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, December 24, 2008

Holiday Wine Gifts - IV

It's late, it's late, I'm late for a very important date. This year investment bankers come last, but even if your not an investment banker you should seriously consider these wines, if not as Christmas gifts, then as a treat for yourself. These wines may seem pricey, but they are spectacular and mindblowing. Warning: You may never be able to go back to two buck chuck after one of these beauties. Where to find them? Wineries such as Cadence, O-S, Fall Line, and Note Bene in downtown Seattle. In Arizona go to Callaghan. Too late to get to a winery? Try QFC, Larry's, or Metropolitan Market in Seattle or AJs or Total Market in Tucson. In Seattle wine shops such as La Cantina, McCarthy & Schiering should have what your looking for. Or try Pete's. I'll let you in on a little secret - Magee's on Magee Road and Oracle may still have some 2006 Saviah Une Vallee and 2006 Cadence Ciel du Cheval. These wines are listed in no particular order. Wanderlust wines are marked with an asterisk. Happy Holidays!

1) 2006 Sleight of Hand, The Spellbinder, Columbia Valley - about $20*

2) 2006 Anglim Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles - about $30*

3) 2006 Graeagle Red Wing, Walla Walla - about $30*

4) 2006 B. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma - about $30

5) 2005 Callaghan "Junior", Az - about $20

6) 2005 Callaghan "Padres" - about $30

7) 2005 Andrew Will "Champoux Vineyard" - about $45

8) 2006 Sheridan "L'Orage" - about $40

9) 2006 Syncline "McKinley Springs" - about $35*

10) 2006 Walter Dacon "Syrah Belle" - about $35*

11) 2006 Isenhauer "Red Paintbrush", Columibia Valley - About $35*

12) Almost any Lachini, Panther Creek, Tori Mor, De Pente Oregon Pinot Noir - about $40-$65

13) 2005 Note Bene "Abbinare", Wa - about $30*

14) 2006 Saviah Une Vallee, Walla Walla - about $45*

15) 2006 Cadence "Ciel du Cheval" , Red Mtn - about $50*

16) Adam's Bench "Reckoning", Columbia Valley - about $35

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Wine Gifts - III

How about some whites? It's been a long time since I could afford good White Burgundy, but no matter because I actually like some of these "alternatives" even better.

1) 2007 Justin Sonoma Chardonnay - I gave this wine "Best of Show" at the recent First Press tasting in Tucson. I loved it so much I ordered a case. With the dry flintiness of a great Macon or Pouilly Fuisse, I would place it somewhere in between, perhaps in Saint Veran. Stony minerality balanced by just the right hint of lemon (about $20, available at the Sportsman in Phoenix )

2) 2007 ZD Chardonnay - Big, fresh, balanced, between a California and French Style. If not Le Montrachet at $300 plus per bottle, "save" maybe $100 on a Puligny-Montrachet (about $30 available at the Sportsman)

3) 2006 Lachini Pinot Gris - one of the best Pinot Gris I've ever tasted. Dry with lots of flavor interest. Not insipid like so many other Pinot Gris (about $20 available at the Sportsman)

4) 2006 Shadow Mountain Pinot Gris - Another Pinot Gris with character. I suppose you could compare this to a Pinot Grigio from Italy, but why bother since Oregon is the Pinot Gris capital of the world (about $15)*

5) 2007 Sleight of Hand "The Magician" Gewurztraminer - Trey Busch certainly worked magic with this dry, wonderful Gewurz. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble - a witch's brew of complex spice with flowers. Yum! (about $20)*

6) 2006 Cougar Crest Viognier - Wow! Everything you can hope for - good body, fruit, stone, with a little lemon zest. "Save" at least $50 on a good bottle of Condrieu (about $22)*

7) 2006 Amaurice Chardonnay - Ann Shafer started making beautiful wine right out of the gate. This is American White Burgundy at less than half the price ( about $30)

8) 2006 Lynmar Russian Rive Valley Chardonnay - Refreshing, not overoaked, has the "stony" minerality that I love. I liked this better than Lynmar's costlier Chards, though they are all quite good. "Save" half on an excellent Meursault ( about $30 at the winery)

9) 2006 Dutton Goldfield Russian River Valley Chardonnay - Why pay $65 for Kistler Dutton Ranch, when you can drink this beauty for only$30 (at the winery)

Holiday Wine Gifts - II

Okay, Stein, get on with it! only four more days to Xmas. Enough philosophizing and comparing, what's the bottom line. What should I give my friends, associates and family. What should I give "me"? These wines are a little pricier than the last batch, but they are real bargains in their own right and more so if you are downsizing from the alternatives. Compare these to wines costing more than twice as much. They are exceptional values. Remember, an asterisk denotes a Wanderlust wine.

1) 2006 Gordon Bros. Merlot, Columbia Valley - OMG, this wine is awesome. Last year it won great kudos from the Wine Spectator. It is full of fruit, but balanced, not in your face at all. Jeff Gordon did a great job. You could pay three times as much for a right bank Pomerol (about $20 at Costco)

2) 2005 Tin Roof Merlot, California - the perfect Merlot prototype, round, soft, balanced, lots of delicious black fruit. Think St. Emilion (about $8 at Costco)

3) 2006 Bergevin Lane "Calico Red" Columbia Valley - this wine is an interesting blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Syrah, Zin and Cab Franc and you can tell from the complexity. Medium bodied,
fruity, and tangier than a typical Bordeaux style blend. This would go with a huge range of foods, but maybe better with Italian. Think a Super-Tuscan and "save" $80 (about $20)*

4) 2006 Hawk's Flight Syrah - Is this an Arizona wine or a California wine? Based in Elgin, Arizona, Karyl Wilhelm, winemaker, sourced these grapes from Sonoma. Dark, big, lush, mouth-filling, delish, totally Syrah. Think Sonoma or even Walla Walla, but be prepared to apply the pliers to open this screwcap (about $20 at the winery)

5) 2005 Novelty Hill Merlot - More elegant and refined than the Tin Roof, this wine carries the winemaker signature of Mike Januik. Think Margaux and "save" $60 (about $16 on sale at Pete's)

6) 2006 Justin Cabernet - All of Justin's Paso Robles beauties are well made, balanced with delicious fruit. Give your man or yourself a steak with this one. Think Pauilliac and "save" another $60 (about $20 on sale at Pete's)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Madoff Makes Off With The Funds

Well, it looks like Madoff (maydoff) ran off with the funds, or rather, made off with the funds. Looks like this head of the NASDAQ figured it out and was, in fact, the pinnacle of this round of conniving and thievery on Wall Street. He brought the postmodern logic of rapacious capitalism to a head by realizing that there is no need for a referent(something real) when all you need is to manipulate the signs and signifiers. Much more brilliant than merely selling subprime and liar's loans for hefty commissions, then repackaging them in alphabet soup as CDOs and SIVs to pass the risk to greedy investment banks who passed the garbage on to little old ladies and little towns in northern Norway. Only the rich will suffer from this Ponzi scheme and besides it won't really hurt them anyway. Wrong! Jeff Skilling of Enron (remember Enron?) couldn't have done a better job.

What's wine got to do with it? Of course, Harry Rodenstock immediately comes to mind. Rodenstock made off with the funds by selling ersatz bottles of "Thomas Jefferson" wine to a very similar group of rich people. Proof that rich is not the same as smart, despite the easy assumption that it is so in our materialistic society. Why do people consistently fall for con men?Because all transactions are ultimately based on trust and we tend to trust our friends, "one of us", and authority. By Jove, it's the Great Gatsby! Let's see, how many times has our trust been betrayed? Watergate, Irangate, Enron, Global Crossing, Dot- Com Bubble, Subprime mess, Lehman Brothers - the list goes on.

Thanks to the Great Depression II, the wine and restaurant world are suffering significant losses of revenue since many people are eating and drinking at home. Tom Wark recently published a piece about the impact of the economy on the wine world called: "Prepare: it's About To Get Real Ugly Out There." In it, he predicts that wine consumption will drop and that small wineries selling wine for over $25 will struggle. I predict that wine consumption will rise in volume, but fall in dollar amount. Just because people aren't paying four bucks for coffee at Starbucks, doesn't mean they are stopping drinking coffee. If I were a small winery owner I would take two measures. First, I would lower my prices 15 - 20%. Sales and specials may do the trick, but how about "permanent" reductions (I see that the consumer price index just dropped the most since 1932). With grapes costing only 10-15% of retail price there is or should be plenty of wiggle room in a $35 bottle. Plus there should be plenty of good grapes and juice floating around out there at good prices. Second, since consumers are shifting from the top shelves to the lower shelves, I would do the same. How about following your consumer and producing a wine for under $20, preferably under $15. Many larger wineries world wide follow this approach with great success. The big prestigious Port houses sell a flagship vintage Port for, say $75, but make all of their money from huge volumes of Ruby and Tawny Port. Seven Deadly Zins from Michael David is another example. Oh, yes, and "House Wine" and "Little Red Truck." At least the Emperor's Clothes mentality hasn't gotten to the point where someone has tried to sell a bottle of wine with a great label, great marketing, great buzz, but no wine in the bottle, yet! Or maybe you know of some plonk that is nearly equivalent. My philosophy is: Eat , Drink, & Be Merry.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Wine Gifts - Part I

This year more than most we are all looking for good value. Whether you are an unemployed investment banker, a troubled Chateau owner, Joe The Plumber, Six Pack Joe, Sarah Palin, Tina Fey, Barbara Walters or just ordinary folk, this year we all want to save cash and spend as little as possible. Just like the banking lemmings and the Wall Street herd, we have swung from extreme profligacy to penny pinching penury. Just as the financial system and real estate markets "froze up" this fall, the wine world froze up, too. For a while, everyone stopped lending and buying, Anecdotally, wines sales seemed to have dried up. A lot of wineries don't seem to get it. Prices of many wines have been going up. On the other hand, some winemakers do get it and are selling wine at reasonable prices. If you are an unemployed investment banker, you can substitute Washington State boutique wines for California "cults" for as little as one tenth the price. If you are a troubled Chateau owner, try substituting great American wine for Bordeaux First Growths. If you are Joe the Plumber try two buck chuck. Sarah needs to upgrade to Alaska Amber. Six Pack Joe can stick with Bud, maybe Tina Fey needs to downgrade to Cold Duck, maybe Barbara will stick with Champagne and caviar. You can still give great wine by finding alternatives. As one wine merchant put it, everybody's going from the top three shelves to the bottom three shelves. Here are alternative gifts that are often just as good and sometimes better. Watch out for a few jokes. BTW, an asterisk signifies a Wanderlust wine.

1) Penfold Grange - Try 2006 Penfold Koonunga Hill Shiraz- Cabernet for about $7 at Costco.
Of course, these aren't exactly comparable but you can save about 98% and the wine is quite good. And it need to age - a wine for Ryan's cellar So if your man wants to start a wine cellar here's a good start at a reasonable price. Age about three years ( one to ten?)

2) Less expensive Bordeaux - Substitute Merlot or Cab from Red Diamond or Columbia Crest.
Buy it on sale at Safeway for about $7 and save almost half. These wines are fruitier and friendlier to the American palate.

3) Why spend upwards of $50 for a highly rated Malbec from Argentina, when you can buy 2007 Pascual Toso Malbec for about $7 at Costco? Actually, it was highly rated by the Wine Spectator.

4) Looking for something spiritual to replace the old materialism? Try the 05 Ruah from Desert Wind. This cosmic wine will only set you back about $12 on sale in Seattle at Pete's. Just think a glass of Ruah and you will be full of the cosmic spirit. This wine's got soul!

5) Discover Balboa Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet for only twenty bucks or so. Tom Glase and his partner were prescient in designing these consumer friendly wines at reasonable price just in time for the " worst recession since the depression." The Merlot is the friendliest and fruitiest, the Cab the biggest.*

6) A Fine Old English Claret - Try 2006 Basel Cellars Claret from Walla Walla. It's young, it's fresh, it's balanced, it's medium bodied, good fruit - just what a claret should be for about $20.*

Look for Part II in a few days.

Seattle Wine Blog In Top Ten

Guess what? Despite our somewhat erratic performance in the past few months, we are ranked number eight out of Google's Top 100 Wine Blogs posted by Enobytes. That put us in the top ten! And we're in very good company - Alder's Vinography, Gary's Wine Library, Tom's Fermentation, Eric's The Pour among others. Thanks to all of you for reading and thanks to Google for their engine that almost always seems to land us at the top of the page. If any of you have any suggestions or comments they would be appreciated. Most of you by now know that I am technologically challenged. Any help with stuff like RSS feeds, links, etc., would be great and help to improve the Seattle Wine Blog. Thanks!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wine Notes

After schlepping six bottles of wine around Tucson all day, the reward at the end of the day is to sit back with a glass of wine. These are all Wanderlust wines.

1) 2007 Cougar Crest Viognier - Deborah Hansen does it again. This is the wine I chose to kick back with. Melon, stone fruit, stoniness, citrus. A beautiful fresh, crisp, delightful wine ( about $20)

2) 2005 Anum Cara Estate Pinot Noir - Anam Cara, Celtic for soul friend. What a great name? We could all use some food for the soul these days. Very dark garnet, nose of mushrooms and forest, complex mix of flavors - fruit plus green and black pepper, a warm lingering finish. Not quite as big as some other Willamette Pinots, but bigger than most. Salmon, steak or stew for this one ( about $37)

3) 2006 Isenhauer Red Paintbrush - What a great palate Brett Insenhauer has! Instead of Burnt Umber, Burnt Siena, Cadmium Red, and a hint of Carbon Black, Brett's palate consists of 67% Cab Sauv, 17% Cab Franc, 11% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot. Like a bright alpine flower lighting up the meadow at Paradise on Mt. Rainier, this medium bodied red has a great combo of black fruit flavors - current, cherry and plum. It is so mellow, so full of flavor, so delicious and ready to drink ( about $33)

4) 2006 Saviah Une Vallee - This Bordeaux style blend is from three vineyards in Walla Walla.
Totally tastes like Bordeaux. Yummy, delish, somewhat bigger than the Isenhauer, awesome balance. This wine is soooo berry, berry good. It tastes great by itself, but it will blow you away with cheese, steak, duck and other game (about $42)

5) 2006 Cadence Ciel Du Cheval - This big wine Red Mountain wine comes from one of the most exceptional vineyards in Washington State. In fact, I don't think I've ever had a bad wine from the Holy Trinity - Ciel Du Cheval, Klipsun, and Champoux, nor from Ben Smith either. Ben didn't miss a beat with this beauty. The wine is much more than the quartet of the grapes that went into this wine - 36% Cab Sauv, 32% Cab Franc, 20% Merlot,12% Petit Verdot. Kind of like a Beethoven concerto, much more than a Sonata could produce. I am tasting this wine after it has been open for three days and still going strong - therefore, have with food, decant, or age for three to five years at the least. The color and bouquet of Mr. Lincoln roses, rose petals on the palate, too, without the tar found in the other rose petal wine - Barolo. Black cherry leads the complex symphony of flavors. Even now there is tannin in the finish, but there is definitely a closed coda. Steak, game and roasts! A winter wine (about $47).

6) 2006 Vin Du Lac Ice Wine - Ho, Ho, Ho, there's a snowman on the label. Larry and Micki went out in the snow to harvest frozen Riesling and Gewurz grapes, crushed them ever so gently to bring you an Ice Wine comparable to the best of Canada (home of Ice Wine) at a slightly lower cost. Forty-one Brix at harvest, the wine has 16% residual sugar, but you would never guess it. Smelling like cake with vanilla and almond flavors and lots of frosting, the wine tastes of honeysuckle and exotic fruits, leaves some sweetness in the mouth, but appears to have an almost dry finish in mouthfeel. Very appealing and a great Holiday gift ( about $30)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Day Job

Well, folks, I just got a day job and I'm pretty pumped about it. I will be repping almost fifty Washington State and Oregon wineries in Tucson and Southern Arizona with the Wanderlust Trading Company. Many of these are wineries that I have loved and written about for years - Cadence, Fall Line, Note Bene, Willis Hall, Sleight of Hand to name a few. These are wines that are not as famous or expensive as Cayuse or Leonetti which ironically have been more widely available in Arizona. It's exciting to know that now I can get these wines and share them with others here in Arizona. When I write about these wines I will always disclose that they are Wanderlust wines. As you know, I typically don't write about wines I don't like. There are too many good ones out there to share with you. You will have to decide for yourself whether I am showing bias in which case you can take it with a grain of salt. This will be an exciting month for the Seattle Wine Blog. In addition to Holiday wine recommendations, look for the annual " Best" lists - My Faves, Best Wines, Best Wineries, Best Winemakers, Best Vineyards, Best, Best, best, best, best. And, of course, the always controversial Unofficial Classification of Washington State Wineries.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Two Awesome Wines

Okay, Thanksgiving is over, now we can get back to bigger reds. These or similar wines would be great with holiday roast beef. The 1989 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron blew us away. This deep red wine smells of cigars and cedar, mushrooms and Mr. Lincoln roses. A big wine, but not jammy, more linear than round, full of blackberry, tobacco, and cedar flavors - Awesome! Beautiful with rack of lamb. In contrast, the 2004 Delille "D2" was somewhat lighter, easier, and more fruit forward, but still an outstanding wine. Fabulous fruit suggests its American origins, but its linear style reminds of France. It was great with a buffalo sirloin steak. Considering that by now there is probably a five to one cost ratio between the two, the "D2" is a "bargain" at about $30. In fact, many Washington reds are great values compared to their Californian and European counterparts. Consider wines from Adam's Bench, Fall Line, Cadence, Note Bene, DeLille and many others as "value" gifts for the season. Not unlike U.S. Savings Bonds, you pay "only", perhaps, $30 for a $60 wine
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