Woodinville Releases

Whoops – I’ve had this sitting in a draft folder – thought I’d published it.  Please note that it’s about 2 weeks old at this point.

Another great release weekend in Woodinville!  We hit as many as we could and here are some of the highlights:

Chatter Creek – A Cotes du Rhone in Woodinville?  Really?  Yes – really!  Gordy made one and it is wonderful!  Light, fruity, approachable – everything you would hope and expect it to be.   TheChatter Creek Label other new release that had all of us drooling was the new Cab Franc.  He always does a nice job with this one and the new release does not disappoint.  Honestly, none of his wines disappoint.  In addition to releasing new wines, he also had a screaming deal on his Cellar Cat Red – a case for $100, an additional 10 bucks off that if you’re a wine club member!  I love a good deal on a great wine!  Cellar Cat is his “not-enough-to-make-a-varietal” red blend.  I believe it’s his first time making it but hope it isn’t the last.

Gorman Winery– Chris Gorman doesn’t have ‘regular’ tasting hours and is usually only open when he has new wines to show off.  Boy were his new wines worthy of showing off!  His release party featured four newGorman Logo releases: Big Sissy (Chardonnay), Zachary’s Ladder (Red Blend), The Pixie (Syrah) and The Evil Twin (Cab/Syrah Blend) – all were really great, as always.  The Zack’s Ladder was tasting really well, like it was ready to be opened and enjoyed now.  The Pixie and The Evil Twin were both fantastic and will probably be even better after a little age.  That being said, I am not the best at aging wines anymore, with the exception of my beloved Cabernets.  Everything else is fair game and these would be no exception.  It would be very hard for me to try and hold on to The Evil Twin for long.

Alexandria Nicole Cellars – We had to stop here because – well we love it, plain and simple.  There were no new releases here today but everything we had was great.  I ANC Logoparticularly liked the latest Quarry Butte and (as usual) the Cabernet. I was lucky enough to get a quick taste of the already-sold-out Lemberger and really liked that as well.  If you aren’t a member of this wine club, you should think about joining.  Not only do you get access to the secret tasting room behind the bookshelf door, but you also get to enjoy some of these small production wines, like the Lemberger.  Really, this winery has something for everyone – great red and white wines, great tasting room staff (Kathy rocks!) and a nice range of prices to fit anyone’s wine budget.

Red Sky– Carol Parsons is such a wonderful winemaker!  The new Cab (only enough made for wine club members) is so good and the new Merlot is out of this world!  We were lucky Red Sky Logoenough to enjoy a vertical Merlot tasting.  The 03 (only available in 1/2 bottle size) and the latest one, the 06, were the stand outs.  I expect both will sell out before too long.  We tasted some of the other wines too and, as usual, all were very good but I was in love with the 06 Sunrise.  This is such a nice blend.  I recently brought a bottle on a camping trip and insisted that several people try it, even people that don’t drink a lot of wine.  All loved it.  The Sunrise, 03 Merlot and 06 Merlot should not be missed.

Page Cellars – I hate to admit it, but I haven’t been into this winery in years.  It’s one that I’ve always liked but didn’t go into because I didn’t realize they had more than just a couple Prefacewines.  I was so wrong and I will not wait years to go back.  I believe this release party was for  The Red Zeppelin (Cab Franc) and for The Norseman (Merlot).  Both were delicious, as was the Preface, a Cab dominant blend and the wine that I always think of when I think of Page Cellars.  We were lucky enough to spend some time at the bar with the winemaker, Jim Page.  It’s only fitting that he have a “Red Zeppelin” wine, isn’t it?  This was one of my favorite wines of the day – a tasty 100% Cab Franc and a $20 price point.  That is a winning combo in my book.  I started out asking for one bottle, then a second and then finally a third.  Can’t have too much of a good thing, right?  I know, I know – I don’t need to buy anymore wine.  But this one just may sell out in a hurry and I’d kick myself if I didn’t get a few when I had the chance.

William Church–  New releases were the 07 Syrah and the 07 “2 Spires” which is a Cab/Syrah blend.  Both were outstanding!  Also tasting really well was the Bishop’s Blend.  William ChurchAlthough this is not a new release it is still a home-run in my book.  I’d never been to a release at William Church; they put on a very nice event.  The tables were well spaced, the food was good and the check out was a breeze.  If you’ve been to a lot of releases in Woodinville you know that sometimes it is really difficult to actually buy a bottle of wine at the end of the tasting.  More places could (and should) take notes from William Church.

Cuillin Hills– No matter how many or how few people are in here, it always feels like a party.  Derek is just down right nuts, and I mean that in Dungeonthe best possible way.  He’s funny, talkative and the farthest thing from a wine snob.  Oh, and his wines are sensational!  Our favorites this trip were the Dungeon Syrah, The Shackled (56% Syrah and 44% Mourvedre) and the Claret, a well balanced Bordeaux blend.  It’s hard not to come here every single time we’re in the warehouse district.

SparkmanWilderness Wall Art Cellars – I was excited to see their new winery space.  It’s right across the parking lot from their former location so it’s really easy to find.  The space is more open and has a nice feel to it so far.  And as always, the wines were very good.  The Wilderness is always one of my favorites – but the Ruby Leigh – wow is that great!  The only thing missing from this visit was the winemaker and his family.  My guess is that crush has them all pretty busy.

Guardian Cellars– They moved as well…right next to Sparkman!  I will admit, I was initially sad to hear that they were moving because I loved the former locGuardian Tasting Roomation.  Yes, it was small and yes, it could get too crowded .  Still, it was cozy.  The new location is much bigger and really quite nice.  They’d only been open a week so things weren’t completely done but I could tell this tasting room was going to be nice too.  And the wines…so good, all of them.  My favorite here was (and usually is) the Gun Metal.  Here too, the only thing missing was the crazy winemaker, Jerry.  His girlfriend, Jennifer, took good care of us though and seemed to have things running smoothly.

Challenger Ridge–  This was a new stop for me.  It’s a neat little tasting room; actually it’s more like a little house.  They had about 4-6 wines to taste, the most interesting being aPoetry Pinot Noir made out of grapes from Concrete Washington!  Not only is it noteworthy to have a Pinot from Washington…but Concrete?  For those of you not familiar with the area, it isn’t a typical wine growing region.  The wines were nice although because they were done in a lighter style, we probably shouldn’t have made this our 10th stop.  I’m pretty sure I was suffering from pallet fatigue at that point.  Still, it was a nice place and I will be back – earlier in the day next time.  If you happen to visit them, be sure to check out the cute wine signs and sayings that are posted!

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A Perfect Ten

What a great day in Woodinville.  Dad, Vegas and I hit TEN wineries yesterday and each one was (as usual) friendly and full of great wine.  Even Vegas had a good time.  One of these days I’ve got to take his picture while we’re there…I’m just so distracted by the wine that I keep forgetting.  Here’s a run down of where we were:

  • Cuillin Hills – We started with one of my favorites.  The winemaker (Derek Des Voigne) is a blast, as is his brother who we saw later at Des Voigne Cellars.  And the wines are not only fantastic, but really well priced.  There aren’t many “screaming deals” here but just about everything is priced under $30.  The news here is not only the new releases, but the birth of a new wine club!  I think I might actually join this one; dad is a member everywhere else so I guess it’s my turn.  My favorite wines – Cab Franc, Riff Raff, Claret, Shackled.
  • Smasne – There are several wineries in this tasting room and all of them have the winemaker (Robert Smasne) in common.  There is a huge line up to taste here.  We were very selective b/c we knew we had such a full day.  Very good wines, very good prices…in fact, we found the “screaming deal” of the day.  A case of his Rose for $50!  I was planning to buy that anyway so when I heard of the sale I gladly bought a case.  So perfect for summer.  My favorite wines – Rose (two kinds), Riesling (two of them) and the Cabs – all of them.
  • Red Sky – We stopped to do a wine club pick up here and were (thankfully) quickly escorted to the back/barrel room because the lobby was packed.  We sipped the new wines with the winemaker (Carol Parsons) and avoided the crowd up front.  The wines and the people are always so nice here.  Dad is especially fond of the girl behind the tasting bar that speaks German with him; Michelle I think is her name? My favorite wines – Sunrise (with a new screw top!), Serendipity, Merlot Rose, Bordeaux Blend.
  • Barrage – The is one of (if not the only) winery that does not do blends.  The winemaker (Kevin Correll) likes to make varietals.  And I like to drink them.  This tasting room is very laid back, super friendly and LOVES dogs.  They usually have their dog, a Chocolate Lab named Murphy, hanging around greeting people.  Vegas is not a fan, but he’s getting used to bigger dogs so visiting this tasting room often is good for Vegas…and Vegas’ mom.  Ha!  But I must admit, I was so busy talking about dogs while I was here that I somehow managed to pick up someone else’s bag when I left!  The lovely Merlot that I paid for turned into a Chardonnay from a completely different winery by the time we got home.  Bummer!  My favorite wines – Merlot, Cab Franc, Double Barrel Cabernet.  UPDATE!  I sent Kevin an email to apologize for basically stealing somebody’s wine.  He told me that they’d realized it right after we left and since we were nowhere to be found, he put my wine off to the side for me and bought a replacement one from the other winery for the other customers.  Great customer service and a great guy!
  • Patterson – This place is another one of those little gems that has great pricing and super wines…and the people – oh so much fun!  There isn’t a wine snob for miles.  The tasting room has a couple great windows that look into the barrel room.  Quite often the winemaker (John Patterson) and/or his dad (Jack) can be found doing barrel samples back there.  If you ever have the chance – do this – I’ve never had a wine I didn’t like.  My favorites – WoodsLake Sangiovese, BDX, Recession Red, Volterra Red
  • Des Voigne – Finally, the new San Remo (Sangiovese) is out!  It was well worth the wait; the wine is excellent.  No real surprise there, it’s wonderful every year.  Heck, everything in that place is good.  The winemaker here (Darren Des Voigne) is the brother to the winemaker at Cuillin Hills.  There must be something in the genes – these boys know what they’re doing, know how to have a fun atmosphere in their tasting rooms and know that wines don’t have to cost a small fortune.  And have I mentioned the labels here yet?  All jazz inspired and gorgeous!  My favorite wines – San Remo (Sangiovese), Emcee (Merlot), The Duke (Zin Blend), Montreux (Syrah).
  • Alexandria Nicole – It’s so hard not to go into this place every time I’m in the Warehouse District.  The winemaker (Jarrod Boyle) makes some terrific wines and the people in the tasting room really treat customers like family.  I almost expect them to call out my name when I walk thru the secret passageway into the members-only area in back…kind of like “Norm!” in Cheers.  Kathy is always back there and always quick to greet us with a smile, a hug and a glass that she’s willing to fill with anything we desire.  The tastings back there aren’t done by a set list; they’re done by what you want to try.  Believe me, it’s hard not to ask for one of everything!  My favorite wines – Cab, Rock Star, Syrah, Merlot.
  • DiStefano’s – This was one of the first wineries I fell in love with in Woodinville.  Because they aren’t in an area with a bunch of others, I don’t always get out to see them.  I was glad we had to pick up wine for some friends; what a great excuse to go in and enjoy their wines.  Their tasting room is so pretty and really holds a lot of people.  Speaking of people, the ones working behind the tasting bar are so friendly and so knowledgeable about their wines.  My favorite wines – Sogno (Cab Franc), Syrah, Cab, Merlot.
  • Bookwalter – This is a relatively new tasting room in Woodinville.  It’s located right behind Hollywood Schoolhouse and has a huge space for tasting.  One of the things that sets them apart from other wineries is the literary theme that can be found in the titles of their wines.  In addition, they are very nice, have super wines and have started a great wine club (I think they call it a book club – ha!) with nice discounts.  Yes, dad joined.  My favorite wines – Couplet (Riesling), Subplot (Blend), Foreshadow Merlot.
  • Mark Ryan – What luck, we were there for the first day of business in the new tasting room!  Rock star winemaker (Mark McNeilly) is open for business behind the Hollywood Schoolhouse.  The tasting room is big and bright and was full of people when we were there.  There is a $10 tasting fee which is one of the highest, but is fully refundable if you buy a bottle.  Trust me, you’ll find something you like.  I love, love, love his wines; I just can’t often afford them.  That being said, when I want to splurge on a really special bottle, it’s usually one of his – the Long Haul in particular.  My favorites – Long Haul, Dead Horse (don’t be fooled by the name), Red Dissident.

Vegas Goes to Woodinville

Vegas inthe wildWhat a great day and what a great group of wineries.  I’ve been wanting to take Vegas with me on a wine day for a while but wasn’t sure how many of the wineries would allow it.  I also wasn’t sure how Vegas would handle it, being the neurotic little hairball that he is. 

  • Our first stop was St. Michelle and that was the only place not to allow dogs; we didn’t mind waiting outside because they have beautiful grounds to walk around.  We also ran into a woman with a 17 week old puppy that was adorable,  Vegas had a mini-meltdown initially but then was fine with her. 
  • Chatter Creek was next.  They had a wine club release and some great wines to taste.  The Barbera was my favorite this time.  Vegas spent most of the day in my arms and at this first stop he spent most of that time shaking.  People were very nice and gentle when I told them about his puppy mill past, but you could tell that even with all the special attention, he was still scared to death. 
  • We went to Gordon Brothers next and he was a little better.  There weren’t many people in there so I let him walk around and check things out for a while.  Had good wines here too; their Cab and Rose were my favorites. 
  • Senoj was next and we were the only people there at first.  I let him sniff around for at least 2-3 pours and then people started to arrive so I picked him up again.  This time I noticed that he wasn’t shaking too much.  Before I knew it, there were a lot of people in the tasting room and most of them seemed to be surrounding us and wanting to pet him or ask questions about him.  I should also mention that this is a really fun tasting room, big projection TV, huge space and all kinds of seating.  Back to Vegas…he did very well with the mob of people; I was so proud.  I was also so happy to be there because they had a lot of nice wines, the blends were the ones I like best at this one. 
  • Our next stop was Sparkman Cellars, always a favorite.  Dad and I drank and Vegas just kind of hung out on my arm and took it all in.  He let people pet him and didn’t seem to mind.  Loved the Ruby Leigh here and dad bought a Chardonnay – he never buys Chardonnay! 
  • We went across the street (parking lot) to Darby next and stayed until a large group showed up – we were just about done anyway.  I liked everything I had here, and I bought another bottle of Chaos. 
  • We went to Guardian Cellars next and I had him in my arms the whole time there.  I really like this place.  Jerry (owner/winemaker) and his girlfriend are so nice.  They welcomed everyone that came in and it kind of felt like being at a friend’s house for a wine party.  The tasting room is small but so well done, including black and white personal photos, a nice TV and the sofa where we parked for a while.  Again, Vegas wasn’t shaking.  He actually seemed to be getting the hang of it.  I even left him with dad when I went to pay and he was absolutely fine.  Favorites here were Chalk Line and Gun Metal. 
  • Our last stop in the warehouse district was Alexandria Nicole.  We went to the initial tasting bar up front and they immediately gave me a dog biscuit for Vegas.  He thought that was top notch.  Then we went through the ‘secret passage’ into the back tasting room – holy cow it was packed!!  My favorites here were the Cab and the Rock Star, no big surprise on either one.  We were able to squeeze into the bar but weren’t there long before all kinds of people wanted to pet Vegas.  I told them his story (which was starting to sound like a broken record at this point) and let them all pet him.  No more shaking and this was the biggest crowd so far.  He was either exhausted or had finally realized that nothing bad was going to happen.  Either way, he wasn’t a neurotic little dog anymore, at least for the moment.  He even let a little girl pet him and he kids always freak him out.  As dad and I were leaving, I bumped into a fellow wine blogger, Margot from Write for Wine and her dog, Jewel.  Such a nice surprise! 
  • Our last stop of the day was Fine Wine and Cigars in Redmond.  Hightower was there for a tasting and to introduce their new dog, Riley.  Riley (a 1 year old yellow lab) and Vegas did not hit it off.  We kept them separated and enjoyed the great Hightower wines.  Their Cab and their Merlot were (and always are) fantastic.

I’m very happy with his first winery outing and I am committed to making sure that wasn’t his last one.  My hope is that he gets better and better and starts to really enjoy it.  I’d also like to take some really fun pictures of him in various tasting rooms, on barrells, next to a magnum, eating the cheese and crackers – whatever.  Now if only there was some way he could drive me and dad around, that would be ideal!!