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

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Best Of Taste Washington Phoenix

Well, this is a slightly different approach to "Bests." These are the wines that I really liked at Taste Washington Phoenix:

  • Gordon Bros. - 2006 Kamiak Cellar Select Red
  • Saviah - 2006 Une Vallee
  • Syncline - 2006 Syrah


  • Abeja - 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Abeja - 2007 Chardonnay
  • Badger Mtn- 2007 Organic Riesling
  • Cougar Crest - 2006 Viognier
  • Gilbert Cellars -2007 Unoaked Chardonnay
  • Guardian - 2006 Chalk Line
  • Hestia - 2006 Syrah
  • Isenhower -Paintbrush
  • Nicolas Cole - 2006 Graeagle
  • Note Bene - 2005 Abbinare
  • Seven Hills - 2006 Merlot, Walla Walla
  • Sparkman - 2007 Lumiere Chardonnay
  • Sparkman - 2006 Wilderness
  • Syncline - Subduction Red
  • Zefina - 2006 Serience White
  • Zefina - 2004 Serience Red

Very Good

  • Airfield Estates - 2007 Bombshell Red
    Airfield Estates - 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Airfield Estates - 2007 Lightning
  • Airfield Estates - 2007 Mustang
  • Airfield Estates - 2007 Riesling
  • Alder Ridge - 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon/ Syrah
  • Balboa - 2007 Merlot
  • Balboa - 2007 Syrah
  • Balboa 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Barnard Griffin - All
  • Basel Cellars - 2006 Claret
  • Bergevin Lane - 2007 Fruitbomb
  • Bergevin Lane - All
  • Boudreaux - 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Boudreaux - 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Brian Carter -2005 L'Etalon
  • DeLille - 2006 "D2"
  • Domaine Pouillon - 2007 Deux
  • Dunham - 2006 Trutina
  • Dusted Valley - 2006 Boomtown Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Dusted Valley - 2007 Boomtown Pinot Gris
  • Elegante - 2006 Merlot
  • Five Star - Sangiovese
  • Gifford Hirlinger - 2005 Merlot
    Gordon Bros. - 2007 Kamiak Cellar Select White
  • Gordon Bros. - 2007 Tradition
  • Hyatt - 2006 Riesling
  • Hyatt - 2004 Merlot
  • Powers - 2007 Merlot
  • Powers -2006 Syrah
  • Six Prong - 2005 Red Wine

Friday, March 27, 2009

Answer IV: Who Was Hafiz And Why Did He Write About Wine?

Hafiz might not have been able to cross the road because he may have been drunk much of the time. Writing about a hundred years after the better known Persian poet, Rumi, Hafiz ( 1320-1389), also known as Shams, born in the Persian city of Shiraz, is said to have produced over 5000 poems in his lifetime of which only about 500 survive. Many of his poems, appear to be about wine, though historically, these references are taken to be metaphors for God and god's love. In the introduction to his book, "Drunk On The Wine of The Beloved," Thomas Rain Crowe describes allusions to the Winebringer, Winemaker, and Wineseller as metaphors for God. So did all you distributors, grapegrowers, winemakers, and retailers know that you have been compared to God by a great poet? In this metaphorical view, wine is love, the wineglass, the heart, and the Beloved, God. The Beloved can be represented by the rose, the sun, the falcon, the friend, the painter, the architect, the gardener. Much of the action in these poems takes place in the Winehouse or Wine Seller's Street. Raines says this is not a simple tavern or bar, a wine bar perhaps, or more likely something like a cafe in Latin America where poetry is recited along with music and other performance art to the accompaniment of good conversation, coffee, wine and who knows what other substances. According to my friend Walter Andrews, in his book, "The Beloved," around the reign of the great Ottoman Sultan Suleiman, poets reached the pinnacle of influence at the Ottoman court. Even though the Sultan had absolute power of life and death, it appears there was a culture of cafe life in which poets were for the most part allowed the latitude of a King's fool. Andrews also says that more often than not, The Beloved was not only metaphorically God, but also another man with "rosebud" lips.

Sufis, especially poets, seem to have been striving to achieve the highest high, spiritually and otherwise. To this order, they apparently whirled and spun like dervishes, smoked hash, had sex, and drank lots of wine. So is wine a metaphor? Of course, it is. After all, isn't metaphor the essence of poetry? Doesn't poetry pack so many meanings into a few words? So is wine only a metaphor? I don't think so. These poets were wild men and mystics. Ralph Waldo Emerson said of Hafiz, "He fears nothing. He sees too far..." Goethe said, " In his poetry Hafiz has inscribed undeniable truth indelibly...." As with everything, nothing is what it appears to be, so it is my guess that Hafiz drank like a fish, made love to both sexes, did drugs and thought and lived outside the box. A veritable genius who could see and speak the truth. So wine is love and truth.
In vino veritas!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Taste Washington In Phoenix- V

Well this will almost wrap it up for Taste Washington in Phoenix since I seem to have skipped more wineries than I thought. "So many wines, so little time." Look for one last post - Best of Taste Washington Phoenix.

O-S Winery - Part of the original gang of four in the SSAW, Bill Owen makes outstanding wine.
Usually not a bad one in the bunch.

Precept Brands - A marketing group. Pine & Post Chardonnay and Merlot are outstanding values in the same category with Columbia Crest Two Vines and Red Diamond.

Reininger - Since Reininger moved into their new digs right on the way into Walla Walla from the west, the wines have not been quite as exciting as Chuck's earlier efforts. Nevertheless, the Helix wines represent good value, and many of regular bottling are still delicious.

Ryan Patrick - The Rock Island Red is always a good value as is the Naked Chardonnay.

Saint Laurent - Well made wines at reasonable prices. I have a special affinity for Saint Laurent as that is my son-in-law's name.

Seven Hills - I now have enough data to include Seven Hills in the Unofficial Classification of Washington State Wineries - it will be a third growth. The Pinot Gris was pure, fresh and fruity. The Riesling at 1.5% residual sugar "dry" enough in mouthfeel. My fave was the 2006 Walla Walla Merlot.

Sheridan Vineyard - Recently, Scott Greer somehow managed to create one of best vineyards in Washington. The L'Orage (french for "perfect storm") and Syrah are excellent, if a little on the jammy side.

Sleight of Hand - Trey Busch is an outstanding winemaker. He works his magic with virtually every wine he makes. Check out the "Magician" (Gewurz) and the "Spellbinder" (Red Blend).

Sparkman Cellars - Chris Sparkman has lots of experience in the hospitality industry. He got his start in winemaking with his buddy at Mark Ryan. I somehow think of these two plus Chris Gorman as a trio of pirates, aye! The 2007 "Lumiere" Chard and 2006 "Wilderness" were outstanding.

Spring Valley Vineyard - Who can resist Uriah and Frederick made by French winemaker Serge Laville.

Syncline - Winemaker, James Mantone may be the best educated winemaker in the world. Knowledgeable about microbiology, geology, and many other sciences, he bring a philosophical perspective to his biodynamique approach to grape growing and winemaking, but most importantly, his wines are outstandingly good. His Syrah is my favorite. Sommelier Christophe Huser, of Hacienda del Sol, also loved this wine. The Subduction Red, a Rhone-style blend is also an outstanding red at a reasonable price.

Somehow missed Tagaris, Tamarack, and Townshend.

Vin Du Lac Winery - Winemaker Larry Lehmbecker makes fresh wines that see no wood. Virtually all of his wines are quite good. The Ice wine is a special effort. Larry took away many awards from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition this year.

Missed Waters Winery, Woodhouse Cellars and Woodward Canyon. Woodward Canyon wines are always interesting and sometimes outstanding.

Wines of Substance - Waters winemaker, Jamie Brown, takes a negociant approach using overages from other wineries and vineyards. Thus, he produces a virtual Table of Wine Elements such as CS, SY, CF, ME, CH, RE etc. A very clever scheme allowing the opportunity to taste different varietals made by the same winemaker - a great chance to check out the varietal character of each grape. BTW, once open, these wines keep a long time (five days?) without even being gassed making then great glass pours for restaurants.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Qiuz IV:

Who was Hafiz and why did he write about wine?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Answer III: Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?

The chicken crossed the road to avoid the farmer who wanted to make that totally ancient retro dish, "Coq Au Vin. " Coq au Vin is a great way to use almost a whole bottle of wine that's not quite right. If there is no such wine, Charles Shaw, aka Two Buck Chuck will do. Whatever happened to all those great "cooking with wine" dishes such as Sole au Chambertin, Civet de Lievre ( does the Hare have to cross the road, too?) - are they just gathering dust in old copies of Julia Child? Are there any new "cooking with wine" recipes? An infusion of chicken and red wine pate coiled around a vertical Vietnamese shrimp and sugar cane stick on a base of ginger and pickled cucumber jello, for example? Anyway, chickens are smarter than you might think!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Quiz III: Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?

Why did the chicken cross the road? Why do you think? My answer next Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Answer II: Why Did The Farmer Go To The Winery?

Answer: The farmer went to the winery to make wine! A visit to a typical winery in France makes this obvious. During a visit to Chateau Prieure Lichine in the 1980s, I was first greeted in the courtyard by hens and roosters running about. There was no obvious Chateau or tasting room, just a group of outbuildings clustered around the courtyard with all kinds of farm equipment scattered about. Talking with winemaker, Frank Roth, confirms this. Frank works for orchidist, Mike Tagaris, one of the biggest exporter of Fuji Apples to Korea. All grapegrowers are farmers, and any winery that has estate grown grapes is by definition a farm, unless it is a factory detached from the vineyards. Even the fanciest Chateau in France, while showing a great facade, behind it all, is a farm. It is unfortunate, that some wineries now resemble a retail boutique in a mall rather than a farm. It is even more unfortunate, that so many wines are homogenized in their flavors. The flavor has been removed from so many foods such as pork and eggs, and more and more so from wine. We should be thankful to the devoted farmers who bring us grapes with character and wines with character. Of course, especially in Washington, there are farmers who only grow grapes, and winemakers who only make wine.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Taste Washington In Phoenix- IV

Here's another dozen wineries to consider:

Isenhower - Winemaker Brett Isenhower is an artist. My favorite is the 2006 Red Paintbrush.*

J. Bookwalter - somehow missed this one.

K- Vintners - Charles Smith is a talented winemaker and marketeer. Great names like Eve Chardonnay, the Velvet Devil Merlot, and Boom Boom Syrah.

Kestrel - You don't have to be a bird to appreciate these. Usually excellent wines, though quality varies somewhat. Lady in Red is available all over the place, but isn't quite as good as the earlier editions.

Kiona - Venerable Red Mountain winery. Winemaker Scott Williams makes a huge variety of wines of good quality.

L'Ecole No. 41 - Marty Clubb usually makes excellent wines. Semillon is a specialty and a special treat.

Lone Canary - Good wines at good prices.*

Long Shadows - Alan Shoup casts a very long shadow around the globe. Outstanding wines for the most part. Pedestal, Pirouette and Sequel are my favorites.

I must have missed a whole section - Maryhill, Mercer Estates, Milbrandt, Morrison Lane.

Nicolas Cole - Amazing wines at amazing prices. My favorite, once again, is the least expensive, but absolutely delicious Graeagle.*

Northstar - Started out with a bang, but seems to have lost some of it's luster. Still, good stuff.

Northwest Cellars - The fun thing about Rebert Delf's wines? You can get your own customized label. My fave is the Merlot.*

Note Bene - Note well, Note Bene! Tim Narby, another Boeing Wine Club graduate, makes delicious, interesting wines with hard to pronounce names. My favorite right now is the 2005 Abbinare.*

Novelty Hill - As I wrote last year, I've never had a bad wine from Novelty Hill. Mike Januik is an outstanding winemaker, and Novelty Hill wines are priced right.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Taste Washington Phoenix III

Here are another dozen wineries to contemplate:

Efeste - Sounds Greek to me, like efcharisto! But thanks to Big Papa I found out that it is just an acronym for the owners names, nevertheless, Big Papa is Greek. The wines are well made all-Ameican wines, though the Riesling did have a wonderful smell of a pine forest reminding me of Retsina.

Elegante Cellars - Winemaker Doug Simmons is by far the happiest winemaker I've ever met. He loves his second career as a winemaker and is so grateful to be able to work with wine. What a refreshing attitude! He made a 2006 Walla Walla Cab and a 2006 Walla Walla Merlot. I preferred the Merlot.

Five Stars - Dave Huse is a big friendly man and his wine's are big friendly wines. I prefer the Cabernet Sauvignon. although Dave raved about his award winning Sangiovese.*

Gifford Hirlinger - Like so many family wineries, GH started out growing grapes. Happily, Winemaker Mike Berghan loves making wine. I prefer the 2005 Walla Walla Merlot.

Gilbert Cellars - Gilbert Cellars is a relatively new winery that has been getting accolades for it's wines lately. I preferred the Unoaked Chardonnay.

Gordon Bros. - It was a pleasure to meet Jeff's daughter, Katie Nelson who is the Marketing Director for the winery. Gordon Bros are always well-made wines with reasonable prices across the board. I aways like the Merlot and the Chardonanny. This year I also tasted the 2006 Kamiak Cellar Select Red Wine which is a outstanding Cab-based red at the very reasonable price of about $14. The Kamiak Cellar Select White is an interesting blend of Chard and SB with a 5% hint of Riesling to smooth things out. Not to my taste, but a very appealing wine nevertheless, especially at the very appealing price of about $11.

Grape Group - Grape Group is not a Winery, but, rather, a marketing group under the umbrella of Precept Brands. This is a three-fer: Rainier Ridge, Willow Crest, and Apex II. Willow Crest is the standout, as Dave Minick is an outstanding winemaker, another one to add to the "Best winemakers."

Guardian Cellars - A new winery from the Woodinville incubator, again under the aegis of Mark Ryan. The 2006 Chalk Line is an excellent blend of 50% CS, 22% Malbec, 17% Syrah, 11% Merlot. The 2006 Gun Metal is a more traditional blend of 46% CS, 43% CF, 1% M. A winery to watch!

Hestia Cellars - I like to think that I discovered Shannon Jones, but then, maybe Shannon discovered me. In any event, I was one of the first wine writers to recognize the quality of what he was doing. Big amazing wines from a small winery. The Syrah is my favorite.*

Hedges - A pioneer on Red Mtn. Very good wines, but not usually spectacular. The "CMS" is widely distributed and a good value,. The Three Vineyards is also widely available and quite good.

Hogue - Headline: Asparagus growers make wine. Mike and Gary Hogue pioneered Washington State wines. The winery has passed through several corporate hands, but the quality of the wine is consistently good. All three product lines, regular, Genesis, and Reserve are good, but, as is so often the case with me, I prefer the simplicity of the regular line which is widely available in supermarkets and a good value, especially on sale.

Hyatt Vineyards - Well, you'll never get this at the Hilton, but so what. The wines are good values at about $10/bottle. The 06 Chard is light and easy. The Riesling is relatively sweet, but appealing.*

That's it! More than a baker's dozen if you unbundle the Grape Group. Tune in for three more dozen vignettes.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Quiz II: Why Did The Farmer Go To The Winery?

Why did the farmer go to the winery? What do you think? Tune in next Monday for my answer.

Answer To Quiz I: What do winemakers drink?

Yes, beer! After laboring all day around tanks and barrels smelling of wine, lifting lugs of grapes, punching down must, sloshing fermenting grape juice around, washing down the winery and equipment, does a winemaker, cellarmaster, cellar rat want to smell more wine? No, of course not, he or she wants something refreshing to relax with and cool off with - beer. Of course, winemakers do drink wine, usually at dinner or with a wine tasting group of winemakers and other wine types. Interestingly, though, it seems winemakers usually drink their own wine or the wine of their neighbors, friends and competitors. Very few are knowledgeable about the wines of the world, with two exceptions. I once asked Kent Callaghan why his wines were head and shoulders above the quality of his fellow Arizona winemakers. His answer - he drinks and tastes wine from all over the world. It was truly a pleasure to talk wine with Kent. Ditto, James Mantone! He brings a depth of knowledge to winemaking that is truly awesome. He knows world wines, chemistry, microbiology, biodynamic farming, but most importantly he has a philosophical bent and has really thought about life and how he wants live it. He makes wines that reflect this and are truly a gift in the sense described by Lewis Hyde in his books such as Trickster Makes This World. Beer is good, wine is better, except on a really hot day after work.
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