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, June 21, 2006

Wine in New Hampshire

Well, after a month of travel on the east coast, I am finally back home. It's good to be back in the clouds of Seattle after the rain in Maine. I found some interesting wine shops in Maine and the State Liquor authority in New Hampshire offers an impressive array of wine in the Liquor Stores along I-95. Lots of interesting wine from Bordeaux, Burgundy, California, and all over the world. Washington wines are represented by the biggies - Ste. Michelle and Hogue. As soon as I get more settled, I will write more about Oregon and Ontario. Also, the 2005 Bordeaux futures are being offered and I will put in my two cents worth on that topic. Don't forget! The Northwest Wine Festival is coming August 5th and will be a great opportunity to taste over 210 Northwest wines including wine from some of the newest wineries. Check it out at:

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose

"A Rose is a Rose is a Rose" - Gertrude Stein (no relation) said that! Today, I'm referring to pink wine. I must admit that I don't care for Cold Duck, or White Zinfandel, or White Merlot, for that matter, but I do dearly love Rose(Rose-ay)from Provence and the Rhone Valley. 'Tis the season and the French Rose will be arriving from Robert Kacher Selections in the Seattle market this coming week. Charles Neal and Kermit Lynch bring in interesting french roses, too. Not to be left behind, the Northwest produces some marvelous Roses. Chinook Cabernet Franc Rose is a perennial Washington favorite and in 2005 Sagelands produced a magnificent Rose from a blend of grapes yielding a wine with fresh, vigorous, complex flavors. This year, too, Penner Ash in Oregon produced a great, richly flavored Rose from Pinot Noir called Roseo. The arrival of Rose signals that summer should arrive here in the Northwest sometime soon. At least we are not suffering the extended deluge they have back east. A Nor'easter is a Nor'easter is a Nor'easter, but in June? Global warming is global warming is global warming, so eat, drink, and be merry this summer.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Ontario Wineries - Daniel Lenko Estate Winery

We would have liked top stop at East Dell, Fielding Estate, Malivoire, Stoney Ridge, Kacaba, Cave Springs, or Magnotta. De Sousa has a tasting room which you can visit in Toronto. We did stop at Angel’s Gate where we had the rare opportunity to taste Vidal Blanc that had not been made into ice wine. It was like a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris – agreeable, but not exciting.

The excitement began when we got to Daniel Lenko, that’s Daniel Lenko, not Gary Danko! We were greeted by Daniel’s father, a sweet man, who subsequently offered us a sample of his exceptional apricot jam. The Lenkos have been growing chardonnay since the 1950s and have some of the oldest vines in the region. Jim Warren told us that Daniel Lenko is as close as you can come to a cult wine in Niagara. Lenko claims to have 12,000 people on his mailing list and considering that he only makes somewhere between 2500 and 5000 cases, these wines are indeed hard to get. You can only buy them at the winery, if you are lucky enough to find them open or from the mailing list. Many wines are only available by the case.

Daniel showed us around his “farm.” No herbicides or artificial fertilizer are used.  Daniel is especially proud of a big piece of machinery for putting drainage pipe in the vineyard. Lenko has only one employee and basically does it all himself – vineyard management, winemaking, marketing and publicity. A handsome man, who seems quite self-impressed, Daniel could, as a French liqueur salesman once said, charm the pants off anyone. This is actually quite unnecessary as his wines speak for themselves, especially the whites. Daniel told us that when he decided to make wine he had to choose between putting his money into a Corvette or his winery. He made the right choice – the winery. He should be able to buy the Corvette any day now. Lenko is quite a maverick who makes wine the way he wants. He is an Ayn Rand kind of winemaker who doesn’t want to be told what to do by anybody. He sets his prices according to his own estimate of the quality of each wine.

The 2004 Reserve Riesling is dry, but delicious. The 2004 Unoaked Chardonnay is similar to a Hogue Unoaked Chardonnay we had several years ago, but much more European in style. The 2004 Viognier is cold fermented on the lies and tastes better than any comparable Rhone white. The 2002 Old Vines Chardonnay is aged in American Oak and has more complexity than the unoaked chardonnay, but I preferred the cool refreshing minerality of the unoaked version. Like so many of the reds I tasted in Ontario, Lenko’s had a green dry, astringent quality that stop them from being in the same class as the whites. Lenko is aware of this and attributes it to a short growing season. He says he may stop making reds. The 2000 Ice Wine was quite good. Lenko calls Ice Wine “the Las Vegas of wine, all show and no go.” If Lenko were to get his wines into Las Vegas restaurants, he could buy a Ferrari, instead of the Corvette, but then who am I to tell him what to do.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ontario Wine - Peninsula Ridge

Peninsula Ridge was our first stop. Owned by Norman Beal, an oil trader, the winery produces about 15,000 cases. Jean Pierre Colas from the French wine growing region of Chablis is the winemaker. Chablis, the northernmost part of Burgundy, should be good preparation for making wine in Ontario. The 2004 Sauvignon Blanc was fresh, crisp, and refreshingly clean without a hint of the usual Sauvignon grapefruit and weediness. It actually tasted a bit like a Chablis or Petite Chablis. The 2003 Vintners Private Reserve Chardonnay was fresh, cool, and citrusy with hint of tangerine flavor. It spent 16 months in French oak.

Half of the 2004 Merlot was fermented in oak, half in stainless.  It had a hint of tobacco in the nose and bright cherry flavors. The 2001 Arcanum is a blend of Merlot Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The Syrah added to the classic Bordeaux grapes led me to expect a wine similar to Washington Bordeaux-style. Not exactly! A wine with complex flavors of leather, raspberries, and cherry, but not as balanced as I had hoped. The 2002 Reserve Cabernet had a strong bouquet of eucalyptus and tobacco followed by raspberry flavors. It could definitely use another few years of ageing.

We tasted two unusual wines – 2001 Cabernet Franc Ice Wine and 2004 Ratafia. The Ice Wine had a reddish mahogany color like a Tawny Port, but tasted most like the French Banyuls. Too much honey and caramel for my taste. The Ratafia was made from unoaked Chardonnay blended with distilled plum wine. The dominant tangerine flavor was appealing. This is definitely a sweet after dinner wine more in the spirit of a liqueur or eau de vie than a table wine.

This winery is probably fairly typical of Niagara wineries. Everything is professionally done and many of the wines are interesting, but not quite world class.
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