Jones of Washington Provides Solid, Affordable Wines

January 13th, 2015

Even though it was just a few short weeks ago, Christmas, 2014 seems likes a distant memory. Well, at least it does until we receive those credit card bills in the mail to remind us of our weak-moment (but almost certainly justified), holiday spending binges.

That’s why January always seems like a fitting time to talk about wines for those trying to be a bit more cost-conscious. A winery with solid, consistently good wines that are affordably priced is a must, and Jones of Washington is one that delivers on all counts.

nullThis isn’t to suggest that Jones wines should be limited to those on a budget. On the contrary, these wines should be enjoyed year-round, with plenty of choices at both the lower and mid-range price points and overachieving quality on every level.

Here are a number of recommendations of current releases to get you started:

2013 Estate Riesling (about $12) – Refreshing pear and honeydew melon flavors lead off with a whisper of spicy, lychee fruit on the extreme finish. Winemaker Victor Palencia seems to have used a bit of a lighter touch with this riesling, and it earned the winery a coveted double platinum award from Wine Press Northwest magazine.

2013 Chardonnay (about $15) – Ambrosia-like aromatics fill the glass, followed by a mouthful of tropical pineapple, papaya and banana fruit flavors. As it warms, Golden Delicious apple and touches of peach shine through on the finish. This is a big, fruit-forward chardonnay that’s certain to put a smile on your face.

2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (about $15) – Delicious cherry and berry flavors, a touch of toasted oak, and slightly chewy tannins highlight this nicely balanced red wine. It’s an absolute steal at this price and perfect for everyday enjoyment or for those who want to impress without spending a bundle.

2011 Late Harvest Riesling (about $20 for the 375ml bottle) – Mouthwatering peach and gently spiced pear and apple flavors are accentuated with zesty citrus notes of lemon and tangerine. The wine’s 10-percent residual sugar content adds a lengthy, honey-like finish.

Jack’s Reserve 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $30) – For a step up in price, try this beautifully crafted cabernet. It opens with blackberry and dark cherry flavors and the layered, complex finish suggests white pepper, cocoa powder and fresh herbs. It’s bold, yet refined, with the fruit, tannins and acidity levels in perfect balance.

Other well-priced Jones of Washington wines currently available include the 2013 Pinot Gris (about $13), and the 2013 Viognier, 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, and 2013 Estate Merlot (all priced at about $15 each).

Jones of Washington wines are easy to find in Whatcom County grocers and wine shops and can also be purchased on line at jonesofwashington.com.

Go To Red Mountain for Terrific Red Wines

December 16th, 2014

Looking for some good red wines to serve this holiday season? Be sure to consider Washington’s Red Mountain Appellation, which has plenty to offer in terms of varietals and body styles at price points to suit most any budget.

Red Mountain is just a 20-minute drive west of Richland in the Tri-Cities and it’s now home to over 15 wineries and a number of top-tier vineyards including Klipsun, Tapteil, and Hedges Estate.

nullHamilton Cellars recently opened a new tasting room on Red Mountain, and following an afternoon outing there last month, I’d conclude that this is a must-visit winery if you’re planning to be near the area.

Husband and wife owners Russ and Stacie Hamilton have done a first-class job with a facility that carries an appealing, friendly vibe while offering panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards and fantastic wines produced by omnipresent winemaker Charlie Hoppes.

If malbec is your passion then Hamilton has you covered. I thoroughly enjoyed the 2009 Malbec (about $30), and the gorgeous 2010 Red Mountain Malbec (about $40) with its intense fruit flavors of blackberry and black cherry, spicy/peppery accents and velvety soft finish.

Two other highly recommended choices include the 2009 Merlot (about $28) and the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $28) which is drinking beautifully with layers of dark fruits and a plush finish enveloped with round, warm notes of toasted vanilla.

Another newcomer to Red Mountain is Frichette Winery, where you’ll find a warm and inviting atmosphere from another husband and wife team, Greg and Shae Frichette (pictured below).

nullGreg is a Pasco native while Shae hails from South Carolina. Together they’ve created a comfortable tasting room with promising wines that lay the groundwork for a boutique winery worth watching.

Notable current releases include a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $35) and the well-crafted/well-priced 2011 Red Wine (about $25), with blueberry aromas and flavors, supple tannins, and a slightly sultry, smoky finish.

And no mention of Red Mountain would be complete without including two of my old favorites, Kiona Vineyards and Hightower Cellars.

The Kiona Vineyards & Winery 2012 Estate Red Mountain Malbec just scored best of varietal honors and a gold medal at this year’s Tri-Cities Wine Festival while their 2012 Lemberger is hard to beat as a great lighter-bodied “everyday red” at about $15 a bottle.

At Hightower Cellars, the 2012 Murray Cabernet Sauvignon (about $20) features a new label with a Celtic rose that should be on your must-try list. The wine’s delicate floral aromatics are almost perfume-like, and delicious red fruits are backed with plenty of structure and a slightly herbaceous finish.

Whatcom County Wineries Have You Covered With Red, White Choices

December 9th, 2014

Are you ready for the holidays and red wine season? Look no further than Whatcom County for plenty of good red wine choices…and white wines as well.

We’re fortunate to have a number of talented winemakers that source their grapes from vineyards across the state and then produce the wines here at home. Nearly all of the county’s wineries have tasting rooms that are open to the public and their wines are easy to find in local grocers and wine shops as well.

Mount Baker Vineyards has a number of newly released red wines that are currently available. Among my favorites is the easy-to-drink Proprietor’s Limited Release 2012 Tempranillo (about $16), a lighter body-style red with dark fruit flavors and a soft finish.

Also notable is the winery’s Non-Vintage Hierarchy Red (about $24). Four Rhone varietals: syrah, grenache, counoise, and mourvedre combine forces to produce a lovely, northwest pinot noir-style wine with earthy undertones, a splash of bright red cherry, and just the right amount of tannic structure.

And the Proprietor’s Limited Release 2012 Malbec (about $20) is also a winner. Complex aromatics of berries, toasted walnut, and meadow grasses lead off with blackberry flavors and nuances of black pepper and caramel. Nicely balanced with vibrant acidity and supple tannins, it’s an excellent Washington malbec at this price point.

null At Dynasty Cellars, winemaker Peter Osvaldik (his son, Eric, is pictured at left in the tasting room) shifts gears with his first ever dessert wine, the Amabile 2013 Late Harvest Zinfandel (about $18 for 375ml). It’s a stunning effort, with gobs of black plum and cherry fruits and some wonderfully grippy tannins that balance the sugar content to produce a lengthy, almost chewy finish. Try it with a slice of cheesecake, a swirl of caramel sauce and salted pecans.

Another just-released red comes from Coach House Cellars in their 2012 Syrah (about $30). Ultra-dark cherry and berry flavors are capped with a mind-numbing 15.9-percent alcohol content that makes the wine borderline port-like. This big, full-bodied syrah could be perfect for post-meal sipping in front of the fire.

And just because it’s red wine season doesn’t mean you should completely abandon your white wines this time of year.

Served well-chilled, the Dakota Creek Winery 2013 2nd Bottling Chenin Blanc (about $22), makes a refreshing lead-off wine. Mouthwatering melon, peach and pear flavors, tangy acidity and a steely, mineral-like finish highlight this tasty white from winemakers Ken and Jill Peck.

For chardonnay lovers, the Vartanyan Estate Winery 2012 Heavy Oaked Chardonnay (about $22) is a must. Winemaker/owner Margarita Vartanyan exercises a deft touch with eight months of American oak aging that doesn’t overwhelm the wine’s lovely baked apple and tropical fruit flavors. There’s also a prevailing toasty/nutty quality that’s accentuated with a round, creamy finish.

Bertelsen Winery Now Open in Skagit County

November 18th, 2014

If you travel the Interstate 5 corridor with any regularity you probably observed the “Coming Soon” sign for Bertelsen Winery at the Starbird Road exit near the top of Conway Hill for the past couple of years.

That sign was changed to “Now Open” in April, giving long-awaiting wineophiles in Skagit and nearby Whatcom County another tasting room option for locally produced premium wines.

nullThe winery is owned by retired Mount Vernon orthodontist Dr. Richard Bertelsen and managed by his son, Steve. Sarah Saya assists as the cheerful wine server you’re likely to see if you stop in for a visit.

The first thing that struck me about the tasting room is its open floor plan with semicircular tasting bar and an adjacent lounge with sofas and flat-screen television. According to Saya, the space will comfortably accommodate up to 50 guests, with an additional banquet-style area in the adjoining room plus seating on the outdoor patio, weather permitting.

Another interesting observation is that winery sources the grapes for its wines from five different Washington appellations: the Columbia, Yakima and Walla Walla Valleys, Wahluke Slope, and Red Mountain.

If you drop in just to taste, you have two choices: the Young Vines Flight costing $8 or the Reserve Flight, which runs $11. Each flight includes four pours of pre-selected wines from the current tasting menu.

Here are my tasting notes on a few of the wines I tried during a visit earlier this month:

2011 Riesling (about $16) – Luscious pear and crisp citrus flavors lead to a clean, off-dry finish with a whisper of sweetness.

2012 Merlot (about $27) – Aged in French oak for two years, this elegant merlot features raspberry and spicy red apple aromas and flavors that melt into a finish with hints of toasted caramel.

2012 Cabernet Franc (about $27) – Ample plum and cherry flavors are accentuated with a gentle twist of black pepper and crushed herbs in the latter stages along with a velvety-soft finish.

2012 Syrah Bulldog Reserve (about $29) – Black cherry flavors dusted with baking spice conclude in a plush finish wrapped in warm vanilla bean. The bulldog on the label of this fine effort is a nod to the Mount Vernon high school mascot.

2012 Malbec (about $32) – Sourced from Red Mountain’s Tapteil Vineyard, the wine’s brambly berry flavors commingle with mineral notes throughout, while chewy tannins suggest another year or two of cellaring for maximum enjoyment.

Bertelsen Winery is open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 8:00 pm and Sunday from noon to 6:00 pm. The web site is still a work in progress, so if you need additional information I’d suggest calling the tasting room at (360) 540-2212.

McKinley Springs: Great Vineyard, Great Wines

November 11th, 2014

Designating the vineyard source for a wine – a practice that was once virtually unheard of – has become an increasingly important part of the wine label.

As Washington wine production has increased, so has the knowledge and sophistication level of the wine consumer. Not content to know only what they’re drinking, they want access to other information such as production notes, varietal composition, barrel aging and vineyard designation.

nullKnowing where the grapes are grown can be extremely important because, simply stated, each vineyard produces wines with unique characteristics, aromas and flavor profiles.

McKinley Springs is a vineyard you’re likely to see on the label of several other Washington wineries. Their current portfolio of 22 clients includes wineries such as Columbia Crest and Chateau Ste. Michelle and 14 of these clients now produce wines that provide consumers with the vineyard designation on the label.

With over 2,000 planted acres, McKinley Spring Vineyards represents about five percent of all the state’s plantings. The first vineyard was planted in 1980 and 22 varieties of grapes are now grown there. Another 600 acres of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah will be added over the next three years, according to Vineyard Manager Rob Andrews.

The vineyard also produces 18-percent of the wine grapes grown within the Horse Heaven Hills Appellation where it is located. This includes wines bottled under their own estate label, McKinley Springs Winery, which turns out around 6,000 cases of wine annually.

Here are my tasting notes on three McKinley Springs Winery wines I recently enjoyed:

2011 Viognier (about $16) – Peach and vanilla cream flavors hit the palate, with a big, round quality to begin. On the finish, more of a crisp, edgy texture comes through, with touches of lemon zest. This wine paired perfectly with an entrée of roasted fingerling potatoes and poached salmon.

2010 Malbec (about $24) – Wonderfully complex and evolving aromas of ultra-dark plum, toasted almond, caramel, and sage lead off. Reserved wild blackberry flavors predominate, nicely balanced with gentle acidity and mineral notes on a soft finish. The wine was aged 18 months in 20-percent new French oak barrels.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $24) – The 2010 vintage, which some predicted would be an off year for Washington, is turning out some gorgeous wines, and this true-to-the-varietal cabernet is a perfect example. Caramel and baking spice on the nose, bright notes of red currant, and underlying layers of Ligurian cherry and boysenberry highlight this excellent wine. The finish hints at toasted oak with perfectly integrated tannins.

For more information on the McKinley Springs Vineyard and Winery, including ordering wines, go to mckinleysprings.com.

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