Barolo, Ferdinando Principiano, Serralunga, Ravera di Montfort, Barolo DOCG, Italy, 2011, 15% abv. C$45

We enjoyed this just inside the recommended drinking window – I’m not patient when it comes to holding wine.

I was very nervous when I removed the capsule to find what looked to be a moldy cork.  It was dry and broke off when I opened it, but the wine was clean and unaffected.

Straight from Piedmonte, this wine is a pretty, translucent ruby on the eyes.  The aromas show a nose of cherry with dried leaf, petal and pomegranate.

The palate is dry with powdery tannins, some fresh and lightly developed fruit – strawberry and red plum – and significant dried grass, tarragon and cedar with dried rose petals.

WSET Very Good, and available worldwide.


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Chardonnay, Wayfarer, Wayfarer Vineyard, Fort Ross – Seaview AVA, Sonoma County, California, 14.5% abv, 2014, US$89

So, a Winellama walks into the new Las Vegas Total Wine and asks whether they carry any wines from California’s Fort Ross-Seaview AVA. “Oh no, most definitely not,” she is told.

Except they do, because after an hour of browsing, I found one.

One bottle – in a store the size of a football field.

It’s at that point that I realize the employee has no idea what an AVA is.

Sigh.  No matter – what a one it is. Gold on the eyes, it has a nose with ripe apricot, fresh Macintosh apple, Meyer Lemon, kernel and rich brioche. With its high acid and juicy palate, it is creamy and deeply layered with flavours of more red apple and peach, honey, spring flower, nuts, French bread and butterscotch. It spent 15 months in oak barrels, and was bottled unfined and unfiltered.

This wine is stunning – WSET Outstanding. Nuanced and light on one hand with the fruit and high acidity and the sparkly minerality, there is at the same time, a contrasting complexity with the creamy body, brioche, nut and butterscotch custard.

Opened and enjoyed at 5 years old in Las Vegas on vacation.

Posted in California, Chardonnay, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Red wine speed tasting at the 2018 Wine Media Conference in Walla Walla, Washington

By the time the long weekend spent at the 2018 Wine Media Conference (WMC) was over, I estimate I had tasted well north of 100 wines.

Winemaker Muriel Kenyon proudly served a Merlot dedicated to her ancestor.

This is why we spit.

While most of these wines were from Washington State and the surrounding Walla Walla, Red Mountain, Lake Chelan, Horse Heaven Hills, and Columbia AVAs, there were others from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and many from Napa Valley and other Californian AVAs.  A special workshop by the Lugana DOC Consortzio who attended from Italy established it as one of my new favourite regions for delicate, white wines.

One of the highlights of each WMC is always the speed tasting.  Think of this as a form of speed dating – but with wine instead of people!

There are always two of these – one for the reds, and one for the whites and rosés.  This involves 1 hour, 10 wines from participating wineries, lots of spitting, and 6 minutes for each wine of fast fingers to type up tasting notes and to post them online simultaneously.  This, as I’m sure you can imagine, is no small or easy feat.

My small table of just three keen wine writers experienced the following wines –

Browne Family Vineyards – Cabernet Franc, 2015 – I bought this the next day which should tell you something about the crunchy red raspberry profile.

Dama Wines – Collage, 2014 – A 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition silver medal winner.

Dunham Cellars – Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 – I went to their extremely impressive owner-hosted gala dinner event.  Their wines are delicious, and the cool tasting room is at Walla Walla’s Airport District.

Mansion Creek Cellars – Red Dog, 2015 – I was apparently the only one at the event who knew the grape for this wine, Tinta Cão, means the name of the wine, ‘Red Dog’.  This falls under the category of useless-things-you- learn-when-taking-the-WSET Diploma.  I bought their Field Blend the next day.

Brooks Wines – delicious and from Oregon’s Willamette Valley

Troon VineyardCuvée Pyrénées (62 Tannat + 38 Malbec), 2016 – I visited their Carlton, Oregon tasting room in 2016 and bought their Vermentino.

Stone Hill Winery – Chambourcin, 2015 – This winery is located in Missouri.  I hadn’t tried a Chambourcin before…

Tertulia Cellars – The Great Schism Reserve, 2014 – From Walla Walla, absolutely tasty, and definitely hands down winner of the best bottle labels.

Otis Kenyon Wine – Merlot – Winemaker Muriel Kenyon regaled us with the story of her family history in Walla Walla and who this wine was named for (a struggling dentist who ended up serving time for arson, left town and was presumed dead for decades). I kid you not!

L’Ecole 41 – Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015 – The subject of another post and earlier winery visit.

Any way you slice it, the speed tasting events are always fun.  Just remember to enjoy the wine, but spit when you must.

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Viognier/Roussanne, Freyja, Gard Vintners, Lawrence Estate Wines, Royal Slope, Columbia Valley AVA, Washington State, 2017, US$16

Recently I attended the 2018 Wine Media Conference in Walla Walla, Washington.

When I was doing a little legwork in advance of the event about some of the wineries we may meet with, I’d noticed a review by Stephen Tanzer on Vinous about this Viognier/Roussanne blend by Gard Vintners which he called, “Washington’s best white wine bargain.” 

Lo and behold, when we arrived in lovely little Walla Walla, which wine tasting room should I literally happen upon just two blocks from the hotel?  Gard’s, of course (there are literally dozens of wine tasting rooms in this town all within walking distance of each other).

I instantly snapped up a bottle of this US$16 mostly Viognier (64) and Roussanne (36) blend with masterfully balanced fruit and acidity – making it a crowd and food pleaser.

On the nose, this is a lovely, fresh wine with lots of white flowers, citrus zest, and stone fruit.  It’s dry but the fruit gives the impression of sweetness with good body.  Lemon balm, apricot and peach show through with more blossom on the palate for this WSET Very Good white blend.

Gard’s got a winner here – it goes with everything, it’s delicious, and it’s affordable.  Rarely do these virtues come together in one bottle.  Visit one of their three tasting rooms (in Walla Walla where these pictures were taken, Ellensburg or Woodinville), and enjoy!

Posted in Rousanne, Viognier, Walla Walla, Washington State, Washington State, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Salish Sea, Sea Star Vineyards and Winery, Pender Island, BC, 11.5% abv, C$23

Salish?  So delish.

Recently, I went on a long weekend escape on the Salish Sea, and enjoyed a bottle of Sea Star Vineyards and Winery’s aptly named ‘Salish Sea,’ a delicious wine made from Ortega and Siegerrebe grapes organically grown on Pender Island.

These are hybrid grapes originally created in Germany and known especially for their ability to handle short, wet growing seasons because they ripen early and can survive surprise frosts.

Siegerrebe is the child of Madeleine Angevine and Gewürztraminer and Ortega’s parents are Müller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe.  Traditionally, neither are known to produce particularly interesting individual wines, and other versions I’ve come across have tended toward bitter flavours and flabbiness.

This Ortega-Siegerrebe blend, however, is a very happy anomaly.  Winemaker Ian Baker has clearly figured out how to grow weirdo grapes adept to the Pacific west coast climate, pick them at the right moment, and create a delicate 11.5% abv wine with juicy acidity and a tasty palate out of them.  Come to think of it, these grapes are cool because they are so uncool.

Pale lemon on the eyes with aromas of yellow peach, ripe apricot and lemon verbena, the palate is juicy with more Clingstone peach and pear, punctuated by lemongrass and bergamot, a pinch of green kiwi and some soft spring leaf.

Food-friendly and perfect with seafood, salads, chicken and summer fare, the Salish Sea is absolutely ….cool, and delish.

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Merlot, L’Ecole No. 41, Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley AVA, Washington, 2009, 14.5% abv, US$30

Next month I’m going to attend my fifth Wine Writer’s Conference in Walla Walla, Washington.

I’ve been to this AVA before, and visited many of their fabulous wineries.  One of the flagships I’m looking forward to seeing again – indeed it has even earned a mention in the World Atlas of Wine – is L’Ecole No. 41.

Housed in a beautifully renovated heritage building complete with school bell, chalk boards (you can write on them at the tasting bar), and a playground, this is a winery with extremely knowledgeable hosts, and delicious wines.

Back in 2013, our tasting consisted of 8 wines, starting with the 2011 Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend from the Seven Hills Vineyard showing kiwi, starfruit and lime, followed by the 2011 Chardonnay.

The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon from their Walla Walla Vineyard (which actually stretches down across the border into Oregon), the 2009 Estate Périgée from Seven Hills Vineyard, and then the 2009 Apogée were next.  From the Pepper Ridge Vineyard, the Apogée is a 60% Cabernet Sauvignon with 30% Merlot and Malbec offering grippy tannins, smoke, black plum, cherry and berries.

Washington State is well known generally speaking for their Syrah, and here we tasted two.  From 2009 and 2010 – both were fruity and spicy with black pepper and olives, but it was the 2009 Estate Merlot from Seven Hills Vineyard that I bought a bottle of.

Ruby turning garnet in colour, there’s 12% each of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon blended into the Merlot. With 14.5% abv, you may expect it to be hot, but it’s nicely integrated and there’s no heat. Cedar, bramble, marionberry and java, along with a dusty set of tannins makes this WSET Very Good wine.

It’s September and school’s back in.
Walla Walla, here I come!

Posted in Merlot, OTHER, RED, Washington State | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Rosé, Whispering Angel, Caves D’Esclans, Domaines Sacha Lichine, Côtes-de-Provence, France, 2017, US$21

I drank it all.  Every drop.  By myself.  And I was so distracted, I even forgot to take a picture of the bottle before I drained it.

But I think this is what happens with the easily quaffable Whispering Angel.

Sacha Lichine has been involved in the wine industry virtually his entire life.  So, when he purchased Caves D’Esclans in 2006 with the goal of making inroads into the global Rosé market, no one was very surprised.

Since then, he has been rather prolific – and successful.  In 2017, a whopping 4.8 million bottles of this were produced – compared to its first 2006 bottling of 160,000.  Available at numerable US vendors including Trader Joe’s and Costco, this is one globally popular Rosé.

Made from Grenache, Cinsault, Rolle (Vermentino), Syrah and Tibouren growing in vineyards surrounding the winery at La Motte-en-Provence, Lichine has positioned his Whispering Angel Rosé as ‘the’ wine to drink in the US and other markets.

Just as an example, 92% of the D’Esclans wines are exported – while just 16% of Provence wines are in general.  And in the US where 800,000 cases of Provence Rosé are imported each year, a full 20% of them are from D’Esclans!  A total of 2.4 million bottles of Whispering Angel will be sold in the US this year.

On the eyes, it’s a translucent, orangey-pink onion skin, with a delicately floral nose, and juicy flavours of pomegranate juice, white blossom and watermelon rind.

This is a modern and accessible style that is sweeping palates worldwide.  So much so that it’s making sales of some styles difficult – like the meatier, deeper hued Rosés from Tavel, France.

See if you can find a bottle or two of it somewhere to try.  Which do you prefer?


Posted in Cinsault, France, Grenache / Garnacha, OTHER, Rolle, ROSE, Shiraz / Syrah, Vermentino | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment