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!


Black Friday – Red for Us…

 Yep – this is a recap of a wine tasting day that happened almost two months ago – sad, right?  The holidays were great but boy did I get behind on the blogging.  I started a few posts but never got back to them, until now…

The day after Thanksgiving is probably best known for shopping, long lines and crowded parking lots.  Dad and I skipped all of that and went to Woodinville instead.

  • Janiuk/Novelty Hill – Somehow I’ve managed not go visit this winery since they moved.  That wouldn’t be a big deal if the move was recent but it’s been a good 4-5 years!  No excuse.  The other shocker is that I’ve been mispronouncing Janiuk!  I would have bet that it was pronounced “Yan-ik.”  I would have lost the bet; it’s “Jan-ik.”  The girl at the tasting bar was a good sport about it and was kind enough not to pick on me when I messed it up a few more times.  The tastings were nice and there were several different flights available.  Not surprisingly I chose the Cabernet flight.  It was delicious!  There was no tasting fee refund with purchase so we didn’t buy anything, but the wines were very nice and the tasting room itself is gorgeous.
  • Teft Cellars – Yet another great winery from the other side of the mountains!  They had a great line up of wine and wonderful tasting room, complete with some tables and conversation areas.  It had a bistro feel to it, not just a typical tasting bar.  There was a nice line up of wines, my favorite of the day was the Villa Toscana – a nice Italian inspired blend.  They also had several ports but I can’t comment on them because I just don’t drink port.  I keep trying it every so often but I haven’t developed a taste for it yet.  But if you like ports, I’d suggest trying theirs; everything else is great so the odds are good!
  • Efeste – This may be the first wine club I join next year.  There is nothing they make that I don’t like.  My only issue here is that I have a hard time narrowing down my choices when it comes time to purchase.  Even the white wine (which I can usually pass up at most places) is fantastic.  We were lucky enough to meet the winemaker, Brennon Leighton, this trip.  He was still (understandably) on a high from the Wine Spectator ratings that had come out earlier in the month.  The 2006 Ceidleigh Syrah was ranked #36 on the list of all wines (worldwide) released in 2009.  That and the Final Final are always my favorites.  This time I didn’t try to pick between them; I bought them both.
  • Canon de Sol – Dad and I saw this place right after we left Teft but they were literally hammering up their sign when we drove by so we decided to give them a little time before stopping by.  When we did drop in we found out that this was their opening day!  Canon de Sol and Irlandes share a tasting room and a winemaker, Victor Cruz.  The Canon de Sol label is his and Irlandes is his partners.  The Canon de Sol wines were priced in the mid 20’s and each one was great.  They all had great fruit and moderate tannins, pretty much ready to drink now.  I bought a couple of the blends and can’t wait to open them up and introduce my friends to a new winery.
  • Irlandes – These wines were priced higher and were done in more of a reserve style.  The wines were bolder and had more tannins on the finish.  They were delicious!  The tasting room is nice and big and I expect this place will do well.  It’s in a great location (the Hollywood School House area) and has wonderful wine as well as great people.  I look forward to repeat visits.
  • DeLille Carriage House – Okay so nothing can really compare to DeLille-on-the-hill.  The problem is, the main location is almost never open to the public.  So The Carriage House was born.  It’s a small tasting room showcasing DeLille wines.  It was absolutely PACKED when we were there.  Usually that’s a turn off for us but we stuck it out because it had been so long since we’d done any tasting at DeLille.  I’m glad we stayed.  The wines were better than we remembered and the people working there were fantastic at keeping up with such a crowded room.  I’d like to go back again when the weather is nicer and the patio is open.

After we were done in Woodinville we went back to Redmond and out to dinner at Frankie’s Pizza and Pasta.  We have loved this place for a long time.  The food is excellent and the wine list is even better!  Boy did we get lucky on this trip.  My parents’ favorite waitress brought us the wine list and then a few minutes later came back to make sure that we’d noticed a certain wine on the list.  It was the 2005 Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet that had just been ranked the #1 Wine of 2009 by Wine Spectator Magazine!  Yep, same list that I mentioned earlier.  What a great day for wine!  Thanks for pointing it out to us, Kelly!

Long Overdue Updates

We’ve got another wonderful trip to Woodinville planned for tomorrow.  I took at quick look at my blog and realized that I need to do a lot of updating.  Sometime between now and Thanksgiving I will not only recap the trip tomorrow, add some specific wine reviews and add some pictures but will also update the “Woodinville Wineries” tab.  So many changes and new wineries/tasting rooms to report on.  I’ve been falling down on the job…or maybe falling down because of the job – ha!  Either way…lots of work to do.  I’ll get my act together soon, honest!  Besides, it’s the cold and rainy season which means I’ll have more time to be indoors and writing.  Okay, okay…it also means I’ll have more time to be inside drinking wine.  Winter ain’t all bad.

The Ghost of 413 – 08 Riesling – Columbia Valley

  • Wine Info:  Rieslingghost riesling
  • Appearance:  Pale yellow
  • Nose:  Kind of smelled like wet slate with hints of peaches and pears
  • Taste:  Tart (in a good way) citrus flavors and possibly some green apple flavors as well
  • Finish:  Crisp and clean finish
  • Price :  $13.00
  • Remarks:  Loved this one!  I’ve enjoyed Rieslings for years but find that the majority of them are done in a semi-sweet style.  Oddly enough, Rieslings are the only wines that I like done in this way.  That being said, I still love, what in my mind, is a “classic” Riesling and to me that means dry.  This one is a perfect example.  It’s refreshing and full of bright citrus flavors.  I paired it with chicken ravioli and a light Alfredo sauce (with a healthy splash of this wine in it) and it was a perfect combination.  Would also be fantastic with just a big hunk of cheese.

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.

Grape Killers

A group of seven Woodinville wine makers are opening a lounge in downtown Seattle.  Grand opening is July 15th and they will be open for lunch 11-2 Monday thru Friday and 4-1grapekillers logo1 every evening for dinner.  They will feature a “small bite menu” that will, of course, pair beautifully with their wines.  Wine will also be available for purchase. grape killers logo 1

I love the wineries involved and can’t wait to check this out.  Wineries include:

Grape Killers.  Isn’t that a great name for wine makers?  Very clever. 

For more info – check out their web site.

Grape Killers Lounge

And if you visit before I do..tell me all about it!


Sangria Spritzer

I’ve been playing around with sangria recipes in search of just the right one for summer.  Red wine sangria can be to strong or too heavy and white wine sangria can be too sweet.  So I took a few things from each and came up with a recipe of my own.  The club soda makes it seem like a wine spritzer, hence the name…

Seattle Sunset Sangria SpritzerYum!

Makes 4-6 drinks depending on size

  • 1 bottle of dry rose (can substitute dry white wine)
  • 1 cup white grape juice
  • 2-4 tsp. of very fine sugar (to taste)
  • splash of club soda

Fruit – use any or all as you see fit and depending on what’s ripe

  • (1) thinly sliced apple
  • (1-2) sliced oranges or tangerines
  • (1-2) thinly sliced peaches or nectarines
  • (1-3) sliced limes and/or lemons
  • (handful) white seedless grapes cut in half 
  • (handful) raspberries
  • (5-10) sliced strawberries
  • (3-4) pineapple rings (canned is just fine)
  • mint sprigs for decoration (optional)

Mix everything but the club soda together and put it in the fridge for at least a 1-2 hours.  If refrigerating longer than 5-6 hours, don’t add the strawberries unless you’re okay with them breaking down a bit.  The flavor is just fine but they aren’t as pretty.  And if refrigerating overnight, have some fresh fruit to add the next day as garnish.

To serve, fill glass (I use tumblers) 2/3 full with sangria, add a splash of club soda, mix and add ice.  Add any garnish (mint, fruit, etc.) and serve.