Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Last Hurrah of Washington Wine Month!

Happy Easter!  And since it's the last official day of Washington Wine Month, I thought I'd end it with a tribute to all the wonderful Washington wines I've enjoyed throughout the month that I just haven't had the time to devote a full blog posting to, of course it's easy to lose track of blog time when you're traveling for more than half the month!  So without further delay, here are the remaining Washington wines I've enjoyed with a few notes and a bit of context for where I enjoyed them:

2008 L'Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Merlot

What can I say, I love me some L'Ecole! This wine we enjoyed at my Washington tasting at the beginning of the month, and I had intended to have posts on all the wines we enjoyed, but alas, what do they say about all good plans of mice and men or something like that?  From what I recall, this wine was a lovely example of a high quality Merlot, with rich black fruit and a lush mouthfeel that made is a joy to sip.

2009 Seven Hills Walla Walla Cabernet Savignon and Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

At the Washington tasting I decided to do a vertical, or is this a horizontal tasting of the same vintage Cabernet Sauvignons, but allow folks to see the difference between the Walla Walla and Columbia Valley wines.  Although I love the Walla Walla Cab, it was interesting that a number of guests actually liked the Columbia Valley better!  In any event, I thought both were lovely to drink, and I got a terrific price on the CV Cab, so I couldn't complain about either one.  I found the Columbia Valley to have a bit more pepper and spice, and some more earthy tones, while the Walla Walla was much smoother, and more refined, with notes of dark chocolate and mocha.

2009 Substance Washington Cabernet Sauvignon

This one I picked up at Rolf's Wine Store in Newport Beach and brought to my old college roommate's house for a nice dinner of lovely Costco ribeyes as we watched our Alma Mater, the Bucknell Bison win the Patriot League tournament and secure a place in the NCAA tournament.  We had three bottles of wine that night, and from what I recall, this one had a good bit of black fruit with some boisterous tannins and some cherry cola on the finish.  Overall, it was a nice wine that paired perfectly with steak.

2007 Hogue Genesis Cabernet Sauvignon

The last of the unrequited Washington wines was the 2007 Hogue Genesis Cabernet Sauvignon that I had at Roy's in Newport Beach with my old roommate.  I was glad I found a nice Washington wine on the wine list as I was committed to drinking only Washington wines throughout the month.  The bottle was pretty reasonable by restaurant wine list terms, and it was a nice easy sipping Cabernet that I enjoyed with my sushi of all things!  Yes, I had this with a rainbow roll, some unagi and some tuna sashimi, and it worked out well for me!

So there you have it, the missing wines of Washington Wine month, here's to enjoying many more before March 2014 rolls around!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

2007 Sparkman Stella Mae

Almost done with Washington Wine Month, and what a month it's been!  Tonight I've decided to open another bottle that's been in the cellar for a couple years, but I thought at age 6, this one might be worth opening, the 2007 Sparkman Stella Mae Columbia Valley Bordeaux style blend, made with Cabernet Sauvignon (62%), Merlot (21%) and Petit Verdot (17%).

The wine is a deep purple color in the glass, and the nose is an interesting combination of prune, ripe cherry, Asian spices and smoke.  The taste is not at all what I expected given the nose, but there were lush flavors of ripe berries on the outset, followed by some lovely notes of mocha and cocoa powder midpalate, followed by a very smooth, very dry finish that seemed to last a good 30 seconds.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, as it's just a really nice Columbia Valley blend that would pair nicely with a broad variety of dishes.  Tonight I am enjoying it with some chicken breast stir fried with some fresh vegetables and then simmered in a Thai green curry sauce over jasmine rice, and the dryness of this wine really compliments the richness and spice of the curry.  Cheers!

Friday, March 29, 2013

2008 Waters Interlude Columbia Valley Red Wine

How sad, I've been away for a week and suddenly Washington Wine Month is almost at an end! Fear not fellow Washington Winos, I mean Wine Fans, I have at least two more to share with you, including tonight's feature, the 2008 Waters Interlude Columbia Valley Red Wine.  Now I'll admit, I bought this a year or two ago, and I can't even remember where I bought it from, but it's from Washington, so I'm going to enjoy it tonight!

For a Columbia Valley wine, this one really throws you off, since it has a nose that is so reminiscent of the lovely Walla Walla blends, which suggests for a CV designation, this one is likely under-appreciated,  The nose is a lovely combination of leather, ripe red fruit and a bit of spice, all surrounded by a hint of musky earth.  The taste is just lovely, with some ripe berries up front, along with some tart cherry, which makes for an interesting combination, followed by some green grass and cedar midpalate.  The finish is perfectly dry, as the well developed tannins support a long, lush, dry finish.

As I mentioned earlier, I can't remember where I bought this one, so I have no idea whether it was a bargain or appropriately priced, but I can certainly have no hesitation rating this one a solid 8.5 as it's just a terrific example of a Columbia Valley blend that is at the top of its game.  Tonight I am enjoying it with a rare angus ribeye, a big baked potato and some lovely veggies (purple carrots, asparagus, zucchini, red onion and green pepper) grilled in a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper.  What a lovely pairing as this wine supports the big red meat, but also plays nicely with the rich aromatics of the grilled veggies.  So delicious!

Friday, March 22, 2013

2006 L'Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

So I raided the cellar tonight for my latest celebration of Washington Wine Month, and I came up with a nice, and somewhat more mature Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2006 L'Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  At the ripe old age of 7, this wine is just starting to come into its own, and thankfully I'm here to enjoy the ride!

The wine is a deep ruby color in the glass, and the nose is just spectacular, with rich aromas of ripe dark fruit that practically dare you to gulp this one down, but you know you have to savor it for all it's worth.  The aromas of ripe plum and rich blackberry and cassis are balanced by some lovely floral notes and hints of spice.  The taste was well worth the wait, as you are first hit with a rush of lush fruit flavors that quickly transform to some notes of cherry cola, cedar and cocoa powder midpalate.  The finish is just lovely, with wonderfully balanced tannins supporting a long dry finish that still has lovely hints of fruit and spice dancing around your tongue for what seems like a minute or more.

Overall, I would rate this one a solid 8.5, as it's just a solid Columbia Valley Cabernet, that was probably a terrific value when I bought it four or five years ago (can I buy more?).  Tonight I am pairing it with a classic dinner meant for a lovely Cabernet, a wonderful Angus T-bone, about an inch and a half thick, grilled rare, with some lovely grilled asparagus tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper and a big ol' baked potato!  So much deliciousness that I can hardly contain myself!

Monday, March 18, 2013

2010 Helix Stone Tree SoRho

Well, we are almost 2/3 of the way through Washington Wine Month, and what better time to try one of the many eclectic blends produced in the Columbia Valley.  While the producers of Walla Walla have done exceptionally well at creating lovely and age worthy Bordeaux style blends, tonight I've opted for a blend modeled after the southern Rhone, the 2010 Helix Stone Tree SoRho, a classic blend of Mourvedre (50%), Grenache (32%) and Cinsault (18%).

The wine itself is a somewhat lighter bodied wine, with bright ruby color.  The nose is a lovely combination of   strawberries, lavender, a hint of black pepper and earth.  The taste is a real treat, with a strong smoky taste up front, along with a variety of dried herbs that slowly transitions to some notes of tart cherry and pomegranate   The finish is quite nice as the firm tannins support a wonderfully long and tight finish, with flavors of spice and a hint of floral notes that linger on and on.  This wine has a lot going on, with the addition of Cinsault making some really sophisticated interactions with the Grenache and Mourvedre that you just don't see in your typical GSM blends.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, as it's such a fun drinking wine that can match well with a broad variety of foods.  Unfortunately it's a little pricey for an everyday red at $33, but perfect for a special occasion or just sharing with some friends.  Tonight I am pairing this with leftover corned beef and cabbage from yesterday's St. Patrick's Day celebration (did I mention this wine pairs with a wide variety of dishes?) as the lighter body and more subtle flavors really make things interesting.  Cheers!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Woodward Canyon Red Wine

Well tonight we have another fine Washington wine for Washington Wine Month, the Woodward Canyon Red Wine.  Now this wine is a non-vintage wine, so it may contain grapes from multiple vintages, though given that I bought this bottle in May of 2012, it likely was produced from 2009 or 2010 wine.  This bottle was a blend of Merlot (54%), Cabernet Franc (20%), Cabernet Sauvignon (17%), Petit Verdot (7%) and Syrah (2%).  In any case, let's get to the wine!

The wine had a deep ruby color, with nice body and a nose of leather and black fruit, accented by some hints of dry herbs.  The taste was interesting, with some bright fruit at the outset, ripe plum, black currant and a bit of cherry, that transitioned into some leather and chalk mid palate.  The finish had some mild earthy notes and spice, while the mellow tannins made for a smooth, dry finish.

Overall, I would rate this one a solid 7.5, it was a pleasure to sip, but if I recall, it was a little more expensive than I'd prefer for an everyday drinking red at around $21.  As for pairings, this would do well with a variety of rich dishes, but since it's St. Patrick's day, tonight I'll be enjoying it with some delicious corned beef and cabbage, with some assorted root vegetables as well.  What a great holiday that let's you know Spring is right around the corner!

Friday, March 15, 2013

2009 Reininger Walla Walla Malbec

Well, this one is a bit off the beaten path for me, as most who know me realize that I am just not a huge Malbec fan, as often these wines are just too rustic for my taste.  But the kind folks at Reininger were kind enough to send me two bottles of the 2009 Malbec for my wine club selection, so I figured I should at least try them right?

The wine was a deep garnet, edging toward purple in the glass.  The nose was quite rustic, almost woodsy, you know, that somewhat barnyard type aroma that some wines seem prone to, but this one wasn't as woodsy as some I've tried.  The taste however was a dramatic step in the right direction, with lovely tastes of dried fruit, some wonderful floral notes and a hint of leather.  The tannins were somewhat subdued, however the finish was still quite dry.

Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8, mainly because it's a Malbec, and even though I thought this wine was fine, it did not convert me to a fan.  We had this wine with some wonderful Lucques olives from the Languedoc region of France and some Manchego cheese from Spain, and the spice of the cheese and richness of the olives really complemented the earthiness of this wine.  Cheers!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

2009 Three Rivers Winery Rivers Red Blend

Another day in March, another Washington wine to review!  Tonight it's the Three Rivers Winery 2009 Rivers Red Blend, a lovely bordeaux style blend and a terrific value to boot.  I remember the first time I went to visit the wonderful wineries of Walla Walla (say that 5 times fast!) and coming in on the old U.S. 12, you first passed Woodward Canyon and L'Ecole No. 41 on the north, and then a half mile up the road you came to Three Rivers on the south side of the road.  My first visit they had just finished their tasting room and it was simply gorgeous, so naturally I picked up a few bottles and continued on my trek.  Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I last went to visit and there was a new superhighway in place of the old U.S. 12, and Three Rivers was off to the side of the old road, what a miscarriage of road construction!

At any rate, back to the wine, that's what you're here for right?  Well, this one has a lovely deep ruby color, with wonderful notes of green grass and ripe red fruit on the nose.  The taste is a lovely combination of black fruit up front, accented with a bit of anise and black pepper, that transitions to some lovely ripe plum with a luscious mouthfeel. The tannins are nicely structured for such a young wine, leading to a long, dry finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, as it's a solid drinking everyday red wine at a spectacular value, I bought a case of this at my local wine merchant for only $13 a bottle!  To me, this is a great house red, perfect for almost any dinner, from rich pasta to grilled steaks and chops.  Tonight I'm enjoying it with a dinner that's a bit off the red wine path, some whole grain penne tossed with some alfredo sauce and fresh asparagus tips, yum!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

2010 Blacksmith Syrah

Well, this is the first write-up from my Washington Wine Month tasting last week, so let's start with the 2010 Blacksmith Syrah.  This is the second label from Forgeron Cellars, a wonderful producer out of Walla Walla that I learned about on my vacation to the region back in May of 2012.  This is my first experience with the second label, and I must admit I was very pleasantly surprised.

This wine had a lovely dark color, and rich aromas of ripe black fruit and spice.  The taste was wonderfully fruit forward with tastes of blackberry and tart cherry, that gave way to some tar and cedar midpalate.  The bright tannins made for a long, tight finish that will likely improve with a little time in the bottle.  But overall, I felt this was quite the worthy effort from Forgeron.

I would rate this wine a solid 8, not only because I thought it was a solid example of a syrah, but also because it was a really good value at only $18.  I think this wine would pair perfectly with some roast lamb and grilled vegetables, or almost any other sort of meaty game.  Cheers!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

2009 Alexandria Nicole Quarry Butte

As we finish up the first week of Washington Wine Month, I've decided to try a new wine from a producer that I've not tried before, the 2009 Quarry Butte Red Wine from Alexandria Nicole Cellars.  This red blend was produced from Alexandria Nicole's estate vineyard, Destiny Ridge, which used to be known as Quarry Butte, located high on the bluffs of the Horse Heaven Hills overlooking the Columbia River.  The wine itself is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (54%), Merlot (19%), Syrah (17%), Malbec (6%) and Petit Verdot (4%), making this a classic red blend for which the Columbia Valley has become famous.

The wine is a rich, deep ruby color in the glass, with a nose that exhibits scents of ripe red fruit, blackberries, cherries and plums, along with a hint of vanilla, smoke and limestone.  The taste is at once black fruit dominated, but that is quickly overwhelmed by the luscious, velvety mouthfeel of your first sip.  The fruit transitions to some tart notes midpalate, along with just a hint of wild mint and gravel, giving some nice earth notes to balance it out.  The finish is quite long and dry, as the bright tannins provide ample support, and a taste that seems to last until you're ready for your next sip.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, it has a lot going for it, and it's a descent value but not a screaming bargain at the $23 I paid for it.  Not for your everyday house red, but one for an occasion here and there.  Tonight I am pairing this with some lovely butternut squash ravioli topped with four cheese alfredo sauce, and an arugula salad topped with a nice aged balsamic.  Not your classic red wine pairing, but one that I think works nicely, matching the tartness and rich fruit of the wine, with the rich starch and cheese of the ravioli and sauce.  Cin cin!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

2000 Seven Hills Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon

Well, it's another "Cellar Saturday" and since it's also Washington Wine Month, that means a double heaping helping of great Washington wine!  And for tonight, I've opened a bottle of 2000 Seven Hills Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon that I bought at the vineyard on one of my early visits in perhaps 2002 or 2003, or maybe even when I stopped on the way out of the state when I moved from Seattle to Indiana back in 2004.  In any case, I've had this bottle for a while, so tonight's the night to enjoy it!

The wine is a wonderful deep purple in the glass, and the nose is pure Walla Walla Cab, with lovely aromas of rich dark fruit, cassis, ripe berries and figs, with just a hint of sweetness dancing around the edge.  The rich fruit is contained by some lovely earthy notes of leather and tobacco and some interesting Asian spices.  The taste is pure joy, very fruit forward, with a certain dark sweetness of ripe blackberries and strawberries and just the slightest hint of anise, which is a testimony to the quality of the wine with such powerful fruit more than a decade after bottling.  The fruit effortlessly transitions into some lovely mocha and dark chocolate notes midpalate, and then the beautifully structured tannins glide into the long, supple and super dry finish, which belies the sweet fruit at the outset.  This is a bottle that I will be enjoying for a full afternoon/evening!

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 9, it's one that regardless of the price, I wish I could buy more!  Tonight I am pairing this wine with a lovely rare T-bone, some cheddar mashed potatoes and grilled purple carrots.  The rich fruit of the wine just accents the heartiness of the steak and the rich starch of the carrots and potatoes, it's a perfect mid-winter combination that makes you want to curl up in front of a fire with a good book.  Cheers!

Friday, March 1, 2013

2006 Reininger Cima

HOORAY!  It's March 1st, and you know what that means, it's the first official day of Washington Wine Month!  In celebration of my favorite wine month, I've committed to drinking only wines from Washington this month, and to start things off I've decided to go with a bottle of 2006 Reininger Cima, a super Tuscan (or in this case a super Wallan) blend of Sangiovese (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%) and Petit Verdot (25%) sourced from the Seven Hills and Pepper Bridge vineyards.  The wine was aged for five years in 100% French oak, and as you'll see in a moment, it was worth the wait.

I like great wines from Tuscany, but this blend is like nothing I've ever experienced from Tuscany, and that's a good thing!  The color is a rich ruby in the glass, and the nose is just a pleasure to drink in.  There are lovely notes of rich dark fruit, some faint floral notes, and a hint of leather (perhaps it's rich, Corinthian leather, RIP Ricardo Montalban).  My word, the taste of this wine is simply unbelievable, you start on your journey with a bit of tart cherry, and rich ripe berries that effortlessly transitions to rich mocha and dark chocolate notes midpalate.  The finish is just pure pleasure, with rich notes of cedar, tobacco and lush fruit, accented by a peppery spice that supports a finish that lasts and lasts.  It's one of those wines that has you practically begging for more, even though you're still enjoying the finish from your last sip.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 9, and I can't even remember how much I paid for it!  Tonight I am pairing this with some grilled chicken linguine along with a lovely arugula salad with crumbled bleu cheese, and topped with Tuscan herb olive oil and some local Cabernet vinegar I got for Christmas.  Though this sounds good, quite frankly you could pair this wine with a bowl of wet shredded cardboard and I don't think you'd even notice!  An auspicious start to Washington Wine Month, I can't wait to see where we go from here!