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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Woodinville Wine Country: Exploring The Best of Washington State Wine – Part 3

Woodinville, located in a peaceful valley 30 minutes northeast of Seattle, is a crossroads where the fruit of Eastern Washington meet the vintners, chefs and flavors of the Pacific Northwest. Here’s the third installment from our recent visit.

Hollywood Winery District

Woodinville has two main winery areas, the Warehouse District and the Hollywood District. Each has 45 or so wineries or tasting rooms. As we wound down our visit to this area, our focus was on the Hollywood District.

The name doesn’t come from celebrities or a thriving movie industry, but rather holly trees. Although tasting rooms are packed wall to wall in much of the Hollywood District, there are certain locations that provide the full winery experience. The Novelty Hill Januik winery is a case in point.

Novelty Hill-Januik Winery - Woodinville, WANovelty Hill Januik

Novelty Hill Januik winery is a Mecca for wine lovers in Washington. Having tasted some superb Januik wines before, I certainly wasn’t going to pass up a chance to explore their first-class operation. The winery is sleek and modern with an airy, light-filled tasting room decorated with contemporary prints. Outside there is an expansive patio and also a fabulous bocce area.

Mike Januik is the winemaker for both the Novelty Hill and Januik labels. Each has superb wines, but Januik is the upper tier. We opened with some chilled whites and a rosé. The Januik 2013 Sagemont Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc is a subtle wine without the grassy notes you might expect. The Novelty Hill 2014 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Viognier has a slightly floral tone and is fresh and juicy with a tart finish. The Spring Run 2015 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Rosé has a splash of residual sugar and was the most popular wine on this hot day.

The winery offers an amazing array of fantastic reds. The Januik 2013 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Petit Verdot is a light and beautiful wine with layers of dark berries and chocolate. There were two standouts. The Novelty Hill 2013 Columbia Valley Cascadia is an inaugural release. It is a 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot and 2% Malbec blend. It’s a true blast of Bordeaux elegance. The Januik 2013 Reserve Red Wine is intense with tart cherry and spice flavor notes and a coating finish.

This is a full sensory experience. Wonderful wines, helpful staff, stylish surroundings and some very good pizza. Green Dragon and I strolled off the bocce court and finished our visit with a match. I’ll let her tell you who won.

Amavi Cellars and Pepper Bridge Winery

Amavi and Pepper Bridge - Woodinville, WA

Amavi is a longtime favorite with our tasting team. Amavi Cellars and Pepper Bridge share the same vineyards and winemaker, but have different styles of wine. Amavi focuses on (amazing) Syrah while Pepper Bridge creates wines with Merlot and Cabernet from older vines within estate vineyards. It is a Walla Walla winery with a Woodinville tasting room.

The tasting room is quaint and comfortable. On this day we had the tasting room to ourselves with Chris, who led us through a tasting. We started with the Amavi 2015 Sémillon which is blended with 12% Sauvignon Blanc. This is a solid hot weather choice with bright acidity. The Amavi 2013 Syrah features fruit from Les Collines Vineyard (and several others). It is incredibly smooth with raspberry, dark fruit and savory flavors. Bam!

Moving to the Pepper Bridge lineup, the Pepper Bridge 2013 Merlot was velvety with rich currant and chocolate flavors. This is a $50 Merlot and worth every penny. Winemaker Jean-Francois Pellet is a true artist, crafting elegant wines with solid values. The height of his work, based on our visit, is Pepper Bridge 2013 Trine, a blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Cabernet Franc, 18% Merlot, 8% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. I’d be content to sip this elegant wine for days on end. It is well balanced with earthy notes around ripe cherry and plum flavors.

In your local store and in their home state, seek out both Amavi and Pepper Bridge!

Brian Carter Cellars

Brian Carter Cellars - Woodinville, WA

Our final stop in our Woodinville adventure was Brian Carter Cellars. It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been chatting to other wine tasters and asking for recommendations. Brian Carter is the reigning Washington Winery of the Year and we wanted to find out why.

Brian has a love of Rhone, Italian and offbeat grapes. His focus is the blending of wines in the European tradition. He has also been important to the Washington State wine industry by being an advocate of planting different grape varieties.

We started with a unique white. The 2013 Oriana is a blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Riesling – an unconventional blend that has a fresh nose, quenching taste and off-dry finish.

The 2012 Corrida is a new release with a decidedly Spanish flair. It is a blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a dash of Garnacha. This is an earthy wine with coffee threads. The 2011 Le Coursier is a “Right Bank” style Bordeaux blend driven by Merlot.

Our favorite wine was the 2011 Byzance, a southern Rhone blend with Grenache and Syrah plus lesser amounts of Mourvedre, Counoise and Cinsault. We bought a bottle of this, but sadly it didn’t make it home – we opened it that night and enjoyed it at the pool!

Woodinville is for lovers – wine lovers that is. For more information, check out the Woodinville Wine Country site.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Toledo Area Wine Events & Tastings: July 27-30, 2016


Rias Baixas AlbarinoWednesday, July 27
The Andersons, Sylvania, 6-8 PM. Kim's Syrah Soiree: 1. Schild 2013 Estate Shiraz, 2. Cycle Buff Beauty 2013 Shiraz, 3. Owen Roe Ex Umbris 2012 Syrah, 4. Michael David 2013 6th Sense Syrah, 5. Saint Cosme 2014 Cotes-du-Rhone. Nominal fee per sample or $10 per flight.
 
Corks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. 6-8 PM. South African tasting with Laura from Purple Feet distributing.
 
Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463. 5:30 –7:30 PM. Wine Tasting. $15 per person.
 
Thursday, July 28
Andersons, Maumee, 5-7 PM. Even More Hot Summer Wines: 1. 2013 Couly-Dutheil – Les Chanteaux  – Chinon, France, 2. 2015 Le Charmel Rose – Cotes de Provence, France, 3. 2015 La Ferme De Gicon Rose – Cotes Du Rhone, France, 4. 2010 Campolargo - DAO – Portugal. Nominal fee per sample or $7 per flight.
Let us promote your wine tasting for free! Send info to twav@att.net
Andersons, Talmadge Road, Wine Tasting. 6 – 8 PM. Thursday Wine Tasting: 1. Shannon Ridge Chardonnay, 2. Bernardus Chardonnay, 3. Oxford Landing Shiraz, 4. D’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz, 5. Cline Zinfandel, 6. Ravenswood Barricia Zinfandel, 7. Leese-Fitch Cabernet Sauvignon, 8. Buehler Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Nominal fee per sample.
 
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Corks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. 6-8 PM. New Zealand tasting with Laura from Purple Feet distributing.
 
TREO Wine Bar, 5703 Main St., Sylvania, (419) 882-2266. Wine & Cheese Thursday. Explore the wonderful world of wine and cheese. Try four different wines with a sample platter of the day’s cheese.
 
Zinful, (419) 931-9946, 218 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg. 5-8 PM.  

Friday, July 29

Toledo Museum of Art, 2445 Monroe Street, Toledo. (419) 255-8000. 6:30-8:30 PM. Wines by the Glass Museum: Vacation Time = Vacation Wine. Enjoy four wines and light snacks during It’s Friday! at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion. Tickets are $25 for members, $35 for nonmembers, plus tax, and are available for purchase during Museum hours by phone at 419-255-8000 ext. 7448 or at the information desks.

Walt Churchill's Market, 26625 Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, (419) 872-6900. 4-7 PM. New World Old World: Diana Kerr-Brown from Wine Trends is bringing in some new favorites that will take you to the Old World. Nominal fee per sample.
 
Saturday, July 30
Kroger Maumee – Wine Tasting, 3-7 PM. Nominal fee per sample.
 
Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 2-6 PM. White Burgundy: Some of the greatest wines in the world come from Burgundy. We are on a mission to find and enjoy some of those wines with you. Nominal fee per sample.
 
AREA WINE BARS
  • Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463.
  • Zinful, (419) 931-9946, 218 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Bonny Doon 2015 Vin Gris de Cigare, Central Coast

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Temperatures are rising. Sweat is flowing. Humidity is a plague to us all. Darn right! This is the rosé time of year.

A Peculiar Pink

Just a few minutes ago my wife was slavishly forcing me to work on preparations for a garage sale. Normally, no problem. However, our area has been in the middle of a “heat dome” causing the temperatures to soar over 90 degrees and the misery index even higher.

As you can imagine, my garage was not the ideal place for “chillaxing.” What is ideal, however, is chilled rosé!

Bonny Doon Vineyard is known for funky, fantastic wines. They also produce several rosé wines that are stylish and refreshing.

A Traditional Vin Gris

Vin Gris is not “gray wine” as the name might indicate, but a pale rosé made from red grapes. After just minimum contact with the grape skins, and at the precise moment to capture the glorious pink hue, the grapes are pressed.

For the Vin Gris de Cigare, an assortment of Rhone grapes are used: 44% Grenache, 20% Grenache Blanc, 12% Carignane, 11% Mourvèdre, 7% Cinsaut, and 6% Roussanne. This is an eclectic mix of grapes that formulate an elegant and refreshing wine. Twenty-six percent of the grapes come from Bonny Doon’s Beeswax Vineyard.

From the start, the wine delights with a light strawberry pink color. It is an easy drinking wine with berry and melon flavors. Serve this chilled on a hot day, but not too cold. If it is too cold, you will miss some of the subtle flavors.

Face the sweltering heat with a stiff upper lip and a chilled bottle or two of this fine rosé. The price is a cool $18 and it over-delivers on enjoyment and flavor.

Full disclosure: We received this wine as a marketing sample.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Alexandria Nicole Cellars: Woodinville Tasting Room Visit

Wine muses dance around ANC Petit Verdot

Alexandria Nicole Cellars tasting rooms are known for their secret door which leads to a private rock start tasting experience!

Going Hollywood

During our recent visit to Woodinville, Washington, Alexandria Nicole Cellars was top on our list. With more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms in this community about 30 miles northeast of Seattle, that’s saying a lot.

ANC made an impression on me several years ago when I visited their small tasting room in Prosser, Washington. As I watched, owner Jarrod Boyle walked to a bookshelf. I thought he was going to show us an interesting book. Instead the bookshelf swung away revealing the members-only tasting room. Inside we tasted wine like rock stars.

In the Hollywood Winery District ANC tasting room in Woodinville, the members-only tasting room is open when business is slower. The tasting room is located in the old Hollywood School, a stylish brick building with architectural touches and nice landscaping.

The lower level, has a laid back, funky wine cellar feel. We found a small outside patio with an interesting sculpture and some old auto memorabilia and settled in for a tasting.

Alexandria Nicole Cellars tasting room - Woodinville

ANC Elegance and Power!

The winery, which is based in Horse Heaven Hills overlooking the Columbia River, is owned by Jarrod and Ali (namesake of the winery) Boyle. Their vineyard, dubbed Destiny Ridge, has not only the production facility, but three “tiny houses” available for rent. One of the tiny houses, all the rage on HGTV, even features wine on tap. We like that sort of plumbing.

ANC features some of the best tasting wine in the Pacific Northwest, so we were anxious to get started. We led off with the 2014 vintage of Shepherd’s Mark, a blend of Roussane, Marsanne and Viognier. This is a quenching white Rhone blend. The 2015 Chardonnay is a refreshing Horse Heaven Hills wine aged in oak and on the lees.

It’s not often you get a chance to have a side-by-side tasting of two 2015 Viognier from the same winery. It was the 2015 Reserve Viognier versus the 2015 Crawford Vineyard Viognier. The reserve wine rocked with pear and honeysuckle flavors while the Crawford was more floral.

In memory of Prince, we sampled the 2014 Purple Reign Grenache. The wine was served with a slight chill – quite nice since it was heating up outside on the patio. This had traces of vanilla, caramel and candied berries. Light and lovely!

The ANC range is solid up and down the lineup, but I have two strong recommendations. For Syrah lovers, the 2014 Jet Black Syrah, is a sultry, big wine with strong tannins an an inky dark purple color. The 2013 Quarry Butte is a Cab dominated blend with Merlot and Cab Franc with lesser amounts of Malbec, Syrah and Petit Verdot. For $26, this is a solid red blend that showcases the rich flavors of Washington.

Alexandria Nicole tasting room is in Hollywood SchoolWe finished with two wines from the reserve tasting list. The 2013 Destiny is the flagship Bordeaux blend that features 24 months in French Oak. The tannins are integrated in this luscious wine. It features complex flavors of blackberry, herbs and spice. the 2013 Little Big Man Petit Verdot is jammy with extracted blackberry flavors and a savory finish. 

The school bell didn’t ring, but we could see it on the side of the building and knew this round of tasting was at an end. Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls, it is merely a subtle reminder for you to seek out Alexandria Nicole Cellars wines, or better yet, visit their wonderful Woodinville tasting room.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Vintage Ohio Festival Scheduled August 5-6

2010_0408vintage100003Colorful tents, rolling hills, picnic tables, and groves of tall oaks provide a tranquil setting for the Vintage Ohio Wine Festival, the premier food and wine event of the year. The event will take place August 5 and 6, from 1:00 to 10:00 PM at Lake Metroparks Farmpark, 8800 Euclid Chardon Road in Kirtland, Ohio. Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 at the gate. Ticket includes entry to the festival, a souvenir wine glass and wine samples.

Advance tickets and info are available on the web at www.VisitVintageOhio.com or by calling (440) 466-4417. Two-day taster tickets are available for $45. Designated driver tickets are $12 and includes up to five non-alcoholic drinks. Children age 3-17 are $3. Children two and under are free. 

Featured wineries are from every corner of our great state are listed below (several will also be featuring their new hard ciders): 

  • Barrel Run Crossing Winery and Vineyard, Rootstown, 
  • Deer's Leap Winery, Geneva, 
  • Grape and Granary, Akron, 
  • Heineman's Winery, Put in Bay, 
  • It's Your Winery, Akron, 
  • John Christ Winery, Avon, 
  • Klingshirn Winery, Avon Lake, 
  • Maize Valley Winery, Hartville, 
  • Meranda-Nixon Winery, Ripley, 
  • The Winery at Spring Hill, Geneva, 
  • The Winery at Versailles, Versailles 
  • Valley Vineyards, Morrow.

Sample wines from Ohio wineries offering regional wines ranging from world-class wines like Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc or Riesling to fun-to-drink fruit wines made from fresh strawberries, blackberries, peaches and raspberries.

Whether one enjoys red, white, blush, dry, sweet or something in-between, there will be an opportunity to find a favorite "Vintage Experience." There is also plenty of scrumptious food, cooking school demonstrations, 3 stages of live music entertainment, artisans, shopping, and spectacular Friday fireworks.

Vintage Ohio is in the running to be selected as the top wine festival in the US! Cast your vote with USA Today here.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Chateau Ste. Michelle: Woodinville Winery Visit

French style chateau at Chateau Ste. Michelle

Chateau Ste. Michelle is Washington State’s founding winery. It is also the world’s largest producer of Riesling. Its chateau in Woodinville should be on your “must visit” list.

A glass of Riesling in the tank room

Woodinville’s Star Attraction

One would think since Woodinville, Washington, has more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms it would be difficult to name one star attraction. But it really isn’t close.

Chateau Ste. Michelle, the first winery in the state, is the kingpin of this wine community about 30 miles from Seattle. It produces more than 24 million bottles of Riesling alone on an annual basis, so its name is well known. The wines are loved by sophisticated palates as well as wine “newbies.”

Peacock on the CSM groundsA reason the winery is a popular tourist site is that it is a true destination winery. Many of the wine stops in Woodinville are tasting rooms and can be as simple as a bar with a few stools. By contrast, Chateau Ste. Michelle boasts its own chateau built on an 87-acre estate formerly owned by a lumber baron. Peacocks strut around the manicured grounds and visitors frolic on the lawn.

Tastes Of The Northwest

A classy wine pairing tasting with AlexWhat has always intrigued me about Chateau Ste. Michelle is its range. You can stock up on Columbia Valley Riesling at a mere $9, but you can also explore the upper tier of wines with an Ethos Syrah at $55 or an Artist Series red blend at $65. All told there are 68 different wines.

With the expert assistance of Alex, we adjourned to the library room for a private pairings tasting. We started with the 2014 Oak Oval Gewürztraminer, Columbia Valley. This was paired with creamy Ford Farm Double Gloucester cheese and onions.  The wine is aged in fudors (large German barrels) and it has a touch of spice and rosewater.

A spectrum of Chateau Ste. Michelle library winesOur pairing with Rouge Creamery LaDiDa Lavender cheese was the delicious 2012 Austral Red Wine, Columbia Valley. This is 58% Grenache, 12% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre – a proper Rhone style blend. It is delicious with earthy, exotic flavors. It was also a treat to enjoy the lavender flavors after seeing their bright purple flowers everywhere in Washington.

The 2012 Stone Tree Vineyard Syrah, Wahluke Slope is an exceptional wine, with lush, jammy flavors. It was paired with Dry Coppa, a spiced pork shoulder, which brought out the savory, caramel flavors of the wine. It retails for $36.

Chateau Ste. Michelle has the advantage of three wonderful estate vineyards: Canoe Ridge Estate, Horse Heaven Hills Vineyard and Cold Creek Vineyard. It is from the later that our next wine came. The 2012 Cold Creek Red is 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot, 7% Syrah and 2% Cabernet Franc. This is a wine that has power and concentrated flavors with a focus on black fruit taste. The Spanish Manchego cheese was a great pairing.

The 2014 Muscat Canelli, Columbia Valley, is a flavorful sweet wine. The residual sugar is just 4.5%, so it isn’t a sugar explosion. The sweetness is balanced with crisp acidity and it has ginger and pear flavor notes. Served with Peach Chamomile Preserves, the sweetness was dialed in to a very pleasant level.

Chateau Ste. Michelle's spacious tasting room

Our afternoon adventure continued with a personal tour of the winery. This is a huge operation. All the red wines are made at Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Canoe Ridge Estate, but all the whites are made at the Woodinville winery. The production line bottles 17 cases per minute in order to keep pace with the thirst for Chateau Ste. Michelle wines.

The winery tasting room and retail shop was bustling with activity. Chateau Ste. Michele hosts more than 300,000 visitors each year. In addition to the vino, the winery hosts a concert series at its 4,300-seat outdoor amphitheater. Some of the upcoming acts are Don Henley, Earth Wind and Fire, Jackson Browne, Rob Thomas and Ray Lamontagne. At Chateau Ste. Michelle, the good taste goes beyond the wine.

A visit to Chateau Ste. Michelle is a highlight for any wine lover. Whether you are a Riesling fanatic or delight in Washington State reds, make it a point to become acquainted with these wines.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Toledo Area Wine Events & Tastings: July 20-23, 2016


20160428_191053-02Wednesday, July 20
The Andersons, Sylvania, 6-8 PM. Jim’s 3 Whites & 3 Reds - Enjoy with a nice meal or with friends by the bonfire. 1. Jadix Picpoul de Pinet 2014 (France), 2. Terra Nossa Vinho Verde D.O.C. (Portugal), 3. Barrique Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2015 (California), 4. Sasyr Sangiovese & Syrah Toscana 2012 (Italy), 5. Oak Grove Winemaker’s Red 2014(California), 6. Victor Hugo Cabernet 2012 Paso Robles (California). Nominal fee per sample or $10 per flight.
 
Corks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. 6-8 PM. Rachel from Grand Cru here with us. The beautiful new tasting bar is complete.
 
Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463. 5:30 –7:30 PM. Wine Tasting. $15 per person.
 
Thursday, July 21
Andersons, Maumee, 5-7 PM. More Hot Summer Wine Tastings: 1. 2014 Chateau Jeanguillon – White Bordeaux – Bordeaux, France, 2. 2015 Mas Carlot Rosé – Costieres De Nimes, France, 3. 2015 Commanderie de Peyrassol Rosé – Cotes de Provence, France, 4. 2013 Parallele 45 – Cotes Du Rhone, France. Nominal fee per sample or $6 per flight.
Let us promote your wine tasting for free! Send info to twav@att.net
Andersons, Talmadge Road, Wine Tasting. 6 – 8 PM. Spanish wines for Summer: 1. Basa Blanco, 2. Can Feixes Blanco, 3. Maior Albarino , 4. Juan Gil Monastrell, 5. Aster Crianza, 6. Marques de Murrieta Reserva, 7. Abadia Retuerta Red, 8. Sardon de Duero Classic. Nominal fee per sample.
 
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Corks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. 6-8 PM. Rachel from Grand Cru here with us. The beautiful new tasting bar is complete.
 
TREO Wine Bar, 5703 Main St., Sylvania, (419) 882-2266. Wine & Cheese Thursday. Explore the wonderful world of wine and cheese. Try four different wines with a sample platter of the day’s cheese.
 
Zinful, (419) 931-9946, 218 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg. 5-8 PM.  

Friday, July 22

Toledo Museum of Art, 2445 Monroe Street, Toledo. (419) 255-8000. 6:30-8:30 PM. Wines by the Glass Museum: Location, Location, Location: Same Grape, Different Soil. Enjoy four wines and light snacks during It’s Friday! at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion. Tickets are $25 for members, $35 for nonmembers, plus tax, and are available for purchase during Museum hours by phone at 419-255-8000 ext. 7448 or at the information desks.

 
Walt Churchill's Market, 26625 Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, (419) 872-6900. 4-7 PM. Jeff Stroud from Natural States will be breaking out this summer’s must haves in beer and wine. Nominal fee per sample.
 
Zinful, (419) 931-9946, 218 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg. 5-8 PM. Wine tasting.
 
Saturday, July 23
Kroger Maumee – Wine Tasting, 3-7 PM. Nominal fee per sample.
 
Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 2-6 PM. Loire Valley Tour. The Loire Valley spans 170 miles in central France, and is referred to as the Cradle of the French, due to the abundance of vineyards, fruit and orchards. Nominal fee per sample.
 
Zinful, (419) 931-9946, 218 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg. 4:30 PM. Wine Class - Vin De France - this class has limited seating. $25 per person. Call for information.
 
AREA WINE BARS
  • Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463.
  • Zinful, (419) 931-9946, 218 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bodega Chacra 2013 Barda Pinot Noir, Patagonia

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What is top of mind when you hear “Patagonia?” Chances are, it isn’t Pinot Noir. This wine from Argentina may change your mind.

Wine From Land’s End

Bardo comes from Patagonia, a sparsely populated region at the southernmost tip of South America. The area is shared by Argentina and Chile.

There is dizzying diversity of terrain in Patagonia’s Rio Negro wine region, ranging from the Andes Mountains to the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean. The climate is dry, windy with a tremendous swing in temperatures.

The soil is thick and stony, which is actually good for grape growing. But growing Pinot Noir anywhere can be a challenge for a winemaker.

Winemaking Magic

Pinot Noir is world’s apart from deep bold reds like Cabernet Sauvignon or even Argentina’s famous Malbec. The flavors are subtle and the color is lighter. As a result, the winemaker must work that much harder to extract the color and flavors that result in great Pinot.

Great care is taken with Barda from the vineyard all the way to the barrel. Barda is 100% organic and biodynamically grown. No mechanization is used in any stage of harvesting or winemaking.

Barda is made from fruit from a 20-year-old vineyard, and also uses grapes from the Treinta y Dos and Cincuenta y Cinco vineyards. The wine was fermented in cement tanks and the winemaker used a pump-over technique, circulating the skins and solids from the tank to the top once or twice a day to maximize the extraction of color fruit and tannins. Half the wine was aged in cement tanks and the remainder in French oak for 12 months.

The result is a pleasing wine with a somewhat different profile than an Oregon Pinot. There are dusty flavors of red berries with plum and spice. Malolactic fermentation adds a pleasing full texture.

This is an enjoyable wine and is recommended for adventurous Pinot Noir lovers who want to sample the grape from a variety of regions. It has a $30 SRP and will pair nicely with roast beef, salmon, swordfish or pasta.

Full disclosure: We received this wine as a marketing sample.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Woodinville Wine Country: Exploring the Best Of Washington State Wine - Part 2

Experience Woodinville 2016

Woodinville, located in a peaceful valley 30 minutes northeast of Seattle, is a crossroads where the fruit of Eastern Washington meet the vintners, chefs and flavors of the Pacific Northwest. Here’s the second installment from our recent visit.

Woodinville’s Warehouse Winery District

Our initial foray into Woodinville’s wine scene took us to the Warehouse Winery District, which has about 45 tasting rooms and wineries. We reported on three tasting rooms in the first installment of this story. Three tasting rooms is hardly a day’s work for your dedicated Toledo Wines and Vines tasting team, so on we pressed.

Efestē

Efeste Nana BlendI first became acquainted with Efestē (pronounced F-S-T) during a visit to Seattle and a large format wine event called the Red & White Party. One sip and I knew this was a sensational winery with powerhouse wines. I’ve sought them out ever since.

The Efestē tasting room is a few blocks north of the main Warehouse District action and their tasting room is a spacious affair with a long tasting bar, tables and retail area. There is also a barrel room which they use for wine club activities.

We began tasting with the 2013 Evergreen Riesling from the Ancient Lakes AVA. This has peach and tangerine flavors with a slight pop of sweetness.

There are no bad wines at Efestē, but two are standouts. The 2012 Upright Merlot reveals the greatness that is possible with Washington State Merlot. The grapes are from the Klipsun Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA and the wine is satin smooth, but with a complex mix of tannins and dark fruit. We favored the 2012 Nana Bordeaux Blend (45% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon) over the 100% Cab 2012 Big Poppa for its bright currant flavors and layers of spice.

Ashan Cellars ChardonnayGorman Winery

Chris Gorman is a rising star in the international wine scene. He is focused on producing premium Red Mountain AVA Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. We visited his Gorman Winery World Headquarters (aka Warehouse District tasting room).

A lively buzz livened the tasting room, which is decorated with a rock and roll theme. Although we tend to focus on the Washington State reds, there are some exceptional whites as well. Gorman offers a pair of Chardonnay, the 2013 Ashan Cellars Ceillo Chardonnay is fermented in mostly neutral oak, allowing the citrus flavors to shine. The 2013 Ashan Cellars Kestrel Chardonnay uses 100% new French oak for a rich full feel.

Gorman Winery has a full slate of superb wines, but we did have a couple of favorites. The 2012 Pixie Syrah from Red Mountain is smoky with deep raspberry and dark fruit flavor. The 2013 Bully Cabernet is also from Red Mountain and has rich, bold fruit. Green Dragon favored this as more accessible than the Syrah.

Elevation Cellars' Steve StuartElevation Cellars

Elevation Cellars is owner Steve Stuart’s effort to capture the “journey from the grape to the glass.” We found his tasting room to be the perfect location for us to continue our journey exploring Washington State wines.

A mechanical engineer, Steve started as a “garagiste” winemaker after being offered a job in Woodinville. His focus is on wines with character, the ability to age and the intent that they will be enjoyed around the dinner table. Check, check and check!

Wine lovers at Elevation CellarsWe found the 2014 Imperium Riesling a bit too sweet for our liking, but found a winner with the 2011 Jammin’ red blend.This is an everyday blend with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon as well as Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. This is a tasteful bottle of berries and oak, with a great label by Steve’s wife Mary (who designs all the labels). Also notable is the 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, crafted from several exceptional barrels.

Our top pick was the 2011 Monolith, a 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Malbec blend. It won us over with its playful mix of cherry, blackberry and white pepper flavors. We purchased a bottle for $38. Elevation is a fun, family operation with wines that deliver in terms of value and quality.

More in our next installment!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Angels & Cowboys 2015 Rosé, Sonoma County

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Dig rosé but prefer American wines? Try this rosé blend from Sonoma, pardner.

An Artistic Partnership

Angels & Cowboys is a collaboration between the co-founders of Cannonball Wine Company, Yoav Gilat and Dennis Hill, and northern California graphic artist Michael Schwab.

From the onset, this wine is a thing of beauty. The label is stylish and perfectly matches the hue of the wine.

You can see I had to race my wife and daughter to get the last glass from this bottle.

From Sonoma With Love

Angels & Cowboys uses the traditional Provence method of rosé production. The grapes are harvested at just the right time to preserve the youthfulness of the fruit. The grapes are lightly crushed and left to macerate in contact with the skins. When the juice achieves the proper color it is pressed off and then undergoes a long cool fermentation.

Although French in spirit, the grapes are a blend of Grenache, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Grenache Blanc from Sonoma County. They are sourced from the Carneros, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley AVAs.

What makes Angels & Cowboys a hit is the combination of eye-pleasing color with the dreamy flavor. The color is a soft pink. It has an aroma of fresh melon and minerality. On the palate there is plentiful strawberry and a touch of citrus. The texture is smooth with a slight acidity.

At about $15, we recommend buying multiple bottles for those sultry summer days. This will pair famously with salmon, chicken or vegetable dishes.