Tag Archive | Cabernet Sauvignon

Two Good Cabs

I’m not a huge fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, particularly not Washington made Cab.  I too often find that drinking some of those big, bold Washington Cabs is like chewing on a hunk of wood.  Dry oak.  But I have had a couple recently that have surprised me, in a good way.

2010 La Playa Claret

This is a big wine, and while it isn’t predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, it still has quite a bit of Cab.  The blend is 41% Petit Verdot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc and 4% Carmenere. It is a big tannic wine, but it isn’t too dry though – it has a nice balance.  On the nose, there is the strong scent of tobacco.  On the palate, it has flavors of stewed plums and leather.  It was harvested by hand and aged for 8 months in French and American oak.

This wine really reminded me that living in Chile was the main reason I started loving wine.  And I do love Chilean wine!  I really should drink a lot more of it.

2011 Revelry Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Jon poured me a glass of this wine when he couldn’t offer me any more La Playa, because…. you guessed it… he drank it all.  Revelry is a Walla Walla winery, sourcing their fruit from several areas in the Columbia Valley.  Although they are a fairly new winery, with their first vintage in 2005, they have managed to secure fruit from several elite vineyards, including Sagemoor Vineyard, and vineyards on Red Mountain and the Horse Heaven Hills.

On the nose, I got lots of blackberry, and on the palate, it had medium tannins and wasn’t super dry.  It was a fruity Cab, almost slightly jammy, but in a wonderful balanced kind of way.  Not a fruit bomb by any means, but certainly more fruit than your typical overly oaked Washington Cab.  I loved it!  The grapes for this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon came from various vineyards, including Red Mountain, The Wahluke Slope, Horse Heaven Hills, and the Walla Walla Valley.  It spent 12-16 months in the 100% French Oak barrels, with 30% being new French Oak.

Jon and I both loved these two wines, which is unusual because we tend to go for something very different in a big, red wine.  If you have had either one, let me know what you think!

HIP 2013 Sagemoor Farms Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Smoky blackberries.  That’s the nose I get from our second mixed case wine. Jon decided to open this wine on a weeknight, and we hoped that it would be better than the first wine from our mixed case of wine.

2013 HIP Sagemoor Farms Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

2013 HIP Sagemoor Farms Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine is produced by The House of Independent Producers (HIP); it is a second label for Hedges Family Estate in Benton City, WA.  The marketing materials describe it as, “a lean, angular, racy, penetrating, crystalline structure is excellent for those drinkers looking for a more conservative fruit approach. Too many times this grape is abused with oak perfume and picked late, like an old man, wrinkled, soft, and complacent. Take your Cabernet Sauvignon young, tight, transparent, and leave the Jam bombs for your sugar drinking friends. It’s time to taste the varietal, not the brand.” 

With that description, I was curious to see if I would like the “young” version with the “conservative fruit approach.”  Not to mention, I don’t think I would enjoy drinking a wrinkled, soft, complacent old man!  Yuck!

After pouring it into the glass, the color is dark garnet red.  It is quite beautiful actually.  Nothing like a wrinkled old man.  The nose is blackberry and smoke, making me a little bit nervous that it would be a big heavy Cab that I wasn’t going to like.  But the first sip eased my mind, with flavors of black currant and earth.  It has medium tannins, which I liked, because it doesn’t overwhelm.  But it has enough structure that someone looking for a big Cab will still be able to appreciate it.  In my opinion, this is a wine that does it right.  It makes me want to try more from the HIP!

And at $12.49, it is a perfect wine for a week night – you don’t need a special occasion!

Lake Chelan Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

This weekend, some of my coworkers and I had a Girls’ Weekend in Chelan, a lakefront resort community.  We were a few hours away at a conference for a good part of the week, so we had decided to spend a bit more time in the sunshine of Eastern Washington before coming home.  On Saturday, we went wine tasting and ended up at Lake Chelan Winery.

Lake Chelan Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Lake Chelan Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Tonight Jon and I are enjoying the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon that I purchased that day.  On the nose, this wine has robust aromas of stewed plums, tobacco and cloves.  You know that it will be a big wine.  On the palate, there is more of a ripe blackberry flavor with the tastes of tobacco and cloves.  The wine is big, but it has nicely balanced tannins to make it an approachable wine.

Jon was as impressed as I was when he tried it, and was happy with my purchase.

Have you tried any of Lake Chelan Winery’s wines?  What did you think of them?

A Cabernet Guessing Game

Jon had the day off today, and went to visit his parents – on his way home he stopped by the grocery store for a few staples.  Caffeine, cereal, wine…

I haven’t had much wine for the last couple of weeks, because I have been battling a horrible cold.  Early last week I was feeling better, but then a few days later, I started to feel much worse again.  After being awake most of the night coughing on Thursday night, and seeing the vivid colors Friday morning (sorry if you prefer a little less information…), I made my way in to the doctor, who told me this cold had settled into my lungs in the form of bronchitis.  Ugh.

Today, with the help of a ZPak and some codeine laced cough syrup, I’m feeling a lot better – not great mind you, but way better than I was, so I am sipping a glass of Jon’s mystery Cabernet from the Horse Heaven Hills.  I know nothing more than that at this point, so I’m planning to describe the wine, guess what it is and see how well I do.

On the nose:  Stewed plums.  Tobacco.

On the palate:  The acidity comes through on the very first taste.  Not much in the way of tannins.  Raspberry, tobacco, earth – kind of grassy.  More acidity on the finish.

Not a complex wine – better with food, but certainly drinkable.

My guess:  Columbia Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012.

It was actually:  The Expedition, Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012 – Canoe Ridge Vineyard.  Their description: Spiced floral aromas lead to layered, juicy flavors of red currant and smoky plum, with a deep, velvety finish.

How do you think I did?

 

Winter Day in Woodinville: Dusted Valley

A few weekends ago it was another rainy, windy weekend, so Jon and I decided to spend the day tasting down in Woodinville, WA.  It had been awhile since we were there, and we didn’t have anything else going on, so we piled in the car and hit the road.

Ninety minutes later we had reached our destination, and after a stop at Panera Bread for lunch, we were ready to taste.  We decided to try some wineries that we had never been to before, and we ended up near the historic Schoolhouse building.  On the other side of the roundabout are several tasting rooms in a retail development that has only been there a few years.

We started our day at Dusted Valley.  The Dusted Valley winery facility is located in Walla Walla, but they have a tasting room in Woodinville as well.  We were greeted warmly by the server, and started off on the 2010 Cinsaut.  It is a light blend of 80% Cinsaut and 20% Syrah, from the Stoney Vine Estate in the Walla Walla Valley.  It is a excellent light, acidic wine, perfect for drinking now.

Next we had the 2011 Rachis Syrah, a wine containing 98% Syrah with 2% Petite Sirah blended in.  The grapes are sourced from the Stone Tree Vineyard in the Red Heaven area of the Columbia Valley.  After that we tried the 2011 Cabernet Franc – a Columbia Valley wine with 91% Cabernet Franc and 9% Merlot.  It is a big, smooth red wine.

The 2011 V.R. Special Cabernet Sauvignon was next – it is a 99% Cabernet Sauvignon with just 1% of Petit Verdot blended in.  It is named for the V.R. Special Chocolate Chip Cookie created by the winemaker’s grandfather Vernon Rhodes in the Midwest.  The 2011 Petite Sirah contained 95% Petite Sirah and 5% Syrah.  It is a dark, inky red color with strong balanced tannins.

And we finished off the tasting with the 2009 Late Harvest Syrah.  It is not a fortified wine, but is a heavy, syrupy wine with a strong alcohol content.  Jon really liked this wine.

Dusted Valley Tasting Room

Dusted Valley Tasting Room

All of the wines were excellent – there weren’t any that I didn’t like.  That said, my favorites were the Cinsaut and the Petite Syrah.

Dusted Valley also produces a second, value label – Boomtown.  They don’t taste or sell it at the tasting room, but I purchased a bottle later in the day that I found at Cost Plus World Market – given how much I liked the Dusted Valley wines that we tried, I am looking forward to tasting the Boomtown wine we bought.

Our next stop was Trust Cellars – I’ll blog about that next!

Have you tried Dusted Valley wines?  What did you think?

 

2011 Insomnia Cabernet Sauvignon

We can’t always drink expensive wine, so tonight we tried out a very affordable California Cabernet Sauvignon from Insomnia Wines in Buellton, California.  It was only $9 with the six bottle discount at Fred Meyer.

On the nose, there is lot of smoke and tobacco.  On the palate there are flavors of ripe figs, more smoke and tobacco, and vanilla on the finish.  As big as that sounds, this wine is very approachable, with enough fruit to make it an easy drinking wine.

I paired it with bratwurst baked in beer – an India Pale Ale, and vegetables baked in Greek dressing – red beets, carrots, red potatoes and cabbage.  It was delicious!

2011 Insomnia Cabernet Sauvignon

2011 Insomnia Cabernet Sauvignon

And the extra bonus is the label – the label is actually a hologram, so when you look at it from different angles, the eyes change.  Too bad it doesn’t show in the photo…  Just proving that I am still a sucker for a good label.

California Marathon Road Trip: Sonoma and Tin Barn Vineyards

The day after Jon’s marathon, Jon and I decided to head to Sonoma for the day to do a bit of wine tasting.  The day was cold and clear, and we got to Sonoma right at lunchtime.  After wandering around the square checking out our lunch options, we decided to try the Plaza Bistro.

The place was pretty empty when we arrived, and the temperature was cold – I wish they would have turned the heat up a bit.  But the service was friendly and fast, and the food was excellent.  Jon had the beet salad, with roasted beets, fresh sliced fennel, Blue Lake beans, Chevre goat cheese, and almonds, all on baby greens topped with a sherry vinaigrette dressing.  Jon was very satisfied with the salad – but he wished it had been larger.

Lunch at the Plaza Bistro

Lunch at the Plaza Bistro

I had the salmon sandwich with applewood smoked bacon, arugula, and lemon garlic aioli on a ciabatta roll.  It came with a green salad with vinaigrette.  The sandwich was amazing!  My only gripe was that the salad needed something more; it was just lettuce and dressing.  The sandwich was more than enough for me, and I knew Jon would be hungry again soon if he didn’t eat more, so I was very kind to share a few bites of my sandwich with him.

My salmon sandwich at The Plaza Bistro

My salmon sandwich at The Plaza Bistro

After our tummies were full, we were ready to start our tour.  We headed first to Tin Barn Vineyards.  We were first introduced to Tin Barn wine when we went to Zuzu restaurant in Napa a few years ago.  Zuzu is a tapas restaurant (fabulous by the way) and we had a bottle of their Zinfandel with our meal that evening.  We were hooked.  It was well balanced, fruit forward, and not overpowered with tannins.  We even tried to visit the tasting room on that trip and struck out, because it was Tuesday and they were closed.

This trip we were lucky enough to be there on a Monday, one of the days that the tasting room was open!  They are located in a row of warehouses, and it looked pretty deserted.  But the sign said they were open, so we went inside.  We looked around the tasting room waiting for somebody to come out, and peeked into the winery area as well.  Eventually, the owner, Michael Lancaster, realized that we were out there and came out to pour – he had been working in the winery and didn’t hear us come in.

Tin Barn Vineyards Tasting Room

Tin Barn Vineyards Tasting Room

Mike was super friendly and guided us through the Tin Barn line-up, starting with the Sauvignon Blanc, a dry, crisp balanced wine with flavors of lemon-grass.  There were two Pinot Noirs, both from Ricci Vineyard in Sonoma County, the 2010 and 2011 vintages.  They were both excellent; and having two different vintages from the same vineyard meant you could taste the difference that weather imparts on wine.

There were also two Zinfandels on the list – both from 2011.  The first was from Gilsson Vineyard in the Russian River Valley – a nice, fruit-forward Zin.  Gilsson Vineyard has 50 year old vines, which make for a fantastic wine.  The other was more tannic, from Los Chamizal Vineyard in Sonoma Valley, but also delicious.

We finished the tasting with the 2011 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  This isn’t a vineyard designate wine, and it also contains Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot.  It was a great California Cab, with great structure and not over-oaked.

We left with two bottles of the Sauvignon Blanc and a bottle of each of the Zinfandels.  Our visit left me wishing we lived closer!

Boise Road Trip: Snake River Winery

During our Boise road trip, we had an opportunity to taste at a couple of wineries.  We were already going to be in the downtown area, and since I knew nothing about any of Idaho’s wineries, location seemed as good a criteria as anywhere to select a few to visit (you have to start somewhere right?).  We visited Snake River Winery’s downtown tasting room on a super-hot Saturday in the later afternoon.

Snake River is an estate winery, meaning that they grow all their own grapes in their own vineyards – they have 75 acres planted.  They strive for sustainable and organic winery practices, including making their own compost from pomace (which is the solid remains of the grapes after the juice has been pressed off),  eliminating pesticides and using organic fungicides.  At this point, they don’t have a biodynamic certification, but are working towards it.

When we walked into the downtown tasting room, it surprised me a bit that we were the only ones there.  It was a great little shop with a tasting bar, and lots of cool gift items as well.  Wine glasses and associated wine goodies, Snake River t-shirts, and greeting cards.  Jon appreciated having some gift items to look at, as he always wanders away from the bar during a tasting.

I don’t remember all of the wines we tasted that day, but I was pleased with several.  The 2010 Rosé is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Touriga Nacional.  It had a light sweetness and strawberry flavor, wonderfully refreshing for a hot, summer day.  Snake River Winery also makes a single varietal wine from its Touriga Nacional grapes, a bold red with strong tannins and black fruit.  The grape varietal is originally from Portugal, and not often seen in the United States, at least on the West Coast.  I really enjoyed this wine, and we brought home a bottle.

The wine list at Snake River is extensive, with offerings that include Chardonnay, Riesling, Barbera, Grenache, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Cab Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Syrah, as well as some blends.  And I was surprised to learn that they had another varietal that I had never tasted before, but unfortunately it wasn’t open that day.  Blauer Zweigelt, a varietal developed in 1922 in Austria, is more widely planted in Europe, but is beginning to be planted in British Columbia as well.  I’ll have to wait until another day to taste it!

Perhaps the best thing about Snake River though, is the wine pairing chocolates that they offer with the heavier reds, and sell packages of!  They are made from 85% Cocoa, and have a bitter dark chocolate taste that goes so well with the red wine.  These chocolates, made by a company called Dream Chocolate, are fantastic, and they are even better with wine!  I couldn’t resist bringing home a package of these as well!

I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Snake River, and I hope to find their wines closer to home.  If you have a chance, stop in.

California Road Trip: The Anderson Valley Pinot Tour

We woke up the next morning ready for our foray into Anderson Valley Wine Country.  At that point, it had been a whole 18 hours since I had last thrown up!  Not the ideal timing for a wine tour, but today was the day, as the rest of the trip was mapped out in other places.  I am a big (no – HUGE!) fan of Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs, and I have been interested in trying some of Pinots from other areas.  In researching our trip, I learned that the Anderson Valley has a double draw – they are known for their Pinot Noir wines and there are also several sparkling wine producers!  Win, win!  The Anderson Valley is characterized by a coastal fog that settles in the valley, creating the cool nights that Pinot Noir is known to thrive on.

Jon and I got on the road, and while I was feeling a lot better (my breakfast remaining in my stomach being a vast improvement over the day before), I would be lying if I said I was feeling 100%.  So we headed out, across Highway 253, a scenic country road that heads up and over some hills before descending into the valley at Boonville.  The view was nice, and we enjoyed the drive.

A Historic Wine Delivery Truck in Boonville, California

A Historic Wine Delivery Truck in Boonville, California

Our plan was to drive northwest from Boonville to Navarro on Highway 128, and then turn around and work our way back, stopping at our destination wineries along the way.  There are many wineries located right on 128, so there really isn’t much chance of getting lost on country roads along the way.  We checked out where we wanted to go on the way back (really, I decided where I wanted to go, because Jon hadn’t provided any input) and then we drove up to our first stop of the day.

Handley Cellars is a family owned winery that began operations in 1982.  When you step into the tasting room, you are met with all sorts of interesting items from around the world.  The server explained that the elephant chairs in the sitting area are over 100 years old, and is among the folk art items that have been collected by winemaker Milla Handley in her travels around the world.

Handley Cellars Tasting Room

Handley Cellars Tasting Room

While we were there, we tasted the 2011 Mendocino County Chardonnay, the 2011 Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer, and the 2007 Late Harvest Riesling.  For the reds, we tasted the 2009 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, the 2010 Mendocino County Pinot Noir, and the 2009 Anderson Valley Reserve Pinot Noir.  We also tried the 2009 Redwood Valley Syrah and the 2010 Redwood Valley Zinfandel.  It was our first winery of the day, and as I was still a bit tired from being sick, and I completely forgot to take any notes.  Sadly, I didn’t love the style of Pinot Noir.  It was a much more earthy and spicy than the light, acidic, cherry Pinots from the Willamette Valley.  The highlights of our tasting were the Late Harvest Riesling and the Zinfandel, which we took home with us.

View of the Vineyards at Handley Cellars

View of the Vineyards at Handley Cellars

Husch Vineyards was our next stop, right down the road – their tasting room is very scenic – located in a historic pony barn built in the late 1800s.  Husch planted their first vineyards in 1968 and the winery was founded in 1971, making it the oldest winery in the Anderson Valley.  The current owners purchased the winery from the Husch family in 1979.  All of their grapes are estate grown, but some of the vineyards are in the Mendocino area.

Husch has a wide selection of wines (22 in all – although only 17 were available the day we were there), and you can choose to sample any six on their list.  I sampled their 2011 Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 Vine One Anderson Valley Chardonnay, 2012 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley (a Rosé), 2010 Anderson Valley Reserve Pinot Noir, 2010 Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Mendocino Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Chenin Blanc, and 2012 Muscat Canelli.  If you count up those wines, you’ll notice that they let me sample eight, which just goes to show a little friendliness goes a long way.

Husch Vineyards

Husch Vineyards

I was pleased with many of their wines, with their Chardonnay being a nice balance between the crisp style that I like and the oak that Jon prefers.  Their Vin Gris Rosé was a nice, light summer wine, perfect for a hot day.  The Reserve Pinot Noir was very nice, with more of the cherry flavors I have come to love in a Pinot Noir.  Jon and I both enjoyed the Husch Cabernet Sauvignon, although I didn’t taste enough of a difference to justify the big price difference between the regular and the reserve Cab.

And I enjoyed the Chenin Blanc, which had a slight sweetness with acidity and just a hint of butter.  The Muscat Canelli had flavors of peach with honeysuckle on the finish.  We left with a couple of bottles – the Reserve Pinot Noir and the Chenin Blanc.  Then we continued on our tour!

A Happy Ending at L’Ecole

Our last tasting of the day on our Walla Walla wine tour weekend was at L’Ecole No. 41 in the historic Frenchtown School just outside of Walla Walla in Lowden.  The building was built in 1915,  to replace the first Frenchtown School, a log cabin from 1870.  L’Ecole was founded in 1983, and is the third oldest winery in the Walla Walla area.

We arrived towards the end of the day, but our server was more than gracious about guiding us through a tasting and answering our questions.  The tasting room retains many of the original historic features, including the hardwood floors, and has been decorated with period Barrister Bookcases collected by the winery’s original owner. The ambiance of the tasting room just adds to the charm.

L 'Ecole No. 41 Tasting Room in the Historic Frenchtown School

L ‘Ecole No. 41 Tasting Room in the Historic Frenchtown School

We began with the 2011 Estate Luminesce, a blend of 67% Semillon and 33% Sauvignon Blanc, from Seven Hills Vineyard.  It showed tart citrus and floral flavors.  Then we had the 2011 Columbia Valley Chardonnay, a very well balanced wine with apple and minerality on light oak.  It is a Chardonnay that both Jon and I can enjoy because it is a great balance between the unoaked Chards that I love and the big, buttery Chards that are Jon’s favorites.

Moving on to the red wines, we started with the 2009 Estate Merlot, with grapes from the Seven Hills Vineyard.  It was a nicely balanced wine with medium tannins and black cherry flavors. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold wine aged in 40% new oak, with flavors of tobacco and heavier tannins.

Next we tried the 2009 Estate Perigee, a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Malbec, and 4% Petit Verdot.  This is a very elegant Bordeaux blend that was aged for 22 months – a very nice wine.

The last wine that we tasted was the Candy Mountain Vineyard Red Wine.  It hasn’t been released yet; it will come out in April 2013.  It is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon and 43% Merlot.  This is a fantastic wine with flavors of blackberry and chocolate.  There are only 350 cases, and I’m sure it will sell quickly.  I was pretty disappointed that I couldn’t buy it that day!

It was a great end to a wonderful day of wine tasting – L ‘Ecole was a real treat.