Open That Bottle Night 2014 [Wow! Alert]



By John ~ February 26th, 2014

This year’s Open That Bottle Night was last Saturday, February 22. Open That Bottle Night, created by former Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, is the one night a year that we are all encouraged to get out that bottle of wine that is so special that no occasion seems special enough to actually open it.

That’s exactly what the Wine Peeps team did when we sat down for dinner and opened not one, but two bottles of Washington wine that I’d been saving for just such a special occasion. Both wines were 2008 Bordeaux-style red blends, each with 69% Cabernet Sauvignon. I was the only one who knew the identity of the wines beforehand; they were tasted “blind” so the labels would not prejudice our critique of the wines.

As it turned out, wine bag #1 contained the 2008 Leonetti Reserve from the Walla Walla Valley and wine bag #2 contained the 2008 Rasa Creative Impulse from the Yakima Valley. The 2008 Creative Impulse had been Wine Peeps’ choice as Best Wine of 2011 the first time we tasted it. We had not previously tasted the 2008 vintage of the Leonetti Reserve.

Leonetti Cellar, located in Walla Walla, Washington, has a long and storied history for a Washington State winery. Founded by Gary and Nancy Figgins in 1977, Leonetti Cellar was the Walla Walla Valley’s first modern-day winery. Leonetti wines have been standard bearers for quality and consistency since their beginning and have achieved a cult following. It often takes years of waiting to make their allocation list. In 1996, Gary and Nancy’s son, Chris, joined them in the winery after graduating with a degree in Horticulture from Washington State University. While Gary is still actively involved in the winery, Chris now serves as CEO and Director of Winemaking. From early on, the Figgins family has worked on developing their own vineyards in order to achieve their goal of exclusively using estate-grown fruit from the Walla Walla Valley. Leonetti only produces three or four wines each year, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, and in the best vintages, a Reserve like this one.

Even though they are a relative newcomer, founded in 2007 by brothers Pinto and Billo Naravane, Rasa Vineyards is already a bona fide Washington wine superstar. Billo serves as winemaker and Pinto as managing partner, but the brothers collaborate on every aspect of the business. They both have engineering and mathematical backgrounds and worked in the computer industry. As far as Wine Peeps’ ratings go, Rasa has been in a league of its own. We’ve found a “Wow!” wine (Quality rating of 5 stars) in every release they’ve had so far, which is unprecedented for us: 2007 Principia, 2008 Creative Impulse, 2009 Plus One, and 2010 QED. Also, the 2008 Vox Populi was the consensus winner in a Tasting Group tasting of Mourvedre from around the world. Rasa Vineyards offers their wines through their mailing list first. Only open by appointment, Rasa Vineyards is definitely a must-visit if you are in the Walla Walla area.

Once you have bottles like these two in the cellar, it is often difficult to decide when it’s the right occasion to drink them. Enter Open That Bottle Night. So this past weekend, we sat down to one of LaGayle’s wonderful dinners of mixed greens drizzled with tomato balsamic vinegar, steak frites, and a French macaroon for dessert, paired with these two special bottles that I had decanted for two hours. I’m happy to report that it did not disappoint!

2008 Leonetti Cellar Reserve (Walla Walla Valley, Washington): 69% Cabernet Sauvignon , 11% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot, and 9% Cabernet Franc. Deep, dark purple. Outstanding nose of black cherry, earth, and leather. On the palate, it has an amazing set of complex flavors including black cherry, other black fruits, a spice box with cinnamon and black pepper, and even a yummy vegetal note. Full-bodied, almost creamy, with crisp acidity, a good, dry tannin level and an extremely long finish. A fabulous, well-balanced wine that should reward further cellaring. It was the better of these two outstanding wines from start to finish. Wow!
Quality: 5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Full Pull Wines (Seattle, Washington), $145; Available elsewhere, $160 to $200

2008 Rasa Vineyards Creative Impulse (DuBrul Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington): 69% Cabernet Sauvignon and 31% Merlot. Deep, dark purplish red. The nose features aromas of black cherry, black currant, and vanilla. Very fruity with more black cherry, black currant, some red fruits, and licorice on the palate. Medium-full bodied with lively acidity and silky, smooth tannins. Well-balanced and gets better the longer it is open. Has good complexity and a very long finish. While this is an excellent wine, this bottle on this day was not quite up to the Wow! Rating we gave this wine a couple of years ago.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $95; Available elsewhere, $95 to $100

While our goal at Wine Peeps is to find excellent wines that are also excellent values, it sure can be fun to splurge every once in a while.

If you missed this year’s OTBN, go ahead and open your special bottle tonight (or this weekend) anyway. Or, mark your calendar for next year’s OTBN on Saturday, February 28, 2015 (always the last Saturday in February).



Filed under: American Wine, Five-Star Quality Wines, Red Wine, Washington State Wine, Wines Over $25
 

A Wine for Tonight: 2012 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Unoaked Chardonnay



By Kori ~ February 19th, 2014

Would you like a quick suggestion for a good wine to drink tonight (or this weekend) that won’t break your budget and is widely available? If so, you might want to check out the 2012 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Unoaked Chardonnay from Washington State.

Our selection criteria include:

  • A very good Quality rating of >=3.5 stars (out of 5)
  • A price tag of <=$20
  • Must be widely available

Columbia Crest, located in Paterson, Washington, has been one of our favorite sources of value wines for many years. In 2011, Juan Munoz Oca took over as head winemaker from Ray Einberger. Einberger had been at the helm since 2002 when he took the reins from Doug Gore who had been the winemaker since Columbia Crest was founded in 1983. The Columbia Crest winemaking team has produced more 90+ scoring bottles of wine than any other winery in the world. For those of us who live in Washington State, it is nice to have such a consistent, affordable producer in our own backyard.

“Fermented only in stainless steel, the Grand Estates Unoaked Chardonnay is a light-bodied wine that reveals a pure expression of the varietal. The wine reveals aromas of lemon seed, green mangoes and orange blossoms. On the palate, layers of citrus fruit flavors combine with lively acidity, creating a refreshing style of Chardonnay.” –Juan Munoz Oca, Winemaker

2012 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Unoaked Chardonnay (Washington State): 100% Chardonnay. Pale, greenish straw yellow. Aromatic with citrus notes, especially lemon and lime, on both the nose and palate. Dry and light-bodied with tart acidity and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to Buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $12; Available elsewhere, $9 to $14



Filed under: A Wine for Tonight, American Wine, Chardonnay, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Washington State Wine, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25
 

Milbrandt Vineyards: 2012 Ancient Lakes Riesling and 2012 The Estates Viognier



By Kori ~ February 12th, 2014

Brothers Butch and Jerry Milbrandt planted their first vines in Washington’s Columbia Valley and Wahluke Slope in 1997. Today, Milbrandt Vineyards is comprised of over 2,000 acres of estate vineyards. After selling their grapes to wineries throughout Washington for years, the Milbrandts launched their own winery in 2005. Joshua Maloney, who previously worked for wineries in California and then as Chateau Ste. Michelle’s red winemaker, joined Milbrandt Vineyards as Director of Winemaking in 2011. The Milbrandt Vineyards tasting room is located in Prosser, Washington.

Recently, we had the opportunity to taste the 2012 The Estates Ancient Lakes Riesling and 2012 The Estates Viognier in a blind samples tasting. Both wines are very good and food-friendly. Even though we are in the throes of winter, either of these wines would be a good choice when you have a hankering for white wine.

Milbrandt Vineyards consistently offers a lineup of good quality wines that deliver great bang for your buck.

2012 Milbrandt Vineyards The Estates Ancient Lakes Riesling (Evergreen Vineyard, Ancient Lakes of the Columbia Valley, Washington): 100% Riesling. Pale, greenish straw yellow. Very aromatic with white peach, lime, petrol notes, and a touch of minerality on both the nose and palate. Dry and light to medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a long, refreshing finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $16.99; Available elsewhere, $20

2012 Milbrandt Vineyards The Estates Viognier (Wahluke Slope, Washington): 100% Viognier. Pale, greenish straw yellow. Nice nose with citrus, honey, and floral aromas. Lime and lemon come through on the palate. Dry and light-bodied with tart acidity and a very long, refreshing finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $19.99; Available elsewhere, $14 to $22



Filed under: American Wine, Riesling, Viognier, Washington State Wine, White Wine, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25
 

Challenging Wine Pairing: Braised Beef Short Ribs



By LaGayle ~ February 5th, 2014

Recently, a recipe for braised beef short ribs caught my eye. It sounded delicious, and I thought it would make for a good challenging wine pairing dinner. The Wine Peeps like just about any cut of beef, so I’m always looking for beef recipes that we haven’t already tried. Even better—this was a simple preparation and was absolutely fantastic—the meat just fell off the bone! I served the short ribs over pasta and accompanied it with oven-roasted vegetables and a mixed green salad with pineapple and raspberries drizzled with mango balsamic vinegar.

For the wines to pair with this meal, we decided to go with a Syrah and a Mourvedre and selected the 2010 Mark Ryan Winery Lost Soul Syrah and the 2010 Rotie Cellars Dre Mourvedre. Both wines are outstanding! Throughout the dinner, we went back and forth as to which wine we each preferred with the meal. When we tasted each one before eating any food, the Syrah probably had the edge. But the Mourvedre is extremely food-friendly and really came on during dinner. You really can’t go wrong with either of these wines with the short ribs, so it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, why not have a glass of each and try this challenge yourself.

What would you have paired with this meal?  And, as always, we welcome your suggestions for future challenging wine pairings.

Bon Appétit!

2010 Mark Ryan Winery Lost Soul Syrah (Red Willow Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington): Dark, dense purple. Gorgeous nose with black fruit and smoked meat aromas. Blackberry, black cherry, smoked meat, and a touch of black pepper comes through on the palate. Full-bodied with crisp acidity and high, smooth tannins. Well-balanced with a very long, lingering finish.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Full Pull Wines (Seattle, Washington), $45; Available elsewhere, $49

2010 Rotie Cellars Dre Mourvedre (Washington State): Dark purplish red. Nose is a bit tight at first and then nice black fruit aromas come through. Red cherry, plum, blackberry, and cinnamon come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with crisp acidity and medium to high, smooth tannins. Well-balanced with a very long finish.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $60



Filed under: American Wine, Challenging Wine Pairing, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Food & Wine, Mourvedre, Red Wine, Shiraz/Syrah, Washington State Wine, Wines Over $25
 

A Wine for Tonight: 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer



By Kori ~ January 29th, 2014

Would you like a quick suggestion for a good wine to drink tonight (or this weekend) that won’t break your budget and is widely available? If so, you might want to check out the 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer from the Columbia Valley of Washington State.

Our selection criteria include:

  • A very good Quality rating of >=3.5 stars (out of 5)
  • A price tag of <=$20
  • Must be widely available

Chateau Ste. Michelle is Washington State’s founding winery with its roots dating back to the repeal of Prohibition. In 1976, Ste. Michelle built a French-style chateau in Woodinville, just northeast of Seattle. While all of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s vineyards are located on the east side of the Cascade Mountains, all of their white wines, including this Gewurztraminer, are made in Woodinville.

“A fan favorite, this Gewurztraminer is such an enjoyable wine with beautiful, expressive fruit and clove spice. This is a lush style of Gewurztraminer with a lot of floral character, yet it still maintains the grape’s natural crisp acidity. A touch of Muscat offers citrus notes and a deeper spice note. Try this wine with Thai food or any cuisine with a little ‘bite’ to it.” –Bob Bertheau, Head Winemaker

2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer (Columbia Valley, Washington): 98% Gewurztraminer, 2% Muscat. Pale straw yellow. Aromatic with honey, melon, and floral notes on the nose. More honey, melon, and floral notes as well as apple come through on the palate. Medium sweet and medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a long finish. Residual sugar: 1.6%
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $11; Available elsewhere, $7 to $12



Filed under: A Wine for Tonight, American Wine, Gewurztraminer, Washington State Wine, White Wine, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25
 

2009 Watermill Winery Merlot



By Kori ~ January 22nd, 2014

Watermill Winery is located in Milton-Freewater, Oregon, in the heart of the Walla Walla Valley AVA just 10 miles from downtown Walla Walla, Washington. The Brown family, a third generation apple-growing family and the owners of Blue Mountain Cider, founded Watermill in 2005. Rich Funk of Saviah Cellars initially oversaw the winemaking operations until Andrew Brown took over as winemaker in 2007.

Before launching their own winery, grapes grown by the Brown family were used for other prestigious wines from Northstar Winery, Seven Hills Winery, and Saviah Cellars. The Brown family owns some prized land in an area called “The Rocks” by the locals.

Recently, we had the opportunity to taste their 2009 Merlot in a blind samples tasting. This is the second time we’ve had this wine. It is coming into its own now and is better than it was upon release. In addition to being an excellent wine, it also delivers serious bang for your buck.

Not only do the Browns produce great fruit and great wines, but they are also some of the nicest people we’ve had the pleasure to meet. If you are in the Walla Walla Valley, be sure to stop by Watermill Winery for a truly memorable visit.

2009 Watermill Winery Merlot (Walla Walla Valley): 100% Merlot. Dark, dense purple in color. Aromatic with black plum, cinnamon, and a touch of earth on both the nose and palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, and medium to high tannins. Well-balanced with a long, smooth finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $24



Filed under: American Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Merlot, Oregon Wine, Red Wine, Washington State Wine, Wines Under $25
 

Current Releases from Rasa Vineyards [Wow! Alert]



By Kori ~ January 15th, 2014

Founded in 2007 by brothers Pinto and Billo Naravane, Rasa Vineyards is a bona fide Washington wine superstar. Their beautiful winery is located south of downtown Walla Walla near the Washington/Oregon state line. Billo serves as winemaker and Pinto as managing partner, but the brothers collaborate on every aspect of the business. They both have engineering and mathematical backgrounds and worked in the computer industry.

Recently, we had the opportunity to try six of Rasa’s current releases, their fourth vintage of wines, in a blind samples tasting. Well, folks, the Naravane brothers have done it again. The overall quality of their lineup of wines continues to impress. All six wines are excellent! And, we gave the 2010 QED a 5-star Quality rating; it truly is another “Wow!” wine. As far as Wine Peeps’ ratings go, Rasa is in a league of its own. We’ve found a “Wow!” wine (Quality rating of 5 stars) in every release they’ve had so far, which is unprecedented for us: 2007 Principia, 2008 Creative Impulse, 2009 Plus One, and now 2010 QED. Also, the 2008 Vox Populi was the consensus winner in a Tasting Group tasting of Mourvedre from around the world.

Rasa Vineyards offers their wines through their mailing list first. They are also distributed in many states. If you have not had a chance to try one of their wines, I encourage you to keep your eyes out for them on the shelf at your local wine shop or go ahead and put your name on their mailing list. Only open by appointment, Rasa Vineyards is definitely a must-visit if you are in the Walla Walla area.

For a more detailed write-up about Rasa Vineyards, the Naravane brothers, and their winemaking philosophy, please refer back to my Spotlight On: Rasa Vineyards post.

2010 Rasa Vineyards QED (Walla Walla Valley, Washington): 79% Syrah, 9% Mourvedre, 8% Grenache, and 4% Viognier. Dark, dense purple. Gorgeous nose with spice rack, black pepper, and black fruit aromas. Blackberry, black cherry, spice rack, and black pepper come through on the palate. Full-bodied with crisp acidity and medium to high, silky tannins. Well-balanced and smooth with great complexity, and a finish that goes on for days. Wow!
Quality: 5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $50

2010 Rasa Vineyards in Order to form a more perfect Union (Columbia Valley, Washington): 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot, and 16% Cabernet Franc. Dark red in color. Very aromatic with black fruit, wild game, and licorice on both the nose and palate. Full-bodied with lively acidity, and medium to high tannins. Well-balanced with good complexity and a very long, smooth finish.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $95

2010 Rasa Vineyards Plus One Cabernet Sauvignon (Kiona Vineyard, Red Mountain, Washington): Deep, dark red. Amazing nose with black fruit, wild game, and eucalyptus aromas. Big, bold black fruit and game as well as leather come through on the palate. Full-bodied with crisp acidity and medium to high, smooth tannins. Well-balanced with good complexity and a long, lingering finish.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $75

2010 Rasa Vineyards Creative Impulse (DuBrul Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington): 67.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 32.5% Merlot. Deep, dark purplish red. Very aromatic with red and black fruit and smoked meat on the nose. Black currant, black cherry, and smoked meat come through on the palate. Full-bodied with lively acidity and medium to high tannins. Well-balanced with a long, lingering finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $95

2010 Rasa Vineyards Principia Reserve Syrah (Les Collines Vineyard and Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley): 100% Syrah. Dark, dense purple in color. Aromatic with blackberry and earth on both the nose and palate. Full-bodied with lively acidity, and medium to high, smooth tannins. Well-balanced with a very long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $85

2011 Rasa Vineyards Vox Populi Mourvedre (Monette’s Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley): 100% Mourvedre. Deep, dark purple. Nice nose with black fruit and wild game on both the nose and palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity and medium tannins. Well-balanced with a very long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $45



Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Five-Star Quality Wines, Mourvedre, Red Wine, Shiraz/Syrah, Washington State Wine, Wines Over $25
 

Happy 6th Birthday to Wine Peeps!



By Kori ~ January 9th, 2014

Today marks six years since we started sharing our wine adventures with you here on Wine Peeps. What an exciting six years it has been! We have written 1,236 posts and tasted over 6,000 wines. We have had the pleasure to meet so many wonderful people in the wine industry as well as fellow wine enthusiasts. This past year, we traveled to many wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms in Washington and Italy. In addition to those trips, we welcomed the many other opportunities we had to expand our palates and taste wines from all around the world through our tasting dinners, private tastings, samples tastings, trade tastings, and other events.

Thank you so much to all of our readers! We love wine and love sharing that passion with you through this blog. We are humbled that you care to read what we write. In the coming year, we will strive to continue providing you with compelling wine-related content. We hope that you will continue to support us by reading Wine Peeps and telling your friends about it.

Cheers from your Wine Peeps,
Kori, John, Colby, and LaGayle



Filed under: Birthday
 

A Wine for Tonight: 2012 Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc



By Kori ~ January 8th, 2014

Would you like a quick suggestion for a good wine to drink tonight (or this weekend) that won’t break your budget and is widely available? If so, you might want to check out the 2012 Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc from the famed Marlborough region of New Zealand.

Our selection criteria include:

  • A very good Quality rating of >=3.5 stars (out of 5)
  • A price tag of <=$20
  • Must be widely available

Regular readers know that we are big fans of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the country’s flagship wine. Stoneleigh Vineyards is another producer worth checking out. Located on the northern side of Marlborough’s Wairau Valley, Stoneleigh came on the scene in the late 1980′s. The winery gets its name from the abundance of stones that cover the area. The stony soils and slightly warmer climate of the area produces fruit that ripens earlier than other regions of Marlborough. The Stoneleigh vineyard is home to some of the oldest grafted Sauvignon Blanc blocks in Marlborough.

“The 2012 vintage, a naturally low-yielding year, has delivered fruit full of flavour and the Stoneleigh tropical fruit ripeness that we have come to expect. Another classic Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc featuring fantastically ripe fruit displaying tropical notes with an underlying citrus edge. Crisp, vibrant and lively—this is a very pleasing wine.” –Jamie Marfell, Winemaker

2012 Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand): Very pale straw yellow in color. Aromatic with grapefruit, lime, and tropical fruit on both the nose and palate. Dry and light-bodied with racy acidity and a long, refreshing finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to Buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $15.99; Available elsewhere, $10 to $17



Filed under: A Wine for Tonight, New Zealand Wine, Sauvignon Blanc, White Wine, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25
 

Happy New Year!



By Kori ~ January 1st, 2014

Happy New Year! Best wishes for a happy, healthy, prosperous, and wine-filled 2014!



Filed under: Holiday