Wednesday, August 31, 2005


A bit east of Seattle and south of where I stayed over the weekend in Bellingham, is the Woodinville Wine Country area. Our time was somewhat short, but we were able to take in a few of the wineries in this area. We didn't have a lot of insight into the wineries of the area in advance, so just picked a few that happened to be fairly close together. I know, not the best of planning, but we still had a fun afternoon.

We started with a few wines from Silverlake Winery. A couple of these I liked. Of the whites, the 2000 Grand Reserve Blanc (@ $13.99) was 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillion. Very light with just a hint of oak on it. I tried several others, but of them, the favorite of the group they were tasting that day was the 2002 Reserve Zinfandel. A big, juicy red with a bit of toastiness to it. Balanced tannins. You can read their own tasting notes for it here.

They were also tasting 3 Syrah wines from their sister winery Glen Fiona. Unfortunately, none of these really met expectations. Beth pronounced 'cough syrup' for one and another had a distinct sulfur note in the nose. Perhaps better luck next time.

Very close by was what turned out to be our favorite tasting of the day. Those were the Kennedy Shah wines from Woodhouse Family Cellars. The tasting room was in what looked like an office park so it's easy to miss. But I was glad we stopped in. For $5, they were tasting all four of the wines described on their web site here. Of these, my favorite of the group was the 2000 Merlot. It's actually a blend of 78% Merlot, 17% Cab Franc and 5% Syrah. A bit toasty with ripe dark fruits and a hint of cocoa. We snagged a bottle for dinner later. The other three we tried there were also excellent.

Down the road a bit further it was hard to avoid checking out both Columbia Winery and Chateau Ste Michelle. By comparision to the solitary tasting we experienced of the Kennedy Shah wines, these places were just packed with people. People were two-deep at the ample tasting bars. Chateau Ste Michelle had a free tasting, but for $5 you could taste some of their better offerings. The cost for tastings at Columbia were $5.

Of the Columbia wines, my two favorites of the group were the 2002 Otis Vineyard Block 6 Chardonnay ($25) and the 1999 Sagemoor Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. ($28) These are part of what they call their Signature Series. Click the links for reasonably accurate write-ups on these.

The single vineyard wines from Ch. Ste Michelle that I like best were the 2003 Canoe Ridge Chardonnay ($22) and the 2002 Canoe Ridge Syrah. ($22) If I had to pick between the two Chardonnays, I'd have to give the nod to the Columbia though. But, a close call. It had a wonderful creamy mouth feel to it that I think I just liked a little better. The Canoe Ridge Syrah had a burst of tart cherries in it that I liked.

From here, I'm heading north...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Mount Baker Vineyards

I've been up in the Pacific Northwest for the last couple of days. Bellingham, WA to be exact. Not surprisingly, we took time out to check out a few of the local wineries. One of the cloest to Bellingham is Mt Baker Vineyards. I'd point to the web site, but it appears to be down. It still looks pretty much like this though.

Mount Baker had some very interesting wines, but only one I liked enough to buy. Several of the wines were made from grapes that I'm not sure I can say I've ever heard of. Certainly ones I don't recall tasting. The first of these was their 2003 Madeline Angevine. This was a light white wine with a significant honey taste to it. In some ways it was a refreshing wine, but the honey taste was otherwise just a little too much for me.

Another than was particularly well suited to the cooler NW climate was the 2003 Siegerrebe. This one had a very floral nose and reminded me of some of the Viognier I've been trying recently - at least upon first whiff. But it was lighter in both body and flavor.

Yet another light white by Mount Baker was its 2004 Chasselas Dore. This type of grape is apparently well known and widely produced in Switzerland. Very light in color and taste. In fact, I got almost no nose off it at all.

All of these were in the $11.50 range.

While the whites were interesting, my favorite of the group was actually a wine that was done by Mount Baker, but whose grapes were produced further south in the Yakima Valley. That was their 2001 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. It also turned out to be a double gold award winner at the 2005 SF Wine Competition. This one was still a bit tight and could have sat on the rack for awhile, but still, it was very good. Big and bold with a lingering finish and a hint of cocoa in the taste. This one was a bit pricier at $24.99.

Next... a short trip to the south...

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Okanagan Valley

Next Saturday I’m heading to the northwest for a brief respite from the Texas summer. I’ll be starting in the Seattle & Bellingham Washington area but then heading up to the Okanagan Valley to take in several days in that area. Should be interesting. If you’ve been to the area and have recommendations on any of the many wineries I shouldn’t miss while I’m in that area, drop me a note.

Treana White 2001

2001 Treana White

I’ve fallen behind once again with keeping up my blog. The last couple weeks have been increasingly busy with a project I’ve been working. This week will be more of the same. Some long hours. But, I have gotten time to try a few interesting wines along the way so thought I would jot a few notes.

I happened to be in for a Saturday afternoon tasting at Grapevine Mkt a few weeks ago. They were doing some Liberty School and Treana wines. The Treana labeled blends are a much better bet than the Liberty School wines in my humble opinion. Both the 2001 white and the 2001 red are excellent. They were tasting both the red and the white that afternoon. Unfortunately, they’re none too cheap. The 2001 red goes for around $45 now. (Price increase this year.) The white comes in at $27. At those prices, they generally fall out of the ‘everyday’ category, but the white fit so well with my recent summer white exploration that I went ahead and got a bottle. 

If you check recent posts here, you’ll find several Viogniers. This wine is 61% Viognier with the rest being Marsanne. The wine is the color of golden straw. It has a buttery mouth feel and big floral aroma. It’s got a crisp acidity to it as well with some complex lingering flavors to it, leading with some pear and honeydew melon.  

Around $27 (found at GrapeVine Mkt)
 excellent. I think I may have liked the recently tried Conundrum just a tad better, but for the most part it’s too close to call. Maybe I should try another of both just to be sure … :-)

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

So glad...

So glad to see new posts over on Swirl & Sniff again - one of the more stylish wine blogs around.

WBW #12 'Drink Local' - Flat Creek Super Texan 2003

2003 Super Texan

It’s time once again for another Wine Blogging Wednesday. This month’s theme comes from the host of LENNDEVOURS, and he asks us to ‘drink local’. So of course that means I would need to search out a Texas wine.    

There are a lot of Texas wines, but if I want to follow this month’s rules, I believe the one that’s closest to me is Flat Creek. And specifically because of that, I chose Flat Creek’s 2003 “Super Texan” Sangiovese.

The “Super Texan” comes from the Helen’s Block vineyard at Flat Creek Estate. Follow the link to read more about Helen’s Block – planted as recently as 2000.

By my calculations, as the crow flies, Flat Creek Winery is less than 15 miles away. Though despite that, with Lake Travis between here and there, the drive there is actually quite a bit longer. This relative short distance makes it all the more bizarre how difficult it was to actually find & buy a bottle of this wine. If I’d had the time, it would have been a lot more fun to drive out there over the weekend, but that didn’t work out so I just assumed I could pick up a bottle down the street. Not so. HEB didn’t have Flat Creek, nor did Twin Liquors. Same for the nearby Randals. World Market had an empty spot for it and they were all out! Finally, Grapevine Market – yes, I got the last one off the shelf of this one! 

And the wine? Excellent. The wine is a Sangiovese, light in color, medium bodied with a wonderful aroma and taste of blackberry and cherry fruit. “Double Gold” winner at the 2005 SF wine competition.

Flat Creek is a great place to visit as well. Haven’t been out there this year, but it’s a great drive out on the curvy 1431 past Lago Vista to the winery. If you can’t visit, or can’t find it locally (likely), then try ordering it for delivery.  

Around $16 (found at GrapeVine Mkt)
 very good. Light body, blackberry & cherry fruit. Excellent along with the tenerloin filet I grilled.

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Friday, August 05, 2005

Wisconsin? Wine?

Simon Creek

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was in northern Wisconsin recently. Door County to be exact. That's the little peninsula north of Green Bay that juts into Lake Michigan. At this time of year, the area is crawling with vacationers so what better place to locate a few wineries, right?

This was not my first time in the area and I have sampled a few wines there before. So on this occasion, I took time out to only stop at one and that was Simon Creek. From my recollection, it was the best of the bunch I'd visited before.

As you head north on hwy 42 toward the quaint little towns closer to the tip of the peninsula, you'll pass through Carlsville. Not much to it, but there are huge signs leading up to it for a place called the Door Peninsula winery. It's right along the highway and is likely to lure you in, but skip it (trust me) and instead turn right and drive off the main road about 3 miles to Simon Creek.

What's a bit odd about this place though is that it's easy to believe that the wines are produced from local grapes. Even some of the back-of-the-bottle verbage hints that it's a great place to grow grapes. In fact, though, all the wines I tasted were made there, but the juice hailed from California, Oregon and New York. The guy pouring the tastings indicated the juice for the wine I liked the best, the "Untouchable Red" made with Ruby Cabernet, apparently came from Napa. And yet, it's labeled "American Ruby Cabernet".

Regardless, the place in general is very well done and all the wines I tried I thought were pretty good. If you're up there, take the side trip off the main road.

Conundrum 2003

2003 Conundrum

Yes, it’s back to the summer white theme, and this one would have to come in as one of the favorite whites I’ve tried this summer. 

Conundrum is a “proprietary blend” of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier and Muscat. This has a full-bodied mouth feel and yet has a crisp refreshing taste of apricot and peach. Wonderful aroma and lingering finish. Click the image at right for a more elaborate description. 

Around $24 (although I got this one at Costco for a couple bucks less)
 loved it. Apricot and peach. Crisp but lingering fruit finish.

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Monday, August 01, 2005

Another good review of Spicewood Vineyards Rosé of Merlot

The most recent Austin Chronicle "Liquid Assets" column has an interesting article on Rosé wines, along with a few reviews. Among them is the Spicewood Vineyards Rosé of Merlot from right here in the Texas Hill Country. This is the same one I profiled back in May for WBW#9. Nice to see this wine get yet another mention.

It's the dog days of summer in Austin so a cool glass of this sounds pretty good.

Although, at the moment, I'm beating the heat in northern Wisconsin. It's by no means that cool here right now though either, so this still sounds pretty good.

about | ratings images courtey of Jason Lewis