19 Aug 2010
Thirty-five wineries in a one minute radius? That is where you’ll find Woodinville’s William Church Winery. Located on NE N Woodinville Way, you’ll find a wine lovers walking Mecca. In a single afternoon, you can explore all areas of the states wine growing regions and the diversity that Washington wine has to offer. Don’t forget your designated driver…all that sipping can sneak up on you.
William Church winery is the second career for Rod and Leslie Balsley. Rod left the high-tech corporate world in 2004 and he and Leslie immediately looked to expand their garage wine hobby. With the help of some friends, they jumped into the booming Woodinville wine scene in 2005. Rod and Leslie enlist the help of assistant winemaker Marcus Rafanelli to craft big bold Bordeaux style wines and Syrah. With a case production near 2000, the Balsley’s are getting some top notch recognition for their wine. It doesn’t hurt that they are WSU alums either…GO COUGS!
- The Stuff: 100% Viognier slow cold fermented in stainless steel tanks. 14.1%ABV, less than 1% residual sugar, 240 cases produced
- The Swirl: Pale yellow straw color with a thin viscosity
- The Sniff: Moderate aromas of tropical fruit and apricots. Beautiful and floral through and through
- The Sip: All aboard for a taste bud trip to the South Pacific. I love the layers and layers of tropical fruits that keep coming in waves like the ocean. Guava, melon, cantaloupe, papaya and more. A very well balanced acidity keeps everything in check.
- The Score: At $21 this is one of the better made Viognier’s that I’ve had. While you may be able to pick a good Viognier up for $15-$18, the extra few dollars here are worth it. 4+/5
2008 William Church Bishop’s Blend
- The Stuff: A proprietary blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Malbec, 11% Syrah, 9% Merlot, 3% Cab Franc, 14.1%ABV, 750 cases produced
- The Swirl: Big bright purple colors with a thick plum center
- The Sniff: Blueberry vanilla pie in the nose. If you’re not careful you might sniff a blueberry up your snout.
- The Sip: The blueberry comes through on the palate with a pinch of sweet blackberry on the front of the tongue. Good fruit flavor continues on the mid-palate as a slight pencil lead settles and then opens up to finish with medium spice. The finish is rounded without having any strong tannins.
- The Score: At $20 this is a very approachable wine that will satisfy even the most discriminating palate. A slight bitterness (probably from the oak) comes through on the finish but all in all this is a very well done wine. 3+/5
- The Stuff: A left bank inspired blend of 40% Cabernet, 20% Merlot, 20% Cab Franc, 10% Malbec, and 10% Petit Verdot; 18 months in a combination of French and American oak, 12 months in bottle, 14.2%ABV, 250 cases produced
- The Swirl: Dark in color with good structure out to the edge of the glass. About 90% opaque
- The Sniff: The wine is alive with aroma before you even get your nose to the glass. Big notes of dark berry fruit, violets and cassis. The alcohol comes out just a hint on a deep sniff.
- The Sip: Elegant and full of fruit and structure from the front of the palate to the end. Good layers of dark berry fruits along with deep ripe cherries. A velvet texture lines the mid-palate with a finish of medium tannin on the finish. This wine rivals some I’ve had at twice the price in complexity and depth of flavor.
- The Score: At only $28 this is a steel of a Bordeaux style blend. The marriage of fruit is well done resulting in a fantastic wine to sip or to pair with strong hardy meals. 4/5
04 Aug 2010
The history of V. Sattui Winery dates back to 1885 when Italian born winemaker and baker Vittorio Sattui built a great reputation in San Francisco with St. Helena Wine Company. An expanding operation led to a new location and new name, V. Sattui Wine Company in the San Francisco Mission District. Prohibition forced the end of V. Sattui and the wine company lay dormant for 60 years. Pledged to re-establish a family legacy, Dario Sattui pursued his dreams and passions which led to the eventual re-establishment of V. Sattui on their existing property in 1975.
This story intrigues me for two reasons. First, I love the pursuit of the American dream by an Italian immigrant and the continued pursuit to re-establish that dream by the Sattui family. Second, rarely does a company celebrate 125 years. The oldest Washington Wineries are celebrating 30-35 years with Chateau St. Michelle being the grandfather at 76 years old. Congratulations to V. Sattui Winery on their longevity, rebirth, success and quality.
V. Sattui farms 230 acres of estate vineyards primarily in Napa Valley. All 45 of their wines are available only from their tasting room and through phone or internet orders. 100% self distributed, you will never see V. Sattui in stores or restaurants. Visitors to V. Sattui can enjoy a picnic on the beautiful grounds that include gardens, fountain and two story Italian themed castle. V. Sattui is Napa’s only winery to have their own extensive in-house Italian marketplace and deli that includes pasta, panini, charcuterie, dessert, bread, salad and 205 cheeses from around the world.
2008 V. Sattui Early Harvest Riesling
- The Stuff: 100% estate grown Napa Valley Riesling; aged 6 months in stainless steel; 12.3% ABV; 2004 cases
- The Swirl: Soft honey yellow with slight lemon lime components, appears thicker in viscosity
- The Sniff: Very bright and lively honeysuckle and floral components with a hint of the traditional petroleum aroma of a Riesling. The sniff gives off the hint that the wine might be sweet.
- The Sip: A wonderful full and round mouth feel that gently envelops your tongue with a hint of honey and pear. The finish leaves a slight pucker on your mouth but the bright acidity washes your palate clean leaving you ready for the next sip.
- The Score: At only $18.75 this is a top notch Riesling to pair with Asian food, spicy food and perfect for sipping on the back of a boat on a hot day. One of the more enjoyable Rieslings I’ve had. 4/5
Cellar Tracker Score 92 Points with 1 Review
2008 V Sattui Henry Ranch Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Los Caneros, fermented in stainless steel, aged in barrels, 951 cases produced, 14.6% ABV
- The Swirl: Thin plum colors with undertones of darker dried raspberries. The color presents itself as about 50% opaque. Definitely not your strawberry or cherry cola Pinot
- The Sniff: The bouquet is a concoction of stewed plums, tomatoes, and darker fruits with hints of gamey meat and earth.
- The Sip: Terroir driven with herb, black tea, coffee bean, and dark plum flavors. All these components come together in a softer and elegant presentation that makes them enjoyable and intriguing with layers of flavor.
- The Score: At $36 this is a more old world presentation of Pinot Noir that seems to brings forth a lot of characteristics of the soil it is grown in. If you love traditional then you’ll like this wine. If you want a lighter and fruitier Pinot Noir, then you may be disappointed. 3+/5
Cellar Tracker Score of 94 Points with 1 Review
2007 V. Sattui Vittorio’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 97% Cabernet and 3% Merlot; fermented in stainless steel and aged in 50% new French and 50% used French oak; 930 cases produced; 14.8%ABV
- The Swirl: Thick, dull and dark. This wine presents itself with a muted deep purple and is solid in color all the way to the edges; about 80% opaque.
- The Sniff: A shy nose with hints of dust and dark raspberry aromas. Subtle hints of dark cocoa are also present.
- The Sip: A well structured Cabernet that behaves appropriately in the mouth but doesn’t dare to offend or surprise with anything. Good layers of dried dark fruits, herbs and dried tobacco. Everything about this wine says subdued and dark. A medium tannin and muted finish round out the sip.
- The Score: Without anything to stand out, this wine becomes an easy to forget $35 Cabernet that would sit well at the dinner table but doesn’t seem to leave a lasting impression. Well made, but at this point in its life it is a 3/5.
*Wine was provided as an industry sample with the intent to review
28 Jul 2010
Budweiser may be the “King of Beers” but it has nothing on Cabernet, the King of wine. Okay, yes I realize Barolo has been deemed the “wine of the kings,” but in America, King of Rock is Elvis, the King of Pop is Michael Jackson the King of burgers is Burger King and the KING of wine is Cabernet! I have to admit, I love the king!
Last week we explored the noble queen of wine, Pinot Noir. Each of the lovely ladies paraded their wears without shame. They pranced across the stage seeking to be chosen for the night. Some pushed forward their lush fruit while others were coy and playful with a velvet touch. The same night, five big bold king Cabernet sat across the room posturing for position. With their broad shoulders, each stood erect, claiming their dominance over the other.
In the previous review, Signorello Estate Vineyards stood proud and represented two of the five Cabernet Sauvignon. Today we explore two more California Cabernet based wines and one Walla Walla rock star! Of the five, who is crowned the king of kings?
Do You Love Cabernet? Rick Bakas of St. Supery Winery is hosting worldwide Cabernet day on September 2. Use the #Cabernet hash tag when posting on Facebook, Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter, blogs and all the other sites you hang out on. You’ll be able to connect and chat with other Cab drinkers around the world that day. I’ll be there! If you’ve never participated in an online tasting, it is an amazing experience as hundreds (and potentially thousands) of wine lovers share their passions. Drink.Share.Connect.
2007 Edge Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, aged 16 months in a combination of new French and American oak; extended maceration; 14.4%ABV
- The Swirl: Lush plum color with good color to the edges. A nice ruby jewel tone refracts in the light.
- The Sniff: A shy nose that offers up hints of oak and dried cherries. Over time the nose softened and reacted very well to aeration bringing out better aromas of pepper and brier.
- The Sip: A darker feeling Cabernet that showcases dark blackberry fruit, cloves, tobacco and vanilla. Looking for bright cherry fruit and full tannin? You won’t find it here, but the wine offers a medium balance and an average finish for the price point.
- The Score: At just $20 retail, this is a good tasting wine that will pair well with hearty steak, blue cheese sirloin burgers, and testarossa pizza. The Edge provides enough layers of flavor and structure to feel more expensive than $20. 3/5
Other Scores: 90 points Wine Enthusiast; Cellar Tracker 88.2 with 18 reviews
2007 L’Ecole 41 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 100% Cabernet from Seven Hills, Loess, Va Piano, Pepper Bridge, and Yellow Jacket vineyards; aged 22 months in 40% new oak; 2300 cases produces; 14.5%ABV
- The Swirl: Bright crimson and plum in color with slightly thin edges
- The Sniff: The fruit seems to be somewhat absent from the nose as dusty earth, spice pepper and cocoa float from the glass
- The Sip: Hello fruit, I’m glad you decided to join us. A full rich and thick cherry fruit mixed with hints of plum and white pepper. There is flavor that moves across all areas of your mouth that make this for a fun sipping experience. The tannin is mild and the acidity and finish are medium.
- The Score: At $40, this is a high quality, well layered Cab that reminds you of why Walla Walla is so great. $40 is fairly steep for a large percentage of people but know that you can trust this label (not to be confused with the Columbia Valley version) to be a special wine for parties, gifts, or a celebratory dinner. 4/5
2006 Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 75% Cabernet and 25% Syrah; cold soaking and extended maceration; aged 16 months in French and American oak; 6,000 cases produced; 14.1%ABV
- The Swirl: A very smooth velvet plum color that presents itself as about 90% opaque; a slight tanning from age is presenting itself at the edges.
- The Sniff: A very big and bright aromatic nose that has a perfume exotic spice, lavender, and big cherry fruit. A beautiful marriage of Syrah and Cabernet
- The Sip: Starts off with a cedar / oak attack that almost immediately softens to a very full and round velvet cherry mid-palate. Subtle spices of nutmeg and baking spice jump up on the back end with the medium tannin and lingering finish.
- The Score: At only $25 the beautiful fusion of Cabernet and Syrah are showcased in the 06 Fuse. The blend highlights positive aspects of each grape and comes together to create a fantastic blend. 3+/5
Cellar Tracker 88 points in 12 reviews; 4 Stars Vines Magazine
Blind Cabernet Showdown
The Signorello reds participated in a blind Cabernet tasting that included a 2007 Walla Walla L’Ecole 41, The Edge and Fuse. The wines were bagged and tagged and 12 participants were asked to rate them with 1 being their favorite and 5 being their least favorite. The interesting results (from lowest to highest) are below:
- 2006 Signorello Estate Cab ($50) – Avg Score 3.8 – Received 4’s with a 2 and a 5
- 2007 Edge Cab ($20) – Avg Score 3.6 – Received several 2’s and several 5’s
- 2007 Fuse Cab ($25) – Avg Score 3.5 – Received all 3’s and 4’s
- 2007 L’Ecole 41 Cab ($32) – Avg Score 2.2 – Received mostly 2’s with a 1 and a 5
- 2006 Signorello Padrone ($110) – Avg Score 1.3 – Received all 1’s and a 2 (almost unanimous)
*Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
20 Jul 2010
Pinot Noir, the noble Queen of Burgundy. The vine that produces ample aggravation for some and amazing reward for others. Joel Fleischman of Vanity Fair describes Pinot Noir as “the most romantic of wines, with so voluptuous a perfume, so sweet an edge, and so powerful a punch that, like falling in love, they make the blood run hot and the soul wax embarrassingly poetic.”
My romance with Pinot Noir has yet to be discovered. At times we’ve stolen away for a quick embrace but each encounter left me feeling betrayed and empty as I longed for the full thick flavor of Cabernet or the smooth softness of Merlot. One affair caused my heart to quicken. A sultry, sweet seductress from the Willamette Valley gave me hope for a lasting romance. But alas, it was not meant to be, as I returned to my spicy lover, Syrah. When my good friends Ed Thralls, Joe Herrig and Tamara Belgard announced the group Pinot Noir twitter orgy on July 15, I secretly agreed. I kept my cheating intentions from my lovers and eagerly circled the date on my calendar.
As the date arrived, I found myself excited to share in the rendezvous with six Pinot Noir from Oregon and California. The sultry queen prepared herself and the seven of us hid away in a quiet room of the house. While my wife did homework in a nearby room, I explored each of them uncovering layers of lush fruit, velvet vanilla and even hints of spice. One queen was a little dirty and liked it funky. I hope it wasn’t too kinky that I brought my video camera to capture the passion, excitement and lust. One intoxicating beauty captured my heart. Her scent, her taste will remain in my heart and on my lips for eternity. Alas, I have discovered the joy of Pinot Noir.
2008 Duck Pond Cellars Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 98% Pinot Noir 2% Gamay Noir; Aged 7 months in oak; 13.5% ABV; 17,000 cases
- The Swirl: Light cherry cola color with sparkling jewel tones at the edge. About 40% opaque.
- The Sniff: More immediate presentations of earth and cedar that open up to subtle aroma of cranberry and light cherry.
- The Sip: A good structured Pinot Noir that would pair well with all kinds of food dishes. The Duck Pond lacks depth in layers and structures to compete with more expensive wines, but for the price point this is certainly a label to keep on your radar.
- The Score: At $20 retail I score this a 3/5
2007 Tom Eddy Pinot Noir Manchester Ridge
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Manchester Ridge; Aged 9 months in 66% new French oak; 14.6%ABV; 72 cases
- The Swirl: Smoky cherry with muted color at the edge. About 50% opaque
- The Sniff: Candied cinnamon and cherry with slight undertones of earth and funk
- The Sip: Amazing structure that I described during the tasting as “elegance in a glass.” There is a slight tartness on the finish that presents cranberry and vanilla. Wonderful acidity.
- The Score: At $55, Tom Eddy shows they can do more amazing Cab. 3+/5
2007 Solena Estate Domain Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Yamhill Carlton District; 11 months in 52% new French oak; 13.9%ABV; 573 cases
- The Swirl: Light cherry colors with pink undertones and pink hued edges. About 50% opaque.
- The Sniff: Mushroom, earth, funk, and hints of cranberry
- The Sip: Layers of earth, vegetal components, and thin cherry fruit. A good acidity finish cleanses the palate to prep you for another sip. Could see this pairing well with ham, turkey, and Christmas.
- The Score: At $45 this is the type of Pinot that some may turn their nose up. It’s a well made wine with good structure and layers. If you like terroir driven Burgundian Pinot, you’ll love this wine. Give it a sip before you commit to a whole case. 3+/5
2008 Solena Estate Hyland Vineyard Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Hyland Vineyard; aged 13 months in 80% new French oak; 13.7%ABV; 300 cases
- The Swirl: Medium plum and garnet colors with about 60% opacity
- The Sniff: Cherry cola, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.
- The Sip: Elegant vanilla on the front palate with enchanting tart strawberry and under ripe cherry. Love the layers in the wine as it progresses during the sip. Finish is strong and lingering with a very well balanced acidity.
- The Score: At $50 this may be a special occasion Pinot for a lot of people. A safe bet that will impress you with every sip. Drink alone or pair with food for a memorable experience. 4/5
2008 Meiomi Belle Glos Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Sonoma, Monterey, and Santa Barbara; 9 months in 60% new French oak; 13.9%ABV
- The Swirl: Strong plum color with good color to the edges. Presents about 50% opaque
- The Sniff: Tight aroma of red berry, baking spice and cedar.
- The Sip: A book of layers that turns one page at a time across the entire drinking experience. I love the initial smooth mouth coating feel where the wine envelops your tongue and gives it a nice warm hug. Beautiful ripe strawberry and cranberry flavor appears and then transforms into a smoky baking spice. The long lingering finish wraps up a fantastically well made wine.
- The Score: At $25 this is a superstar Pinot Noir that fits in most people’s budgets. A MUST try! 4/5
2008 Belle Glos Las Alturas Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Las Alturas; Aged 9 months in 60% new French oak; 14.8%ABV
- The Swirl: Medium dark plum and crimson colors that borderline Merlot. About 70% opaque
- The Sniff: Close your eyes and picture yourself in the kitchen. Your grandma just baked her world famous cherry pie. The room is filled with aroma of bright ripe cherry, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and that slight burnt aroma from the pie filling that spilled on the rack. That is this wine!
- The Sip: The aroma comes across very well on the palate as well bringing supple fruit flavors that showcase the amazing winemaking and extraction achieved by Joe Wagner. This Pinot Noir is without a doubt the best Pinot Noir I’ve had to date and is an established baseline for me.
- The Score: $44; a wine to remember, long for and diligently seek out. 4+/5
Cool video from Joe Wagner, winemaker of the wine reviewed above
The Blind Tasting Results
The Pinot Noir twitter event turned into an all out smack down pitting region against region. This gave me an idea. I decided to taste along during the event AND then host a blind tasting with 12 of my closest wino friends. Prior to people arriving I brown bagged and tagged each wine. I was the only person who knew the contents. My friends were instructed to taste the wine, take notes and then make their votes indicating a 1 with their favorite and a 6 with their least favorite. Below are the results in order from least favorite to favorite:
- Solena Estates DDL $45 – Avg Score 4.5 (received a 2 and several 3’s)
- Duck Pond $20 – Avg Score 4.1 (received several 3’s)
- Solena Estates Hyland $50 – Avg Score 3.9 (polarizing with lots of 2’s and 6’s)
- Tom Eddy Manchester Ridge $55 – Avg Score 3.6 (received two first place votes, no 6’s)
- Belle Glos Las Alturas $44 – Avg Score 2.8 (received mostly 2’s with a few 1’s and one 6)
- Meiomi Belle Glos $25 – Avg Score 2.0 (received mostly 1’s with a few 2’s and 3’s)
Put 12 palates in a room and you see the diversity of taste, but in the end a consistent pattern emerges.
Things overheard at a Pinot Noir tasting!
@winecouver: She thought his Pinot lacked length. The poor winemaker hung his head in shame. #pinotentendre
@SipwithMe: I’m thinking someone’s going to have a really big Pinot in their mouth soon. #pinotentendre #pinotnoir
@girlwithaglass What is happening when your tongue feels like you are sucking on wood? #pinotnoir #pinotentendre
@NINhilista Excuse me, but your pinot is showing…Thx 4 multiple corkasms! #pinotentendre
07 Jul 2010
Situated in the center of the state of Washington is a destination resort vineyard and winery that showcases 30 year old vines and views 900 feet above the Columbia River. Cave B Estate Winery is next to the Gorge Amphitheater 150 miles East of Seattle and 150 miles West of Spokane just off Interstate 90 in the little town of Quincy, WA. With 30 rooms, a spa, restaurant and award winning wine, Cave B makes for a perfect overnight trip, or resting stop on your journey to/from Seattle.
Owners Vince and Carol Bryan have fulfilled their vision for the property they began planting in 1980. The campus includes 120 acres of estate vineyards that winemaker Freddy Arrendondo uses to craft 19 different wines including Barbera, Tempranillo, and Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine. Cave B recently received 8 medals at the 2010 Seattle Wine Awards. Enjoy your stay with a hike down to the river, then enjoy a poolside massage and challenge your palate with a “Stump the Chump” blind wine tasting and wrap up your day with dinner at Tendrils Vineyard Restaurant.
2008 Cave B Riesling
- The Stuff: 100% Riesling fermented in stainless steel; 1.8% residual sugar; 12.7% ABV, 375 cases produced
- The Swirl: Beautiful soft honey tones that display a thicker viscosity, hint of small particulates in glass.
- The Sniff: The wine presents a lovely bouquet of perfume, nectarines, and guava. A soft sweetness graces the nose as well.
- The Sip: Love at first sip. A very fruit forward presentation of pineapple, tropical fruits and pears, followed by a perfectly balanced acidity that helps wash away the mild sweetness. The flavor is moderately sweet without coming across as syrupy.
- The Score: At $18 the Cave B Riesling is a wonderful balance of tropical aroma, off dry sweet fruit and a beautifully balanced finish that keeps you coming back for more. This wine is deserving of its gold at the SWA and scores a 4 out of 5 with me!
2008 Cave B Semillon
- The Stuff: 100% estate Semillon aged 11 months in 20% twice used American oak and a blend of 50% neutral American and 30% neutral French oak. 14.5% ABV, 275 cases produced
- The Swirl: First thing that comes to mind is liquid gold, almost light beer in color.
- The Sniff: Mild aromas of orange and spice are on the nose with a hint of vanilla bean.
- The Sip: If I didn’t know better, I would think this wine spent more time in oak. It’s pretty obvious that the twice used American oak imparted some flavors of toasted almonds and burnt vanilla. The wine coats the mouth and had a thin mid palate before coming through with a crisp finish of pears and honey.
- The Score: While not a fan of the oak presentation of this wine, it still has some interesting layers of flavor that would appeal to some people. Before purchasing this wine, be warned that it’s not a deck sipping Sauv Blanc or stainless steel aged Semillon. At $20 I can score this wine a 3+ for dynamic flavors, but give it a try before you commit to more than one bottle.
2006 Cave B Cuvee du Soleil
- The Stuff: 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Cab Franc, 25% Merlot, 22 months in 30% new American oak and 70% Neutral French and American oak; 13.9%ABV; 400 cases produced
- The Swirl: A dark cloudy plum color that is about 90% opaque.
- The Sniff: Powerful aromas of dark ripe plums, cocoa, leather, and coffee. You could spend quite a bit of time enjoying the aromas of this wine, but each sniff entices you to sip again!
- The Sip: The layers of flavor in this wine continue on and on with elegant presentations of coffee, black tea, stewed prunes, and hints of red cherry and cocoa. The wine has good medium-firm tannin on the finish that lingers.
- The Score: The Cave B proprietary blend is a wine that will wow a dinner party. A elegant presentation of Cab Sauv, Franc and Merlot make this a special wine that will age beautifully for another 5-8 years. At $40 this is a fantastic wine for special occasions and scores a good 4 out of 5.
*Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review.
Learn more about Cave B Estate Winery