Category Archives: Other NW Wine Recommendations
For the week of May 15, 2016: Masquerade Wine Company Non-Vintage Moscato – Located in Bellingham, Masquerade is one of only a handful of Washington wineries that produce sparkling wine. This one is a sensory delight, with lovely floral aromas of gardenia and honeysuckle, big flavors of spiced pear and lychee and an off-dry finish with just a shade under 2% residual sugar. The wine’s gentle sweetness will provide a nice contrast to 2-star or higher Asian cuisine or it can be enjoyed chilled as a perfect spring or summertime sipper.
For the week of May 8, 2016: Tucannon Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon – If you prefer your Cabernets “drink ready” with a minimum of cellaring time, this gorgeous Cab from the Red Mountain winery is a perfect fit. Incredible aromas of beeswax, vanilla wafer, and meadow grasses lead off, with delicious red cherry flavors on the palate and a finish of toasted hazelnut. It’s a bit lighter in body than most Washington Cabernets, and a refreshing alternative for those who prefer a red that’s a bit less “heavy-handed.”
For the week of May 1, 2016: Jones of Washington 2015 Rose of Syrah – Fruity, but not sweet, this absolutely amazing Rose is one of the best Roses – and one of the best wines, period – that I’ve tasted this year. Strawberry, raspberry, watermelon, and honeydew flavors hit you with mouth-watering precision and are backed by steely acidity and Ancient Lakes’ signature minerality. The icing on the cake is the $14 price tag, which means you should be buying this wine by the case and drinking it regularly.
For the week of April 24, 2016: Maryhill Winery 2012 Marvell GSM – Let’s raise a glass to Maryhill Winery with its stunning tasting room location, wonderful, cordial owners Craig and Vicky Luethold, and award-winning winemaker Richard Batchelor. This latest version of Marvell – a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre – is a grand slam with big, bold aromas and flavors of chocolate cherry that end with a flourish of cracked black pepper and sturdy tannins. Bring on anything beef to serve with this amazing red wine.
For the week of April 17, 2016: Memaloose 2011 Mistral Ranch – The Columbia Gorge Appellation has to be one of the most diverse wine regions in Washington. Over 45 varietals are grown here, and this wine from Memaloose showcases two of them: Syrah and Grenache. It’s an easy-to-drink red wine; medium in body with dark fruits to start before finishing with leaner flavors of red currant and red cherry. Try it with a duck, pork or roast beef entree.
For the week of April 10, 2016: GLM Wine Co. 2013 The Denier – Tom Davis and Tracey DeGraff run a great operation at their winery in Blaine. Seemingly reluctant to produce a mainstream wine, they’ve struck the right chord with this 80/20 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, sourced from Pasco’s Burgess Vineyards. There’s a nice plummy quality to this wine, with a distinctive yet subtle finish of blackberry and blueberry. Medium to full-bodied with good texture, it’s drinking beautifully now…and additional cellaring promises to make it even better.
For the week of April 3, 2016: William Church Winery 2013 Malbec – Rod and Leslie Balsley of Woodinville have a number of killer red wines currently available (to go with an equal stunning Viognier for those who prefer white wine). This Gamache Vineyards Malbec is a prime example, with lovely floral aromas, generous spiced berry flavors, and a lenghty, velvety finish. There’s an elegant quality to this wine that suggests a prime rib pairing, although I also wouldn’t hesitate to try it with anything off the barbeque including lamb burgers or a big, juicy steak.
For the Week of March 27, 2016: Portteus Winery 2014 Rattlesnake Red – Paul Portteus started his winery long before the Rattlesnake Hills region where his vineyards are located earned AVA status. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Sangiovese is a well-priced red that showcases a few of these varietals. The Cab provides some nice body and tannic structure, the Zin contributes a mouthful of spicy raspberry flavors, and the Sangio offers a bit of bright acidity to balance out the package. With a dollop of vanilla on the finish, this is an easy-to-drink red with plenty of broad-ranging appeal.
For the week of March 20, 2016: Palencia Wine Company 2014 Albarino – Victor Palencia continues to amaze us with this incredible effort with one of the State’s newer varietals. This refreshing, complex white wine is a sensory delight, with aromas and flavors of apple and spiced pear, backed by bracing acidity and finished with notes of lime zest, allspice and beautiful minerality. Further evidence of Palencia’s winemaking prowess: his 2015 Albarino, which took best of show honors at this year’s Cascadia Wine Competition and has just been released to the public.
For the week of March 13, 2016: Owen Roe Winery 2013 Yakima Valley Red Wine – This stunning, perfectly balanced red wine blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, is indicative of everything on the tasting menu currently available from this Yakima Winery. Winemaker/Partner David O’Rielly not only makes great wines, you’ll find that he and his wife, Angelica, are cordial and gracious hosts…should they happen be there when you pay them a highly recommended visit.
For the week of March 6, 2016: Lost River Winery 2013 Barbera – Winemaker John Morgan hits all the right notes on this spectacular red wine sourced from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Smoky undertones and touches of pepper and spice accentuate a base of reserved black cherry fruit, licorice root, and black plum. As if that weren’t enough, the acidity level and tannins offer impeccable balance, making this a “complete package” wine that should put it on your must-try list. Exceptional!
For the week of February 28, 2016: Dusty Cellars Winery 2014 Spartan – Scheduled for release in May, 2016, this 100-percent Rattlesnake Hills Merlot from the Camano Island Winery is a nod to the mascot from nearby Stanwood High School. It’s an easy-to-drink Merlot with blackberry and black currant flavors, nicely balanced with a splash of acidity and soft tannins. Husband-and-wife owners/winemakers Ryan and Dusty Kramer are doing a fine job with their wines and, as congenial hosts, make a visit to their tasting room (open the first full weekend of every month) well worth the visit.
For the week of February 21, 2016: Ginkgo Forest Winery 2014 Viognier – Mike and Lois Thiede have done an awesome job with this big, flavorful Viognier that’s indicative of the wines you’ll find from the Wahluke Slope AVA. Expect plenty of Golden Delicious apple, peach, and apricot flavors from this viscous, full-bodied white. Bonus selection: the winery’s 2011 Malbec, where the cooler vintage puts less emphasis on the understated blackberry and blueberry fruit flavors that persist into a slightly smoky finish. It’s drinkly beautifully and highly affordable at around $20 a bottle.
For the week of February 14, 2016: Columbia Crest 2013 Grand Estates Merlot – For those who don’t like to spend a small fortune on wines, $10 to $12 a bottle seems to be the upper limit. If that’s the case, here’s a Washington Merlot that will fit the bill while delivering plenty. Roasted coffee bean aromatics, a mouthful of black currant and cherry fruit, and hints of chocolate and vanilla on the finish highlight this easy-to-drink, highly affordable red.
For the week of February 7, 2016: Thurston Wolfe 2010 JTW’s Port – Perfect for pairing with almost anything chocolate, this Port-Style blend from Prosser primarily consists of Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Sirah. It’s packed with wonderful layers of dark cherry fruit, hazelnut, caramel, chocolate and a trace of peppery spice on the ultra-long finish. While some Ports are overly sweet or overly hot, all the components fall into place here for a beautifully balanced, highly enjoyable fortified wine.
For the week of January 31, 2016: Vartanyan Estate Winery 2014 Sweet Riesling – Whatcom County’s Margarita Vartanyan (pictured at right) has produced a gem of a Riesling at a super-affordable price (about $14). Mouth-watering, juicy pear and pineapple flavors finish with a splash of bracing acidity that perfectly balances a hardly noticeable 7% residual sugar content. How good is this wine? My youngest sister, who rarely drinks white wine enjoyed it so much that she bought a bottle during a recent visit to the tasting room. Outstanding!
For the week of January 24, 2016: Masquerade Wine Co. Non-Vintage Sparkling Riesling – Sparkling wines are one of the things Bellingham’s Masquerade Wine Co. does best and this Riesling is a classic example. Big, golden delicious apple flavors, a flourish of yeasty brioche, and ample residual sugar on the finish will make this an instant favorite of those who like their sparklers with a touch of sweetness. It should pair well with anything in the brunch line, especially eggs benedict with a creamy hollandaise sauce.
For the week of January 17, 2016: Waterbrook Winery 2014 Chardonnay – This well-priced (about $12) Chardonnay from the Walla Walla-based winery makes a great accompaniment to a variety of lighter entrees including chicken, pork and halibut. Apple aromas and flavors are followed by a touch of dried apricot, with finishing notes of nutmeg and vanilla. There’s also a bit of toasted oak in the background that doesn’t overwhelm the wine’s nicely balanced flavor profile.
For the week of January 10, 2016: Barrister Winery Non-Vintage Rough Justice X – Barrister Winery continues as one of Spokane’s top wineries with another exceptional effort from winemakers Michael White and Greg Lipsker. This red wine blend of Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon is filled with understated blueberry, plum, and black currant fruits, a twist of white pepper and smoky undertones that make it a pleasure to taste.
For the week of January 3, 2016: Barnard Griffin 2014 Riesling – If you’ve blown your holiday budget and need to cut back on expenditures in January, here’s a great wine that will fit the bill without compromising on quality. Crisp flavors of Granny Smith apple, pear, pineapple and citrus highlight this tasty white wine, with just a touch of sweetness on the finish to move it into the off-dry category. It’s a steal at only about $10 a bottle.
For the week of December 27, 2015: Try something sparkling from several Washington wineries! Possible choices include Masquerade Wine Company and Mount Baker Vineyards in Bellingham, Mountain Dome in Spokane, Chelan’s Karma Vineyards or Treveri Cellars in Yakima. Cheers and Happy New Year!
For the week of December 13, 2015: Dunham Cellars 2011 Lewis Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – Big blackberry and sweet cedar aromatics start you off, with dark, round fruits of black cherry and cassis on the palate. Finishing touches of slate and spice add additional layers to a wine that exudes luxury from start to finish. The $75-a-bottle price tag seems a bit hefty until you take the first sip. This is an all-around tremendous Washington wine worthy of a place among the state’s best from the 2011 vintage.
For the week of December 6, 2015: Frichette Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon – Keep your eye on husband and wife winemaker/owners Greg and Shae Frichette (pictured at right with son, Jayden). They’re off to a terrific start and Shae’s outgoing personality makes everyone feel welcome at their Red Mountain winery. Their 2012 Cab opens with lovely plum and eucalyptus aromatics, flavors of blueberry and espresso, and a slightly chewy finish with toasted oak and vanilla accents. Drink now or enjoy in another five to seven years and purchase at the tasting room or on line at frichettewinery.com.
For the week of November 29, 2015: Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 Indian Wells Merlot – For wine drinkers stuck on under-$10 Australian Shirazes, take a small step up to the $15 to $19 price range and enjoy this easy-to-drink Washington Merlot. Jammy plum and blackberry flavors fill the glass, and melt into a soft, lengthy finish that makes this wine a pleasure to taste.
For the week of November 15, 2015: Barnard Griffin 2014 Fume Blanc – Rob Griffin does it again with this nicely complex white wine that should pair perfectly with seafood, chicken or that Thanksgiving turkey. Stone fruits, green melon, and gentle citrus aromas and flavors lead to a crisp finish with a touch of herbaceousness. At around $9-a-bottle, this insanely underpriced wine is a prime candidate for a case purchase and to have on hand for large groups and holiday parties.
For the week of November 8, 2015: Robert Ramsay Cellars 2012 La Previa – Woodinville winemaker Bob Harris has crafted a completely over-the-top red blend comprised of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Counoise. There’s a seductive quality to this wine, with luscious black cherry fruit that’s beautifully balanced with minerality and acidity along with a velvety texture and spicy accents on the finish. This wine truly is the complete package and probably one of the best wines I’ve tasted in 2015.
For the week of November 1, 2015: Dunham Cellars 2012 Trutina – According to the label, Trutina is Latin for “balance,” and that easily sums up this tremendous effort from the Walla Walla winery. Juicy blackberry and cherry fruit, undertones of toasted caramel and a hint of herbaceousness round out this stunning blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah and Petit Verdot.
For the week of October 26, 2015: Kiona Vineyards and Winery 2103 Chardonnay – Need a nice, reliable middle-of-the-road Chardonnay? Try this affordable option from Red Mountain’s Kiona Winery. Gentle apple flavors with a touch of oak and just enough brightness on the finish make this an almost-certain crowd pleaser. Try it with a creamy, roasted pumpkin soup for a perfect autumnal combination.
For the week of October 19, 2015: J Bookwalter Wines 2013 Subplot No. 30 – This long-time Washington winery based in Richland (with a second tasting studio in Woodinville) has a history of producing some stellar blends and this current release is no exception. Nicely complex with red berry and plum fruit, the finish hints at roasted coffee with a touch of vanilla. It’s a nicely-priced combination of five red varietals that should keep virtually everyone happy.
For the week of October 12, 2015: Mount Baker Vineyards 2014 Muller Thurgau – The Puget Sound region produces a number of cooler climate grapes that are unique to the Western portion of the state…and here’s a great example. Imagine biting into a crisp, Fuji apple and you’ll set the backdrop for this vibrant, flavorful white wine. Its mild sweetness is perfectly balanced with brisk acidity, making it a natural to pair with shellfish or seafood.
For the week of October 5, 2015: Cougar Crest Winery 2009 Merlot – This gorgeous Merlot from the Walla Walla Valley is a fine representation of a varietal many feel the state does best. Beautiful dark cherry and black plum aromas and flavors melt into a velvety soft finish. Perfect for sipping on its own during a cool, autumn day.
For the week of September 21, 2015: Bonair Winery 2013 Yakima Valley Chardonnay – This nice little Chardonnay from the Zillah winery has everything you’d expect from this varietal: Gentle apple and tropical fruit flavors, a touch of toasted oak and a very reasonable $12-a-bottle or so price. Need an affordable, solid everyday white wine? This one should fit the bill.
For the week of September 14, 2015: VanArnam Vineyards 2013 Malbec – Kent VanArnam provides the Yakima Valley with another stellar winery, this one located just north of Zillah with sweeping views of the valley. This gorgeous Malbec displays true-to-the-varietal characteristics, with lovely violet aromatics, understated spicy berries on the palate, good acidity, and just the right amount of tannic structure. There’s an almost elegant quality to this wine that make it worth purchasing and worth savoring.
For the week of September 7, 2015: La Chanterelle Winery 2012 Syrah – The epitome of micro-boutique wineries, 120 case-per-year La Chanterelle in Bellingham is off to a great start. Winemakers Donatas Pocus and Lotte Freeman have crafted a beautiful, full-bodied wine with intense blueberry flavors, hints of cedar and spice on the finish, and sturdy tannins that suggest a bit more cellaring…if you can contain yourself from enjoying the wine now.
For the week of August 31, 2015: Cairdeas Winery 2012 Counoise – This sparingly used Rhone varietal is beginning to make it’s way into Washington wine glasses, and winemaker Charlie Lybecker knocks it out of the park with his current interpretation. Blended with 25% Petit Sirah for added structure, this stunning red displays subtle blackberry fruits with a beautiful spritz of black pepper on the finish. I once termed Charlie as one of Chelan’s “up-and-coming winemakers” but I can’t say that anymore…because he’s there. His wines are almost reason alone to pay a visit to this picturesque Washington AVA.
For the week of August 24, 2015: Nefarious Cellars 2014 Consequence – Dean and Heather Neff do a terrific job with Chelan AVA wines and this blend of Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, and Marsanne is a perfect example. Baked pear aromas and flavors fill the glass, with a zingy finish of citrus/key lime that’s tempered by slightly peachy accents. It’s delicious when served lightly chilled and should pair well with lighter seafood dishes.
For the week of August 17, 2015: Hyatt Vineyards 2013 Riesling – From one of the State’s long-standing wineries in Zillah, Hyatt offers another solid white wine at a budget-friendly $10 price. This is classic, old school Washington Riesling, with a bit of tropical fruit, a bit of citrus and some crisp Fuji apple on the finish to balance the 4.5% residual sugar content. It’s a natural wine to serve as a contrast with the spicy elements of take-out Chinese or Thai food.
For the week of August 10, 2015: Thurston Wolfe 2012 Howling Wolfe Zinfandel – There’s not enough descriptors to cover this excellent Wade Wolfe (at left) wine, easily the benchmark by which all Washington Zins (at the highly affordable $20-a-bottle price point) should be measured. Rum raisin on the nose, slightly peppery for openers and then some gorgeous black cherry flavors with a finish that hints at chocolate/caramel. Enjoy now or within the next two to three years.
For the week of August 3, 2015: Tamarack Cellars 2014 Rose of Mourvedre – This long-standing Walla Walla winery gives us a tasty rose sourced from the Wahluke Slope. The Mourvedre grapes used in this wine are so dark, they don’t even require any skin contact after pressing…the juice is simply pumped off and fermented in stainless steel. Strawberry/rhubard aromas start you off with ruby red grapefruit and granny smith apple flavors on the palate and a crisp, vibrant finish.
For the week of July 27, 2015: Milbrandt Vineyards “The Estates” 2012 Malbec – Looking for a quiet, reserved red wine? You’ve come to the wrong place with this Malbec from the Prosser-based winery! Big, juicy blackberry aromas and flavors are backed with an semi-smooth finish that belies the eye-popping 15.5% alcohol content. A prime candidate for anything beef, especially when it comes off the grill.
For the week of July 20, 2015: L’Ecole No. 41 2013 Semillon – Why this varietal isn’t more popular is beyond me. This Washington Semillon has plenty to offer: gentle honeysuckle and clover aromatics, soft pear and peach flavors and finish of lemon crème. Walla Walla winemaker Marty Clubb has been producing this wine for many years with great success and this vintage is no exception. Well-priced to boot, this wine should be on your must-try list.
For the week of July 13, 2015: Whidbey Island Winery 2013 Siegerrebe – Western Washington pioneer winemaker Greg Osenbach has the vineyard and the experience to craft this cool-climate grape into a beautiful wine. Pear, litchee, and fragrant spices fill the glass and a touch of residual sugar is impeccably balanced with bracing acidity. The 2014 vintage is also scheduled for release in July of 2015.
For the week of July 6, 2015: Arbor Crest Non-Vintage Cliff House White – An amazing blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Chardonnay, this ultra-impressive white wine is loaded with stone fruit aromas of peach, nectarine, and apricot that carry over to the initial taste. As the wine progress, the Sauv Blanc really kicks in, with a herbaceous, citrus flavor profile and crisp finishing notes. At only around $10 a bottle, skillful winemaker Kristina van Loben Sels deserves a hearty round of applause for serving up a stellar wine that won’t break the bank.
For the week of June 29, 2015: Palencia Wine Company 2014 Albarino – This newer Washington varietal is gaining momentum and Victor Palencia gives us reason to want this wine even more. It’s wonderfully complex, with ambrosia and stone fruit aromatics and flavors of spiced apple, pear and citrus on the palate. The finish is bone dry, with a nice slate-like/minerality quality that suggests a pairing with fresh shellfish.
For the week of June 22, 2015: Barnard Griffin 2014 Rose of Sangiovese – Another smashing success from Richland winemaker Rob Griffin, this rose is a subtle explosion of strawberry, red currant, and watermelon fruit flavors. Bracing acidity tops things off and makes this an ideal sipping wine for the summer when served well chilled.
For the week of June 15, 2015: Seven Hills Winery 2012 Merlot (Seven Hills Vineyard) – This is a big, powerful Merlot, with slightly smoky aromatics, understated dark fruit flavors, and still with enough finesse from Walla Walla winemaker Casey McClellan to make this readily enjoyable…as well as a candidate for the cellar for years to come.
For the week of June 8, 2015: J Wrigley Vineyards 2013 MAC Cuvee Pinot Noir – John and Jody Wrigley have produced a stellar Pinot Noir from three vineyards in Oregon’s McMinnville AVA. This wine has all the classic Pinot characteristics; slightly earthy aromatics, bright red cherry flavors and great acidity. There’s also a plush, almost elegant finishing note to this wine that will allow it to pair perfectly with salmon, duck or roast poultry.
For the week of June 1, 2015: Dynasty Cellars 2012 Malbec – Sourced from Walla Walla’s Les Collines Vineyard, this Malbec opens with beautiful berry aromatics followed by generous blueberry and blackberry flavors on the palate. With surprisingly good acidity at its core, this red wine promises only to get better with additional aging. A fine effort from Bellingham winemaker Peter Osvaldik.
During a trip to Spokane in April I had the opportunity to visit a couple of smaller, “boutique” wineries; boutique being defined as those with annual production of around 1,000 cases or less.
First up is Nodland Cellars, where winemaker Tim Nodland (pictured at left) has taken a checkered career path from 1980’s big-haired rocker (with the photos to prove it) to still-practicing attorney, to jazz musician, to winemaker.
His tasting room is currently a bit off the beaten path in an industrial park in the city of Spokane Valley. But plans are in the works to keep that space as a production facility and move the tasting room to downtown Spokane by the fall of 2015.
Nodland impressed me with his ability to offer extremely reasonably priced wines while sourcing his fruit from some of the state’s finest vineyards including Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge, Gamache, and Kiona. His current releases are all drinking nicely and deserve a “must-try” recommendation.
The Bebop Dry Riesling (about $16) is the winery’s only white, and it shines with vibrant green apple and citrus flavors that conclude in a crisp, dry finish.
Two red Bordeaux blends are completely off the charts: the overachieving, underpriced 2012 Bad Attitude (about $15), with white pepper aromatics, red currant and cherry flavors and a twist of pepper and vanilla on the finish; and the 2008 Private Blend (about $28), an explosion of black currant, lardo, and smoky bacon aromas and flavors.
Other notable reds: the 2011 Avant Garde (about $28), a 100% carménère with dark fruits, black pepper accents, and a big mouthfeel that demands a steak entrée; and the 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (about $38) with elegant black plum flavors, finely integrated tannins and hints of toast and black olive on the finish.
Further east of Spokane you’ll find Liberty Lake Wine Cellars, where husband and wife proprietors Doug and Shelly Smith admittedly let their hobby for making red wines get out of control to become a full-fledged winery that opened in 2008.
Located in a residential area south of I-90, their tasting room offers spectacular views of Mount Spokane and Liberty Lake and also provides a kitchen, seating area and outdoor deck that beckons visitors to lingering over a glass of wine.
My favorite current release is the 2008 Legacy (about $20), a gorgeous blend of merlot, cabernet franc and syrah from Red Mountain that displays big, round blackberry fruit and a touch of sweet cedar on the finish.
Also notable is the 2009 Syrah (about $25) with spicy persimmon aromas, dark fruit flavors, good tannic structure, and a dusting of cocoa powder; and a lighter-in-body 2011 Tempranillo (about $25), with strong earthy notes and strawberry and raspberry flavors that conclude in a bright, vibrant finish.