are some excellent values from Caifornia, too, at QFC, such as 2005 Edna Valley Chardonnay and Syrah at $12 and 2004 Coppola Chardonnay, Merlot and Claret at around $12.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Wine Of The Week - 2003 Gordon Brothers Merlot

Jeff Gordon may just have produced the perfect Merlot. This is a perfectly balanced wine. It is round and medium bodied with a soft smooth texture and good body. Deep mauve red, this beauty has complex flavors and tastes like creamy vanilla and raspberry swirl. There is a bit of acid and tannin in the finish. This wine will go with almost any food, but red meat is probably best, lamb in particular. It would probably be spectacular with duck and, of course, fine cheese. It has garnered high ratings, but lists for only $20 and is on sale this month at QFC for only $15.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Northwest Wine Festival - White Gold

You could say that 2005 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris is the gold standard for Pinot Gris. Perfectly balanced, fresh, clean, with a hint of mineral feel and a hint of fruitiness. The judges called it a "complete" Pinot Gris. Viento 2005 Underwood Mountain Vineyard carried away the gold for Riesling. Kiona got some more gold for their 2005 Chenin Blanc Ice Wine. King Estate got a gold for their Signature Collection Vin Glace Pinot Gris. The judges described San Juan Vineyard's gold-winning Siegerrebe 2005 as "spectacular." Mountain Dome Winery produced a winning sparkler that could easily compete with any sparkling wine from California. My favorite white that the judges somehow overlooked was the very dry 2005 Muscat Canelli from Yellow Hawk Winery. Totally Alsatian in style, but with the complex floral and spicy flavors of Muscat Canelli.

Northwest Wine Festival - Gold Medal Winning Reds

Highlights of the festival for me were wonderful reds from Kestral, Willis Hall, Zerba, and Lone Canary wineries. There were lots of good whites, especially Pinot Gris and Viognier. My only regret is somehow missing Cave B and Glen Fiona. Maybe that was because I started out from the "Zs". Gold Medals went to the 2003 Cave B - Cuvee de Soleil and 2003 Lone Canary Rouge for Bordeaux style blends. As I already mentioned, Kiona got a gold for it's 2003 Lemberger. Sagelands 2003 Four Corners Merlot took a gold, as did 2004 Zerba Cellars Merlot. Dave Minick, winemaker/owner at Willow Crest ( another recent Seattle Wine Blog posting) won a gold medal for his 2004 "XIII"( a reference to the thirteen varietals that theoretically make up a Chateauneuf du Pape), a wonderful Rhone style wine. C.R. Sandidge took home a gold for their 2002 Boushay Vineyard Syrah and 2003 Columbia Crest Reserve Syrah was another winner we told you about in the Seattle Wine Blog.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Northwest Wine Festival

If you weren't there, you missed a beautiful sunny evening of wine and food at South Seattle Community Community College ,a tree lined oasis in the middle of a relatively industrial area. At 7:30 p.m., the results of the Wine Judging were announced. Over a hundred wines medaled including the 2003 Kiona Lemberger which we reported on in the past few weeks. It won a gold medal! Tune in over the coming days for my impressions and all of the results.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Wine Of The Week - 2003 Columbia Crest Two Vines Chardonnay

Columbia Crest continues it's winning ways with this Two Vines Chardonnay. The Two Vines series is the least expensive from Columbia Crest, continuing the tradition of fine wine making exemplified by the Grand Estates series and the Reserve wines. At each pricepoint these wines deserve your attention. Even though the Columbia Crest winery in Paterson is the size of a factory, they still manage to pay careful attention to the winemaking process. The Two Vines is light, simple, and easy - the perfect summer wine. It is dry and crisp moderated by the suave buttery flavors of oak. A winemaking tour de force for the price. This wine is available everywhere including gas stations and convenience stores. The official price is around $9, but you shouldn't pay more than $8 and it can be found on sale for $6.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Wine Of The Week - 2002 Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot

This one could be a wine of the week, too. This one is light, suave and smooth. Reminds me of a highly polished piece of stained cherrywood. Cherry smells, cherry taste, cherry finish. No noticeable tannins or acid in this one, though acid probably holds the whole thing together. Another easy wine at an easy price. Available everywhere for $6 to $8.

Old World Charm In The New World -2002 Kiona Lemberger

Lemberger is a grape, known as Blaufrankisch, from Austria and is rarely found elsewhere. Thanks to Walter Clore, generally considered the father of the Washington wine industry, Lemberger has been planted in Washington, especially around Prosser, since the 1970s. Bob Woelhler, of the Wine Press Northwest, counts nine wineries making wine from Lemberger. There are approximately 230 acres planted in Washington. Kiona has been making Lemberger since the 1970s. The 2002 has a slightly sweet entry to the mouth followed by mushroom, berry and forest floor flavors. The wine is fairly big and round. It is structured with a European feel to it. We purchased it at the winery for around $20.
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