(Mini) Roadtrip: Woodinville!

A couple weekends ago, I headed out to Woodinville for a little tasting and art viewing. Even though Hubs & I remodeled our house almost 3 years ago, there are a few blank spaces on my walls that I still need to fill. And what better to put on them than a beautiful Northwest wine scene by one of my favorite Washington wine industry people – the fabulously talented Richard Duval. Northwest Cellars in Kirkland was hosting a showing of his work through the month, so I talked a couple of the ladies into coming with me on a mini roadtrip.

Richard met us at the tasting room and gabbed with us for a bit about his art. His work encompasses everything from quiet scenes of dormant vines resting during a snowfall, to an insanely colorful harvest moon over vineyards, to artsy shots of wine mid-pour on its way into an empty glass. He also does a ton of marketing and promotional shoots for local wineries, wine events – like this shot of some beautiful ladies at the Auction of Washington Wines this past summer. 🙂

Happy us sipping on Michael Savage’s fantastic juice!

Richard is EVERYWHERE! I couldn’t believe it when he told me he’s only been doing this for 5 years! I met him at Cooper winery in the Fall of 2014 and have constantly run into him at wine shindigs since then. For only being involved in the industry for 5 years, he certainly seems to know everyone (hello?! Bob Betz was at his birthday party!).

Richard was so gracious to my friends– the sweet & sassy Stacy and the plucky & passionate Caroline. He’s incredibly likeable and friendly, and that goes a long way. There are a lot of talented people out there, but if others don’t want to be around you or engage with you, you’re going to struggle with being successful. I will always remember Reggie’s advice regarding our small Washington wine industry when I had my first wine class with her a few years ago: BE NICE. Richard goes beyond this, plus he’s seriously talented. See for yourself!

The owner of Northwest Cellars, Bob Delf, has clearly taken Reggie’s advice. His wines are excellent crowd pleasers (and at his prices, you can stock up for crowds!) and he himself is a gem to talk to. Northwest Cellars hosts numerous charity events in their tasting room – many of them dog related, benefiting Seattle Humane Society, Old Dog Haven or other local rescue organizations. They also continually support various local artists & musicians. I love that about them – being so involved in the Northwest community. My favorite wines of Bob’s that I tasted (and purchased!) were the Sonatina (80% Roussanne, 20% Viognier) which was crisp with flavors of peaches and apples, and his Carménère that showed tons of black pepper and black fruits.

Next we were off to Woodinville. My case of Mourvèdre from W.T. Vintners (which I “won” at the Auction of Washington Wines over the summer) was ready for me to pick up, so we swung by there first. The tasting room was empty when we arrived, but buzzing when we left so we unfortunately didn’t have much opportunity to talk with the tasting room gal. However, we were introduced to their new Raconteur label. These wines are blends from multiple vineyards as opposed to single vineyard, single varietal like W.T. Vintners’ other wines. And they’re also about half the price.

I picked up the Raconteur white blend (75% Chenin Blanc, 25% Grüner Veltliner) which was full of lively citrus and peach flavors with a minerally finish. These new labels are eye-catching graphics of black and white with touches of red and will definitely stand out on retail shelves. The W.T. label, however, needs a bit of an update. Particularly on the Mourvèdre . It’s awfully busy and difficult to read what’s in the bottle . . . and especially the fantastic vineyard (Boushey!) it comes from!

Last, but most certainly not least, we headed to Savage Grace. The winemaker, Michael Savage, was there and remembered us from the Auction of Washington Wines (. . . is that good or bad?) so we chatted him up a bit. His wines are delicate and often more herbal and earthy than fruity – not your typical Washington wine.  Michael’s face and whole demeanor light up when he talks about his craft. 🙂

Like his next door neighbor W.T. Vintners, he produces wines that are single varietal from a single vineyard. We tasted two awesome Cabernet Sauvignons – one from Seven Mile Vineyard and one from Red Willow. The former was lighter in body with bright acidity and flavors of herbal cherries (Luden’s cough drops, anyone?) I preferred the Red Willow Cab that had more earth and tobacco notes. But both were delicious in their own way and beautifully balanced.

The other wines in Michael’s lineup were standouts as well. He let us try his Grüner Veltliner which is going to be released in the Spring. “Holy Yum!” were my extensive tasting notes on that one. Côt (what they call the Malbec grape in the Loire Valley) was super herbal like Loire wine typically can be. The off-dry Riesling was zippy and citrusy.  savage-grace His website is tailor made for corkdorks because he includes all sorts of fascinating facts about the wine: when the grapes were picked and at which brix level, soil, slope aspect, fermentation vessel, oak program, etc. And, his labels are awesome – like a crayola crayon box for adults.

So many amazing winemakers in Woodinville, and so little time.  But with it being only 30 minutes away, I really have no excuse for not visiting more often.  I’m sensing a New Years’ Resolution coming on . . . stay tuned!!


My 2016 Wine Year in Review

We’re at that time of year when magazines and news sources all come out with their “Best of 2016” lists and reflect on the past year. As I started thinking back on my personal 2016, I realized how many fabulous wine adventures I’ve had: Adding another of Lenny’s Food & Wine Pairing classes at Northwest Wine Academy to my arsenal. Passing the Introductory Sommelier exam. Hosting my first French Wine Class at Capri Cellars. Two trips to Willamette Valley, one to Walla Walla, several local winery and tasting room visits. And France. 🙂

It’s been an amazing year for wine and me . . . here are some of the highlights:

Favorite Red Wine. There’s a tie here as I would happily have either one of these as my last bottle on earth:

Gramercy always delivers and although Syrah is their calling card, their Mourvédre is truly one of a kind.

Gramercy Cellars 2012 “L’Idiot du Village” Mourvédre, Columbia Valley. Scorched plums, tar, smoke, graphite. Savory & rich. Such a unique wine. Mourvédre is quickly becoming one of my favorite varietals! (Oct, 2016).

The 2011 Jean Foillard Morgon was the first Cru Beaujolais I ever tried and I have that bottle to thank for my obsession with the region. This is the third vintage in a row that I’ve had, and each has been delicious!

Jean Foillard 2013 Côte du Py Morgon, Beaujolais, France. This wine is consistently so freakin’ delicious!! Dark cherries, black pepper and a touch of smokiness. Delicate, silky tannins. Perfect red for the summer. (July, 2016).

Favorite White Wine. I can’t remember if I first had this wine at their tasting room or when their sales manager, Bryan, visited Capri Cellars. In either case, if I could craft a Viognier myself, this wine would be it. It’s one of my favorite varietals, and AMaurice did it justice.

AMaurice 2014 Viognier, Walla Walla Valley. This wine is such a delicious example of this varietal in Washington. It’s lush and ripe without being over the top. I’ve had it open for a couple of days, and it’s still one of the best Viogniers I’ve tasted. (Jan, 2016).

Favorite Rosé. I discovered this while out on a Woodinville wine tasting date with the fabulous and fun Jen this summer. We were visiting Avennia (whose Rosé I love) and asked winemaker Chris Peterson what HIS favorite Rosé was, other than his own of course. He told us, hands down, it was Efeste’s. And I have to say – I agree with him! 🙂

Efeste 2015 Oldfield Estate Rosé, Yakima Valley. This is one of my favorite Rosés of the season!! Strawberries melded with sour cherries, and some crushed roses thrown into the mix. Tingly acid lingers in the finish. (July, 2016).

Favorite Bubbles. Fitting that I had this on New Years Day to kick off 2016.

Grongnet ‘Carpe Diem’ Brut Champagne, NV. Steady stream of dainty beads, not as powerful as other Champagnes. A delicious kitchen sink of aromas and flavors – floral, citrus and toasty bread. Complex & beautiful! (Jan, 2016).

Favorite Daily Drinker. This was one of the Rosés we poured at the Capri Cellars Rosé tasting in May and it stood out – not only for it’s price, but for it’s deliciousness.

Ernst Loosen 2015 “Villa Wolf” Pinot Noir Rosé, Pfalz, Germany. Strawberries for days. Zesty acidity, slight tartness on the finish. This has got a lot more going on than your usual porch pounder, except the price (under $15!!). (May, 2016).


Beautiful bouquet of Rosés

Favorite Bottle – Ambiance. In my experience, sometimes a bottle of wine can be tasty, but might seem better than it truly is just because of the when and where in which I’m drinking it. The wine we had on our first night in Paris at La Cremerie is one of those wines. la-cremerie

We’d heard about this little wine bar when we were visiting one of our favorite Seattle wine bars – La Caviste. Although my tasting notes on the wine are minimal, I’ll never forget that evening. The cozy room full of melodic Parisian chatter, crusty rustic bread, yummy ooey gooey burrata and tomatoes (I usually don’t even like tomatoes!) and a pile of proscuitto. It wasn’t the most gourmet meal we had during our trip to France, nor was it the most expensive, but it was definitely one of the most enjoyable.

Domaine René Bouvier 2011 ‘Les Jeunes Rois’ Gevrey-Chambertin. Very delicate structure.  Red fruits, hints of earth and iron.  Mellow tannins.  Paired well with burrata and prosciutto dinner. (Sept 2016).

Best New Discovery – Winery. I first had W.T. Vintners’ wine (their Grüner Veltliner) last August at a wine dinner as part of the annual Auction of Washington Wines. Although it was crisp, delicious and perfect for a summer evening, it was also overshadowed a bit by the other winemakers present at the dinner, two of my favorites – Gramercy Cellars and Betz Family Winery.

Winemaker Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen and fellow wine lover John – who I’m constantly running into at wine events!

I’d told myself before attending this year’s Auction of Washington Wines Picnic and Barrel Auction that I wasn’t going to bid on a case of wine unless something REALLY hit me upside the head. Well, something did. It was a barrel sample of W.T. Vintners 2014 Boushey Vineyard Mourvédre, Yakima Valley.

I’d tasted at least a dozen different wines at this point in the evening, most were ubiquitous Cabernet blends, so this Mourvédre totally stood out: meaty, blackberries and black pepper, rich and full bodied. Gabbing with Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen and Dick Boushey (Fangirl moment!) while sipping it didn’t hurt either. 😉 I’m hoping to pick up my case this weekend. Will be so perfect for pairing with winter stews and hearty dishes!

Best New Discovery – Region or Varietal. I don’t think I’d even heard of Zweigelt, much less tried it, before my Advanced Wines of the World class at the beginning of the year.


Brief Corkdork Moment! Zweigelt (pronounced TSVYE-gelt) is the most widely grown red grape in Austria. It’s also planted in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Canada and there are a handful of acres in Washington State . . . I found a bottle from these few acres at The Tasting Room in Pike Place this summer produced by Wilridge. Yay me!

It is a relatively new grape, developed in 1922 when an Austrian scientist, Fritz Zweigelt, crossed Blaufränkisch with St. Laurent. The grape was originally named Rotburger, but thankfully the name changed to honor its creator in the 1970s. Zweigelt is known for being inky, grapey and fruity with soft, subtle tannins and lively acidity. In other words, this little grape has a lot going on with it . . . and all for usually under $20/bottle.

Although I haven’t had a ton of this varietal (since it’s rather difficult to find!) the Zweigelts that I’ve tried have been really delicious. Yummy aromatics – red fruits (cherries, berries) with some floral and slight perfumey notes. On the palate – loads of cherries nicely balanced with some earthy funk and spice.

Best Wine Event. “Behind the Bottle” Harvest Dinner at RN74. I initially saw this event advertised on Kevin White’s Facebook page and when I saw the other winemakers who were going to be present (Savage Grace! W.T. Vintners! Two Vintners!) and that this was all taking place at one of my favorite Seattle restaurants, I knew I had to attend. The sweet & sassy Stacy joined me and we had a fun, memorable evening eating and drinking family style while the winemakers rotated amongst the tables and chatted with the guests. The food was good, but the wines kicked their asses.


Favorite Wine Personality. While booking our trip to France, I knew I wanted a full-day guided wine tasting tour of the Northern Rhône. I’d looked online at a few companies, but unfortunately (or actually – fortunately) my first choice was booked up. They recommended I contact Vincent . . . and I am so thankful we did!


Vincent is an early 30-something man bun wearing, wine loving guy who was our fabulous tour guide for the day. Born and bred in Condrieu (he showed us his elementary school!) he knew all the ins and outs of the area, and it was clear that everyone knew him too. Case in point: at Domaine Niero, he waved to the owner/winemaker Rémi who was busy hauling grapes into the facility on a forklift, and then proceeded to run the tasting behind the bar himself. He did this everywhere!

Site of Vincent’s future tasting room!

Although he’s only been doing his tours for about two years now, he already has insanely high reviews on Trip Advisor. In the not too distant future, he’s planning on opening a tasting room in Condrieu – across the street from where he grew up!

We might see Vincent again in early 2017 if he makes a trip over to the Pacific Northwest . . . I’d love to reconnect with him, his enthusiasm for wine was simply infectious. If you’re ever in the Northern Rhône area – contact Vincent here!



Best Wine Store (besides Capri Cellars!). I visited Willamette Valley twice this year and both times stopped by Valley Wine Merchants in Newberg, Oregon. The owner, Andrew, is so friendly and knowledgable about his store’s wines that he really makes you want to just hang out and chat and ask a million questions (the latter might just be me). But if you prefer to just browse yourself, each bottle has a little tag around its neck giving a quick description of what’s inside.

As a wine retailer myself, what boggled my mind was the lack of any wine score present in the entire store. Most wine stores are littered (often cluttered) with big red numbers from the critics. Nary a one in Valley Wine Merchants. I asked Andrew about this and he said “that’s not how I buy wine, and that’s not how I want to sell it.” I truly respect this viewpoint and I hope it works for him. I know I’ll be back to visit Andrew anytime I’m in the Willamette Valley area – if you’re in the neighborhood, you should too!

Best Wine Trip. This year it’s an easy one – France. gramercy From visiting pristine Ruinart and the modest Roger Manceaux in Champagne, to pulling over in the Côte de Nuits to watch the harvest in action, to the cheeky wine museum in Beaujolais, to our full day personal tour of the Northern Rhône . . . each wine moment and sip was savored.  We loved French wine . . . but our home state produces some damn fine juice too. 😉



Best Wine Moment. This. meandsyrah

I’d read about and studied the Northern Rhône topography – steep slopes that flank the river, terraced vineyards with vines trained on échalas – but being there, seeing it firsthand, and sampling a Syrah grape from a Côte-Rôtie vine was my best wine moment of 2016. In fact, this will probably be one of my favorite wine moments in my life. 🙂