Kenwood Vineyards

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 4.44.59 PMIf you haven’t tasted wine from Kenwood Vineyards in awhile, it’s time to rediscover it.

Kenwood Vineyards is one of the pioneers of premium wine in Sonoma, part of the wine region’s landscape since 1970. The winery is now undergoing a renaissance with a focus on small-lot winemaking and a new look.

We recently attended an online tasting with Pat Henderson, who has been a winemaker at Kenwood Vineyards since 2003, and became chief winemaker last year. Ahead of the tasting, we received four wines in a gorgeous wooden box. The bottles had a a new look and modern labels.

2014 Kenwood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($12.99)
Fruit from 28 vineyards went into this crisp summer sipper, and the result is a balance of citrus and tropical flavors plus some grassy characteristics and minerality. We will definitely be buying bottles of this Sauvignon Blanc to enjoy on our deck on the lake.

2014 Kenwood Vineyards Six Ridges Russian River Chardonnay ($21.99)
If you like your Chardonnays rich and creamy, this one is for you. Flavors of apple, peach, vanilla and spice combine in a chilled glass that will pair well with seafood or chicken.

Kenwood Zin2013 Kenwood Six Ridges Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($31.99)
Zin lovers take note! This is big, bold, beautiful and well-balanced. And somehow it is both silky and zesty at the same time, too. It will pair nicely with spicy foods but also is strong enough to stand alone without food; to simply share a bottle with friends or enjoy at a party.

2013 Jack London Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($35)
This beauty will pair perfectly with BBQ steaks in the summer and roast beef in the winter. This is our kind of cab – full-bodied, rich, robust, well-structured and elegant.

The samples were provided by Kenwood Vineyards, which, in the name of full disclosure, is a Pernod Ricard brand and a client at the PR agency where I (Margot) work. However, I attended the tasting as a wine blogger and adhered to Write for Wine’s sample policy. If I did’t like the wines, I simply would not write about them. Word.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Wow! Wine in Whiskey Barrels from Jacob’s Creek

Jacob's-Creek-Double-Barrel-Shiraz-with-ShadowIf you’ve been looking for something different in your wine glass, look no further. Jacob’s Creek offers its Double Barrel line of wines that were matured in traditional toasted wine barrels and then finished in whiskey barrels for a unique mouthfeel. These Australian beauties have layers of complexity and integrated tannins, and they are smooth and smoky.

Wow. Aging wine in whiskey barrels? Brilliant!

How did we find them? We were fortunate to join a Jacob’s Creek tasting of a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Shiraz — before and after they were finished in aged whiskey barrels.

The difference was amazing, dramatic and very positive — the “after” wines were rounder, smoother, richer and elegant. The wines did not taste like whiskey, but expressed the character and nuances of the whiskey barrel on the palate.

Jacob’s Creek Chief Winemaker Ben Bryant said: “Our vision for this project was to create something truly innovative and extraordinary. After much experimentation, we can confidently say that we have crafted something special and unique.”

We agree.

“We wanted the flavor of the wine to predominate, yet there had to be a noticeable impact from the use of the whisky barrels,” he said. “So we chose parcels of wine that were particularly ripe, from premium growing regions, and with such intense fruit flavor and big tannins that they would benefit from the second barrel treatment.”

Cabernet Sauvignon is king to our palates when it comes to Washington state and California wine. But in Australia, Shiraz wins every time.

Double Barrel Shiraz (Barossa, Australia) – $19.99
The rich Shiraz was aged in Scotch whiskey barrels to provide complex, well-developed characteristics. Winemaker tasting notes:
Lifted licorice spice aroma with dark plum and toasty notes; on the palate, complex and smooth with layers of rich plum, fruitcake and dark chocolate notes.

Jacob's-Creek-Double-Barrel-Cabernet-Sauvignon-with-ShadowDouble Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon (Coonawarra, Australia) – $19.99
Cabernet Sauvignon was finished in aged Irish whiskey barrels to smooth the flavor and add incredible richness through the full length of the palate. Winemaker tasting notes:
Cassis aromas with mint, dark olive and caramel notes; on the palate, rich flavor consisting of black fruit and herbal notes with soft tannins.

The double barrel wines were released in Australia late in 2014 and have been very popular in that country. Jacob’s Creek is now introducing them to U.S. markets.

Samples were provided by Jacob’s Creek and Pernod Ricard USA. But we’ll be buying some bottles and introducing them to our friends.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Summer must be close – Chateau Ste. Michelle Summer Concert Series starts soon!

CSM concertA sure sign that summer is on its way: Chateau Ste. Michelle recently released its 2016 Summer Concert Series lineup. This represents great music, beautiful surroundings and award-winning wine on the lush lawns of the beautiful winery in Woodinville.

Think about it: a lazy summer day or evening, kicking back on the manicured lawns of Chateau Ste. Michelle with a peacock or two sauntering by, as you sip on a refreshing summer wine, nibble on tasty munchies from a picnic basket and listen to some amazing music. Ah, summer!

Whether you prefer white, rosé or red wine during the summer, this concert calendar is something to cheer about. The series kicks off on May 28-29 with two concerts by Paul Simon and ends on Sept. 16 with Bonnie Raitt. We saw her show at Chateau Ste. Michelle a few years ago, and she was fantastic!

Other incredible musicians include Bob Dylan with Mavis Staples (June 5); Tears for Fears (June 17); Lyle Lovett (July 2); Don Henley (July 19-20); John Fogerty (July 29); Culture Club (Aug. 11); Jackson Browne (Aug. 12-13); Josh Groban (Aug. 23); Gipsy Kings (Aug. 25); Frankie Vallie & the Four Seasons (Sept. 2); Counting Crows (Sept. 3); and Chris Isaak in addition to the Festival of Jazz (July 30) and the Wine Country Blues Festival (July 31).

Better yet, net proceeds from the annual concert series help fund Chateau Ste. Michelle’s charitable contributions program, which supports a broad range of non-profit organizations.

Have questions? No problem, there is an FAQ to help out.

So get your wine on and check it out.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Winemaker Series at Semiahmoo Resort – JM Cellars

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 5.22.37 PMThe breathtakingly beautiful Semiahmoo Resort is continuing its popular Winemaker Series on May 26 with a reception and dinner with John Bigelow of JM Cellars. John’s excellent wines can be frequently found on our table: Tre, Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red (named after his lovely wife and winery co-owner, Peggy), Sauv Blanc and Bramble Bump Red, among others.

The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with a reception in Semiahmoo Resort’s Wine Room, followed by the Winemaker Dinner. JM Cellars wines will be paired with a mouth-watering five-course dinner created by Semiahmoo’s Executive Chef Bruno — including Scallops Sashimi with JM Cellars 2014 Bramble Bump White, and Spring Lamb Loin with JM Cellars 2012 Tre.

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.13 PMThis is a perfect opportunity for wine lovers in Seattle, Vancouver and well, everywhere, to come to Semiahmoo Resort for relaxation in a scenic location, excellent wine and a delicious meal. For those of us fortunate to live near Semiahmoo Resort, what a fantastic way to spend the evening!

If you are out of town, the package starts at $359, which includes two tickets to the Winemaker Dinner and a one-night stay for two in a newly renovated guest room at the resort. (Taxes and gratuity are not included in the price.) For reservations, phone 360-318-2000.

If you’re local, the price is $99 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity. Phone 360-318-2044 for reservations.

We hope to see you there! We’ve enjoyed JM Cellar wines since 1999 when we moved to Seattle; six years later, we finally met John at Taste Washington 2009. After the event, John wrote me a note to thank me — not just for our blog posts about JM Cellars, but about our support for Washington state wines in general.

Now that’s a class act!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

 

 

What’s in Our Glasses?

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 3.40.36 PMWe’ve had many reasons to celebrate in recent weeks — birthdays, anniversaries and vacations. What better times to pull out a bottle of fine Washington state and/or California wine from our collection?

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For example, on our anniversary we enjoyed two Washington state beauties, Obelisco 2012 Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon and Force Majeure 2010 Collaboration V, Estate Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.

Yes, these are definitely special-occasion wines.

In the last few months, we also opened some good-value reds — how can you miss at $15?

So here are some of the wines in our glasses lately — at a wide range of prices, from $15-$70 — in alphabetical order. Some of these were small pours at wine events; others were glasses at restaurants or bottles shared with friends.

Note: Sometimes you can find lower prices at Costco, through wine apps or wine stores.

  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2012 Destiny, $48
  • Ambassador 2012 Plenipotentiary Cabernet Sauvignon, $50
  • Avennia 2010 Sestina, $50
  • Bartholomew Primitivo 2013, $24
  • Columbia Crest 2013 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, $15
  • Corliss 2012 Secret Squirrel Cabernet Sauvignon, $25
  • Decoy 2013 Red Wine, $24
  • Des Voigne 2012 The Duke Zinfandel, $30
  • Double Canyon 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, $65
  • Eagle Eye 2007 Proprietary Red Limited Edition Heritage, $50
  • Efeste 2010 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon, $54
  • Force Majeure 2010 Estate Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, $65
  • Guardian Cellars 2012 The Wanted, $37
  • Lauren Ashton 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, $50
  • Mercer Estates 2011 Ode to Brothers GSM, $42
  • Michael David 2013 Petite Petit, $17
  • Oak Ridge 2013 OZV Zin, $14
  • Obelisco 2012 Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon, $70
  • Seghesio 2014 Sonoma Zinfandel, $26
  • Seven Falls 2013 Jones Vineyard Zinfandel, $40
  • Stags’ Leap 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, $50
  • William Church Winery 2010 Bishop’s Blend, $22
  • The Woodhouse Wine Estates 2012 Darighe, $65

We hope you also have a chance to taste some of these delicious wines; if the above vintages are sold out, chances are the next ones are very drinkable too.

Special thanks to Lauren Ashton, Double Canyon and Oak Ridge for the samples to taste.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

This Weekend! Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.36 PMThere are still a few tickets left for an exceptional Washington state wine event right in our backyard near the Canadian border, on April 15-17: Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo Resort. So if you’re looking for a getaway with  spectacular views, good wine and food, what are you waiting for?

While some activities are sold out, you can still join some others. Details are available at Semiahmoo Resort’s website.

Some of Washington and Oregon’s most talented winemakers will be holding seminars, tastings and attending a gala dinner:

The event is packed with educational and fun times, opening on April 15 with a “Meet the Winemakers” tasting, followed by a private beach bonfire at the spectacular resort.

Saturday’s activities include an overview of Washington and Oregon wine country, with sessions on “Sublime World of Pinot Noir” (Dobbes Family Estate); “Succulent Syrah” (DeLille Cellars and Betz Family Winery); and Red Mountain Rising (DeLille Cellars and Col Solare).

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.13 PMThere also is guided bird watching on the Semiahmoo Spit. What a great spot — we were recently there as part of the Northwest Birding Festival, Wings Over Water. (Yes, we’re bird nerds in addition to being wine enthusiasts.)

Saturday night caps off with a Winemaker Gala Dinner created by Executive Chef Bruno Feldeisen, held in the Peace Arch Tent. The special five-course dinner will be paired with wines from all attending wineries.

The event culminates on Sunday morning with an exploration of white wines from Betz, Chateau Ste. Michelle, DeLille and Dobbes.

We can’t wait! And we hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Once Again, the Fantastic Lauren Ashton Cellars

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 4.17.09 PMWe have been fans of Lauren Ashton Cellars since late 2012, when we met winemaker and owner Kit Singh at numerous Washington wine events and tasted his stunning wines.

The winery’s motto “True Washington Character” was indeed noticeable in every sip we tasted at that time and continues to be the case today.

For example, the recently released Lauren Ashton 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon is impressive and exceptional. Not surprisingly, the fruit was sourced from the magnificent Red Mountain AVA, and the result showcases the region’s stony minerality.

This is a luxurious, classic, structured Cabernet that reflects the characteristics of the grape — 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Ambassador Vineyard and Quintessence Vineyard. (Sample provided by Lauren Ashton Cellars.)

Kit’s tasting notes: “Our Cabernet Sauvignon from the Red Mountain AVA is rich and full-bodied, with an elegant tannin structure. It opens with aromas of black cherry, blackberry and ripe plum, and is followed by hints of spiciness and minerality. Pair with gorgonzola, red meat and lamb, or enjoy on its own.”

As with any new release, the wine is still young, but very approachable with a bit of decanting. According to Kit, it has “great aging potential.”

Our first Lauren Ashton Cellars experience was with the 2011 Columbia Valley Syrah, a robust, complex 100% Syrah that was smooth and rich. The 2011 Red Mountain Reserve Syrah was even better, silky and elegant.

We also loved two blends from Columbia Valley, which are still available in limited quantities at the winery’s Woodinville tasting room: 2009 Proprietor’s Cuvée and 2009 Cuvée Arlene.

The bottom line: We highly recommend stopping by Lauren Ashton Cellars Tasting Studio in Woodinville or finding out more about these notable wines at their website.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Taste Washington 2016: The Super Bowl of Wine Events

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 3.54.42 PMAs far back as we can remember, we’ve always called Taste Washington “the Super Bowl of Wine Events” because it is the country’s largest single-region wine and food event. Period.

We love to go every year and encourage you to run, don’t walk, to get your tickets for the activities being held March 31-April 3.

In this 19th year, an expanded lineup features:

More than 225 wineries will be pouring at the Grand Tasting and 70 restaurants will be serving tasty bites. We highly recommend that you develop a plan before you enter the doors. Because once there, you will be hit with an explosion of taste potentials — and it can be overwhelming.

For example, one year we decided to only taste wines made from Cabernet Franc, as a standalone varietal. Another year, we decided to visit booths of some of our tried and favorite wineries plus five new ones.

But we always leave room for some flexibility; chances are something will catch our eye as we walk through the aisles, and we’ll make an on-the-spot decision to deviate from the plan.

Note: We recommend tasting and spitting wine (or pouring it into the buckets at each booth) at this major event, but if you think you might want more than a sip or two, many hotels in the area are offering special weekend packages. Otherwise, be sure to have a designated driver, or take cabs or local transit home.

Of the 225+ wineries pouring at the Grand Tasting, here is our long list of 50 of our favorites (in alphabetical order):

  1. Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  2. Amavi Cellars
  3. Ambassador Wines of Washington
  4. Andrew Will
  5. Avennia
  6. Barrister Winery
  7. Bartholomew Winery
  8. Betz Family Winery
  9. Buty Winery
  10. Canvasback
  11. Chateau Ste. Michelle
  12. Columbia Crest
  13. Cooper Wine Company
  14. Cote Bonneville
  15. Darby
  16. DeLille Cellars
  17. DiStefano
  18. Double Canyon
  19. Doubleback
  20. Dunham Cellars
  21. EFESTE
  22. Fidelitas
  23. Fielding Hills
  24. FIGGINS
  25. Force Majeure Vineyards
  26. Forgeron Cellars
  27. Gard
  28. Gorman Winery
  29. Guardian Cellars
  30. JM Cellars
  31. L’Ecole No 41
  32. Lauren Ashton Cellars
  33. Long Shadows Vintners
  34. Mark Ryan
  35. Matthews & Tenor Wines
  36. Mercer Estates
  37. Obelisco Estate Wines
  38. Otis Kenyon
  39. Savage Grace
  40. Sinclair Estate VIneyards
  41. Sparkman Cellars
  42. Stevens
  43. Stottle Winery
  44. Three Rivers
  45. Upchurch Vineyard
  46. Walla Walla Vintners
  47. Waterbrook
  48. William Church
  49. Woodinville Wine Cellars
  50. Woodward Canyon

Of course, we won’t be able to visit all of them, but we will shorten the list and make up our plan in the next week or two. We hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo Resort

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.36 PMWe were delighted to hear that an exceptional Washington state wine event is happening right in our backyard near the Canadian border: Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo Resort. We stayed at Semiahmoo many, many times before moving to this area last year, and it is spectacular.

On April 15-17. some of Washington state’s most talented winemakers will be holding seminars, tastings and attending a gala dinner:

The Master of Ceremonies is Andy Perdue of Wine Press Northwest, who is also a wine columnist for The Seattle Times.

“The inaugural Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo brings together some of the Pacific Northwest’s finest winemakers for an intimate event with wine lovers,” commented Perdue. “This will be a treat for all the senses.”

The event is packed with educational and fun times, opening on April 15 with a “Meet the Winemakers” tasting, followed by a private beach bonfire at the spectacular resort.

Saturday’s activities include an overview of Washington and Oregon wine country, with sessions on “Sublime World of Pinot Noir” (Dobbes Family Estate); “Succulent Syrah” (DeLille Cellars and Betz Family Winery); and Red Mountain Rising (DeLille Cellars and Col Solare).

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.13 PMThere also is guided bird watching on the Semiahmoo Spit. What a great spot — we were recently there as part of the Northwest Birding Festival, Wings Over Water. (Yes, we’re bird nerds in addition to being wine enthusiasts.)

Saturday night caps off with a Winemaker Gala Dinner created by Executive Chef Bruno Feldeisen, held in the Peace Arch Tent. The special five-course dinner will be paired with wines from all attending wineries.

The event culminates on Sunday morning with an exploration of white wines from Betz, Chateau Ste. Michelle, DeLille and Dobbes.

The entire weekend package — including two nights at the gorgeous resort — starts at $375 per person. Details are available at Semiahmoo Resort’s website.

We can’t wait! And we hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

 

Second Tasting Room for Obelisco Estate

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 5.33.17 PMIf you haven’t visited Obelisco‘s new, second tasting room in the Hollywood schoolhouse area of Woodinville, what are you waiting for? This is an opportunity to taste magnificent wine, kick back and enjoy good conversation in a relaxing environment. On weekends, you just might find live music, too.

Obelisco is one of our favorite wineries in Washington state. Winemaker Doug Long is as friendly as he is talented, creative and dedicated. He came here from Napa, where he started his first winery, David Arthur, which was named “Winery of the Decade” by Wine Spectator in 2000. The 1997 vintage scored 99 points.

Once here, he planted a vineyard in the incredible Red Mountain AVA in 2004. And then he applied his Napa Valley winemaking skills to Washington state grapes.

While Doug has received dozens of awards for many of Obelisco’s wines, from Syrahs to Malbecs, our favorites are his Cab-based productions — Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Electrum, Nefer and a refreshing Cabernet Rose’.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 5.30.09 PMAnd now you can experience these beauties in a comfy, cozy, conversation-friendly tasting room in the schoolhouse area, in addition to the original Obelisco tasting room in the Woodinville wine warehouse.

Shortly before the grand opening, we spent about an hour in the new location, chatting with Doug and manager Ken Abbott, tasting through the lineup and enjoying the ambiance — it was hard to leave!

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Obelisco’s second tasting room is located at 14525 148th Ave NE, suite 121 in the Apple Farm Village of Woodinville, near Otis Kenyon and Lauren Ashton and across the street from Alexandria Nicole Cellars.

The original tasting room at the Woodinville wine warehouse is located at 19495 144th Ave NE, suite B-220 in Woodinville.

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave