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

Thursday, January 19, 2012

How To Ruin a Good Bordeaux

IMHO, lamb is the only thing to have with a good Bordeaux, preferably a St. Julien or Margaux. The best match, of course, is with the difficult to find Agneau de Pauilliac, pairing local food with local wine. Since this is not possible in most of the world you must bring the Bordeaux to the lamb. Local American lamb can be quite tender and delicious. The best American lamb we ever had was in Douglas, Wyoming. Sonoma produces beautiful stuff and the Tovey's lamb from Oregon has always pleased. But, alas, the local stuff is not always available, either, so more often than not, we have had to resort to lamb from Costco or Trader Joe's. Since the Great Recession. however we have had at least two bad experiences with lamb from Australia at Trader Joe's and Costco. Generally speaking New Zealand lamb seems younger and more tender and we have had no trouble with it. Australain lamb can be bigger, tougher and older, a little closer to mutton which we also love.

So what's the problem. Well, it appears that since the crash of 2008, the Australians have been using more and more Hydrogen Sulfide as a preservative. So not only is the meat vacuum packed, but the bag is imjected with Hydrogen Sufide to keep the oxygen out and thus add extra shelf life to the product. The problem is the product stinks! H2S smells like rotten eggs. If the right amount is used it usually dissipates and the meat smells reasonably fresh in a few minutes. On the other hand, if too much is used, the lamb continues to smell like rottens eggs right through cooking and onto the palate, Ugg! Yuck!!! Perhaps the only appropriate pairing at this poin twould be with a corked wine. Just think of  the smell of rotten eggs paired with the smell of wet dog, sweat socks or wet cardboard. Let's give the TCA cheer - 2,4,6 trichloroanisole, rah, rah , rah! Nah, nah, nah! Take it back. Stick it in their face if necessary.

We once had lamb paired with 1995 Chateau Labegorce Zede, a Cru Bourgeois Margaux, a real treat..  Get yourself a real treat. Look for domestic or New Zealand lamb and pair it with Bordeaux, perhaps a 2009 Haut Sorillon from Trader Joe's (about $10) or a 2009 Bois Redon from Total Wines (about $9). Avoid that hydrogen sulfide and enjoy! 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2011 Unofficial Cassification Of Washington Wineries

This is the sixth  annual Unofficial Classification of Washington State Wineries. The 2011 Unofficial Classification Of Washington State Wineries represents my personal, perhaps idiosyncratic or eccentric, opinions of the quality of Washington State wineries. Out of more than 700 wineries, there are well over a hundred producing great wine. About half of the wine produced in Washington comes from wineries owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle. The other wineries are mostly small artesanal family enterprises typically producing 2000-3000 cases, in some cases up to 20,000 cases or more. In contrast to other classifications of wine such as the 1855 classification of Bordeaux, the Unofficial Classification of Washington Wineries can change every year. It is not set in stone. Since it is retrospective, it does not necessarily predict future rankings. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.Wines at the top of the list tend to be special wines for special occasions, whereas wines in the "Cinqieme" group tend to be outstanding values. Exclusion from this classification, in no way represents a commentary on the quality of a winery. In many cases, it may simply mean that I am not familiar enough with the wines or winemaker to form an opinion. On the other hand, not all Washington wines and wineries are great, so only the best that I am familiar with are listed here. Wineries are listed in alphabetical order and not ranked within each category. Wineries are listed as "deferred," if I have reason to believe they are worthy, but haven't tasted enough of their wines recently to form an opinion. There are well over 100 classified growths in Washington State. I would be happy to drink wine from any of these wineries and you will be, too.

Premier Grand Cru ( Extraordinary)



Quilceda Creek

Deuxieme Grand Cru (Outstanding)

Andrew Will





Long Shadow

Pepper Bridge

Spring Valley

Troisieme Grand Cru ( Exceptional)


Adams Bench



Brian Carter



Canon De Sol

Cougar Crest



Fall Line

Five Star







Mark Ryan

Note Bene





Robert Ramsey

Ross Andrew


Sleight Of Hand




Willis Hall

Quatrieme Grand Cru ( Excellent)






Basel Cellars


Bergevin Lane

Canoe Ridge

Chatter Creek




Des Voignes

Desert Wind

Domaine Pouillon

Dusted Valley


Flying Trout


Gifford Hirlinger






Mountain Dome

Nicolas Cole


Novelty Hill


Red Sky


Seven Hills



Terra Blanca


Three Rivers

Thurston Wolfe


Tyrus Evan

Vin Du Lac

Walla Walla Vineyards

Walter Dacon


William Church

Cinqieme Cru (Best Buys)

14 Hands

Airfield Estates


Bergevin Lane


Barnard Griffin


Columbia Crest "Two Vines"


Eliseo Silva

Goose Ridge

Gordon Bros


Martinez & Martinez


Nelms Road


Pavin & Riley

Pine & Post

Red Diamond


Ryan Patrick


Saint Laurent

Two Vintners


Willow Crest

Wines of Substance


Agate Field




Columbia Crest Reserve




Glacial Lake Missoula


Grand Reve

Latitude 46 N

Local Wine Company


McKinley Springs


Pacific Rim





Soos Creek

Terra Blanca - Onyx

Two Mountains

Woodward Canyon


Monday, January 02, 2012

The Best And Worst Wines Of 2011

With over 600,000 wines in the world ,obviously, these are not The Best and The Worst in the whole world.They are just some of my faves, and disfaves(?), unfives(?), anti-fave(s)? that  I've tasted in the past year.They appear in no particular order, just stream of consciousness, you know.


  • Roederer Brut - WhaT a disappointment!Neither fresh and elegant like Crystal, nor creamy like Napa Roederer Estate, I really wanted to send this one back. It tasted metallic, old or cooked, no pizzaz. Was it spoiled or poorly made? Fortunately we had a backup for New Year's Eve. The next day we tatsed it again. This time it was softer, less obnoxious. Still didn't like it Give it a 65
  • 2009 Quivera Zinfandel  This one reallywasn't that bad, only by comparison with the glorious 2007. Too much herbaceousness, eucalyotus, vegetative taste for me. Give it an 80
  • 2006 Domaine Du Moulie -I was so excited to find a Madiran from the southwest of France Another disappointment! Lacking real Madiran quality, it was so acidic as to be undrinkable. We finally managed to use for cooking. Give it a 70.


  •  NV Chandon Brut - Fresh, lively, a lazer beam when really cold, fuller, softer, but still pleasingly dry when warmer. When it's on sale for $12 at Safeway, it's a great bargain .Give it an 88.     
  • 1998 Nelm's Road Merlot -This would have been one for Ryan's cellar. I purchased a case roughly ten years ago, and it has been getting better and better. The first bottline was, great, though high in tannin. The last bottle was beautifully complex with a panoply of dark fruit flavorsIn the old days Parker might have given it an 80, not it definitely rates a 90-good stuff at a reasonable price.
  • NV Quail Oak Merlot - well, not quite the same as the Nelms Road, but we prefered it to Two Buck Chuck. and Southern from Walgreen's. Good basic Merlot, not too sweet or sappy - great for cooking. Call it Four Buck Chuck.
  • 1991 Togni Cabernet Sauvignon - We first met Phillip in the 1970s when he was winemaker at Cuvaison up the Silverado Trail near Calistoga. We had done a tasting of three French White Burgundies and three Napa Chardonnays totally blind. Phillip"s Cuvaison won by far. When he read the results in the Northwest Consumer's Wine Guide, he invited us to visit.  When he started his own "Togni" winery on Spring Mountain we continued to follow him..Tthe twenty year old 1991 Cab, not surprisingly, tastes like a well aged Bordeaux with a little more "stuffing as the English say. Let's give it a "91".
  • 1975 Chateau Latour - The first Chateau Latour I tasted was a 1963 for which I paid $3. As a poor student that represeted approximately .001% of my yearly income, but it was worth it. Okay, you 1%ers, don't turn up your noses at a 1963. Yes it was a lousy year, but the Latour taste was there. Even though Robert Parker has always kind of panned 1975 it was mindblowing good - flowers, dark fruit, peonies, roses and tar = complex, holds your attention, soft and velvety, but with plenty of substance. Definitely better than Parker's "93+".
  • -2009 Chateau Greteau - It's a good thing we didn't taste this after the Ch. Latour, but on it's own it is a delicious 2009 Bordeaux at Costco for about $10. A best buy and still, I think, available.
  • 2004 Andrew Will- An outstanding wine from Chris Carmada. This Washington State beauty is mad from Champoux vineyard grapes. I keep debating with myself about which is better - Champoux or Ciel Du Cheval. I'll take either one. Fabulously rich, fruity and complex. A delight to drink. Give it a 94.
  • 2003 Peppe Bridge Walla Walla Pepper Bridge Vineyard Reserve - Another fabulous wine from Washington State. Jean Francois Pellet has fashioned a big rich velvety red an outstanding flaor profile. If you want to debate more terroir, compare Jean Francois' wines from Peper Bridge Vineyard with those from neighbor Seven Hills Vineyard. Give it a 91
  • 2005 Cayuse Syrah En Cerise - You will feel like you've been hit by a bowling ball that splits open to reveala  spicy fruitbomb. Give it a 92
  • 1997 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon - With this one a baseball bat will hit it out of the park. A BIG, linear, powerful gamma knife that that will cut your steak for you. Belive it or not, it is only 13% alcohol. It's a style! Give it a 90.
  • 1997 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Fay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon - Winner of the 1976 Spurrier tasting in Paris, Warren Winiarski launched Napa and California on a journay to the top of the wine world with his 1973 "Cask 23" Cab. Robert Parker has bee poohpoohing the winery since to 90s saying the winery is living on it's reputation. Rollover Robert, this is possibly the best California wine I've tasted. At 14.5% alcohol it is a velvet tapistry or soft textures and complex flavors. No jammy in-your-face here. Reminiscent of a really big but soft St. Julien from Bordeaux Diane and I decided to give it a "110".
  • 2009 Chateau Bois Redon - This Bordeaux Superior is a Right Bank style red with 75% Merlot. It is an amazing value at $10 from Total Wines. Give it an 85.
  • 2009 Ch Haut Sorillon - Perhaps the best value I've tasted this year at $9 from Trader Joe's. Delicious Bordeaux at a great price (85)
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