02 Apr 2010
One sip and you may understand why the name Anelare was chosen for this small boutique winery from Benton City, WA. Anelare is Italian for desire…to long for.
Producing less than 1000 cases per year, much of Anelare’s wine is only distributed through their tasting studio in Kennewick, WA. When the Alexander family pursued their passions for wine, they enlisted the help of Victor Cruz of Canon del Sol. Victor’s wine has received critical acclaim for its consistent structure and quality.
2007 marks Anelare’s third vintage. Wine club members have exclusive access to estate Syrah (Ciel du Cheval), and reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Non wine club members can purchase Nonna Viola Red Wine and Saint Helena Syrah. With PR rep, Becky Templeton from Blends of Vino on board, Spokane can now discover the longing and desire of Anelare.
2007 Nonna Viola Red Wine
- The Stuff: 50% Syrah, 25%, Cab, 25% Merlot from Milbrandt, Gamache, and Goose Ridge vineyards, 292 cases, aged 22 months in new/used French/American oak, 13.9%abv
- The Swirl: Bright and young with black cherry color, moderately translucent and watery out toward the edges
- The Sniff: Tight nose with hints of cherry, perfume and traditional merlot cocoa
- The Sip: Pretty light and watery on the front palate that opens up to moderate cherry and plum fruit. The finish is mellow with a hint of pepper.
- The Score: At $24, I can score this a 3 minus (out of 5). The serious wine drinker may find themselves underwhelmed but if you’re looking for an easy drinking red blend, this may appeal to you.
Cellar Tracker Score – None for any vintage
2007 Saint Helena Syrah
- The Stuff: 100% Syrah from Gamache and Goose Ridge vineyards; 222 cases, 20 months in new/used French/American oak, 14.1%abv
- The Swirl: Dark blackberry plum color, opaque with good ruby color toward the edges
- The Sniff: A little evergreen tree with notes of black berry and hints of hot sulfer (indicating youthfulness)
- The Sip: A good presentation of dark fruit, slightly jammy but has good acidity on the back end to balance out the sweetness. Lacks typical spice found on some Syrah, contains a slight woodiness.
- The Score: At $28, I think this wine is a solid 3 (out of 5). Get the price down to $24 and it could move to a 3+
Cellar Tracker Scores – None for this vintage, but 1 for 2005 vintage (91 pts)
VISIT HERE for information about their tasting room hours
24 Mar 2010
Just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean it’s a deal.
Finding good wine at low price makes it taste even better.
We’re all looking to save money. Buying something for a bargain makes us feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s easy to agree that getting a new Chevrolet Corvette for $10,000 is a bargain (if not a steal), but is it a bargain to pay $3 for a bottle of wine that tastes disjointed, tart, sour, and thin? The definition of a bargain is “Something offered or acquired at a price advantageous to the buyer.” A used Paul Reed Smith Custom Ten-Top with bird inlays for $2000 would be advantageous to me, but not for everyone.
Grocery Outlet is known for low prices on food items. While I’ve never considered G.O. a place for wine, I learned from my Twitter friends that several often find deals there. Evidently there are more bargainistas out there than I imagined. Ahead of their bi-annual wine sale (March 30-April 3) Grocery Outlet reached out to me with a fun challenge. They offered me two $50 gift cards – one to use to buy wine and the other to give away to a lucky viewer/reader. I have to admit that at first I was conflicted about being “paid” in wine to promote an event, but I see it as an opportunity to uncover a good value for those that read this blog (thanks, Mom). It’s also pretty cool to be able to give someone $50.
So, off I went with my preconceptions in search of the $7 bottle of Opus One, and the $4 Clos de Betz. Each of the 130+ West Coast stores is independently operated, and from what I hear, wine selection varies greatly by location. The Spokane location on Sprague Ave had a decent sized section of wine. If you’re looking for a wine steward, shelf talkers, and organized bottles – go somewhere else. If you’re looking for wine that is as low as $3 and $60 Napa wine (retail) for $15, then you may be onto something.
Armed with my $50 gift card, I walked up and down the aisles looking for labels I recognized, appellations that have respect, and the biggest mark-up. 30-minutes later the till said $61 (pre-tax) for my 8 bottle score ($7.62 average). Sadly I only saw a few labels I recognized. With a low of $3 and an outlandishly expensive $15, I left a little uncertain of how this experiment would take shape.
HOW TO WIN $50
It’s simple. Leave a comment (either here or at my Facebook page). You won’t be added to a mailing list, you won’t be spammed – one lucky reader will win!
- The Stuff: This wine comes from AU Vineyards in South East Australia. The winery is responsible for AU, Buckley’s Cove, 12 Apostles, Element 79, Fly, and Tambourine labels. This is a 2009 vintage blend of Shiraz and Cabernet. The web site availability shows US distribution is limited to Grocery Outlet stores.
- The Swirl: Very bright purple (neon), moderately thin with medium translucence.
- The Sniff: Sugary grape or cherry jolly rancher and sweet candy. Reminded me of those sugar candy you dip the stick into.
- The Sip: Very thin throughout. The wine is very off-balanced with a sugary sweet front end and then a bitter tart back end.
- The Score: At $3, I score this wine a 1 (out of 5). This is a not recommended at any price.
Okay – so for me this was not a deal. Keeping it real here, this wine ended up down the drain. I’m sure that there are some folks who would be okay with it, but for the majority of wine lovers, this is no deal.
2005 Two Iron Red Wine
- The Stuff: The bottle says Napa and references Costa del Sol Cellars. My online investigation revealed next to nothing about this wine. The retail on the Grocery Outlet shelf said $60, but I was unable to validate that anywhere.
- The Swirl: Dark plum with a good color. Thins out toward the edge and is mostly opaque.
- The Sniff: The nose opens up with a nice black fruit and cassis. Hints of stone and oak come through as well.
- The Sip: The mouth feel is a Jekyll and Hyde. The initial attack is modest with good fruit but the finish is very bitter, woody and sharp.
- The Score: At $15, I score this wine a 2 (out of 5). A purchase price of $25 and over, I’d be ticked. At $15, I’m slightly disappointed, at $10 it still doesn’t make the Under $10 Team.
Cellar Tracker – Seven people have this in their cellar (all purchased from Grocery Outlet), but no reviews.
I had high hopes for this wine, being from Napa Valley. So far, neither of the two wines I selected would qualify as “bargains” for me. Three of the remaining four are from labels I recognize, so I’m hoping for good things.
Stay tuned! Have you ever found a bargain at Grocery Outlet? Want to win $50? Leave a comment.
20 Dec 2009
An accidental discovery or a destiny finally fulfilled?
Hailed as one of the best growing regions in the state in 1970 remained virtually unplanted until the accidental discovery in 1992. Walter and Judy Haig were flipping through a scrapbook from the original homesteader that listed an old US Agriculture map identifying what crops were planted in 1900. Wine grapes were on the list.The journey to fulfill the lands destiny began.
The lower Lake Roosevelt area formed by the Grand Coulee Dam creates the perfect microclimate for growing Bordeaux varietal grapes. The long summers, cool nights and extended growing season allow for maximum hang time producing fruit forward low sugar wines.
The Haig family wine story began with providing world-class grapes to wineries across the state through 2004. With the 2005 vintage, son Michael Haig, took over vintner and winemaking responsibilities. It’s obvious in talking with Mike that he loves his fruit and he loves the process. “My job is to stay out of the way and produce wine that tells the story of the vintage.” “Too often,” he says, “wineries try to make a wine that doesn’t fit the style of the grapes they have.” We talked about fads in the wine industry and Michael is a believer in staying true to what his vineyard produces (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.) “We are 100% estate grown. We don’t buy grapes from anyone.” A fact he is very proud of.
Whitestone has a tasting room, storage facility, and production facility in Wilbur, WA (about 16 miles from the vineyard). In April 2009, they opened a tasting room at 111 S. Cedar in West Downtown’s Carnegie Square. “Business has been great, but everyday we still hear from people who had no idea we’re here.” Part of the successful launch can be attributed to Whitestone’s commitment to Social Media like Twitter and Facebook. Whitestone is one of the few Spokane wineries taking advantage of this medium to connect with their consumers to drive brand loyalty. Mike, a self-professed techie says, “With Facebook we can post an event notice and see immediately who has responded.” Their first holiday release, Pieces on Earth V.1 went on sale just before Thanksgiving and all 135 cases are sold out (or will soon be after this prints). Promotion was done mostly through e-mail list, wine club members and social media.
Mike and I also spoke about the near term future for Whitestone. Currently producing 2500 cases per year, they are pursuing a new production facility – preferably right on the vineyard. He says, “too often people are pre-occupied with being the ‘next’ Chateau St. Michelle or whatever, I want to be the ‘first’ Michael Haig. From what I can tell the Whitestone line up is big, fruity with big tannins for grilling, steak, pot roast, and ham. The wines are held in oak for up to 30 months and will cellar well for another 5-7 years.
Whitestone is finally seeing the destiny of the land fulfilled 40 years after it was proclaimed.
The Stats: 111 S Cedar – Spokane Tasting Room is open Thursday – Sunday from Noon – 6pm. Friend them up on Facebook Whitestone Winery and follow them on Twitter @PIECESOFRED. WEB: www.whitestonewinery.com
Pieces on Earth V1 (2009 limited release – 135 cases)
- The Stuff: 34% Merlot 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Cabernet Franc
- The Swirl: Very dark plum, nearly opaque. Strong legs indicating high alcohol (14.1%) and acidity
- The Sniff: Dark cherry, plums, nutmeg, smoke, with a subtle hint of cocoa at the end
- The Sip: Wow, it’s like I dove into a pool of cherry nutmeg pool, drowning in that Chocolate Chucker Cherry sauce (not as sweet). Very berry front end with strong acidity on the upper mouth and medium tannins. The finish goes on for a good 10 seconds going tart then finishing smooth.
- The Score: At $17.95 (if you can still find it) I rate this wine a 5 out of 5. Mike and Whitestone have created a fantastic holiday season wine that will sip well around the fire and hold up to cranberry, prime rib and ham dinners.
In the video Mike mentions that Social Media is great but the goal is to get people to enjoy life over a glass of wine! I couldn’t say it better myself. Life is meant to be enjoyed with friends and there is no better way than over a glass of wine or cup of coffee.
07 Dec 2009
Spokane is a growing wine region. With 17 wineries and a local population of nearly 500,000 people, Spokane wineries are poised to experience great growth opportunities over the next 5 years! Robert Karl, one of the regions first, is a gem hidden away in a pocket of downtown dating back to Spokane’s origins. Originally a horse drawn firehouse, Robert Karl Cellars entire annual production of its 2500 cases, is at 115 W Pacific Ave just one block west of Division. The tasting room is open Thursday – Saturday.
Joe and Rebecca Gunselman moved to Spokane in 1998 after Dr. Joe (anesthesiologist) developed a passion for the wine business while writing a marketing paper for his MBA. During our conversation, I learned that the Gunselman’s and I have a Roanoke, VA connection. Joe and Rebecca lived there after Joe got out of the military prior to their move to the northwest.
Joe was unable to meet with us for long because he had to tend to a medical case, but Rebecca – the consummate host -gave her attention to walking us through their wine, explaining their history and vision, and providing a fantastic tour of the facility and their winemaking process. Rebecca’s video tour captures the essence of how their wine is made and provides a great primer for beginning wine tasters as well.
Robert Karl, a name derived from Rebecca’s side of the family (Robert) and Joe’s side (Karl – also their youngest son’s name), procures their grapes from four vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA in the lower Columbia Valley. The Gunselman’s own an eight acre block while three other vineyards grow dedicated blocks under Joe’s specifications. Horse Heaven Hills is a perfect growing climate for Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Merlot, and Malbec. The vineyards also provide Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. Rebecca says the Sauvignon Blanc was recently chosen so she had ‘something to drink during the hot summer nights’ in Spokane.
Watch the video, get to know Rebecca and the wine, then make it a point to stop by their winery / tasting room and enjoy a glass wherever it is on the wine list. If you stop by during the right time of year you can see the process in action. Below are my tasting notes for the five wines I tried (my apologies for the brevity, there was a lot of tasting).
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon $30
- The Swirl: Beautiful opaque rich color
- The Sniff: This is a big wine. The explosion of spice, dark berries, leather, and dirt (in a good way)
- The Sip: Like Rebecca said, cherry is the primary front end of this wine. As it opens up more dramatic spice come through. There is a lot of acidity and tannin on the finish. This wine should be consumed with food for maximum enjoyment. A hearty well seasoned steak or spicy pork strips are the first to come to mind.
- The Score: At $30, I score this wine a 3+ (out of 5) – If you like a big bad Cabernet, you’ll love this wine.
2007 Syrah $30 (92% Syrah 8% Viognier)
- The Swirl: Don’t recall
- The Sniff: Very fruity blueberry, chocolate and smoked bacon
- The Sip: Typical sweet fruit Syrah, but not nearly as overwhelming as its Australian sisters. A very nice tannin finish provided just enough structure to pair well with food.
- The Score: At $30 I score this wine 4 (out of 5) - If you need a high quality sipping wine or would like to introduce your non-wine loving friends to something better than the Costco Yellow Tail, then start here.
2007 Estate Merlot $20- 100% Andrews Horse Heaven Ranch
- The Swirl: slightly lighter than the previous two, more pearlescent in color with strong legs (indicating higher sugar and alcohol)
- The Sniff: Cherry tart, pepper, and a little woodsy
- The Sip: Very sexy – not as smooth as some Merlot’s I love, but with the chocolate finish and the mouth-watering acidic ending this works well to sip or with food. (UPDATE: Drank second bottle a few nights later with a heavy Salmon Pasta dish – definitly pairs best with food. The initial sip is light but opens up as it sits in your mouth)
- The Score: At only $20 I score this wine a strong 3+ (out of 5). Give this wine 3-5 years in the cellar and it will be a 4 for sure!
2006 Inspiration $45 - (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot)
- The Swirl: This and the Claret were the most beautiful to look at. The light seemed to dance off the top during the swirl
- The Sniff: I detected a floral scent, like violet along with fragrant blueberries and a smokey cigar box
- The Sip: You can tell that this wine is an investment. If 2006 is a special year for you (anniversary, birth of a child, etc) but a few of these and put them away for up to 25 years. The flavor is very nice and peppery / spicy. Currently pretty tart on the very back of the mouth with a lot of tannin.
- The Score: At $45 I score this wine a 3+ (out of 5) Knowing that we live in a satisfy me now society, drinkers who open this immediately after purchase should decant it a few times.
2007 Claret Red Blend $20 (55% Cabernet Sauvignon,
20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot, and 5% Malbec)
- The Swirl: Amazing color, light plum and clearer toward the edges
- The Sniff: My favorite by far – I could smell this wine before I even gave it the swirl. Scents of cherry and vanilla with mild sweet spice (like a red pepper)
- The Sip: The Claret blew me away, unfortunately there were no more to purchase (the customer just before me bought 14 bottles). A beautiful earthy floral taste with medium mocha and cherry flavors.
- The Score: At $20 I would score this wine 4 (out of 5) - I will stay in touch with Joe and Rebecca so I can get my hands on any more as they come available.
Contact Robert Karl Cellars on Twitter @RKCellars or through their website www.robertkarl.com
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY
17 Nov 2009
Now, I’m on a quest; the quest to find three good wines under $10 (maybe even under $7). Tonight, I must say, I took one for the team. It’s no secret that we drink wine. admittedly we probably drink over 200 bottles a year. My budget says, I can’t be drinking $20+ bottles every night (somewhere north of $4,000). If you’re like me, we need a few great selections we can trust. Good staples are a smooth, sweeter red, a spicy meaty red, a crisp full white, and a sweet summer white. We need that $7 trustworthy wine for daily use.
The Rocket Market (726 E 43rd Ave) is a great place to try new wines. You can count on them to have hundreds of bottles to choose from ranging from $5 – $105.
Tonight I reviewed three wines available for under $7 with hopes that one could be added to the “trusted” list.
2008 Estrella White Blend; California $5
With no pronounced varietals, I didn’t expect much, other than a white grape bland wine. I was pleasantly surprised.
- Swirl: Good crisp color darker than a Sauvignon Blanc, but lighter than a Chardonnay
- Sniff: Crisp nose with strong butter reminiscent of a Chardonnay. In the video I mentioned a peach smell, but after a few more sips, the strong flavor is apple, and a mild citric.
- Sip: Butter smell carried over to the flavor. Really noticed the citric flavor here too with mild vanilla on the back end. The finish was mild without overbearing alcohol.
- Price to Value Rating: $$$$ – this is a pretty darn good value. Not a ton of structure or distinguishing flavor, but nothing offensive either.
2008 Estrella Red Table Wine; California $5
- Swirl: Cloudy purple color, weak legs
- Sniff: Fruit forward, jammy smell, a little spice on the back end. Reminiscent of a Australian Syrah
- Sip: Ick, Sugar water, weak grape juice on the front end, more structure as it sits but the best it could do is dark blackberry, strong alcohol leaving me with a chewy tongue
- Price to Value Rating: $+, skip this one and keep searching
2008 Hacienda Cabernet Sauvignon
- Swirl: More structure to the color, nearly see to bottom of glass, no legs
- Sniff: Not very strong with moderate spice and pepper
- Sip: A decent structure, not overpowering or overly-meaty like some Cabs. A mild alcohol finish. Should be consumed with food but not too over powering to be drank alone
- Price to Value Rating: $$$ – This wine is almost there but not quite the one to add to the trusted list. If you’re in need of a decent burger wine, this could work.
After tonight’s adventure, the journey continues. I would safely add the Estrella White table wine to my list of trusted under $10, but there are already a few there. The quest continues.
Enjoy life with friends and <drink.happy>