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

Monday, April 28, 2008

Guy Noir Tastes Pinot

So I'm sitting here in the cafe in Lake Wobegon, thinking about the last doll I took out, or rather how she took me. It's depressing, so I turned to my other love - Pinot Noir!
"Hey, Guy, why didn't you tell me your last name was Noir."
"Listen Pinot, I have enough trouble as it is. "
"Yeah, you do! I hear you've been dating Merlot lately. Didn't you see that movie, "Sideways"? You can always drown your sorrows with me baby."
"Merlot really went for that Cab guy. She kinda led me on, then she drops me for King Cab."
"Don't worry honey, you can take your fill of me!"
"Mmm, your my only Pinot. The only Pinot I've ever really enjoyed. Those French Pinots are such sour pusses, they never turn me on and those California bombshells are so in-your-face."
"I came all the way from Oregon just for you baby. I am HWP, perfectly balanced with delicious fruit and a great aftertaste. Here I am in Lake Wobegon where all the women drink wine and all the wines are above average."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Woodinville Passport III

Hordes of people wandering around, with a wine glass in hand, in the cold, in the warehouse district west of 144th. Along the strip on the way in we visited William Church, Arlington Road, Page , Red Sky and others. William Church had a nice Cab Blend. Arlington poured two wines with regal names and prices. The Imperium ( too bad you can't walk around the Roman Art From The Louvres show at SAM with this) is a semisweet Riesling - kind the quintessential Riesling, but too sweet for my taste. The 2005 Monolith was a good Bordeaux blend , but a little pricey at $40 and too monolithic for me:). Cuillin and Des Voignes seem to have gotten a divorce or at least a legal separation. Both continue to produce good wines. The Des Voigne "Untitled" was quite good but won't be made in the future. Red Sky was mobbed and their best wine, Serendipity, had the highest price, $40 a throw for this Bordeaux style blend. Did the blend just come together serendipitously? At Edmonds Winery, the Slide Ridge Claret seemed a little too vegetative for my, taste, but the 2005 Cab/Merlot Blend was delicious and reasonably priced ( about $23). BTW, 10% of proceeds go to Food Lifeline. Anton Ville is a new winey in the patch along with XSV. The 2003 XSV Syrah from Horse Heaven Hills was smooth fruity and delicious. The XSV 2003 Chardonnay seemed overoaked to me. Baer wines continued their record of excellence. The Washington Wine Company poured lots of wonderful wine from the barrel. One of these pours had the completely appropriate name for 2008 - Recession Red. I hope the price is right or will it be priced like the other necessity at the pump. The 2004 Forbidden Red is a great buy at $17 and the 2006 Volterra Chardonnay is a even better value at $12. Washington Wine Company makes these "house wines" for Volterra Restaurant and the restaurant was serving food to match the wine. Across the way, Alexandria Nicole and Darby were pouring. The 2005 Quarry Butte from Alexandre Nicole is an outstanding Red Blend - smooth, soft, great fruit, very friendly and a great buy at $20. Darby English himself was pouring his '06 Syrah and his '07 La Deuce. The Syrah was smooth with a little hint of mocha and a hint of tanginess at the end, very good but not as wonderful as the '05. Once again, the Rousanne/Viognier blend bowled me over with it's rich smooth, buttery texture and great fruit. Wow! All in all, a great tasting experience, but the price inflation worries me. Don't they know we are in a recession. We may have to buy the two necessities at the same place -the gas station.

Ghost of Woodinville

The Evil Twin didn't have a ghost of a chance of stopping the Bully from making "Ghost of 413." Winemakers Chris Gorman and Mark Ryan collaborated to create this beauty. Chris has a unique way of ageing wine, never mind the oak barrels, just roll out the barrels and bring in the rock band Ska. After one day of great vibes, Chris decided that the wine really rocked, so he stopped the band and closed up shop on Sunday. Lots of people travelling on Woodinville Passports were disappointed, but it was worth it. The wine hadn't given up the ghost, in fact, it took on a beautifully mellow expression, and while it has lots of fruit upfront, it is not some shallow fruitbomb. While it is mellow, it's not shallow. Wow! The Syrah is totally awesome at the price. The Ghost rocks!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tempis Fugit!

Time flies! The rest of Woodinville Passport is coming soon. Gene

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Wine Is A Living Thing"

My mentor, Fritzy Haskell was soooo right! Tonight we opened a bottle of 2001 Angludet Margaux. At first it seemed flat, old, and uninteresting. We thought it had already died a premature death. There was tannin, but not much else there. After ten or fifteen minutes in the glass it tasted like a totally different wine. Lots of delicious black fruit flavors emerged and by the time we started to pour it from the decanter it was in full bloom and went really great with duck breast. This wine changed more in less than half an hour than many wines change in ten or twenty years. As Fritzy used to say,"Wine is a living thing."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Wine Notes

Three guys from Davis - My new friend Danial tells me that the Golan Heights Winery was founded by three guys from Davis. It seems so. the 2006 Yarden Mount Hermon Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc has a beautiful smooth, balanced character with lots of great black fruit flavors - perfectly balanced.

The 2004 Fuentespina Granate from the Ribera Del Duero region in Spain is bigger and much more rustic than Israeli wine, but it has lots of character and would be perfect with a stew, a roast, or almost any Spanish red meat dish. The back label advertises this 100% Tempranillo as a BBQ wine which for a change is right on.

The 2006 Huntington Chardonnay is the quintessential California Chardonnay - creamy texture, floral notes, tropical fruit, but not a lot of oak - a great value.

The 2006 Dupond Chardonnay is an example of how the French can succeed in the global wine market. This Chard, from the Pays D'Oc, almost tastes like a Sauvignon Blanc. It is dry, slightly tart, but with good fruit and body - sort of the anti-thesis of the Huntington Chardonnay, the "Anti-California" Chard or the Chard for people who don't think they like Chardonnay another great value.

The 2006 Dupond Cabernet Sauvignon is full of delicious fruit - another bargain.

Tune in on Thursday or Friday for the continuation of Woodinville Passport.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Woodinville Passport II

A stop at Northwest Totem Cellars yields good reds and the lovely Late Harvest Viognier. On the way north we fight our way into the Matthews parking lot and taste the very good old standby Claret. Up to Efeste where the large space of the winery houses a madhouse of wine tasters. The same suspects as last year were all good, but not quite as exciting. Perhaps the newness has worn off. The lines to get into Covington and Stevens were so long on Saturday that we postponed a visit to Sunday when the crowds were smaller perhaps due to the return of cold, cloudy, rainy weather. These wineries are now totally surrounded by suburban tract housing. I guess they are in good company with the wineries in the southern Medoc, and Chateau Haut Brion, surrounded by apartments. Just because the other kids who sit in the front of the class get "A's" doesn't mean you will just by moving to the front of the class. The 2007 Covington Viognier was clean, fresh and spirited. the 2005 Sangiovese and the 2006 Starr Syrah were quite good. The 2006 Rough House Red was billed as "A Tribute to U. S. Armed Forces", an unusual blend of politics. patriotism and grapes. There was nothing "young and rowdy" about this wine. It seemed more of a soft peace loving wimp lacking body armor and a well protected MRWP (did I get this acronym right?). Somebody's baby sent to war, it was, in fact, delicious. The Tuscan Red was discounted to $75 a magnum, still overpriced IMO. The food pairings were interesting and probably appealing to the crowds, but frankly I found it a distraction from tasting the wine. Chatter Creek turned out all of the usual culprits. The Orange Muscat was light and floral. Very appealing, but, IMO, inappropriately served first. The Pinot Gris was "dry!" The Grenache was light and fruity, almost a "Nouveau" style. The Blend 105 was well balanced with good body and fruit. Javiar Alfonso, winemaker at Pomum Cellars, took my advice and this year had tasting notes ready for each of his wines. I really appreciate this as it helps me to scratch my own notes and remember the wine. I hope it helps you, too. Both the 2005 Syrah and the 2005 Shya Red were bigger this year. The Syrah is really big and needs some age. The Shya Red was still medium bodied with lots of fruit in the nose and and beautiful fruit in the mouth. This is a Bordeaux style blend with all five of the usual Bordeaux grapes and five great vineyards - a true classic. When will we see a Tempranillo? A pleasant surprise at Ross Andrew - my old publishing partner, Bill Getz, pouring wine for Ross. Seems they are both FOBS - friends of Bob, Bob Betz, that is. So few degrees of separation! The 2007 "Meadow", an Oregon white melange of Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Riesling had a huge panoply of aromas and flavors. Very dry, good with Asian food. The 2005 Red Table Wine was more to my gout. Beautiful, user friendly and dominated by Merlot fruitiness, despite the majority of Cab grapes, this beauty has a great pedigree from four outstanding Washington vineyards. This batch of wineries has become hard to find, buried as it is in the middle of housing. You feel like you will eventually get to a cul de sac, rather than a winery, as you follow the winding, quaintly named streets south. Eventually when to can go no farther you see the limos double parked and you know that you have arrived. To be continued...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Woodinville Passport - I

It was a beautiful sunny day (72 degrees) in Seattle as we drove over the floating bridge on Lake Washington toward the Eastside.We started the day at Columbia Winery where we picked up our "Passport." I had heard rumors that Columbia Winery wines have improved. The two glass pours for Woodinville Passport certainly didn't prove it. The 2003 Cab Franc was a pleasant wine with good fruit and a slightly acidic finish. The winery had one poor person pouring for a mob of people. The 2006 Riesling Ice wine was sweet and balanced, but not very interesting.

From Columbia we drove a short distance up Woodinville - Redmond Road to Novelty Hill Januik Winery. The new winery looks a bit like a concrete bunker on the outside and the arrangement of the tasting seem not very accessible for a handicapped person, although I suppose they must have met all the current codes. As many of you know, Mike Januik makes the wines for Novelty Hill, owned by the Alborg family of Stillwater Creek Vineyard, and he makes his own wines under his own label in a shared winemaking facility. The 2005 Stillwater Creek Viognier was pleasant enough, but not very interesting. The 2004 Stillwater Creek Cabernet Sauvignon was soft and balanced with a slightly tangy finish. the 2005 Sangiovese was full of good fruit, also with a tangy finish. In this case, it tasted totally like a good high end Chianti, perfectly balanced between American and Italian style. This would be great with Italian food. The Januik 2006 Elerding Vineyard Chardonnay was fresh, European in style, but with less body than the Cold Creek Chard and tending toward a hint of tartness. Definitely a food wine. The 2005 Syrah was good, but not particularly exciting. The 2005 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was a beautiful standout wine - soft, medium bodied with great fruit. Really a blend of all the usual Bordeaux suspects, this one was a winner. It would have been interesting to taste some of Mike's other single vineyard wines such as Ciel Du Cheval, Champoux and Seven Hills Cab Sauv, Novelty Hill Stillwater Creek Roussanne, and Januik Cold Creek Chardonnay.

Last year we couldn't even find Brian Carter winery. This year we parked in the Tully's lot, hiked past Purple Cafe, the Chamber of Commerce, etc., and finally lighted upon the winery. The first wine we tasted was the 2005 Oriana, a blend of Viognier, Riesling, and Roussanne. A huge aromatic nose leads to a full-bodied wine that would go well with Asian or fusion cuisine. The 2005 Abracadabra Magical Red Blend is a witch's brew of seven varietals from three different vineyards. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble! Poof! Brian Carter pulls a real beauty from a hat and at a reasonable price. It's a shame they weren't pouring the L'Etalon which is one of my favorite

Once again, the day of Reckoning was here for winemakers and owners of Adams Bench, Erica and Tim Blue. Like last year, they were pouring two pre-release wines(2006 Reckoning and 2006 Reserve Cab "V"), and one available for immediate purchase(2005 Horse Heaven Hills Red). The wines can be purchased at their website: These three wines were amazing. My notes include "awesome", "yum", purple, beautiful, chocolate, mushroom and black fruit. This year Tim told me five of their secrets: 1) Erica switched from medicine to winemaking and thus, from bringing human babies into the world, to bringing wine into the world. I've often contended that raising vines and wines is very similar to raising children; 2) they studied enology at U.C. Davis and thus have a thorough understanding of the chemistry of wine; 3) they have a great winemaking consultant - Chris Carmada over at Andrew Will; 4) they look for physiological ripeness in the grapes; 5) Tim seemed to imply that they are covert, or maybe overt, Robert Parker fans. We brought a bottle the 2005 Horse Heaven Hills Red home for dinner. It was followed by a 1991 Phillip Togni Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Carol loved the the Adams Bench, Diane loved the Phillip Togni. I liked them both. They are made in entirely different styles. The Adams Bench , while not jammy, was very fruit forward, exploding in your mouth with a hint of sweet feel at the end. The Togni was more linear and serious, kind of like Phillip himself. Different strokes for different folks. In any event, if Tim and Erica sent their wines off to Robert Parker, I have no doubt that he would rate them in the "90s". It would be a mutual admiration society.

Across the road from Adams Bench, at Hollywood Hill Vineyard, Steve Snyder, makes wine in the opposite style. His 2007 Hollywood Hill Vineyards Estate Grown Chardonnay is made from what may be the only patch of Chardonnay grapes grown in the Puget Sound AVA. Light, tart and fresh, it is totally reminiscent of Sancerre make in the Loire Valley of France, except, of course, it doesn't have the grapefruit and grass aroma associated with the Sauvignon Blanc grape from which the Sancerre is made. Substitute lemon for grapefruit and apple for grass and you've got it! Steve is truly a garagiste! To be continued...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Best of Taste Washingon

Here's your favorite part. My faves. Was this the best Taste Washington? Maybe so! Here are my nominations for "Bests" at the show in no particular order.

Best Food - Kumomoto Oysters from Elliot Bay

Best Winery Name - Wawawai Canyon & Flying Trout

Best Wine Name - Deluge

Best Gang of Four - SSAW: South Seattle Artisan Wineries

Best Winery Architecture - Tertulia

Best Overall Quality - Note Bene

Best New Puget Sound Winery - Palouse

Best New Woodinville Winery - Darby & Pomum

Best New Yakima Winery - Airfield and Gilbert

Best New Columbia Cascades Winery - Stemilt

Best New Columbia Gorge Winery - Domaine Pierre Noire

Best New Walla Walla Winery - Adamant

Best Riesling - Isenhauer

Best Chardonnay - Buty

Best Red Blend - Fall Line

Best Syrah - Walter Dacon

Best of Show - Spring Valley Uriah

Taste Washington - III

Every year Washington's perfect climate produces a new crop of wineries. They are almost always interesting and a labor of love. This year, the wines from these babies, were pretty much all very good. I don't think I tasted a bad wine in the bunch at Taste Washington and this has not always been the case. Not all of these wineries are brand new. Some of them have been around for a couple of years, but they are new to me and probably to you, too. Wineries whose wines I tasted have an asterisk. They are listed in alphabetical order. Sorry if I left anyone out. Just send me a comment and I will add you to the list, unless you are clearly an oldster.

  • 428*

  • Adamant*

  • Airfield Estates*

  • Caderetta

  • Charles Smith

  • Darby*

  • Domaine Pierre Noire*

  • Efeste*

  • Flying Trout*

  • Gilbert Cellars*

  • Graves Cellars*

  • Hence Cellars

  • Hestia Cellars

  • Kyra Wines*
  • Lake Crest*
  • NxNW Winery*

  • Palouse*

  • Pomum*

  • Revelry

  • Soos Creek*

  • Stemilt Creek*

  • Tertulia*

  • Trust*

  • Wawawai Canyon
  • Whitestone

Taste Washingon - II

Two hundred fifteen wineries, 850 wines, 3500 attendees, 1700 lemongrass satays, 700 papaya salads, 3000 wicked shrimp, 3500 top sirloin crostinis, 5000 oysters, 250 lbs of flat iron steak, 3500 Riedel glasses, one Maserati and a partridge in a pear tree. I like to think I made a significant dent in the 5000 oysters. But 850 wines get blurred. Here's my lowdown on the wineries in attendance by region. I skipped all Woodinville wineries as Woodinville Passport is coming up this weekend. Of Yakima wineries, I only got to Airfield Estates, Apex, Gilbert, Kana and Milbrandt Vineyards. Chinook, Desert Wind (check out the Ruah), Kestrel, McKinley Springs and Sheridan are almost always good bets. Kyra Wines is neighbors with the De Hart clan at Moses Lake. Saint Laurent made interesting reds this year and I tasted Stemelt wines for the first time. Latah Creek and Townsend Cellars in Spokane made some good wines, while Gordon Bros, Goose Ridge and Barnard Griffin produce some of the best Washington values in The Tri-Cities area. Somehow I missed all the Red Mountain wineries present. Hightower and Terra Blanca can usually be counted on the produce excellent wines. I concentrated on Walla Walla wineries because my grandson's birthday fell on the same day as Taste Walla Walla in Seattle this year, so I missed it. Brett Isenhauer was producing at his usual high level of quality again this year. His Riesling was in that very dry style I like so much. Alsace, move over! L'Ecole and Reininger seem to have regained their old quality after a bad patch last year. Seven Hills wines were good. Amaurice, Buty and Five Star continue their stellar performances. Long Shadows continues to make great wine. Tertulia and Trust continue in the style to which they become accustomed. Old Walla Walla favorites I missed include Amavi, Buty, Cougar Crest, Canoe Ridge, Dusted Valley, Forgeron, Gifford Hirlinger, Pepper Bridge, Nelms Road, Nicholas Cole, Northstar, Saviah, SYZYGY, and Yellow Hawk. New wineries in Walla Walla that I didn't have a chance to check out included Caderetta, Charles Smith and Hence. Next time, I will list new wineries, tasted and not.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Taste Washingon - I

This year Taste Washington was spectacular! The food was excellent. There were over two hundred wineries and, for whatever reason, the crowds were less densely packed. My first stop after a sip of Quilceda Creek Red was Palouse Winery. George and Linda were pouring at their first ever Taste Washington and as usual the pours were spectacular. The semi-sweet 2007 Riesling was "full flavored." The 2007 Viognier was exceptionally aromatic. The 2005 "Dineen" Cab Sauv was "awesome." The 2004 Eclipse eclipsed everything else except the Cab and the Syrah. I promised Linda and George I would remember my reactions to their wines and I did! After that, everything is a blur except the Kumomoto and Totten Bay oysters from Elliot Bay, but it was such a long trip to the Buty booth to get some beautiful Chard to go with the oysters. I will just share some random thoughts and impressions to be followed by a regional breakdown and a list of new wineries. Vashon Island is definitely worth a day trip to visit Palouse and Vashon winery. Try to schedule it when Andrew Will is having a release weekend. Ron Irvine's wines this year seem like some of his best. These are wines to be sought out. I noticed more of a trend toward established vineyards making at least some of their own wines, instead of selling all of their grapes to other winemakers. In addition to Goose Ridge, and Stillwater Creek, Milbrandt Vineyards has started making their own wine. I also saw a trend toward more women winemakers and owners such as Ashley Trout at Flying Trout and Juliet Pouilon at Domaine Pierre Noire.

I only managed to taste wines from two of the South Park gang of four, aka SSAW. Tim Sorenson was up to his usual speed although his Horse Heaven Hills wine this year is in an entirely different style. Tim Narby at Note Bene once again shows a consistently high level of quality. Unfortunately, I missed "OS" and Cadence. Dave Larson at Soos Creek is making wine in a similar vein. I missed John Bell's wines which are definitely in the same class. I ran into Brian Carter but didn't have a chance to taste his wines. Brian is an excellent winemaker. BTW, Harry Alhadeff sold Apex Cellars, and Matt Wysman is no longer winemaker at Kana Cellars. Glacial Lake Missoula is making their usual overwhelming "Deluge." I had a chance to meet Lloyd Andersen whose Walter Dacon Syrahs where excellent as usual. Latah Creek over in Spokane made what may be the state's second Petit Verdot which, while not quite as big as Mike Januik's, was quite tasty. BTW, Januik's Petit Verdot has turned from a well-behaved beautiful child into a huge strapping teenager. What will it be like in adulthood? Townsend Cellar in Spokane is also turning out some good wines. Winemaker Serge Lavillle was pouring Spring Valley Vineyard's wines and once again Uriah was a standout. Five Star was stellar as usual. The new Amaurice wines are excellent. Trey Busch at Sleight of Hand continues his usual magic. He very cleverly bottles his "everyday" wines in screwcaps, and his "age-ers" in corks. Saint Laurent had several good new reds to taste, though I missed their outstandingly dry Riesling. Balsomroot continues to make good wines and Nefarious wines were totally wicked. Devin Stinger at Adamant was adamentine in his approach to some new reds. He is definitely a guy to watch. So many wines, so little time. Next we will review our impressions by region and finally we will list new wineries.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Crushed At The Crush pARTy

Did you try to crash the Crush or did you get crushed in the Crush. The Crush pARTy for the Tucson Art Museum was a big success. Lots of great food, good wine and lots of people. New York, Massachusetts, Nebraska - everybody was there. Plan to attend next year. Outstanding hors d'oeuvres were provided by some of the best restaurants in Tucson - great prawns from Vivace, excellent pate from Elle, escargots in miniature pastry cups from Bistro Phillip, great fruit and chocolate from Barrio and so much more. Wines were all provided by Alliance Beverage and they must have put out their entire book - lots of old standbys such as Robert Mondavi, Rodney Strong, Rancho Zabaco, Louis Martini, etc,. The Sonoma Cutrer Chard was good but not as good as past vintages. The Caymus was delicious, the Duckhorn Merlot ordinary, the Robert Craig Affinity fabulous. The Ruffino Pinot Grigio was both lively and full bodied, the Glen Carlou Cab was the best South African wine I've tasted. Migration, a Pinot Noir by Duckhorn was topnotch competing with the best Pinots from France and Oregon. Emiliana, a blend from the Chilean winery, Coyam was delicious, but it is a little pricey. The Robert Hall winery from Paso Robles had several excellent wines, especially the Rhones De Robles a great blend of Rhone varietals (more about them next month when I will report direct from the winery). The highlight for me was meeting the handsome Oscar Renteria and his beautiful wife. Oscar was the featured winemaker and his wines were outstandingly good. The story of the Renteria family is the ultimate migrant success story which I will relate in a future post. My favorite Renteria wines were the Pinot Noir Carneros, Knittle Ranch and the Cabernet Sauvignon SLD. Next year escape the cold gray north and come to Tucson for great wine, food, and SUN. BTW, best winery name? "Naughty!" Best wine name? "Freakout" from Luna.
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