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Exploring the Pacific Northwest: Red Wines from Washington State

As the glowing colors of summer change to the brilliant hues of autumn, it seems rather fitting that August 31 represented International Cabernet Sauvignon Day and the last official day of the extremely successful Washington State Wine Month. Twenty years ago, if you would have mentioned Washington State, my mind probably would have focused on vivid images of downtown Seattle, the Space Needle, Pike’s Market, Pugent Sound, loud grunge rock songs and SubPop records, roasted coffee beans, some hip micro-breweries on the rise, and a maybe a handful of popular Riesling and Merlot releases from big wine brands like Chateau St. Michelle and Hogue Cellars.

Washington State Wine image courtesy of Andréa Johnson (washingtonwine.org)

Today, the interest in the state has shifted dramatically. For beyond the well-known revenue-generating companies like Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft and the Seattle Seahawks, Washington has earned a reputation for its wide range of fresh seafood coming from the coast; the hot new “farm to table” styles of fine cuisine born in the Seattle area; and the fact that the state has become the nation’s top producers of hops, apples, and other yummy agricultural products primarily grown in the warmer zones east of the Cascade Mountains.

Luckily, these risks-meet-rewards scenarios have paid off for the Washington wine industry too. This exciting new growth has been led by the expansion of vineyards planted in the Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Red Mountain and the other ten appellations located within the borders of the state over the past two decades. As a result, Washington now ranks #2 in the nation, behind only California, in terms of production of fine wines.

While it’s true that Merlot vineyards led the first wave of large-scale plantings in the 1980s and 1990s, the more recent focus on Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhone varieties like Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre has helped diversify the styles of wine being made by producers, both big and boutique, who now call Washington State home. Therefore, as the strength of the great sites began to shine, the real turning point came when the winemakers began to put more emphasis on crafting more elegant and refined styles.

A person who watched these transitions happen is veteran winemaker Charlie Hoppes, who started making wine for Chateau St. Michelle and young brands like Snoqualmie, Waterbrook and Canoe Ridge in the early 1990s. After joining forces with the Antinori family of Tuscany to help make some of the early vintages of the highly-touted Col Solare wines from 1995 to 1998, Hoppes went on to start started his own brand Fidelitas in 2000. Since then, he has gone on to make a wide range of Cabernet and Merlot-based wines with fruit from revered sites that include the Ciel Du Cheval Vineyard, Quintessence Vineyard, and vines planted on his own estate property in the Red Mountain appellation.

Washington State Wine image courtesy of Andréa Johnson Photography (washingtonwine.org)

This harvest will be Hoppes’s 30th vintage in Washington. From the soil to each bottle he produces, Hoppes says his goal has always been to produce world-class wines with unique flavors. For that reason, he sees great opportunities for red grapes to flourish even more in Red Mountain and the greater Columbia Valley.

“As the vines mature, we’ve started to grow more ultra-premium red grapes that have that true Washington character. For these reasons, it’s great to see other wineries using more artisan winemaking practices to let the flavors speak for themselves.”

With these thoughts in mind, below is a list of some of my favorite picks of Cabernets, Merlots, and Bordeaux-style or Proprietary blends that I’ve tasted over the past year. Stay tuned for my upcoming article on Rhone style wines from Washington State this fall too. In the meantime, for more information about these fantastic styles of wine, upcoming events and travel ideas; check out the Washington State Wine Commission Website, www.washingtonwine.org.

Bordeaux Varieties

Maryhill 2014 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley $20 / 90 pts
Family-owned and operated since 1999, Maryhill was the Winery of the Year at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition in 2014. While they are known for their silky smooth Merlot and many other specialty wines available in restaurants and retail shops across America; one of their small production gems is the 2014 Cabernet Franc, which was made with pristine fruit from the Tudor Hills Vineyard (89%) and Gunkel Vineyard (11%). Accented with fragrant notes of ripe berries, rose petals, cinnamon and clove, the profile is highlighted with vibrant notes of red currant, blueberry, licorice, chocolate, roasted nuts, and layers of spice at the end. Pleasurable on the palate and a compliment to with grilled veggies, pasta, and roasted meats. Great American version of Cabernet Franc, especially for the price! www.maryhillwinery.com.

L’Ecole No 41 2014 Merlot, Estate Grown, Walla Walla Valley $36 / 92 pts
From the time Marty and Megan Clubb produced their inaugural release of Merlot in 1983 to the present, L’Ecole No. 41 has earned a reputation for crafting wines with a brilliant balance of power, elegance and finesse. In keeping with the tradition of being one of Washington State’s top Merlot producers, this new release was made with world-class grapes grown on the hallowed estate grounds at Seven Hills Vineyard and Ferguson Vineyard. Once the cork is popped, the wine soothes the senses with alluring whiffs of dark fruits, allspice, dried lavender and earth tones. The flavors are equally generous with lavish tastes of ripe plum, black cherry, pomegranate, supple texture, and a burst of tangy acidity leading to a long, reward finish. www.lecole.com.

Amavi Cellars 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley $33 / 92 pts
As a special side project Pepper Bridge, one of the pioneer wineries of Washinton State and Walla Walla Valley, a selection of special sites and gifted Swiss Winemaker/Partner Jean-Francois Pellet; this scrumptious new release is made with Cabernet and smaller fractions of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec from a set of sustainably farmed estate vineyards: Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills, Summit View, Les Collines, Octave and Goff. With the use of only 24% new oak barrels, this wine is bursting at the seams with fresh aromas of red and black fruits, cocoa, baking spices, and toasted hazelnuts. On the palate, the dynamic flavors expand with vibrant notes of ripe blackberry, black raspberry, dark cherry, fresh plum and pepper, complimented with velvety tannins and a long, smooth finish. Charming, sophisticated and very food-friendly, it’s a great Cabernet to pair with fine cheeses, grilled veggies, fresh pasta with wild mushrooms, grilled meats and sausages, and savory stews. One of the finest 2014 releases I’ve tasted for under $35 per bottle. One again, proving that quality and price do matter!

Woodward Canyon 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Artist Series #22, Columbia Valley $59 / 94 pts
If you are looking for a sophisticated red wine to share with close friends, family or to simply age in the cellar, then I would suggest getting your hands on some bottles of the Woodward Canyon Artist Series. Located next to the historic L’Ecole No. 42 Schoolhouse and near the quaint town of Lowden in Walla Walla Valley; the proprietors of Woodward Canyon started making this special series of red wines in the 1990s. When I visited the winery at the conclusion of the 2016 harvest, I got to taste the 2013 Artist Series #22, which is made with the high-quality fruit from the estate and other distinguished sites that include Champoux Vineyard, Sagemoor Vineyard, Charbonneau, Discovery, Spring Creek and Summit View. Ensconced with a stylish label featuring a provocative modern painting by local artist Diana Wooley; this gorgeous bottle contains a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. Past the lofty aromas of dark fruits, black olive, licorice and a hint of smoke; the concentrated flavors of ripe blackberries, dark plums, currants and fresh cranberries are integrated masterfully with notes of fresh herbs and spicy oak, fine tannins, rich texture, and a graceful finish. The end result is an expansive wine that becomes even more complex and elegant as it opens up in the glass. A true collectable gem from Washington State.  www.woodwardcanyon.com

Col Solare 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain $75 / 93 pts
Let’s face it: When a big name Italian wine family wants in, you know you’re doing something right. In Washington State, such was the case when the well-respected Antinori family of Tuscany formed a partnership with Chateau Ste. Michelle to make the the first vintage of Col Solare wine with fruit from the Red Mountains region in the 1994. To mark the 20-year anniversary of the brand, the new release is comprised of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot and 2% Syrah. The end result is a powerful, elegant and refined wine highlighted with deep flavors of dark cherry, ripe currents, cassis, cocoa, vanilla and roasted walnuts. To add more complexity, the profile is enhanced with a supple, creamy texture and lingering notes of fresh sage, dried berries and allspice. While this wine is definitely worth cellaring; it’s also admirable it tastes when young, especially when its paired with grilled steaks, rack of lamb, hard cheeses, and flourless chocolate cake with fresh berries.  www.colsolare.com

Betz 2013 Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon $80 / 95 pts
In hindsight, 2013 was an early vintage which meant the pure varietal flavors were balanced with plenty of natural acidity and pH to help create fine tannins and the structural integrity the winemaking team at Betz Family Winery is always gunning for when they start crafting their annual release of the Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon. Stylish, heady and opulent; the profile of this new release is highlighted with floral aromas and deep flavors of ripe blackberry, red currents, blueberry, cassis, crushed peppercorns, lavender and fresh violets. Add in a silky texture, firm tannins and a long, dry finish lifted with subtle nuances of tobacco, leather and fine French oak, and you have a pristine wine that is graceful, seamless and ageworthy. Hands down, one of my favorite Cabs of this past year. www.betzfamilywinery.com

Bordeaux Blend/Proprietary Blends

Bookwalter 2014 Suspense Red Wine, Conner Lee Vineyard, Columbia Valley $60 / 94 pts
Looking for a sexy wine? Then try the Suspense Red Wine from by J. Bookwalter . Crafted by gifted winemaker Caleb Foster, this brilliant blend of Merlot 65% and Cabernet Franc 35% immediately seduces the palate with fragrant scents of wild berries, fresh herbs and spicy cedar. In the glass, the flavors are equally stimulating with deep notes of ripe raspberry, black cherry, huckleberry, black tea, cardamom and dark chocolate. Sexy and debonair from start to finish. In addition to pairing nicely with red meats, rich sauces and blue cheese, this wine is also fun to taste side-by-side with its mate, the J. Bookwalter 2014 Protagonist Red Wine ($60), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and smaller portions of Syrah and Malbec. www.bookwalterwines.com

Hedges Family Estate 2012 Red Mountain Estate Red Wine, Estate Grown, Red Mountain $35 / 92 pts
As in the years past, the core of this flagship wine from Hedges Family Estate is based around Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Merlot (26%), with smaller amounts of Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Interlaced with spicy notes generated by the use of French, American and Hungarian barrels; this stunning wine has a dark purple hue and generous helpings of dark berries, cherry, licorice, savory spices, bright acidity, chewy tannins, and yet still preserves that true sense of place. better yet, the earth tones on the smooth finish also make this a great wine to pair with everything from fine cheeses and risotto with wild mushroom to seared duck breast with a wild berry reduction sauce or slow roasted meats garnered with fresh herbs and savory spices. www.hedgesfamilyestate.com

Fidelitas 2014 Optu Red Wine, Red Mountain $50 / 92 pts
As the signature red wine from Fidelitas Winery, a boutique brand started by longtime winemaker Charlie Hoppes in 2000; this new release is made with 73% Cabernet and smaller lots of Merlot (15%), Petit Verdot (8%) and Cabernet Franc (4%). In the glass, fragrant aromas of ripe red fruits, cocoa, sage and cedar lead to plush layers of black raspberry, dark cherry, blueberry, fresh currants and a kiss of bittersweet chocolate on the finish. To compliment these deep, rich flavors, the tannins are also nicely balanced and the firm structure makes it a great wine to drink young or cellar for more than a decade. www.fidelitaswines.com

Novelty Hill 2014 Cascadia Red Wine, Columbia Valley $50 / 91 pts
This spirited proprietary blend is comprised of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon from Quintessence Vineyard, 45% Merlot and 2% Malbec from the Stillwater Creek Vineyard, and aged in 50% new oak. With a dark purple-blue hue, the wine opens up with a nice mixture of expressive aromas and deep flavors of ripe blackberry, cassis, fresh blueberry, baking spices, roasted espresso, and lovely notes of dark chocolate truffle and fresh sage which gracefully appear on the finish. With a brilliant combination of vibrant acidity, velvety texture and firm structure, this wine is tasting great young and worthy of aging for 10-15 years. www.noveltyhilljnuik.com

Russian River Valley Paulée on Sept 1st at Landmark Vineyards

Start Sonoma County Wine Weekend in style by joining us at the annual Russian River Valley Paulée Dinner at the Landmark Vineyards Hop Kiln Estate on Friday, September 1st, 5 to 8:30 pm. I’ll be there with a rocking group of talented winemakers, winery proprietors, star chefs, and some of the top offerings of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in the United States.
Only a few TICKETS left, get yours before they are gone!

Exploring the Pacific Northwest: White Wines from Washington State

With Washington State Wine Month now in full swing, there’s no better time than the present to check out the refreshing styles of white wines from the Pacific Northwest. With these thoughts in mind, below is a special list of some of my favorite wines I’ve tasted since end of harvest in 2016 to the present. As a primer, here’s a quick overview of what’s happening with white grapes in the state…

As in the years past, Washington’s most popular white grape variety is Riesling, which is used to make dry, off-dry and dessert-style wines. Grown in the cool-climate conditions of the Puget Sound near Seattle and the greater Columbia Valley in the southeastern part of the state, the fruit is known for its expressive aromas and lively flavors of apricot, peach and ripe apple. For these reasons, Riesling continues to be the most widely planted grape in the state and represented 22.2% or 50,500 tons of grapes crushed in 2014.

Although Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are very important varieties in Washington, the second most popular grape is still Chardonnay, which represented 19.3% or 43,800 tons crushed in 2014. Not surprising, the vast majority of the vines are planted in the Columbia Valley, which shares similar latitude with the famous Chardonnay vineyards in the Burgundy region of France. Therefore, instead of being rich, buttery and oaky, the Chardonnays tend to be more crisp and delicate with lively flavors of apple, citrus, and tropical notes.

While Pinot Gris (4%), Sauvignon Blanc (3%) and Gewurztraminer (1.6%) round out the Top 5 grape varieties planted in the state; it’s also exciting to note that the remaining 2.4% of the white grapes includes a diverse mixture of Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Chenin Blanc, Madeleine Angevine, Siegerebbe, Muller Thurgau, Orange Muscat, Muscat Canelli, Muscat Ottonel and Aligote. Once again proof that the vintners and growers of Washington are willing to go off the beaten path to experiment with a wide range of grapes that can perform well in the specialty soils and climate conditions that set the state apart from other winegrowing regions in America and beyond.

In keeping with popular styles of Washington cuisine, here are some of my favorite food picks to pair with flavorful white wines produced in the state: fresh oysters; steamed artichokes served with citrus-based aioli sauce; seasonal soups; specialty salads made with kale or arugala; fresh scallop with fruit salsa; pan-seared white fish with a squeeze of lemon; herb roasted chicken with parsnip puree; Indian and Pan-Asian cuisine.

SawyerSomm: Flavorful White Wine Picks
from Washington State 2017

Bookwalter 2015 Riesling, Bacchus Vineyard, Columbia Valley ($18) / 93 Pts

Made with the specialty Neustadt clone of Riesling, here’s a classic example of the Washington State style from J. Bookwalter Winery. With fresh floral aromas, the lively flavors of ripe pear, green apple and citrus are complimented with notes of grapefruit, honey and cinnamon as the wine opens up in the glass. Couple this with silky texture, vibrant acidity and a long elegant finish; the end result is a well-crafted wine that is ripe, sexy and refreshing. As a side note: I’d also recommend trying the J. Bookwalter Chenin Blanc ($26), which I truly believe is one of the finest offerings made with this aromatic grape variety outside France’s Loire Valley. Located at winery in Richland, their delightful on-site restaurant, Fiction at Bookwalter, rocks too! www.bookwalterwines.com

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley ($22) / 92 Pts

Despite being the hottest year on record in Washington State, the 2015 vintage will be remembered for producing a dazzling range of white wines that made an immediate impact in the marketplace. An excellent example is the Eroica Riesling, a special collaboration by talented winemakers Bob Bertheau of Chateau St. Michelle and Ernst Loosen of Mosel in Germany. Layered primarily with pristine fruit from the Evergreen Vineyard in Yakima Valley; this spirited young wine features lifted aromas and vibrant flavors of ripe peach, exotic melon, raw coconut, orange blossom, fresh lime, mineral and white truffle; bright acidity; and a clean, crisp finish. As concluded at our special seminar at Sunset Magazine earlier this year, this wine can go head to head with the finest Rieslings in the world. A true signature wine of Washington State. www.ste-michelle.com

CMS 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Washington State $15 / 89 pts

Crafted by gifted winemaker Sarah Hedges Goedhat and the team at Hedges Winery in Benton City, the fruit for this unique white wine was mainly grown on the famed Wahluke Slope and specialty sites in Yakima Valley. To compliment the fresh, acid-driven flavors of Sauvignon Blanc, smaller percentages of Chardonnay and Marsanne were added to create more complexity, mouthfeel and texture. As a result, this energetic wine stimulates the senses with notes of crisp green apple, tart lemon, pineapple upside down cake, roasted almonds, racy acidity, and a long, dry finish. Elegant and refreshing from start to finish. www.hedgesfamilyestate.com

L’Ecole No. 41 2015 Estate Luminescence, Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley ($22) / 92 Pts

As one of the premiere white wine producers in the US, L’Ecole has been making this fascinating blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc since 2007. Therefore, from the moment the cork is popped, this new release immediately draws attention with fresh aromas of ripe tropical fruits, honeysuckle, mineral and spring flowers. Same is true on the palate, which is filled with delicious notes of fresh quince, exotic melon, poached pear, guava and rich texture leading to a long elegant finish. Captivating, complex and a real steal for the price. www.lecole.com

Lauren Ashton 2014 Roussanne, Columbia Valley ($25) / 91 Pts

Following his passion to make his own signature style of world-class, Seattle-based dentist Kit Singh founded Lauren Ashton Cellars in Woodinville in 2009. Through the years, the winery has gained a reputation for producing a brilliant range of high-quality red and white wines which pair extremely well with fine cuisine. As tasted with Kit and his wife at Riinu at RN74 in Seattle, one of the new gems is the 2014 Roussanne. With a light golden hue and fragrant aromas, this lovely wine features lively notes of fresh stone fruits, peach and citrus interlaced with hints of chamomile and mineral; a burst of perky acidity; and a tangy finish that refreshes the palate after each sip. Overall, a fantastic example of the aromatic, energetic and thought-provoking Rhone-style whites coming out of Washington State! www.laurenashtoncellars.com

Game faces! With Corey Braunel and Chad Johnson, the proprietors of Dusted Valley Winery, getting ready to taste the 2015 Chardonnay and other tasty wines from their portfolio at the Dusted Valley Tasting Room in Walla Walla Valley.

Dusted Valley 2015 Chardonnay, Olsen Vineyard, Yakima Valley ($34) / 92 Pts

With so many buttery Chardonnays in the marketplace, it’s great when you find one that draws your attention with a bounty of fresh aromas and fruit-driven flavors. From the high-elevation Olsen Vineyard in Yakima Valley, this new release from Dusted Valley is an excellent example of this style. To capture the purity of the flavors, the wine was aged primarily in neutral barrels, stainless steel and concrete eggs. In the glass, this attention to detail shows with delicate notes of fresh Anjou pear, white peach, grapefruit, zippy acidity, and subtle nuances of wet stones and spice. Fabulous by itself or with fresh fish, herb-roasted chicken or grilled pork chops with a squeeze of lemon. www.dustedvalley.com

Woodward 2015 Chardonnay, Washington State ($44) / 94 Pts

Meticulously crafted with premium grapes planted at the Woodward Canyon Estate in Walla Walla Valley and the Celilo Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge appellation, here’s a sophisticated wine for Chardonnay lovers. Led by tantalizing aromas of stone fruits, caramel, mineral and roasted hazelnuts, the wine opens up with rich flavors of Asian pear, baked apple, ginger spice, lemon rind, vanilla and nutmeg. Well-balanced with a silky, suede-like texture, vibrant acidity and a lingering finish, not only is this a sexy wine right out of the gate, but its one those gems that will reveal more of its natural personality and style when decanted or aged in the cellar for 5-10 years. Exquisite! www.woodwardcanyon.com

Owen Roe 2015 Chardonnay, DuBrul Vineyard, Yakima Valley ($48) / 93 Pts

Located on a sloping hillside along the western edge of Yakima Valley, the DuBrul Vineyard is known for growing world-class Chardonnay grapes bursting at the seams with a complex flavors, natural acidity and distinct characteristics based on where the vines are planted on the property. To capture this profile in the bottle, the team at Owen Roe takes a hand-off approach to let the vineyard speak for itself. The latest case in point is the stylish offering from the 2015 vintage. Anchored around the lively notes of fresh white peach, fresh pineapple, lemon and exotic melons, generated by the vines planted at the lower elevation; the flavors are further enhanced with subtle nuances of wild herbs, ginger, citrus, mineral and vibrant acidity from the higher blocks; and rounded out with creamy texture and a subtle kiss of oak that makes every sip count. www.owenroe.com

Novelty Hill 2014 Late Harvest Semillon, Stillwater Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley ($25) / 92 Pts

If you’re looking for dessert wine with personality and style, check out this limited-release Late Harvest Semillon from Novelty Hill. After gaining a reputation for crafting an expansive series of award-winning red, white and dessert wines during his tenure as head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle in the 1990s, Mike Januik began developing his Januik and Novelty Hill labels in 1999. And although he has make two sweet wines under his Januik label, the Bacchus Vineyard Riesling and the Champoux Vineyard Muscat Canelli; the 2014 Late Harvest Semillon is only the third release made with precious fruit from his family’s Stillwater Creek Vineyard (2007 and 2011 were the others). Aged in French barrels, the wine immediately dazzles the senses with aromas of fresh flowers, ripe tree fruits and beeswax. In the glass, the flavors are ripe, deep and explosive, with layers of pear, peaches, mango, citrus, ripe fig, and a lengthy finish that is rich and vivacious instead of being too sweet or cloying. Graceful and satisfying in every sip, it’s a great wine to enjoy by the fire or serve with tangy cheeses, Key Lime Pie and a myriad of other fruit-based desserts. www.noveltyhilljanuik.com

Bounty of Yamhill County: August 25-27

And now for another extraordinary event originating in Oregon this week!  Bounty of Yamhill County (BOYC) in the Willamette Valley is a three-day annual event that celebrates the vibrant community of famous wineries, celebrated chefs, and sustainable family farms. No other locally sourced food and wine event can boast such nationally-recognized participants.

Check the schedule of events and get tickets HERE!

Pinot Tasting, Thurs August 24 at Gravenstein Grill!

Join me at Gravenstein Grill this coming Thursday August 24th, 5-6:30pm, for an outdoor wine tasting on the Bartlett Bar Patio for “Drink This! The Passion of Pinot” wine tasting event.  Call to reserve your spot 707-634-6142 ($10/person)

Participating Wineries:
Bacigalupi Vineyards
Balletto Vineyards & Winery
Friedeman Wines
Davis Bynum Winery
Radio Coteau Winery
Halleck Vineyard
Joseph Jewell Wines

Washington State Wine Month: Let the celebration begin!

Go north my friends! Each August, members of the Washington State Wine Commission celebrate the countdown to harvest with Washington State Wine Month, an interactive set of wine events and promotions designed to showcase the unique characteristics of the wide range of flavorful offerings made with premium grapes grown throughout the state.

In keeping with the theme, SawyerSomm decided there was no better time than the present to do a series of wine education posts focused on lessons learned from my visits to Seattle, Woodinville, Walla Walla Valley and the greater Columbia Valley appellation over the past year.

To get you started, below is a quick summary of the winegrowing areas of Washington State. Stay tuned for The Sommelier Files reviews on some of their hip new white wines, red wines and dessert wines; reports on the progression of the up-and-coming appellations; introductions to the people behind the brands; food and lodging tips for your next trip to the state of Washington; and much more!

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(Left to Right) A view from the fountain at Hedges Winery; Map of the Red Mountain Appellation; Paired wine dinner with Januik & Novelty Hill; Vineyard expanse at Hedges Winery

Exploring the Pacific Northwest: Compelling info on Washington State Wines

Atop the Pacific Northwest, Washington State has a rich history of growing wine grapes dating back to 1825. Many of the original grapes were American native varieties or hybrids planted along the Puget Sound between Seattle and Olympia and the more isolated Walla Walla Valley in the southeast part of the state. Consequently, it wasn’t until the 1960s that the first wave of the modern-day winemaking pioneers began putting more emphasis on planting popular varieties like Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.

The largest appellation is the Columbia Valley, which covers 11-million acres east of the Cascade Mountains. Within these borders are the sub-appellations of Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope, Red Mountain, Columbia Gorge, Rattlesnake Hills, Snipes Mountain, Lake Chelan, Naches Heights, and Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley. Together, the region represents 99% of the premium vineyards planted in Washington.

A very special Syrah block in the Rocks AVA of Walla Walla Valley.

With dry, high desert conditions, the region averages less than ten inches of rainfall per year. So instead, the critical water supply for the vineyards is generated by the melting snow caps from the mountains. The combination of an icy winter and a high concentration of sandy and rocky soils also make the conditions ideal for naturally defending against phylloxera, a lethal vine louse, which commonly requires the use of special root stocks in California and Oregon. Therefore, a large percentage of the vines in Washington are own-rooted and many of the vineyards are farmed with state-of-the-art machine harvesters.

On the western side of the state near Seattle, the Puget Sound appellation is a much cooler and wetter area which specializes in more unique grape varieties like Madeleine Angevine, Siegerebbe and Muller Thurgau, as well as promising newer plantings of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.

With over 50,000 acres of vineyards planted, Washington now ranks second in the United States for premium wine production. It’s a huge step forward over the past two decades—especially when you consider that there were only 17,100 acres planted in 1997. As a result, the state now features over 900 wineries and 350 vineyards that are home to world-class grapes.

But make no mistake, Washington cannot be defined by a single grape or even a group of grapes. Therefore, while it’s true Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling and Chardonnay account for over 75 percent of the vineyards and wine production in the state; there are currently more than 30 varieties planted and experimentation continues.

“Diversity is what it’s all about here in Washington State,” says winemaker Scott Moeller, who works with Pacific Northwest wine legend Mike Januik and his son Andrew at Novelty Hill-Januik and the winery’s cutting-edge tasting room and production facility in Woodinville, which is just 25-minutes northeast of Seattle.

…Stay tuned for more SawyerSomm details about what is hot in Washington State in 2017 and beyond!

And the winner is . . . Mendocino County Wine Competition!

On a rainy summer day in Booneville my fellow judges and I were able to taste rounds of spectacular wines!  The results are in, sprinkled with a few fun photos from our endeavors at the 39th annual Mendocino County Fair Wine Competition.  Enjoy!

BEST OF SHOW RED WINE & Best of Class (Pinot Noir 2015 & 2016) & Double Gold
2015 Lazy Creek Vineyards Pinot Noir, Middle Ridge Ranch, Anderson Valley – $50.00

BEST OF SHOW WHITE WINE & Best of Class (Blended White) & Double Gold
2016 Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker, Anderson Valley – $16.00

BEST OF SHOW ROSÉ WINE & Best of Class (Blush and Rosé) & Double Gold
2016 Navarro Vineyards Rosé, Mendocino – $17.50

BEST OF SHOW SPARKLING WINE & Best of Class (Sparkling Wine) & Double Gold
NV Roederer Estate Sparkling Rosé, Anderson Valley – $29.00

BEST OF SHOW DESSERT WINE & Best of Class (Dessert Wines) & Double Gold
2016 Navarro Vineyards Riesling Cluster Select, Late Harvest, Anderson Valley – $69.00
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BEST OF CLASS (Blended Red) & Double Gold
2013 Alder Springs Vineyard 13 Tasks, Blended Red, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $45.00

BEST OF CLASS (Chardonnay 2015) & Double Gold
2015 Meyer Family Cellars Chardonnay, Donnelly Creek, Anderson Valley – $28.00

BEST OF CLASS (Chardonnay 2016) & Double Gold
2016 Navarro Vineyards Chardonnay Premiere Reserve, Anderson Valley – $27.00

BEST OF CLASS (Gewurztraminer) & Gold
2016 Navarro Vineyards Gewurztraminer Deep End Blend, Anderson Valley – $29.00

BEST OF CLASS (Italian Red) & Double Gold
2014 Campovida Nero D’ Avola, Mendocino County – $38.00

BEST OF CLASS (Other Red Varietals) & Double Gold
2014 Backbone Vineyard & Winery Malbec, Dry farmed without chemicals of any kind, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Mendocino County – $55.00

BEST OF CLASS (Other White Varietals) & Double Gold
2015 Graziano Chenin Blanc, Mendocino County – $15.00

BEST OF CLASS (Petite Sirah) & Double Gold
2015 Powicana Farm Petite Sirah, Single Vineyard, No Sulfites Added, Vinted and Bottled, Redwood Valley – $32.00

BEST OF CLASS (Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio) & Double Gold
2016 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Grigio, Anderson Valley – $16.00

BEST OF CLASS (Pinot Noir 2014) & Double Gold
2014 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $32.00

BEST OF CLASS (Riesling) & Double Gold
2016 Handley Cellars Riesling, Anderson Valley – $22.00

BEST OF CLASS (Sauvignon Blanc) & Double Gold
2016 Bliss Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Mendocino – $11.99

BEST OF CLASS (Zinfandel 2014) & Double Gold
2014 Carol Shelton Wines Wild Thing Zinfandel, Old Vine, Mendocino County – $19.00

BEST OF CLASS (Zinfandel 2015 and 2016) & Double Gold
2015 Jaxon Keys Winery Zinfandel, Mae’s Block, Mendocino – $32.00
_____

DOUBLE GOLD

2014 Barra of Mendocino Petite Sirah, Estate Grown/Made with organic grapes, Barrel Aged, Mendocino County – $22.00

2016 Bonterra Organic Vineyards Viognier, Mendocino – $14.99

2015 Bonterra Organic Vineyards Zinfandel, Mendocino – $16.99

2015 Carol Shelton Wines Wild Thing Zinfandel, Old Vine, Mendocino County – $19.00

2013 Cesar Toxqui Cellars Petite Sirah, Mendocino County – $26.00

2014 Domaine Anderson Pinot Noir, Estate, Anderson Valley – $39.00

2016 Enotria Moscato, Mendocino County – $11.00

2015 Ferrari-Carano Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $38.00

2015 Ferrari-Carano Pinot Noir, Sky High Ranch, Mendocino Ridge – $52.00

2013 Graziano Petite Sirah, Mendocino County – $19.00

2016 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Anderson Valley – $20.00

2016 Handley Cellars Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley – $20.00

2014 Handley Cellars Petite Sirah, Vittorio Vineyard, Redwood Valley – $25.00

2014 Handley Cellars Primitivo, Vittorio Vineyard, Redwood Valley – $25.00

2016 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Rosé, Estate, Anderson Valley – $25.00

2016 Hawley Zinfandel, Old Vine, Mendocino County – $25.00

2015 Husch Zinfandel, Old Vine, Garzini Ranch, Mendocino  – $25.00

2015 Husch Chardonnay, Mendocino – $15.00

2016 Husch Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Estate Bottled, Anderson Valley  – $18.00

2015 Jaxon Keys Winery Petite Sirah, Mendocino – $28.00

2015 Jaxon Keys Winery Grenache, Mendocino – $26.00

2014 Maggy Hawk Jolie Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $66.00

2014 McNab Petite Sirah, Mendocino County – $18.00

2015 Monte Volpe Nube Bianco, Italian White Blend, Potter Valley – $18.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Mourvedre, Mendocino – $29.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Syrah, Mendocino – $27.00

2016 Navarro Vineyards Muscat Blanc, Estate Bottled, Anderson Valley – $19.50

2016 Navarro Vineyards Riesling, Late Harvest, Anderson Valley – $49.00

2013 Parducci Small Lot Petite Sirah, Mendocino County – $13.99

2015 Pennyroyal Farm Chardonnay, Barrel Fermented, Hammer Olsen, Anderson Valley – $35.00

2014 Seebass Family Wines Grand Reserve Syrah, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $47.00

2014 Testa Vineyards Petite Sirah, Estate Wine, Mendocino County – $30.00

2013 Testa Vineyards Carignane, Estate, Mendocino County – $30.00
_____

GOLD

2013 Alder Springs Vineyard Apex 39, Blended White, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $39.00

2013 Alder Springs Vineyard Kinesis, Blended Red, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $45.00

2014 Artevino Pinot Noir, Green Ranch, Anderson Valley – $40.00

2015 Artezin Zinfandel, Mendocino County – $18.00

2016 Blue Quail Dry Gewurztraminer, Potter Valley – $18.00

2015 Blue Quail Pinot Noir, Estate Grown, Potter Valley – $24.00

2016 Briceland Vineyards Arneis, Spirit Canyon Vineyard, Mendocino County – $21.00

2014 Campovida Grenache, Mendocino County – $42.00

2016 Carol Shelton Wines Wild Thing Rendezvous Rosé, Mendocino County – $15.00

2015 Graziano Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County  – $15.00

2013 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Merlot, Estate Bottled, Mendocino Ridge – $29.00

2014 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $35.00

2015 Handley Cellars Chardonnay, Estate, Anderson Valley – $25.00

2016 Handley Cellars Gewurztraminer, Estate, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2015 Handley Cellars Blanc de Blancs, Estate Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $52.00

2014 Handley Cellars Zinfandel, Redwood Valley – $25.00

2016 Handley Cellars Pinot Blanc, Mendocino County – $22.00

2014 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, Yorkville Highlands – $37.00

2014 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, RSM Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $52.00

2015 Husch Pinot Noir, Estate Bottled, Anderson Valley – $25.00

2016 Husch Gewurztraminer, Sustainably Farmed, Estate Bottled, Anderson Valley – $15.00

2013 Husch Pinot Noir, Estate Bottled, Knoll, Anderson Valley – $40.00

2014 Husch Pinot Noir, Reserve, Estate Bottled, Anderson Valley – $38.00

2016 Jaxon Keys Winery Rosé, Mendocino County – $20.00

NV Jaxon Keys Winery JaxZin, Mendocino – $28.00

2015 Jaxon Keys Winery Primitivo, Mendocino – $26.00

2015 Jaxon Keys Winery Zinfandel, Brandy Barrel Aged, Mendocino – $39.99

2016 Lazy Creek Vineyards Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2015 Lazy Creek Vineyards Pinot Noir, Five Barrel, Anderson Valley – $85.00

2015 Lazy Creek Vineyards Pinot Noir, Estate, Anderson Valley – $58.00

2014 Lula Cellars Pinot Noir, Peterson Vineyard, Mendocino County – $45.00

2014 Maggy Hawk Graceful Lady Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $66.00

2014 Maggy Hawk Stormin’ Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $66.00

NV McFadden Cuvee Brut, Methose Champenoise,  Potter Valley – $25.00

2014 McNab Pinotage, Napoli Vineyard, Mendocino County – $20.00

2015 Parducci Small Lot Chardonnay, Mendocino County – $13.99

2015 Parducci True Grit Reserve Chardonnay, Mendocino County – $17.99

2015 Powicana Farm Petite Sirah Port, Single Vineyard, No Sulfites Added, Vinted and Bottled, Redwood Valley – $31.00

2013 Meyer Family Cellars Syrah, Yorkville Highlands – $28.00

2016 Navarro Vineyards Muscat Blanc Cluster Select, Late Harvest, Anderson Valley – $69.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir Methode a l’Ancienne, Unfiltered, Anderson Valley – $35.00

2016 Navarro Vineyards Gewurztraminer, Estate Bottled, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Zinfandel, Mendocino – $19.50

2016 Navarro Vineyards Chardonnay Table Wine, Mendocino – $16.00

2016 Navarro Vineyards Chardonnay, Mendocino – $19.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Barbera, Mendocino – $27.00

2015 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2016 Navarro Vineyards Riesling, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2015 Saint Gregory Pinot Meunier, Mendocino County – $20.00

2013 Saint Gregory Pinotage, Napoli Vineyard, Mendocino County – $20.00

2014 Saint Gregory Pinot Noir, Mendocino County – $20.00

NV Scharffenberger Brut, Methode Champenoise, Anderson Valley – $20.00

2015 Seebass Family Wines Grand Reserve Chardonnay, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $38.00

2015 Shooting Star Chardonnay, Mendocino County – $14.00

2016 Tahto Sauvignon Blanc, Bauer, Mendocino County – $16.00

2014 Tahto Carignane, Piffero, Mendocino County – $16.00

2014 The Withers Winery Pinot Noir, Charles Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $44.00

2014 WindRacer Chardonnay, Anderson Valley – $40.00

2013 Y. Rousseau Tannat “The Musketeer”, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino County – $65.00

2015 Zina Hyde Cunningham Chardonnay, Reserve, Anderson Valley – $54.00
_____

SILVER

2013 Alder Springs Vineyard Syrah, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $45.00

2013 Alder Springs Vineyard Chardonnay, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $39.00

2016 Barra of Mendocino Pinot Noir Rosé, Mendocino – $18.00

2015 Barra of Mendocino Pinot Noir, Made with organically grown grapes, Estate, Mendocino County – $20.00

2014 Bells Echo Vineyard Syrah, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $30.00

2014 Bells Echo Vineyard Interlude Blended Red, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $32.00

2015 Bliss Family Vineyards Merlot, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Mendocino – $11.99

2016 Bliss Family Vineyards Rosé, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Mendocino – $11.99

2015 Bliss Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Mendocino – $11.99

2014 Bliss Family Vineyards Zinfandel, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Mendocino – $11.99

2015 Bliss Family Vineyards Pinot Noir, Mendocino – $14.99

2016 Blue Quail Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Grown, Potter Valley – $16.00

2016 Blue Quail Fontaine Dry Rosé, Potter Valley – $16.00

2016 Blue Quail Pinot Gris, Potter Valley – $16.00

2016 Blue Quail Dry Riesling, Potter Valley – $18.00

2013 Bonterra Organic Vineyards The Butler, Blended Red, Mendocino – $58.00

2013 Bonterra Organic Vineyards The McNab, Blended Red, Mendocino – $58.00

2015 Briceland Vineyards Zinfandel, Unfined & unfiltered, Dark Horse Vineyard, Mendocino County – $25.00

2014 Briceland Vineyards Syrah, Unfined & unfiltered, Dark Horse Vineyard, Mendocino County – $28.00

2014 Brutocao Family Vineyards Torrent, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Hopland Ranches, Mendocino – $32.00

2015 Brutocao Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Hopland Ranches, Mendocino – $18.00

2013 Brutocao Family Vineyards Primitivo, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Contento Vineyard, Mendocino – $26.00

2015 Cakebread Cellars Pinot Noir, Estate, Two Creek Vineyards, Anderson Valley – $43.00

2016 Campovida Rosé di Grenache, Trail’s End Vineyard, Potter Valley – $34.00

2015 Domaine Anderson Chardonnay, Estate, Anderson Valley – $29.00

2013 Enotria Dolcetto, Mendocino County – $19.00

2016 Fletcher Louis Sangiovese Rosado Rosé, Redwood Valley – $18.00

2013 Floyd and Eddie Pinot Noir, Estate Vineyards, Mendocino – $21.00

2016 Floyd and Eddie Dry Rosé, Barrel Fermented, Mendocino – $17.50

2015 Frey Biodynamic Zinfandel, Mendocino – $20.00

2015 Frey Biodynamic Chardonnay, No Sulfites Added, Mendocino – $16.50

2015 Frey Organic Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County – $14.00

2015 Girasole Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Made with organically grown grapes, Estate, Mendocino County – $14.00

2016 Girasole Vineyards Chardonnay, Made with organic grapes, Estate Grown, Mendocino County – $14.00

2016 Girasole Vineyards Sangiovese, Made with organically grown grapes, Estate Grown, Mendocino County – $14.00

2013 Graziano Zinfandel, Reserve, Mendocino County – $28.00

2016 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Riesling, Mendocino Ridge – $20.00

2014 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir, Estate Bottled, Mendocino Ridge – $33.00

2014 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel, Mendocino – $24.00

2014 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel, Reserve, Mendocino – $32.00

2014 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Merlot, Estate, Mendocino Ridge – $29.00

2014 Handley Cellars Syrah, Kismet Vineyard, Redwood Valley – $25.00

2014 Handley Cellars Red Table Wine, Vittorio Vineyard, Redwood Valley – $25.00

2014 Handley Cellars Ranch House Red, Mendocino County – $25.00

2014 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, Estate Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $47.00

2014 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, Helluva Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $42.00

2016 Handley Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2010 Harmonique Delicacé Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $46.00

2010 Harmonique Elegancé Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $48.00

2016 Husch Renegade Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Mendocino – $18.00

2016 Husch Chenin Blanc, Sustainably Farmed, Mendocino – $13.00

2015 Husch Special Reserve Chardonnay, Estate Bottled, Mendocino – $26.00

2014 Husch Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino – $25.00

2016 Husch Sauvignon Blanc, Sustainably Farmed, Mendocino – $15.00

2015 Jaxon Keys Winery Red Blend- GPS, Mendocino – $28.00

2016 Jaxon Keys Winery Farmhouse White, Mendocino – $14.99

2016 Jaxon Keys Winery Viognier, Mendocino – $24.00

2016 Jeriko Estate Sangiovese, Upper Russian River, Mendocino County – $32.00

2016 Lazy Creek Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2014 Lula Cellars Pinot Noir, Costa Vineyard, Mendocino County – $45.00

2014 Lula Cellars Pinot Noir, Docker Hill Vineyard, Mendocino County – $50.00

2015 Maple Creek Estate Chardonnay, Maple Creek Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands – $40.00

2014 McNab Zinfandel, Cononiah Vineyards Family Reserve, Mendocino County – $26.00

2014 McNab Cabernet Sauvignon, Family Reserve – Largo, Mendocino County – $30.00

2012 Meyer Family Cellars Petite Sirah, Yorkville Highlands – $35.00

2013 Meyer Family Cellars High Ground Syrah, Reserve, Yorkville Highlands – $42.00

2015 Monte Volpe Vesuvius, Blended White, Potter Valley – $18.00

2013 Monte Volpe Peppolino, Italian Red Blend, Mendocino County – $28.00

2013 Monte Volpe Negroamaro, Mendocino County – $28.00

2013 Monte Volpe Sangiovese, Mendocino County – $19.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Grenache, Mendocino – $27.00

2016 Navarro Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2016 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley – $19.50

2016 Navarro Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Anderson Valley – $19.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir, Deep End Blend, Anderson Valley – $55.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Zinfandel, Old Vine, Mendocino – $27.00

2014 Parducci Small Lot Merlot, Mendocino County  – $13.99

2013 Parducci True Grit Reserve Red Blend, Mendocino County – $19.99

2014 Parducci Small Lot Pinot Noir, Mendocino County – $14.99

2015 Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County – $19.99

2014 Pennyroyal Farm Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $39.00

2015 Pennyroyal Farm Sauvignon Blanc, Anderson Valley – $25.00

2015 Philo Ridge Vineyards Pinot Gris, Unoaked, Helluva Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $19.00

2012 Philo Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir, Unfined & Unfiltered, Marguerite Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $50.00

2013 Row 5 Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $29.00

2015 Saint Gregory Pinot Blanc, Mendocino County – $15.00

2011 Seebass Family Wines Grand Reserve Chardonnay, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $41.95

2013 Seebass Family Wines Romantik, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $35.00

2016 Seebass Family Wines Rosé of Grenache “Fantasie”, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $35.00

2013 Steele Wines Zinfandel, Single Vineyard, Pacini Vineyard, Mendocino County – $18.00

2016 Tahto Rosé, Trail’s End, Mendocino County – $16.00

2014 Tahto Zinfandel, Piffero, Mendocino County – $20.00

2016 Terroir 95470 Rosé, Redwood Valley – $16.00

2016 Terroir 95470 Sauvignon Blanc, Redwood Valley – $16.00

2013 Terroir 95470 SangioRosso Blended Red, Redwood Valley – $16.00

2014 Testa Vineyards Black, Mendocino County – $25.00

2016 Testa Vineyards Rosé, Mendocino County – $18.00

2014 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Single Vineyard, Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $47.00

2014 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Single Vineyard, Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County – $45.00

2014 WindRacer Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $50.00

2014 Zina Hyde Cunningham Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $58.00

Enjoy More Zin at the Simply Summer Celebration, August 13th!

Follow up the Zin Zin Din Din with a cool (air-conditioned) weekend outing! Head to Trentadue Winery in Geyserville for the Simply Summer Celebration to continue celebrating Zinfadel of Northern Sonoma County, pairing the widest range of foods, while showcasing the unlimited expressions of taste.  Mark your calendar for this coming Sunday, August 13th, from 12:30-3:30.

There you will find. . .
~More than 60 wineries from all over California
~A chance to meet celebrity winemakers
~BBQ meal selections available for purchase by Cochon Volant
~Free dessert samples by Sonoma Cake Creations
~Ticket includes admittance, wine tasting, and ZAP logo wine glass

See you there! Christopher

The Menu! Zin Zin Din Din on August 10th

Join us for this spectacular Zinfandel paired meal by myself and Executive Chef Bob Simontacchi at Gravenstein Grill in Sebastopol,  Thursday, August 10th, at 6:30!  To make reservations phone: (707) 634-6142 or email: brandon@gravensteingrill.com

Bing Cherry Salad
Local Pepper Cress, Fresh Shaved Corn, Torpedo Onion, Rice Wine Vinaigrette
ACORN 2012 Medley, Alegria Vineyard, Russian River Valley

Walnut Keep Pork Sugo
Local Pork Shoulder Slowly Braised with Tomatoes, Onions, Peppers, & Fennel over Crisped Yukon Gold Potato & Chive Gnocchi
Hartford Family 2015 Zinfandel, Russian River Valley

“BBQ” Duck Confit
Cured Duck Legs Pulled & Tossed in Honey-Bourbon BBQ Sauce over
Creamy White Cheddar & Scallion Polenta
Gordian Knot 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel, Winberrie Vineyard, Russian River Valley

Applewood Smoked Short Rib
Sugar & Salt Crusted Short Rib slow smoked, served with Heirloom Peppers in Creamed Corn with Crispy Shallots
Gamba 2014 Zinfandel, Family Ranches, Russian River Valley

Stone Fruit Galette
Organic Local Stone Fruit, Sweetened Whipped Mascarpone with Vanilla Bean

Gravenstein Grill, 8050 Bodega Avenue, Sebastopol, California 95472
(707) 634-6142

IPNC 2017 Grand Seminar Featuring French Winemakers of Oregon & Their Wines!

Continuing my reflection on The French Adventurers: Burgundians Making Pinot Noir in Oregon, the Grand Seminar event at the 31st Annual International Pinot Noir Celebration, some background on French-born winemakers Dominique Lafon, Alexandrine Roy, Jacques Lardiere and Jean-Nicolas Méo.  As well as some reviews of their exciting Oregon wines!


Dominique Lafon – Lingua Franca, Eola-Amity Hills

As the namesake, wine director, and winemaker of one of the great estates of Meursault, Dominique is a descendant of Jules Lafon, who created the revered wine festival, La Paulée.  After taking over the family’s winery in the 80s, Dominique revitalized its red and white winemaking approach in the 1990s.  As an adventurer, Dominique’s first visits to the Willamette Valley occurred in the 1990s.  And as the connections between Oregon and Burgundy became stronger, he fell in love with the property that eventually became the Seven Springs Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills, which is now home to the base fruit that he and partners Master Sommelier Larry Stone, co-winemaker Thomas Savre and CFO David Honig work with for the Lingua Franca label.

Lingua Franca 2015 Joshua, Junichi & Siri, Ribbon Ridge – 92 pts
The name of this wine is a tribute to the valiant workers who made this vintage happen in 2015.  This full-bodied wine starts with alluring aromas of black raspberry, cherry and earth, which lead to expressive flavors of ripe berries, black plum, a kiss of French oak, and a long dry finish. $50

Lingua Franca 2015 Mimi’s Mind, Eola-Amity Hills – 94 pts
Named after Mimi Casteel of Bethel Height Winery and Vineyard, founded in theEola-Amity Hills in 1977; this special vineyard selection included a percentage of whole clusters, which added more layers of flavor, structure and balance to the finished wine. The end result is a very complex Pinot Noir with concentrated notes of blackberry, cola root, dried strawberry, fresh violets and lavender. Still very young, but deep, dense and rewarding. $90.

Alexandrine Roy – Phelps Creek Vineyard, Hood River

As proprietor, winemaker, and the fourth-generation member of a family that has been farming in the famed Burgundy region of Gevrey-Chambertin, Alexandrine Roy of Domaine Marc Roy made her first visit to IPNC in 2004. Three years later she met Bob Morus, who was starting an adventurous Pinot Noir program in the Columbia Gorge, a few hours east of Portland. After being approached by Bob, Alexandrine was hesitant about taking part in the project since she was committed to making wine in Burgundy.  But after seeing the beautiful property near the quaint town of Hood River and realizing there was nearly a month between harvest dates in Europe (early September) and Oregon (early October); she agreed to take part in this unique project. Today, Alexandrine crafts the Philips Creek Pinot Noir primarily with grapes from the Pommard vines that are influenced by the volcanic soils, warm days and chilly nights. “My goal is to make something distinctive that expresses the site I’m working with,” says Roy.

Phelps Creek Vineyards 2014 Cuvée Alexandrine, Columbia Gorge / $54 – 92 pts
Complex wine with rich flavors of dark fruits, wild berries, fresh fungi and a true sense of this special site influenced by the surrounding forest, volcanic soils and moderate temperature in the area of Hood River, Oregon.

Phelps Creek Vineyards 2013 Cuvée Alexandrine, Columbia Gorge / $54 – 94 pts
Although 2013 was a challenging vintage in western Oregon, the pristine blocks of the Pommard grapes planted inland on the 34-acre Phelps Creek Vineyard near the small town of Hood River had a long, balanced ripening season. The end result shows in this elegant wine layered with generous flavors of ripe red fruits, wild strawberry, rhubarb, mineral, earth tones and rustic spices. In the end, the only downside to this wine is the fact that it’s still rather young and taunt. For that reason, decant if serving it over the next couple years or simply age in the cellar for up to 15 years.

Jacques Lardiere, Resonance Vineyard, Yamhill-Carlton

Jacque Lardiere is a stud, but you’d never know it at first glance. With a full head of white hair, he’s a fun man to be around. But when you bring up the topic of Pinot Noir, you quickly realize the advantage he had working with prestigious grape at Maison Louis Jadot near Beaune for 37 years  when he talks about working with fruit in Willamette Valley. For that reason, Jacque has a very Burgundian approach to the wines he makes under the new Resonance Vineyard label started in the small Yamhill-Carlton AVA in 2013. Today, Jacque and his team work with a 12-acre parcel near the quaint town of Yamhill and currently rent space from James Frey at Trisaetum Winery.  But plans are in the works to develop their own state of the art winery within the next couple years. “I’m not a young chicken, of course,” says Jacque with a smile. “But for us, it’s a great opportunity to start from the beginning from the ground up in Willamette Valley.”  Oui, alors.

Resonance Vineyard 2014, Yamhill-Carlton/ $65 – 93 pts
From the Kevin Chambers Vineyard, this flavorful wine is made with Pommard, 777 and Wadenswil clones of Pinot Noir. Deep, concentrated scents of wild berries and savory spices. On the palate, a high-toned combination of ripe raspberry, dark cherry and cardamom; chewy tannins; broad structure; and a long, generous finish. Ripe lively, earthy and elegant. Very approachable now, but worthy of aging for 20 years. Great with slow-roasted lamb, as tasted with Jacques, at the Salud! charity for vineyard workers hosted at Stoller Vineyards near McMinnville the night before IPNC began.

Resonance Vineyard 2013, Yamhill-Carlton / $65 – 92 pts
Lofty aromas of dark berries, toasted brioche, soy sauce, allspice and a hint of smoke. Dark cherry-cola, huckleberry and licorice; elegant mouthfeel finish. Approachable now or cellar for 7-12 years.

Jean-Nicolas Méo – Nicolas-Jay, Dundee

In 2012, talented Burgundy winemaker Jean-Nicolas Méo partnered with longtime friend and visionary music guru Jay Boberg to start the Nicholas-Jay brand in Dundee. Today, Jean-Nicholas applies the skills he developed while working with fruit from the prestigious Burgundy sites in the Echezeaux, Richebourg, Clos de Vougeot and Corton Clos Rognet to the Pinot Noir grapes he uses from the winery’s organically-farmed Bishop Creek Vineyard property in Yamhill-Carlton and specialty blends made with a selection of other famous vineyards in Willamette Valley.  At the IPNC seminar, Jean-Nicolas joked about his original response to Jay’s inquiry about the partnership. “I enthusiastically said maybe,” he quipped, with a smile. Needless to say, we’re all glad he said yes in the end.

Nicholas-Jay 2015 Willamette Valley / $65 – 95 pts
From the Nicholas-Jay estate Bishop Creek Vineyard in Yamhill-Carlton comes a deep, dense and sexy style of Pinot Noir with lovely aromas of black and blue fruits, wet rocks, and subtle spices. On the palate, ripe blueberry, blackberry, plum and fresh mountain herbs. Very subtle, sexy and complex. Combination of structure, finesse and power in every sip.