Yes, there been a lapse in the wine quizzes and subsequently, in these Meritage posts – the quizzes will resume at some point, I just think that I exhausted the ‘grape’ series and need to come up with another series which can last for a while – if you have any suggestions, please let me know. But – I came across quite a few interesting articles well worth sharing, and – I also have a mystery object for you to guess what it can be – so let’s have some fun!
Instead of providing the answers for you today, I have a mini-quiz. A few people saw this and asked – “What is it????”. So the idea came – why don’t we make a quiz out of it? Please take a look at the picture below and let me know what do you think this is, and as a bonus part, name the place of origin of this object:
Please provide your answers in the comments section, as usual.
And now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and web!
First, I came across an interesting article by Tim Atkin, Master of Wine and an author of a number of wine books. In this article Tim is talking about the problem with 100-points wines, which seem not to be a “universal truth” for everybody. He is talking about his personal experience with 3 of the 100-points wines, where his own ratings were not anywhere near that perfect score. I can also attest to having the same situation with two of the 100-pointers I was able to try. Yep, a classic case of YMMV – but read the article, it’s definitely worth your time.
We all know the carrying power the words “super-tuscan” have – attach those to the simplest bottle of wine, and everybody are immediately interested. Put some effort into that bottling – and you can easily ask for $90+ per bottle, and you will have no problems selling the wine at that price. Yes, the Super-Tuscan is an Italian phenomenon, and now some producers in France, in the Rhone valley to be precise, are trying to create something similar – a Super-Rhone wine. Here is the link for you to read more.
Have you heard of the Pappy Van Winkle? Well, if you didn’t, may be it is better to leave it like that? Pappy Van Winkle is an American whiskey, a Bourbon, which has such a cult following that while it costs a lot more than absolute majority of single-malt scotches of any age (prices for the simple 10 years old start from about $300), it is literally impossible to find, especially the well aged bottles of 15, 20 or 23 years old. I think it is one of the most fascinating stories for any of the alcoholic beverages, considering that it got to such a prominence in less than 10 years. The story of Pappy Van Winkle definitely worth few minutes of your time – here is the link to the article.
Bordeaux is coming back! Well, of course it never really left, but it lost its luster, especially in the eyes of the millennials, and finally the folks at Bordeaux decided to do something about it. The Bordeaux wine Bureau (CIVB) is starting a global campaign in US, China, Japan, UK and a few other countries to convince the wine buying public that Bordeaux is well and alive, and worth their hard earned money. You can find more details about the campaign here.
Last for today – a few words about 2014 harvest, which have mostly completed in thew Western hemisphere. This article from Wines and Vines presents some interesting numbers – for instance, the whole grape harvest in California was a bit less than 4 million tons. It also goes beyond the numbers and presents some of the trends – as an example, some growers in California Central Valley pull out the vines and replace them with the nuts – our sacred beverage, wine, is only a business for many, and it must be profitable, or else. Go read it for yourself.
And we are done here. The glass is empty – but the refill is on the way. Cheers!
This post is a continuation of the series about my winery experiences in Woodinville, Washington. Here are the links for the first four posts – introduction, Elevation Cellars, Pondera Winery and Des Voigne Cellars.
… and I walked into the winery called Sparkman Cellars. From all the wineries I visited in Woodinville, this was the only winery which was on my original list. It was also mentioned by someone at one of the previous wineries as the place to visit.
I barely finished explaining to Randy, a gentleman at the tasting counter, that I’m a wine blogger and I would like to taste through the wines, as I was literally attacked by one of the two women standing at the same counter. “Where are you from?”, she said, quite demanding. “Stamford, Connecticut”, I said, hoping we are done with the subject. She gave me a big understanding smile and said again “no, where are you from, REALLY?”. I generally don’t have a problem explaining to people that they hear a Russian accent, but this time around I was simply annoyed at the intensity of this inquiry, so I sternly repeated my answer “Stamford, Connecticut”.
At this point Randy decided to defuse the situation with the glass of 2013 Sparkman Cellars Birdie Dry Riesling Columbia Valley – it was nice and clean, with good acidity and that interesting savory minerality of the Washington Rieslings, which I now learnt (I hope!) to recognize as a trait. Drinkability: 7+
The next wine – 2012 Enlightenment Chardonnay French Creek Vineyard Yakima Valley was delicious. Chablis nose (minerality, gunflint, hot granite), which I always enjoy in Chardonnay, was clearly present in this clean and round wine with a touch of vanilla. Drinkability: 8
Meanwhile, the lady next to my changed the tactics and explained that she is genuinely interested in recognizing the accents and figuring out where the people are from. May be it was a good wine, but I also decided to change my “I’m going to ignore you” stance, so we pretty much became friends by the end of the tasting, and both ladies kept telling me how much they like the wines at Sparkman and number of other wineries in the area, and also gave me lots of recommendations on other must visit wineries in Woodinville.
The tasting continued with 2011 Sparkman Cellars Wilderness Red Wine Columbia Valley (34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Malbec, 15% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre, 8% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot) – rather an eclectic blend as you can tell. The wine was quite delicious, but a bit over-extracted to my taste. Drinkability: 7
2011 Sparkman Cellars Ruby Leigh Columbia Valley (67% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon,11% Malbec) was named after the youngest daughter of the winery owners. The wine was light and playful, showing the notes of the smokey raspberries, with medium body and medium finish. Drinkability: 7+
2012 Sparkman Cellars Ruckus Syrah Red Mountain (93% Syrah and 7% Viognier) – delicious dark fruit, roasted notes, spices. Perfect clod-climate Syrah, beautifully restrained. Drinkability: 8
2011 Sparkman Cellars Rainmaker Cabernet Sauvignon Yakima Valley (95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec) was delicious – dark power, tobacco notes, baking spices, very complex with long finish – on outstanding wine. This wine was poured as a “mystery wine” for the wine club members (you can see it above in the picture in the paper bag). Drinkability: 8+
This concluded the tasting at the Sparkman Cellars – sorry for the brief notes, I guess I was a bit distracted at this point. If you need better descriptions, you can take a look at the Sparkman Cellars web site – all the wines are presented quite well there.
Before I left the winery, I asked Randy what other wineries should I visit in my little time left until they all will be closed for the day (absolute majority of the wineries closes at 5 PM on Sunday), and he recommended Fidelitas and Mark Ryan, which were both outside of the industrial park, however still within 5-7 minutes driving distance. As I walked out of the Sparkman Cellars, another winery attracted my attention, and of course I decided to stop by…
To be continued…
… and I entered the world of music at the Des Voigne Cellars. Soft jazz music was playing in the background, as I was greeted by the big white dog – of course I started the visit from getting acquainted with the winery dog first – ear-scratching is usually the best way. Melissa, who owns the winery together with her husband Darren (the winemaker), was smiling with relief from behind the counter, happy to see that we made friends.
There was no doubts that music ruled here – it was not only in the air, but also on the labels and inside the glass:
If you can, spend a few seconds and look at these labels in detail. Both the graphics and the names of the wines are created by Darren, the winemaker, and these definitely join the list of most creative labels I ever saw. And the wines were on par with the labels.
We started with the 2013 Des Voigne Cellars The Groove White Columbia Valley (Chardonnay, Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier) – vibrant and fresh on the nose, and perfectly clean and simple on the palate. This is the wine to enjoy any time, with or without the food – you just can’t go wrong with it, and at $18, it is simply a steal. Well, almost – with 43 cases production, it’s not going to stay around for too long. Drinkability: 7+
The 2010 Des Voigne Cellars The Groove Red Columbia Valley (43% Syrah, 36% Sangiovese, 17% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot) had a very welcoming nose with touch of spice, more spices weer present on the palate with some roasted notes. Another excellent effort, and again a great QPR at $20 (your chances are a bit better with this wine – 210 cases produced). Drinkability: 7+
The next round was very interesting as well – take a look below:
I was trying to figure out if there should be a correlation between the choice of label (a performer or an event) and the wine itself, but didn’t come to any conclusions. If you tasted these wines, I would be interested in your opinion on this subject.
2012 Des Voigne Cellars San Remo Sangiovese Columbia Valley (100% Sangiovese, Candy Mountain Vineyard) – my first experience with Washington Sangiovese – and a very pleasant one. Nice, clean and simple wine, medium body, some interesting cherry undertones. Definitely playful and resembling the original Sangiovese (the Italian version), only in the lighter package and more fruit driven. Drinkability: 7+
2012 Des Voigne Cellars Duke Zinfandel Walla Walla (95% Zinfandel Walla Walla, 5% Malbec Wahluke Slope) – yet another “first” encounter – first time ever I was tasting Washington Zinfandel. Very nice rendition, unusual nose, showing classic Zinfandel’s smokey raspberries on the palate, light, clean and well balanced. Drinkability: 7+
2010 Des Voigne Cellars Montreux Syrah Columbia Valley (96% Syrah Weinbau Vineyard, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon Dionysus Vineyard) – Finally, the first Syrah of the tasting (out of the 3 wineries – somehow, I expected to see it a lot more often) – inviting nose of red fruit, touch of coffee, baking spices and lavender on the palate, overall very clean and balanced. Drinkability: 8-
Do you want to see more cool labels? Here you go:
2010 Des Voigne Cellars “Untitled” Columbia Valley (57% Cabernet Franc, 29% Syrah, 14% Petit Verdot) – if previous three wines can be characterized as “playful”, these two were the serious hitters. This wine showed excellent concentration, powerful and firm structure, clean Cabernet Franc profile with cassis and bell peppers, as well as grippy tannins. I think it will perfectly open up in about 5-7 years, so you will need to give it time. Drinkability: 8-
2010 Des Voigne Cellars Duet Columbia Valley (94% Cabernet Sauvignon Dionysus Vineyard, 6% Merlot Bacchus Vineyard) – unusually perfumy nose, soft and round on the palate, with good depth – perfectly drinkable now, no need to wait. Drinkability: 7+
So we had the music record, musical events and performers and the musical notations – what’s left is someone to put this all together – The Composer:
2011 Des Voigne Cellars The Composer Wahluke Slope (99% Malbec, 1% Syrah, both from Weinbau Vineyard) – this was a delicious, light and round wine, with good amount of fresh red berries on the palate – simple and very pleasant. Drinkability: 8-
My musical excursion completed, and it was the time to move. The next winery was the only one on my original list, which I planned to visit from the beginning. Short drive around the buildings (moving from Building B to Building E), and I walked into the winery called …
To be continued…
“What other winery do you recommend I should visit here?” I asked Steve before leaving. “Pondera”, he said. Okay. Short, very short walk from the building A to the building B, and I entered the tasting room of Pondera Winery.
I was greeted by Mel, one of the three owners of the Pondera winery. Pondera is focused on Bordeaux varietals, and it achieved a substantial recognition as a Bordeaux blends producer. As we were woking through the tasting, Mel proudly showed me a collection of gold medal-winning wines – 7 of Pondera wines received double gold medals in the blind tasting competition. Pondera 2009 Prima Donna red wine was recognized as one of the Top 100 wines of Northwest – not a small achievement by all means.
The tasting started from the 2013 Pondera Chardonnay Sagecliff Vineyard Columbia Valley. The wine had a subtle nose of vanilla, and more of the same on the palate. The wine spent 7 month on the lees, and while it had a creamy mouthfeel, the mid-palate was a bit heavy for my taste. Drinkability: 7
The next wine was 2011 Pondera Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley (90% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot) – the nose was rather muted, but the palate had a classic cassis and bell peppers – nice, clean and round, with a good balance. Drinkability: 7+
2011 Pondera Entwined Columbia Valley (57% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec) showed as a classic Bordeaux blend – if I would sniff the glass without knowing what is inside, I would definitely think of classic Bordeaux, made in a bit more of a fruit-forward style, but still quite restrained. The wine showed equally well on the palate – cassis, blackberries, touch of chocolate, clean acidity – and asking for a bit of time with very noticeable tannins. The only non-classic Bordeaux component was a beautiful label. Drinkability: 8-
2011 Pondera SVS Number One Columbia Valley (59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec) was yet another classic Bordeaux rendition. Yes, I’m guilty of abusing the word “classic” here, but this was my true impression. Soft, round, clean and perfectly classic. Drinkability: 8-
2011 Pondera Malbec Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley (97% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon) was, in a word, outstanding. Round, soft, polished, with delicious blueberries and blackberries – this was one of the very few wines I didn’t use the spittoon for in the tasting. Just a pure pleasure. Drinkability: 8+
The last wine was a special treat – 2009 Pondera Prima Donna Columbia Valley (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon) was made only once, in the exceptional year (2009) only from the 2 exceptional barrels. Delicious, classic Bordeaux style, big, powerful, with chewy tannins and long life perspectives in the cellar (if you can get a bottle, there is). Drinkability: 8
Here you go, my friends. A wonderful Bordeaux blend experience – if you are looking for the bright, delicious, cassis-loaded glass of joy, jot down the name Pondera Winery, and see if you can find a bottle or two. Meanwhile, I’m off to continue my Woodinville discovery journey, stepping literally 5 feet to the left into another door…
To be continued…
I’m traveling again (for my daytime job), and of course when I travel, I’m always looking for the local wineries to visit. This time I’m in Washington state, and of course there is no shortage of wineries to visit here. Well, let me critique myself here for that beaten up “of course”. This is not the first time I’m in Washington – however, last time I was here, I couldn’t think of anything but the Chateau St. Michelle as a winery to visit (which was the great visit, by the way, and I love their wines). While the Washington wineries had been on my radar for quite a long time, there was no realization that those wineries are actually the places which can be visited. Until this time.
First, I tried to arrange a visit to the Quilceida Creek, a cult producer. Unfortunately, they were smack in a middle of harvest at the time of my visit, and said that they allow no visitors at that time (oh well, I will try to time my visit better next time). Then I tried Google, and got back way too many results. My next step was Twitter, where I got some name recommendations and was given a few posts to read – one from the Wild 4 Washington Wine blog (this is not just one blog post, this is a series), and another one from the Jameson Fink blog. Based on all the information, I wrote down the few wineries I wanted to start from, and decided to figure out the rest on the fly. I also only had about 3 hours available to taste.
I had a bit of a trouble programing my GPS, so I just put whatever address it took. When I arrived to the area called Woodinville Industrial Park, and electronic voice proclaimed the familiar “you have arrived at your destination”, my first reaction was “wow”!
How would you, wine geeks and aficionados out there, feel – greeted with such a view? A Christmas in October? Yay! I was looking for the right way to describe my state of mind once I saw all these signs, and the best I could do was “a kid in the candy store” – wow, I can taste all of these – incredible!
It appears that what started less than 10 years ago from only 5 wineries, finding an inexpensive rent in the Industrial Park, became a 60+ setting now (and there are more than 100 wineries in the Woodinville overall). Going from winery from winery, I met very passionate and very talented people, who are living through their dream. Most of the people I met – winemakers and owners – have another full time job – an engineer, a police officer, a reporter. And despite the fact that winery is “just a hobby” (who am I kidding – it is not, it is a product of obsession), the wines were simply outstanding. I found it also fascinating that at every tasting room I was given a recommendation on what to visit next. I tasted about 40+ wines during this visit overall – and I literally would be glad to drink any one of those wines again and again. Lots of Bordeaux blends, few of the whites, a bit of Syrah – this was a general line up at all the wineries, and again, the wines were beautifully executed, balanced and with the sense of place. The local wines you would be glad to drink all the time.
What I decided to do is not to produce a monster post trying to cram all the impressions into one, but instead, to make a few posts talking about individual wineries. During this trip, I visited Elevation Cellars, Pondera Winery, Des Voigne Cellars, Sparkman Cellars, Guardian Cellars, Fidélitas and Mark Ryan Winery – and this is what you should expect to see coming in the next few posts. Therefore, I’m not finishing up this post, but instead, as they like to say, it is “to be continued…”
P.S. Once I started writing this post, I realized that I was really talking about “local wineries”, and “local” is a theme of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #12, so let it be my entry into that.
P.P.S. I love the power of internet – you can link backward, but you can also link forward. As the individual winery posts will be written, I will add the links to the posts under the names above.
I don’t know what you think based on the title, but the premise of this [short] post is simple. The Wondering Gourmand has a permanent monthly feature in his blog, called “Beer Versus Wine Pairing Challenge”. In that challenge, you are given a choice of a dish, and you are supposed to come up with the wine or beer (and don’t forget the cider!) pairing suggestion which then gets voted for.
As a lucky winner of the September challenge, I had an opportunity to come up with the new dish for the challenge, and my suggestion was … deviled eggs! So now you can suggest a choice of pairing, and may be then get a lucky challenge of coming up with the next dish suggestion. Here is the link to the official post – use the comments section in the Wondering Gourmand post for your beer versus wine recommendations.