Arts and Crafts Were Never This Fun

Sparkle and Fade

A Cabernet Experience

Exploring Terroir with Forgeron Cellars

Oregon's French Connection

Maison Louis Jadot's Résonance

The French Connection

Rhone to Columbia Valley: The Syrah Doctrine

C'mon Get Happy

New Growth at Matthews Winery

Who We Are

The staff of the Northwest Wine Anthem, we're good

Monday, April 28, 2014

Thoughtful Plots: Keeler Estate Vineyard

The interwebs are currently a buzz with news about big California wine brands coming to Oregon's Willamette Valley. Some folks see it as a boon to the industry and others, like myself are skeptical and weary of the impacts these big labels might have on what still very much feels like a family industry. There are still stories of small family operations getting started up and down the Valley. One of them is Keeler Estate Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills.

In the Eola Amity Hills AVA you will find some of the Wilamette Valley's most respected vineyard sites. Among them the renowned estate vineyards of Cristom, names like Majorie and Louise should be well known to Oregon Pinot buffs. Temperance Hill is here, Seven Springs Vineyard of Evening Land fame, as well as Zenith Vineyard, Le Puits Sec of Evesham Wood and the estate Bethel Heights vineyards among many, many others. So, if you were looking for company when deciding on where you might plant a Pinot Noir vineyard, you could certainly do worse.

And so Craig and Gabriele Keeler came to plant wine grapes on thirty five acres of a two hundred acre parcel that they purchased in 1989. Keeler Estate Vineyard is set in a plot of land that the Keelers originally had chosen to graze and raise Hampshire sheep something they did with their children through 4H. As their children got older the desire to raise the sheep waned   The parcel was vast and consisted of south facing slopes, great air drainage and sedimentary soils. They had a little analysis done and then got down to the business of planting a vineyard.

The Keeler property has a lot of variance, both in terms of elevation, and soils. The hope is that this place has a set of signatures that the right soil and Pinot clones could find a sweet spot. "Our soils vary from Steiwer, Chehulpum, Hazeiair and Carlton – Chehalem types.  The majority of the hill site is shallow loamy soils to soft sedimentary rock and varies in depth.  When you bring up the sedimentary rock it is full of ocean fossils of all types and our thought was this is a very interesting site and should produce its own style of grapes" says Gabriele Keeler.

The Keelers got serious about strategy and have tried to match their planting to the various soil types. "Based upon the soil map we have positioned 15 different vineyard blocks to date on the property. Each block is designed to fit the soil types and a variety of root stocks were selected based upon vigor of the site, available moisture along with the type of trellis used." They farm the vineyard using biodynamics and have had to be patient as the dry farming approach has led to markedly different plant growth and root development in the vineyard's different blocks. The vines have come along at different rates depending upon which block and or soil type they were planted in.

It is still a very young vineyard. 

The fruit from the Keeler's vineyards is largely purchased by other wineries, Montinore Estate buys most of it. For Ben Thomas who makes the red wines at Montinore the Keeler Estate Vineyard fruit has demonstrated reliability and consistency even it it's youth. "The last few years we've been using the 115 that grows down in Keeler’s lower vineyard. The fruit has been exceptionally clean through the vintages, including a couple tough years that saw other vineyards struggle. What the fruit has added to our blend is a more traditional “Oregon Pinot” flavor, for lack of a better term, from the marine sedimentary soils. Their newer plantings on the hill are very interesting as well. I had the privilege of tasting grapes of every block at the peak of harvest and found there to be a lot of character on the hill, especially with the Pommard and Wadenswil clones."

The Keelers have also released wines under their own label Keeler Estate Vineyard. Right now they're bottling a Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Winemaker Darcy Pendergrass who was making the wines at Amity Vineyards for a long time. Knowing that we're dealing with very young vines I asked Darcy what they might express in terms of a site signature for the young vineyard. "Obviously I've worked with Amity Vineyards fruit for over a decade which is a very unique site it tends to be more of an earth driven wine not a lot of fruit aromas big tannin and usually great acid.  I've also worked with Crannell Vineyards which is on the other side of the hill from Keeler which always has tons of fruit. What I'm starting to see from Keeler is a blend of both sites in terms of flavor.  It's always hard working with young fruit in terms of tannin and weight as the vines age we will see were we end up."

I was able to sample their wines and though young I think they show a youthfulness but also highlight a high acid site with pretty fruit flavors and minerality that may have the potential to make some compelling wines down the road.

2011 Keeler Estate Vineyard Chardonnay Aromatics of lemon peel, stone and apple skin. The palate is angular and vibrant with lots of citrus fruit, ample acidity and lift through the finish. Youthful example of the fresh fruit style that comes through in Oregon Chardonnay as well as Pinot. $25

2011 Keeler Estate Vineyard Pinot Gris Varietal Pinot Gris character that seems to reliably show up in the Willamette Valley. Crisp fresh cut green apple aromatics, a palate that offers accents of field grass, citrus and stone. This is a well-made example of Oregon Pinot Gris. $22

2011 Keeler Estate Pinot Noir To my thinking this wine is the star of the line-up (my wife really dug the Chardonnay), this Pinot is fresh, young, and vibrant. Juicy and classic Oregon Pinot Noir flavors, brambleberry accented by clove and cola notes. Fresh and light bodied with great mouthfeel and acidity, if this is any indicator the Keeler site will produce some very nice wines. $30

These wines were provided as samples by the winery. Site photos from Keeler Estate Vineyard. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Find April 25th

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 have a terrible weakness for candy. Terrible, and we're not talking high end quality chocolate. We're talking the garbage stuff. The kind of stuff that could only exist in the presence of technology that can make purple or red chewy things that look not of this earth. I mean, I like toffee and normal candy too but what really gets me going is Red Dye number Bazillion. Swedish Fish, Twizzlers the more unnatural the more I dig it usually.

So, here's the thing. I am fairly fit and according to my doctor, really, really healthy, and that may be relative to the American average, which ain't so hot. In terms of meals, I eat incredibly healthy, which I largely owe to my wife. You will  not find much in the way of canned food in our pantry, maybe some tomato paste with about 4 ingredients listed. I look at labels, and most of what I eat doesn't come wrapped in cardboard or plastic. 

I feel pretty good about this, or I did. I know there are folks out there who are going whole hog, or probably not, eating vegan, gluten-free, paelo etc. I'm not interested in that. I like indulging from time to time, I enjoy meat and frankly I enjoy the candy. I also love kale, brussel sprouts, beets etc. Balanced.

Through my cyclocross racing I became involved with Bob's Red Mill, one of the greatest American food companies out there. Don't get me wrong, I'm not sponsored by them as a Cat 3 Master's racer, that's a crazy idea, but I get to demo products from them from time to time and they send me really cool things. They sent me a book. Salt, Sugar, Fat; How the Food Giants Cooked Us. This book has really rattled me and my happy candy haze.

It's a great book and frankly it'll make you angry but it's worth a read. It largely deal with food engineering, and the early parts of the book were particularly telling for me, they deal with sugar and how sugar has been used to develop food addiction and the various diseases that develop given our large intake of sugar. 

The book has led me to cut out putting sugar in my coffee entirely and I went on a 6 month no candy, doughnut, fun hiatus. I lost 4 pounds, and frankly I didn't do it to lose any weight, I'm a skinny guy. But that gives you a sense of how bad sugar is for us, the empty calories, the binge eating. It's not natural and it's something we oughta think twice about. 

In an effort to be more uplifting this week's Friday Find is all natural. The wines being made at Cooper Mountain Vineyards take very seriously the kinds of things that both go into the wines, and the soils of their vineyards. Biodynamics and organics are the rule of the day there. You can read a piece I wrote on them in the early days of the Anthem here. Today's wine is from their "second label" the Cooper Hill 2012 Pinot Noir. It's a bargain and typically of what you often see from Cooper Mountain doesn't skip on minerality and earthen character. You don't often get that in a $16-20 Pinot Noir. There's plenty of red fruit, a mouthfeel that hints at a higher price-point and ample approachability (which according to spellcheck is not an actual word) to this wine as well, modest alcohol levels make for a bright, fresh Oregon Pinot Noir on a budget.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In Search Of...Unusual Washington Wine Varieties

From Marty Sparks

Do you remember that old TV show “In Search of…hosted by Leonard Nimoy?  It wasn’t quite as cool as Star Trek, but Nimoy did explore some crazy stuff including Big Foot.  The Sasquatch is a mythical creature and up here in the Pacific NW there are a lot of people that claim to have seen him, uh her, or whatever…  Just like Big Foot, we grow grapes up here in Washington State that are rarely seen.  

We see plenty of Bordeaux and Rhone varieties growing in Washington.  We also have more than our fair share of white wine grapes from Burgundy and Germany.  But, what about Spain, Italy, South America and Southern France?  My mission on day two of Taste Washington was to seek out wine grapes from these countries and regions.  Come explore the outer reaches with me as I go in search of… unusual grapes.

Carmenere is a grape from France, originally grown in the Bordeaux region.  Today, you are more likely to find Carmenere growing in Chile rather than France.  This wine grape also has fans in Washington State. The most unusual wine I found at Taste Washington this year haled from Bartholomew Winery.  

Bart Fawbush at has always made unique blends featuring unusual varietals.  For 2013 he has outdone himself with a rose’ of Carmenere  You would never recognize this rose’ as being made from Carmenere in a blind tasting.  Bart pressed this whole cluster with extremely minimal skin contact.  His goal was to avoid the overly herbal and spicy character that you would typically associate with Carmenere.  Success!  This rose’ is extremely light in color, it takes on an almost tangerine hue.  It shows notes of dried straw and herbal dusty strawberries with a hint of melon all riding on a bountiful streak of acidity.

Not too far away, I came across another Carmenere.  This one was being served up by Beresan.  I was drawn to this Carmenere for two reasons.  First, the profile was showing notes of dried dark cherries along with dry cedar and white pepper giving way to a herbal cracked pepper finish.  Second, Beresan’s Marketing Director, Dominique Calle, recommended an inspired pairing of their Carmenere with white cheddar Pirate’s Booty.

Moving on, I made my way toward a grape the French still grow, although it is rarely bottled on its own. Mourvèdre is most commonly used as a blending grape with Grenache and Syrah in the South of France. You do find single variety Mourvèdre from Bandol, which is about as rare as single variety bottlings of this dark, robust grape in Washington.  Only two wineries were pouring a Mourvèdre this year.  Eleven Winery, named for the smallest cog on the rear of a 10 speed bicycle, was one of those wineries.  Eleven’s owner/winemaker, Matt Albee, is making some nice wines and he says that Mourvèdre is his favorite grape.  2010 is the second vintage of Matt’s Mourvèdre which features grapes sourced from the Sugar Loaf Vineyard.  The wine shows great dark and meaty character with dark currants and earthy smokiness that is followed by a finish of dry cedar and white pepper spices.

Winding my way in search of more unusual varieties I started searching for wines made from Italian grapes.  Sangiovese is prevalent enough these days that it clocks in at number 20 on the list of wine grapes grown in Washington.  Making the US Census report means you are no longer eligible for the “unusual” label and the In Search Of… directors have banned you from their programming.  Instead, I found two excellent Italian alternatives: a Barbera and a Nebbiolo.

Cavu Cellars brought their Barbera to Taste Washington this year.  The grapes are sourced from the Alder Ridge vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA.  The Cavu Cellars 2011 Barbera is smooth and dark featuring cherries and some notes of dried mint.  The finish is dry with a nice touch of tannin inspired spices.  This wine would definitely pair well with your favorite Italian dish.  Cavu also had a secret pour behind the table.  The rose’ of Barbera came straight from the tank and was showing herbal notes of huckleberry and light touches of melon backed up by a beautiful streak of acidity.

Moving on to a grape heavily featured in the Piedmont region I discovered an awesome Nebbiolo being poured by Lou Facelli of Facelli Winery.  Lou said he was going for a Barolo style with his first Nebbiolo.  I would say he hit the mark with this 2008 Nebbiolo that was just recently released.  It shows excellent character of dried cherries, raspberry, olives and mineral earthiness finishing off with layers of tart menthol spices.

Finally, I ventured into Spain with Victor Palencia’s Albarino made with grapes sourced from the Ancient Lakes AVA.  Albarino is most commonly found in the Northwest of Spain in the Rias Baxias region.  This white wine grape is known for its minerality and acidity, two characteristics that are abundantly evident in the grapes grown in Ancient Lakes.  Victor’s Albarino is dry and crisp with notes of light green apples, mineral laced honey dew melon and some herbal characteristics followed by white flowers and a zingy acidic finish.  

While each of these grape varieties is well known in other parts of the world, when in Washington you need to go “In Search of…” to find many of these wines.  Once you find these unusual wines there is no guarantee that the wine will be a good representation of the grape.  Similar to a Sasquatch sighting: you never know if it is true or a just hoax.  The sightings I made a Taste Washington are all legit.  I believe that I found winemakers that are holding true to the character of each of these grapes.  If you are feeling adventurous,  I would recommend going “In Search of…” each one of these wines.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Find, April 18th

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.

Twenty two years, that's a fairly long time to do any one thing right? And so Tuesday night I was left to contemplate that idea. I went to the Showbox in Seattle to see my favorite band. The Afghan Whigs, who I've been listening to for 22 years now. Someone, this guy Kevin, gave me a copy of their second release on Sub Pop Congregation on cassette. Remember cassettes? This was in highschool, that was a long, long time ago.  

It so it was that twenty two years later that I stood at the Showbox waiting for the band to take the stage. 

The Afghan Whigs, from Cincinnati, rose up as contemporaries to much more famous and lauded Seattle area grunge acts as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. And while they shared a label, the Whigs sound, particularly as it grew became more and more soulful. This left them out of the grunge spotlight and it's likely why many people missed out on them. Their sound has been described as a mix of 70s soul and R&B alongside rockin' punk riffs. The front man Greg Dulli's lyrics more emotive and provocative than anything that Kurt Cobain, or Eddie Vedder could conjure on their best days.

The bands last album, or so we thought came out in 1998 and Greg Dulli would go on to produce music with the equally outstanding Twilight Singers, as well as tour solo. Since I moved to Seattle I bet I've gone to see Greg Dulli perform at least ten times, whether it was with the Twilight Singers, with Mark Lanegan on their Gutter Twin project or now twice formally and once informally with John Curley as the reunited Afghan Whigs. My favorite of those performances was an acoustic solo show Dulli did at the Triple Door. I went to both nights.

So Tuesday night as The Afghan Whigs (or at least two of the original members) set to take the stage, I took in the scene in the crowd. Things are different now, many of us have children, careers, grey hair, if we've been lucky to keep it. As an older Greg Dulli and John Curley took to the stage they ripped into classic tunes and belted out tracks from the new and spectacular album, Do To The Beast. Greg still has it, The Afghan Whigs still have it, and so do we. Don't get older, get better, stay fresh forever. 

In a nod to both retaining our everlasting freshness as well as to a winemaker whose also quite The Afghan Whigs fan, today's Friday Find is from Renegade Wine Co., the 2013 Columbia Valley Róse. (Renegade is a second label for Trey Busch of Sleight of Hand Cellars.) The wine is typically a blend of Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre (full disclosure I forgot to look at the back label we drank it so fast) and it's uber fresh, loaded with juicy watermelon flavors. The wine is ridiculously approachable in terms of price coming in right around $10 mark. If you're looking to establish a house wine at your place for the summer weather, this might be the one.

If you want to learn more about this particular wine and chat with some like-minded folks, maybe even the winemaker, you should consider participating in the Virtual Tasting offered up by Sean Sullivan of The Washington Wine Report. This wine will be featured next week, details can be found here

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Achieve Baller Status in Woodinville Wine Country

Kids these days and their new fangled lingo.

What exactly is a baller? A shot caller, twenty inch blades on the Impala? Maybe. According the Urban Dictionary a "baller" is exactly: a person with swag. Or, livin' large with girls and money. I think perhaps most accurately it's One whose status in society has been earned by one's possession of "game." Probably the kind of person who would roll up into Woodinville on April 25th for two undoubtedly "baller" wine events rolled into one.

Woodinville has become a destination in Washington wine country and an incubator of sorts. Folks come to Woodinville given it's proximity to Seattle and for many of them, it might be the beginning of a love affair with Washington wine. But Woodinville is much more than just a jumping off point. Woodinivlle and it's wineries and wine makers are crafting some of the state's greatest wines. Whether it's one of the state's pioneering wine talents in Bob Betz at Betz Family Winery or if it's the new talents like Kit Singh of Lauren Ashton Cellars, some of the state's best wines are being made along the Sammamish River.

On April 25th, Washington wine fans have the opportunity to taste the best wines being made in Washington, in Woodinville. Two events hosted at the always impressive Willows Lodge showcase the creme de la creme of Woodinville. Reserve, is a tasting of 90+ wines produced by Woodinville wineries. This wine country destination has produced over 75 such wines. Wineries include Bookwalter, Kaella, Convergence Zone and Bunnell Family Cellars. Tickets to this event, beginning at 7pm are $90 and can be had here.

But perhaps that's not quite as exclusive as you'd hope for? Woodinville Wine Country has something for you. North of 95. Serious. Woodinville Wine Country isn't messing around. Eleven wineries will be pouring wines that are among some of the most high scoring, and highly sought after that have ever been made in Washington. Wines like the Baer Ursa 2008 the number 6 wine on the Wine Spectator Top 100 from a couple years ago. For $160, remember these are baller wines, so baller prices are going to be the rule of the day. 

You can taste wines from Delille Cellars, Betz Family, Baer, Januik and others. For Steve Griessel owner of Betz Family winery these events allow Woodinville to really show itself. "Washington wines now stand shoulder to shoulder with many of the great wines of the world and it's exciting to see how far we have come. The Woodinville area has over 100 wineries and quality and consumer acceptance is growing in leaps and bounds. The future holds plenty of promise.” 

Whether you fancy yourself a "score-chaser" or not, the Reserve and North of 95 event represent a unique opportunity to try some of the states most sought after and well received wines. If you're a baller, chances are you'll be there. Rumor is Jay Z might make an appearance.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Exploring the Ancient Lakes AVA viaTaste Washington

From Marty Sparks

Taste WA is billed as the largest single region focused wine event in the world.  The sheer magnitude of the event cannot be appreciated until you experience it “in real life.” To get ready for this year’s event I followed all the pro tips: I did some research, I made a plan, I created a map and dialed in my game plan.  Then I walked onto the convention center floor and immediately forgot everything!  I wandered around aimlessly for about 15 minutes before I snapped back to reality and regained my focus.

Time to execute the game plan: Focus on wines from the Ancient Lakes AVA.  Recognized in October 2012, Ancient Lakes is Washington’s newest AVA or American Viticultural Area. (Naches Heights was recognized in January of 2012 to October for the Ancient Lakes.)  The AVA is located just to the East of the Columbia river covering 162,000 acres that span Grant, Kittitas and Douglas county.  As a reference point, the Gorge Amphitheater is situated on the Western edge of the AVA.

There are roughly 1400 acres of vineyards planted primarily to white wine grape varieties including Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer.  You will also find some red wine varieties, but these are limited due to the cooler temperatures.  The Cave B estate vineyard is home to some of the older Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the state.

The AVA is unique in a couple ways, it's soil composition. Deposits of clay, sand, silt and Caliche were left behind when floods from the Ice Age drained into the Columbia River. The site is cooler in comparison to some of Washington's warmer growing areas, namely Red Mountain, the Wahluke Slope and even Walla Walla. This makes for a good climatic option for white wine grapes, and Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and perhaps most famously Riesling are doing very well here. It is also an area where we are seeing growers experiment with Pinot Noir though it is far warmer than the Gorge or Oregon's Willamette Valley. Given it's placement along the Columbia River Gorge, the Ancient Lakes also holds the most dramatic views of any Washington AVA. 

 The Evergreen vineyard, owned by the Milbrandt family, is one of the largest and better known vineyards in the AVA.  It is particularly popular for Riesling and might be the source for some of the state's best Riesling bottlings.  The Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling and Efeste Evergreen Riesling both feature grapes from Evergreen.  

The 2013 Kung Fu Girl Riesling starts out with sweet notes of pineapple and star fruit that are balanced out with some tasty, tart acidic notes of green apple that follow through with a round house acidic kick on the finish.  The 2012 Efeste Evergreen Riesling fires off with more zip on the front end with initial notes of green apple followed by some kiwi, pineapple, tart honey dew melon rind and hints of lemon zest leading to a well structured acidic finish.  Both of these Rieslings were well balanced with just the right amount of heft and a bold streak of acid that leads me to believe they will be great paired with some spicy thai food.
Jones of Washington owns two vineyards in the Ancient Lakes AVA.  Their Two Gun estate vineyard covers about 140 acres and is home to Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Syrah and Pinot Noir grapes.  Rhett Humphrey was on hand to pour their Pinot Gris and rose’ of Syrah both made from 100% estate grown grapes.  The 2013 Pinot Gris was just bottled in February and shows notes of pear, pineapple and peaches along with complimentary tart green apple that brings a dry streak of acidity to the party.  The Rose of Syrah has a touch of Pinot Noir blended in resulting in flavors of strawberry, light cranberry, raspberry and tart huckleberries. This rose is dry and is backed by (what I am beginning to learn is) that familiar Ancient Lakes acidity.

Cave B is another well known vineyard and winery located in the Ancient Lakes AVA.  They were the only winery at Taste WA pouring red wines from the Ancient Lakes.  I spent some time talking with their winemaker, Freddy Arredondo, and he explained how you have to really focus on vineyard location to find the right spots for these grapes to ripen.  I tasted through their extensive lineup of wines including a Syrah, Tempranillo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The 2010 Merlot and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon are both designated as “old vines” and are made from vines that are 25 years old.  The Merlot was showing rich cherries, earthy light menthol spices and some subtle herbal notes of thyme, mint and sage.  The Cabernet Sauvignon had notes of dark currants and earthy funkiness with abundant tannin showing that this wine has years ahead of it.

There you have it.  With over 200 wineries on hand there was plenty to choose from at Taste WA.  It gave me a great opportunity to learn more about the new Ancient Lakes AVA by visiting with several winemakers and tasting their wines.  The acidity and tannins apparent in all the wines I tasted showcased the character for our newest AVA.  The day was also a good reality check to see that there is more going on in the Ancient Lakes than just white wines.  If you enjoy wines with a streak of acidity, I would highly recommend seeking out wines from the Ancient Lakes.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Friday Find, April 4th

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 bicycle has come a long way and yet it remains largely the same machine it's always been. Two pedals, handlebars, a saddle, wheels and a frame. The racing machines of yesteryear were certainly far simpler than they are today. Fausto Coppi won the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia and the World Championship on bikes like this 1952 Bianchi Specialissima. The thing probably weighed thirty pounds. My full carbon cyclocross bike weighs like sixteen. These were tough guys, really skinny, but undeniably tough. 

Today's racing bicycles are so new fangled and fancy Fausto Coppi would just roll his eyes. Carbon fiber frames, wheels and even saddles. Hell the 2014 version of the bicycle that will be used by the Cannondale team, the frame weighed one and a half pounds. Carbon bicycles, wheels and fancy bells and whistles certainly let you go faster by cutting down on the weight, but they're not always the most comfortable ride. That's where steel comes in and why steel bicycles today are still in demand.

A time trial bike used by Fabian Cancellara
The steel frame movement has been left to small, artisan hand welded and built bicycle frames. They are works of art in many cases, as beautiful as they are functional. Steel frames offer comfort and durability and have come a long way in terms of their weight. Steel is sexy, it's historic and it's classic. 

Today's Friday Find reminds us that steel is real when it comes to white wines as well. The Inox Chardonnay from Chehalem Wines is to steal a line from their label "Inoxydable is French for stainless steel and Chehalem for fresh, lush Chardonnay." The 2012 Inox is a great presentation of a riper rounder vintage in the warm year of 2012. The stainless steel treatment invigorates this crisp wine and gives it great angularity and freshness. Aromatics of peach skin, apple blossom, lavender and wet stone. The palate is rounded and ripe but again steel comes in with crisp freshness and preserves the wines great acidity. Flavors of apricot and lemon creme and a zippy acidity make this $19 Chardonnay a great wine for shellfish or if you're just feeling selfish. #SteelisReal. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Tidbits from Taste Washington 2014

Well, just like that another Taste Washington is in the books, the 2014 version has come and gone this past weekend. The event, now in it's seventeenth year, if my googling is accurate continues to impress with the sheer volume of wines and wineries available for your perusal, somewhere north of 230.
Me, Rick Bakas & Madeline Puckette, really disappointed in my hair in this photo
Unless one plans to spend the evening in the ER trying to sample 230 plus wines is a very,very bad idea and so I typically go into Taste Washington with a specific strategy. It is the largest regional tasting event in America. If you don't have a plan you'll find yourself staring at cupcakes, or oysters and then the next thing you know, it's 5 o'clock and you still haven't moved beyond the first three tables. Once the general public time rolls around it gets mighty crowded in there, particularly if you're near the As. If you wanted to avoid the crowds hanging out in the wineries that began with the letter S through Z and you could almost lay down on the floor there was so much room.

I more or less failed at writing my strategy down when I left the house, which is nearly the same as not having a strategy. As I stood outside talking with Taryn, a friend and fellow wine blogger, which is exactly how I started last year's Taste Washington I was able to recall my strategy more or less. A few wineries I definitely wanted to hit that I hadn't had were Lauren Ashton and Proper and Array, the latter I never made it to, likely because they begin with A and it was very crowded over there. Also, I wanted to spend the first 15-30 minutes with the oysters and the white wines along the back wall. After that try to track down wine blogger and Twitter personality Rick Bakas and maybe arm wrestle him.

Everything more or less went to plan, except the whole Array thing but I've already explained that. Rick is a really nice guy and we talked shop about how to manage caring for infants and still more or less resemble a functioning human being. We never did arm wrestle. I also met the elusive Madeline Puckette of the now world famous blog Wine Folly. She's quite quirky and I think would also make a force to be reckoned with when it comes to arm wrestling.

As to the wine?  I did try a lot of new wines and some were really exciting, favorites included the Lauren Ashton Cellars . All of them. The rosé had a dash of effervescence and the Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend was done in a oaky style, however the bright acid really lifted the wine and offered excellent balance. Of the red wines they were all quite good but a 2011 Cabernet that was poured from maybe "under the table" was stellar. This is a relatively new Woodinivlle winery and I got to speak with the winemaker, Kit. The labels are also fantastic, they are scenes from his wife's native Estonia. 

Other new wines that are definitely of note; the Gruner Veltliner from WT Vintners, out of the Columbia Gorge. This is certainly not a common wine but of the Gruners that I've had from Washington and Oregon, this was as good as any. Fruit forward but with good minerality and great acidity. I was really taken by the wines of Bainbridge Island Vineyards. I always make it a point to taste through some of the wines from the Puget Sound AVA because they tend to be higher acid whites or Pinot Noir and after tasting a lot of the bigger red wines that Washington is so well known for, they can offer a great contrast, not to mention help revive your palate a bit. Betsey Wittick is the owner and winemaker and she's doing a nice job with grapes that are grown right there on the island.

Another rosé to be on the lookout for was the Rosé of Carmenere by Bartholomew Winery. Really outstanding, bone dry, lots of juicy citrus and great acid and only $15. The Gilbert Cellars Rosé was once again very well made, they're also changing it up with the labels over there. I also really dug Syrahs from Proper and II Vintners, particularly the Stoney Vine vineyard designate.

My wine of the night (day) though was the Cinsault or Cinsaut, you know, tomato or tomahto from Dusted Valley. This wine was fantastic. Medium bodied and bright, only neutral oak so the fruit really came through, but from the Rocks so it had darker minerality and that "funky" character that this particular part of the Walla Walla Valley has come to be known for. The wine finishes with really great acid to give it an elegance and balance. Nearly like a Pinot Noir. A great wine, very well made but also it's unique in Washington and that made it really stand out for me. The bad news? Only 72 cases were made. Hustle!

I picked up a latte from Fonte, whoa they make great coffee and made my way home via public transit. Careful not to bump into the crowd who clearly did not understand the spit bucket concept. On the bus I met a couple, they were older, who had been coming to Taste Washington every year...from Oklahoma. They were really excited about the Cadaretta wines, and also shared that they had cases of Chateau Ste. Michelle wines from the 1970s at home. They'd fallen in love with Washington wine decades ago and continue to come to Seattle each year to see what's new. Pretty cool.