26 Nov 2010
I am not a huge fan of turkey. For Christmas I’d rather have ham, for Easter, I’d rather have prime rib. For Thanksgiving, we’ve established a tradition of lasagna and cheesecake. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate turkey. If you’re going to invite me over for Thanksgiving dinner, don’t think you have to serve something different. Just don’t serve me mushrooms, brussel sprouts or liver and onions.
Every other year my wife and I end up alone for Thanksgiving. With family in Portland, some in Phoenix, and shared custody of the boy, we stay by ourselves in Spokane on the even years. When we first got married we decided to try something different. Rather than make a big turkey dinner for the two of us, we, well mostly me, decided, “Why not make my two favorite things in the whole wide world?” Enter, lasagna and cheesecake.
Our good friends, Tim and Tracy Nodland (owners of Spokane’s Nodland Cellars), were gracious enough to provide us with three of their newer, recently released and soon to be released wines. Not one to be very patient, I jumped at the opportunity to pair these three wines with our non traditional Thanksgiving meal.
2008 Nodland Cellars Bebop Riesling
The Nodland’s make a Riesling only when the vintage is right. Tim loves the old world Mosul style Riesling full of petrol and minerality. I recall the 2005 Bebop having aged very nicely to display these characteristics. The 2008 is a very bright golden delicious apple color in the glass. A slight effervescence jumps out on the aroma. Further scents of slightly sweet peaches and tropical flowers add to the beautiful bouquet. On the sip, the Bebop strikes a nice chord or a hint of sweetness and a mild tartness. A little steely minerality spikes up on the mid-palate and the wine has a really good acidity which helps to cleanse the palate.
We used ½ cup of the Riesling in the raspberry puree reduction for the cheesecake. The dry Riesling was a great pairing for the tart sweetness of the raspberry sauce. The medium acidity provided a great wash after each bite of the thick white chocolate cheesecake. At $20, some may find this Riesling to be a tad out of their normal budget for white wines, but if you like a gently sweet dry Riesling, you’ll love this wine. 3+/5
2008 Nodland Cellars Bad Attitude
The first release of the Nodland Cellars Rock-n-Roll series label, Bad Attitude, has been a huge success. Tim and Tracy have only made one red wine in their previous vintage releases. At $35, their traditional Bordeaux Red Blend can be out of reach for most people’s every day drinking wine. The Bad Attitude uses the same great Seven Hills fruit but rather than aging the wine in $1200 French oak barrels, the wine is aged in $500 American oak barrels. This year’s Bad Attitude is a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Malbec (two of the more amazing grapes grown in Washington).
The swirl showcases the light characteristics of Merlot with a fairly translucent color. The wines aromas begin to showcase their rock-n-roll attitude right from the beginning. A huge power chord of vanilla, blueberry and charcoal reverberate from the glass. In the mouth the wine is also very gentle. This wine reminds me more of a gentle Over the Hills and Far Away rather than the driving Black Dog (bonus points for those that get the reference). In the mouth you can feel the use of American oak. For me, it’s nicely integrated and I like the play of the overly cooked marshmallow, vanilla and graham cracker. At $20, the Nodland’s have a number one single on their hand. 4/5 Instant Classic!
2007 Nodland Cellars Avant-Garde
From the back label:
“Avant-garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo. This wine is made from the obscure Carmenere grape, referred to a Grand Vidure in French.”
Carmenere is rarely used, and when it is, it is used as a blending grape. The original traditional Bordeaux blends included Carmenere, but it has since been mostly neglected. Nodland Cellars uses Carmenere in their Red Blend release. For 2007, they held back a small portion to be released as a 100% Carmenere, a showcase of the varietal.
On the swirl the Avant-Garde has a thick center core of plum that fades to more translucence around the edges. Typical of all Nodland wines the aroma is full and big. Strong bouquet of blueberries and exotic spice (not sure how to describe it) are most prevalent. On the sip the wine is full and lush with a gentle mouth coating feel. A hint of cherry sweetness graces the front palate and strong minerality of lead and rocks poke through the mid palate. One of our guests didn’t care for the minerality and described it as a little biting. There is a slight alcohol heat on the finish. The spice of the wine wasn’t a great pairing with the spice and acid from the tomato based lasagna. A better pairing for this wine would be beef, or a Pork Osso Bucco. Personally, I loved the wine and the uniqueness of flavor. At $32 it might not be for everyone. Unless you know you’re a spicy Carmenere lover, I suggest you head to the tasting room for a sip of this wine before dropping the cash. Personally, I’d buy TWO, one to drink now and one to see how the magic evolves in five years. 4/5
The Avant-Garde is being released on Friday, December 3 at the Nodland Cellars tasting room at 11616 E Montgomery 5:30-8:30. Enjoy a sip and a special discount.
How was your Thanksgiving? Did you have any amazing wine pairings? Please share…
22 Oct 2010
Viva la Chile! On Thursday, October 14 I was watching two broadcasts from Chile. Both broadcasts were marvels of modern technology (although one was of slightly greater importance). Live from Copiapo, I watched with the world as the last of 33 mine workers was resurrected from the depths of a mine that left them trapped for 69 days. At the same time I virtually tasted wine with eight wine makers via live satellite feed from Santiago hosted by Master Sommelier, Fred Dexheimer, for 50+ wine writers and bloggers located across the country. I was able to experience both of these events without leaving the comfort of my office chair and pink fuzzy slippers (I don’t really have pink fuzzy slippers, but if I did no one ever would know).
The Chilean mine worker rescue was a triumph of the human spirit, the fight for survival, and brought hope and joy to an entire nation. The Chilean wine tasting was just a yummy surprise. In a very rushed hour we swirl, sniff, sip, spit (mostly) through eight unique red blends from four of Chile’s wine growing regions. To briefly sum up the night; Chile is making some damn fine wine! There wasn’t a single one of these wines that was disappointing, and more than a few were quite surprising. While the wines were provided as a sample for a winesofchile.org tasting, I will definitely be keeping my eyes out for these labels.
From a broad stroke perspective, these red blends all seemed to offer a great deal of complexity with vibrant aromas of violet, eucalyptus, wild flowers and tobacco. In the mouth each wine seemed to be quite velvety with an earthy minerality in the finish. Each of these components seemed to offer a sense of place, or terroir for Chilean wine. I was impressed with the winemakers approach to unique blending of Syrah and Carmenere or Pinot Noir and Syrah. Rather than bore you with detailed notes on each wine, I’ll share a little about each, highlighting my favorites.
If you feel like reading some other thoughts on the event, check out my friends here:
- 1WineDude – http://www.1winedude.com/index.php/2010/10/21/badges-of-honor-and-wine-in-chile-wines-of-chile-red-blends-tasting/
- WinePeeps – http://winepeeps.com/2010/10/19/wines-of-chile-exploring-chilean-red-blends/
2007 Emiliana Coyam
The blend of 38% Syrah, 21% Cabernet, 21% Carmenere, 17% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Mourvedre exploded with massive aromas of fruit, flowers and spice. I loved the fragrant eucalyptus and violets juxtaposed with the spilled spice rack. The wine is also full of flavor in the mouth with a powerful, yet soft dark fruit and evergreen tree. The oak treatment is very well integrated and the 15% ABV does not come across as strikingly hot. The finish on the wine is thick without being chewy or tart. This Bordeaux style wine is top notch wine for just $29 suggested retail. 4+/5
Emiliana is 100% organic and biodynamic.
*As an example of diversity of tastes, my wife didn’t care for this one so much. Joe and Kori, referenced above, gave it lower marks than I as well.
2007 Casas Del Bosque Family Reserve
The unique use of Pinot Noir as a blending grape (13%), along with the primary use of Syrah (61%) and Merlot (26%) was intriguing. The blend saw an extended time on skins with a total of 33 days of maceration and fermentation before resting for 22 months in new French oak barrels. The result is an intensely dark and black glass color. The amazing complex aromas offer something different with each sniff. In the beginning I picked up lavender, and sour fruit, but as time elapsed there were additional fragrances of campfire, cocoa, and exotic spices. In the mouth this wine is strong and sexy, refined and powerful, confident and playful. There are blasts of blueberry and vanilla that compliment the bitter baking chocolate and minerality very nicely. While built to cellar and age, this wine will taste remarkably better in 10 years, but is no slouch for the less patient too. At $50 it was the most expensive wine of the night, easily worth the expense. 4/5
2008 Montes Limited Selection
While not the best wine of the night, it certainly did surprise as the best bang for your buck. At only $15 the simple blend of 70/30 Cab/Carmenere was full of coco, minerality and herbs on the nose with a very full mouth feel of dark fruit and leather. This wine plays well with its bigger brothers in quality and price. 3+/5
One of the more enjoyable moments of the night was when winemaker Aurelio Montes Del Campo was explaining the feng shui layout of the winery, saying, “Happy people make happy wine.” This wine certainly made me happy, so maybe he’s on to something.
2008 Hacienda Aruacano
31% Syrah, 29% Cab Franc, 23% Cab Sauv, 17% Carmenere; 14.2%ABV – With elegant ruby colors in the glass the wine has great aroma of evergreen, clove, dark berry fruits and a subtle hint of exotic spice. Starts very thick in the mouth and then evolves into lots of layers of flowers, blackberry, and meat. The wine has a bright finish that is thrown off by a slightly disjointed minerality. At $23, a bargain. 4/5
2006 De Martino Las Cruces
A single vineyard field blend of 66% Malbec and 34% Carmenere; 14.7%ABV. The color starts dark in the center and shines with pink and purple hues toward the edge of the glass. My notes say, “love, love, love the nose. Like a field of wild flowers and rocky soil.” The wine has nice flavors raspberry and flowers. Hints of licorice and earth come through but the wine finishes long and strong with many layers of flavor. At $45, I score it 4/5
2006 Estampa Gold
57% Carmenere, 23% Cab Sauv, 12% Cab Franc and 8% Petit Verdot; 14.7% ABV – In the glass, nice deep plum color with candied edges. Soft blueberry aroma on the nose with hints of tobacco and spice. In the mouth the wine has a slight sweet candied berry and a full thick palate. At $22 3+/5
1WineDude gave a “B” and WinePeeps rated it their favorite of the night
2005 Valdivieso Eclat
The oldest wine of the night and the most unique blend of 56% Carignan, 24% Mourvedre and 20% Syrah was light with translucent ruby colors in the glass. A tight nose that has a grip on the wild flower and mineral aromas. Flavors of light fruit combined with a rich earthy mid-palate give way to a slight cocoa finish and good crisp acidity. $27, 3+/5
2006 Lien Maquis
42% Syrah, 30% Carmenere, 12% Cab Franc, 9% Petit Verdot, and 7% Malbec; 14.5%ABV – Dark and thick plum in the glass with fragrance of spice, mint, and bright red fruit. A lush mouth feel with nicely integrated oak and a thick back end. At just $19 a well made wine 3+/5
Each month I review between 17-20 wines on camera. The total has climbed above 200. However, contrary to popular opinion, I don’t always wait until the film is rolling to drink wine. Several wines are enjoyed at trade tasting events or even in the casual company of friends over dinner or just for fun. Some of these wines, while embedded in my memory for their amazing quality, just don’t receive the time and attention that is needed for a quality review.
Below are six wines that I tasted during the month that didn’t see the bright lights of the video room but did receive the attention for a review. The best phrase I can use to describe these are ‘beauty and beast.’ These wines left indelible impressions on my palate and not always in a good way. Below are some of the best AND worst wines I’ve tasted this year.
Former Chateau St. Michelle wine maker Michael Januik continues his quality tradition at Januik Winery. During our visit to Woodinville in September 2009, sister properties Januik and Novelty Hill were a favorite stop. The ultra modern facility provided one of the more unique tasting room visits we have experienced. The Klipsun Vineyard Merlot was bold in flavor but soft in presentation. The multiple layers of fruit included raspberry and red currants along with thick milk chocolate layers. The wine leaned toward a medium full body and offered an extremely well balanced and soft finish that whispered hints of vanilla and candied cherries. At $30, this Merlot was perfect for a night cap sip, with desert, or along-side chicken parmesan, lamb or roasted duck. 4/5
I am a fan of Zinfandel. I’ve been on a search for the quintessential Washington State Zin, and hoped I had found it at Hard Row to Hoe. This big full bodied fruit attack is from Milbrandt Vineyards and is a blast of jammy strawberry and blackberry in the mouth accompanied by a pinch of pepper on the finish. Sadly, I learned that Milbrandt removed their Zinfandel vines after the 2006 vintage leaving me on the continued quest for a sinful Washington Zin. The wine is big and slightly hot and best enjoyed on its own. The $35 price tag may seem hefty when comparing to quality Seghesio from California, but the Hard Row stands tall as a big and dynamic wine. 4/5
Rated 90pts by Wine Enthusiast
Maison Bleue has burst on to the scene with quality Rhone varietal wines from Horse Heaven Hills and around Prosser, WA. As I tasted through the line-up of wine, the Roussanne stood out among the others for its unique flavors of honey, apples and sweet peaches. Beautiful floral notes permeate the nose. Even with a 4.7% residual sugar, the sweetness of the wine is perfectly balanced with the acidity. A refreshingly “low” alcohol of 12.7%ABV is hardly noticeable in this dangerous summer delight. A bright crisp finish surprises at the end. The Alder Ridge and Six Prong Vineyards provide great fruit for this stainless steel fermented wine. At only $20, this is easily one of the more memorable wines I’ve experienced for the month. 4+/5
Rated 91pts by Wine Enthusiast
A glass of sweet elegant gold is a good way to describe this opulent desert wine. The 2007 R.A. Harrison Nobility is an addiction waiting to happen. I’m not a lover of syrupy sweet wines. I tend to avoid dessert wine tastings. I kept waiting for the opportunity to get the Nobility on camera. Just sitting in its 375ml bottle, it boasted super star qualities. The casting call never came and the 78% Napa Sauv Blanc and 22% Sonoma Semillon ended up stealing the supporting role for the month. The 12.2% residual sugar may make you think simple sweet Taylor Swift but this wine has a dangerously sexy and seductive quality of the mature Heidi Klum. Amazing flavors of honey, almonds, peach syrup and gardenias fully envelop the entire palate. While I know to enjoy this wine in small quantities, the bottle kept beckoning me back for more. $75; 4+/5
The Osborne Seven non-vintage red blend is available in the Octavin Home Wine Bar packaging. The premise is a four bottle package that utilizes a non-oxygen permeable bladder and spigot that keeps wine fresh for up to six weeks. If you could stomach this wine for six weeks, then this would be a value. At only $22 ($5.50 per bottle) the blend of 25% Cab Sauv, 25% Merlot, 18% Syrah, 8% Petit Verdot, 8% Tempranillo, 8% Grenache, and 8% Graciano makes for a less than desirable combination. The juice is thin, tepid and extremely disjointed. The berry flavors seem tart and under ripe and while the tannin is smooth on the finish the blast of alcohol and bitterness ruin any hope this wine has. This wine is not a value at any price. It was given several chances to perform over a three week period and ended up down the drain. 1/5 – There are better ways to spend your money.
The eclectic mix of 51% Malvasia Bianca, 14% Muscat Canelli, 13% Viognier, 10% Gruner Veltliner, 5% Pinot Gris, 4% White Riesling offer a unique tasting experience. Flavors of melons and sweet tropical fruits are gentle on the palate. An unfortunate steely bitterness pervades the finish causing a very disjointed tasting experience. At $22 for the four bottle Octavin packaging, some may consider this a good value. Personally, I prefer the Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc or the Monthaven Chardonnay for wine bar value whites. Combining this wine with spicy chicken and serving extra chilled helped considerably. 2/5
22 Sep 2010
I first met Cheryl Hodgins at Taste Washington in Spokane. This fireball of energy nearly tackled me when I saw her from across the room. We chatted about Skylite Cellars and even did a brief interview for the Washington Wine Commission (which either I dreamed up or got lost in cyberspace because I can’t find it anywhere). One thing I learned from chatting with Cheryl, she is passionate about wine and Walla Walla.
Skylite Cellars brings together a big city radio entrepreneur and a small town farm girl. Tom Hodgins was busy in the radio industry and Cheryl was content driving a tractor around the farm. Wine and travel brought these two love birds together. That love eventually led to diving into the wine business. In 2000 the Hodgins’ invested in Ash Hollow Vineyards with several other winemakers and the following year, Cheryl’s father planted a few acres of wine grapes in what would eventually be known as Skylite Vineyards. In 2003 the journey to full fledged winery was complete with the addition of wine maker Robert Smasne.
With only a few vintages under their belt, Skylite Cellars is making quite a name for themselves. Their 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon received 90 points from Paul Gregutt, Gold in the Seattle Wine Awards, and Double Gold at the Finger Lakes Wine Competition. During the #Cabernet day review, the wine performed very strong against two Caymus Vineyards Napa, CA wines with a strong 4/5.
Skylite Cellars has two locations in Walla Walla. Their production and main tasting room is located off the old Highway 12 close to L’Ecole, Woodward Canyon and Waterbrook Winery. You can also visit them in downtown Walla Walla in the historic Quinn building on 2nd and Rose Ave (just steps from the Marcus Whitman Hotel).
- The Stuff: 100% Walla Walla Cabernet that was aged 22 months in new American oak; 14%ABV
- The Swirl: A nice dark crimson purple color with about 90% opacity. Rich in color.
- The Sniff: Big a$$ cherry fruit. One you get around the bright cherries you pick up some campfire smoke. Dark red fruit dominates the aroma.
- The Sip: Amazed at the integration of the American oak in this wine. The mouth feel is dominated by big red cherry fruit that is smooth and lush. The tannins are medium and very well balanced. A quick finish ends up with a touch of alcohol head.
- The Score: At $28 the Skylite Cabernet is a very well made wine with a slick polish. If you like cherries, you’re going to love this wine. 3+/5
- The Stuff: 51% Malbec, 33% Cab, and 16% Carmenere make up this blend. Each barrel was chosen for their unique character and quality to be considered for the Reserve. Various combinations of French and American oak; 13.9%ABV
- The Swirl: Glassy purple center with bright purple pearl colors around the edges of the glass
- The Sniff: Strong aroma of blueberry and vanilla. A subtle hint of cinnamon rounds out this opulent nose. There may not be a lot of dynamic scents but what is there is full bodied.
- The Sip: A wine you want to just let sit in your mouth. Lush layers of blueberry and blackberry fruit envelop your tongue. After a few seconds a perfectly balanced spice of cracked black pepper and cinnamon create an additional layer in the wine flavor. The finish is bright and the acidity prepares your mouth for the next stip.
- The Score: At $47 this is a wine that is out of reach for quite a few people. If you have a chance to buy this by the glass or find it on sale (especially if you love Malbec), don’t hesitate. This wine would be a treat for any special occasion and the massive blueberry and vanilla flavors would win over almost any non red wine drinker! 4/5
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