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
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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
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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
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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.

Oregon Pinot Noir with a French Twist

Based at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, the International Pinot Noir Celebration has brought joy to wine fans who love drinking world-class wines made with variations of this noble grape grown in Oregon, California, Burgundy and other special regions around the globe. This year’s festivities in late July marked a chance to learn about where Pinot Noir has come over the past three decades and how the special combination of French soul and Oregon soil helped make the Willamette Valley one of the top wine growing regions of the world.

It is a journey that began four years before “Papa Pinot,” the young American adventurer David Lett of The Eyrie Vineyards, planted young samplings of the first Pinot Noir grapes near Corvallis, Oregon in 1965; another early pioneer to see the potential to plant world-class vines in the region was Frenchman Joseph Drouhin, who came to the region to sell his family’s wine from Burgundy in 1961. But it wasn’t until 25 years later that Drouhin’s daughter Veronique laid the foundation to accomplish this dream when she visited the region and interned with upcoming wineries Adelsheim Vineyards, Bethel Heights and Eyrie in 1986.

The following year, Veronique and her family established Domaine Drouhin Oregon. Today, the majestic winery in the Dundee Hills represents a signature French accent that helped put Willamette Valley and other segments of Oregon on the world wine map to stay.

To celebrate the 30-year anniversary of these accomplishments, the Grand Seminar at this year’s festival, moderated by wine critic Eric Asimov of the New York Times, was aptly titled The French Adventurers: Burgundians Making Pinot Noir in Oregon. Here is the SawyerSomm synopsis of the seminar and the a few Domaine Drouhin wine reviews.

Veronique Boss-Drouhin, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Dundee

Like her father Joseph, who originally visited the Willamette Valley in 1961, Veronique Boss-Drouhin immediately saw the promise of the region primarily located west of Highway 101 and the Pacific mountains between Portland and Eugene, when she first visited the area in 1986. Although the region did not have the limestone soils of Burgundy, Drouhin loved the cool climate and the various forms of basalt and volcanic soils that make it a prime region to grow the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris grapes she studied while attending the University of Dijon in the mid-1980s. However, it wasn’t until 1986 that the family’s dreams of planting vines in the region started to become a reality.

When the first 96 barrels of DDO wines were made the following year, the family didn’t own a winery or had to source the grapes they worked with. But after the original Pommard and Wadenswil clones of Pinot Noir were planted and the winery was finished a few years later near Dundee, the winery has become one of the most celebrated Pinot Noir producers in the United States.

In the words of John Paul, proprietor of Dundee-based Cameron Winery, who spoke briefly at the IPNC seminar, “Veronique and her family brought the legitimacy that the Oregon wine industry really needed.”

Domaine Drouhin 2014 Roserock Zephirine, Eola-Amity Hills / $60 – 97 pts
Although it’s a relatively new planting on the southern edge of the exciting Eola-Amity Hills appellation, winemaker Veronique Drouhin-Boss loves the possibility of this new DDO estate vineyard. The quality of the fruit shows in this new release, which is from the warm vintage of 2014. Rich, supple and concentrated, the wine starts with attractive aromas of dark fruits, potpourri, fresh tea leafs, blood orange peel and licorice. The flavors are equally deep, with deep notes of black plum, raspberry, wild strawberry, red cherry, mineral, chewy tannins, structure and layers of savory spice on the finish.

Domaine Drouhin 2012 Cuvée Laurene, Dundee Hills / $70 – 96 pts
Soft, subtle and graceful. Lovely aromas of ripe red fruits, cola, earth tones and baking spice. Lively flavors of dark cherry, wild berries, plum, cocoa, fresh sage and forest floor. Overall, elegance and finesse from start to finish, with the structure and natural verve showing with more time in the glass. A classic signature of the DDO style.