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2011 Unofficial Cassification Of Washington Wineries

Date: Thu, Jan 12, 2012 Wine Tasting


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, thereare 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 topof 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




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The Best And Worst Wines Of 2011

Date: Mon, Jan 2, 2012 Wine Tasting

With over 600,000 wines in the world ,obviously, these are not The Best and The Worst in the wholeworld.They are just some of my faves, and disfaves(?), unfives(?), anti-fave(s)? thatI'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 itFour 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 Burgundiesand 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 Bordeauxat 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 BridgeWalla 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 andI 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 fromTotal Wines. Give it an 85.
  • 2009 Ch Haut Sorillon - Perhaps the best value I've tasted this year at $9 from Trader Joe's. Delicious Bordeaux at a great price (85)

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Happy New Year Champagne

Date: Wed, Dec 28, 2011 Wine Tasting

The new year is almost here. Let us hope itwill bebetter 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!





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Thanksgiving Wine

Date: Fri, Nov 11, 2011 Wine Tasting

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, justwriting about it. So we've visited our favorite wineries in the Willamette Valley, Oregonand
Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, California which I'll tell you about soon, but firstthe low down on theannual showdown with all those turkeys out there (no, not the politicans, the birds).

Foodpairings 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, walnutsand 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 RoastBeef.

Here areten specific suggestions:

1) Chandon NapaSparkling Wine
2) Mumm's Napa SparklingWine
3) Gruet New Mexico Sparkling Wine
4) Mountain Dome Washington SparklingWine
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!



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One Of The Best Kept Wine Secrets In America

Date: Mon, Aug 22, 2011 Wine Tasting

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.








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Tales From My Father By Charlie

Date: Thu, Aug 11, 2011 Wine Tasting

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!




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Summer Wines

Date: Thu, Jul 21, 2011 Wine Tasting

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 ...

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Bordeaux With Pizza?

Date: Tue, Jun 28, 2011 Wine Tasting

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

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What Am I Drinking?

Date: Thu, Jun 23, 2011 Wine Tasting

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.

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    Seattle Makes The New York Times

    Date: Tue, Jun 14, 2011 Wine Tasting

    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!

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    2009 Vintage

    Date: Mon, Jun 13, 2011 Wine Tasting

    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

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    The End of the Road Less Traveled

    Date: Mon, May 30, 2011 Wine Tasting

    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!



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    Los Olivos

    Date: Wed, May 18, 2011 Wine Tasting

    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!



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    Real Food

    Date: Wed, May 18, 2011 Wine Tasting

    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.


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