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

Monday, June 09, 2014

Portugal Invades Seattle

It was an invasion of the highest quality. Charming people brought charming wine for Seattle distributors and trade to taste. Never has there been such a refined and wine knowledgeable group of winemakers and reps,  and their English was a lot better than my Portuguese.  Never has there been so much good wine in the same room and they are all orphans looking for a home. The overall quality was amazing. Some wines were outstanding. Twenty-one wineries trying to place these great wines in a good home. Wine from most of Portugal's 25 DOCs were represented. From crisp and fresh whites such as Vino Verde and Alvarinho(AlbariƱo) to dry reds from Dao and the Douro, there was one delight after another.

I have fond memories of drinking Dao and Vino Verde with Ameijos con Carne in Cascais. They were simple wines, but delicious and cheap. Now they are bigger, cleaner and more complex. What a treat. I particularly liked the Quinta de Pedra  Alvarinho  2011 full bodied fruit and perfect counterbalancing acidity. Among the Douros,  I particularly liked the reds from Quinta Do Cume represented by  the charming Claudia Cudell. Marrying art and science resulted in a very appealing fruity, easy Red Selection and a more serious  and complex, but delicious Tinto. The dry Douros were an eye opener. All four Quinta Do S. Jose reds made by winemaker Joao Brito E Cunha were spectacular. The Principal Grande Reserva 2009 from the Bairrada DOC could be described as a SuperBairrada for its blend of  Touriga Nacional with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Alternatively, you could call it a Portuguese First Growth. Either way, it was GOOD!

The sweet wines were the real thing, none of the big six Neo- Post- Colonial Anglo deep red stuff, not some neo-post-colonial beverage to be served counterclockwise with cigars after the women adjourn to the parlor. Almost all of the sweet wines had both tawny character and color, even the whites. The sweet white Casa Do Conego Licoroso made from the Fernao Pires grape by Vidigal Wines was luscious like a very sweet Madeira. The Porto Messias Tawny and the Colheita 1985 were perfect examples of real Portuguese- style Porto. The highlight was a tasting of a dozen or so incredible red and white Portos from C. Da Silva. All of the Dalva wines were outstanding, but the 1971 white port was estupendo!

Portugal is where Spain was in the 1980s. Want to get in on the ground floor? Adopt these wonderful orphans looking for a home.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Black Talis finishes his Autobiography

Finally, I've finished the rough draft of  "The Black Talis." I think of the rough draft as a sculpture blocked in. Think of "The Thinker" by Rodin. Hoping for online publication in the fall of '14. The Black Talis has many wine adventures in places such as France, New York, Minneapolis, Washington, Oregon  and California which is why I think you might enjoy it. Right now, I've been tweeting about some of Talis' wine experiences. Follow his adventures @seattlewine blog.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What's A Black Talis?

What's a black Talis? What's it got to do with wine? A Talis is a Jewish prayer shawl. The black Talis is looking for a magical wine. Got any suggestions?

Monday, June 03, 2013

Where's The Lamb?

Yes, eat and drink better at home. Our friends, Bob and Kathy raise sheep. I've always maintained that American Lamb is best, well, with the possible exception of French lamb from Pauillac in Bordeaux. The best American lamb we've  had come from the Toveys. Contrary to most people usually choose the wine, then the food. In this case, Kathy prepared exquisite lamb shanks. Bob and I had the difficult task of choosing the wine. The pair of Oregon Pinot Noirs seemed like they might be a little light for the shanks. The French Rhone wines, a Gigondas from Bernard and a Cotes du Rhone from St. Cosme definitely would have been a great choice, but we couldn't resist a pair of Glencorrie Cabs from the 2006 and 2007 vintages. Same vineyards, same vintner, two radically different wines.
The 2007 with a higher percentage of Gamache fruit, was lighter, fruitier, more forward, easier to drink, but not as complex and serious as the 2006 which had a higher amount of fruit from Stillwater vineyard. They both blew us away in their own ways - a fabulous pairing. As I said, better to eat and drink at home!

Larks - Send It Back Twice

Larks in the Ashland Springs Hotel in Ashland, Oregon has a locovore blackboard full of locally grown veggies and an appealing menu. We were looking forward to a great dinner, excuse me "supper", between plays at the Shakespeare Festival. Got off to a good start with a glass of Chehalem Chardonnay - fairly full bodied with nice balance between fruit and acid. Great on its own or with food. My wife had Raptor Ridge Pinot which was a little flat and acidic, but went well with her tasty salmon. Unfortunately, I had a new first! Had to send my fish back twice, then left without eating dinner. For details see my Yelp review. Moral of the story? Eat and drink better at home.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Big News!

Despite wild rumors to the contrary, I'm still here and I have big news,  not to trump Donald Trump.
Sorry I disappeared for much of this year, but I've been working on a book. Didn't have the bandwidth for both the blog and the book. Not a wine book, but full of wine anecdotes. It's hard to describe, kind of Harry Potter meets Tom Clancy over a glass of wine. Well, not exactly, it's a bit of a spoof with many layers. Fun for those of you into references and allusions, but hopefully fun for everyone. It certainly has been fun for me. It's called The Black Talis. A Talis is a Jewish prayer shawl, but it really has very little to do things Jewish or with prayer shawls. In fact it's X rated. It's about a search for a magical solution. Is wine the solution?

Tune in for more hints and occasional posts on wine. I will only be posting from my iPad, so hopefully, they will be mercifully short and sweet. Adios for now!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Oregon Reflections -II

Now my fave de faves - Panther Creek. When Ken Wright struck out on his own, he left behind one the best wineries in Oregon - Panther Creek. Why is this my favorite Oregon winery? They have an incredible variety of vineyard designated wines and winemakers, Mike Stevenson and BillHanson. My favorite vineyard used to be Bednarick which is the northernmost vineyard in the portfolio, perhaps in the Willamette Valley. The weather at Bednarick is very erratic with such northern exposure, but in great years it is like a peacocks tail, a panoply of flavors. Unfortunately, because it is so erratic, Panther Creek has stopped making it. If you don't believe in "terroir" here's your chance to check it out. You can taste Shea, Freedom Hill, Vista and many other vineyards from the same winemakers and the same vintage. Notice any differences? Here's another secret. Mike produces his own label, Stevenson-Barrie and Bill makes Libra wines. They are very, very good and reasonably priced these are insider's wines - delicious and reasonably priced. If you can walk fifty yards you can check out Anthiny Dell-the 2005 Pinot was such full bodied and dark it reminded us of a Henri Gouges Nuits St. Georges. Another fifty yards will bring you to Domenico, another home of excellent wine. Want to get away from it all? Check out Elk Cove. Truly a a little glade in the woods, home of one of the oldest wineries in Oregon, the elk gather here and you should, too, for one of the best, fruitiness, but dry, Pinot Gris. Want some really good value? Try Bethel Heights unoaked Chardonnay.

Welcome to the feast, fellow wine bloggers!

My Refections On Oregon Wines

Wine bloggers will gather this weekend in Portland, Oregon for our annual conference. Even though I won't be able to attend, I thought I would share some of  my impressions of Oregon wines. My fondest memories are of my visits to the Willamette Valley with my partner Bob Tovey, especially our visits to Carlton and the Dundee hills. Another highlight was our visit to Phelps winery in the Hood River AVA. Owner, Bob Morus told us that for every mile you go east there is one inch less rainfall. That's why you grow both Pinot Noir and Zinfandel within thirty miles of each other. Bob's Pinot Noirs are great even though the grapes are grown on the eastern slopes of the Cascades just north of Mt. Hood. Hood River is one of two AVAs that include both Oregon and Washington State. On the Washington side Syncline and Memoose produce excellent wines. The other bi- state AVA is Walla Walla. Zerba  is a good example of an Oregon winery producing estate wines from the Oregon side of the Walla Walla AVA. Cristophe Baron's fabulous Cauyue wines are considered Washington state wines even though the "atelier" and vineyards are all in Oregon. Deborah Hansen's vineyards are all in the same stony "calloux" amidst the Oregon apple and cherry orchids as Christophe 's even the wines are made at Cougar Crest winery just outside of Walla Walla in Washington . Even though it would make sense, somehow Washington and Oregon have never been able to market together. Kind of like trying to herd cattle and sheep at the same time.

A less well known fact is that several Willamette Valley winemakers make great wines from the Walla Walla AVA. Ron  Lachini, who I discovered in his first year at a Seattle wine event, has made excellent Pinot Noir from day one, but he also makes outstanding  Bordeaux style blends from Walla Walla grapes.  Ken Wright also makes great wines from Walla Walla grapes. He makes a spectacular Chardonnay from Cililo vineyard grapes grown in Washington . Ken is as close as you get to a cult wine celebrity in Oregon. His vineyard designated Pinots are fabulous. We especially like Canary, McCrone and Freedom vineyards. Since the great recession, it is possible to obtain Ken Wright wines directly at the  Tyrus Evans tasting room in Carlton without having to be in the mailing list. 

IMHO , some of the most famous Oregon Pinots aren't that great -Beaux Freres, Archery Summit, Serene, Argyle, Patricia Green to name a few seem  overrated to us especially compared to our faves at much more reasonable prices. Drouhin is on the cusp for us. A little too pricey for what you get, though can never forget the 1992 that we drank in 2002 . It was spectacular! At age ten, we felt we were committing infanticide. We are not really talking about price, but price/quality. Back in Carlton, at the winemakers studio we discovered Ayoub and Retour. I probably shouldn't tell you about these - very small production, high prices, incredible wine. 

There are so many other wonderful wines in the Yamhill/Carlton/Ribbon Ridge area, but let's move on to the Red Hills of Dundee. Here you will find a veritable feast. Lange, Winderslea, Tori Mar and De  Ponte Cellars are highlights. The winemaker at Tori Mar, Jean Tardy, comes from an old  Burgudian winemaking family and makes top notch Burgundy style Pinots. The Pinots from De Ponte are beautifully made by French winemaker, Isabelle. Everything Isabelle touches turns to gold, not just the Pinots, but the melon, the rose, you name it. Here's another secret! Ssh! When I first met Isabelle, she was wearing a very warm sweater in the middle of summer. Now, admittedly, Dundee is not the warmest place in the world, but her dress seemed extreme. Isabelle told me tat she had moved from the sith of France to start a new life with her children and shortly thereafter she gave birth to a new revolutionary wine , "1789", the year of the French revolution. Try to get your hands on sime at the De Ponte tasting room.

Okay, so you don't like back roads in the woods. You want to stay in town. Some of the best kept secrets are hidden in McMinnville. The whole Oregon wine industry was virtually started in the 1970s by pioneers such as David Lett.  Everyone thought David was crazy. He planted Pinot Noir and   Pinot blanc into wilds of Oregon  I remember his 1976 Pinot Noir. It tasted like many of it's California cousins - a little clunky, a little chunky, but no worse than anything it of California. Up to his death a few years ago, eyrie wines were always in the lead. Now under his son, Jason the tradition continues with some interesting modifications. Bob and I will always remember his "Blackcap" Pinot - dark as ink, full of flavor

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Black Magic

I left the best for last. It turns out that Carol Shelton is also a magician. Her Black Magic is a very unusual Zin Port. Light in color and body and only about 5% residual sugar this one would work as an aperatif before rather than after dinner. In Fact, if you have any French friends, they will love it as the French always drink their Port as an apero, not an after dinner digestif. However you take it, you will like it.

Contrast this with the Trentadue Zinfandel Port. Exact opposites. First and last wines of the evening, aperatif and digestif. Different styles, but both WOW wines. The Trentadue is  big and inky and tastes very similar to Porto from Portugal. In fact, it is one of the best American Ports I've had look for it or order from the winery or join their Port club

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Zapatistas Ride Into Seattle - Part I

Once again, ZAP, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers visits Seattle. This time it was a pleasure. Many of the usual suspects were missing, and some rootin', tootin' gunslingers arrived with some mighty mean beverages. Really, there were some old timers, some biggies, but there were also some interesting characters wd hacn't seen before.

Carol Shelton is not exactly a newbie. In fact, she is a pioneering woman winemaker. She got started shortly after Zelma Long, back in the 1970s. My mom was a fiminist, so I get excited about pioneering women, but that is not really the point about Coral Shelton Wines. The real point is incredible quality.The wines are organic and some are made with wild yeast fermentation. Anyone who wants to seriously tk about terroir needs to pay attention to the wild yeast in their neighborhood.

Where the wild things are! 2008 "Wild Thing" Old Vine Zinfandel is 83% Zin, 13% Carignane, 2% Petite Sirah, 2% Cabbernet. Get down on your hand an knees and worship. An amazing value at $15 a bottle. Search, search, search, cherchez le Zin!

Istanbul, Cucamonga - 2008 "Monga" Zin - Frankly, the only good wine I haveever tasted from Cucamonga grapes. Carol says rustic and tamed , I say fabulous with licorice and five spce in the nose. Hunt for this one at about $15.

Good Karma - 2008 "Karma Zin' - 3% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Petite Syrah Carol says, "lusty, full- bodied, powerful, classic Sonoma Zin, I say soft pleaure with hints of chocolatefor only $25.

2008 Rockpile - Okay, so Mauritsen claims to whole RockpileAVA for themselves. Not so fast buddies, Carol says she staked a claim earlier than you guys and harvests a big substantial, serious wine from the the rockpile

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monte Ferro: A New Northwest Wine

My wife's friend, Cindy, gave us a Monte Ferro Syrah from her brother-in-law. It's good stuff with a nose of cherries with a hint of pepper. It has a deep, rich color, lots of black fruit and a hint of acid and tannin which should completely smooth out in a few months. Even though the alcohol is a very high 15.1%, it is not overly jammy and in your face. Definitely in the league with some of the more established northwest wineries. Now, where exactly is Monte Ferro? Grapes from the Columbia Valley, winery in Carlton? Whose the winemaker? Made at Cana or the winemaker studio? what's the bit with MonteFerro Foods? Website just shows Godaddy ads. Why Monte Ferro, Iron Mountain? I guess it's like so many startups - so many hats, so little time. Most of all I w old like to see a Pinot Noir from a winery based in the Willamette Valley

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Independence Day In June?

No, I'm not off my rocker. on July 1st almost everybody was free to sell liquor - No more state liquor stores. At the initiative of Costco, we switched from liquor in state stores only, to what should have been a feast for consumers. Walgreens,Safeway, Albertsons, and Costco started selling booze. The old state liquor stores started selling under private ownership. Go figure. Chaos and confusion prevailed! Listed prices excluded all taxes including excise. Which previously had been embedded in washigton's high prices. You had to be able to figure out thirty percent more for tax. Those bottleslisted at $30, werereally going to set you back $40. Where were those promised lower prices? Where was the longed for variety? The pricing strikes me as deceptive. In California, if johnnie walker is $30, it's thirty buck plain and simple. Safeway was the most aggressive marketer with " sale" prices on virtually everything. At least Albertsons had the decency to post examples of the new pricing system. The manager at Trader Joe's told me they would have more competitive prices once they started buying direct. The effect on wine? Less shelf space. The moral of the story, be careful what you wish for. Watch those libertarian impulses. How will it evolve? We shall see!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Nick's Wine: Amarone

Cousin Nick gave my wife a bottle of Amarone which we saved until his visit. Amarone is a fascinating wine made mostly from the Corvino grape in the Valpolicella region of Italy close to Venice.
Traditionally the grapes are laid out on bamboo racks to dry, thus concentrating the flavor. NIck brought us a 2004 Amarone Classico from Cantina Negrar. We served it with grilled quail over a bed of farro salad at room temperature. I must say it was a perfect pairing for lunch. The wine was big, rich, and complex, full of nuance and not at all jammy - a real treat! Thanks, Nick.

An Offer You Can't Refuse From The Wall Street Journal

No, it's not a one year subscription to the Wall Street Journal for $1. When "The Wall Street Journal" offered 15 wines for $75, I couldn't resist. The offer was slick and made me wonder if this was the next new Geerlings & Wade. The strong UPS man struggled to get the 15 bottle case into the house. Opening the box I found three bottles of my "bonus" Italian Chianti, several other Italian reds, two Spanish Riojas, one French Bordeaux, one Calfionia Pinot Noir, one Calfornia Cabernet, and I think two Australians.There were wine notes, a loose leaf folder, and a sign up sheet for my friends. Fifty bucks for me, if you sign up! Wanna sign up?

The wines looked amazingly kosher, amazingly correct - nice shiny new bottles with impeccable labels, all the right language - vintage, wine name, country, region ,and certifications A.O.C., D.O.C.G., etc,.Very impressive, though I must admit I was skeptical. So far I've tasted three of them.

The first wine we tasted was a 2006 Torre Ercilla Reserva Rioja from Spain certified as a Rioja Reserva by Denomenacion de Origen Calificadaand garbed in the golden wire netting so often associated with Rioja.  All we could taste was acid, no resemblance to a Rioja or Tempranillo. Actually, one of the worst wines I've ever tasted. Give it a 65.  Not off to a very good start , but wait, there's more.

The second wine was a 2010 Chianti apparently from Collezione Di Paolo, Denominazione Di Origine Controllata e Garantita. This wasn't bad at all. Medium-bodied with lots of good berry fruit and just the right amount of tangy finish for a Chianti. Better than many Chiantis I've tasted in the past. This certainly was a worthy bonus. Give it an 84.

The third wine was a 2009 William Knuttel Sonoma Pinot Noir "Epee Cuvee". Light to medium-bodied with earth tones and cherry flavors. A little flat but in the same league with Erath Pinot Noir at $15-$20 a bottle. Give it an 86.

So, so far, batting two for one. Not a bad batting average at all. You will probably never read about these wines in Robert Parker, but for  five bucks the good ones are a real bargain, for $12 or more the value is about the same as in the supermarket.Will the WSJ wines go down the drain the way Geerlings and Wade did? Who knows? Only the shadow knows! Stay tuned! There are six more wines to go.

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)

Cayuse

Leonetti

Quilceda Creek


Deuxieme Grand Cru (Outstanding)

Andrew Will

Betz

Cadence

DeLille

Januik

Long Shadow

Pepper Bridge

Spring Valley



Troisieme Grand Cru ( Exceptional)

Abeja

Adams Bench

Amaurice

Boudreaux

Brian Carter

Buty

Caderetta

Canon De Sol

Cougar Crest

Doyanne

Elsom

Fall Line

Five Star

Glencorrie

Gorman

Hestia

Hightower

Irlandes

Isenhower

Mark Ryan

Note Bene

O-S

Palouse

Pomum

Pondera

Robert Ramsey

Ross Andrew

Saviah

Sleight Of Hand

Sparkman

Syncline

Trio

Willis Hall


Quatrieme Grand Cru ( Excellent)

426

Adamant

Amavi

Baer

Barrage

Basel Cellars

Beresen

Bergevin Lane

Canoe Ridge

Chatter Creek

Covington

Darby

Davonport

Des Voignes

Desert Wind

Domaine Pouillon

Dusted Valley

Efeste

Flying Trout

Forgeron

Gifford Hirlinger

Guardian

Hedges

Kestrel

Kiona

L'Ecole

Mountain Dome

Nicolas Cole

Northstar

Novelty Hill

Pattterson

Red Sky

Reininger

Seven Hills

Sheridan

Syzygy

Terra Blanca

Tertulia

Three Rivers

Thurston Wolfe

Trust

Tyrus Evan

Vin Du Lac

Walla Walla Vineyards

Walter Dacon

Whitman

William Church


Cinqieme Cru (Best Buys)

14 Hands

Airfield Estates

Apex

Balboa
Bergevin Lane

Boomtown

Barnard Griffin

Chinook

Columbia Crest "Two Vines"

Covington

Dama
Eliseo Silva

Goose Ridge

Gordon Bros

Hogue

Martinez & Martinez

Maryhill

Nelms Road

NXNW

Pavin & Riley

Pine & Post

Red Diamond

Revelry

Ryan Patrick

Sagelands

Saint Laurent

Two Vintners

Waterbrook

Willow Crest

Wines of Substance


Deferred

Agate Field

Andrake

Animale

Cameraderie

Columbia Crest Reserve

Doubleback

Dunham

Ensemble

Glacial Lake Missoula

Gramercy

Grand Reve

Latitude 46 N

Local Wine Company

Massett

McKinley Springs

McCrea

Pacific Rim

Parejas

Rulo

Sandidge

Sandhill

Soos Creek

Terra Blanca - Onyx

Two Mountains

Woodward Canyon

Zefina


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.

:Worst:

  • 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.

Best:

  •  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)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy New Year Champagne

The new year is almost here. Let us hope it will be better than 2011. Do you have your Champagne, yet, to celebrate the arrival of 2012? If no , here's a list of suggestions.

For the 1%
  • Crystal
For the rest of us

Over $30:

  • Roederer
  • Piper Heidsick
Over $10

  • Chandon Napa
  • Mumm's Napa
  • Roederer Estate
  • Gruet
  • Mountain Dome
Under $10

  • Freixenet
  • Ch Ste. Michelle      
     
Happy New Year!





Friday, November 11, 2011

Thanksgiving Wine

Where've you been? You could say I've been pre-Occupied with Wall Street. You could say I've been sick. You could say I've been travelling. You could say all of the above, but I haven't been neglecting wine, just writing about it. So we've visited our favorite wineries in the Willamette Valley, Oregon and
Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, California which I'll tell you about soon, but first the low down on the annual showdown with all those turkeys out there (no, not the politicans, the birds).

Food pairings can be overdone. Basically you can drink any wine you like with any food. Red wine with fish, white wine with red meat. Bordeaux with salmon, Chardonnay with steak. It does happen that some pairings are exquisite together such as foie gras and Sauternes, blue cheese, walnuts and Port,  rack of lamb and Bordeaux, T-bone steak with big Napa Cab,  Salmon and Pinot Noir, Barolo and Osso Buco to name a few examples. So even though you can drink anything with Turkey there are some pairings that work better than others

You can always drink Champagne or other sparklers with anything including Turkey. Even though I don't generally like sweeter Champagnes, they do go well with Turkey. Try Prosecco or Sparkling Vouvray. Vouvray, a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley might just be the perfect wine with Turkey. Sparkling Vouvray has the added advantage of  being festive and generally less expensive than Champagne. Vouvray, both sparkling and plain come in varying degrees of sweetness, so it might be best to ask someone in the store. Semillon is another great match. Of course, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris would work well, too. Gnerally speaking, whites go better than reds, but if you prefer reds try Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais, or Pinot Noir. If Turkey's not you thing, try Rose with Ham and Burgundy or Pinot Noir with Roast Beef.

Here are ten specific suggestions:

1) Chandon Napa Sparkling Wine
2) Mumm's Napa Sparkling Wine
3) Gruet New Mexico Sparkling Wine
4) Mountain Dome Washington Sparkling Wine
5) Zardetto Prosecco - Italy
6) Vouvray - Loire Valley, France
7) Sparkling Vouvray, Loire, France
8) L'Ecole Semillon, Washington State
9) L'Ecole Walla Voila(Chenin Blanc) - Washington State
10) Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau - France

Enjoy! Have a Happy Holiday!



Monday, August 22, 2011

One Of The Best Kept Wine Secrets In America

OK, OK, so the sky isn't falling. Or maybe it's better to just enjoy your wine and not worry about the world One way to forget the world crisis is a visit to the source of some of the best bottles in the U.S, dare I say in the world? Buried in  a Seattle suburb, half an hour from downtown you can find some of the best wine in the U.S. Napa move over. There are well over 100 excellent wineries and tasting rooms in Woodinville, Washington. So many wineries from east of the,Cascades, where the grapes grow, have dicided to "bring the mountain to Mohammed", so to speak, o,r as Willy Sutton supposedly said, go where the money is. Dusted Valley and Isenhower are just two Walla Walla wineries  that have recentlyset up shop in Woodinville.

So many great wines, so little time. Yesterday we took our friends, Alan & Judy, on a brief tour of some of our faves. Alas, we didn't get to Novelty Hill, Januik, Brian Carter or Adam's Bench to name a few, but we did manage to stop in at Hestia's new digs where Shannon et al were busily hammering away in their new winery. Shannon was kind enough to take some time out from construction to taste us on his two flagship wines. The 2008 Syrah was spectacular and full flavored. The2008 Cab more linear. Judy couldn't resist the Syrah.

Pondera just across the allet was open for business so we mosied over there. We first tasted Pondera wines at one of David Le Cl;aire's Discoveries and Debuts a few years ago and even then they really stood out. All the wine were good, but the 2008 Cuvee and 2008 Sericus really stood out for us The Cuvee so flavorful, so balancd, so appealing, for only twenty bucks and the Sericus, more serious, bigger, full flavored. To heck with school, to heck with Davis, the heck with Boing, these guys know what they are doing. And the artistry entends beyond winemaking, to painting. Judy couldn't resist a fabulous print of a wild horse for only twenty bucks.

South a few miles to DeLille's new tasting room. DeLille is one of those wineries that is not only totally reliable, but spectacular at the same time. After a little chat with Jay Soloff, we tasted through three of their Rhone style wines and three of their Bordeaux style wines.  Of the wines poured, our favorites this time around were the 2008 Harrison Hill and the 2010 Doyenne Rousanne. The 2008 Harrison Hill comes from one of the oldest vineyards in  Washington. The Cabernet Sauvignon was softened up and balanced out by 25% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot - supple, silky and pure. Yum! The 2008 Rousanne was mindblowingly magnificent. Probably the best Rousanne I 've ever had. Truly spectacular - a virtual mountain water fall flowing down my gullet with all the flavor of the stones in a Cascade stream -Wow!

So now the secret is out! Where else can you find so many great wineries concentrated in just a a few square miles? Well there is one other place - the South Park area just south of Seattle. There you can taste amazing wines from the likes of Cadence, Fall Line, Note Bene, Falling Rain, Smasne and others.

Don't want to spend a bundle on a wine vacation? Seattle wineries and tasting rooms are still the best kept secret treasure in the wine world.Save on airfare and spend on wine.








Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tales From My Father By Charlie

Oh, hell, so it's not about wine, it's about the economy, stupid! So I met Charlie in the hot tub. He's got arthritic aches and pains like so many retired people. Somehow it didn't take very long to get from physical pains to psychological, emotional, and fiscal pains.. Like most of us, his 401k is down 20%. It didn't take much to get us into a joint rant. Let's see, where to start? Neither one of us belongs to a party - not Democrat, Republican, Independent or Tea Party.  Charlie is angry! About Wall Street, about Washington, about political dysfunction, about the fact that low (no) interest rates devastate retirees, about Congress people who have fat health plans and retirements that we don't have, about waste, about deficit spending and the debt which in the long run lead to the downfall of empires, about the fact that, after retiring from a major drug company, he may have to go back to work, about the dilemma that spending cuts destroy jobs. What the hell happened? What happened to his father's prudence.

Complexity is too much for the human brain, even though consequences are multi-determined to borrow a phrase from Freud. Although there is no single cause, we tend to look for a simple explanation and a simple solution. So if we want to play the blame game, we could finger Greenspan, Barney Frank, greedy mortgage brokers, sub-prime mortgages, Fannie & Freddie, the big banks, CDOs and SIVs, greedy speculators, Washington and Wall Street. Anyway here we are in this mess "Round Two.". Governments bailed out the banks, will the banks bail out the governments?

So here we are, and Charlie is angry. Do you think he is the only one? Do you think the Tea Partiers are the only ones? What did his Dad have to say? Here are the laws of the father. Here are the ten commandments

  • Don't borrow
  • Don't get into debt
  • Never a lender nor a borrower be
  • Don't overspend
  • Pay off your debts every month
  • Work hard
  • Be innovative
  • Take care of yourself, your family, your community
  • Cut back
  • Get a job
There's the rub! How can you get a job when everybody is cutting back? Corporations have discovered that they can have the biggest profits ever by simply not hiring (and firing). Look at Bank of America, where Ken Lewis fired 35,000 of his most competent employees and bought disaster areas such as Countrywide and Merril Lynch retaining the least expensive  and most incompetent employees, only to take home one of those "$165 million bonuses" found only on Wall Street and in the executive suites of big banks. Most of us have been cutting back - Cash is King. And now the government is cutting back. We were on a spending spree encouraged by economists such as Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan. Atlas shrugged and the world collapsed.  " I see a flaw" - you're kidding me!!!

Since WWII, thery've called it demand pull. A house for every American and three SUV's in every garage. Greenspan thought it was fine to take out a  second  "home equity loan" when Charlie's father was saying, if you must borrow to buy a house to live in, pay it off asap.  What happened to integrity, waht happened to civility, what happened to bipartisanship, what happened to our country, what happened to the world. Turn over any rock  and you find money. Turn over any financial transaction and you find greed. "Greed is good?" Up to a point! Aren't rapacious capitalism and extreme  socialism ( i.e., communism) two sides of the same coin?

Doe Charlie drink wine? I never asked him, but I wouldn't be surprised. In fact, I'll bet he he's drinking more and paying less just like in 2008-2009. Over 50 restaurants closed in Tucson in the fall of 2008. How many wineries will close this time around. Cheers!




Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Wines

Summer? What's that? It the sun ever comes out here in Seattle you may want to have a picnic or maybe you live on the shvitz on the East Coast or in the inferno in the Midwest on in caliente Arizona. Once again, 2009 provided a way to cool off. How about some oysters (not the Rocky Mountain kind) with 2009 Chateau Des Cleons Muscadet from Trader Joe's for about $9 - crisp, fresh dry, tart - everthing a Muscadet should be, with just a hint of fruit to soften it up. Too hot to turn on the oven, too tired to fire up the BBQ? How about sauteeing some scallops for a simple salad compose? I have the perfect match - 2009 Domaine de Niales Macon-Villages. This amazingly rich Chardonnay is made from old vines and resembles white Burgundies at twice the price or more - perfect balance of fruit and acid with wonderful minerality at about $12 from K&L Wines in San Francisco. In Seattle, you can pick up some 2009 Borgogne Blanc from Lambdin at McCarthy & Schiering for thirteen bucks.  Lambdin was recommended to me by son-in-law Laurent who found it at Andronico's in San FRancisco. A little drier feel than the Macon it would be fabulous with any seafood, fish or chicken. BTW, 2009 Drouhin and Louis Jadot Macon-Villages are widely distributed and quite good in the $10-$15 price range.

About that picnic, shift to 2010 for one of the best Roses I've ever tasted. My friend Carol doesn't like Rose I think because she associates it with sweet white Zinfandel. Personally, I don't like sweet Roses either whether from France or the U.S. I have never had a Rose from the Loire Valley of France that I found enjoyable. Similarly, most American Roses are too sweet for my taste. A number of years ago I visited the Enotheque in Les Arcs - more than 50 Cotes de Provence wines to taste almost all Roses. I wished I could take them all home with me. So when I opened Carol & Stevens fridge in Morro Bay and saw a 2010 Cotes de Provence Rose, I couldn't resist a little sip. WOW! The perfect Provencale Rose! It is hard to describe the essence of this bliss producing wine. Of course, the salmon color is pleasing,  flavors superb and the dryness of the wine just right. Perhaps it is the restraint and incredible lightness that is so magical - the essence of the sun and sea of Provence in a glass. You might think you would pay over $20 for a wine made so close to the famous Bandol, but Luc & Serine Sorin have kept the price amazingly reasonable. I got my bottles at McCarthy & Schiering for $12 a bottle. Where else can you buy such wine in Seattle? Tune in ...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bordeaux With Pizza?

You know I'm on a 2009 kick, drinking my way through the bottom of the barrel searching for values. Trader Joe's is a frequent haunt in the hunt for values, though the results vary tremendously. Two more Bordeaux raised an interesting question. Can you really drink Bordeaux with pizza, pasta, burgers The answer is a definite yes. Chateau Moulinde Beausejour 2009 proves it, Like most 2009 Bordeaux, Moulin Beausejour has fruit, but more acid than I would like in a Bordeaux, so I re-imagined it as a Chianti. Now it tasted like a classic Chianti with lots of good berry fruit and the tangy acid finish needed to pair with pizza and pasta. Amazing! French Merlot in the style of Italian Sangiovese. The second wine, an old Trader Joe's standby was more of a hamburger wine. The 2009 L'Estey Reserve is a negociant's blend from Calvert, better than Mouton Cadet and, IMHO, Two Buck Chuck. It  had good fruit and balance but seemed a little dull, unidimensional - a good everyday wine

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What Am I Drinking?

What am I drinking these days? 2009 Bordeaux! Am I a Chinese billionaire? Am I a wine killer? Committing infanticide? No way! While 2009 First Growth Futures sold for around $1000 (a bottle!), the other end of the barbell is coming into it's own. For years now the the prices of fancy classsified wines have skyrocketed while the rest of Bordeaux wine was virtually unsaleable. Finally, some French vignerons are figuring out how to sop up the " lake of wine." Of course the weather helped. The 2009 vintage is so balanced and fruit forward it was a bit easier to produce delicious wines even at the low end. If you've always been curious about Bordeaux, but figured you couldn't afford it, think again. There are so many excellent Bordeaux coming ashore from the big appellations like Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers, Bordeaux Superior, Cotes de Fronsac, etc.,. So far all the wines I've tasted have had good fruit with gentle tannins and acid. Some are very fruity, almost American in style, lots of Merlot here, but others have complex flavors and some balancing tannin and acid. These wines are all drinkable now, and some will improve with a few years of ageing. It is unlikely that they will last more than 6 to 10 years. And the coup de grace? An average price of $10 to $12 a bottle.

Here are some Bordeaux I've tasted:

  • 2009 Chateau Grand Pierre, Bordeaux Superior, about $10 at K&L - This wine grabbed us - medium bodied, delicious black fruit some soft tannins and good backbone this will probably get even better over the next year or two. Drink now to 2015 - definitely our favorite.
  •  2009 Grand Bateau, Bordeaux about$10 at K&L. This seems to be a negociants blend kind of like Mouton Cadet only infinitely superior. Mainly Merlot, this is pure simple fruit. A good quaff, but not too interesting 
  • 2009 Chateau de Riberbon, Bordeaux Superior, about $15 from WTSO online. Good fruit with enough tannin so that it really needs at least two years before it wil come around to easy drinkability
  •   2009 Chateau Haut Sorillon, Bordeaux Superior, about $9 at Trader Joe's. That's not a typo! Eight bucks for a delicious, balanced, fruity red with a nose of violets and lavander.  Ready to drink, good for at least four more years. A best buy!

    Next on my list to check out are 2009 Reserve de L'Estay and 2009 Moulin de Beausejour both from Trader Joe's.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Seattle Makes The New York Times

    Yes, friends, we are on the first page of this past Sunday's New York Times Travel Section with a big blowup of a handsome server with a platter of Northwest Fruits de Mers.from the Walrus and Carpenter. Despite occasional condescension, Frank Bruni did a pretty good job of covering some of the newest venues in Puget Sound - Walrus and Carpenter, Seatown, Revel, Madison Park Conservatory, and the Willows Inn. For booze, he discovered Knee High Stocking Company and Tavern Law. Having resided in Seattle for 40 some odd years it has been a long time since I stayed in a hotel. I must admit I found $300 a night for a standard double at the Edgewater (not exactly the epitome of luxury) a little shocking. Willows Lodge in Woodinville for a little over $300 I found a little more comprehensible. Frankly, I'd rather stay at my cabin on the Hood Canal.

    Where Bruni missed the ferry, or the boat, was in the wine department. He did have the good sense to recommend DeLille Chaleur Blanc and give a nod to the Buty Sauvignon blend, but where are the Chards from Buty, Amaurice, and Cougar Crest. Somehow Bruni managed to find his way to Willows Lodge, but avoided the excellent Herbfarm and Barking Frog. What about Betz and Brian Carter and Hestia and Adam's Bench, Novelty Hill, Januik, Gorman, Sparkman, Mark Ryan  to name just a few. Apparently, Frank stayed downtown just a hop skip and a jump from Cadence, Fall Line, O-S, and Note Bene. The man seems to prefer Vodka and speakeasies to the garagistes of Seattle. Tant pis pour lui, too bad for him. Maybe he only stayed a weekend and fled the rain.  Still, not bad for a New Yorker!

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    2009 Vintage

    You thought I might be talking about the 2009 Bordeaux vintage. That will be the next post. Today I want to remind you  that 2009 was a great year in many places, but if you like Zinfandel, you had better run, not walk to the Dry Creek Valley. Why? Because 2010 was a wet, miserable year in Dry Creek Valley, and "09 was great.
    I can't wait to taste the "09 Zins. I would definitely start with Mazocco and Quivera, I.m hoping that the '09 Quivera Zin will be as good as the '07

    Monday, May 30, 2011

    The End of the Road Less Traveled

    I have traveled this road less traveled many times, but I have never gotten to the end of it. That's because I always get distracted at the tasting rooms in Los Olivos and then only get part way up Foxen Canyon Road. Canyon is sometimes abbreviated to Cyn in California which always makes me think of the Welsh word "cyn", so then I am  hoping to get there "soon." Unfortunately, some canyon roads are too long to get you anywhere soon. This time I left early and drove almost straight through with a brief stop at Foxen winery. They now have two tasting rooms - the original "Sideways" one and a brand new modern building. This time I stopped at the modern one where they were serving up mostly cooler climate grapes such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The 2009 Bien Nacido Chard was light, fresh, and tart. The 2009 Tinaquaic Vineyard was round, balanced and medium bodied - two very distinct styles. The 2010 Rose of Mourvedre had a very fruity nose and sweet strawberry flavors. The 2009 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir tasted of sour cherry, while the 2009 Tinaquaic Syrah was spectacular with great color and  fabulous fruit.

    On to Riverbench winery, no longer really in Foxen Canyon, but sitting on the south river bench of the Santa Maria river, home to the best commercial strawberries grown in the U.S. First out of the shoot was a nice 2010 Pinot Noir Rose that was fresh and fruity and tasted of... strawberries. Next up the crisp and citrusy, stainless fermented 2009 Bedrock Chardonnay followed by the oaked 2007 Estate Chardonnay which had a very nice nose and was balanced and round with a nice touch of vanilla.The 2008 Estate Pinot Noir had a nose of smoke, tobacco, and leather followed by rhubarb flavors. The 2008 Reserve Pinot was light in color with cherry flavors and leather accents. The 2008 Mesa was the standout, again with light color, and round full fruit flavors - here is an Oregon style Pinot to go with your locally caught salmon.

    Several years ago, I tasted a Kenneth Volk Chardonnay that made me want to taste more from the former owner of Wild Horse winery. Now, out on his own, Ken seems to be brewing up a storm. I counted approximately twenty different wines on the list. Ken seems to love to experiment with different varietals, Verdelho, Negrette, Touriga, and Aglianca for example, The wonderful 2008 Verdelho reminded me of figs, the 2009 Viognier was round and fruity, the 2009 Rose of Grenache, very fruity and sweet, the 2008 regular Grenache light and pleasant, a good patio or hamburger wine. The 2008 Negrette had a sweet mouthfeel like a perfect French Aperitif. The 2008 Touriga had the feel and flavor of Port , but without the sweetness - a perfect Port for diabetics? The 2006 Tempranillo also had the same sweet mouthfeel. Ken appears to have a distinctive signature of full roundness and fruit with some "sweet" mouthfeel. He certainly leaves his mark on the wine. Among my faves were 2008 Mourvedre, Enz Vineyard which had a fabulous nose and the 2006 Sierra Madre Chardonnay  which really expressed and benefited from Ken's stylistic preferences with its full creamy mouthfeel. The highlight, though, was a comparison tasting of two very different 2007 Pinot Noirs - same vintage, same winemaker, but different clones, different styles. The "Old School" Pinot made from Pommard clones was light, elegant and silky on the palate with complex fruit flavors - very Oregon in style, perfect with salmon. The "New School" Pinot made from Dijon clones was big, spicy and full, - very California in style, perfect with buffalo steaks. The New School" reminds me of a good Nuits St. Georges, while the "Old School" is reminiscent of a Savigny Les Beaune. Kenneth Volk's prices in the 20s and 30s are very reasonable these days for what you get. It was definitely worth it to finally get to the end of the road. BTW, Kenneth Volk is very close to Cambria winery whose excellent Chardonnay is widely available, frequently at Costco for a very reasonable price. On to Paso Robles!



    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    Los Olivos

    Back to my old stompin' grounds! First stop? Stolpman! First taste? 2009 Rose -salmon-colored, dry, tart with citrus accents, very Provencal. Next in the flight, 2009 L'Avion, a very round, full Roussanne with an interesting hint of nutmeg. The vineyard crew made the next wine in the tasting room lineup, the 2009 La Cuadrilla from Syrah and Grenache  co-fermented with a little Viognier thrown in, next up 2007 Sangiovese - soft, mellow and creamy -a dreamy Sangio you can even drink on its own. The 2008 Originals had a meat and rhubarb nose and fruit and pepper flavors, the 2008 Hilltop Syrah was much nicer, more elegant and pleasing. The '08 Grenache was medium bodied round, fruity and pleasing. All in all a lot of stars for Stolpman this time around.

    Fortunately, the tasting room person at Stolpman recommended the new kid on the block. Just across the street we found Steve Dragonette of Dragonette Cellars. Famous opera singer Aunt Jessica changed the name from Dragonetti. No matter the name, a bunch of winners here. Dragonette specializes in Sauvignon Blanc making three different bottlings. The three star 2009 Santa Ynez Sauvignon Blanc  was beautiful, round, and fruity with none of that in your face grapefruit so common in Sauv Blancs. The 2009 SB from Vogelzang Vineyard was balanced and carefully crafted, too. A good 2009 Pinot Noir was followed the 2008 Syrah with hint of eucalyptus and mint in the nose. The bombshell, 2008 MJM, named after the owners' wives was big and beautiful with a fabulous nose. This is definitely a winery to watch..

    Every year I seem to have missed Tensley winery, but not this year. The wines were all good, but a little light for my taste. The most interesting wine was Detente a combined effort of Joey Tensley and Cecile Dussurre. The wine is a blend of 50% Domaine de Montavac Gigondas and 50% 2008 Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah.We first tasted Gigondas in a small Rhone style restaurant in the Maubert Mutualite area of Paris in 1970. The 1962 Gigondas was unforgettable. Gigondas could be called the poor man's Chateauneuf Du Papes, but in my book, anyone who gets to drink Gigondas is rich. BTW, Gigondas is another one of those reliable, not well known wines that you should jump at on a restaurant wist list.

    Qupe has become one of  my favorite wineries in Los Olivos. This is truly a family winery. Every family member makes wine - Bob, the father, Louisa, the wife, and Ethan the son. Louisa's Spanish style wines are bottled under the Verdad label. 2010 Verdad Rose was a little sweet for my taste, but the 2009 Albarino was wonderfully dry with good fruit that gave it a fuller mouthfeel, almost like a Galacian Albarino, but with riper California fruit.The 2008 Qupe Roussanne "Bien Nacido Hillside Estate" had a nose of pear and fruit, and a fruity big bodied mouthfeel. The widely available Qupe Los Olivos Cuvee was excellent as usual and the even more widely distributed 2008 Qupe Syrah "Bien Nacido Vineyard"  was even better Virtually all of the Qupe wines were excellent, esepcially the 2009 Sawyer Lindquist - "amazing", "fantastic", leather, tobacco, panoply of spice, garam masala.

    I got to Los Olivos early so I had a  cup of coffee and an egg croissant at Corner House Coffee.
    Los Olivos is a lovely place with great tasting rooms, but the city, which only offers portable restrooms to tourists and wine tasters really had better clean up its act. As Jimmy Durante used to say only the nose knows!



    Real Food

    Thanks to my friends Carole and Steve, I found the real thing in Morro Bay. Real eggs from Los Osos Ranch, real strawberries from Santa Maria, real fish from the Dockside Market. How convenient to pick up a dozen burst of flavor eggs at Spencer's Market, the Real Food  MarketI dreamed of in my last post. Santa Maria strawberries are by far the best commercially grown strawberries from California. What a problem to have, choosing fresh off the boat fish at the Dockside - three kinds of rockfish, halibut, locally caught Salmon, cod, ling cod. We chose Vermillion Rockfish which we sauteed in olive oil, butter, white wine and a touch of Anisette paired with a light, tart 2009 L'Aventure Viognier. What a pleasure to taste some locally harvested real food.


    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    The Next New "Other" White Meat

    Apparently, breeders have come up with the second "Other" white meat - goat! Seriously, I'm not kidding or just trying to get your goat. Really! Most Americans have never eaten goat and might even be turned off by the idea, but, trust me, many people around the world eat goat - all over South America, Mexico, Somalia, Eritrea, the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Spain and our very own Southwest to name a few. Goat is good, but I recently tasted some that was truly denuded, neutered, no goat flavor at all. Apparently Turkey was the first white meat and pork was promoted as the "other" white meat after being "deflavored", now goat joins the list as the second "other" white meat. It was tender, but flavorless like lamb without any lambness, or veal without any vealness. After a long hard search, I found some goat online from a company in Colorado, but was the search worth it? It reminded me of pasteurized, homogenized, corporate American eggs. The last time I had a really flavorful egg was in the South of Italy where I was served eggs the color of the orange southern sun and bursting with flavor. Then there are the simulacra passing for strawberries, and tomatoes that look perfect and have no flavor. I mean, where's the beef? How about some locally grown, sustainable, non-genetically modified real food. The name of my next supermarket will be Real Foods. How about you?




    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Crush pARTy In The Desert

    Please sir, can I have some Chard, actually anything chilled? A red on ice? Iced Tea? Some cold beer? Okay, okay, don't have a Twit in the desert! My wife found the first cold quaff. Nimbus ale, locally brewed, a cool draft at last. It seemed we had to hunt and peck for some chilled wine - La Chasse de Chardonnay! Finally, we scored. I had been hoping to score some Nichols and Nichols Chard but it was nowhere to be found. At this point Hess Chardonnay seemed like a good alternative.This was followed by fuller versions of Chard such as Decoy, ZD, and Stag's Leap. After cooling down we were able to summon some appetite and found the perfect Chardonnay pairings - tuna sashimi and marlin shashimi.-  both were exquisite with any of the Chards. The marlin sashimi was incredible. In fact, the food in general was fabulous.

    Tucson restaurants really put their best feet forward. Pulled pork sliders were the thing. At least half a dozen versions were presented - all good. Fabulous scallops prepared perfectly by the Grille at Hacienda del Sol greeted you just after the entrance. Scallops in the desert, tuna sashimi in the desert, marlin in the desert - a throwback to geologic times in Arizona? Nah, just fresh ingredients from some of Tucson's top restaurants.
    So many restaurants, so little wine, but some of the wine was exceptional. We'll get to that in a minute. First, a list of restaurants to check out in Tucson: El Charro - a local chain of Mexican restaurants, Downtown - a bistro avatar of Janos , one of the top restauranteurs in the city, Harvest &  Zona 78 new avatars of the Grille at Haciendo del Sol.

    Survivors of the Depression II, excuse me, the Great Recession ( 45 Tucson restaurants closed in the fall of 2008): Vivace - old Italian standby, Acacia - moved North, Flemings - corporate steak house, Armitage - uptight apparently cool wine bar in the Foothills, Lodge On The Desert - remodeled and retrofitted just in time for the "recovery", Feast - still there, Azul - en el norte de Tucson a La Encantada. Pastiche - restaurant, wine bar and wine shop offered a unique and very useful feature - business cards with the wine name on the back and a brief description of the wine. The descriptions weren't that accurate, but then how many tasting notes are? Just to have the name of a wine that you like on a card is a tremendous help and reminder, clever marketing, too. How many times have you tasted a wine that you loved and you couldn't remember the name. What a great innovation which should be imitated at every wine event. Bravo, T.M.A. and Pastiche!

    These little cards helped me to easily note the remarkable wines of the evening, Between all the food booths some interesting wines could be found. Although many of the wines seemed like the usual commercial fare, some wines stood out.In addition to the Chards already mentioned, The Henriot Champagne was a cooling fresh beverage that was a perfect match with the tuna shashimi. The reds that most stand out in my mindare from Niner, especially the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. While the 2005 Heitz Cabernet wasn't exactly on a par with the famous 1974, it was quite good, a significant improvement from recent decades of mediocre wine. The 2008 Robert Craig Affinity was delicious as usual, but surpassed UMHO by the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. If you are looking for a monster Cabernet, look no farther than The Sledgehammer - big with explosive flavors. Doube T Red from Napa had a more modest profile, but full of black fruit flavors - a little friendlier, not such a brute.If fruit bombs are your thing, the 2009 Manifesto from Lodi will be your friend..If you are looking for something lighter still, become a fan of 2008 Dutton Goldfield Pinot Noir.

    If you don't follow California wines, poke around the wide selection of Italian wines from Zonin.The Prosecco was light and fruity - a perfect wine to start the evening on the patio. Seeing a Vermentino brought back wonderful memories of the Cinque Terra, but alas, this version from the Maremma was so fruity it tasted American, at least wasn't defective like so many Vermentinos from Sardinia. The big event was the Zonin Amarone, a beautiful, big rich version of this wine made from the unusual Corvino grape partially dried on bamboo racks in Valpollicella -rich, velvety, smooth, flavorful -perfect.

    If you didn't make it to Crush this year, put it on your Facebook page next year. If you were there, we had a great time, didn't we? I even copped a few bottles of white Burgundy in the silent auction, maybe  you will next year.

    Tuesday, April 05, 2011

    Crush : A Moveable Feast @ Tucson Museum of Art

    Come and get it! Hot wine available for tasting. Hot food, too! April 1st, April Fools Day! To paraphrase a little, they say that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the desert sun. The sun was setting, but the thermometer was not. The plaza of The Tucson Museum of Art was in the 90s at the start and cooled down to 85 or so as the evening wore on. Last time I attended Crush, the temps were perfect, in the low 80s. Once when we were in Britsh Columbia, we commented on the rain to the first native we saw. "Well, it would be British Columbia, if it weren't raining." Commenting to a Tucsonian about the heat, "After all, it's Arizona." I guess I'm still a Northerner at heart. Though I usually do well in the low humidity of the desert with temps up to 93 or so, the red wines did not. They all tasted "hot" with lots of acidity and tannin standing out. In old "English Houses" the room temperature could be 55 Farenheit. Somehow I think the right temporature for reds in 63 degrees. I once tasted Kent Callaghan's Arizona Reds during a January windstorm that brought the winery to about 45 degrees. Kent had a remarkably simple system for bringing the temperature up. Pour the wine in the glass, place the glass in a pitcher of hot water, place the thermometer in the glass, remove the glass from the hot water when the temperature reachs 63 degrees, taste It took me a little while to get the hang of it. My first glass of ultra cold red tasted like liquid sandpaper. No flavor, no nothing, except tannin - purple/black liquid. The next glass at 63 degrees was full of complex black fruit flavors, balanced with gentle velvety tannins giving some backbone. I've learned so much about what a difference temperature makes to the taste of wine in Arizona. Once in a while, I get a glass pour of a perfect Chardonnay at a perfect 55 degrees.. A fresh stream of "stony", "mineral" liquid flows down my gullet and I feel as if I am by a cool stony brook. The heat led us to seek out cool Chardonnay. We found some excellent ones among the multiple food stations scattered around the T.A.M. plaza. In fact, this year, Crush seemed more like a food tasting rather than a wine tasting event. Tucson restaurants were strutting their stuff. Wine shops were strutting their stuff. The food was excellent, the whites refreshing and many of the reds delicious. Look for more about the wine and food  at the Crush pARTy in the coming days and weeks.   

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    2010 Unofficial Classification of Washington Wineries



    This is the fifth annual Unofficial Classification of Washington State Wineries. The 2010 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 is not set in stone and changes every year. 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 exciting new wineries added to the classification this year. Pomum, Elsom , and Caderetta to name just a few. Be sure to check through the classification for new additions many of which were suggested by you in your comments last year. This year 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)

    Cayuse

    Leonetti

    Quilceda Creek


    Deuxieme Grand Cru (Outstanding)

    Andrew Will

    Betz

    Cadence

    DeLille

    Januik

    Long Shadow

    Pepper Bridge

    Spring Valley


    Troisieme Grand Cru ( Exceptional)

    Abeja

    Adams Bench

    Amaurice

    Boudreaux

    Brian Carter

    Buty

    Caderetta

    Canon De Sol

    Cougar Crest

    Doyanne

    Elsom

    Fall Line

    Five Star

    Glencorrie

    Gorman

    Hestia

    Hightower

    Irlandes

    Isenhower

    Mark Ryan

    Note Bene

    O-S

    Palouse

    Pomum

    Pondera

    Robert Ramsey

    Ross Andrew

    Saviah

    Sleight Of Hand

    Sparkman

    Syncline

    Trio

    Willis Hall


    Quatrieme Grand Cru ( Excellent)

    426

    Adamant

    Amavi

    Baer

    Barrage

    Basel Cellars

    Beresen

    Bergevin Lane

    Canoe Ridge

    Chatter Creek

    Covington

    Darby

    Davonport

    Des Voignes

    Desert Wind

    Domaine Pouillon

    Dusted Valley

    Efeste

    Flying Trout

    Forgeron

    Gifford Hirlinger

    Guardian

    Hedges

    Kestrel

    Kiona

    L'Ecole

    Mountain Dome

    Nicolas Cole

    Northstar

    Novelty Hill

    Pattterson

    Red Sky

    Reininger

    Seven Hills

    Sheridan

    Syzygy

    Terra Blanca

    Tertulia

    Three Rivers

    Thurston Wolfe

    Trust

    Tyrus Evan

    Vin Du Lac

    Walla Walla Vineyards

    Walter Dacon

    Whitman

    William Church


    Cinqieme Cru (Best Buys)

    14 Hands

    Airfield Estates

    Apex

    Balboa

    Boomtown

    Barnard Griffin

    Chinook

    Columbia Crest "Two Vines"

    Covington

    Dama

    Goose Ridge

    Gordon Bros

    Hogue

    Martinez & Martinez

    Maryhill

    Nelms Road

    NXNW

    Pavin & Riley

    Pine & Post

    Red Diamond

    Revelry

    Ryan Patrick

    Sagelands

    Saint Laurent

    Two Vintners

    Waterbrook

    Willow Crest

    Wines of Substance


    Deferred

    Agate Field

    Andrake

    Animale

    Cameraderie

    Columbia Crest Reserve

    Doubleback

    Dunham

    Ensemble

    Glacial Lake Missoula

    Gramercy

    Grand Reve

    Latitude 46 N

    Local wine Company

    Massett

    McKinley Springs

    McCrea

    Pacific Rim

    Parejas

    Rulo

    Sandidge

    Sandhill

    Soos Creek

    Terra Blanca - Onyx

    Two Mountains

    Woodward Canyon

    Zefina



    Friday, January 28, 2011

    American Sketches of Spain -Tempranillo

    While Spain may not have successfully transformed its economy, it has radically transformed its wine. Back in the 1970s there was a lot of bad wine in Spain. Of course, there were some wonderful traditional wines with that distinctive smokiness, just perfectly matched to traditional foods such Roast Suckling Pig and Cabrito, Roasted Goat. More than any other European country, Spain has successfully created New World style wines in the Old World. Both Spanish food and wine have lightened up. The wine is younger, fresher, fruitier, and friendlier than those big old towers of smoke.

    Tempranillo is the flagship grape of Spain. Originally the main grape in the Rioja region, it has spread throughout the counrtry and around the world. As a result of globalization, Spain adopted American technology such as stainless steel fermentation tanks, and America adopted Tempranillo. We wanted to see  the result so we had a comparison tasting of Tempranillo from Spain, Washington, Oregon and California. Five of the wines were tasted single blind with our friends, Hans and Trude, and three were tasted stark naked with our friends Norm and Verni. The results were eye-opening.

    Here are the results of the blind tasting ( 1=highest)

    Score

    1.75    2006 Lan Rioja, Rioja, Spain - about $15 in supermarkets

    2.13    2007 Pomum Tinto, Columbia Valley, Wa.- about $30 at the winery

    2.37    2007 Opolo Tempranillo, Paso Robles, Ca. - about $30 at the winery

    3.13    2009 Temenal, Yecla, Spain - about $4 at Trader Joe's

    3.50    2006 Dominio IV "Sketches of Spain", Columbia Gorge, Or.- about $25

    So, one could simplistically say that the Rioja was the winner and the Sketches of Spain the loser, but this is not so. There was so much variability among ratings that these are probably not meaningful differences. One of our number was a winemaker who was rating to his prototype of Tempranillo rather than simple hedonistic pleasure. All of the wines were good, but made in different styles. The blow away wine was the "Tinto" from Washington. So Spanish in style, yet fresher, fruitier and rounder than the Lan. Perhaps this should be no surprise as it was made by a winemaker from Spain, Javier Alfonso, a Boeing engineer who lives in Seattle.The Opolo was big, round and fruity, very American, very California. The Dominio had more tannin and seemed to need some more age, though it would be fine now with a roast or stew. The "Joker" or "Ringer", the "Four Buck Tempranillo" from Trader Joe did quite well. It was much rougher with too much tannin and acid, but it, too would go well with food. Don't try this one as a cocktail alone!

    Is Tempranillo the next new thing? It may be a little early to tell ( tempranillo means a little early in Spanish), but it definitely is a candidate, especially in Washington. Since the overall quality in this tasting was so high, we thought we would check out a few more wines. We tasted two different vintages of Montobuena Rioja (about $10 at Total Wines), the 07 and 09. The 09 was lighter brighter and more acidic than the 07 which was more structured, more balanced and fuller flavored. We had the the 09 with the salad, the 07 with the Chicken Tagine, and the 06 Abecela Tempranillo, from Rio Vineyard in Southern Oregon, with the appetizer. Abecela was a Northwest pioneer with Tempranillo, but I've always found it to be kind of flat and dry. It did have enough fruit in it for one taster to describe it as being like Merlot. More good Tempranillo!

    It looks like Spain has joined its former colonies in the New World, Argentina and Chile, in making high quality wine at reasonable prices. And North America, seems to have taken Tempranillo to a new level of fullness and fruitiness. Is Tempranillo the next new thing? It's a lttle early to tell. 






    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    The Caviar Indicator

    Finding decent caviar this past New Year's was quite a trick. Years ago, in the last century, I ruined my palate for caviar by eating several large helpings of Beluga in Turkey and elsewhere at very resonable prices. Let's see, I think it was $7 for two ounces, or was it four, plus a water glass full of ice cold Vodka. I never should have acquired the habit as it has become progressively more costly to the point of being totally beyond reach. As my deceased friend Bill B. used to say, well, at least I had my share.

    Still, this doesn't stop me from searching every year. In the current century, the sweet spot for me has been American Sturgeon and Paddlefish caviar, farmed or wild. Of course, I never object to Ikura, or red salmon caviar. This year turned up very little in this middle range. The Romanoff on the supermarket shelf hardly qualifies as caviar. The other available option - Osetra for $100 an ounce and up is equally unworkable! Luckily I coped a jar of wild American Paddlefish for $20 an ounce at trader Joe's early, just before it disappeared for the season.

    What's this got to do with wine? First, it appears that people are buying caviar, but not the ultra expensive varieties. So it's like they don't want to spend an arm and a leg, but are willing to spend for good value.
    No two buck chuck, but no Opus one either. To put it another way, no Cold Duck, but no Crystal either.
    So it appears that under $20 or $30 at the most is the new normal. Sure I saw lots of folks walking off with cases of $45 Mauritson Zin at the barrel tasting in December, but how many wineries can sell at $30 or $45 price points? How many have the magic of Mauritson?

    I recently read an interview with the CEO of the company that produces Ugg boots. He figured he was right in the sweet spot between Family Dollar and Tiffany. Similarly Coach offers value luxury that appeals to the new consumer. It seems there are too many wineries trying to sell $45 bottles of wine. I'm sure most of them are conviced that their wine is worth it and in most cases the wines are probably quite good, but why should I fork over $45 for your Merlot, when it is so similar to Joe's and Tom's and Dick's and Harry's.

    My advice for the New Year to my winemaking friends? You need an under $20 bottle, good value and some character in your wine that distinguishes it from the rest of the shelf. Happy New Year everyone.Look for the Unofficial Classification of Washington Wines coming soon.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Vintage Matters

    In the matter of vintages, A. Brock complained in a recent comment on "Holiday Gifts I Oregon" that an online company sent him a vintage other than the one advertised on the website. Does this matter? If it were a Bordeaux, it would certainly matter as there is so much variation in the weather of Bordeaux from year to year, although it does appear that Bordeaux is getting warmer. A 2004 St. Estephe is not the same as a 2005. Mother nature is possibly even more fickle in Oregon than in Bordeaux or Burgundy. My son-in-law recently had a 2006 Monte Antico from Italy and loved it. Without thinking I bought him a bottle of 2007 Monte Antico and it wasn't half as good. After tasting the 2007 Quivera Zinfandel, I was so enthralled that I went back to the winery to get some more. Sold out! So I tasted the 2008. It was okay, but nothing compared to the '07. I used an old trick and stopped at the local grocery where I was able to cop three bottles of the 2007. Phwew! So even in sunny California vintage makes a difference. Indeed, vintage matters!.

    Thursday, January 06, 2011

    Dry Creek - The Sequal

    Just out of the chute, off highway 101 on Dry Creek Road the first winery you come to is Wilson winery. Wilson owns a whole stable of wineries, including Mazocco. Our favorites at Wilson are the spectacular 2008 Wilson Family Red, a blend of  43% Zinfandel, 29% Petite Sirah,14% Cabernet Sauvignon,and 14% more back Syrah, and the 2008 Tori Zin grown at 2500 feet, a wine with significant backbone, needing perhaps a few more years of age. Just up the road is Nalle, a family owned winery. Next up,  Mauritson,where a  Holiday celebration and barrel tasting was in full swing. When I arrived I knew I was about to crash a party as the parking lot was overflowing. The Barrel tasting attracted a large crowd of club memebers and the tasting room was full, too. No wonder! It was obvious that the six generation plus family of grape growers had  a winner on their hands. Somebody in the cellar had the magic touch with the family's high qualiity fruit. A long list of winners were going for around $45 a throw. Unfortunately, 2010 was a rough year for Dry Creek Valley, but this is truly one of  the wine roads less traveled, truly a find.

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    OMG The Season Is Upon Us

    Only two weeks to go! What to do? If you live to the Seattle area, you can head down to the South Seattle Artesianal Wineries in the South Park area. You can get oudstanding wines at Cadence, Fall Line, O-S, and Note Bene. At a bit of a distance you can go to Falling Rain ( how apporopriate for Seattle) or Smasne. Across the pond, Lake Washington, that is, head for Woodinville where you can even buy wines all the way from Walla Walla at such tasting rooms as Isenhower, Alder Ridge, Canon De Sol, and Dusted Valley. As I've said before, I've never had a bad wine from Novelty Hill where winemaker Mike Januik also bottles his own outstanding wines under his own label. If you want to go with the big boys, check out the gang of three - Gorman, Sparkman, and Mark Ryan. Across the street check out Efeste. In the same neighborhood you won't be disappointed by Barrage wines. For some peak experiences check out Pomum, Adam's Bench, and Hestia. Finally, at the high end, you can get some great stuff, previously available only to mailing list members, at the DeLille tasting room.

    Last minute rush? Can't make it to the wineries? Try Trader Joe's or Costco. I recently picked up a fabulous bottle of 2008 William Fevre Chablis for only twenty bucks at Costco. If you "need" a bottle of Dom Perignon, Costco is the place to buy it for only $120 or so, some odd dollars. At TJ's, try the 2009 Chablis from Jean or was it Jacques,  Bourguignon ( a made up name, but good stuff for $8). The 2009 Chateauneuf Du Papes "Valle De La Pierre" is a little rough, more like a Cotes du Rhones, but it will work well with a rich stew and is  appropirately priced at $10. For the same price you can pick up a decent Pinot Noir which is as good as Pinots costing $15 -$20 - 2009 Sebastopol Hills. Finally the ultimate Holiday wine, Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Port, at about $20, is perfect with fruitcake, walnuts, blue cheese and and dessert. Cigar anyone? Happy Holidays.

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Holiday Gifts - II Dry Creek Valley

    If you are so lucky as to live in the San Francisco Bay area, in less than two hours you can get to Healdsberg, jumping off point for the Dry Creek Valley, home to some of Sonoma 's best Zinfandel. This would make a fine day trip and a great opportunity to pick up some some outstanding Holiday gifts. Alternatively you can fly into Santa Rosa on Alaska Airlines and check a case of wine for free!

    Here are three wineries where you can't lose - Mazzocco, Quivera, and Gustafson. Mazzocco offers Zins from more than half a dozen different vineyards at about $30, each one a little different from the others and all excellent. This is a great opportunity to get a sense of terroir. A selection of  Zins from each of six vineyards would make a sensational gift for your wine loving friend or family member and, of course, they will have to invite you to the comparison tasting.

    At Quivira there was not a bad one in the bunch. They all got a "swallow", like one star. Of the '07 Zinfandel, '08 Grenache, '07 Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre, '07 Syrah Hommage a Ampuis, and '07 Mourvedre, we liked the Zin the best. It is the quintessential Zin, full of fruit, but not forward and in you face and very drinakable now, even though it has enough soft tannins to age a few years. At $20, it could be your gift for every adult on your list.

    Far above Lake Sonoma is almost unmarked Gustafson winery, home to many remarkable wines. The 2008 Estate Mountain Cuvee Zinfandel is a smooth, easy, friendly wine at only $18. The 2006 Mountain Cuvee is the big brother to the '08 but still smooth and balanced. The 2007 Estate Petite Sirah is an amazingly rich "Two Swallow" wine full of spice and dark fruit. The 2007 Estate Zinfandel was our favorite with its big briary flavors and backbone of soft tannin. Delicious now, it will definitely improve with several years of ageing.

    Okay, so you don't like Zin, then go to Michel Schlumberger where you will sit down to an elegant tasting of the whole range of varietals. We particularly liked some of the Cabs and thought the fabulously cherry flavored 2007 Mobius Malbec was a steal at $22. Unfortunately, only 25 cases were made.

    Lucky you, you get to travel one of the wine roads less traveled and come up with great gifts that will wow your friends at reasonable prices for you.

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Holiday Gifts - I Oregon

    If you start now you can order some of the most interesting and delicious wine gifts online. If you wait, you can still get good stuff at your local wine shop, Trader Joe's, Costco, etc, but these are exceptional.. Here are some specific recommendations of some of the best wines I've tasted this year. Some are hard to get, some are expensive, but they are all worth the effort. Some are easier to order and relatively inexpensive, too. Sometimes you can order over the phone or go to the winery directly, but, however you order these wines, do it soon. Just think with a case or two of fabulous wine at good prices your can take care of all your Holiday shopping - no crowds, no Black Friday! In most cases, you can go to the winery website for ordering information.These gift ideas are in no particular order - just a stream of consciousness like a stream of wine flowing into your glass.

    Here are the Gene Stein Recommendations from Oregon:

    Reds
    • 2006 Anthony Dell Pinot Noir - under $20
    • 2008 Crowley Pinot Noir - about $20
    • 2007 Stevenson-Barrie Pinot Noirs - $30
    • 2008 Libra Pinot Noirs -$20-$35
    • 2007 Dominio Pinot Noir - $28
    • NV 1789 Pinot Noir - about $35
    • 2007 Panther Creek Winemaker's Cuvee ($25), Verde Vineyards ($25), Freedom Hill ($35), Shea ($35)
    • 2007 Montebruno Pinot Noir - $33
    • 2007 Lazy River Pinot Noir - $33
    • 2007 Wahle Pinot Noir - $45
    • 2007 Brittan Pinot Noir $45
    • 2008 Ken Wright Pimot Noir - Canary Hill & Carter Vineyard -  about $60
    • 2008 Ayoub Pinot Noir - $65-$85?
    • 2007 Retour Pinot Noir - $65?
    Whites
    • 2009 De Ponte "Melon" -about $20
    • 2008 Westrey Chardonnay - about $20
    • 2009 Bethel Heights Unoaked Chardonnay - $18
    • 2009 Dominio IV Viognier - $22
    • 2009 St Innocent "Vitae Springs" Pinot Gris - $20
    • 2009 Lazy River Pinot Gris

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Thanksgiving Wine

    This is really not that complicated. Essentially you can serve any wine you like. However, lighter, whiter, fruitier, even slightly sweeter (semi-dry?) wines go best with Turkey. Among reds, Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais-Villages, and light Pinot Noirs will work better than, say, a big Syrah or Mourvedre. Whites are easier. Any white works - Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, but fruitier wines work best. Avoid really dry whites like Muscadet. Interestingly, though, Isabelle Dutartre, at De Ponte Cellars in the Dundee Hills of the Willamette Valley, makes an amazing American version from the Melon grape (the main grape in Muscadet) that just might be the perfect match with Turkey! Want to try something new? How about Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier - the three white Rhone Rangers? Riesling and Gewurztraminer are old standbys that are great with Turkey. The all-time classic is Chenin Blanc especially wines from the Loire Valley of France such as Vouvray, Jasnieres, Savannieres. Sparkling Vouvray is festive and relatively inexpensive. Champagne and other sparklers go with everything and are a really good match with Turkey.

    Seattle Wine Blog In Top Ten

    Despite the infrequency of posts on this blog, we are ranked in the Top Ten Wine Blogs by Enobytes using Google's rigorous technology. Quality over quantity, folks!

    Here are the top ten out of the top one hundred:

    1) Vinography
    2) Wine Library TV
    3) Dr. Vino
    4) The Pour
    5) Fermentation
    6) Sharon's Wine Blog
    7) Winecast
    8) Seattle Wine Blog
    9) The Oregon Wine Blog
    10) REthink Wine

    Good company, eh?

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Oregon Pinot Underground

    This year, it is not only Oregon that is waiting for sunshine, but the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, as well. Fortunately, in Dry Creek the grape growers can wait for more sunshine. So far, though, one vintner described it as not only the worst vintage of the decade, but of many decades past. In the Willamette, where we met up with the Toveys on our way home to Seattle, the chances of catching up seemed grim. We will return to Dry Creek, but first I want to tell you about the The Pinot Underground.

    If you have the bread it is easy to buy the big names in Oregon, but almost all of us are spending half of what we used to on a bottle of wine. Oregon has a reputation as a place where you can hardly get a bottle of Pinot for under twenty-five dollars and very little else for less than that price, too. But if you hunt and peck, you can find some great wine below that price point. Not everything in the underground is that inexpensive, but it is almost uniformly excellent wine.

    Let's start with Panther Creek which is definitely above ground for everyone to see with a tasting room that is open virtually every day. Ken Wright, maker of Oregon's only "cult" wine, started here, but he has since moved on to God -like status at his two wineries in Carlton. His wines can be heavenly and it used to be that you could only obtain them by getting on the mailing list for which there was a long wait. Now for about $360 you can buy the minimum six pack of Pinot at the Tyrus Evan winery where he sells his non-Pinots from other Oregon wine areas such as Walla Walla. When I tasted four of the 2008 Pinots, I most liked the Canary Hill and Carter wines. These wines are not just above ground, they are in the Au Dela, in outer space, sometimes in terms of quality and definitely in terms of price. I you get on the mailing list you will be required to buy two six packs. I think the current mailing list price comes to $55 a bottle. You had better be a nasty banker or stockbroker to afford this one. BTW, Ken's Celilo Chardonnay is a fabulous wine with great minerality for about $30 a bottle and your don't have to fork over for a six pack

    Panther Creek, on the other hand, offers vineyard designate wines at $30 to $50 a bottle and you don't have to buy a six pack. Not only that but they are on sale! Winemaker Mike Stevenson and Assistant Winemaker Bill Hanson make a half dozen vineyard designate wines and virtually all of them are superb. The 2007 Winemaker's Cuvee* is medium bodied and quite fruity - an excellent buy at $25 on sale. The 2007 Verde Vineyards* is also on sale at $25, while the Vista Hills*, Freedom Hill*, and Shea Vineyard* are all on sale at $35 and all are one swallow or one star wines, a score of 90 in Parker parlance. These wines have great fruit, bigger than medium body and are sure to please you.

    Now, if you really want to go underground ask the very able Kendra if you can cop a few bottles of Stevenson-Barrie Pinot. Winemaker Mike makes this wine under his own label. While you can't taste it in the tasting room, trust me, it's great stuff. The 2007 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir** initially seemed well balanced with a nose of tobacco and leather. Over the course of four days it just kept getting better annd better - round softer, cherry smooth and cool. Initial note - OMG, WOW!  The 2007 Freedom Hill** was bigger with an initial nose of smoke and leather. Over four days, the  nose evolved into mint, herbs, cedar, and black fruit. This one could age for ten years, while the Shea will probably get better over another four years at the least. 

    In the same underground den, the other wine making denizen  of Panther Creek Cellars, Bill Hanson, offers up four more beauties.The '09 Libra Pinot Gris is very crisp and fresh with a citrus nose and lemon/vanilla flavors. In the Italian Pinot Grigio style, it is the perfect oyster wine for under $20. The 2008 Willamette Pinot Noir** comes from the Eola Amity Hillls AVA and was fermented with the native yeast of the grapes. You might expect a wild thing, but in fact the wine is light and easy with fabulous black cherry fruit. The beautiful color is seductive and leads you right into nose of black cherry, forest and mushrooms. WOW! Definitely a couple of swallows and two stars and only twenty bucks. The 2008 Mystic Vineyard* is also in the Eola Hills. The brilliant garnet color is satisfying in itself. While there is little or no nose, this fairly big wine tastes of cherry, blueberry and plum. It was an amazing match with pate. Another swallow for this one - a great bargain at $25. Finally, 2008 Momtazi Vineyard* - fruit and licorice in the nose, spices, cinnamom, strawberries and cream  in the mouth with lots of structure and backbone. This is a keeper if you want one for the cellar though it tastes great right now. Only $35 for such a big wine. BTW, it's biodynamique and sustainable, too.

    These are all fabulous wines. Impress your friends with your impeccable taste and ability to cop rare wines at reasonable prices. Screaming Eagle move over. To order Panther Creek, Stevenson-Barrie or Libra wines, call or email, Kendra, Mike or Bill at 503-550-1963 or email Kendra@panthercreekcellars.com. Twitter @panther_creek or Kendra @winesentry.
     
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