The first day of spring is a great reason to visit wineries, isn’t it? I’m sure there is some sort of wine-themed celebration linked to it; I need to Google that. On to the wineries!
- Efeste – New releases of Sav Blanc, Riesling, Final Final and Big Papa Cab. All were great, really. The Sav Blanc was nice and dry and the Riesling was really well balanced and fooled dad and I both as far as how much residual sugar was in it. I bought a couple bottles – this will be a great summer-sippin’ wine. The Final Final was great and didn’t seem to need much aging. The Big Papa was indeed big, in both fruit and tannins. I would lay it down for a bit to mellow some of the tannins, but not too long as I wouldn’t want to lose that delicious fruit!
- Guardian – Another release party and another great line up! The Angel (white blend) was a good as always. This is one of dad’s favorites. The Gun Metal (Cab dominant blend) was as great as ever too. No surprise, but his latest Syrah is also a hit. The surprise was the new one. The new kid on the block was The Wanted. It’s a Cab/Cab Franc blend and it is fantastic! Not all that surprising I guess – those are my two favorite grapes and Jerry is one of my favorite winemakers. It would be a surprise if I hadn’t flipped over it.
- Gard – There are so many wines to choose from here that you really have to go in with a plan or you’ll end up having to crawl out of there! We decided we wanted to taste a few whites and then I went for the Cabs. There is a wine and a price range for everyone here. But really – don’t try to taste them all unless you don’t have any other stops planned.
- Robert Ramsay – What a great little tasting room this is shaping up to be! I’ve only been in once before and it was right after they moved in last year; they only had one wine available at the time – their incredible 2005 Syrah. They still have a tiny bit left…run, do not walk, to get some! They also have a nice line up of other reds – 07 Mason’s Red (a great Syrah/Mourvedre blend), 07 Mourvedre, 07 Cab (loved this one!) and a 06 Syrah. The tasting room renovations are amazing and this is certainly a winery to watch!
- Cuillin Hills – Okay, so it’s always a party when we go here; it’s hard not to have fun in this tasting room…the people, the wine – it’s all great. There were a couple new wines that were worthy of a party too – my favorite being the new Cab Franc. The new Rif Raf is great too, but the Cab Franc ‘did it’ for me.
- Hestia – It hasn’t been that long since we’d stopped in to taste at Hestia and we almost didn’t stop this time but we always like their wines so we decided to make a quick stop. I am so glad that we did! They have released a new blend that is fantastic! The 2007 Meritage (Mostly Cab with a little Cab Franc and Petit Verdot) is delicious. I don’t know if they’ve done this wine in the past but it was my first introduction to it and I’m hooked! Their Cab and their Merlot are also very good, which is why you’ll usually find one (or both) in my racks at home. Now the Meritage is there keeping them company.
- Isenhower – Another great tasting room and more new wines for me to try! I loved their new Purple Paintbrush! I’ve been a fan of their wines for a while and am really glad they’ve opened up a tasting room in Woodinville.
- Elsom – This new tasting room is right next to Isenhower. They haven’t been open long but they obviously have good word of mouth because quite a few people were there when we arrived. We were warmly greeted and soon found out that the person pouring for us was the winemaker, Jody Elsom. She is as nice as she is talented. My favorites in the line up were the two Cabs…both were so so good! The other reds (a Malbec and a Malbec/Cab blend) were also very good, but the cabs rocked! I think this is another one of those “wineries to watch.”
- Caleano – this was such a trip! We were greeted by the winemaker, Bryan Countryman. To say he was enthusiastic is an understatement. His “tasting” was taking place in the same building as Elsom. He’s kind of located ‘around back’ from the Elsom tasting bar. Oh, and he had nothing in bottles; we tasted our wines straight from the barrels. All the wines are tasting great at this point in their development however, the real stand out was the Pinot Noir. I can’t wait until that’s in the bottle and ready to go home with me. I believe his first release will be a Gewurztraminer and a Syrah. I look forward to watching this place grow as well.
- Dusted Valley – This tasting room is staffed with great people. As crowded as it gets in there (and it does get crowded) the people are always friendly and willing to talk to you about the wines and answer any and all questions. They weren’t pouring some of our favorite wines but had great suggestions for us to try in their place. My favorite is The Stained Tooth Syrah. I have purchased this one in the past and will continue. Oh, and did I mention that all their wines are done in screw cap? I so love this!
Fine Wine & Cigars – Okay, so this is getting to be a long day, right? A girl can get tired after a long day, right? And when said girl is tired it isn’t all that surprising that she can get weak, right? So really – me dropping a wine glass and having it shatter into a zillion pieces should have been expected, right? Yikes. I have actually never done that before – in all my years of wine tasting. I hope that was a once in a lifetime deal. So after they cleaned up my mess and gave me another glass, we were set to do some tasting. There were 4 wineries represented:
- Pomum – We’ve known and loved them for a while now. A new red blend is fantastic as is their Shya Red and their Tino, a Tempranillo blend.
- Laurelhurst – A great south end winery with excellent wines.
- Soos Creek – New one for us – great Ceil du Cheval blend.
- Seia – Another new one for us – great wines and gorgeous labels!
What a great day and what a way to ring in spring!
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:
- Northwest Totem Cellars – This was a last minute addition to our line up. Just as we passed the 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.
- 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 Ryan’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.
- 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 down 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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 know 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.
- 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 time 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.
- 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.
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.