Wine Tasting Dinner: 2009 Washington Syrah



By Kori ~ May 22nd, 2013

Washington Syrah compares favorably with the best in the world. Washington Syrah generally falls somewhere in between the jammy Shiraz of Australia and the more austere Syrah of the northern Rhone. It generally has good acidity and tannins. Last Friday, we featured Washington Syrah from the 2009 vintage in our wine tasting dinner. All six wines paired perfectly with Mom’s dinner of tomato basil soup, mixed green salad with blue cheese, pecans, toasted walnuts, and dried cranberries tossed with a green onion, honey, Tabasco vinaigrette dressing, grilled beef tenderloin steaks, rosemary roasted sweet potatoes, asparagus with curry butter, and topped off with a German chocolate dessert topped with whipped cream and shaved chocolate. Four of the six wines received a Quality rating of 4 stars (out of 5).

The 2009 Long Shadows Sequel Syrah came out on top in this outstanding lineup. Founded by Washington wine pioneer Allen Shoup, Long Shadows Vintners is a collection of ultra-premium wineries comprised of internationally acclaimed winemakers from the major wine regions of the world. Each winemaker is a partner in a unique winery dedicated to producing a single Columbia Valley wine representing a “best of type” that reflects the winemaker’s signature style. Sequel is a Syrah made by John Duval, one of the most famous winemakers in Australia and around the world. He is best known for his work with Penfolds Grange, Australia’s most famous wine, and now owns his own John Duval Wines.

Really, you can’t go wrong with any of these wines. Washington State produces fabulous Syrah, and the winemakers who made these six wines are among the state’s best.

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

2009 Long Shadows Sequel Syrah (Columbia Valley, Washington): 99% Syrah and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark, dense purple. Gorgeous nose with spice, game, earth, and black fruit aromas. Blackberry, black pepper, game, herbs, and spice come through on the palate. Full-bodied with crisp acidity and high yet smooth tannins. Well-balanced with good complexity and a very long, lingering finish.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to Buy: Winery, $50; Available elsewhere, $42 to $55

2009 Force Majeure Collaboration Series III (Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain, Washington): 100% Syrah. Winemaker Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery. Deep, dark purple. Nice nose with black fruit and cinnamon aromas. Black fruit, black pepper, cinnamon, and a touch of earth come through on the palate. Full-bodied with crisp acidity and high tannins. Well-balanced with good complexity and a very long finish. Force Majeure winery was previously named Grand Rêve.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $55; Available elsewhere, $55 to $56

2009 Rasa Vineyards QED (Columbia Valley, Washington): 71% Syrah, 14% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre, and 3% Viognier. Deep, dark ruby red. Aromatic with black cherry, cinnamon, and a touch of smoke on the nose. Black cherry, spice, black pepper, and some oak come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity and medium to high, silky tannins. Well-balanced with a long, lingering finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $50

2009 Betz Family Winery La Côte Patriarche Syrah (Red Willow Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington): 100% Syrah. Deep, dark purplish red. Aromatic with black fruit and smoked meat on the nose. Black cherry, blackberry, game, and a hint of earth come through on the palate. Medium to 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: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $55

2009 Fielding Hills Syrah (RiverBend Vineyard, Wahluke Slope, Washington): 94% Syrah, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. Deep, dark purplish red. Nice nose with red and black fruit and vanilla aromas. Red and black fruit, vanilla, and cherry cola come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, medium to high tannins, and a very long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $38; Available elsewhere, $38 to $46

2009 Maison Bleue Liberté Syrah (Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington): 100% Syrah. Deep ruby red. Aromatic with cherry, spice, and vanilla on the nose. Very jammy with Big Red soda, strawberry, and a touch of cedar on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Full Pull Wines (Seattle, Washington), $42; Available elsewhere, $40 to $44



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

Milbrandt Vineyards: 2012 Traditions Pinot Gris and 2010 The Estates Cab



By Kori ~ May 15th, 2013

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 Traditions Pinot Gris and the 2010 The Estates Cabernet Sauvignon in a blind samples tasting. Both wines are very good, but we especially enjoyed the Pinot Gris. It is crisp and refreshing and an excellent wine for late spring and summer.

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

2012 Milbrandt Vineyards Traditions Pinot Gris (Columbia Valley, Washington): 100% Pinot Gris. Pale straw yellow. Nice nose with lemon and honeysuckle aromas. Citrus fruits, especially lemon, and floral notes come through on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with tart acidity. Well-balanced with a very long, refreshing finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $12.99; Available elsewhere, $10 to $13

2010 Milbrandt Vineyards The Estates Cabernet Sauvignon (Wahluke Slope, Washington): 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, and 5% Malbec. Dark purplish red. Aromatic with molasses and blackcurrant on the nose. More molasses, blackcurrant, and black pepper come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, medium to high tannins, 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 $24.99; Available elsewhere, $14 to $27



Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Red Wine, Washington State Wine, White Wine, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25
 

Challenging Wine Pairing: Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich



By LaGayle ~ May 8th, 2013

It’s always fun planning a challenging wine pairing dinner. I especially enjoy the “challenge” of determining a good wine pairing for a meal in which wine would probably not be the first beverage that comes to mind. This time, I decided to make Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, a Wine Peeps’ family favorite. Along with the sandwiches, we had sweet potato fries and a green salad mixed with peaches and grapes and tossed with Serrano honey balsamic vinegar.

Once again, I referred to my favorite guide, What to Drink with What You Eat, for pairing recommendations and decided to try a Merlot and a Syrah. We selected the 2009 Fidelitas Merlot and the 2010 Owen Roe Ex Umbris Syrah, both from the Columbia Valley. While both wines were very good in their own right, the unanimous choice for this meal on this night was the Merlot.

What would you have paired with a Philly cheesesteak sandwich? And, as always, we welcome your suggestions for future challenging wine pairings.

Bon Appétit!

2009 Fidelitas Merlot (Columbia Valley, Washington): Deep, dark purple. Nice nose with earth and black fruit aromas. Pencil lead, black fruit, and earth come through on the palate. Full-bodied with crisp acidity and high, dry tannins. Well-balanced with a very long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $25; Available elsewhere, $25 to $40

2010 Owen Roe Ex Umbris Syrah (Columbia Valley, Washington): Deep, dark purple. Aromatic with red fruit and vegetal notes on both the nose and palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity and medium to high tannins.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Full Pull Wines (Seattle, Washington), $25.99; Available elsewhere, $23 to $32



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

A Wine for Tonight: NV Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava



By Kori ~ May 1st, 2013

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 Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava from Spain.

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

Freixenet, pronounced “fresh-eh-net”, is a family-owned company that grew from humble beginnings in rural Catalunya, Spain. In 1861, two winemaking families, the Ferrers and the Salas, set the stage for the company that would ultimately become a world leader in the production of méthode champenoise sparkling wines. They began selling their wines with the Freixenet name in 1915. Today, the multinational Freixenet Group is run by the fourth generation and produces 200 million bottles each year. Josep Bujan has been the Freixenet technical director and winemaker since 1980.

“Cordon Negro Brut is crisp, clean, and well balanced. It is medium-bodied with a palate of apple, pear and bright citrus flavors with a moderately long finish and a crisp touch of ginger. This wine is extremely versatile and pairs well with most food.” –Freixenet

NV Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava (Spain): 35% Macabeo, 25% Xarel-lo, and 40% Parellada. Pale straw yellow in color. Nice nose with apple aromas. Apple, lemon, lime, and tangerine come through on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with crisp acidity. Well-balanced with a very long, refreshing finish. A lovely weeknight or brunch bubbly.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $12; Available elsewhere, $8 to $14



Filed under: A Wine for Tonight, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Spanish Wine, Sparkling Wine, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25
 

Another Chilean Wine to Try: 2010 Apaltagua Signature Cabernet Sauvignon



By Kori ~ April 24th, 2013

During my media trip to Chile last fall, I had the opportunity to visit many of Chile’s wine regions, meet many of the movers and shakers in the Chilean wine industry, and taste many of their wines.  Since returning home, I have continued to explore the wines of Chile. Recently, I had the opportunity to taste yet another Chilean wine in a blind samples tasting, the 2010 Apaltagua Signature Cabernet Sauvignon from the Maipo Valley. Viña Apaltagua, founded by American businessman Edward Tutunjian, produces 235,000 cases annually, which are exported to 40 different countries.

The Maipo Valley spans from the Andes to the coast and is one of Chile’s oldest and most well-known wine regions. Best known for its red wines, the Maipo Valley is the closest wine region to the city of Santiago. The climate in the Maipo Valley is marked by two distinct seasons, the winter is cold and rainy and the long summer is dry, hot, and sunny.

Cabernet Sauvignon is Chile’s star grape with over 40,000 hectares planted, accounting for 47% of all red varieties planted. While it is grown in all but the coldest areas of Chile, Cab does best in regions with a warm, dry climate that allows it to fully ripen.

2010 Apaltagua Signature Cabernet Sauvignon (Maipo Valley, Chile): Deep, dark red in color. Very aromatic with red fruit, spice, vanilla, and smoked meat on the nose. Cherry, strawberry, and a touch of tobacco and chocolate come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, medium to high tannins, and a long, smooth 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 $35; Available elsewhere, $25 to $30



Filed under: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chilean Wine, Red Wine, Wines Over $25
 

A Wine for Tonight: 2012 Canoe Ridge Vineyard Expedition Pinot Gris



By Kori ~ April 17th, 2013

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 Canoe Ridge Vineyard Expedition Pinot Gris from the Horse Heaven Hills 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

Canoe Ridge Vineyard, located in Walla Walla, Washington, was established in 1994. The estate vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA was first planted in 1989. Canoe Ridge sources the majority of its grapes from the estate vineyard. The winery and vineyard get their name from the estate vineyard site near the Columbia River which explorers Lewis and Clark thought looked like an overturned canoe. Bill Murray, who got his start in Napa, California, was named head winemaker for Canoe Ridge Vineyard in 2011. Its annual production is about 70,000 cases.

“Crisp and juicy, featuring a great blend of lemon, lime, green apple and peach notes. Lively acidity balances with honeysuckle and lemongrass on the lingering finish.” –Winemaker Bill Murray

2012 Canoe Ridge Vineyard Expedition Pinot Gris (Horse Heaven Hills, Washington): Pale, straw yellow in color. Very aromatic with gorgeous floral and lemon zest aromas. Gardenias, lime, and orange come through on the palate. Dry and light-bodied with crisp acidity and a long, refreshing finish. Residual Sugar: 0.8%
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $14; Available elsewhere, $13 to $15



Filed under: A Wine for Tonight, American Wine, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Washington State Wine, White Wine, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25
 

Rodney Strong Vineyards: Sonoma County Wines



By Kori ~ April 10th, 2013

Rodney Strong founded Rodney Strong Vineyards, located in Healdsburg, California, in 1959. Current owner Tom Klein and the Klein family purchased the winery in 1989. Head winemaker Rick Sayre has been with the winery since 1979. Rodney Strong sustainably farms thirteen estate vineyards in Sonoma County.

Recently, we had the opportunity to taste the 2010 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2011 Sonoma County Chardonnay in a blind samples tasting. Both wines are very good, but we especially enjoyed the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Rodney Strong consistently offers a lineup of good quality wines that deliver serious bang for your buck in their Sonoma County line, which is available nationally.

2010 Rodney Strong Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County, California): Deep, dark red in color. Beautiful nose with red and black fruit, eucalyptus, and floral aromas. Black plum, black cherry, and floral notes come through on the 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 $18; Available elsewhere, $13 to $20

2011 Rodney Strong Sonoma County Chardonnay (Sonoma County, California): 60% barrel fermented and 40% cold fermented in stainless steel. Pale, greenish straw yellow. Aromatic with apple, lemon, and vanilla on both the nose and palate. Dry and light to medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a medium to 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 $15; Available elsewhere, $10 to $16



Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wine, Chardonnay, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Red Wine, White Wine, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25
 

Kim Crawford: 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and 2011 Pinot Noir



By Kori ~ April 3rd, 2013

Kim Crawford Wines, located in New Zealand, was founded in 1996 by owner/winemaker Kim Crawford and his wife Erica. In the beginning, Kim Crawford Wines was one of New Zealand’s first “virtual wineries.” They sourced their grapes from growers across New Zealand, made the wine at other wineries, and managed their sales and marketing from their home in Auckland. In 1998, they began exporting some of their wine to the United States, Canada, and Australia. The Crawfords opened a cellar door (tasting room) facility in Te Awanga in Hawke’s Bay in 1999. Then they opened a state of the art winery and purchased vineyard land in Marlborough in early 2000. Kim Crawford Wines is now part of Constellation Brands.

Since we visited New Zealand in 2005, we have followed Kim Crawford Wines closely. Recently, we had the opportunity to taste their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and 2011 Pinot Noir in a blind samples tasting. Both wines are very good and deliver serious bang for your buck.

Regular readers know that we are big fans of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the country’s flagship wine. And Kim Crawford Wines makes one of our favorite New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. The most amazing thing about Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc is its remarkable consistency from vintage to vintage. It’s crisp acidity and refreshing grapefruit flavors are especially pleasing to our palates.

Pinot Noir is a finicky grape that will not grow just anywhere. New Zealand is one of the few places in the world where it does remarkably well. Pinot Noir is the number two most planted variety in New Zealand, after Sauvignon Blanc. The country’s temperate, maritime climate provides ideal conditions for growing Pinot Noir. In my opinion, New Zealand Pinot Noir has found its niche in style somewhere between the elegance of Burgundy and the sometimes-intense herbal and gamey notes of Oregon Pinot Noir.

2012 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand): Pale, greenish straw yellow. Very aromatic with grapefruit, lime, and grass on the nose. More grapefruit, lime, and grass as well as lemon zest come through on the palate. Dry and light to medium-bodied with very crisp acidity. Well-balanced and refreshing with a long, lingering finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to Buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $14.99; Available elsewhere, $11 to $18

2011 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir (Marlborough, New Zealand): Deep ruby red in color. Nice nose with strawberry, raspberry, and cinnamon aromas. Bright red fruit and spice come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity, smooth tannins, 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 $17.99; Available elsewhere, $14 to $20



Filed under: Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, New Zealand Wine, Pinot Noir, Red Wine, Sauvignon Blanc, White Wine, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25
 
 

Taste Washington 2013: Highlights from Seattle’s Wine & Food Weekend



By Kori ~ March 27th, 2013

Taste Washington, held in Seattle annually, is the nation’s largest single-region wine and food event. This past weekend brought Washington wine lovers from around the country to Seattle to drink, eat, and be merry. For the second year in a row, the event spanned two days with Seminars offered each morning followed by the Grand Tasting each afternoon. Hosted by Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau in partnership with the Washington State Wine Commission, Taste Washington is the highlight of Washington Wine Month.

The Grand Tasting is the “main event” each day. This year, Taste Washington featured over 225 wineries pouring their wines and over 65 Northwest restaurants serving small bites. With more than 750 wineries now open in the state of Washington, this event offers attendees the opportunity to try a large number of them in one place at one time. Considering the time and gas money you save not having to crisscross the state visiting tasting rooms and making appointments, the price of admission to Taste Washington is money well spent. Now, don’t get me wrong, once you attend an event like this and discover some favorite new wines and wineries, you will definitely want to make plans to travel to the wineries to visit and taste again. There is nothing like spending a long weekend in Washington wine country.

One of the best aspects of Taste Washington is that often you will find either the winemaker and/or winery owner pouring that winery’s wines. In addition to visiting with a number of people whose wines we have enjoyed in the past, we always find it a great opportunity to try some wines from wineries whose wines we have not previously tasted.

My favorite wines from the Grand Tasting, from wineries whose wines we’ve enjoyed in the past, were the 2010 Avennia Arnaut Syrah, the 2010 Betz Père de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2010 Betz La Côte Rousse Syrah, the 2010 Gorman The Evil Twin Red Blend, and the 2010 Robert Ramsay Mourvedre.

For the most exciting discovery, my nod goes to Kevin White Winery. Kevin White and his wife Stefanie founded the winery in 2010 and released their inaugural wine last year. It was a pleasure to meet Kevin and taste several of his wines. They are all very good, but I was especially impressed with the 2011 La Fraternité Red Wine, which is a blend of 42% Grenache, 42% Mourvedre, and 16% Syrah. And at just $20, it delivers serious bang for your buck as well. Kevin White is definitely a winery to watch.

Did you attend Taste Washington this year? What were some of your favorite wines?

If you live in Washington and haven’t yet taken advantage of the special promotions going on this month, you have four days left to do so. But here’s to enjoying excellent Washington wine all year long.

Cheers!



Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Mourvedre, Red Wine, Shiraz/Syrah, Washington State Wine, Wine Activities/Events