Archive for the 'Washington Wine' Category

2005 The Magnificent Wine Co. House Wine, Columbia Valley Red

12072007.jpgYou have to hand it to these folks… they have the marketing down – eye-catching labels, down-to-earth names (House Wine, Steak House, Fish House… etc.) and a decent web site aimed at consumers and wine writers like me. I like what they have going on.

I also really like Washington State wines. After our trip through Walla Walla earlier this year, I seek out smaller labels from the Evergreen State whenever I can. So, when I was in Kitsilano Wine Cellars yesterday and came across this wine, I thought I’d give it a try.

It’s a blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 11% Syrah, 3% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc. What it adds up to is a dark and vibrant red wine with a licorice, dark fruit and herbal nose. A juicy sip shows all that as well as a meaty and smoothly tannic finish.

For a Washington wine with this much going on, this is a very good value. I’ll buy it again, and that’s the ultimate judgment. 🙂

$25 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars here in Vancouver.

4 stars

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Wine – 2004 Woodward Canyon Columbia Valley Syrah & 2004 L’Ecole No. 41 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley

Once in a while I have a night of food and wine that just makes it all click. One of those combinations would be lamb and Syrah… New World, Old World – it just works. Tonight we had lamb marinated with cumin, paprika, lemon and olive oil (Amelia Extra Virgin, of course!)… The combination of these 2 Washington Syrahs and the meat made me want to roll around on the table – it was a taste bud extravaganza.

09052007.jpgThe Woodward Canyon started the night off with a bang. It was a big bunch of extremely well-balanced vanilla-dipped dark fruit with a flowery violet edge and a finish that went on for a while. Even the 15.1% booze didn’t overpower the nose or flavour of the wine. I just wish we had more. This is a wine I could drink all the time.

We had visited both of these wineries on our Washington/Oregon wine trip a few months ago and brought these bottles back as part of our trip treasures. I’m surprised they had lasted this long. 🙂

09052007a.jpgThe L’Ecole was a bit of a different beast. On their back label, they say that “the Syrah was harvested ultra-ripe, resulting in a dark, massive and dense wine.” Yep. It had prune and spice on the nose, with cola, cherry and plum flavours making an appearance among the firm-as-steel tannins. It came across as a bit of a brute, though it went bloody well with the lamb.

Of the 2, my pick was the Woodward Canyon. It was just plain sexy and ready to drink now. Grab either of ’em if you can find them and feel like a great bottle of Washington State Syrah (and go grab some lamb to cook up with the wine!).

Price? Dunno – they both run in the $40 USD price range at the wineries.

4 1/2 stars

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Wine – 2000 Woodward Canyon Merlot, Columbia Valley

05072007.jpgWell now… Let’s just say that I’m not usually the world’s biggest Merlot fan. It’s not a Sideways thing… I just haven’t had many that have made me think, “Wow, that’s good!

This was one of those rare exceptions. It made me slurp, smile and think, “Wow, that’s really good!” We had picked it up on a visit to the winery in Walla Walla and drank it while we were in lovely Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Its colour was a deep dark red. On its nose, there was black olive, dark cherry, mocha, toast and vanilla… with a touch of mineral on the edge. The flavours were all dark, almost sweet spicy cherries, currants with a toasty edge. Its finish went on for minutes. This was an elegant, balanced and extremely good bottle of wine. The 13.8% booze was perfectly in tune with everything else the wine put forward.

More please.

$43 USD at the winery.

4 1/2 stars

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Wine – 2005 Russell Creek Sangiovese, Columbia Valley

05032007.jpgI’ll say it straight up: I loved this wine. It may not be for everyone, but my taste buds tell me that Larry Krivoshein has made a heckuva’ Sangiovese. It was the best one we tasted on our trip through Walla Walla and Oregon.

I picked it up at the Russell Creek Winery after we had chatted with Larry for quite a while about the wines, the grapes and his winemaking philosophy. He uses only new oak (he says it allows him to make the wine he wants to make) and definitely does things his way. I like that… and I really liked his wines – along with the Sangiovese, I picked up a 2003 Winemakers Select Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wine is a beautiful black/purple colour. the nose is INTENSE – showing syrupy ripe raspberry, blackberry and dark plum. It has a strong vanilla edge from the oak, but it blends incredibly well with the dark and ripe fruit…

A big sip shows a mouth-filling bunch of vanilla-dipped ripe dark fruit. There’s a handful of dark cherries, a scoop of raspberries and a big slice of dark plum… so good. The flavours actually build in the mouth through the long, delicious finish.

Fantastic stuff.

$28 USD at the winery.

4 1/2 stars

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Wine & Travel – Day 3 of the Washington / Oregon trip

04202007.jpgWe left Walla Walla bright and early on Wednesday to head west to Portland. We drove the freeway along the Columbia River, which was spectacular. It was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever done. If you’re on a wine tour of your own, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’ll be posting a schwack of photos from our trip to my Flickr account, so when I do, I’ll post a link.

Portland’s a city I’ve driven through a few times, but have never stopped to explore. Seriously folks… it’s a place I could live. It’s a beautiful smaller city that has great buildings, wine, beer, food and people. There’s a cool vibe going on there that just felt like home.

04202007b.jpgWe stayed at the Ace Hotel, which was just what we needed. They had recently opened and there were still a few kinks to iron out (the faucets in the sink of our room were almost impossible to stop from dripping), but the artsy little touches were cool and the place just screamed “HIP!”. Vancouver really needs a hotel like it.

It was also really centrally located. It’s right on the edge of the downtown area and one block away from the newly trendy Pearl District. We walked everywhere from here.

Besides being a wine geek, I’ve also been a long time beer lover… there are plenty o’ times that a good microbrew makes me just as happy as a great glass of wine. Portland made me pretty bloody happy with its great selection of brewpubs as well. Graham regularly hits up the Rogue Brewing brewpub when he heads down this way, so I thought I’d do the same. Rachel and I had a tasting flight each (4 smaller glasses) and the standout was their Imperial India Pale Ale. They pretty much hit the nail on the head when they say, ” Above and beyond an India Pale Ale–I2PA is radically hopped with an intense aroma and hop bitterness. Unfiltered and aged for 9 months before it leaves the brewery–not for the faint of heart.” Fantastic beer.

One thing we were desperate to find in Portland was a good place to grab a nice dinner. Walla Walla had a few spots that looked promising, but they were either closed on the days we were there, or they had stopped serving at an unusually early hour. We just needed something good to eat and a bottle of wine that would make it all come together.

We finally found that at Park Kitchen. Wow… this place was great. We both had amazing meals and a great bottle of wine to round it out… (a 2004 Anam Cara Cellars, Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir), which was very light in colour, but had intense red fruit on the nose. It was earthy and spicy with rhubarb, ripe cherry and pepper on the long sexy finish – 4 stars. Finally we were having the food and wine experience we had been looking for… and loving it.

We had actually ordered another bottle that had us both excited – a 2004 EIEIO Pinot Noir, but our server, Kevin (a great guy to ask about Portland’s food scene and Oregon wines) told us one of the employees had drunk it the night before (damn them – but a mental note was made that we had to find the wine on our trip) and recommended the Anam Cellars. All in all, if you’re in Portland and are a bit of wine and food geek, search this place out. The meal was gorgeous – from the starters through to the dessert. This place gets 4.5 stars.

04202007a.jpgWhile wandering around, we stumbled on Nirvana. I had a mind-melting why-do-I-live-in-Canada moment when we wandered into Vinopolis, Oregon’s largest wine store. It was just around the corner from the Ace… and holy crap, what a store. I’ve worked in a couple of Vancouver’s better wine shops, but this was three to four times the size of those, with a selection that almost made us cry… thousands of bottles. It was immense and wonderful. I wanted to grab a sleeping bag and move in – “Don’t mind me. I’m just tasting Sauternes this week.” Jesus. It was so good. If you’re a wine geek and travelling through Portland, I’d suggest you go in and look around. I’ll slap a rating on it as a wine shop – easily 4.5 stars.

I’ll be back to Portland again sometime soon. I really liked it and the time we spent there whetted my appetite to get out and explore it a bit more.

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Wine – Day 2 in Walla Walla

04172007.jpgOK, this is going to be a bit of a long post… Today dawned beautiful and sunny in Walla Walla, which was a beautiful change from our arrival last night. This place is a little slice of wine geek heaven if you feel like making the drive.

The 2 photos today are of the lovely Rachel posing in front of the L’Ecole No.41 and Reininger Wineries.

After a quick breakfast at the Coffee Connection on Main Street (friendly service, good lattes and pancakes, by the way), we hit up Dama Wines just down the street.

It looked more like a very stylish city cafe or wine bar than a tasting room. We kinda stumbled in there (it wasn’t open, but the door was unlocked) and Mary enthusiastically greeted us and told their story – pretty cool: a couple of women (with an obviously great design aesthetic) who started up a business as negotiants, rather than making their own wines. They also provide a portion of the money they make to help women in the local oenology program as well as the local YWCA. Check out the tasting room if you’re in town.

From there, we headed to Waterbrook Winery’s tasting room just down the street. They poured some really nice wines, but we knew there was plenty of great stuff ahead.

After that we headed out to the airport area, which looks to be a former air base converted into an airport and industrial area. Seriously… it’s kinda’ weird out there. You’re right by the airport and there’s a bunch of sheds lined up in rows – very milataristic. Our first stop was Russell Creek. I actually had their Tributary a while back and had loved its Bordeaux blend complexity.

The owner, Larry Krivoshien, is a transplanted Canadian. I liked his no-bullshit, I do things my way approach to the wines… and to be honest, pretty much loved what he poured. I had to pick up a bottle of his 2005 Sangiovese (tasting notes coming soon) and his 2003 Winemaker’s Select Cabernet Sauvignon. It had great complexity, fruit and a finish that actually built as I stood there… and lasted a minute. Well worth picking up for the trip home, thank you very much.

Next up was Dunham Cellars. Hannah, in the tasting room was great… and I’ve gotta’ love folks who feature dogs on their labels. We’ve got the “Three Legged Red” up in Vancouver… and it really is pretty tasty for the money ($19 USD). We also really liked the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon IX.

04172007a.jpgAfter a stop at the amusingly named “Cheese Louise“, we headed out of town a bit and hit the beautiful Reininger Winery. It was the first winery we had visited down here that kinda’ looked like a typical Napa/Sonoma, well-put-together facility. It was in a gorgeous setting (see the photo to the right). After tasting some really good wines (the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, 2002 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley and the 2003 Helix Pomatia, Columbia Valley), Justin (great guy!) took us on tour of the winery, which was completely appreciated. It’s a beautiful spot.

We kept going on down the road and stopped at L’Ecole No.41 (the 3rd winery to have opened in the area). The winery is housed in an old schoolhouse. It’s a great-looking place… Both of us had drunk their wines in the past and loved them, so this was one we had been looking forward to visiting. In the tasting room, Brooke took us through the wines with knowledge and enthusiasm. Everything we tasted was “buy-worthy”. Our buys here were the 2004 Columbia Valley Merlot and the 2004 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Syrah (which was spectacular). Go there. You won’t be disappointed.

Right next door is the 2nd winery to have opened in the Walla Walla area (Leonetti Cellars was the first), Woodward Canyon Winery. This is another winery whose wines I have tasted in the past and wow, I wasn’t disappointed.

Their plain red blend was great for the money ($17 USD), while their 2000 Columbia Valley Merlot and 2004 Columbia Valley Syrah called for my VISA card. All three left the shop in my shopping bag. They have some wines that have achieved cult-like status and I’m sure it’s worth searching them out. They just seem to make damn good stuff.

Thats it for day 2 down here. I’ll post some targeted tasting notes next.

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Wine – Day 1 & the 2004 Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley

04162007.jpgSo Rachel and I set out this morning in a downpour for our trip to the wine areas of Washington and Oregon. After hours… and hours of driving, we reached Walla Walla (in another watch-rain-bounce-off-the-pavement downpour) around 8:30pm, grabbed a room and set out on a search for the first bottle of wine of our trip.

Unfortunately, this is Walla Walla… and cute as it may be, it was Walla Walla… on a Monday. Nothing was open. I mean nothing, except oddly enough, a Starbucks (of course) and another coffee place.

We actually had given up hope of finding a proper wine store and were headed to check out the fine selection at the local Chevron. Did I mention it was pouring? We needed wine. We had spent a good part of the day driving past lovely rows of well-kept vines, which promised tasty wine ahead.

Suddenly an apparition appeared – an open wine shop/tapas place called Vintage Cellars, on 2nd. God bless ’em. They were open.. and they had wine. They had lots of local wine. Suddenly we were a whole lot happier.

They have a deal that if you buy a bottle to go, they take $5 off the purchase price.. At that point, we were both pretty much, “where do we sign up?”

We ended up buying a bottle of the 2004 Abeja Cabernet. Wow… this is some seriously great stuff. It has gorgeous inky purple, verging on black colour. The nose is violet-tinged black licorice smothered in ripe blackberry juice. In the mouth, there’s a lot going on. It’s complex, well-structured and so bloody tasty. There’s a mouth-filling bunch of blackberry juice, with the licorice and a bit of pepper. It’s got amazing balance (even with the 14.2% booze) and would pair amazingly well with food… Mmmmm… maybe pan-seared duck breasts maybe?

Without a doubt, this is a fantastic start to the week.

$40 USD at Vintage Cellars in Walla Walla.

4 1/2 stars

1 comment

Wine – Sipping through Washington & Oregon

I’m looking for insider info here… I’m headed off through Washington and Oregon Wine Country next week and am looking for the inside scoop on what/who to visit and taste/buy. What should I not miss? What do I have to taste? C’mon folks. Give it up. Let me know.

I’ve got a few ideas already, but would love to hear what you have to say.

Thanks in advance. 🙂

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Wine – 2003 Six Prong, Columbia Valley Red Wine

02122007.jpgOver my last few trips through Washington and Oregon, I’ve tried some really enjoyable wines from the Columbia Valley. I picked this one up with those wines in mind, and certainly was not disappointed.

The blend is 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Sangiovese, 13% Merlot, 12% Malbec, 11% Grenache, 11% Syrah. An interesting blend to say the least.

On the nose there was interesting smoke with a bit of brown sugar. The first sips showed currant and pepper with almost a coffee overtone. I know it sounds like a lot going on, but I guess with six grapes contributing I could expect that.

What was particularly appealing was the way the nose evolved with time in the glass. About halfway through the evening, the wine had taken on a fantastic bouquet of sweet cedar and juniper. I think I enjoyed savouring the nose of my near empty glass as much as I did pouring myself another.

This is a really enjoyable bottle of wine. Definitely worth a go.

$26.99 at Liberty Wine Merchants

4 stars

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