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

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Wine

Omigod! It's almost thanksgiving! What wine to serve with the turkey? Not to worry. Almost anything goes. Big rich reds such as Syrah might not be that great and why waste a great Bordeaux on Turkey. But light reds such as Beaujolais-Villages and Pinot Noir work. Try Erath Pinot Noir. IMO, turkey is a white wine dish. Riesling and Gewurz are perfect if you like floral wines. Fruity Chardonnay such as Clos Du Bois goes well. Try L'Ecole Semillon or their Chenin Blanc based "Walla Voila." How I wish I could get a hold of some Jasnieres, the dry Chenin Blanc based white from the Loire Valley. When in doubt, just grab a bottle of sparkling wine such as Ch. Ste Michelle, Freixenet, Mumm's Napa Brut or Chandon.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wine Emergency!

What the heck is a wine emergency? Wine Theft? A Fire? Wine Fraud? A New Vine Disease? The Return of Phylloxera? Pierce's Disease? Ran Out of Wine? Leslie Jenkins at La Vina wine shop in Tubac, Arizona may be the only proprietor who will run down to her shop to let you in, if you run out of wine, guests show up at the last minute, or you need a food pairing consultation. Things get kinda quiet in Tubac during the summer, so instead of a "gone fishin" sign, she has a "wine emergency" sign with her cell phone number. She only lives two minutes away and will come right down to the shop to help you out. Wow! Now that's service! My bank and credit card companies could take a few lessons from her!

Best Values From First Press Tasting

Here are the best values from the First Press tasting in alphabetical order. Generally these wines are well made, tasty and under $25.

Balboa 2007 Cabernet

Balboa 2007 Merlot

Balboa 2007 Syrah

Basel Cellars 2006 Claret

B.R. Cohn 2006 Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon

B.R. Cohn 2007 Sonoma County Chardonnay

Justin 2007 Chardonnay

Lachini 2006 Pinot Gris

Methvan 2005 Eola Hills Pinot Noir

Michael David 2007 Petite Petit

Nicholas Cole 206 GraEagle Red Wing

Reininger 2006 Helix Aspensa

Reininger 2003 Helix Pomatia

Saint Laurent 2006 Lucky Red

Saint Laurent 2007 Lucky White

Shadow Mountain 2006 Pinot Gris

All of the wines at the First Press Tasting
can be purchased from Sportsman Fine
Wines & Spirits in Phoenix

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Best Of First Press - Phoenix

A manageable tasting for a great cause. Here are my faves, your bests. Of course, this is grossly unfair as I had to leave out almost half the wineries whose wines I didn't get to. Anyway, here goes in random order:

Best Chardonnay - Justin, B. Cohn, ZD

Best Pinot Gris - Lachini, Shadow Mountain, Willamette Valley Vineyard

Best Syrah - Walter Dacon, Saviah

Best Petit Sirah - Michael David

Best Blends - Note Bene, Justin, Nicholas Cole

Best Pinot Noir - Lachini

Best Name - Earthquake Syrah, Justification, Obtuse

Best Red - Justification, Lachini Estate Pinot Noir

Best White - Zd Chardonnay, B Cohn Chardonnay

Best of Show - Justin Chardonnay

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

First Press Juice

Here's the juice on the First Press Grand Tasting held in Phoenix to support Arizona Public Radio. So in case you didn't get it, First Press is a pun, a jeu de mots, a play on words. Public radio is the "First Press" and the best wine comes from the first "pressing." What a great line up of wineries, most from the four hottest regions in the U.S. - Washington State, Sonoma and Paso Robles in California, and the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Once again, so many wines, so little time! I think I got to taste wine from almost half the wineries.

For a while, I poured wines from Balboa Winery in Walla Walla. These are some of the best values in Walla Walla wines. Winemaker Tom Glases purposefully set out to make reasonably priced wines from Walla Walla - a real rarity, but he cheated a little by sourcing the grapes from all over the Columbia Valley, thus avoiding the $3000 per ton, $30 a bottle equation. The wines are very user-friendly, fruit, forward, almost jammy, but not in-your-face .

I first fell in love with St. Laurent Riesling. Unfortunately, there was none to taste, so I tasted through the available wines. These wines are made from St. Laurent's 600 plus acre vineyard in the Wahluke Slope AVA. The Lucky Red and White are good values at about $15. The white is a medium-bodied fruity blend. Easy drinking, but not if you like a dry mouthfeel - kind of like a Chenin Blanc even though it is 50% Sauv Blanc and 15% Riesling among others. The reds were surprisingly good especially the Merlot.

Methvan - a new one from Oregon. The 2005 Pinot Noir Eola Hills is a great value at about $25. Mushrooms in the nose lead to classic sour cherry flavors. A nicely built, medium-bodied wine.

Note Bene - Once again Tim Narby is a consistent producer. The Abbinare and Miscela were particularly nice - beautifully balanced. It was a pleasure to renew my acquaintance with Sales and Marketing Director, Mark Rashap.

John Bell's 2003 Willis Hall Cabernet had outstanding fruit. John is one of the many great winemakers producing wine in the Puget Sound area from grapes trucked in from Eastern Washington. John's wines are difficult enough to find in the Seattle area. You might have better luck in Arizona.

Aaah - Lachini! So nice to see Ron Lachini again. Pinot Gris can be so boring, but the 2007 pinot Gris was wonderfully dry and really wowed me. The 2006 Estate Pinot Noir was outstanding as usual.

Nicholas Cole - The 2006 GraEagle Red Wing may not be Screaming Eagle, but less than $30, it is a lot more reasonably priced and it is delicious. The Camille is a good bigger sister.

The 2006 Red Mountain Saviah Syrah is an exceptionally elegant version of Syrah, more like a Syrah from the Yakima Valley.

Robert de Leuze has pretty much taken over the management of ZD Wines from his father. The wines have lightened up since his father pioneered Pinot Noir in California. I have a bottle of 1976 ZD Pinot that still appears to be intact.

Justin himself was pouring at the table right next to me. His Justification blend certainly doesn't have to justify itself to anyone. The 2006 Obtuse was way too dense for me, too sweet for my taste. The Savant really knew what it was doing and the Syrah was making me happy, too. The Chard was exquisite, beautifully balanced between hint of fresh citrus notes and stone fruit with a little oak thrown in.

The Basel Cellars wine were better than the last time I tasted them. The '06 Claret has a smoky nose lots of black fruit and is a perfectly balanced wine.

Bruce Cohn was pouring his Sonoma Valley wines. The '07 Sonoma County Chardonnay blew me away. Very French, somewhere between a Macon-Villages and a Pouilly-Fuisse, perhaps like a St. Veran. Another perfect wine. The 2006 Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon is a great value.

Ann Anderson was pouring her Walter Dacon Syrahs. I finally found out who Walter Dacon was - Lloyd's grandfather. all of the Walter Dacon wines were wonderfully fruity and well balanced , but pleasingly more elegant than the jammier previous vintages.

Michal David, the Lodi winery, has great names for their wines such as their flagship Seven Deadly Zins and the wine isn't bad either The Petite Petit is a Petit Sirah souped up with a little Petite Verdot - a good value at around $20.

Hunt Cellars in so Robles is making good wines. I especially liked to Maestro.

I never even knew that Willamette Valley Vineyards made anything other than Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. The 07 Pinot Gris was outstandingly fresh and lively. The Riesling was dry fresh, crisp and floral - just right.

I only regret that I wasn't able to taste B Cellars, Bonovia, CADE, Cana's Feast, Kathryn Kennedy, Loring, Northwest Cellars, or Stuhlmuller among others.

Altogether, an outstanding group of wineries supporting Arizona Public Radio.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Et Satan Conduit Le Bal, Conduit Le Bal!

Dr. Faustus, warns that Harvard's endowment will be significantly diminished by the current financial crisis. Will Yale suffer the same problems or will they be bailed out by the sinking Goldman Sachs? Will the Skull and Bones triumph over the Crimson? Will Goldman Sacks let the Crimson go down the way they let Lehman Brothers disappear after rescuing Bear Stearns and AIG? What's this got to do with wine? Recently, wine economists have been concerned about the carbon footprint of wine. A worthy subject, but they seem to be in denial. Sources in Sonoma tell me that tasting room visits are down twenty-five percent. Shhssh, don't tell, they'd banish us, you know! How will the housing crisis and the financial crisis affect the wine world? Is there a wine bubble? Why do $30 wines cost $35 to $45? Why did 2005 Bordeaux First Growths start at $500 a bottle? Let's see, bubble, housing bubble, wine bubble? The chief culprit? Greenspan! Allan bought peace in his time by keeping interest rates too low for too long. He averted a depression in 2000-2002, by creating the housing bubble. He talked about "irrational exuberance in, was it, 1996, when the Dow was at 6000, but did nothing about it letting the market rise to an exuberant 14,000. He got rid of Glass- Steagall, passed in the 1930s to avoid the kind of over-leveraged "Investment Bank" maneuvers of the past few years. There were to be banks and investment brokers and never were the twain to meet. He is in Shock! Shock and Awe! Disbelief! Hello? Where were you, when online mortgage broker wanted to know if I wanted to present documentation when trying to refinance? You're kidding me! What reasonable banker would give a person a loan without knowing if the borrower had any income or assets? Where were you when a mortgage broker didn't care about the fact that a friend couldn't have paid for food or anything else when he tried to spend every last penny on a down payment and would have been spending half of his monthly income on mortgage payments. Those alt A (liar's loans) and subprime mortgages sure paid the mortgage brokers well, up to $40,000 with kickbacks and other nefarious activities. The banks made out like bandits, since the brokers and bankers didn't have to live with their lousy loans. Just spread the merde all over the world in the alphabet soup form of CDOs, SIVs and other insidious tranches of poubelle. Let some poor little town in Northern Norway deal with it! Greenspan discovered a flaw! Unregulated capitalism, rapacious capitalism, counterparties would self regulate, the Invisible Hand knows best! Ask any San Francisco driver, "Who needs traffic lights?" - just drive up the wrong side of the street whenever you want.

Again, what's this got to do with wine? My sources provide contradictory evidence. One Washington State winery has supposedly increased sales 30% this year. One new wine wholesaler tells me that the wine market has frozen up this month just like the financial markets. Retailers are not buying at all, or are sticking only with their tried and true brands.
What happened to American innovation and experimentation? Have wine prices gone down in response to less demand, or is it like the old General Motors saying, "when sales go down, raise the price." I need a bailout! How about you? What did all those living and dead Vets fight for anyway? What has your experience been? What do you think? Here is an appropriate opportunity to comment anonymously.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Washington Snow Bird Alert

Good news! If you are a Washington wine lover, your selection of Washington State wines in Arizona just about doubled. Seeking the sun, lots of Washington wine people have recently become snowbirds, including yours truly, Dick Erath and Dave Woods, former owner of Seattle Wine Cellars. David got the wanderlust and founded Wanderlust Trading Company so he could continue to drink his favorite Washington State wines in Arizona and, now, you can, too. It is impossible to name all of the wineries now available in Arizona - Fall Line, Cadence, Note Bene, Willis Hall, Walter Dacon to name just a few from the Puget Sound area. Outstanding wineries from Walla Walla include Basel Cellars, Cougar Crest, Dunham, Isenhauer, Nicolas Cole, Saviah, and Sleight of Hand. While in the past you could find wine from such wineries as Hogue, Red Diamond, Columbia Crest and Chateau Ste. Michelle, you really had to hunt and peck to turn up a bottle of Seven Hills or even the outstanding Uriah from Spring Valley. If you are so weird as to not like Washington wine, then you can choose from several Oregon selections such as Methvan , Cana's Feast, or Shadow Mountain Vineyards. Ask any Arizona retailer for them. Just tell them to call Wanderlust.

In Memorium: David Lett, Oregon Wine PIoneer

It is with sadness that I report the passing of David Lett, founder of Eyrie Vineyards and pioneer Oregon winemaker. I believe it was around 1976 that a small intrepid group of iconoclasts and mavericks started trying to grow grapes and make wine in Oregon. An irascible independent spirit, David experimented until he got it right. Although some may have found him curmudgeonly, his fierce determination and single-mindedness of purpose led to some of the first Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc in the state. Today, there are over 350 wineries, over 700 vineyards and Oregon Pinot Noir is world famous. Eyrie is now in the hands of David's very able winemaking son, Jason, who will carry on the tradition of experimentation begun by his father. David was the living incarnation of the best of American freethinking and stubborn determination. Yes, he could. And he did! Thank you, David. You will be fondly remembered.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Four American Wine Hot Spots

I have the good fortune to be able to travel up and down the West Coast fairly often, tasting my way through the best wine regions in the U.S. IMO, the four most exciting regions on the West Coast, that means the four most interesting in the U.S, are Washington State, Sonoma, Paso Robles and the Willamette Valley. Washington went from 6 to 600 wineries in just thirty years. Sonoma, the country within a county, is like a European country (is it France or Spain) just a hop skip and jump from San Francisco. Paso Robles has had an explosion similar to that of Walla Walla and is probably passing the 200 mark for wineries. The Willamette Valley in Oregon has become the Pinot Noir capital of the world thanks to the hard work of such pioneers as Dick Erath and the recently deceased David Lett. Now that I have all of my books in boxes, it is time to start taking them out. But you and I have been deprived of my blogging for the past several months, so I will take my time getting my books out and concentrate on blogging once again. Tomorrow I drive to Phoenix to taste at the First Press Wine Auction to support public radio in Arizona. A large percentage of those wines will be from Washington State thanks to the efforts of Dave Wood who founded Wanderlust Trading to bring great wine from Washington's best boutique wineries to Arizona. Look for reports on Washington, Sonoma, Paso Robles and Willamette wines in the coming weeks. Also, it's that time of year again - time for the Third Annual Unofficial Classification of Washington Wines, Gene's faves, Best New Wineries, Best Winemakers, Best Vineyards and, of course, some recommendations for the Holidays.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Beginning Of The End?

When I heard about the First Wine Bloggers Conference from Open Wine Consortium I was so excited I signed up immediately. A few days later , the second thoughts started to creep in. Was this the beginning of the end? I remember back in the '60s when the Transactional Analysis Journal was about to be published, I new it was the beginning of the end, kinda like when Steve Balmer took over Microsoft, you know, like the start-up becomes establishment, like when Robert Parker goes from Wine Maverick to Chief Wine Guru, like when Bambi becomes Godzilla. So it was with Fear & Trepidation that I drove to Santa Rosa. Would I be the oldest wine blogger there? Omigod would they all be 20-something? Uh oh, oh no, oh man! All those sponsors - Vineyard Walks, New Zealand, Sebastiani, Snooth, Twitter. Were wine bloggers selling out en masse? After all $59.63 from Adsense isn't going to support your habit, let alone your art. You have to have a day job, man. Now you can learn to drive subscribers to your blog, monetize your blog, accept advertising and free samples from wineries. It turned out to be fabulous, fun and educational. The group bonded fast! More so than, say a bunch of tax agents or psychoanalysts or even wine educators. I learned a lot, tasted a lot of wine, and made a lot of new friends - Kaz, Joel, Tom, Doug, Larry, Lori and Gabe to name just a few. The highlight for me was the real time live blogging while tasting wine.The only thing missing was Catie-the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman. Is it the beginning of the end? I don't think so! Maybe the end of the beginning.
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