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Destination Woodinville RESERVE and North of 95 - PartTwo @WineWoodinville


What is RESERVE? Only the highest rated wines please.
Part Two: Destination Woodinville Wine Country. 

Wine country in Woodinville, Washington. What does that mean to you? For me it used to represent a lot of Woodinville labels disconnected from faces and place. No longer. If you missed the previous post, I'm re-counting a weekend spent in Woodinville Wine Country. This was my first visit to Woodinville Wine Country.

*Read the Introduction Woodinville a First Weekend "No Longer Strangers" if you missed it.

After freshening up in my room at the Willows Lodge and Spa, I prepared for the Über exclusive wine tasting events RESERVE and North of 95. RESERVE is an annual event featuring only award-winning, 90+ rated Woodinville wines. Convenient for me because the venue was at the Willows Lodge.

RESERVE a room of very happy people.

New this year was the optional North of 95 tasting, where only the peak vintages of 95+ rated Woodinville wines were poured. I was given VIP access to both events. I know, I know. Two exclusive wine tasting events I had never attended. Two tasting events featuring only 90+ rated wines. Pretty heady environment to ensconce oneself for three hours.

*Note: Before I go on, regular readers know that I don't score wines. I recommend and review wines I enjoyed and which I believe many readers will enjoy as well. The closest I come to "scoring" a wine is how I recommend the wine I review: "Recommended" - "Strongly Recommended" - "Highly Recommended" and the often used "Yummy" and "Tasty." That does not mean I don't recognize the value and reason for rating wines with a numerical system. The higher the score, the more the reviewer enjoyed the wine. I should also note that several of my favorite Woodinville wines were poured at these events - supporting the supposition that I have a reasonably good palate and appreciate "Yummy" and "Tasty" wines along with the best of them.

North of 95

As a weekend of many firsts for me, my first night in Woodinville included attending both the RESERVE and North of 95 wine tasting events. North of 95 was up first at 6:30 pm. How would you approach jumping in and tasting those 95+ rated wines? Check your wish list and go there first.

Kit Singh, Lauren Ashton Cellars.

Lauren Ashton Cellars - Kit Singh, Owner/Winemaker.

My first exposure to the wines of Lauren Ashton Cellars was last year when I reviewed the Lauren Ashton Cellars 2011 Cuvée Méline. "...classy white wine, perfect for pairing with raw oysters, sashimi, lobster and fried battered halibut. On day two I would enjoy this wine with the softest cheese, crusty bread dipped in olive oil and dried fruit. Respect the look of the label as it correctly denotes the quality of the wine in the bottle. Strongly recommended."

Lauren Ashton Cellars pour quickly.

I wanted to meet winemaker Kit Singh and taste more of his wines while my palate was fresh. A wise choice. Of course his wines were delicious. He had a warm, friendly personality and it was a pleasure to finally meet him. I will go into more detail about Lauren Ashton Cellars and the winemaker when I write about the Saturday Wine Tour. Yes, the next day we visited with Kit at his tasting room.

John Bookwalter, J. Bookwalter Wines

J. Bookwalter Wines - John Bookwalter, Owner/Winemaker.
John Bookwalter has transformed a small, eastern Washington winery into a brand representing quality and lifestyle. Over the years I've met John many times. He is a key figure in the promotion of Washington wine.

J. Bookwalter 2009 Conflict.

The Bookwalter Tasting Studio in Woodinville is now a showcase for his eastern Washington crafted wines. You no longer have to make the drive over the Cascade mountains to taste J. Bookwalter wines. The wines were stunning of course. It was an enjoyable visit with John, his intensity and focus have not waned.

Chris Gorman, Gorman Winery.

Gorman Winery - Chris Gorman, Owner/Winemaker
Chris Gorman was another winemaker I wanted to meet. My only previous exposure to his wine skills was a collaborative effort between Chris Gorman and Mark Ryan McNeilly called, the ghost in the machine Columbia Valley Red Wine 2010. I liked Chris instantly. While it may not matter to you, for me personality is part of the package when I am trying to connect to a brand. It also helps keep me engaged and remember labels and wines. Besides, Chris has a pinball machine at his winery waiting for me to play. Next time, next time.

Ashan Chardonnay - Kestrel Vineyard, by Gorman Winery.
When you think 95+ point wines, what is your association? Red wine right? But white wines can also score well too. The Kestrel Vineyard Ashan Chardonnay by Chris Gorman was one of my favorite wines of the night. Lovely, lovely wine and one I would dearly love to re-visit at home. Cool label too. If you would like more information about the Ashan Project, Sean Sullivan of Washington Wine Report wrote about the three Ashan Chardonnays Chris is producing.

BAER Winery, 2010 MAIA Cabernet Franc.

BAER Winery - Lisa Baer, Owner/Partner
BAER Winery was another winery on my must visit list. Lisa Baer was amiable as she poured and chatted with me about her winery. Her tasting room is in the Warehouse District of Woodinville.

BAER 2010 Ursa a lovely red blend.
I encourage you to visit the BAER tasting room in Woodinville and read about their story on their website. This is a boutique family owned winery full of passion. Thank you Lisa for the wine and conversation.

An hour goes fast when you are sampling 95+ rated wines. As some of the winemakers packed up and moved over to RESERVE, I followed.


RESERVE was in a larger room next door to North of 95. Moving from one room to the next, I was confronted with even more choices among many premium Woodinville wines. It was a well attended venue.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of wines available to sample. Drinking every wine is not an option for me, and I don't recommend it for you either.

How to choose, how to choose from so many fantastic wines? Ask a friend if in doubt.

Dave Butner, Kaella Winery.

Kaella Winery - Dave Butner, Owner/Winemaker
My friend Stuart was pouring for Kaella Winery, so that was my destination. Stuart introduced me to Dave Butner, Owner/Winemaker of Kaella. This was my first opportunity to sample Kaella wines. They did not disappoint.

Kaella 2010 Syrah, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard.
Have I mentioned how fond I am of Syrah? The Kaella Syrah was gorgeous, made with Red Mountain fruit from the famous Ciel du Cheval vineyard. The Kaella Cabernet Franc - Conner Lee Vineyard, was also poured and wowed too. Both Syrah and Cabernet Franc are two of my favorite varieties. They can be standout varieties for showcasing the true talent of a Washington winemaker. Big grin on my face at this point.

Patterson Cellars Tempranillo and Late Harvest Roussanne.

Patterson Cellars - John Patterson, Winemaker
Turning to my right was Patterson Cellars. So I did not have to move from where I was standing. The room was crowded at this point, so not moving was a good option. Another first was meeting John Patterson of Patterson Cellars. A quiet and unassuming gentleman, I instantly liked John. And his wines thrilled.

Patterson Cellars Late Harvest Roussanne.

I will have more to share about John and his wines when I write about the Sunday Wine Tour. Yes, we visited Patterson Cellars on Sunday. However, I encourage you to purchase his Late Harvest Roussanne immediately. This wine surprised me. I'm not a huge sweet wine drinker, but this wine impressed. BUY IT.

Wild 4 Washington Wine with Wine Folly.
Madeline Puckette - Wine  Folly
Still standing at Kaella and Patterson Cellars table, not sure where to go next, my friend Stuart tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I knew Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly. "Of course." I responded. "Well she's standing next to you." My guide for the remainder of RESERVE became Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly.

Madelline is a "Sommelier, Designer, Editor, Wine Squirrel." She was awarded 2013 Wine Blogger of the Year, at the International Wine & Spirits Competition. If you don't know Wine Folly you may be familiar with her ubiquitous wine Infographics. They are everywhere.

My first conversation with Madeline was at the 2012 Taste Washington Seattle. Her focus and intensity impressed. She is super engaged with social media and told me she spends 14 hours a day on Wine Folly. Deep respect for the work she does. Naturally, I was curious to find out which wines she would recommend. She didn't actually volunteer to be my guide, but she was truly gracious and generous when I asked to accompany her. Plus her white leather dress was cool. Thank you Madeline.

I'm not a total stranger to Woodinville wines. Looking at the tasting guide for RESERVE there were 29 participating wineries. Subtracting the wineries who were also pouring at North of 95 that left 25 wineries. Subtracting the wineries I visited with at RESERVE that left 19 wineries. Subtracting the wineries I visited that weekend left 17 wineries I did not have a chance to visit with. Of those 17 wineries, subtract the wineries I already know and feel familiar with, leaves a total of 11 wineries I missed visiting and tasting. Those 11 Woodinville wineries are on my list for future interaction. Let's continue.

Vaucluse 63% Syrah, 33% Grenache, 4% Viognier.

Gård Vintners
My first exposure to Gård Vintners was last year when I learned that they make a stunning Riesling. I selected their 2011 Riesling Grand Klasse as one of my favorite wines of 2013. Hard to believe from a guy who has not been a big fan of Washington Riesling for many years. Of course I was eager to meet them. You know they are doing great things when they can change the mind of someone like me.

EFESTE Riesling caught my attention.

There's been some transition at this winery. I was curious to sample current releases and to visit with current staff. EFESTE is one of those wineries I always enjoy at tasting events. They are frequent participants at Revelry on Red Mountain. You are encouraged to visit them if you are unfamiliar with their scrumptious wines.

LACHINI Vineyards - Ron and Marianne Lachini, Proprietors
I was unfamiliar with Lachini Vineyards. They are a curious mix of Oregon and Washington wines. They have vineyards in Oregon and also purchase grapes from Washington. They have a tasting room in Woodinville as wells as in Oregon. The wines were delicious of course. An intriguing approach to winemaking. Is this going to be a trend? Let me know your thoughts.

67% Roussanne, 17% Grenache Blanc and 16% Marsanne
88% Syrah and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon

Sparkman Cellars
At this point in the evening one would expect to have a slightly tired palate. Food and conversation helped to soften the exposure to a multitude of world-class, award winning wines. Still, the new to me Sparkman Cellars Apparition (White Rhone Blend) and Ruckus Syrah impressed. I liked their approach and they were personable. I need to follow up with them and learn more about their wines. When you visit Woodinville you have two locations to select from: Hollywood Hills Tourist District Tasting Room and their Warehouse District Winery and Tasting Room.

That was a heck of an introduction to the premium wines of Woodinville.

North of 95 and RESERVE filtered out the noise and provided only the highest rated wines. This type of event evening is proof that Washington winemakers have gained the well deserved attention and respect for producing premium wines.

It was an honor to meet some of the winemakers I have admired. I understand why this is a well attended and growing venue. There is so much talent in Woodinville, it's time you visit. Well done.

*Learn more about RESERVE and North of 95.

Admittedly a fair amount of wine was consumed. After three hours the lines blurred between tasting and drinking. I would have practiced my spitting skills, but there was a lack of spit buckets, and I noticed no one else was spitting, so there you go. Experienced tasters know that food is essential afterwards. On site of the Willows Lodge is the Barking Frog Restaurant. My next post will be about the accommodations at Willows Lodge and Spa, the Barking Frog Restaurant and an interview with their Wine Director.

This was just the beginning of my introduction to Woodinville Wine Country. What an introduction!

Outline: Destination Woodinville Wine Country
Next: Willows Lodge and Spa + Wine Director Interview


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