Category Archives: Wine

Free Passes! Experience The Big Crush, October 7-8 Weekend

Amador County is calling you! Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of The Big Crush and enjoy the fall harvest. There will be more than 40 wineries open with scrumptious food pairings and live entertainment, all in the beauty of the Sierra Nevada Foothills.  First person to email wine@sawyersomm.com gets 2 FREE tickets! 

We last attended in 2015 and made stops by Turley Wine Cellars, Terra D’Oro, Andis Wines, Dobra Zemlja Winery, Terre Rouge/Easton Wines and Vino Noceto. This time maybe you can try a few others and let me know what you think!

The Big Crush takes place October 7th and 8th, from 11am to 4pm.  Each ticket is good for both days, includes wine glass and map, to be picked up at the Amador Vintners’ Visitor Center located in Plymouth, CA.

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Barbera and the Sierras: Mountain Merriment next weekend!

Work and school are keeping us close to home next weekend, but if you have the itch to explore, head to the mountains! Two events on Saturday September 16th to whet your wine and culinary palates.

The 7th Annual Barbera Festival will be at Terra d’Oro/Montevina Winery in Amador County, hosting nearly 80 wineries from all over California (to celebrate CA Wine Month simultaneously)!

Or travel a little further east to scenic South Lake Tahoe for Sample The Sierra, a farm-to-fork festival celebrating the bounty & heritage of the Sierra Nevada with wine, beer and other culinary endeavors!

Enjoy the mountains! ~CS

 

Feast Portland! September 14-17

Despite the smoke, gormandizing continues in the Pacific Northwest! Next week is Feast Portland that showcases the energy, creativity
and enthusiasm that’s driving America’s food revolution.  Choose activities from a slew of entertaining options!

Sandwich Invitational at RoseQuarter Commons
Grand Tasting at Pioneer Courthouse Square
Night Market at Zidell Yards
Smoked! at The Fields
Brunch Village at Pioneer Courthouse Square
Dinner Series
Hands-On Classes
Drink Tank
plus Fun-Size Events!

Pill Head: The Independent Art Flick!

Some of you know I have had film cameos and numerous interviews throughout the digital and audio realms.  Well Pill Head is my newest adventure, making my big screen debut as The Sommelier in the new feature film being made by our friends Karen Hess and Daedalus Howell.  Not so much of a stretch theatrically for me but more a case of perfect casting!  Filming begins September 30th, so please contribute toward the production with plans to witness the final product in the near future: http://igg.me/at/pillhead

The  Pill Head kick-off reception last month at La Dolce Vita Wine Lounge in Petaluma was a hoot, and yielded a spirited original interview with Writer-Director Daedalus and Assistant Director Ben Staub.  Enjoy this discussion as a primer for what may (or may not be) to come!


(originally aired on The Morning Show, KSVY, 91.3 FM, Sonoma)

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!