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, September 28, 2006

King Arthur And Lady Lynn of Redwood Shire

King Arthur and Lady Lynn have created their own paradise in a glen in a redwood forest. After returning from a motorcycle trip to Alaska they created their family compound in Sonoma county where they have a small vineyard of Pinot Noir and make award winning wines from Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Merlot purchased grapes. Their Cab/Syrah blend recently won Best of Show at a Sonoma wine judging. Trust me, it is good! Would you find a Cab/Syrah in France ? Probably not! This is the spirit of experimentation that makes American wine so interesting. The Cab/Syrah blend is big and full and balanced in a style similar to the Palouse Petit Syrah we recently reported on, although the flavor profile is, not surprisingly, somewhat different. The Merlot, surprisingly, is bigger than the Zin and will probably lose it's slightly tannic edge with a year or two of bottle age. Since King Arthur and Lady Lynn are "amateur" winemakers, Redwood Shire Wines are only available to their friends in the surrounding forest. These are the best "amateur wines" I've tasted! There is a whole world of winemakers and grapegrowers out there enjoying wine with their friends without any interest in marketing, hype and spin. I did encourage King Arthur and Lady Lynn to get bonded, but they would rather enjoy themselves in their Redwood Glen. Look for more reports on the wine underground.

2003 Reserve De L'Estey

Is this French Bordeaux improved? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it's just from a very ripe year. In any event, it's got very good fruit, and a bit of tannin that suggests it will improve over the next year or two. For only $7 at Trader Joe's, this Medoc from Calvet is a good one for "Ryan's Cellar" and yours, although it's fine to drink right now with anything from chicken to beef.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Lake of Wine Improved?

The back label of 2003 Mediterre Corbieres claims it is "a typical example of the improved wines produced in the South of France in recent years....the wine is rich, full and packed with ripe berry flavors." The French wine world is split into two groups of wine, the outrageously priced prestigious wines like the famous Bordeaux Chateaux and the unsaleable " lake of wine" from most of the other producers. Many of these producers are subsidized by the EU and they are probably paid by the ton. The larger the crop, the more dilute the wine, and the more they get paid so many producers have a disincentive for producing good wine. Plus, a lot of this wine goes to co-ops where all the wine is averaged to the lowest common denominator. The grape growers want to preserve their way of life, but they will not succeed in this by insisting on old fashioned practices. These wines could be improved with better vineyard management, lower yields, and some stainless steel fermenters. Heaven knows, they get enough sunshine in the south of France. The 2003 Mediterre Corbieres has a pleasant strawberry nose, a light to medium body, strawberry kool aid flavors and some tartness in the finish. Yes, it probably is an improvement, but it certainly is not "rich and full" - more like a skinny country girl with flushed cheeks. If this is the "improved" wine, they still have a ways to go.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

2003 Goose Ridge Red

Here's a goose that laid a golden egg. This garnet colored wine has little bouquet, but delicious cherry flavors with a hint of tannin. I've always wanted to taste a Goose Ridge wine and was excited to find this bottle for only $12 at the state liquor store on Vashon Island. This wine is more European in style and could probably benefit from one to two years of cellaring. It is a little like a lean man with a firm grip and a big broad grin. Try it with fairly big dishes like stew.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Leaping Lizards! It's A Leaping Horse!

A friend recently gave us a bottle of Leaping Horse Chardonnay made by Ironstone Vineyards. I don't want to talk about the wine, just the labels. Ironstone Vineyards is in Lodi where good wines are made, but to a large extent they have to compete with the likes of Yellowtail and two buck Chuck, hence the animal front label. In an effort to be user-friendly, the back label lists four statements in addition to the usual warnings to pregnant women and other health warnings: 1) "Style", 2) "The Low Down", 3) "Home Grown", 4) "Match Made In Heaven". "Style" has a useful description of the wine. "The Low Down" is more of the same. "Homegrown" is another way to say "estate bottled". "Match Made In Heaven" is about food pairings. This is definitely a worthy effort at an informative label, but in my opinion, every back label should have these four elements: 1) Style, 2) Readiness, 3) Ageing Potential, 4) Food Pairings. Style - what kind of wine is it. What does it taste like? What's it's personality? Readiness - when will it be ready to drink. Tonight? In a year? Two Years? Ten years? Ageing potential - how long will it last? When will it be at it's peak? Food pairings - what does it go with? What is it perfect with? Robert Parker moved us beyond vagaries about the Queen's coronation, elegance and "stuffing." Now it is time to move on to useful information for the consumer who more often than not must depend on the label to decide on a purchase. Friendly animals and pretty front labels are not enough!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Winery Styles

In my wine peregrinations, I've noticed how strongly my expectations are affected by the setting and style of a winery. Of course, you can't tell a book by its cover, but you can make a guess - airport book, academic tome, easy reading, serious fiction, etc,. It seems to me there are maybe a dozen or so types of wineries, for example, the small ones in light industrial areas of Seattle, the ones in Quonset huts at the Walla Walla airport, the ones with really big parking lots in Napa.

What motivates winemakers and winery owners? For some it is the art of winemaking, the hands on, the smell of the must, the peace and beauty of the vineyard and wine country. Others are driven by the desire to make the best, to gain notoriety, status and prestige, to show off, to say look at me, "I'm the greatest." Some are competitive, some perfectionistic, some laid back, some hip or cool, some, dare I say it, modest. And, of course, lurking in the background is money whether they want to show it, make it, or just make ends meet.

Like it or not the style of a winery signifies what it is trying to do and ultimately becomes part of its marketing plan, even if unintentionally, and even if it doesn't have a marketing plan. For example, L'Ecole #41's schoolhouse signifies a relaxed but serious winery. Domaine Serene's chateau signifies pretensions. Fall Line's warehouse winery signifies serious winemaking. What are the types of wineries?

Here are some that come to mind. Tourist wineries, "fun" wineries, "Mom & Pop" wineries, Boeing Wine Club wineries, Walla Walla Airport wineries, Seattle & Woodinville warehouse wineries, corporate wineries, wine factories, pretentious wineries, "Cult" wineries, "Family" wineries, and "Rich Man's Hobby" wineries. Well obviously these "types" overlap. Either a "garage " winery or a Rich Man's Hobby can become a "cult" winery. Sometimes it's hard to tell if there is any difference between a corporate winery and a tourist winery. Sometimes there is a progression from, say, a Walla Walla Airport winery to a tourist destination winery which may ultimately be bought out the likes of Vincor, Deageo or Constellation, becoming corporate, or becoming a "cult" winery. So there really aren't any pure types here.

Nevertheless, style often suggests a certain type of winery which affects our expectations about the wine. Let's take a moment to think about each type of winery. The hallmark of a tourist winery is a tasting room (not all wineries have tasting rooms) with lots of wine related items for sale and a big parking lot. Tourist wineries can be off-putting or fun depending on how over the top they are and how good the wine is. Although almost every winery on Highway 29 in Napa is a tourist winery, Franciscan, Merryvalle, and Robert Mondavi come to mind. At least two of these are owned by large corporations. Tourist appeal makes sense for the wineries since tasting rooms tend to be very profitable and usually benefits the consumer through easy access to the wine. "Fun" wineries are a variation on the tourist theme. Bonny Doon and Charles Mitchell immediately come to mind. Both Randy Grahm and Charles Mitchell are quite serious about their wine, but they have developed a marketing and winemaking style that is easy, fun, casual and amusing.

These days a winery can be started on a shoestring. Apprentice yourself to an established winemaker, make a few barrels of your own wine, get your very own Quonset hut or warehouse space and Mom & Pop are off and running. To me Lost Mountain Winery on the Olympic Peninsula is the ultimate Mom & Pop winery. Chinook winery definitely has this style even though it now has a fairly large production. The same is true for Barnard Griffin. It is impossible to list all the wineries at the Walla Walla airport, but, Buty, Syzygy, and Cougar Crest come to mind. There are so many wineries started by Boeing Wine Club members, so I'll just mention two - Cadence and Willis Hall. Heck, Gary Figgins started Leonetti as a mom & pop operation.

Perhaps the opposite of a mom & pop is the wine factory. There are lots of them in Australia, in France and Italy, too. Here in the U.S., of course, Gallo is the flag bearer for this type. While most of these wines lack character, their overall quality has improved tremendously over the past twenty-five years thanks to technology. Recently, it has become more and more difficult to recognize a corporate winery. Even small wineries that look like they are owned and run by the winemaker and local staff may be owned by Chalone or Vincor.

Pretense may or may not go with quality. While Far Niente, for example, has all the trappings of wealth and elegance (a guarded electric gate, a flight of wine in crystal glasses), the wine is not that exceptional in my opinion. The Napa Valley is strewn with rich men's hobbies. These owners, have chosen wine as their second act in life for various reasons- the wine lifestyle, showing off, competitiveness, the desire to make the best wine possible. Shafer and Harlan are two examples where people who have already made a lot of money are investing it in making outstanding wine. So these are family wineries. "Family" winery became a fad several years ago, so everyone became a "family" winery.

Then there are those wineries you never get to see, the ones that are never open to the public. Perhaps this is for the best since the focus is on the wine, but I like visiting wineries. If a winery is never open to the public, it becomes difficult to taste their wine and decide if you like it. Of course, the scarcity does add to the mystery and mystique of a cult wine. These wineries usually have mailing lists which are even more profitable without the tasting room costs. Visiting wineries is fun and you can taste the wine yourself at the source. What have your experiences been with wineries?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Correction: 2004 Palouse "Eclipse"

I mistakenly reported that six percent Petit Verdot put the zip in this wine probably because I am so used to Petit Verdot being used for this purpose in Bordeaux style blends. But true to the Northwest experimental spirit, George Kirkish actually used some of his fabulous Petite Syrah for the same purpose with a similar effect. By the way the half bottle we sampled tonight had already thrown some sediment, so despite George's motto - smooth, round and voluptuous, he apparently isn't afraid of a little hair on the chest.

Wine Samples - Why Is My Wine Different From Robert Parker's Wine?

Wine samples are different from wine bought off the supermarket shelf. Wine on the shelf has been tortured to varying degrees, Geneva Conventions not withstanding, on it's way to you. First, there may be bottle variation at the winery. Cases of wine may vary and even bottles from the same case may vary. At the winery tasting room, hopefully the staff was wise enough to taste or sniff a newly opened bottle, whereas a cardboard case shipped to your retailer may harbor TCA, the cork terrorist. Barrel samples don't taste the same as wine in the bottle because the wine is evolving in the barrel at a faster pace and it is still very young. Some barrels taste better than others depending on which block the grapes came from and what kind of barrel it's in. So we start with barrel variation, then bottle variation, then the wine is shipped, sits in a hot warehouse, sits on a hot dock, sits in a hot container, sits in a hot truck, sits in customs, sits at the distributor's warehouse, sits on the retail shelf, sits in a hot wooden display cabinet at the supermarket, sits in your cabinet above the refrigerator exposed to all the heat thrown off by your refrigerator's compressor. No wonder a wine need to breathe after all that! And no wonder your wine doesn't taste like Robert Parker's wine. Robert Parker usually tastes samples -barrel samples, bottle samples at the winery, bottle samples shipped to him in Moncton. Would a winemaker give him a sample from a bad barrel? Would he check the bottle before the tasting? Would he be tempted to send only his best bottles?

When you buy wine you should try to get as close to the source as possible. Ideally go to the winery yourself to taste the wine and take it home with you assuming the weather is right or have it shipped directly to your home. Many wineries, intelligently, won't ship unless the weather is right. If you can't get to the winery, then you need to depend on some reliable source like yours truly or Parker for information about the wine, then purchase it direct from the winery. Thanks to recent court decisions this should be possible all over the fifty states soon.

If the wine comes from another country, then you must try to find the most reliable wineries, importers and distributors who will carefully attend to issue of temperature controlled shipping and storage. I once ask a very large retailer in San Francisco how he could keep fine wine in his very hot tourist oriented retail space. He told me he had high turnover and a large storage area in the back. Let us hope that it was temperature controlled. Whether you are buying wine for dinner or for you wine cellar pay attention to minimizing the torturous route your wine has taken to your table and maybe you can get the winemaker to give you wine from his best barrels, too!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wine Samples From Wineries

In general, we do not solicit samples from wineries unless we are planning a specific tasting. If you wish to send samples, just sent me a comment and I will e-mail a shipping address to you. Usually tasting notes from samples will be posted under "New Releases" and will always be identified as based on a sample.

New Releases - Beresan Winery

Beresan Winery recently announced the release of 2004 Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and their Stone River blend. They also released a 2005 Semillon. Due to the freeze in January of 2004 in Walla Walla, the Walla Walla grapes were supplemented with grapes from the Columbia Valley. Although I haven't tasted any of the 2004s, many Beresan wines sell out quickly so if you want some you had better call Debbie at 509 -522-9912.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Wine And Art - Part I - Savor The Art:Yakima Valley

Wine Yakima Valley is having a wine and art event called "Savor the Art." The kick-off reception will be held September 30 at Terra Blanca Winery from 7:00- 9:30 p.m. Admission will be $20 and you will have the opportunity to taste wines from thirty wineries. There will be an auction where you will be able to bid on "one-of -a-kind" art. What other kind of art is there? Well, there is many-of-a-kind such as Kinkade, Giclee, poster art and reprints just as there is one-of-a-kind wine and many-of-a-kind wine. Both wine and art are creative processes that use science and technology to support creativity. There are tremendous parallels between "art' and wine. Perhaps this is why wine and art go together - "wine & brie" at the Art History Dept. soiree, wine and cheese at the gallery opening, wine and art auctions at Poncho. I even found a guy who paints with wine! And an anthropologist whose theory of art applies equally well, if not better, to wine. Wine art on the label is the basis for many wine purchases in the absence of other information, sometimes even in spite of other information. Heck, I would buy a bottle DeLille's Doyenne just for the Z.Z. Wei art on the label and you get great wine, too. Look for occasional postings on wine and art in the future. Don't forget our motto from D.H. Lawrence, "All ceative acts must arise from a specific soil and flicker with the sense of place."

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Sedimental Journey - 1976 Burgess Zinfandel

Just as it is now de rigueur for young men to shave their body hair, it is now necessary that a wine not throw any sediment in the bottle. Back in the 1970s, winemakers wanted to make wines that would age like European wines and so they made some huge wines with lots of acid and tannin that threw massive amounts of sediment. When Tom Burgess made the 1976 Zinfandel from Sonoma grapes, it caused a sensation. The drought in 1976 resulted in even bigger, more tannic wines than usual and the hype around the Burgess was profound - an exceptional wine that would last for ages! I bought a case and have tasted it several times over the past thirty years. Until today, it tasted primarily of sandpaper and grit. Huge amounts of tannin so dominated the wine that it wasn't really clear if there was any fruit in the bottle.

Tonight, thirty years and six bottles later, the wine finally revealed it's elegant self hidden in a monster costume for thirty years. It threw down vast amounts of sediment, finally discarding its disguise as a brute. This evening the wine was dark brick red revealing delicious blackberry and plum flavors, followed by slightly astringent tannins. The wine still isn't quite there yet and maybe needs another five to ten years to reach it's peak, but today for the first time , there was a glimpse of a smooth, balanced wine emerging from years of darkness. This bottle makes me wonder whether Robert Parker el al. may not have inadvertently killed off many future 50 and 100 year wines such as he has had the privelege of tasting at rarified tastings of old bottles over the years. The current preference for smooth, hairless wines reduces the likelihood of wines even being made in this style, although some of the mountain wines of Napa such as Godspeed, Mt Veeder, and Togni inevitably take this direction because their microclimate and the mountain men who make them.

Could you sell this wine today? Probably not! This is the opposite of a fruitbomb, more like a sandstorm. If you had brought this hairy monster home for an evening romp the day you had bought it, you would have choked on it, since for thirty years it did not go down easy. These days, very few would have the patience to wait thirty years for a swallow. The 2003 Goose Ridge Red we tasted recently, tasted very similar and was ready to drink the day we bought it. Thirty years from now there probably won't be any social security, wine could be verboten, and you could be dead.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Secret Of The Palouse Of Vashon

OK, so you figured you'd outfox me and you looked up Palouse on the net and you found that it is a town of 1015 at the intersection of State Route 27 and the Palouse River just north of Lewiston, Clarkston, Pullman and Moscow almost on the Idaho/Washington border. The railroad runs through it and it is the center of the Palouse rolling hills of wheat. No wineries here, though! What's Palouse got to do with Vashon? That's what I asked Linda and George Kirkish of Palouse Winery? The answer - nothing! George liked the name. He liked the way it rolls off your tongue, kind of the way the Palouse wheat fields roll across the horizon, the way the "P' on the winery label rolls in an italicized French Medieval-like font across the label. He likes soft curves - smooth, round and voluptuous! Maybe he figured he would outflank the Red Mountain boys(and girls), even outflank Walla Walla. So Palouse Winery is on Vashon. What's Andrew Will got to do with Vashon, either?

George and Linda got started the way so many Washington wineries start, they had winemaker friends who encouraged them to try it and they had a good source of grapes from their friend Paul Porteus who owns the twenty-five year old Porteus Vineyard. This year George & Linda made 100 cases, next year it will be 750 , the year after 1500. George says he wants to stay under 2500 cases. They are so low key that there is no winery sign by their house, only a sign for Vashon Air (George's day job) and three wine barrels out front. What looks like a garage is the winery, so that must qualify them as real garagistes. They have an ideal location for a tasting room only half a mile from the ferry, but they seem to have had no trouble selling a hundred cases to friends and local retailers and a few restaurants. Right now, the only way to buy their wine is to make an appointment or get on their mailing list. In the future, being on the mailing list may be the only way to get Palouse wine. They may deny it to themselves and others, but you can tell they are going to go for the gold. It won't be long until Vashon Air becomes George's "night" job. Palouse Winery is certainly no fly-by-night outfit, though they did start out making wine in a hanger. Don't let me say, I told you so, again.

Al and I tasted three wines. The 2004 Eclipse (about $42) was a delicious, well made, well structured Bordeaux style blend with great fruit and lots of backbone. Despite the fact that it is predominately Cab Sauv, the Merlot, Cab Franc, and Petit Verdot stand out. This wine has great fruit, is drinkable now, and will probably improve over the next few years. The six per cent Petit Verdot lifts this wine above the ordinary giving it a little zest and jazz that I felt was lacking in the 2004 Fusion Cab/Merlot. The standout wine is the big black monster 2004 Black Pearl Petite Syrah($60). Deep dark purple, you know you will plunge into something deep and mysterious. Big black plum flavors are followed by spice and black pepper. Big as this wine is, it is not in-your-face or overwhelming. It actually reminds me of George, a big guy with a big laugh, but not overwhelming. Maybe, this is the dark wine that Rumi was longing for. Anyway, don't be caught longing for Palouse wines when they are no longer available. Get on their mailing list now! Tel: 206-567-4994.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

2000 Apex Syrah

I guess it looks like we are on an Apex kick. Knowing Brian Carter, we shouldn't have expected a kick-ass in-your-face Syrah. But we didn't expect such a silky, soft, smooth, elegant full of fruit Merlot-like wine either. If it didn't just taste like a well-made Chateauneuf-du-Papes, we might have thought of a soft Merlot-based Bordeaux. This subtle, gentle, graceful, balanced wine just doesn't quite fit the prototype of Washington State Syrah with the hallmark pepper and spice, but who cares. It is delicious. Perhaps the style follows from the use of Yakima Valley grapes, but I think it is more a reflection of Brian's signature style of winemaking.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Secrets of Vashon Island

The sun just set about an hour ago on another beautiful sunny day in Puget Sound. More specifically it set close to Mt. Jupiter where a bright metallic disk flashes like some alien UFO when the angle of the sun is just right. My friend Al tells me that this is, in fact, a ham radio antenna, and today we bounced a signal off it from his ham radio to my computer. Ham radio now transmits e-mail and we should all feel a little safer knowing that these guys can communicate even when everything is down as in Katrina or 9/11. Visiting Al on Vashon, I learned some of the secrets of the island. Since their are no real tourist facilities, the island, itself , remains a well kept secret, less than an hour away from downtown Seattle.

We visited the Vashon Island Coffee Roastery where owner Eva took us on a tour. Coffee is, in many respects, similar to wine, although the time frame for making coffee is much shorter and I've never tasted "well -aged" coffee. Growing coffee beans is probably very similar to growing grapes and terroir, or place, is at least as important. Like wine, there are artesanal and commercial coffees. Just as grapes are fermented and bottled, the beans are roasted and packaged. When the beans are made into coffee, the coffee evolves in the cup. At the Roastery, the making of the coffee is different each time and the coffee is affected in mysterious ways by weather and the time of day. Coffee connoisseurs can get quite hung up on the the origin of the beans, the roast, and the making of the coffee. And, of course, the sensory evaluation of wine and coffee is similar. The smell of brewing coffee for many of us signals the beginning of the day and the aroma of roasting coffee can be as sensuous as the bouquet of the finest wines. The Roastery, where coffee started in Puget Sound, is the former home of Stewart Bros. Coffee which later changed it's name to Seattle's Best Coffee. It is now being turned into a coffee museum as well as a cafe.

After a cup of Java we proceeded to the Vashon Hardware Company, in lieu of Sound Foods which was closed. The wine list at Vashon Hardware showed clear evidence of a wine lover lurking somewhere in the background. I had a glass of Chardonnay from Sawtooth Winery in Idaho which was ordinary, but Al had Pinot Noir from Alloro Vineyard in Oregon which was extroaordinary. Big, rich, complex - somewhat similar to the Bednarick from Panther Creek, the Alorro grapes are grown in the Chehalem Mountains. To go with our wine, we had the special of the day - huge and delicious seafood burritos.

We attempted a visit to Reliable Wines which was closed, but managed to visit Vashon Wine Shop where we had an interesting discussion about wine with David. Vashon Wine Shop stocks wine from several Vashon wineries - Andrew Will, Vashon Winery and O-S which recently left the Island for new digs in an industrial area of Seattle.

Perhaps the secret of Vashon is how it manages to combine the old-fashioned peace and quiet of rural America with the delights of good healthy food and wine. No Walmart here! The west road reminded me of the west Russian River road in Sonoma. In fact, the whole place reminds me somewhat of Sonoma. Tune in soon to learn the secret of the High Palouse on Vashon Island.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 - Windows On The World

On 9/11, five years ago, the world changed. At least seventy-two Windows On The World hospitality workers perished in an attack that changed the way the world feels everyday. It is hard to remember what it was like not to wake up anticipating some new terrorist tragedy. Wine is the antithesis of terrorism. Terrorism is about fear and violence. Wine is about love and beauty. Terrorism is about the killing of innocent victims. Wine is about affirming life. Wine is about joy and pleasure. Terrorism is about trying to destroy communities, wine is about camaraderie and building communities. Terrorism is about seeing the world as black and white. Wine is about oneness and communion. As Rumi said, " God has given us a dark wine, so potent that drinking it, we leave the two worlds...." Just because wine is forbidden to one six of the world's population doesn't mean that prohibition should be forced on the other five sixths of us.

"Be a connoisseur, taste with caution....choose the purest, the ones unadulterated with fear.... Drink the wine that moves you as a camel moves when it is untied." - Rumi translated by Coleman Barks. Wine gives us many windows on the world.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

New Wineries - 14 Hands Wines, Stina's Cellars, Lost River Winery

Fourteen Hands is supposedly named after some wild horses. I don't get it. Do you? They are offering Merlot, Cabernet and Chardonnay at the very reasonable price of $12. I haven't had the chance to taste any, yet, have you? Stina's Cellars is located near Tacoma and will be offering Cab Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier. Lost River Winery is located in Winthrop, in the Northern Cascades, far from any vineyards, but they source grapes to make Cabernet Suavignon, Merlot, Syrah, Semillon, and Pinot Gris. Lost River wines are available at select wine shops, supermarkets and restaurants in the Seattle area.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Wine Of The Week - 2004 Apex Chardonnay

Harry Alhadeff, one of the early owners of pioneering retailer, La Cantina, opened Apex winery with winemaker Brian Carter in the 1980s. All Apex wines are excellent examples of each varietal including the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Chardonnay. The Klipsun Cabernet is made to reflect the unique attributes of Klipsun Vineyard on Red Mountain and is made to age.

The 2004 Chardonnay shows a nice balance between bright citrus zestiness and more substantial butteriness and toast flavors. The beauty of this wine is in it's delicacy, but it is not light bodied. Tending more toward the European end of the spectrum this wine is great with food (we had it with sauteed scallops), but stands well on it own, too. The list price is $17, but we recently saw it at $12 which is a real bargain. If you want to taste before you buy, you don't have to drive all the way to Sunnyside, you can sample it at The Tasting Room in Post Alley at the Pike Place Market.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Little Red Truck That Could

I knew I could, I knew I could, I knew I could said the little red truck as it huffed and puffed to a prominent place among relatively small production (200,000 cases) marketing successes. The little red marketer is Cline Cellars, better know for it's Zinfandels than little red trucks, but much of their income these days is coming from their new line of red and white truck wines and they are not bad. We had the 2004 Red Truck Red at Michelle and Matt's wedding and we were pleasantly surprised by it's complexity and flavor interest. Smooth, yes, slightly sweet and fruity, yes, but interesting nevertheless. Probably the interesting flavor profile comes from the blending of Syrah, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Franc, with touches of Mourvedre and Grenache thrown in. This is actually a real Rhone Ranger blend at a reasonable price (suggested price $11) available in supermarkets. I knew they could, I knew they could, I did?

Friday, September 01, 2006

1997 Stag's Leap Cask 23 - Infanticide?

The last time I thought I committed infanticide was when I opened a bottle of 1966 Musigny Comte de Vogue in 1976. It was great, but so, so young at that point. I wished I had aged it at least another ten years. I'm not sure that opening the 1997 Stag's Leap Cask 23 nine years after harvest is quite the same kind of infanticide. When I first tasted it at the winery in 1999 it was gorgeously fruity with lots of finesse. Now the beautiful berry fruit is still there, but diminished by the more obvious acid and tannin. This reminds me of 1970 Bordeaux such as Palmer, Latour, and Mouton that were beautifully fruity at, say, six year of age and then went into a dormant adolescence only to emerge at age twenty with the vim and vigour and nuance of a full fledged complex adult. The 1997 Stag's Leap has great berry fruit flavors accompanied by obvious structure of acid and tannin - not unlike a Bordeaux. Is it any wonder that it won at the original Paris tasting that put California on the world wine map. The wine was great with Rack of Lamb and the cheese course that followed. What will it be like in ten years? Hopefully like Palmer, Latour and Mouton at twenty years.
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