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Showing posts from June, 2014

Wines of Sunset Hills Vineyard - Virginia @sunsethillwine

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Virginia Wine Baby!

"Still a lot to prove, and I like that." - Nate Walsh
Last week I enjoyed another Virginia Wine Chat wine tasting with host Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like and Nate Walsh, Winemaker & Vineyard Manager of Sunset Hills Vineyard. I interacted with them and other wine media friends via twitter #VAwinechat. Frank and Nate were on a UStream video feed so we could watch them as they tasted.


Together we tasted three different Virginia wines made by Nate Walsh. We also learned a little about Nate. Nate Walsh arrived at Loudoun County wine country as a fluke. He's not from a wine making family and he was not educated as a winemaker. After earning degrees in English and Italian and in need of cash, he took a summer job working in the vineyard and never left. He's worked in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, Central Otago in New Zealand and then came back home to Virginia. "Still a lot to prove, and I like that." He's learned a lot about ma…

Wine of the Week: Chateau Ste Michelle 2012 Dry Riesling @SteMichelle

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Hello Old Friend.

Chateau Ste Michelle has made Riesling for decades. There was a time I could not think of one without thinking of the other. Washington Riesling and Chateau Ste Michelle were synonymous. Riesling was Washington wine (we called it Johannisberg Riesling at the time).

This was one of the first wines I drank on a regular basis. I have noted many times on this blog that I've wandered away from Washington Riesling. Seduced by other varieties and styles of wine. On a whim I purchased this bottle of Riesling to get a feel, a taste, an idea of what a $6 bottle of Washington Riesling is delivering. I wondered, is it good? Is it something I would drink today?

For this post I did a little research on Riesling and this famous winery. You can't grow Riesling the same way you grow red wine grapes. Site location is important and proven sites for Riesling are finally being established. Some growers are starting to treat Riesling with respect. Evidently Riesling is back in vog…

Spirit Review: Blue Flame Spirits Grappa

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Hand Made Spirits Using Only Local Ingredients.

This weekend I was in Prosser, Washington at the annual Scottish Fest and Highlands Games. It seemed a larger more enthusiastic crowd this year. People were in a good mood and we enjoyed mingling with the Scots in kilts. Like last year, afterwards we wandered two buildings over to Kestrel Vintners and enjoyed premium Washington wine with a tasty and filling lunch.


Unlike last year, this year as we walked over to Kestrel I stopped at Blue Flame Spirits. Blue Flame Spirits is a Prosser distillery. They make Vodka, Gin, Wheat Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Brandy and Grappa. I sampled their Vodka and Wheat Whiskey. As I was about to purchase a bottle of their Vodka, I saw bottles of Grappa against the wall. "Hold on. You have Grappa too?"


Owner and distiller Brian Morton was pouring for me. He's a friendly guy with a big smile and warm personality. Our conversation shifted gears as I acknowledged my interest and limited Grappa experie…

Spirit Review: Ole Smokey Tennessee Moonshine White Lightnin' @OleSmoky

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Today I have crossed the line from wine to spirits. At 100 proof the Ole Smokey Tennessee Moonshine is definitely turning up the volume (ABV 50%).

"Moonshine, white lightning, mountain dew, hooch, and Tennessee white whiskey are terms used to describe high-proof distilled spirits, generally produced illicitly...The word "moonshine" is believed to derive from the term "moonrakers" used for early English smugglers and the clandestine (i.e., by the light of the moon) nature of the operations of illegal Appalachian distillers who produced and distributed whiskey."Source Wikipedia

My family is no stranger to Moonshine. That is, my great-grandfather and grandfather were not strangers. Evidently the family occasionally produced their own spirits on their Idaho ranch. My grandfather told me about his younger brother getting into his dads stash with predictable results. Grandmother told me stories about midnight runs and secretive deliveries during the 1930's.…

Barboursville Vineyards is Virginia Wine @Barboursville

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“Wine is part of the conversation, but shouldn't be the conversation. Wine unites people.” — Luca Paschina, Winemaker Barboursville Vineyards
When the host of Virginia Wine Chat asked me to participate in a Barboursville Vineyards wine tasting, I immediately said "Yes!"Barboursville Vineyards is Virginias oldest winery, established by Gianni Zonin in 1977. I had the pleasure of visiting Barboursville Vineyards in 2011 where Gianni Zonin was our host and his winemaker, Luca Paschina was our guide. They impressed me with their stunning wines, professional staff, delicious food prepared by their on premise James Beard nominated chef and their commitment to historical preservation. They have preserved the ruins of Governor Barbours mansion designed by Thomas Jefferson which is on their Estate. The original floor plan is part of the label design on their Octagon wine.

It seemed evident in 2011 that Barboursville Vineyards was a gem of Virginia wineries. Since then the accolad…

Keswick Vineyards Viognier Tasting - Virginia Rising @keswickvineyard

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Have you discovered Virginia wine country?

When I think Virginia wine, the first wine which comes to mind is Virginia Viognier. Viognier is synonymous with good, quality Viginia wine. My first exposure to Virginia Viognier was in 2011. My expectations were high when I was asked to taste and compare three different Virginia Viogniers by Keswick Vineyards.

The original colonies were mandated by England to grow vinifera and to make wine. They failed miserably. Thomas Jefferson struggled for 30 years to grow vinifera, without success. Today Jefferson’s vision has been realized by the achievements of 250 Virginia wineries. Virginia is the fifth largest wine producing state in the United States and a world class wine country destination. I encourage you to go visit.
"Inspiration comes from family to be a good winemaker and a good person and wines reflect personality" -  Stephen Barnard, Keswick Vineyards Winemaker
Keswick Vineyards winemaker is Steven Barnard, who hales from Capeto…

Wine of the Week! Barnard Griffin 2010 Merlot Tulip Label @BarnardGriffin

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Disco is Not Dead - Drink Me!

One of the perks of living near so many wineries, is the pleasure of dropping in and tasting wine before buying. Sunday I popped by Barnard Griffin winery and enjoyed their $5 Tulip wine tasting. At the end of the tasting, my tasting fee was discounted from the price of my purchase. Where else can you try wine before you buy?

Tulip Tasting

The Barnard Griffin Tulip tasting lineup consists primarily of their traditional consumer label. The list will change with availability. Following is the list I sampled at this tasting. I was torn among three wines and decided on the 2010 Merlot because it said "drink me" the loudest. Go find this wine before it is sold out!

2012 Pinot Gris - Floral, fresh, with a tropical flourish. Almost bought this one.
2013 Fume' Blanc - Very tropical, gentle, relaxed, easy sipper.
2012 Chardonnay - Ginger, friendly, chill, "drink me."
2013 Riesling - Pretty, restrained, orange on the finish.
2013 Rose' of…

Review: Los Vascos 2013 Chardonnay - Chile @pasternakwine

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I've become quite fond of the wines of Viña Los Vascos. They deliver a lot of value at reasonable price points. This Chardonnay for example can be found for about $10. This wine was young and fresh with the potential to improve in bottle over the next 5 years. Chile is the next up and coming wine region to watch. Great value today and perfect for summer entertaining.

"The grapes were picked early and the harvests took place in excellent conditions between March 11th and 15th. Harvesting was done early in the morning, when the temperatures were low, which allowed for preserving the wine’s full potential. After sorting, the bunches were carefully pressed for fermentation in stainless steel vats at controlled temperatures between 57º and 61ºF."

Tasting Notes 2013 Los Vascos Chardonnay

Color: Light gold.
Nose: Melon, banana, yeast, mineral note, breathe of cinnamon and sandalwood with rose petal.
Palate: Honey, melon, focused acidity, touch of heat at opening, sage on the modest …

Two Fantastic Wines by Kerloo Cellars @kerloocellars

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Kookoo for Kerloo Cellars - Wowzer!
Here is another promised rose' review. Bonus - review of a delicious GSM too!

First, a big thank you to my wife for bringing these wines home. Second, this is my first exposure to Kerloo Cellars. Third, I have no idea what she paid for these wines. Fourth, both of these wines are sold-out on the Kerloo Cellars site. Fifth, these wines were purchased locally at the West Richland Yokes Grocer - thank you Rachel! Go find these wines for your home and enjoy. I need to schedule a visit with Kerloo Cellars and see for myself the lovelies they are crafting in Walla Walla. Bravo!


Tasting Notes Kerloo Grenache Rose' 2013

Kerloo Cellars treated the Grenache grapes as a white wine and picked early. This maximized bright, pure flavors and higher acids while keeping alcohol content lower. Picked Grenache late in the evening to maximize freshness. The tasting notes I found don't indicate unfined and unfiltered, but I suspect so. This bottle went fast, s…

Wine Review: Lauren Ashton Cellars 2013 Rose' @LaurenAshton_WA

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Bring this Vibrant Rose' to the Party, Wedding, Anniversary

Eight years ago when I was discussing rose' wine with customers, the conversation was about modern dry rose' wine versus the old school sweet pink white Zinfandel. Today the conversation is more about nuance and complexity. This rose' is a bit more serious than the typical rose'. Interesting contrast to the previous rose' post.

This spring I had the pleasure of visiting with Lauren Ashton Cellars winemaker Kit Singh at his Woodinville tasting room. It was a pleasure to sit down with Kit and talk with him about his wines while he poured them. He's smart, focused, passionate, and earnest about his goals. I hope you take the opportunity to purchase his wines when you see them. They are marvelous.

Tasting Notes Lauren Ashton Cellars 2013 Rose'

Color: Melon blush/bronze/pale, shiny pretty.
Nose: Citrus, melon, river rock, orange blossom.
Palate: Focused, fruit up front, mandarin orange, vanilla cream, o…

Wine Review: Los Vascos 2013 Rose' Chile @pasternakwine

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Tell me Again, Rose' is for Summer.

“I could not resist being a pioneer in Chile and giving a challenge to my team. We chose the place for its unique location and land”  - Baron Eric de Rothschild Rose' is one of those wines I automatically think of when I think summer wine. I was going to review several rose's in one post to give you a snapshot comparison. In this instance it did not seem fair. Rather, I will have a few more individual reviews of rose' wines. When I think rose', I think fresh, crisp, dry, flexible wines and the color of passion. The Los Vascos 2013 Rose' did not disappoint.

Tasting Notes Los Vascos 2013 Rose'

Color: Lovely dark pink/pale red color.
Nose: Toasty with vanilla cream and strawberry skin.
Palate: Strawberry on the palate, fresh, nice crisp tang on the tongue. Happy finish with this wine.

Thoughts: Enjoyed this wine with dinner of broiled salmon with garlic butter, French green beans with soy sauce, mirin, ginger, fresh lemon juice, s…

Summer is for Purple Star 2013 Chardonnay and 2011 Syrah @purplestarwines

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Is it summer yet? 

I have a new grill and it is getting daily use in the sunshine of eastern Washington. When I think grilled foods I also think wine. Are you looking for affordable delicious wines for summer? My friends at Purple Star Wines are producing tasty wines at reasonable prices.

These are perfect summer wines, serve chilled and enjoy with grilled foods.


Tasting Notes Purple Star 2013 Chardonnay
Color: Polished gold
Nose: Mineral, toast, pear skin, whiff of allspice.
Palate: Fresh pear, juicy, brioche, hint of cinnamon with pear skin on the lightly creamy finish. Tingle on the gums. Enjoyed with dinner and with the setting sun.

Day two: Lush, juicy, spicy pear, most of the action mid-palate, creamy pear, with a lingering floral flourish. Very good now and likely to improve in the bottle.


Thoughts: Tremendous value in this Washington Chardonnay. No summer BBQ would be complete without a bottle of Purple Star Chardonnay. A balanced tasty white wine, refreshing and perfect for summer…

Review: AntoLin Cellars 2010 Estate Carménère @AntoLinCellars

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Enhance your summer meals with AntoLin Cellars Estate Carménère .

Carménère, an ancient European variety, is thought to be the antecedent of other better-known varieties. Originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France and used primarily for blending, it practically disappeared in the mid-19th century due to disease. It is almost impossible to find Carménère in France today.

A once nearly lost grape, the world's largest area planted with this variety is now in Chile. Growers in my home state of Washington are producing limited amounts of Carménère. AntoLin Cellars provided me a lovely example of a 100% Washington Carménère. I encourage you to experience the deliciousness of this reappearing and intriguing wine. Well done.

Tasting Notes 2010 Estate Carménère

Color: Pale ruby.
Nose: Light cherry, rose water, candied raspberry, leather, white pepper. Whiff of espresso after an hour.
Palate: Ripe cherry flesh, touch tart, light body at opening which filled out to medium body wi…

Sauvignon Blanc Season @pasternakwine

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This time of year I crave Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc in its many aspects delights and refreshes. My first choice for tempering the heat of summer is a dry, crisp Sauvignon Blanc. A versatile wine, Sauvignon Blanc can be enjoyed with company on the patio, or at table with seafood, poultry and even grilled lamb. I recently participated in a tasting of four Sauvignon Blancs provided by my friends at Pasternak Wine Imports. They delighted. It is truly Sauvignon Blanc season.


Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc 2013 New Zealand
When I think Sauvignon Blanc, I immediately think New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I also think Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc - Dashwood is one of the wines responsible for my New Zealand wine epiphany two years ago.

Color: Pale straw with green highlights.
Nose: Heady, mineral, grapefruit, grass, lime.
Palate: Zing, fresh, vibrant, grapefruit, lime, kiwi. I'm alive! With long mineral, dry, kiwi and lime finish. KerPow!
This wine held up beautifully over three days. Recommende…