Tag Archive | Washington wines

2011 Va Piano Bruno’s Blend Sauvignon Blanc

After some busy days at work, and some unseasonably hot weather in the Pacific Northwest, I was ready for a cool, crisp white.  It was over 80 degrees for several days in a row and really humid, and we were heading out for half marathon training after work in the heat of the day.  Add to that the mosquitoes, and you definitely need to relax with a nice Sauvignon Blanc after your shower.

That leads me to Bruno’s Blend, a Sauvignon Blanc produced by Va Piano Vineyards in Walla Walla.  We got it on our February 2013 trip over there, and it seemed time to crack it open.  It is mostly Sauvignon Blanc, but it is blended with a little bit of Riesling – I’m not sure of the exact percentages.

Mine was a 2011, but you get the idea...

Mine was a 2011, but you get the idea…

I poured some into my glass and at first whiff, I was a little freaked out because it smelled really alcohol-ey and I was worried that it might be past its prime.  Uh oh!  My very first sip also contained that high-octane alcohol flavor, and I was sad.  But the taste immediately mellowed into a wonderful crisp lemongrass flavor and tart green apple with just a hint of melon.  Delicious!

Va Piano really knows their stuff; they make some excellent wines.  You can check out my post about our visit here.  And this wine is no different – a great wine that really stands out.  And there’s one more great thing about this wine – a portion of the proceeds from sales of Bruno’s Blend go to a non-profit organization.  If you have the chance to try it or other Va Piano wines, I hope you will let me know what you think!

Happy Friday!

Northstar Winery – the Tour Begins…

After our lunch at Olive, Jon and I decided to begin our day tasting at Northstar.  Northstar came with the recommendation of a friend of mine from childhood, and since we didn’t really know much about any of the Walla Walla wineries, that seemed good enough for us. Northstar was founded in the early 1990s, with their first vintage in 1994.  David Merfeld has been their winemaker since 2005.

Our server was a friendly gentleman who had spent years in the ski industry, and then started working part time at Northstar after he retired.  We were the only ones there, which seemed a little unusual, as it was about 2 in the afternoon on a Saturday, but we chalked that up to the mountain passes being bad (two other couples were heading in as we were heading out).

Northstar Winery

Northstar Winery

If you know anything about Northstar, you know that they specialize in Merlot.  Their lineup has 3 Merlots, but it also had 5 other wines – you get to taste 7 of the 8 wines.  4 of the wines are only available at the winery.  Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2011 Stella Blanca Semillon – a blend of 93% Semillon and 7% Muscadelle – which was interesting because Muscadelle is not typically seen in Washington.  The Stella Blanca was crisp and bright, with flavors of honey and citrus – it was very appealing.  The tasting notes say there are flavors of coconut, but I didn’t taste any.  Since this was one of the wines only available at the winery, I made sure to buy a bottle.
  • 2009 Stella Maris Red Blend – another blend of 65% Merlot, 12% Syrah, 11% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Cabernet Franc.  This blend was a pretty bold spicy blend with flavors of vanilla interspersed.
  • 2009 Northstar Petit Verdot – I’m always intrigued when a winery does Petit Verdot as a varietal wine, and this one is very good.  It is dark and rich with fruit, and would be excellent paired with dark chocolate.  Also available only at the winery, so I left with a bottle of this one too.
  • 2009 Northstar Malbec – Interestingly, this wine is the only wine sourced from Northstar fruit, plus Spring Valley vineyard grapes.  Considering their specialty is Merlot, I would have thought their estate would be planted with Merlot.  This Malbec is fruit forward and smooth, with white pepper flavors adding a bit of spice.
  • 2009 Northstar Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine had flavors of blackberry, raspberry and vanilla, and was lightly oaked.  I often don’t favor Washington cabs, as they are too bold and oaked, but this one was approachable and pleasant.
  • 2009 Northstar Columbia Valley Merlot – Our server did a side by side tasting of this wine and the Walla Walla Merlot (below), so you could compare the two wines and the differences imparted by the vineyard and the climate.  This wine had flavors of of vanilla and blackberry, and was very smooth.  After tasting both wines several times, this one was my favorite by a nose.
  • 2009 Northstar Walla Walla Merlot – this wine has flavors of raspberry and blackberry and excellent, but it was still a bit tart.  I think this would have been my winner if it had a few more years on it.  Jon declared this wine his favorite.

All in all, Northstar has some very good wines, and there certainly wasn’t a bad wine in the bunch.  I have to disagree with the Merlots being their best wines though – I thought their standouts were the Stella Blanca, the Petit Verdot and the Malbec.  The tasting fee is $7, but is refundable with purchase – and the spacious tasting room would certainly be able to accommodate busy days without making the place seem crowded.  If I get the chance to visit in the summer, the patio would be a great place to relax and enjoy a tasting or a glass of wine.

After we purchased our Stella Blanca and Petit Verdot, I asked the server which other places he would recommend, particularly any wineries that had some white wines.  One of his recommendations was Va Piano, which I had never heard of before we started getting ready for our trip.  And that’s where we headed next!

Glacier Peak Winery – 2008 Pinot Noir

On the way to Chelan for a conference with my coworkers, I had the opportunity to stop by Glacier Peak Winery in Rockport, Washington.  I hadn’t heard of Glacier Peak before, but it was right along Highway 20, and it was open, so we stopped in.  To be honest, we probably wouldn’t have stopped if the other two wineries that we tried to go to before Glacier Peak had been open, but since they weren’t, it was their lucky day!  Four ladies let loose on a Tuesday afternoon!

For $5 (refundable with purchase), you could sample the wines.  I started with the Siegerrebe, and also tried their Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The last three were not to my taste, but the Siegerrebe and the Pinot were pretty good.

Glacier Peak Siegerrebe

Unfortunately, I can tell you nothing about the wine, because the server didn’t talk to us or tell us anything about the winery or the wine.  I get frustrated when the staff just pour and walk off – I really would like to know more about the wine and how it is made!  It was good that I was there with my talkative coworkers, because the silences would have been really awkward if it had just been Jon and me.  Glacier Peak got no points for tasting room experience…

After we got home, Jon opened the bottle of 2008 Pinot Noir that I purchased there, and was skeptical that it would be any good.  Pinot is a difficult varietal to grow, because it is quite particular about the climate – it likes a climate that is cooler than other types of grapes.  Glacier Peak grows their Pinot Noir on site.

The nose on this Pinot has aromas of blackberry and earth.  It is a bit darker in color than other Pinots I have tried, more reminiscent of a California Pinot than an Oregon Pinot.  The mouthfeel is soft and light, with a nice silky texture.  The blackberry scent on the nose is apparent in the taste of the wine as well, with soft flavors of smoke and pie cherry coming through.

At $18 a bottle, this wine is an affordable Pinot, and probably the best Washington Pinot I have had.  The winery is out of the way – 40 miles east of Burlington, Washington, on the way up into the Cascade Mountains, and they do not have much distribution aside from the tasting room, so laying my hands on another bottle might not be in the cards, at least for the near future.  But if you find yourself along Highway 20 on your way to Winthrop, be sure to stop in and check them out… if you are comfortable with an awkward silence…