Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Taste Washington 2011

Another Taste Washington has come and gone and I can wholeheartedly say "The best year ever".  The Washington State Wine Commission really has fine tuned this event into a well oiled machine.  The media blitz before the event whetted our appetite and Taste Washington did not disappoint.  Let's see if I can summarize my experience.

Adams Bench never ceases to amaze me.  Tim and Erica Blue are just truly genuine people.  They were sampling their '07 and '08 Reckoning, a Cab, Merlot and Cab Franc blend.  It was lovely to taste the two side by side.  The '07 had bright red fruits - strawberry and cherry, while the '08 was much more brooding with dark fruits - plum and blueberry.  It was great to spend some time chatting with Erica.

Bartholomew Winery was on my list of must visit wineries.  I am sure glad I did. Bart Fawbush prides himself on going "against the grain" and from what I can tell, it's working.  I was blown away by the '07 Reciprocity, 50/50 Cab Sauv/Carmenere blend. As you know I have mad love for Carmenere so I was intrigued to say the least. Reciprocity had the best of both worlds, the spicy earthy kick of Carmenere balanced perfectly with the smooth dark fruits in the Cab Sauv.  Bart is a down to earth guy who knows what he's doing and is doing it well.

Betz Winery doesn't need to market their wines.  They are mailing list only, which there is a waiting list for.  However, there is Bob Betz pouring the yet to be released '09 La Cote Patriarche (Syrah) which is so smooth already that I had to do a double take to make sure it was '09.  Charming and warm as always, Bob's daughter Carmen poured for us.

The food this year was impressive.  The standout bites were the cones of charcuterie from Cured by Visconti, the smoked paprika salumi and landjager were my favorite.  Urbane had maple glazed confit of pork belly....nuff said.  Smash Wine Bar offered wagyu beef sliders with smoked cheddar, bacon, and onion aioli that were on a soft bun.  What a great nibble while you are drinking wine. For dessert, The Yellow Leaf Cupcake Co had an assortment of mini cupcakes including a pancake and bacon cupcake that was amazing.

I was also very pleased at the social media presence at the event this year.  Not only by the Wine Commission, but also the individual wineries.  From Facebook to Twitter, I even saw some QR Codes available to scan.  It's great to see wineries embracing social media and marketing technology.

I had a wonderful time at Taste Washington this year.  I feel so privileged to live in a state producing wine at such high quality and the future is so bright, I can't wait to see what's next!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Walla Walla Wine Weekend - Ready, Set, Go!

Up and at 'em, we had a full day ahead of us of great wine. We couldn't have asked for better weather, partly sunny and about 55 degrees.

The view of the Blues from Walla Walla Vintners

One of our first stops of the morning was Walla Walla Vintners.  This was a must stop for me, as I still have fond memories of stopping there on my bus tour at the Wine Blogger's Conference last year.  Bonded in 1995, Walla Walla Vintners is one of the oldest wineries in Walla Walla.  This is the winery that made me fall in love with Cab Franc.  So you can imagine my sadness when I found out they were sold out....of 750s.  They did have magnums (1.5L) available for purchase so one had to come home with me.  WWV is one of those wineries that have perfected what they do, everything is good here. A standout for me was their '07 Walla Walla Vineyard Select Cabernet Sauvignon.

Right next door to Walla Walla Vintners is a'Maurice Cellars.  Adam poured for us here and offered some great info on how the winery got it's name.  We tried a lot of Malbecs on this trip and a'Maurice had one of our favorites.  Also impressed with their Chardonnay, slight oak and a great mouth feel.

Rulo Winery is located south of town.  Kurt and Vicki Schlicker are the owners and when we arrived Vicki was pouring and Kurt offered us the tour. I'd had their Syrah before and was impressed especially for the price ($20).  Equally impressive was their Syrca blend (77% Syrah/23% Cab Sauv). Smoky, earthly and complex; this wine had all the components of a wine double it's price. Exceptional value at $15.  It was great to meet this down to earth couple, their passion for wine is evident.

Enjoying a glass at Waters Winery
The last stop of the day was Waters Winery.  They have a beautiful facility south of town. They were tasting the Interlude blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Forgotten Hills Syrah (Yay!) This Syrah screams Walla Walla to me, with it's earthy funky goodness. I was so happy they were tasting it, I am now the proud owner of a couple of bottles.  Waters has created an amazing space nestled in the shadow of the Blue Mountains.  They have these great rocking chairs in the breezeway between the tasting room and the production building that make for the perfect spot to enjoy a glass of wine and take in the scenery.

So there are the highlights of day one in Walla Walla.  We had such an incredible time!  I can't wait to share day two with you, so stay tuned!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Walla Walla Wine Weekend - On Our Way!

Finally the day had arrived.  All the planning had been done, reservations made, money saved, the car was packed and we were ready to go.  We also were taking Walla Walla newbies with us and that made even more exciting.  After an uneventful (thankfully) trip across the pass we were soon in wine country.  We wanted to stop at a few wineries on the way.

Cleverly tagged "Syrache" Wineglass' Syrah/Grenache Blend
Our first stop was Wineglass Cellars in Zillah.  The handwritten sign on the tasting room door directed us to building in the back as they were bottling today.  Winemaker David Lowe greeted us and enthusiastically brought us back to show us what he was bottling. It was a yet to be named Syrah Grenache blend that even straight out of the tank was drinking fabulous.  Back in the tasting room our favorites were the Zinfindel, Sangiovese and the '05 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Hamilton Cellars' mascot Milton greets you at the bar
Next, was a new winery in Richland - Hamilton Cellars.  I love discovering new wineries.  I had read all the things they were doing with Malbec, plus Charlie Hoppes (Fidelitas) is their winemaker so I knew I couldn't go wrong.  It's a very nice tasting room, with a great curved solid surface bar that has their mascot "Milton" laser etched and illuminated in it.  Great touch.  I absolutely loved the Rose' of Malbec, summertime in a glass! An added bonus to our visit was meeting Ben Simons, a recent transplant to Washington and the author of Vinotology.

Back on the road, our last stop before we hit Walla Walla was Cougar Crest just west of town.  As we entered the tasting room, we were greeted with a Jimmy Buffett concert playing over the sound system.  I am diggin it already.  Their everyday blend called Dedication 4 (Syrah, Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv) is lush and a spectacular value at $20.

It was a great start to our wine-filled weekend.  Stay tuned for the rest of the highlights!