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, September 22, 2014

Washington's New Balance: Woodinville Shows the Way

It would be technically correct to say that the Washington wine industry's roots were set down in Woodinville all those years ago when Chateau Ste Michelle established their Woodinville location as a kind of wine destination. It has become the state's ground zero for consumer wine education with over half of the state's population within an hour drive. Washington wine drinkers, largely are being exposed to Washington's bounty via Woodinville and their demand for Washington wines has driven an industry. And the industry has boomed from 19 wineries in 1981 to over 800 today. The wine industry has grown, and Yakima Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Walla Walla, Red Mountain and the Columbia River Gorge among many other AVAs have come to shape the state and it's wines.

Woodinville however remains at the forefront. Today there's a new crop of Washington winemakers; making their wine in the warehouses of Woodinville and it's some of the most exciting stuff going on in the state. (This man's opinion anyways.) I liken what's going on with these new producers in Woodinville to the vibe in Walla Walla a couple-three years ago when Kerloo Cellars, Rotie Cellars and Reynvaan were really making folks sit up and take notice.

Over the last many years there has been a trend in Woodinville wine production, in my opinion, that has led to an almost "house style" of Woodinville wine. That formula has been a sort of emulation of the style of wine-making that has been successful at Delille Cellars. Extracted wines, ripe, with big tannin and plenty of new oak. We do however appear to be seeing a shift in that formula that has been so present in Woodinville for so long.  The wines, from producers like Avennia, Savage Grace, WT Vintners, Kevin White Winery and Lauren Ashton Cellars offer a variety of wine-making styles and personalities but there tends to be an underlying philosophy of seeking to create wines of balance.

Jeff Lindsay Thorsen of WT Vintners is excited to be a part of this sort of Woodinville sea change. "The 'new' wineries and winemaking styles in Woodinville that are making an impact seem to be a reflection first of their palates, then as a response to a new generation of wine drinker. You don’t have to slather all of your wines with oak and pick your grapes at high brix to produce world class wine. Bordeaux varietals especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab heavy blends can handle a wallop of new french oak, but Rhone varietals like Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre often lose their identity and what makes them special when you put them in a new oak barrel. Many of these new wineries seem to be more focused on channeling the flavors of Washington’s amazing vineyards, rather emulating a successful formula from down south (California)."

Kit Singh of Lauren Ashton sees that big extracted formula as one that was arrived at by a fairly simple conclusion. "If something is good, like oak. More of it must be better, right?" Kit though is seeking to communicate an underlying sense of restraint in his wines. For him, the formula for creating a more balanced wine is equally simple. "A delicious meal, a good recipe is balanced. Here there's a bit of salt, maybe a bit of spice here, taken together they're delicious because one isn't overwhelming everything else. A delicious meal should be balanced, and that's the kind of wine I want to make as well."

For Kit there is a sort of energy and synergy happening in Woodinville particularly in the warehouses. "It feels extremely supportive, it's a real collaborative and cooperative environment." Kit sees these "new guys" as the next wave in Woodinville's development as a wine community. "In the first wave you had many of the founders, Chateau Ste Michelle of course gave us a lot of these talented folks. Mike Januik, Bob Betz, Charlie Hoppes and Delille Cellars was developing right along with them." The next wave to come was inspired by those guys and it was among others Chris Sparkman, Chris Gorman, Darby, and Efeste. As this new wave comes along with guys like Jeff, Kit, Michael Savage and Kevin White among others they've all been a product of those who came before them. They're also creating an environment that supports each other's growth. "Michael and I are friends and we collaborate a lot, he has inspired me, pushed me to try and be a better winemaker and I hope that I've done that for him as well." 

Woodinville's warehouses are uniquely positioned of course in their proximity to Seattle, where perhaps they might attract folks from outside the industry like Kit, or Kevin White as well as someone like Jeff who works as the wine director at Seattle's RN 74.  Jeff sees that location and the unique layout of the warehouse district as a sort of serendipity for this new movement in Woodinville. "The warehouse district's concentration of wineries creates a natural incubator for the wine-curious, many of the up-and-comers started as fans, worked a harvest and caught the bug. The community of Woodinville wineries is incredible, everyone pays it forward. We have had so much help along the way. Our  successes have come to us through the camaraderie that the neighborhood fosters. I am not sure when we will hit a saturation point, but for now their is very little feeling of competition. Other winemaking regions are very spaced out, our concentration has proven to be a huge part of all of our success."

2012 W.T. Vintners Dalliance Red Blend A blend of Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache in that order but the Grenache really comes to the fore on the palate for me. With fruit from Walla Walla's Rocks, but WT isn't saying which vineyard, this wine is super aromatic. Dried violets, ripe berry fruit and a little bit of that signature Rocks funk hums through. The palate is beautifully balanced and is so lively that it almost feels medium bodied. Flavors show fruit, herbs and a stony minerality with an ever-present elegance from the rocks. $32

2011 Lauren Ashton Syrah Columbia Valley Is a blend of a couple different vineyards, one on Red Mountain and one in the Yakima valley and no new oak offer a Syrah that speaks to the balance and restraint the Kit strives for in his wines. An exemplary savory Syrah that Washington's well matched vineyards are capable of producing. Dried figs, earth, smoke and herbal aromatics. A savory but lithe palate that exhibits dark plum, forest floor and more of those "garrigue" herbal elements. $35

2011 Avennia Arnaut Syrah, Boushey Vineyard The Avennia wines are fast becoming a perennial favorite for me and for elegance and sophistication, no one in Washington is doing it better right now. Winemaker Chris Peterson is far more established than many of his "new wave" neighbors with his long tenure at Delille Cellars as assistant winemaker. He and partner Marty Taucher now in Avennia's second or third vintage, represent a very successful foray into making both intellectual wines and  "wines of place" in Washington.

The Arnaut continues to show why Washington does Syrah so wonderfully and why Dick Boushey has something special growing out there near Grandview. Maybe though this wine does a better job of showing it than a lot of others? A little bit of whole cluster and just a little bit of new oak really allow the terroir to do the talking. Aromatics are meaty, stony, floral and dark fruit laden, there's a ton going on here. Layered black fruits, more of that meaty and earthen funk that Boushey Syrah has come to develop a reputation for and some dried herbal elements. The wine is simply wonderful and it finishes with just a tiny lift that shows it's acidity. $48

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Procrastinator's Guide to Feast PDX

Stop what you’re doing lollygaggers, Feast PDX is this weekend. No, not two months from now I’ll figure it out when it gets closer, THIS weekend, and by now, tons of the eating/tasting/drinking/drooling sessions have already sold out. Luckily, the Feast organizers planned on wasting nobody’s time and made each and every one of their events completely amazing. For the procrastinators among us, here’s a rundown of the Feast PDX events that still have tickets available:


Widmer Brothers Brewing Sandwich Invitational main event ($95)
SANDWICH INVITATIONAL. Need we say more? Okay, here it is. 14 top chefs + sandwich innovation + widmer beers + northwest wines + cocktails. It’s a win-win, and quite the kickoff to Feast PDX.

Dessert for Dinnerdinner series ($100)
Again, it seems like more words are just wasting your time here. A night of sweet and (some) savory treats, presented by top chefs and paired with Sherries and Madeiras.


Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting – main event ($60)
Hit the bricks! This one-stop-shop event crams local Oregon wines, beers and coffee, artisan cheese, charcuterie and cooking demonstrations into the centrally located Pioneer Square. Can’t skip out on your day job for drinking and debauchery? This event is hosted on both Friday AND Saturday!

Chardonnay is for Loverstasting panel ($55)
Step aside, California. Oregon winemakers are producing some of the best Chardonnay around. Taste through offerings from Evening Land, Bergstrom, Chehalem, and more!

A Walk On The Sour Sidetasting panel ($55)
Sour beer tasting panel at the Portland Art Museum.

Negroni O’Clocktasting panel ($55)
A bitter cocktails tasting panel at the Portland Art Museum.


Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting - main event ($60)
see above!

Beans and Boozetasting panel ($55)
Coffee + spirits tasting panel featuring local Stumptown Coffee Roasters and House Spirits Distillery.

Tastes Great. Less Filling. – tasting panel ($55)
Brew, brew, and more brew! Taste through new lagers, Kolsch, and Hefeweizens.

Get Lei’d: It’s Tiki Time!tasting panel ($55)
Taste through four classic tiki cocktails!

High Comfort at The Ninesmain event ($175)
Blow date night out of the water with 20 chefs + comfort food + Oregon wines in the beautiful Nines Hotel.

Chris Cosentino and Kyo Koo at Bluehourdinner series ($150)
Anne Amie Vineyards, Chehalem and J.K. Carriere will pair their wines with the incredible dinner prepared by local chef, Kyo Koo, and San Francisco master chef, Chris Cosentino.


Juicy Juice with Portland Juice Company class ($65)
Only a couple of tickets left for this! Learn the basics of juicing at home from one of Portland’s best juice companies, Portland Juice Company.

Tickets and more details for all of these events can be found here!

Proceeds will benefit organizations such as Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and Share Our Strength in the fight to end childhood hunger both locally and nationally. It’s going to be an incredible weekend of culinary trends, local and national talent, and most important (to us) local Oregon wines, all for a great cause. See you this weekend!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Diversity in the Face of Singularity; Single Acre Wines from Stoller Family Estate

The Willamette Valley has proven it's mettle as a region that produces world class Pinot Noir, and many say that before too long it's Chardonnay will be similarly lauded. The valley's climate and soil types do indeed bear a resemblance to those elements found in the hallowed grounds of Burgundy. Oregon however has made a style all it's own. The singularity of Pinot Noir's success has been a boon to Oregon's wine industry in the Willamette creating an international reputation.

That success however has also led to a homogeneity within the Willamette Valley. Pinot Noir for so many logical reason is by far the most planted grape, and with much of the new influx of California money and size, more Pinot vines are going into the ground all the time. They didn't buy vineyards in the Willamette Valley to produce Riesling. Which is too bad, frankly. Of the over 25,00 acres planted in the Willamette Valley (a number in flux given the rapid growth), well over half of that acreage 15,000 is Pinot Noir, and only Pinot Gris comes close at 3,000. Which actually isn't close.

Chardonnay is well underway and in my opinion should eventually surpass Pinot Gris and frankly the sooner the better, and we know that Riesling can do very well in the Willamette Valley.

That does not mean however that there isn't some broader variety and if you look around there some really cool stuff to be found. One example of folks going off script are the Single Acre wines from the Stoller Estate Vineyard. On their 190 acre estate vineyard over 120 acres is planted to Pinot Noir, with over 50 acres of Chardonnay. The remaining few acres are split between 5 different varieties with most of it going to Pinot Gris. That leaves us 5 and a half acres to work with and 4 varieties. The Single Acre wines at least in this first release, are Riesling, Tempranillo and Syrah, and they give you every reason to be excited about something outside the Willamette Valley box.

For Stoller Family Estate winemaker Melissa Burr it's a cool climate thing for all three but perhaps most notably for the Syrah and Tempranillo . "I think our cool climate site makes these varieties serious and less opulent.  They are wines that will hopefully age well. I keep both of them in barrel longer than our pinot; approximately 16 months to develop.  It will be interesting to see over time how they reflect our vintages that pendulum so drastically from year to year." 

For Stoller vineyard manage Rob Schultz there are elements of the Willamette Valley's growing conditions that make these outsiders both well suited, and a bit challenging. "I definitely see a role for Tempranillo and Syrah in the valley.  I've been very happily surprised with how they ripen here at our estate, and are able to hang late in the season with great disease resistance.  I don't think that they're varieties that could be as widely planted as Pinot or Chardonnay; one would definitely need a lower elevation, a warmer spot, and the ability to farm them the right way."

"They're challenging because of their varietal idiosyncrasies.  For instance Syrah, is more prone to water stress because their stomata, unlike Pinot noir, stay open and the leaves continue to lose water in temperatures above 95.  Tempranillo, because the clusters can be so big, requires some tricky canopy management and thinning practices to get a balanced fruit set."

The folks at Stoller plan on adding an additional acre of Syrah for a cofermentation ala the Northern Rhone, with Viognier. The danger in drinking these wines is that you get to thinking crazy thoughts like: "Why don't they pull out some of that Pinot and plant Syrah or Tempranillo?" Maybe I shouldn't get carried away but the vibrancy and angularity of these wines make for a couple of very refreshing takes on Syrah and Tempranillo. The Riesling is outstanding and for me further cements the case that the grape is under planted in the Willamette. (I never feel this way about Pinot Gris for what it's worth.)

The acidity on these wines is insane, and the zip and freshness really only has the wines opening up to you on day 2 and the Riesling continues to zip along on day 3. The ageability that Melissa refers to is evident in the wines' acidity. (Decant forever or pop them well in advance of serving or just let them unwind over time, the latter really worked for me.) 

2013 Stoller Single Acre Riesling Well made Riesling like this one continues to make the case for more planting of this grape in the Willamette Valley. This wine is aromatically effusive the way any good Riesling should be with white peach, apple blossom and coriander. The palate is loaded with zesty acid and a load of minerality and ripe stone fruits. $25 (Worth every penny.)

2011 Stoller Single Acre Tempranillo I want to love Tempranillo and I keep hearing how amazing it should be. I generally continue to be somewhat let down. This wine is a game changer. Aromatics of black tea, earth and berry fruit. The wine is austere in an old world way, it's saying, give me time, but to drink it now is to experience some serious freshness and vibrancy in a Tempranillo.  High acidity and tangy fruit flavors and great mouthfeel. This is not a mouth-coating oak bomb in the style of Parker, this is  fresh, zippy Tempranillo. $40 Sold Out. (Frankly that's a damn shame if you haven't had this wine.)

2011 Stoller Single Acre Syrah The new hotness needs to be cool climate Syrah. Serious. This is an example of how well this grape shows and why people who pass on it are fools. Fools! Syrah gets to terroir for me as well as Pinot Noir and Riesling and climatically it can really make wines that show an amazing range. Perhaps better than any grape. This Syrah is vibrant and loaded with awesome. Black fruit, white pepper, a sort of garrique which is a french way to say lots of herbal notes. Rob worked with this fruit in section 45.3 of the vineyard which given it's lower elevation was a great match for a typically warmer climate grape. $40 Sold Out (I weep for you if you haven't tried this.)

Sadly these last two incredible wines are sold out, but I would encourage you to call the people at Stoller and find out who might have them,, this is an any means necessary situation. They are outstanding on a level that I believe continues to prove the mettle of the partnership between grower and winemaker in Rob and Melissa and shows Melissa's chops as a winemaker. They also make an amazing case for Syrah and Tempranillo in the Willamette. (The case has already been made for Riesling.)

These wines were provided as samples.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Coming Up: The Anthem Prepares to FEAST Portland-Style!

This year we’re thrilled to have been invited to attend Feast Portland, a renowned all-things-food-and-drink festival coming up September 18th – 21st in The City of Roses itself!

Founded in 2012, Feast could be considered a crash course of sorts in the now standard farm-to-table culinary approach that has driven the Oregon restaurant scene. It is a celebration of local culinary trends, specialties, and nuances alongside relevant industry leaders and professionals, with experiences ranging from food and drink panel discussions, pairings, classes and workshops, and of course, loads of food for both visitors and locals alike to delve into.

Wine industry spotlights and pairings are sprinkled throughout the entire weekend, the largest of them all spread across both Friday and Saturday – the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting, featuring artisan foods, wineries and breweries. Local wineries are built into intimate evening dinners, and other events spend more quality time on select varietals and styles including a session on Chardonnay and another on sparkling wines.

While the packed weekend line-up is impressive, the Feast mission ups the buck with plans to donate proceeds toward fighting childhood hunger both locally and nationally, working through such organizations as Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and Share Our Strength.

Interested in attending Feast? Click here for more of the full Feast schedule, and be sure to reserve your spot soon as tickets are selling out fast! Build your weekend à la carte and open your eyes (and mouth) to the Portland, Oregon bounty – you will not be disappointed.