08 Apr 2010
So, here I am sitting in the tasting room, with an amazing view of the hills north of Spokane. Like a typical Spring day in the Northwest, the clouds are simultaneously flirting with rain and sunshine. I’m sipping on a 2002 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with the wine maker. The wine has JUST NOW been released. How many wineries that you know are releasing their 2002 wines in 2009/2010?
Townshend Cellars has grown from a small production boutique winery to a powerhouse of quality producing over 20,000 cases per year from a selection of 20+ wines. Located 20 miles North of Spokane in beautiful Green Bluff, Townshend Cellars is a destination for wine in the heart of apples, strawberries and pumpkins. I’m ashamed to admit this was my first visit to Townshend, and even worse, my first experience with ANY Townshend wine. Before you discredit my wine experience, hear me out.
I first met Don Townshend for my review for the grand re-opening of Caterina Winery (Don recently took over ownership). While I’ve seen the T3, Vortex, and Table Wines in stores, I had yet to experience any Townshend wine. Upon my arrival, Don and Jill Rider (tasting room manager), welcomed me and the wine began flowing. What surprised me was the variety of wine that Townshend produces. From bubbles to Tempranillo, you can experience just about everything in the tasting room. – Seriously people, there are over 20 wines, including port, Rose, Chardonnay, Lemberger, Merlot, Malbec, Chenin Blanc and even Pinot Noir.
Townshend Cellars began in 2001 with the release of their 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon. That wine won the Inland Northwest’s best Cab and the praise has never stopped. Don attributes the success of Townshend to the Cab and the T3. T3 is a blend of Cab, Merlot and Cab Franc that was originally only available in restaurants. Customers can count on the wine to be consistent and a good value. Townshend’s signature wine spends up to 30 months in oak and another 3-4 years in bottle before being released. Sourcing 500 tons of grapes from Preston, Willard, Alder Creek and more, Townshend is committed to quality wine that releases when it’s ready, not when the cost sheet says so.
This winery visit included so many highlights. Don and Jill opened their 07 Malbec, 02 Cabernet Sauvignon, T3, and the biggest surprise, Huckleberry Brut. To be honest, this bubbly stuck with me so much that I’m still thinking about it. Made in the brut style, the sweetness of the huckleberry is subdued. Not a single Townshend wine is over $30. Check out the Diamond T club for 20% off of club shipments and 10% off wine and merchandise purchases.
While the current location was voted one of the top 10 places to have a picnic by Tasting Room Magazine, Don was excited to announce the ground breaking of a new tasting room further north in Green Bluff. The larger tasting room should be complete toward the end of summer with future expansion for wedding and meetings on the 20 acres coming in the next few years (check out the video for the amazing views).
It may have taken me a few years to experience Townshend Cellar but from what I’ve tasted, I can now relate to everyone who raves about the wine.
Townshend on the web: www.townshendcellar.com
Townshend on Twitter: @townshendcellar
Townshend on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Townshend-Cellar/107962877089
Open Thursday – Sunday Noon – 6pm
07 Apr 2010
Big wine, small lot, Napa vineyards, small price. Looking at the Smith brothers, you might mistake them for iron workers in Pittsburgh or mine workers in West Virginia. One sip of their wine and there is no mistaking that Stuart and Charles Smith are definitely wine makers!
Planted in 1971 Smith-Madrone Vineyards sits on 200 acres of steep hillside on top of Spring Mountain in Napa Valley. The vineyards consist of 13 acres of Chardonnay, 13 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and 7 acres of Riesling. With less than 5000 cases of wine made each year, attention to detail stands out with these wines. Brothers, Charles Smith (the winemaker) – former school teacher and international croquet player – and Stu Smith (vineyard manager) – graduate of enology and viticulture from U.C. Davis, make wine that showcases the beauty of their vineyard.
In doing research for this review, two things stood out:
1) The reference to wine bloggers in the tasting notes. (Joe from www.1winedude.com was referenced in the recent Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon release notes)
2) This quote: “Let me make an analogy with the “Wizard of Oz” to the wine business. Like the Scarecrow, the wine industry is mindlessly making wines to achieve some vaunted number, thus the resulting wines, like the Tin Man, have no heart. I can only hope that the Cowardly Lion will find his courage and roar his defiance and independence by making wines of balance, complexity and nuance. The witch would be (wine critic) Robert Parker because he’s the cause of all this stuff.”
2007 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 100% estate Chardonnay, 11 months in oak, 754 cases, 14.3%abv
- The Swirl: Pale gold color with hints of thicker viscosity, clean and clear
- The Sniff: muted undertones of toast, pear, and citrus fruits. Pleasing and crisp
- The Sip: Slightly effervescent and very crispy pear and citrus. A good thickness indicative of a Chardonnay, but could be mis-diagnosed during a blind tasting as a Sauvignon Blanc. Excellent acid with finish of stone minerality.
- The Score: At $30, slightly more than I would pay for a quality Chardonnay, but a good score of 4 out of 5. One of the better Chardonnay’s I’ve had from the 2007 vintage.
Cellar Tracker Scores – 90 pts (3 reviews)
2004 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff:82% Cab , 8% Merlot, 10% Cab Franc; 22 months in American oak, 2164 cases, 13.9%abv
- The Swirl: Dark inky plum with some brilliant bright purple undertones. Nice ruby colors toward the edges, opaque.
- The Sniff: The hills are alive with bright cherry fruit, earthy evergreen trees and smoky tobacco. A bouquet that causes you to get lost in time, forgetting the final stages of sip and spit.
- The Sip: The flavor profile was slightly off balance with a good earthiness on the front end but a hollow mid-palate that lacked the fruit. The finish did show off cedar chocolate covered cherry finish with good tannin structure. The wine could show very well in 3-5 years.
- The Score: At $45, I can score this a 3 (out of 5). The sour burnt cherry and hollow mid-palate lowered the score a bit at this price range.
Wine and Spirits 90 points; No 2004 Cellar Tracker reviews
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
29 Mar 2010
Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Bordeaux…these may be the comfort wine of our world, but Spokane Winery Knipprath Cellars is making a bold departure and creating quite a stir with their Port line up and new focus on Iberian grape varieties Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Touriga Nacional. German born, Henning Knipprath grew his passion for wine in California, then started a winery in the state of Washington with a focus on Spanish/Portuguese wine. Henning brings his global experience to wine making and offers a perfect way to travel, with our palate, to new places!
(Henning is little quiet so turn up your volume)
After attending school in California and graduating with a Chemical Engineering degree, in 1990 the Air Force brought Henning Knipprath to Spokane (thanks, Uncle Sam). With a longtime passion for wine, Henning started Knipprath cellars in 1993. As an Air Force pilot, military deployments kept Knipprath Cellars a part-time operation until 1999 when they moved into their current location at 5634 E Commerce Ave. With his European background, Henning produced the “standard” Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet, Merlot), but it was his Port product that began getting the attention of consumers. “We didn’t set out this direction,” says Henning, “we were nudged by the customer’s response.” The nudge is so strong that Port sales are 60% of Knipprath’s production of 3000 cases.
The Port selection consists of a traditional ruby port, tawny port and creative delicacies that can only be described as desert in a bottle. The Au Chocolate is an infusion of pure chocolate extracts, and grape spirits while the yang to that yin is the La V vanilla port. The newest addition is the soon-to-be released Coffee Port. Look for a formal review soon. One might imagine some interesting creations by mixing two or even all three. In addition to Port, Knipprath offers hints of Henning’s German heritage with a seasonal spiced red wine using a recipe from his mother’s cookbook (Alpine Wine, $16), and a refreshing summer Lagrima (best served with a slice of lemon.)
The entire production of Knipprath wine (from grape to bottle) is done in the historic 6700 square foot Parkwater schoolhouse. Every inch of this building oozes character showing small hints of its use as a parochial school, military typing depot, and convalescence home. Henning has big plans for the space as he continues to think toward the future of expanded production, events space and expansive tasting room.
Next on the horizon for Knipprath Cellars is the release of a new label, La Bodega Del Norte. With Knipprath being so synonymous with Port, people often have a hard time recognizing the other quality wine. La Bodega Del Norte will focus on Tempranillo, Garnacha, and other Iberian grapes. Watch for these new releases in the near future.
Knipprath on the web: www.knipprathcellars.com
Knipprath on Facebook: search for Knipprath Cellars
Tasting Room Hours: Wed-Sun, Noon – 5pm
Old fashion phone call: 509.534.5121
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.