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, January 28, 2008

Widely Available Washington Wines

Even though there are five hundred some odd wineries in Washington, approximately half of the production comes from just a few wineries mostly owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle. Chateau Ste. Michelle, Domaine Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest and Red Diamond are distributed in most American markets. Hogue, owned by Canadian wine conglomerate Vincor, is also widely distributed as are Columbia Winery and the much smaller Fourteen Hands. If you hunt and peck ( try Costco or Trader Joe's) you may find Gordon Bros, Barnard Griffin, Waterbrook or Apex. If you are really lucky, you may turn up K Vintner, L'Ecole, Seven Hills or even Novelty Hill. You may even turn up the much vaunted Andrew Will,Leonetti, Quilceda Creek or Cayuse. Although it is unfortunate not to be able to taste such Washington wonders as Brian Carter, Januik, Cadence, Fall Line, OS, Note Bene, or Amaurice, there are some remarkably user- friendly values available from the big producers. Here are a few recently tasted:

1) 2003 Red Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon - I've been drinking the Merlot for so long, I seem to have forgotten that Red Diamond makes a Cab. This was a pleasant surprise -lots of user-friendly fruit followed by some gentle tannin. Made me want to have a steak. Available in supermarket for about $9 ( $7 or $8 on sale.).

2) 2005 Hogue Chardonnay - Good basic Chardonnay with the usual green apple flavors. Fairly dry for an American wine. Good with food. A good value at about $8.

3) 2004 Columbia Crest "Two Vines" Chardonnay - Widely available (try any gas station in Washington), this wine is actually smoother and fruitier than the Hogue. Easy, great on it's own. About $7.

4) 2004 Columbia Crest "Grand Estates" Chardonnay - Drier than the "Two Vines", it is designed to go with food. I actually prefer to "Two Vines." About $8-$11.

5) 2003 Columbia Crest Merlot - Nicely balanced with lots of friendly berry fruit. Excellent value at about $7.

6) 2005 Waterbrook Chardonnay - Tart green apples, good with food. Is it worth the price difference? About $11.

7) 2006 Gordon Bros. - Jeff Gordon does it again! Not as smooth as the award-winning 2003, this one just need to age to surpass its ancestor. Beautiful, complex black berry fruit followed by a dollop of tannin. Almost European in it's structure, this wine deserves kudos and should be great in, say, 2010. This is definitely one for Ryan's cellar. About $18.

8) 2003 14 Hands Merlot - To this day, my original post on 14 Hands gets more hits than any other. Something about the name really struck a chord - perhaps a nostalgic longing for a simpler, more civil America. The wine is good, too, although this bottle doesn't seem as robust as previous bottles. Still, it's fruity, and light to medium bodied with mild cherry vanilla flavors. About $12.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Thai Wine

My friend and I were wandering around near the University of Arizona campus looking for a good Asian place to eat when we stumbled into Vila Thai restaurant, hidden away upstairs at 972 E. University Blvd. in Main Gate Square right next to the Fat Greek at the entrance to campus. We were tired of Tex-Mex and Sonoran style Mexican food and just looking for a comfortable place to get a light dinner. Vila hit the spot. No Thai-Mex here.

In less than an hour we experienced so many wonderful surprises. First, our excellent English waiter, then Vila herself. Just one degree of separation - Vila is from Seattle! The food was well prepared, tasty and and spicy and reminded me of the many great Thai restaurants in Seattle. We started with the Tom Yum Goong made with lots of straw mushrooms, shrimp, lemongrass and ginger. This was followed by refreshing Papaya Salad. We finished with a beef dish served with brown rice. Vila may well be the best Thai restaurant in Tucson.

The best surprise of all was Thai wine which our waiter gently encouraged us to taste. The 2547 Buddhist Era (2004) Monsoon Valley Red was a blend of "Pokdum", Shiraz, and Black Muscat. It was excellent - rich, dark and complex. The 2548 Buddhist Era ( 2005) Malaga Blanc was amazingly dry and very fruity. It went exceptionally well with the Thai food. Vila told me that she is the only restaurant serving Thai wine. World wine is getting exciting like world music. More than seventy-five countries now are producing wine including many in the Middle East and Central Asia. India is producing wine and there are over 650 wineries producing wine northwest of Beijing. The wines of Eastern Europe are improving including those of Hungary, Bulgaria, Moldavia, Poland, and Georgia. This will be the third wave after the Old World and New World waves. Australia, look out!

Monday, January 07, 2008

2007 Washington Wine Favorites

"The best "Best Lists" are always subjective, just like most impressions in the wine world. Numerical Ratings and Ten Best give the illusion of objectivity, but are only subjective impressions dressed in the garb of objectivity. I mean, when Wine Spectator or Robert Parker hand out "100s", aren't these just their "faves". When a national magazine (was it Money?) rated Bremerton, Washington as the best place to live in the U.S. based on a bunch of statistics, you knew something was awry with their methodology. Did a human being actually visit Bremerton?

Studying chemistry and enology at U.C. Davis will not make you a great winemaker because winemaking is ultimately an art and depends on the creative imagination of the winemaker. Art is based on the science of light and color and also on psychology and sociology, but a painting based only on these sciences will be "schlock" art or kitch. Now that I think of it, some wines are schlock or kitch, some are "Kinkades", some are "readymades", some are mass produced factory wines, and some are exquisite masterpieces. In any event, here are my favorites of 2007. I challenge anyone to tell me what I should put on my list of favorites. I could dress them up as "bests"! I'd like to hear about your faves.

Favorite Restaurant - Cafe Campagne

Favorite Wine Shop - The Spanish Table

Favorite Wine Shop Owner - Michael Teer

Favorite Vineyard - Ciel Du Cheval

Favorite Winery - DeLille

Favorite Winery Owner - Daniel "Big Papa" Ferelli of Efest

Favorite Winemaker - John Bell

Favorite Wine - Amaurice Chardonnay

Favorite New Seattle Winery - Ponum

Favorite New Washington State Winery - Adam's Bench

Favorite Seattle Winery - DeLille

Favorite Walla Walla Winery - Amaurice

Favorite Red Mountain Winery - Terra Blanca

Favorite Yakima Valley Winery - Massett

Favorite Puget Sound Winery - Cameraderie

Favorite Terroiriste - Cris Carmada

Favorite Red Blend - Amaurice

Favorite Winery Name - Hence

Favorite Wine Name - The Evil Twin

Favorite Cabernet Sauvignon - Pepper Bridge

Favorite Merlot - Gordon Bros.

Favorite Syrah - Darby Destiny Ridge

Favorite Bordeaux Style Blend - Amaurice

Favorite Red Rhone Blend - DeLille "Aix"

Favorite White Rhone Blend - Darby Deuce

Favorite Chardonnay - Amaurice

Favorite Late Harvest Viognier - Northwest Totem

Favorite Inexpensive Winery - Balboa

Best of the Best - ???
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