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Rhone to Columbia Valley: The Syrah Doctrine

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New Growth at Matthews Winery

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday Find, December 27th

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest

Happy Holidays from the good looking folks at the Anthem. I hope that your holidays are filled with good food, friends, rest or whatever it is that recharges you. For me, it's not necessarily rest. While I'm not one for resolutions, I do have a bit of an odd holiday tradition by most standards. Each year for the past three I've participated in the Festive 500. The Festive 500 is a "virtual event" if such a thing makes sense sponsored by Rapha, makers of ludicrously high end cycling clothing, and Strava, an online fitness app, which I use for cycling. 

The goal is to ride 500 kilometers or just about 311 miles between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. This is a ridiculous thing to do, I admit. I do it for a couple reasons. As a competitive cyclist my race season ended a few weeks ago as the cyclocross season came to a close. I won't race again, until March at the earliest, or maybe April. That is a long time between races. The Festive 500 is perhaps one last chance to push myself a bit harder or in this case for longer, than I'm comfortable before shutting that part of my cycling self down for awhile. It also keeps the winter weight off like a champ.

I see the Festive 500 as kind of the opposite of that resolution phenomenon that those of you who are unlucky enough to belong to a gym get to experience each new year. It begins in January and lasts until about the end of February. The gym's awfully crowded, new faces, folks who've resolved to get in shape this year. I used to belong to a climbing gym and it was the same routine each year. The gym was nearly unbearable until mid-February and it was almost always back to normal by the end of that month. I don't go to a gym anymore but I cannot imagine this phenomenon has gone away at all. Remember, it's not how you start, it's how you finish.

Rather than resolve to "get in shape" maybe you should resolve to drink more wines like this week's Friday Find. Pinot Blanc, which I've long been touting as one of my favorite whites from the Willamette Valley might be the way to go for the new year. Maybe resolved to shift your "go-to" Oregon white wine from Pinot Gris to Pinot Blanc, or if you've been drinking more Pinot Blanc than Pinot Gris, maybe do the opposite? Switching it up is what I'm advocating. This 2011 Pinot Blanc from Torii Mor is chock full of fruit aromas pineapple mixed with lime zest, and it concludes with a crisp citrus finish. For $15 it's a nice wine to pair with a coming new year. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Extending the Olive Branch in Pinot Country: The Oregon Olive Mill

Along the road to some of the Dundee Hills' most well known wineries you'll come across the Oregon Olive Mill. The mill is part of the Red Ridge Farms complex, owned by the Durant family who came to this part of Dundee in 1973 looking for land, perhaps a nut orchard. Valley floor property was expensive then and so the Durants bought what they could afford on a ridge that over looked the valley. You may have heard though that the hills and ridges along the Willamette Valley have turned out to be a pretty good place to grow Pinot Noir? Let's just say it's worked out fine.

The olive groves that Ken and Penny Durant eventually planted came out of Penny's original designs on a nursery. One with a focus on medicinal and culinary plants. Ken though, honed in on the olives and they selected a handful of olive varietals that would potentially do well in the cooler climates of the Willamette Valley. Their son Paul is now the general manager for the entire Red Ridge Farms operation (which includes the mill, wine label, nursery and a retail operation). There were some hard lessons originally, harsh winter events in 2008 and then again in 2009 wiped out a fair portion of their 13,000 trees. They've rebounded and replanted but because of the cooler weather the estate groves are still fairly low producing. At this point their yields of the estate olive grove is somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 tons. That doesn't allow for an awful lot of olive oil, but the Durants were able to find some growers in Northern California they could partner with. Each harvest they truck in about 58 tons of olives from California.

The olives are milled on site, Paul does the milling, in a state of the art Italian olive mill, the process itself looks a fair bit like crush in a winery. However olive milling smells so much better than crush, it's not even comparable really. Olives are ground, pits included into a paste, and that paste is pressed using a centrifuge to separate the water from the oil. The resulting oil is then collected and bottled. I should mention, it tastes wonderful.

The Oregon Olive Mill is the largest commercial milling operation in the Pacific Northwest and each November they harvest, mill and bottle olive oils that are comprised of fruit from both their estate groves and olives from Northern California. (12,000 375ml bottles to be exact.) Estate fruit only comprised about 3% of the total oil produced. There are two "single varietal" oils a Spanish Arbequina, perhaps the most approachable and popular olive oil, as well as a Greek Koroneiki. In addition a Tuscan oil is produced from a blend of  three olives.

Libby Clow serves as the Oregon Olive Mill's resident guru, she's sort of like a sommelier but for olive oil. Her role, and hope is for guests to begin to see olive oil as many people have come to appreciate wine. Different varieties have different characteristics, and olive oil has it's own sensory experience. Like wine, olive oil, particularly olive oil that is well made can enhance a meal and bring out or highlight a food's flavors or textures. And olive oil, like wine is sensitive and should be stored properly. Light and especially heat can be damaging to olive oil turning it rancid. It's still safe to eat, but the experience is shot.

Libby led me through an olive oil tasting, very similar to a wine tasting to highlight the signatures of the varieties and differentiate between them. Similar to tasting wine, you breathe in the oils aromatics, and aerate it in the glass, as well as in your mouth to bring out those characteristics. There is also vintage variation, for example cooler vintages typically lead to a heightened pungent, peppery character in the oil.

It should be noted, these are higher end oils, and so you should be thinking about them with an appetizer, warm bread or to finish a meal, drizzling on soup, risotto or meat dishes.

Arbequina, the Spanish varietal and probably most common olive oil in use is kind of the "Merlot of olive oils." It's one that's familiar, comfortable and very approachable. The Arbequina is very clean aromatically, imagine cut grass, and the flavors tend towards nutty and buttery character with a mild spice. $19

The Koroneiki is a Greek varietal that gives off aromas you might associate with the leaves of a tomato plant, flavors of green banana and sweet hay and a bit more spice on the finish. $19

A Tuscan blend (Frantoio, Leccino and Pendolino olives) is the final of the three flagship oils, and it's the one with the most kick. Aromas of pine nut, beeswax and mushroom and a dollop of peppery spice to finish out. $19

As it turns out the oils produced at the Oregon Olive Mill are delicious, and they mark another place to pay attention to where our foods are coming from. While the olives themselves are not 100% local, in terms of buying both local, and fresh oil, you're not going to do any better here in the Northwest. There are a litany of complicated issues with imported oils, too many to elaborate upon, but I can tell you that fraudulent olive oil is "a thing." And there are nefarious labeling practices when it comes to olive oils coming out of Italy.

For the Durants, Libby and those singing the praises of locally milled oils (count me among them), its really a matter of time. As Ken Durant put it "We're where we were with wine about forty or fifty years ago. It's a matter of palate training, and culture." America doesn't see olive oil as a necessary table side companion, but Italy for example doesn't even make enough olive oil to feed the nation's own consumption. This despite being the second largest producer in the world.

While we may have a ways to go in terms of creating a domestic palate for olive oil, you don't have to go nearly that far for a delicious quality finishing oil, just to Oregon.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Find, December 13th

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest

Friday the 13th. Look out. Kane Hodder might get you. Who? Kane Hodder is the stuntman who is most associated with the role of Jason Vorhees, he played him four times. And Jason Vorhees is name you're probably much more familiar with. Most people just call him Jason. He's the kid who drown at Camp Crystal Lake. His mother went on a murder spree to seek revenge on the camp's counselor staff. She was the cook. Jason himself doesn't actually show up playing a role until Friday the 13th Part 2. The hockey mask doesn't show up until Part 3. 

The early versions of the film were certainly formulaic. Young teen counselors are killed off one by one. Jason never actually breaks a walking stride but is able to chase down everyone running for their lives. He can't be killed, etc. However they were among the first and most memorable of that formula which has lived a long, long time. And, most of the good stuff, before it got too crazy and he ended up going to Manhattan or fighting Freddy Kruger was before the 80s even came to a close.

Today's bizarro movies like Saw, and others I won't bother watching owe a fair bit of thanks to the Friday the 13th series, along with the Halloween films.  Those of you who are in to those films owe it to yourself to check out the original article. 

Today's Friday Find is quite an original here in both the "New World" as well as the state of Washington. The Bartholomew Winery Aligoté . What's an Aligoté you ask? Good question. Aligoté is a uncommon variety any place, let alone here. It's often thought of as one of the lesser white varieties of Burgundy and can commonly be found planted on what are thought of as lesser vineyards. Far from a leading man or lady, Aligoté shows up in the sparkling Crémant as well as in white blends from the region. As we've found though odd and unique varieties can certainly make for interesting wines in their own right. This is no exception. 

The Aligoté is super fresh, with tangy stone fruit aromatics, green apple and honeydew. The palate boasts more of that snappy tang. Flavors of early season fresh cut peach and a lively acidity to the finish. Think about pairing it up with oysters or grilled fish, if you're one of those grill in the rain types. That acid will also cut heavier fare so bring a bottle of this to the next holiday meal you're invited to, it'll make the perfect companion to go alongside some well paired reds. You can get this direct from Bart he's in the Old Rainier Brewery building for $19. He'll ship it to you as well. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Pair of Pinot Gris

The 2012 vintage was a warm one, and a far cry from the two proceeding it, it was downright robust in terms of sunshine, heat units and nice dry weather that led to ripe fruit and rounder wines across the board. While the 2012 Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley are just now beginning to see the light of day in terms of their release, we do have the white wines to draw conclusions from.

With a warm vintage you typically see in general ripeness, higher sugars, lower acidity and this often results in higher alcohol levels in the finished wines. There are upsides to a warm harvest for growers and winemakers, as well as wine drinkers. Reliable ripeness, fewer issues in the vineyard, whether that's nasty wet weather, cold or as the season goes late, birds. 2010 was a cool vintage and as growers kept the fruit hanging to achieve ripeness there were many bird related grape casualties.

It is an oversimplification to call any vintage, "easy" but relative to 10 and 11, 12 was, well, easy. Warm vintages are popular with the industry because while stressing the vines makes for wines of distinction, stressing the growers and winemakers can make them crazy. The downside to a warm vintage is that you can see flabby wines, round, ripe certainly but possibly lacking in the necessary acid that makes Oregon wines such standouts.

David Lett, no surprise, was the first to plant Pinot Gris in Oregon and it is  now the largest planted white variety in the state. This is due in no small part by the success that King Estate has found with the wine. They are the world's single largest Pinot Gris producer, in... well, the world. Oregon Pinot Gris has long stood in the shadows of Pinot Noir, but has largely developed a "style" all it's own. Known for being medium in body and a bit weightier than their California counterparts which are often found under the Italian "Grigio" pseudonym. Pinot Gris ripens early and so higher sugars can often point to a bit higher alcohol wines.

2012 Raptor Ridge Pinot Gris is sourced from four different vineyards and has a dollop of old vine Gewurtztraminer thrown in for good measure. The wine is super pale golden and and gives off almost warm aromatics of ripe green apple and sweet hay. The palate definitely shows the Gewurtz with spiced pear, under-ripe peach and honey dew melon. The acid is present but not overtly persistent and there is a wet stone element that climbs in at the finish. The wine opens up over the course of an hour or two and goes from rounder fruit to a bit more grassy character, and hints at an Old World style with a bit of astringency. $20

2012 Seufert Winery Pinot Gris Eola-Amity Hills AVA The Seufert Pinot Gris is darker hued of the two, medium gold to lighter copper in hue. The aromatics leap out at you, there's a note of sweet ripe cantaloupe beeswax and lemon grass. On the palate you get ripe pineapple and wet stone. The Seufert is a study in contrasts, it lacks the astringency and tends towards a ripe roundness but it maintains a ripping acidity that takes you into a citrus packed finish.  It's possible that this wine spent some time on the yeast, or lees, but that's just me guessing.$16

Neither of these wines are flabby, or boring and both would make for a nice food pairing, The slightly lower acid levels open up possibilities from spicy dishes to grilled or baked fish dishes as well. As we wait for the 2012 Pinot Noir from the Willamette to start hitting the shelves we can find in these wines that the future looks good. Acid levels are sufficient and Pinot Gris as opposed to Pinot Noir would have been at greater risk for over ripening. In speaking with winemakers I know, folks are very happy with what 2012 has given them and excited about the wines to come. In addition we can only guess at what kind of vintage 2014 will be, it hasn't even technically begun. My biggest hope is that the brutal cold snap of this past week does  not leave behind significant vine damage.

These wines were provided by the wineries as samples.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Volcanoes, Glaciers and Pinot Noir: Fire+Flood Oregon

from guest blogger Renae Henderson:

Historic Downtown Newberg, OR recently welcomed Fire + Flood, Oregon at the end of September, a new tasting room by Chapter 24 Vineyards with a vision to showcase everything the Willamette Valley has to offer. While still new, the plan is to build up to pouring wines from 10 to 15 local guest winemakers featuring two wines from each in addition to their four Fire + Flood label Pinot Noirs.

The Fire is in reference to the volcanic soils, iron red in hue that are found largely within the Willamette Valley's Dundee and Eola/Amity appellations. The Flood refers to the glacial cataclysms that resulted in the Missoula floods which have come to form the Valley and leave behind it's mark in today's rocky soils.

The guest wines will be from winemakers who don’t have public tasting rooms due to their small size, giving tasters the chance to sample incredible wines they wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to experience. The idea is that eventually you’ll have the unique choice of a fully customizable tasting flight by selecting a few wines from the 20 to 30 available. With this format, you won’t just be sampling from one particular sub-AVA, but wines from all over the valley. Because Fire + Flood, Oregon has a love for the story behind the wines of the Willamette Valley, they’ll be adding in an audiovisual wine wall this January. This wall will allow tasters to hear the stories behind the wines from the winemakers themselves. If you’re going to taste in the Willamette Valley, this will be an experience you don’t want to miss as clearly this isn’t just another tasting room.
Chapter 24 Vineyards is a three-fold partnership between Mark Tarlov, Mike D. Etzel, Jr. and Louis-Michel Liger-Belair. Mark Tarlov, a film producer, founded Evening Land Vineyards in 2005 and launched Chapter 24 after leaving there in January 2012. Mike D. Etzel, Jr. is a native Oregonian and the son of Beaux Frères’ winemaker, Michael Etzel. The younger Etzel worked at Brick House Vineyards and WillaKenzie Estate prior to becoming the winemaker for Chapter 24 Vineyards. Louis-Michel Liger-Belair comes from Burgundy where some of the world’s most renowned Pinot Noir is made. He’s looking forward to seeing how his winemaking techniques will do with the vineyards of the Willamette Valley as he serves as the winemaking consultant for Chapter 24 Vineyards. The idea for him isn’t to make a Burgundy style Pinot Noir here in Oregon but to make amazing Oregon Pinot Noir. The winemaking of the pair is an old-world style with minimal handling and spontaneous fermentation. The grapes are allowed to infuse as whole berries at a moderate temperature, in an oxygen rich environment until pressed.

The tasting room is currently featuring four 2012 Pinot Noirs from the Fire + Flood label as well as a Riesling and a Pinot Noir from Matt Berson’s Love & Squalor. The four 2012 Pinot Noirs available under the Fire + Flood Label are: Two Messengers, The Fire, The Flood, and The Last Chapter; four unique Pinots with their own personalities.

The Two Messengers Pinot Noir provides a nice snapshot of the valley with multiple vineyard sites blended containing volcanic as well as sedimentary soil types. The wine is 100% de-stemmed and offers notes of cherry, floral, and earth. $30

The Fire showcases the volcanic soil of the region blending 6 volcanic vineyards primarily located in the southern portion of the Eola Hills and the remainder from the Dundee Hills. This wine is red-fruit driven with soft tannins and notes of baking spices. $60

The Flood showcases the sedimentary soil of the region blending 6 vineyards from the Chehalem Mountains, Yamhill Carlton, and Ribbon Ridge sub-AVAs. This one is more earth and dark-fruit driven. $60

The Last Chapter ($90) is the beautiful convergence of the best from The Fire and The Flood highlighting all that this diverse wine region has to offer. In all, Chapter 24 Vineyards produced approximately 4,200 cases of Pinot Noir from the 2012 harvest. Fire + Flood, Oregon and Chapter 24 Vineyards are creating a new tasting room experience and fantastic Pinot Noir with a unique focus on soils.

-Checkout Renae's blog Pass the Pinot where she shares her impressions and experiences with wines and wineries of California, Washington and Oregon and follow her on Twitter at @passpinot.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Friday Find, December 6th

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest

The biggest story right now is of course the passing of Nelson Mandela, and while I feel like talking about it, I feel the man deserves better than to be the subject of a weekly wine blog post on wines for a good value. So, I'm going with something else. A book I just read.
I just recently finished reading David Walsh's book Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong. Walsh has long been the foil for Armstrong and was the one guy, well, there were others (not many) but he had the loudest mouth, who never believed the Armstrong myth. 

As an American cyclist who like most, if not all of us wanted to believe the Armstrong myth, the Walsh book is an incredible behind the scenes look at what he experienced as the Doubting Thomas of cycling journalism. Rough treatment certainly from the Armstrong camp, but also pariah status from fellow journalists. His biggest book, LA Confidentiel, I spelled it like that on purpose, it only ever came out in France, and in French. So most of us never read it, but it was the first look at many of the truths that would bring Lance down. 

The new book is a painful chronicle of Walsh's time as the one guy working at a major newspaper who was both telling, and concerned with the truth. He was sued successfully by Armstrong and his management team, and of course, the outcome of that will be revisited in court. As a reader and someone who was closely following Armstrong's Tour de France dominance, and believing much of it at the time, the Walsh book leaves me feeling guilty. Not for being duped, that's something I figured out about 4 or 5 years ago and have moved past where Lance is concerned, but feeling guilty about how Walsh found himself so maligned. 

The book is only slightly a "I told you so." I mean frankly, you have to admire Walsh's restraint, he was right, and almost everyone else was wrong, and he was so certain about it. For that, he like others who doubted the golden boy paid a dear price in terms of work, financial penalty and reputation. I recommend the book if you have even a passing interest in what happened with Lance Armstrong and his doping scandal.

Today's Friday Find is not controversial, nor will one find oneself maligned by singing it's praises, quite the opposite in fact. The Redd Brand Red Wine 2008 (a Bordeaux style blend with Cab, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, etc, all of them) from the folks at Tertulia Cellars. Their goal with this wine, there are others as well, is to give folks a quality wine at a really approachable price. In warm vintages especially there may be some exquisite left over fruit that makes it into a second label like this. This wine is certainly a velveteen red blend with smoke, dust and dried figs on the aromatics, and a luxuriant palate with mocha, toast, black fruits and pepper to finish. You'll find it in the $15 range in shops like Esquin or Wine World. The label also has some single vineyard Grenache and I believe Tempranillo so look for those as well, they're all in this price range. 

Monday, December 02, 2013

Listomania 2013: Top 100 Wine Extravaganza!

Each year at this time there are two kinds of lists that people are thinking about, the one cobbled together by Ol' Saint Nick and then the copious top 100 lists put out by all the wine publications. There is also the concept of the "shit list" which frankly is not seasonal and is not one that anyone hopes they make it onto.  While the most cache goes to the list from Wine Spectator, the Wine Enthusiast and the San Francisco Chronicle also produce Top 100 lists.  Here at the Anthem we do not, we simple don't try that many wines in a year, we have day jobs and this blog ain't them.  That's okay though because just about everyone else does. So we have aggregated that data here for you. You're welcome.

The Wine Enthusiast

The Wine Enthusiast produces a lot of lists. Some people describe themselves as "list-makers" and so that's probably true of the editors at the Enthusiast. They've got Top 100 Best Buys, Top 100 Cellar Selections and just Top 100 "Regular" I suppose (there are also beer lists by the way). Here's the run down of Top 100 "Regular."

86: 2011 Chehalem Ridge Crest Vineyard, Wind Ridge Block Pinot Noir $50

83: 2009 Gorman Winery, The Bully Cabernet (Red Mountain) $45
75: 2011 Foundry Vineyards, Stainless Chardonnay (Columbia Gorge) $24
70: 2011 Dunham Estate, Lewis Vineyard Riesling $20
64: 2012 Guardian Cellars, Angel Sauvignon Blanc (Red Mountain) $20
54: 2012 Poet's Leap Riesling $20
48: 2011 Kevin White Winery, Fraternite (GSM blend) $20
43: 2010 Bergstrom, Sigrid Chardonnay $80
39: 2010 Maison Bleue, Le Midi Grenache, Boushey Vineyard $35
34: 2010 Pacific Rim, Wallula Vineyard, Biodynamic Riesling $32
6: 2010 Cayuse, En Cerise Vineyard Syrah $80
4: 2012 Trisaetum, Ribbon Ridge Estate, Dry Riesling $24

Notables about this list; the inclusion of the Trisaetum Riesling in the top 5 is something that I'm glad to see. I feel like the Willamette Valley does Riesling so much better than Washington and this is a nod to that. Also the Kevin White blend at #48. Kevin's wines are so good, he's such a good guy and it's $20. That's a great wine for a ridiculous price. The $80 Chardonnay is a bit over the top and not something I'd buy considering so many great Willamette Valley Chardonnay can be had for $25-30.

Also, huge gap between number 34 and 6.

The San Francisco Chronicle 
Of all the professional print wine writers, it seems like Jon Bonne at the SF Chronicle has a palate that I gravitate towards. The Chronicle does not rank their wines, they merely list the 100 best wines they sampled that given year. The list is of American wines and so it's pretty much about the wines made on the West Coast. The list is broken up by "genre" which comes off as a little strange. The Chronicle also lists the alcohol percentage of each wine, I think this is a good thing and generally they list wines with lower ABV in their top 100 as they tend more towards acidity less toward ripe to overripe fruit. Of all the lists these are the wines that I'm most likely to look for as a consumer when it comes to wines I haven't been familiar with. 

2012 Adelsheim Willamette Valley Chardonnay $22
2011 Memaloose Columbia Gorge Chardonnay $25

I feel like there's a real miss here, particularly where the Willamette Valley is concerned. The region is produce extraordinary Chardonnay and so to only see one on a list that I consider to be authoritative where what's happening with wine is concerned seems like Bonne whiffed on this one.

Other Whites:
2011 Trisaetum Coast Range Estate Dry Riesling $24
2012 Abacela Umpqua Valley Albarino $18
2012 Cowhorn Spiral 36 Applegate Valley White $28

2012 JK Carriere, Glass, White Pinot Noir $20 (This wine is superb.)
2012 Analemma, Atvus Vineyard, Columbia Gorge $25
2012 Teutonic, Laurel Vineyard, Willamette Valley $19

Pinot Noir:
2011 Bergstrom Cumberland Reserve $42
2011 Big Table Farm, Willamette Valley $38
2011Brickhouse, Les Dijonnais, Ribbon Ridge $52
2011 Chehalem, Three Vineyard, Willamette Valley $29
2011 Haden Fig, Cancilla Vineyard, $30
2011 Soter, North Valley $30
2011 Stoller Family Estate, Dundee Hills $25

Cabernet & Merlot:
2010 Betz Family, Clos de Betz, Columbia Valley Red $55
2010 Cadence, Tapteil Vineyard Red $45
2011 Leonetti Cellar, Walla Walla Valley Merlot $75
2010 Scarborough, The Royale, Columbia Valley Red $35
2010 Gramercy Cellars, Walla Walla Valley Cabernet $48
2010 Januik, Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon $55
2010 Revelry Vintners, The Limited Edition Reveler, Columbia Valley Red $35
2011 Andrew Will, Columbia Valley Cabernet Franc $25

Rhone Style Reds:
Not a single Washington wine? Seriously?

Zinfandel & Other Reds
Nothing here either.

The Wine Spectator
In terms of the high profile Top 100 list that honor begins and ends with the highest profile magazine, Wine Spectator. I for one do not find life to be a spectator sport but none the less "the Spectator" as it is known is the biggest of big dogs.  Interestingly they actually roll their Top 100 out over the course of a week, revealing a few each day and on the last day numero uno gets unveiled.  Overall the Northwest did fairly well including 5 wines in the top 25.

79: 2010 Ken Wright, Savoya Vineyard Pinot Noir $55
68: 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc, $15
57: 2010 L'ecole No. 41, Columbia Valley, Syrah $25
55: 2011 A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir $18
51: 2012 Charles Smith, Kung Fu Girl Riesling $12
27: 2010 Spring Valley Vineyards, Uriah, Walla Walla Valley $20
17: 2010 Alexana, Revana Vineyard, Pinot Noir $42
11: 2010 Reynvaan, Walla Walla Valley Stonessence, Syrah $70
10: 2010 Quilceda Creek, Columbia Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon $135
3: Domaine Serene, Evanstad Pinot Noir $65

10 Northwest wines in the WS Top 100 up 1 from 9 the year before. 

And with that we close out another list season, except for the whole Santa Claus thing. Many of these wines, because of where they landed on these lists will be difficult to come by.  Many of them already are. 

Here's the cool kids at New York's PS22 doing Lystomania from the band Phoenix.

Friday, November 29, 2013

"Black Friday" Find November 29th

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

Black Friday, the term strikes fear in the hearts of men... women too. At least the sane ones. What is probably one of the most obscene "holidays" on the human calendar. The idea behind "Black Friday" is that it is the first day of the calendar year when retailers actually go into the "black" or make a profit for the year. Which, if you think about that, even using the fiscal year calendar, it's sorta depressing. If the fiscal year starts in July we're looking at damn near December for retailers to get out of the red? That's almost half the year. You can do math.

What further makes Black Friday confounding is how much you just spent on dinner the night before. I mean, turkey, and all the fixings, that isn't cheap, so going out the next day and willfully looking to throw some more loot around is not a state of mind I can necessarily relate to, although wine shops don't typically have crazy blow out deals either. 

Over the past several years there have been news stories of people perpetrating acts of violence against one another. People have been shot and pepper sprayed and in probably the most famous case, trampled to death, and here's the kicker, not so people could get something for free. So they could "get a deal on it."  Insane by definition. You're going to kill someone so you can pay for something? That does not compute. Robbery I can at least try to understand.

This Black Friday, why don't you eschew that flagrant consumerism and instead stay home, maybe do some work around the house or go and get a work out in, or you can jump into Fall Barrel Tasting Weekend over in Lake Chelan's wine country. Do a little shopping, wine tasting and dining at a leisurely place in one of Washington's most beautiful spots. This weekend they've got 17 different wineries pouring barrel samples as well as offering those crazy deals that could get you stampeded in some WalMart in middle America. Our Friday Find is from Lake Chelan's Vin Du Lac. Their 2011 Sauvignon Blanc cally Savvy! can be located at both Esquin, as well as the Ballard Fred Meyer at ridiculous prices, like $7, normally around $15. Perhaps this is a function of wanting to clear out the 2011s before the 2012s hit shelves? In any case, buy a case, this is a great seafood wine, with loads of green apple, key lime and wet stone.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Undiscovered in Lake Chelan... Ventimiglia Cellars

from Lucha Vino:

Roll up, roll up for the Mystery Tour…

The majority of the wineries and vineyards in the Lake Chelan AVA ring the shores of Lake Chelan.  The views are stunning and the wineries are all just a short drive from one to the next.

Step right this way.

If you are willing to take a journey off the beaten path, a bit of a Mystery Tour, you are in for a treat.  Ventimiglia Cellars is just East of downtown Chelan, located half way between Lake Chelan and the Columbia river.  The small, unassuming, building is hiding in plain site behind several large fruit packing plants.  Don’t be intimidated, the place is actually easy to find.  When you roll up in front of the building you will be greeted in a most friendly way by Ron Ventimiglia, owner and winemaker.

That’s an invitation.

I visited with Ron on a recent summer day.  The sun was shining and the stories were flowing.  Ron is an engaging host.  As I was wondering to myself “Why do winemakers make some of the best story tellers?” Ron hit me with this gem – “There are not many businesses that let your personality show through.”  How true.  Ron’s enthusiasm and hospitality were evident as he walked me through his lineup, told stories of the history of wine and vineyards in the Lake Chelan AVA and showed off the content of his barrel room.

The Mystery Tour is waiting to take you away.  Every day is barrel tasting day at Ventimiglia Cellars. 

Ron showed me through the variety of wines in barrel.  Each one had its own unique story and Ron was happy to tell them.  The tasting room was buzzing with people so Ron was busy popping back and forth to make sure each of his guests received the attention they deserved.  Each visitor was treated like a family member returning for a long awaited visit.

As we toured through the barrels Ron shared more stories about the history of Ventimiglia and his plans for the future. 

On the history side of the ledger Ron shares that he has been making wine for nearly two decades.  He admits he is still learning how to hit the right level of production to match his supply with demand.  For example, Ron still has a considerable amount of his 2006 Amalgamarsi, a Bordeaux inspired blend, available due to some over exuberance.  The blend is predominantly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with some Cabernet Franc, Malbec and a splash of Petit Verdot.  It is robust with notes of dark cherry, currants, toffee and clove spices.

On the future side of the ledger, Ron tells me about the estate vineyard he is planning for the property just to the South of his tasting room.  The vineyard will be home to grapes that will be used primarily for blending. 

I hope that Ron pays closer attention to what he is doing than the folks at the vineyard just to the North of the Chelan airfield.  The owners lost their vineyard map!  Ron makes an Airfield Blend that includes Tempranillo, Dolcetto, Refosco and Grenache.  Talk about a mystery, without the map nobody knows what the percentages are!  The 2012 has a slightly smoky character that is the result of the wild fires that raged in the Chelan area prior to the harvest.  This wine shows light red fruit, white pepper and some earthy spices backed up with some nice acidity.

The NV Pinot Noir was one of my favorite wines of the day.  This Pinot started as two barrels of 2005 vintage.  When Ron ran out of 2005 Pinot for topping off the barrels he started using 2006, then 2007.  When the wine was ready for bottling Ron realized he had added about 7% of the other vintages.  The percentages required the wine to be labeled as Non-Vintage!  No need to worry.  This Pinot Noir shows some nice character of medium red berries and earthy all spice concluding with a dry finish that features notes of cedar spices.

Ron is on a journey, perhaps a bit of a Mystery Tour.  He has about 6 wines in his current lineup and another 6 resting in barrel.  He is working, experimenting and producing some very interesting wines. 

If you go visit Ron you will be greeted like a long lost friend and treated to a Mystery Tour that will stimulate your senses. Every day is a barrel tasting adventure at Ventimiglia Cellars.  Roll up, roll up for the Mystery Tour.  Ron is waiting to take you away on a mystery trip.  Your satisfaction is guaranteed.

Thanksgiving Weekend marks the Fall Barrel Tasting in Lake Chelan and it's a great time to chat with the winemakers about what they think of this year's harvest. It's also another gorgeous time to go to Lake Chelan.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Three for Thanksgiving: Northwest Wines for Turkey Time

Thanksgiving. There's a fair bit of historical confusion and some emotional arguments around the "depiction" of Thanksgiving in American lore. The meal which has become to be known as the First Thanksgiving in America is one that took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. Just a re-cap, there were 102 original "Pilgrims" and 46 of them died that first harsh winter. The following year's harvest was a strong one and so they decided on a "Thanksgiving" feast over three days that included them inviting 90 members of the Wampanoag Indians without whom they surely would have all died. The feast included venison, duck, geese, lobsters, clams, bass and corn, much of which was provided by the Wampanoag. There is debate if a turkey even made it to the table. The craziest thing about this 3 day feast was that it was all prepared by 4 women settlers and 2 teenage girls. 

Hopefully whomever is cooking your meal has something a bit more reasonable planned. Play the role of gracious dinner guest and come correct with three Northwest wines that are superbly suited for Thanksgiving. The trick to being the savvy wine steward at your Holiday feast is to offer up wines that are going to stand up to the food that your host is dishing out. Thanksgiving means turkey, sauces, gravy, the works, and so to cut through that and standout you're going to want to bring some wines that pack some nice acidity as well as offer a variety given the various courses and inevitably the different palates that'll be around the table.

To get things started something white or pink is nice, and bubbles will always do the trick. We're going with the 2012 Waitsburg Cellars Cheninieres a 100% Chenin Blanc from the Snipes Mountain AVA. Chenin Blanc is unfortunately too rare here in Washington and this is the best one I've ever had. This wine is really aromatically captivating and comes off as a Savennieres, it's namesake, with lots of wet stone, alongside notes of citrus and a real complexity that wouldn't necessarily have me thinking this was from Washington or anywhere outside of France. Seems like all the new world Chenin I've ever had has emphasized fuller fruit, this is all about the magic of minerality. The palate continues that depth with notes of honey, lime and wet slate. Maybe the best white wine from Washington right now? Could be. Also, it's $17.

For the main course(s) we're going with two reds. First let me say that Pinot Noir is always a great choice with food, Thanksgiving is no exception and we've got a Pinot/Gamay Noir blend from Bow & Arrow Wine Company called Rhinestones. Gamay Noir is an under appreciated wine grape most known for it's central role in Beaujolais. The Portland wine producers Bow & Arrow are partial to the varietal as they do this blend and a 100% Gamay as well. Gamay might be likened to Pinot Noir's less elegant, more straight forward cousin. Where Pinot might lure you in with it's minerality and elegance, Gamay offers straight forward fruit and acid. With this wine what you get is a blast of bright fruit aromatics and brilliant acidity that will cut throw Grandma's gravy and offer a lip smacking tang of sour cherry and under-ripe blueberries. $23

There's plenty of food, so we need another wine to bring us home. The 2011 Justine from Avennia in Washington's Woodinville is going to show your host you don't mess around. This wine is a Southern Rhone style blend, Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah in that order. This is an impressive wine, very impressive. Aromatics of sage, black plum, dried violets and stone unravel into an equally compelling flavor profile that features layers of fennel, black olive, plums and more of that stone. Where the Rhinestones acidity danced and played on the palate the Justine is contemplative and a touch stoic, like some a brooding intellectual. The Justine shows the real character that Washington fruit has when handled lightly and not drowned out by oak or extraction, Avennia calls it a focus on "purity of fruit." Your fellow dinner guests might just say "holy hell man." $38

Your work is done, so now, enjoy the spoils. Undo your belt, even the top button if need be and slip off into that tryptophan dreamland you've so earned. Let someone else handle the dishes, you handled the wine and did so with aplomb. (All of these wines are available in Seattle's Phinney Ridge neighborhood at picnic: a food & wine boutique. Bow & Arrow also has a Portland location at the Bindery.)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Find, November 15th

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

I grew up listening to hip-hop more than any other form of music. The genre itself is in one that has almost always been burdened with mythos and bravado. From it's origins as party rocking music that allowed emcees to "feature" themselves or play up various personal traits or downplaying or dissing someone else's. The genre evolved heavily in the 90s and included the development of the very popular gangsta rap. Whether it was West Coast groups like N.W.A. or the burgeoning drug-dealer turned rapper icons of Notorious BIG or Jay Z in New York. When the 1996 album Stakes is High from De La Soul dropped, it marked a substantial shift in the groups aesthetic from the keeping it like to keep it real, but really real. The song Stakes is High and the very clever video looked to strip away all the bravado and call it out for what it was, as well as acknowledge that at the end of the day, these guys were all just trying to make a living.

De La Soul "Stakes is high" from Kamp Kennedy on Vimeo.

So instead of buying into all the bravado De La Soul lays themselves bare as well as the industry:
"I'm sick of bitches shakin' asses
I'm sick of talkin' about blunts
Sick of Versace glasses
Sick of slang
Sick of half-ass awards shows
Sick of name brand clothes
Sick of R&B bitches over bullshit tracks
Cocaine and crack
Which brings sickness to blacks
Sick of swoll' head rappers
With their sickenin' raps
Clappers of gats
Makin' the whole sick world collapse
The facts are gettin' sick
Even sicker perhaps"

The video is even more refreshing with shots of the guys doing laundry, washing their dishes and raking up leaves. You know, normal life stuff. If you're shouting about keeping it real but you're just feeding us a line of b.s about how tough you are, how many gold plated trinkets you own or how many women are falling all over you, not so much keeping it real.

Today's Friday Find is about keeping it real too, and it's a bit of a surprise in terms of where it's coming from. The House Wine brand is known for making a plethora of red and white wines that are largely drinkable, fairly predictable and safe. Typically the red wines are fairly oaky and velveteen, well priced and they could be a great way to introduce non-wine drinkers to wine, that is to say, these are totally fine. That's what makes the 2011 Mountain Merlot such a shocker. From what I can glean it's a Merlot done in steel. Imagine real Merlot, which usually get's worked over by a fair amount of oak allowed to be itself, to "keep it real." That's refreshing and frankly this wine is refreshing. It's crazy bright with aromatics of fresh blueberries, bright raspberry and maybe a bit of rhubarb. The wine retails at around $9.99 it's loaded up with fresh fruit and great acid. Break out the burgers for this one. House Wine is widely available so you'll wanna look out for this particular wine, it's unique among their offerings.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oddities & Curiosities: Unique Northwest Wines

Over the years we have come to identify particular wine varieties not just with regions but with wine itself. You know, wine, like Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. That's wine. Oh sure, there are outliers or wine varietals some would even call boundary pushing, like Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, etc. But for many wine drinkers, we play it safe and keep it simple. There are, according to some estimates, as many as 1,300 varieties of wine grape used for commercial winemaking. So why the narrow focus? My theory is that our wine based tunnel vision is really a product of three things, the practical, the traditional and the comfortable.

As a young wine region America has looked to emulate the success of Europe's most renowned wine regions. Those regions, Bordeaux and Burgundy have been the benchmark and so it should be no surprise that American wines have been largely comprised of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc of Bordeaux fame, along with the Burgundian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Naturally these are the wines that many people become most comfortable with, its what they're familiar with, it's what they see most often and get used to. There's nothing wrong with being comfortable. However, wine offers such an abundance of opportunity to try different things, 1,300 of them remember. So what I'm encouraging you to do is, don't be so mainstream. Maybe be a little bit deviant.

There is plenty of opportunity for deviance here in the Northwest, I'm talking about wine now, so take your mind out of the gutter. I mean like deviate from the norm. Merlot, sure we've got that, Pinot too. We've also got Rousanne, Gamay Noir, Grenache Blanc and Tempranillo, or these two wines, a Graciano from Washington state and a Tannat from Southern Oregon.

The Tannat being made by Troon Vineyard is very much about getting away from a bit of the mainstream and "to look for inspiration in regions that might be similar to our own" says winemaker Herb Quady. "We knew that Malbec was successful locally, and that Tannat was grown and blended with Malbec in Cahors." Traditionally Tannat has been most identified with the French growing region Madiran and it has become very popular in Uruguay. The folks at Troon though figured that if the Malbec was being grown in Southern Oregon was doing well, perhaps taking a look at other wines that did well in areas where Malbec was successful was the way to go. This led them to make that connection to Cahors and give Tannat a go beginning by grafting some over in 2006. Given the reception and how well the wine has turned out, you can look for it to become a central part of the wines Troon is making moving forward.
Is it challenging to be one of the only people making a certain wine in any given region?  For Herb "the challenge, it seems, is that Tannat sets a large crop and ripens late.  We often drop half the crop and almost always pick it last.  We haven't seen the seriously tannic profile on Tannat." Herb takes more or less the approach he takes with Cabernet Sauvignon, fermenting the wine in oak as well as the use of new French barrels for aging. He was also able to gain a bit of experience with the wine when he worked with Randall Graham at Bonny Doon, so not being a total stranger helped.

Javier Alfonso is probably most known for his label Pomum Cellars but his side project Idilico is rapidly becoming very popular with a focus on his native Spanish varieties at the under $20 price-point.  Graciano is almost exclusively used to be blended with Tempranillo to make the signature wines of Spain's Rioja region. Graciano adds both color and acidity. Javier started corresponding with one Spanish producer who was bottling varietal Graciano. "In our correspondence we realized that heat units in Rioja and in most vintages, fall too short to properly ripen it. However the deficit is marginal and perhaps a place that could provide that little extra heat would make Graciano express its full potential." 

Javier worked with the Newhouse family of Upland Vineyards one of Washington's most revered grape growers and they agreed to plant two acres of this obscure Spanish wine. Reception has been incredible for the 2010 bottling. It was named one of the best new wines by Seattle Met Magazine and it's on the glass pour list at Canlis and the Herb Farm. The small and only planting means it will probably be some time before Javier can up the production from the tiny 170 cases. Javier thinks Graciano will be a wine that Washington may come to embrace.

2011 Troon Vineyard Estate Tannat Applegate Valley is pretty revealing. If I'm being honest, it turned my Tannat expectations on their head. Rather than face-sucking tannin or nearly zero aromatics this is a ripe, ready, almost voluptuous wine. I had to check again on that 13% alcohol marked on the label. This is a nicely balanced, well made wine. There is tannin, don't get me wrong, but the wine is totally approachable. The structure is definitive, the palate is grippy and loaded up with chewy black fruit. There are aromatics of sage, mocha and iron which are still a tad on the shy side. Despite it's readiness it should be really something in a couple of years. Right now the production is tiny at 48 cases but Troon plans to grow and produce more Tannat in the future $28

2010 Idilico Graciano I totally love this wine, let me rephrase that, and excuse the language, I would drink the shit out of this wine. First off, it's priced at around $18-20. It drinks like something from the wild and unruly Roussillon region of France and frankly it only improves over the course of the evening. Dark and inky purple with wild herbal aromatics, it's got a bit of everything. The wine is strikingly balanced, juicy dark fruits, garrigue and a little zip at the end. Let's be honest you wanna try this wine because it's cool as hell. It's called Graciano, it rhymes with Rocky Marciano and it's a wine that  none of your friends has likely ever had before. Shock them. Not only is it obscure, it's really, really, really good. $20

Friday, November 08, 2013

Friday Find, November 8th

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

Wine in it's essence was created to be drunk with food. Not so you'd be drunk, but rather to be consumed. Wine comes from cultures where food is considered part of a national or regional identity and over time, wine has come to be  wrapped up in that experience. It compliments or completes a meal. Wine certainly can be appreciated on it's own, without food, but at the end of the day, wine is in many ways, food itself. 

wine doesn't pair with football, this is dumb.
You know what wine isn't? Wine isn't made to pair with "Monday Night Football" or "post Zumba" or Halloween. However there is no end to the kinds of insanity you'll see in various online wine publications or "personalities." I was actually asked the other day via Twitter, "Hey @clivity what wine pairs with Monday Night Football?" My response, what's for dinner? There is no football wine. Because a wine has a "spooky" label that doesn't make it a Halloween wine, if you're going to talk Halloween wine, do it properly, pair it with what you eat on Halloween. My man Jameson Fink did that very thing for Serious Eats. These are wines without "spooky" labels and cheesy marketing that you can totally drink with sweet desserts or candy, check that out here.

Today's Friday Find is a wine made for food pairing, the Pescaia from Facelli Winery in Woodinville. Facelli is probably one of the least talked about wineries in Woodinville and point of fact, that's a damn shame. They make really nice wines, and represent a small family operation that has been at it for a long time. Their Pescaia is a fantastic NV, or Non-vintage blend at the $20 price point. That is to say, the wines that are blended to make it are done so across varying vintages. This can often lead to some really fantastic wine at a very low price. 

This wine falls into that category. The blend of Barbera, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese balances great food friendly acids along with a mix of red and dark fruit for a really great food wine. It will stand up to hearty sauces, but also do well with some grilled fish. I'm thinking cioppino is calling this wine's name. You get ample bright fruits from the Barbera, red currant and cranberry as well as some nice cedar and dark plum courtesy of the Cabernet to balance the wine out. Bring this wine as a dinner guest and you're going to make a lot of people happy.

As for where you can find it, the good people at Bin 41 in West Seattle carry it and I encourage you to go by Facelli out in Woodinville and try their other wines. I've long been a fan of their Merlot. 

Monday, November 04, 2013

Along Idaho's Snake River Valley: Coiled Wines

From Chip McLaughlin

I've recently relocated back to Boise after seven years away and I was excited to see how things had changed in the local wine industry. The first place that I discovered was a little wine co-op called the 44th Street Wineries Cooperative. Within the walls of this old warehouse reside three of Idaho’s newest and most exciting wineries: Coiled, Telaya and Cinder.

I know two of the tenants of the 44th Street Wineries Cooperative as a good friend of mine used to be the assistant winemaker at Cinder and I had met the proprietor of Telaya about a year and a half ago at a wine event in Seattle, so I was definitely excited to catch up with them, and see what the deal was with Coiled.  As a graphic design artist, their labels immediately caught my attention.  To understand the snake’s scales design that adorns their bottles, maybe a little history lesson is in order.

Coiled is the most recent venture by winemaker Leslie Preston, named after the Snake River, which twists, turns and coils through the southwestern valley of Idaho.  Preston is a Boise native that first discovered a love for wine when she was studying abroad in France, and it was there that she began to experience the true joy that is food and wine pairings.  Leslie realized that French literature and academia wasn't her true calling while teaching French at UC Davis where she had several students that were enrolled in the oenology and viticulture program.  After a few more years in academia, Preston left UC Davis with her M.S. in oenology. Upon graduation Leslie worked for Clos Du Bois in Sonoma, and Saintsbury in Carneros before landing her dream job at Napa Valley staple, Stags’ Leap Winery as their oenologist with oversight of the white wine program.

It was at Stags’ Leap that Leslie was able to refine her skills in winemaking, though she never forgot about her Idaho roots.  During a Rhone Rangers tasting in San Francisco, Leslie had the opportunity to try what was then the most recent releases from Sawtooth Winery, as they were pouring just a few tables down from her.  She was really intrigued and impressed by the unique quality of the wines and above all else, the idea of wines expressing an Idaho terroir.  During one of her next visits back home, she met up with Sawtooth’s founder, Charles Pintler, to talk more about the resurgence of the Idaho wine industry and she also negotiated for some Syrah from Pintler’s estate vineyard, which she then took back with her to Napa for production.

This was in 2006, and for six years, after leaving Stags’ Leap to spend more time with her new family, Preston would commute back and forth between California and Idaho, shuttling grapes all due to her excitement for Idaho’s potential to make truly unique, terroir driven wines.  In 2012, after months of conversation and deliberation, Preston, her husband and their children made the move Boise.

Right now, Coiled offers three wines in their lineup: a dry Riesling and two proprietary red blends called Sidewinder and Black Mamba.  I swear that Leslie and I are kindred spirits as we both have an extensive love for Riesling.  Preston is spearheading a revolution in America, preaching the gospel of Riesling, so it’s no surprise that her 2012 Dry Riesling is stunning.  The glass is filled with every stone fruit known to man with rich minerality, fresh orange zest, blood oranges balanced with screaming acidity and a hint of residual sugar.  Viva la Riesling Revolution, baby! $17

Coiled’s 2010 Sidewinder is a blend of 96% Syrah and 4% Petite Sirah.  I expected a big and bold northwest Syrah with a boat load of blue fruits, but had to double check the blend after I first stuck my nose in the glass to find bright red fruits intertwined with mesquite notes, dried tobacco and white and pink peppercorn.  The Sidewinder is a super velvety Syrah that is medium bodied with more mesquite notes, cranberries, bing cherries and fresh white pepper. $25

The 2011 Black Mamba was probably the biggest and best surprise of the day.  It was no surprise that someone with Preston’s background could make a stunning Riesling, but I had no idea that Idaho had begun to embrace varietals like Tempranillo, Mourvedre and Barbera.  The Black Mamba is comprised of 67% Tempranillo and 33% Syrah and man is it great!  The nose is big and bold with mountain fruits, dark cocoa, black licorice and some earthy spice while the palate is full of brighter fruits like cranberries, red currants, super soft, velvety tannins and hints of white chocolate and baking spice. $28

If Coiled is just the beginning of the next generation for Idaho wines, we are all in for quite the treat!