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Taste Washington Top Ten Wine List

Date: Mon, Mar 29, 2010 Wine Tasting

One of the things I love about the wine world is people's willingness to share their opinions about the wines they taste, so others can benefit from their experience. This last weekend was Taste Washington in Seattle and, unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend. So, I did the next best thing and asked a few trusted friends what they liked, one of whom sent me the following email . It's a great, and enviable, list of his top 10 wines from the event. Can't wait to dive in...hope it's informative for you as well.


Hi Friends,

I attended Taste Washington last night – and thought you might be interested in my favorites wines (or may be not!). Regardless, here goes:

1. Gorman ’07 “The Bully” Cabernet Sauvignon. This was my favorite of the evening. I think Chris Gorman is a genius. He also let me taste his new “Albatross” that will be coming out in December in a very limited allocation. It’s delicious…

2. Gramercy Cellars ’07 John Lewis Reserve Syrah. Greg Harrington also said the ’08 Tempranillo is even better than the ’06 (my personal favorite).

3. Barrister “Rough Justice” blend. Barrister is just the best thing that’s ever happened to Spokane. Their ’07 Cab Franc was also great.

4. Amaurice ’06 Tsudakawa blend is brilliant. Plus, I have a total crush on Anna Schafer.

5. Fidelitas ’07 Red Mountain blend. Charlie Hoppes is just a badass. Their Optu is great as well.

6. Spring Valley ‘07 Uriah blend – learned that all the wines are named after family ancestors, which was cool.

7. Walla Walla Vintners “Bello Rosso is super. They were hiding this bottle, and I was one of the lucky few who got to try it.

8. Pepperbridge ’07 Cabernet – actually ships today for the wine club. Awesome. Jean Francois remembered me from our last trip

9. Sparkman Cellars was the surprise hit of the night. I loved their ’07 Stella Mae blend.

10. Maison Bleue ’08 La Roque Syrah. Despite the bad label + font, their wines are great! All Red Mountain.

The runner-ups: Seia ’07 Syrah, Woodward Canyon ’07 Artist Series Cab, Whitman ’05 Cab Sauv, and Col Solare ’07 Red Mountain blend.

Also thought it was interesting that so many wineries are marketing their slice of the Boushey vineyard in Red Mountain – which kind of feels like the new “copper river salmon.”


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Kosta Browne, K Vintners and more...

Date: Mon, Mar 29, 2010 Wine Tasting

Tasting notes from a week gone by...

2007 Apolloni Pinot Noir
Fresh cranberries, strawberries and toast on the nose, with a little added dark chocolatemocha on the finish. There's good acidity on this Pinot, but, overall, it's kind of pissed off, hinting at fussiness mid-palate, then burning your throat with a hot finish. My rating: 86

2006 Qupé Syrah
Blackberry, licorice, pepper and smoke. Very interesting Syrah, with good acidity for such a dark, lush wine. Tasted this with the K Vintners 2007 Millbrandt Vineyard Syrah, the dark, brooding type. Think of this one as its friend, you know the one that's been friends with K forever and has always played second fiddle, but at the core of it, isn't as dark or brooding, actually capable of having some fun. Long term, this is one you want to stay with, whereas the K Syrah will break your heart, guaranteed. My rating: 88

2007 K Vintners Syrah Milbrandt Vineyard
Rich, butterscotch, vanilla and black olive. Very brooding, dark, rich lush wine, the kind that can put you to sleep within a few glasses. Heavy, dark and brooding this one - wearing a black dress, smoking a cigarette, keeping to herself in the corner of the party. You approach her, you're getting into a very heavy, dark conversation - be prepared. My rating: 89

2007 Hope Estate Shiraz
Fruit forward, with tart blackberry, blueberry, plum and good earth. Bright acidity, but still a rich wine, with a mid-length finish. Mild-mannered and nothing special, but a nice one to have around during the week. My rating: 87

2008 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Just received my 2008 allocation this week and I couldn't open one of these fast enough. And, as always, Kosta Browne delivers. It's too young now, but shows a ton of promise. Tart raspberry and strawberry, smoke (i.e. smoked meats, not tobacco smoke) and dirt on the finish. Incredibly well balanced, with all the components working in harmony and such a stark contrast to some of the other wines I've tasted this week. The acidity is also very bright and this wine has a lot of life. I'm not sure if every vintage of Kosta Browne is better than the last, but they all strike a chord with me when I taste them. Another fantastic winefrom the boys over at Kosta Browne (now, hopefully, they won't let the acquisition change the quality of the wine). My rating: 93

All tasting notes originally published on GrapeStories.

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Ready, set...Syrah!

Date: Wed, Mar 24, 2010 Wine Tasting

In about 45 minutes, Hospice du Rhone will be sponsoring "Ready, Set, Syrah" on TasteLive. I and several other bloggers will be joining in the fun and tasting along with Hospice du Rhone and various winemakers. The evening's events start at 5:00 Pacific time and you can follow it at TasteLive or through Twitter at #ttl or #HdR2010. Hope to see you there!

For more information on Hospice du Rhone, here you go...

Hospice du Rhone

Hospice du Rhone (HdR) represents and embodies the spirit of Rhone varieties and those who produce the wines made of these unique winegrapes.

Each year, Hospice du Rhone produces an exceptional three-day wine event, in Paso Robles, California USA ,that is globally regarded as the single most essential and enjoyable gathering of international Rhone wine producers and enthusiasts. During the wine event, attendees expand their knowledge of the twenty-two Rhone varieties, while rubbing elbows with the winemakers whose passion spurs the inspiration and energy that sets the tone for every seminar, meal and tasting at the spirited affair..

A perpetual non-profit business league, Hospice du Rhone also hosts the annual Robert Parker California Rhone Tasting and continues to provide educational opportunities.

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Silver Oak, Casa Lapostolle, Dusted Valley and more...

Date: Sun, Mar 21, 2010 Wine Tasting

2006 Seven Hills Vintage Red Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
Full-bodied offering from Seven Hills, with blackberry, black currant, oak and toast. Good long finish. Overall, a good offering but just a little too oakey to merit a a higher score from me. My rating: 88

2007 Casa Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon
Mostly vegetable on the nose and fruitier than I expected, but, overall, not bad for wine that cost $8.99. My rating: 87

2005 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Dark, ripe fruit, rhubarb, wild berries and sawdust. Firm tannins and well balanced, with a long finish. Overall, a nice CA cab. If it wasn't so oakey, I would have given it a few points higher, but the oak was a little too much for my palate. My rating: 90

2007 Château Simian Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Not a big nose on this wine from the outset, but what's there is almost all strawberry, with some cherry licorice, mint and basil. On the palate, soft, well-rounded, good ripe red fruit (cherry, strawberry) and chalk. It's a good wine, but there are some flaws I didn't expect - the mid-palate breaks down on its way to a mid-length finish and it's a touch hot on the finish. Good wine, to be sure, but I think my expectations were too high. My rating: 89

2008 Montini Pinot Grigio Trentino L'Aristocratico
Peach, butterscotch and honey on the nose and dry, bitter, melted butter on the palate. This is a confused white wine, with very promising upfront and an equally disappointing and empty ending. My rating: 83

2007 Dusted Valley Vintners Syrah Stained Tooth
I first went to Dusted Valley a few years back and met with Corey Braunel in the basement of his house. He wasn't even open that day, but graciously met my wife and I for over an hour as we toured Walla Walla. We loved his wines then and were happy to see that Dusted Valley and Boomtown have been named Washington Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest. Well deserved and couldn't happen to nicer people. The Stained Tooth does not disappoint. It's under $2o, dark as night, with solid dark fruit, earth and minerals (much of what I like about WA state Syrahs). Great, long finish...nice broad mid-palate. Great wine for the price - definitely need to pick up more of this. My rating: 90

All tasting notes first published on Grape Stories.

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Wine tasting notes from a week gone by...

Date: Sat, Mar 13, 2010 Wine Tasting

2006 The Giant Wine Company Sinner's Punch
Fruity and completely average. For $13, that's not all bad, but probably not going to pick up any more of this one. My rating: 85

2007 Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne
I'm with jwobkk on this one in that I'm a big fan of Vietti as a producer - haven't met one of their wines I didn't like. Tart cherry, herbs and pepper, with a very broad mid-palate, great acidity and mid-length finish. Looking forward to getting more of this for the cellar. On a side note, doesn't pair well with Girl Scout Thin Mints cookies...although I'm perfectly fine eating and drinking them separately. My rating: 89

2007 Long Shadows Wineries Pedestal
Been a big fan of Pedestal ever since tobinw introduced me to it a few years back and the '05 and '06 are amazing, full bodied Merlots. With big dark fruit, butterscotch and a huge finish, the '07 is no different. But, I chose not to decant it and it was angry to be woken up so soon into its late winter nap. Huge, tooth drying, chalky tannins. Not unmanageable, but either wait on this one or decant for at least two hours before drinking. This wine will reward those who wait. My rating: 92 points

2009 Charles Smith Riesling Kung Fu Girl
I've been meaning to try the Kung Fu Riesling for a while now, but just haven't gotten around to it, especially since I think I found my "go to" Riesling in Poet's Leap from Long Shadows. Like most Rieslings, the Kung Fu girl is too sweet for my palate. That's not to say that this isn't a good Riesling - it does feel well structured, with peach, pear and tropical fruits alongside some very nice and noticeable acidity. So, if you like sweet or off-dry Rieslings, this is a nice one to pick up, especially at the price point of about $12. For me, though, I think I'll pass on this one the next time. My rating: 85

I haven't done this yet on GrapeStories, but I'm posting another tasting note for this wine. The reason is that I originally said I thought it was too sweet for my palate. But, I just tasted it again and between opening up and tasting it with a fresh palate, this is not as sweet as I remember. Definitely off-dry, so still a little sweet, but this is a great wine for the price (~ $12). I will definitely be picking up more of this, after this latest tasting. My rating 88 points.

2006 Château Franc Grace-Dieu Bordeaux Blend
Nothing special here, but a decent Grand Cru for the price of $15 at Whole Foods. Dark fruits, tart cherry and chalky notes, with a decent finish and strong tannins...makes me think it could age well over the next few years, but not much past that. I think I'll buy a couple more bottles and let them sit for a while. My rating: 86 points

2008 Bonny Doon Vineyard Albariño Ca' del Solo
Light grapefruit, pith and mineral combine to make this a simple, easy drinking wine. A bit buttery, but not oakey. Nothing special, but nothing offensive either. However, I'm shocked at the price on this wine at around $20. I am a huge fan of Randall Grahm and Bonny Doon wines and have rated this one not considering price, but the odds of me buying this again, for anything over $10 - $12, is pretty low. My rating: 86 points

2004 Lisini Rosso di Montalcino
Very pleasantly surprised with this one. Had it in my cellar and kept forgetting about it until tonight when we had it with Osso Buco. Very nicely paired - made both the meal and the wine better. Strong nose on this wine and good tart blackberry and raspberry, herbs earth and minerals in the mouth. Mid-high level of acidity, which really helped cut through the richness of the Osso Buco. Overall, I really enjoyed this wine. Given some of the other tasting notes on this wine, I hope it doesn't go south tomorrow night as I've still got about 2/3 of the bottle left. My rating: 88 points

2006 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Galitzine Vineyard
Took this to a restaurant for Open That Bottle night so didn't get to decant like I wanted, especially for such a young wine, but it really didn't matter. This wine is stunning - nice red and black fruits, espresso, licorice and dark chocolate - and even though the tannins were still a bit rough yet, and the acidity level is higher than I expected it to be, there is no doubt that 5- 10 years down the road, this wine will become something far greater than it is today (which says a lot because if we had had another bottle on hand, we probably would have opened it as well. This is the best Cabernet Sauvignon I have tasted yet this year and a testament to the high-end potential of Washington Cabs. My rating: 94 points

NOTE: these tasting notes were all originally published on GrapeStories.

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Bivio Italia

Date: Fri, Mar 12, 2010 Wine Tasting

I recently received a package from a winery I've never heard of - Bivio Italia. Not sure if this one just slipped me by or if not many people have heard of this producer. If I look around the website, it seems like they've been making wine a while and are adept at helping consumers, press and especially retailers, with a section of their site dedicated entirely to tech sheet, logos, press releases and point of sale tools like case cards and shelf talkers.

As I looked further, it turns out that Bivio is part of 585 Wine Partners out of Sonoma, CA, who also have Red Truck, Picket Fence and Steelhead on their roster of producers. All reasonably good wines in their own right, so let's see how the Bivio Italia wines fare...

2008 Bivio Italia Pinot Grigio
Very average white. Nothing offensive, but nothing that captures the imagination either. Full of meyer lemon, grass and minerals. Very light wine, with a smooth balance, light texture and mid-level acidity. Probably pretty good with shellfish, but I may open a couple other bottles of white before I go after this one. 14,490 cases made.
My rating: 85

2007 Bivio Italia Tuscan Red
Very mild nose, with some dark, tart fruit, earth and cedar. On the palate, the blackberry, raspberry and acidity really come through, with a thin mid-palate and mid-length finish. To me, though, it tastes like a mass-produced wine (although, at 7,000 cases, it's not huge) - a bit diluted, over extracted and over oaked. At a price point of $14.99, I think it's overpriced for the wine you get. Not something I'll try to find in the store.
My rating: 83

2007 Bivio Italia Chianti
I didn't think going into this tasting that the Pinot Grigio would have been the best of the bunch, but that's the way this is turning out. In fact, the Chianti is my least favorite of the three. Nose is very flat and the palate is light tart red fruit, with decent acidity, but not much body. Nothing compelling. 10,430 cases made.
My rating: 81

NOTE: these wines were sent to me as a sample

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Questionable Skills...

Date: Thu, Mar 11, 2010 Wine Tasting

Finally, someone comes around with a wine review for the everyman. I introduce you to Ted McCagg of Questionable Skills: Drawings by Ted McCagg, an illustrator and voice well worth listening to.

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Dear Anonymous...

Date: Thu, Mar 4, 2010 Wine Tasting

This one is going to be short and sweet, but it's been building for a while.

For me, interacting with people in the social space, blogosphere, twitter world, whatever you want to call it, is, for the most part, about good conversation with people I find to be interesting, add something to the conversation and, above all, are authentic about their involvement. So, it is with some dismay that I still continue to see comments left on my blog by the ever ubiquitous "Anonymous." The even worse part is that most of the time, comments left by "Anonymous" always tend toward the negative or, at the very least, not constructive.

I have a filter on my blog that allows me to moderate comments before posting, so I can cut out any profanity, hate or anything truly distasteful. For the record, I have never declined a comment left on my blog, nor do I have any intention to. However, as of late, it's been with great resolve that I've let "Anonymous" commenters through with rants about what they believe to be all the ills of the wine world.

My plea to all you "Anonymous's" out there - I'm more than happy to engage in meaningful conversation with you, but I'd take it a lot more seriously and everyone would get a lot more out of it if you just owned up to who you are.

Question: anyone else feel the same way or is it just me?

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Wine tasting notes from a week gone by...

Date: Sat, Feb 27, 2010 Wine Tasting

2004 Azienda Agricola Vignalta Colli Euganei Gemola
I'm actually quite surprised that this note is the first tasting note on CellarTracker - this is a very nice wine. Ripe dark fruit, tobacco and milk chocolate, with a decent finish, but narrow mid-palate. 70% Merlot / 30% Cabernet Franc gives it the lush qualities of a Merlot, with the intensity of a Cab Franc. Very nice and well balanced combination. The only downside is that we had it paired with Osso Buco and there wasn't enough acidity to cut through the richness of the meal - for me, this is a wine best enjoyed on its own. My rating: 91

2006 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa
Plum, Cherries, Dr. Pepper, vanilla and stone. Quite nice, but wanted a little more acidity as it drank just a tad rich for my taste. Good balance and a mid-length finish. Felt a little pricey to me at $30, so not sure I would buy again. My rating: 88

1998 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Unfiltered Reserve Napa Valley
Haven't had a Mondavi in a very long time and then picked up a case through the Constellation Brands Friends and Family at a great discount - so glad I did. But, it was a risk. The 2008 CA Cab vintage was rated as the lowest, at an 84, in the last 25 years. The best I can say is that somehow this wine snuck through and has aged nicely. Dark cherry, blood orange, vanilla and herbs, with a good up-front, mellow mid-palate, then a nice lingering finish. The tannins have settled down considerably on this, but, even at 12 years old, it still could stand some time to get better. Wine Spectator gave this an 87 at time of release. My rating: 91

2008 Allegrini Valpolicella
Picked this up as a bottle to use in an Osso Buco recipe and held a little aside for the cook. Tart cherries, pomegranate, herbs and earth, with really high acidity - should pair pretty well with the meat. My rating: 87

2007 Sea Smoke Pinot Noir Ten
This is the lowest score I've given a Sea Smoke Pinot. Not too low at a 90, but there's something missing for me about Sea Smoke the last few vintages. I don't know if it's the new(er) winemaker or what, but Sea Smoke used to blow me away...incredible tasting experiences with particularly the Botellas and Tens (not as big a fan of the Southings). So, relatively speaking the 2007 Ten is not my favorite relative to other Sea Smokes. But, against other Pinot Noir, this is still very nice. A bit young and rambunctious still, but a nice blend of dark cherries, lavender and blood orange with a hint of smoke. Incredible acidity on this wine, especially for a California Pinot Noir. My rating: 90

2008 Vinos de Terrunos Navarra Siete 7 Medium bodied wine with lots of red, tart fruit, dusty earth and barnyard - sort of a musty hay smell. Fun to experiment with, but not something I would buy again. My rating: 84

2007 Winzer Krems Grüner Veltliner Sandgrube 13
Very solid Grüner for $7. Green fruit, very dry, good acidity. I bought a case because of the price and I will be drinking more of this when the sun is out, I have the wine in a cooler full of ice (this one's best very cold) and shellfish steaming on the grill... My rating: 86

2007 Cayuse Cabernet Sauvignon Widowmaker En Chamberlin Vineyard
I have to start by saying that I am a huge fan of cayuse wines, but I will admit that they're not for everyone, both in taste and price. Widowmaker is no exception. Very interesting wine - meaty, salty, dirty wine. actually, amazing how salty this wine tastes. But, make no mistake, this is a good wine, with exceptional balance (especially for how young it is) and a long, lingering finish. another great wine from cayuse. And, if you're a fan of westerns, you really can't beat the label. My rating: 91

2007 Lucien Albrecht Gewurztraminer Reserve
Peach, apricot and honey - well balanced white, but way too sweet for my taste. My rating: 85

2006 Orogeny Pinot Noir Redding Ranch
Interesting Pinot Noir. I've tried three of these bottles now and each one is a little different. So, am commenting on the most recent bottle. Mellow fruit, smoke and cured meats - it's kind of like they took a pretty nice mid-fruit wine and left it out at the campfire overnight. Interesting. Will have to see if the other 9 bottles from my case are similar. Still, not bad and I am a big fan of Orogeny Pinot's. My rating: 87

All tasting notes first published on Grape Stories (formerly CellarTracker)

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Matthiasson wine - someone who truly gets it

Date: Tue, Feb 23, 2010 Wine Tasting

I was first introduced to Matthiasson wines at the Wine Bloggers Conference last year inNapa. As part of the tasting on the 1st day, Jill Matthiasson pouring their white wine for a "speed tasting" event in the afternoon of the first day. Speed tasting, as I so quickly found out, is like speed dating. Winemakers wind through the room, stopping at each table along the way, and have only a few minutes to pour their wines and tell the table about them. So, you can imagine that many wines got lost in the shuffle, unless the winemaker or designated pourer is overly charming, very odd or wearing something funny. Or, they could grab your attention the old fashioned way - earning it through a damn fine wine. Two producers did that for me - Bonny Doon and Matthiasson wines.

I won't get into too much detail here about Randall
Grahm from Bonny Doon as he's able to get a lot of publicity on his own (and I've written about him many times before), but I would like to share a little bit about Matthiasson and why I think they get it right.

First and foremost, it's about the wine. If you don't have a wine worth celebrating, you don't get it. Plain and simple. End of story. Please don't market to me or try to convince as to why you think your wine is better than it is. Matthiasson has those wines worthy of celebration. Their white wine was the #1 stand-out wine for me over three full days and nights of tasting Napa wines, totalling in the hundreds I'm sure, but, as you can imagine, I lost count somewhere along the way.

Second, I bought some of their white wine a few weeks back and received a typed card that I thought was nice, but probably just a formality to include along with the wine. Personally, I would have been fine with just getting the wine, so I thought it was a nice gesture and I'm enough of a loyalist that I thought I'd read the card...."Thank you for your purchase...we recommend waiting a few weeks...thanks again for all your support...congrats on becoming a dad!" Wait. What? A personalized note? A winery that took the time to not only remember that we just had our first baby boy, but to also include a congratulations in my order? Unbelievable.

Now the marketer in me comes out - that one line, that one very simple line, the one that Jill probably threw in simply because of who she is, not because she wants to score points with me, will keep me loyal to
Matthiasson for a very long time. Now, to be fair, we met at the Wine Bloggers Conference, chatted a bit, tried to coordinate a trip for me to help them with harvest...but, in the end, we're not life long friends or extended family or anything like that. I am a customer, a blogger and someone who has connected with Jill on occasion. To you, Jill, I'd just like to say thank you for treating me not like a customer, but, rather, someone who has chosen to take this journey with you, albeit on the sidelines as I watch you all make magnificent wines.

Now, those two things may seem trite to some of you - a good wine and a nice note, but, if you go back and read my post on what not to do (Tips for winery tasting rooms - on my soapbox), you'll see that what the Matthiasson's provided me is not typical in the wine world. That's not to say that some wineries don't provide the human touch, especially small niche wineries, but, if there's one plea I could make to all wineries - sometimes it pays to act like a small winery, to sincerely believe that every customer that walks through your door, whether they be there physically or through the internet, is critical to the success of your business. Be real about it, offer them a great product and you will be rewarded. For those of you already doing this, stay the course.

And to you, Steve and Jill
Matthiasson, thank you for making the wines you do and for sharing them with care. I look forward to being a loyal customer for a long time to come.

More praise for Matthiasson wine:

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Wine tasting notes for a week gone by...

Date: Thu, Feb 18, 2010 Wine Tasting

2007 Quivira Zinfandel Wine Creek Ranch
Ripe cherry, plum and cedar all play different roles on this one, creating a wine that's too off balance. Add to that a hot finish and I think I'll pass on this one the next time around. Unfortunate, though, because I do think Quivira is putting out some decent wines, just not this one. My rating: 83 (NOTE: this bottle sent to me as a sample from the winery).

2006 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon
First had this wine at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Napa Valley last year. Good Cab with ripe red and black fruit and strong front palate. But, starts to fade mid-palate and finishes short for me. One dimensional, easy drinking wine that's worth trying, but falls short of many of its $50+ competitors. Rating: 87

2007 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir
Decent enough Pinot Noir with cherry, orange and floral notes, but this wine was too hot for me and I expected more from Domaine Drouhin. It also lacked a basic structure and finish. Won't be buying this again. Rating: 84

2005 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon
I just went through all the CellarTracker notes on this wine and, since they're pretty mixed, I think the bottom line is this - if you do not like big California Cabernet Sauvignon, this is not the wine for you. Plain and simple. Don't spend the $55 or the $100+ at a restaurant. You will not be happy. But, if you do like California Cabs, Groth always delivers. Strong cherry, dark berry fruits and earthy undertones - it's big, it's lush and it's fruity. I'm a big fan of the Groth offerings. Rating: 91

2007 Quivira Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley
Fruity and tart, with some distinctive Dry Creek Valley dryness and minerality. This is not a big, ripe. lush Zinfandel, so if that's your taste, this probably isn't for you. But, i liked it. the acidity brought some good life to it and i can easily imagine it paired with a nice greasy burger or pizza. My rating: 87 (NOTE: this bottle sent to me as a sample from the winery).

2006 Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
I had this wine at a restaurant on the strong recommendation of both the waiter and the sommelier and I was stunned by it - one of the better new Pinot Noirs I've had in a while. Good red fruit, floral and spice notes, with an incredibly lush and silky balance. Well priced at $45, but very small lots, so not easy to find. My rating: 92

2007 Soda Canyon Cellars Barrel Chaser
Made by Dave Phinney of Oren Swift and Prisoner fame, this one is an easy, smooth drinker, which is a bit of a shock at 15.9% alcohol. Good complexity with cherry, anise, chocolate and espresso. Not a huge finish, but just long enough to savor it. If you're a fan of the Prisoner, you will like this wine...although I'm not sure why Barrel Chaser is more expensive - I think I'd be willing to pay more for the Prisoner than I would the barrel chaser. My rating: 90

All tasting notes first published on Cellar Tracker

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Wine tasting notes from a week gone by...

Date: Mon, Feb 1, 2010 Wine Tasting

2007 Thierry et Pascale Matrot Chardonnay Bourgogne Blanc
Citrusy, pithy, minerally...off balance and a bit challenging for me. Picked up as another recommendation for a wine that pairs well with butternut squash soup, but didn't compare to the 2008 Domaine d'Ardhuy Bourgogne Blanc (tasting notes on this wine posted earlier today) - in fact, I have a full bottle of this wine left while the d"Ardhuy was finished at dinner last night (and both were served with dinner). My rating: 84

2008 Domaine d'Ardhuy Bourgogne Blanc

I went to McCarthy & Schiering wine shop in
Seattle looking for a good wine to pair with butternut squash soup and, man, did they nail it with this French Chardonnay. Good wine on its own, with more crispness than a US Chardonnay. Good citrus, apple and mineral notes. But, with the soup, it was a perfect blend of flavors complimenting each other. Whenever I make butternut squash soup again, this is the wine I will have on hand to enjoy it with. My rating: 88

2008 Woodward Canyon Chardonnay

Lemon, peach, sour apple, in a crisp and full white w
ine. surprisingly little oak and a long, lingering finish. Really nice wine, but a bit pricey for a Washington state white wine, so keeping my rating at an 89 (don't always do this, but only in situations where i feel the QPR is off a bit). My rating: 89

2008 Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris Cuvée Romanus
Excellent Pinot Gris and under $20. Crisp lemon and citrus, with a smooth, buttery broad palate and long finish. Recommendation from the sommelier at Cafe Campagne in Seattle and absolutely hit the mark. If I could find any of this online, I'd buy a case without hesitation. My rating: 90

2007 Domaine Roger Perrin Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Very nice Chateauneuf-du-Pape, with a huge aroma - blackberry, bacon, mocha and chestnuts. On the palate, great acidity and a decent finish. doesn't live up to all the hype of the 2007 CDP vintage, but, then again, this is a $27 bottle and I think the QPR is very high on this wine. My only regret is that I didn't buy more than I did (only bought two bottles). My rating: 90

2007 Terra Blanca Roussanne
Reserve Terra Blanca Estate
Buttery/creamy, meyer lemon, leeche and some minerals. Nice, easy drinker, but may be too buttery for some tastes. My rating: 87

2006 Long Shadows Wineries Pedestal
I had a glass of this last night at the met in Seattle and didn't take too many notes, but suffice it to say this is a beautiful wine. Dark, lush, ripe fruit and so incredibly well balanced, smooth and silky. Long, lush finish and zero heat. I thought I would need to wait on the '06's that I have in my cellar, but this is already showing very well. My rating: 94

2007 Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red
Raspberry, blackberry, mocha, smoke (from the Carménère ...rare addition for a US blend, at least in my experience) and pepper - it's lush, broad on the palate and well balanced, with a long, lingering finish. This is an incredible wine for the price (about $15) and if I can find any more, I'll pick up everything I can let my hands on. My rating: 90 And, the blend on this thing is crazy (see below) - makes me want to be there for that blending party...probably takes a week to figure it all out.


  • 31% Cabernet Sauvignon (15% Walla Walla Valley, 9% Columbia Valley, 4% Wahluke Slope, 3% Rattlesnake Hills
  • 27% Syrah (17% Columbia Valley, ◦6% Horse Heaven Hills, 2% Wahluke Slope, 2% Walla Walla Valley)
  • 16% Merlot (9% Walla Walla Valley, 4% Columbia Valley,2% Rattlesnake Hills, 1% Wahluke Slope
  • 14% Cabernet Franc (◦8% Horse Heaven Hills, 3% Walla Walla Valley, 3% Wahluke Slope
  • 7% Malbec (Columbia Valley)
  • 3% Sangiovese (Columbia Valley)
  • 1% Carménère (Walla Walla Valley)
  • 1% Petit Verdot (Walla Walla Valley & Columbia Valley)
2005 Frédéric & Daniel Brunier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine La Roquète Cherries, strawberries, fennel and butterscotch. Bright acidity, medium body, medium finish. Very nice CDP. My rating: 88

2005 La Crema Chardonnay California
Every time the price goes up on this wine, the quality seems to go down - this was a much better wine when it was $10 then it is now at around $15. My rating: 84

2006 Havens Wine Cellars Merlot

Really bummed out with this one. Bought a case at what I thought was a steal for $6.99 a bottle at K&L Wines, one of my favorite and most trusted wine sources. Opened one bottle and thought it had gone bad, so opened another, which was okay the first night buy the second night it tasted like the first bottle. Not worth giving tasting notes on this one except to say it tasted like wine in a can - very tinny and bitter. My rating: 70

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Carménère taste off

Date: Sat, Jan 30, 2010 Wine Tasting

I've been experimenting a lot with Carménère lately and the good folks at Wines of Chile were gracious enough to let me in on a tasting of their selections a few months back. Unfortunately, at the time, I had to back out of the tasting so am just now finishing up the wines. Overall, a good flight of wines, some I really enjoyed, some that fell a bit flat, but none of them dogs. If you haven't tried Carménère, I suggest you try it - it's a varietal that will become more and more prominent and it's smoky features are always interesting to experiment with.

2008 Viña La Rosa Cabernet Sauvignon La Capitana Barrel Reserve This one's an easy drinker - blackberry, smoke, plum and pepper - with great balance and just enough acidity to make it come to life. versatile wine, either on its own or with a big, fatty, grilled steak. Broad on the palate all the way through, with a medium length finish. Almost scored this a 90, but the finish on this one left me wishing for more. But, good wine other than that. My rating: 88

2007 Ventisquero Carménère Grey Great nose on this one...dark berry fruits, blackcurrant, pancetta (as in pancetta still frying in the pan, filling the kitchen with its aroma)), smoke and leather. On the palate, a very full, broad mouthed, acidic, tart dark berry surprise...some of the leather, but more earthy than that, with chalk and dust elements. The finish drops off a bit for me, but this one's a keeper. I really enjoyed this wine and would love to take it with me to an Argentinian steak house. My rating: 89

2007 Santa Carolina Carménère Reserva Plum, candy apple, bacon and smoke, with, unfortunately, a funky day old prosciutto aftertaste (not sure how to describe it other than that, but if you want to try it out, leave a piece of prosciutto out on the counter for a couple hours, then taste it). Outside of that funky element, it's got a nice balance and good acidity...but, I can't get my palate past the prosciutto piece. My rating: 83

2004 Carmen Wine Maker's Reserve Day 1: Cherries, dark berries and green vegetables on the nose. Sour cherry, smoke and chalk on the palate. Medium-bodied up front with a light, hot finish. Decent enough, but not my favorite Carménère. My rating: 85 Day 2: Not going to change my rating on this wine, but it did develop a lot more overnight - the tannins smoothed our considerably and it took on a silkiness that I did not see last night on the first tasting. So, my advice is to keep most of this bottle for day 2 - you will be rewarded.

2007 Viña Cono Sur Carménère Visión On the nose, star fruit, blood orange, simple syrup and rain water (not from the sky, but the rain water captured in a pot, two days after the rain has passed - a bit musty and funky). On the palate, all bright tart fruit, smoke and pepper. crazy mix of stuff on this one. I will finish this bottle, but I doubt I'll buy another one. my rating: 85

NOTE: These wines were sent to me courtesy of Wines of Chile

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Wine for Haiti

Date: Sat, Jan 23, 2010 Wine Tasting

I don't generally recycle content, but, in this case, it's definitely worth it, given the plight of so many people in Haiti. Below is a an article form Palate Press describing their auction efforts to provide relief to Haiti from worldwide wine lovers. Please read the below and take a look at the Wine for Haiti auction catalog on Palate Press. Many thanks to David Honig for pulling this all together.

Wine For Haiti – A Global Effort

Palate Press

As millions of Americans tonight sip a glass of wine, ponder the wine cellar’s humidity, or consider the price of that special bottle at the wine shop, Haitians are suffering, and many are dying.

When a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the island January 12, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere suffered losses beyond compare. Hundreds of thousands are now injured or homeless, and CNN reported January 18 that the death toll may top 100,000.

Palate Press has joined the relief effort for Haiti’s nine million residents. “When I saw the news from Haiti, I knew I had to do something,” said David Honig, the publisher of Palate Press. Proceeds from their “Wine for Haiti” fundraising effort will go directly to support humanitarian relief.

Honig had previously created “Brother, Can You Spare a Bottle?”, an organization that permits charities to request bottles for silent auctions. Now, Palate Press has teamed with that organization to encourage wine lovers to contribute to Haitian relief.

“If there’s one thing I learned from Brother, Can You Spare a Bottle?, it’s that the wine community is an incredibly generous and caring group of people, from the vineyard to the cellar. Combining the goal of ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Bottle?’ with the reach of PALATE PRESS: The Online Wine Magazine seemed like a natural match.”

How can you get involved? Pull something from your cellar and donate it to the cause—maybe a bottle you’ve been saving for a special occasion, or simply one from your favorite wine store—a bottle that will make wine lovers say “I’ve gotta have it!” It needn’t be a Brunello, Cab, or Bordeaux, just something special others might bid on as part of a lot.

Then, go to the Comments section of this post and post a note with your contribution to the Palate Press auction. Honig will then create auction lots for bid. Then, please come back to the site and bid on these fantastic wines.

Honig has been busy. “The response so far has been humbling, and absolutely amazing,” he said. “We had hoped to collect enough bottles to put together a case or two,” the Indianapolis, Indiana, attorney said. “Instead, the wine has been flowing in by the case, by the magnum, by the Joroboam, by the Methuselah. Wine has been contributed by individuals pulling bottles from their cellars, and by wineries donating from their libraries and special collections. An artist contributed an original Wine Goddess print, and University of California Press contributed wine books. New York vintners are competing to prove they can out-contribute California, and California will surely respond,” Honig said.

“People are dying and we can do something about it. But we can’t do it without your help,” Matt of Boozemonkey wrote to his readers on January 18. “Five dollars or five hundred—it’s not about who’s is the biggest, but if we can get a little generosity from everyone, that will make for a hell of a lot of wine, a hell of a lot of donations at the auction and please believe me that every dollar counts in Haiti right now.”

Within minutes of Matt’s post to his blog, several Australian wineries donated cases. Wine bloggers soon began adding the logo to their sites, and other wineries lined up to contribute, including 2 Mates, Caught Redhanded, Gibbston Highgate Estate, Lankey’s Creek Wines, Lindis River Wines, The Little Wine Company, Overhill Winery, and Barristers Block.

Palate Press contributors and the US wine industry are stepping up at a similar pace. Already, Rodney Strong, Cornerstone Cellars, Lynfred Winery, Liebe Cellars, Twisted Oak, and others have made substantial contributions. “The generosity of the wine community is inspiring,” said Honig.

How it Works

Donors are invited to post items in the comments section of this post. Honig will then create auction lots, already underway, for bid. Lots will be posted here with a link to the individual lot. Individual 750ml bottles will be collected into larger lots, while large format bottles will be posted right away as individual lots.

Then, readers will enter a bid in the comments. Palate Press will not close bids quickly, but but once we do, the auction will end once 24 hours has passed without a bid. If a bidding war between two or three people transpires at the end of the bidding period, we will schedule a final bid at a set time to which the contestants (and anybody else lurking and waiting, but interested) agree. Honig will ship the wine to the winning bidder.

To see all the Wine for Haiti auction items, please see the Wine for Haiti Auction Catalogue.

Please direct all inquires to WineForHaiti@palatepress.com.

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