First Woodinville Trip of 2011

Being unemployed has really affected my contribution to the Woodinville wine community, and not in a good way!  It was good to get up there again but hard not to go on a major shopping spree.  I say it all the time…there are some FANTASTIC wines in Woodinville!  It’s been about a month but here is a brief recap…

J Bookwalter –  Terrific case sale on the Subplot 24!  This is a wonderful blend and is on sale for $144 a case.  This is a great price for a great wine.  We were also lucky enough to do a vertical tasting of the Protagonist wines from the past few vintages.  Delicious.

Otis Kenyon –  This is one of the newer tasting rooms in Woodinville and I have a feeling it’s going to really take off.  The wines are ripe and juicy, the tasting room staff is wonderful and there is a fantastic slice of history and story that goes with the winery.  Stop by, you’ll have a great time.

Covey Run –  We’ve been Covey Run fans for years but decided to pass on tasting today.  They have two tasting menus (one for $5 and one for $10) and each was about half white and half red.  The tasting fee is only refundable if you join the wine club.  We weren’t interested in joining anymore clubs or in drinking any whites today so we passed all together. 

Zerba Cellars –  When we decided to skip Covey Run, we went to Zerba Cellars instead.  Boy was that a great stop!  I haven’t been there since their grand opening weekend (roughly a year ago maybe?) and had forgotten just how good their wines are.  We were also lucky enough to meet Shawn Chandler in the tasting room.  He knew tons of information about each wine, was as nice as he could be and agreed to open a Cabernet Franc for us, even though it wasn’t technically on the line up for the day.  That was one of our favorite wines of the day – and that says a lot because there were a lot of good wines.

Pomum Cellars –  This is one of those wineries that isn’t open on a regular basis.  They open for appointments and for releases and every now and then we get lucky and go by on a day when their sign is out.  This was one of those lucky days!

Efeste –  This winery has been getting a lot of good press recently, and with good reason.  They only had a few to taste because all the good press has led to big sales and there just wasn’t much juice to go around.  The barrel room was pretty full though, so more will be on the way in no time!

Red Sky –  We’ve gone to Red Sky for years and I think I’ve always loved the Sunrise blend the best.  This trip was no exception.  Like a lot of places, all the wines are great – but there is something about Sunrise that really appeals to me.

Pondera –  We happened to be there on a day when they were hosting an event in the barrel room.  I believe it was a vertical and barrel tasting but I can’t swear to that because we hadn’t prepaid or made reservations to attend.  I can tell you that we were welcomed in to do their standard tasting and made to feel right at home. 

Cheers to another great day in Woodinville!


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!

Eight is Enough

Cheers to another great day of wine tasting in Woodinville!  The weather was pretty warm so we left Vegas behind this time; that allowed us to visit a couple places that don’t allow dogs.  They were new to me as were a couple others.  I swear there are new wineries popping up all the time.  I keep thinking that I’ll find one that I hate, but no such luck.  Here’s how the day went:

  1. Northwest Totem Cellars – This was a last minute addition to our line up.  Just as we passed tNW Totem Tasting Roomhe turn to get there dad mentioned that since we didn’t have Vegas we should check it out.  I am so glad he did!  The winery is actually the home of the winemaker (Mike Sharadin) and his wife Kate.  She and her three winery helpers (dogs!) greeted us at the door and welcomed us into their home.  The kitchen/tasting room is beautiful – big, open and lots of windows facing out to thick trees and an enormous outdoor entertaining area.  We tasted three wines, a lighter style Cab, a blend called Low Man and a Syrah – all were great.  This is also a winery that gives back; Kate talked to us about several recent events where they donated portions of their sales for animal rescue.  All three of their dogs are rescues as well.  Great wine and great karma.  Seriously, the wines were outstanding, the prices were great and Kate – along with her helpers: Luke, Minnie and Charlie (the pooches) were the perfect hosts.  I’ll be back for sure.
  2. Ross Andrew– In case you’ve visited him in the past and weren’t aware…he’s moved!  He is now in the same area as Mark RyRoss Andrew, Mark Ryan and J Bookwalteran’s new digs and the J Bookwalter Tasting Studio.  (Behind the Hollywood Schoolhouse.)  The new tasting room is nicely done.  He and Mark did a great renovation and have some shared walls that can be removed for large events and even have access to a nice commercial kitchen in between both tasting rooms.  I can just imagine some of the great future events that will be held here.  But enough about the tasting room…Ross Mickel is such a good winemaker.  Much like a lot of smaller tasting rooms in Woodinville, we had the pleasure of having the winemaker himself pour for us and talk to us about his wines, the winery and even the vineyards.  He’s one of those wine guys that is full of great information but not at all a snob about it and doesn’t push his own wines exclusively.   In fact, he and my dad raved about some of the great Pinots comingo out of Oregon.  But I digress…back to his wines.  We tasted one white and three reds.  Dad is a huge fan of his white (a blend called “Meadow”) and I am a fan of his Cab.  We each bought one of our favorites.  I must say though, I was very tempted to buy one of his Syrahs too.  I know I’ve liked it in the past but it was better than I remembered.  That being said…as soon as I took a sip of the Cab I knew that was the one that would go home with me.  I now have at least three of them and already want more.  It stands up to many of my favorite Napa Cabs.  I’d love to do a blind tasting to test that one day. 
  3. Efeste– This was the other non-dog winery that I was excited to finally try.  They are located in the old Januk/Novelty Hill building, just Efestedown the street from the warehouse district.  The place is gorgeous.  It’s a huge space, tall ceilings, a wall of windows, and a beautiful kitchen full of stainless steel.  The line up of wines was one of the best, as far as variety, for the day.  I love when a winery has wines in several price ranges.  There were wines in the ‘teens’ in the ’20’s, 30’s and even one in the 40’s.  Truly, something for everyone.  Even better than the broad range of prices were the wines themselves.  Really, there wasn’t a single on that I didn’t like.  I bought a Riesling (so perfect for summer sipping) and an amazing Syrah that had the longest finish of any wine that day.  Loved the Cab too but that was the one that was in the 40’s so I had to pass.  The tasting room staff was friendly and showed us a really good time.  Then on our way out, the guy that sold me the wine said that he would happily walk Vegas if we wanted to come back and had him with us.  Great wines, a gorgeous tasting room, super prices and a dog walker…all under one roof?  I think I’m in love.
  4. Red Sky– We only made a quick stop in here.  I have to admit, I was terribly distracted by a big dog that was stretched out and laying outside.  However, I did have another taste of the newest Sunrise blend that I bought last time I was up there.  So very very good and I love that it has a twist cap closure.  This is so handy when I have left over wine.  Okay, okay…I admit it…it doesn’t happen often…especially when the wine is as good as this one.
  5. Smasne– Have I mentioned the steal of the summer yet?  You can get a case of Farm Boy Rose for $50!  The best part is – the wine is great!  It’s a nice dry rose of Cab Franc and Sangiovese.  It’s fantastic as-is and because of the price there is no guilt when using it for sangria or wine spritzers.  I’ve lost count, but I think dad and I have hauled 3 or 4 cases out of Deal of the Summer!there already.  Aside from picking up yet another case of rose, we sat down and had a fantastic tasting.  Dad did all the whites and I did all the reds.  There are so many wines here that you really can’t sample them all unless you don’t plan on many other stops.  There are multiple labels in this tasting room – all with Robert Smasne as the winemaker.  Plan on spending some time here.  The wines are good and the prices are even better.
  6. Robert Ramsay – Another new winery in Woodinville – imagine that!  So far they only have one wine to try, a delicious Syrah.  They have a slight tasting fee ($2) that is refundable with purchase.  I Robert Ramsayknow this because I bought one.  We were lucky enough to spend some time with the winemaker (Robert Ramsay) and take a look at his barrel room.  He’s got lots of Syrahs on the way and a Cab Sav as well.  Very nice guy and very excited about his wines.  Stop by and say hello if you’re in the area; you won’t be sorry.
  7. Hestia– Another new one for me!! They’ve been open for a while but I don’t get over their business park as often as I should.  For those of you familiar with Woodinville, this is the group of warehouses that is across the street from what everyone refers to as “the warehouse district.”  Neighbors include Stevens, Chatter Creek, Covington Cellars and another new one – Sheridan.  I was excited to try Hestia because I’d heard some great things about the wines and also the people.  We were lucky enough to get to spend some tCool Logoime with their winemaker (Shannon Jones) and really learn abouthow the wines were made.  He was one of the most refreshing winemakers I’d ever met.  He actually talked about what he liked and didn’t like about his wines and what he would do again and what he wouldn’t do again.  Very rarely have I heard winemakers admit that they wouldn’t do something again or that something didn’t turn out exactly as planned.  The funny thing is, everyone’s pallet is so different.  One man’s mistake is another’s favorite wine!  I really enjoyed my time here and I loved the Merlot.  I look forward to going back on a more regular basis.   
  8. Chatter Creek – We finished up the day with one of our favorites.  They have a new wine (new to me at least) called Cellar Cat Red…and it’s only $10!  It’s a really easy to drink red blend, complete with twist off top.  Actually, many of their bottles have either a twist off or the newer glass closures.  As usual, the wines were wonderful.  The other usual part about our visit was that the people ahead of us were buying a case.  I think the last half dozen times that I’ve been in there I’ve come in as someone was putting together a case.  The wines really are terrific and the prices are great too.  I can see why people buy a lot here; my dad and I do too.

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.

Weekend Wine Reviews

I had a busy weekend but somehow managed to “force myself” to find the time to drink some wine.  I also did a current count and the updated total after this weekend is 210 bottles.  I have a little less than a year to get the count to 100 or less.  If I keep inviting D over, that should be no problem at all – the kid is a self proclaimed Wine Disposal!  Here’s what we had:

Baer 05 Ursa – Columbia Valley

  • Wine Info:  55% Merlot; 28% Cab Franc; 7% Cabernet Savignon; 7% Malbec; 3% Petite VerdotUrsa
  • Appearance:  Deep dark red
  • Nose:  Cherries, chocolate, sweet red jam
  • Taste:  Initially we tasted ripe cherries, then tart berries leading up to juicy plums
  • Finish:  Lingers for a bit with nice soft tannins,  mellows even more with decanting, great fruit and not over-oaked
  • Price Range:  $35 – $40
  • Remarks:  We started out having this with food (pizza) but continued to drink it after we were done eating.  This is always a great wine.  It’s the wine that first made us aware of the winery and it’s great every year.  The price point has gone up over the years and as a result, I buy fewer bottles.  That being said, I never pass up a chance to buy it.  It’s only made in small amounts so when it’s gone, it’s gone.


Kenneday Shah 04 Reserve Cab Franc – Rattlesnake Hills

  • Wine Info:  Cabernet Franc
  • Appearance:  Translucent ruby red, like a stained glass windowKennedy Shah
  • Nose:  Floral and spices (maybe cinnamon?)
  • Taste:  Fruit initially and then spices
  • Finish:  Lingering spice and moderate tannins
  • Price Range:  $35 – $40
  • Remarks:  We had this with chocolate cake and it was a great pairing, the spiciness of the wine cut the super sweet chocolate.  It had a different taste without food and the tannins seemed to be more evident.   This is not the ‘fruit bomb’ that some Cab Francs can be.


Brain Carter 04 L’Etalon – Yakima ValleyL'Etalon

  • Wine Info: 
  • Appearance:  Deep ruby red
  • Nose:  Berries, spices (maybe cloves?) and light wood (sort of like a cedar closet)
  • Taste:  Juicy berries and plums with a mellow spice finish
  • Finish:  Nice lingering finish with soft tannins
  • Price Range: $30 – $35
  • Remarks:  This is always one of my favorite Brian Carter wines.  It’s a great blend that does well with or without food.  Could probably cellar well for a while, but I’ve never been able to hang on to it long enought o find out.


Red Sky 03 Bordeaux Blend

  • Wine Info:  57% Cabernet Sauvignon; 36% Merlot; 7% Cab FrancRed Sky
  • Appearance:  Dark red, almost black
  • Nose:  Raspberries and chocolate (yummy!)
  • Taste:  All ripe and juicy fruit, raspberries, cherries, plums
  • Finish:  Soft finish with lingering fruit, very little tannins
  • Price Range:  $30 – $35
  • Remarks:  We absolutely loved this one.  There was so much good fruit in this wine and it didn’t fade after being open for a while.  We had no food with this one and didn’t miss it a bit.