Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Merlot and Malbec with Sausages from the Grill



This is the 11th year of my Merlot and Sausage Challenge, and we continue the October tradition of tasting juicy and flavorful Merlot and Malbec wines and blends with sausages and the darling dumpling of Germany... Spaetzle. If you haven’t enjoyed this pasta-noodle-like creation – finished with flavorful cheese, mushrooms and spice, then cook some yourself or head over to a nearby German restaurant. Sausages for this week included selections from Aidells including Pineapple and Bacon, Italian Style and the new Italian Style Margherita from their Whole Blends collection. 

Merlot is a red wine variety whose name is a diminutive of the French word for blackbird. This association is thought to have been made due to the dark skin color of the ripe Merlot fruit. Merlot is the most widely planted grape in Bordeaux and is the third most grown variety on the globe. 

Malbec is the Bordeaux blending variety most often presented as a standalone wine, and has become very popular in the New World – most notable is the U.S. and Argentina’s Mendoza growing area. The wine offers complex flavors most reminiscent of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Outside in the wine world, harvest is under way and it is a great time to put on your Gortex and visit the Northwest wine country.  Visit WinesNorthwest.com for the latest travel information and wine country happenings.
 

DeLille Cellars 2016 D2, Columbia Valley - $45

This vintage marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of the D2 blend. This 25th anniversary vintage will be officially celebrated on December 2, 2019. Check out the winery website – Delillecellars.com – for all the history and details. My tasters rated this wine at the top of the flight for its complex aromas and flavors and superb structure. Look for plum, pomegranate and dark cherry with notes of graphite and warm spices.

 
Abacela 2016 Malbec, Estate, Umpqua Valley - $30

Earl and Hilda Jones established their vineyard and winery in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley in 1996 chasing their dream of growing world-class Tempranillo in America. The growth of the project over decades added other varieties including Malbec. My tasters enjoyed aromas and flavors of cranberry, cherry and blackberry with spicy notes from French oak aging. Abacela.com



L’Ecole No 41 2016 Merlot, Estate: Ferguson, Seven Hills - $36

This superb Merlot comes from two of the finest vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley AVA. Seven Hills Vineyard was planted in the 1980s and 1990s, and the Ferguson Vineyard – named to honor founders Baker and Jean Ferguson – was planted beginning in 2008. This wine offers the quintessential Merlot style of Walla Walla – ripe dark cherry, plum and blackberry with notes of coffee, tobacco leaf, dark chocolate and earthy mineral. Lecole.com


Rutherford Hill 2015 Barrel Select, Napa Valley - $38

This elegant Napa Valley Merlot is blended with a splash of each of the other Bordeaux varieties. Aging in French oak for 18 months mellowed the wine and added notes of earthy toast, caramel and vanilla. Look for rich aromas and flavors of cherry and plum with notes of licorice, dill and baking spices.  Rutherfordhill.com

Freemark Abbey 2015 Merlot, Napa Valley - $34

The Freemark Abbey winery was originally founded in St. Helena, in the Napa Valley in 1876 by Josephine Tychson, one of the first women winegrowers on record. A revival of the winery after prohibition saw the current name created by partners Charles Freeman, Markquand Foster and Abbey Ahern – a combination of their names. The flavorful 2015 Merlot offers classic cherry, berry, milk chocolate and spicy oak. Freemarkabbey.com

Harbinger Winery 2014 Malbec, Wahluke Slope - $28

Energetic winemaker/owner Sara Gagnon continues to produce excellent wines at her facility on Highway 101 in Port Angeles, Washington. As a native of the Olympic Peninsula, Sara enjoys kayaking and mountain biking through the associated company Adventures through Kayaking. The label of this wine reminds me of the Northwest Ravens that I hear each morning at our cabin on Camano Island. Sara’s Malbec offers rich plum and cranberry with cassis, vanilla and spice. Harbingerwinery.com

Mike Januik, Winemaker

Januik Wines 2016 Merlot, Klipsun Vineyard - $35

To old Washington wine lovers like me, Klipsun Vineyard on Red Mountain offers memories of many rich and complex red wines that have added to Washington’s reputation as a world class wine region. Add to this grape source the talents of veteran winemaker Mike Januik and you can count on a memorable wine. Voluptuous red and black fruits mingle with notes of spicy oak, caramel and vanilla to pair perfectly with sausages of all types. Noveltyhilljanuik.com

Gascon 2016 Malbec, Reserva, Mendoza, Argentina - $22

The wines of Don Miguel Gascon are crafted in the City of Mendoza at the same winery that was built by the Spanish visionary whose name bears it.  The winery was begun in 1884 but now houses some of the most advanced winemaking technology in the world.  This Reserva Malbec was another top-ranked wine with tasters who enjoyed its layers of flavors of ripe plum, dark cherry and berry with notes of cocoa and peppery spice.

Griffin Creek 2015 Malbec, Rogue Valley - $45

Griffin Creek wines come from the parent company Willamette Valley Vineyards, though they are crafted almost exclusively from grapes grown in the warmer, southern part of Oregon. Look for aromas and flavors of blueberry and blackberry with jammy dark fruits, vanilla and floral notes.

Waterbrook 2016 Malbec, Reserve - $24

Winemaker John Freeman crafted this Malbec from grapes grown at a variety of esteemed vineyards in Washington’s Columbia Valley AVA. He added a splash (7%) of Cabernet Sauvignon and aged the wine in American oak, 24% new. My tasters enjoyed the toasty notes of vanilla and coconut that cocoon the ripe cherry and huckleberry core of this wine, and the added complex notes of pepper, pipe tobacco and dried figs.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Syrah with Meats from the Grill


Red Rhone Varietals with Meats from the Grill


As I conclude this year’s examination of red Rhone varieties we enjoy together some superb and powerful Syrah based wines – the blends of the Northern Rhone. These rich wines offer dark fruits, spicy herbs, hints of lavender and lingering notes of oak aging – toasty wood, vanilla and caramel.

Many harvest time winery events take place in October and November. Visit WinesNorthwest.com for touring information and event timelines.


Rotie Cellars 2017 Northern Rhone Blend - $48

This wine from the Walla Walla Valley AVA was crafted by Sean Boyd who makes his wines in the lean and flavorful Old World style. The wine has a lot to teach wine drinkers who look for uber intense, oak heavy wines. Sean’s wines are the best in Washington for paying homage to the Rhone model. It is ripe and round with plum, mineral and earthy pepper mingling with hints of violets and citrus on the edges. Rotiecellars.com

Warr-King 2016 Syrah, Columbia Valley - $36

Winemaker Lisa Packer crafted this flavorful Syrah from grapes grown at the Stillwater Creek Vineyard (Royal Slope) and Gamache Vineyard near White Bluffs on the Columbia River at the Tri-Cities. It is a rich and dark purple wine showing aromas and flavors of blackberry and blueberry with complex notes of pepper, olive spread and toasty caramel.

Novelty Hill 2017 Syrah, Columbia Valley - $23

This wine also hails from Novelty Hill’s estate Stillwater Creek Vineyard on the Royal Slope of Washington’s Frenchman Hills. Each vintage of this wine is celebrated for consistency and quality utilizing four Syrah clones: 1, 99, 174 and Joseph Phelps clone. Look for dark cherry and earthy plum with exotic spice and fine tannins on the finish.

Goedhart Family 2013 Syrah, Red Mountain - $29

Goedhart Family Winery is a brand under the umbrella of Hedges Family Estate. Sarah Hedges Goedhart is head winemaker for Hedges wines and also for her own eponymous family brand. This delicious and food friendly Syrah comes from grapes grown at the Hedges’ Bel Villa Vineyard on the slopes of Red Mountain. Look for aromas and flavors of dark fruits: cassis, blueberry and plum with complex notes of pepper, dark chocolate, vanilla and spice. Hedgesfamilyestate.com



Murray 2016 Syrah, Red Mountain - $25

Murray is the second label for Hightower Cellars, a winery of Tim and Kelly Hightower who were early pioneers of the Red Mountain AVA. The wine name honors their loyal Golden Labrador Murray. The wine is no dog, offering dark cherry, blackberry and blueberry with hints of leather, toasty oak and vanilla. Hightowercellars.com


Hard Row to Hoe 2016 Syrah, Lake Chelan - $45

The story of this winery’s name is worth a visit to their website at hardrow.com. Don and Judy Phelps work with grapes from the local Defiance Vineyard on the shore of Lake Chelan to craft their Syrah which manifests the terroir of the Lake Chelan AVA – Judy says a more savory expression of the grape. Grill your favorite meat and then enjoy generous aromas of blackberry, dark fruits and vanilla leading to a rich palate with excellent concentration and freshness.


Nine Hats 2015 Syrah, Columbia Valley - $25

The inspiration for Nine Hats came from the nine internationally acclaimed winemakers who contribute their time and talents to develop th wines of Long Shadows Vintners. This classic Columbia Valley Syrah combines fruit from several vineyards including La Coye from Red Mountain and Stone Tree from the Wahluke Slope. Dark berries, anise and tobacco fill the nose and palate with notes of toasty mineral and hints of vanilla. Ninehats.com


Cadaretta Wines 2015 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - $35

This wine was largely constructed from the winery’s estate Southwind Vineyard in Washington’s Walla Walla Valley. It offers the classic Walla Walla Syrah character of blueberry and pomegranate melded into a food-friendly sip with oak aging that adds smoky meat, vanilla, caramel and hints of earthy tar. Cadaretta.com


Abacela 2015 Syrah, Barrel Select - $30

This hillside grown Syrah comes from the winery’s estate fault line vineyard in the Umpqua Valley of southern Oregon. Aging of the wine takes place in French oak with just a kiss of new barrel, the others just 2 year old or neutral. This wine evolves with breathing (which many say presages aging) to reveal dark cherry and blackberry with dried herb and earthy mineral. Abacela.com


Daven Lore 2014 Syrah, Snipes Mountain - $32

This winery in the foothills of Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills southwest of Prosser was named with a combination of two family names: Davenport and Taylor. The crafty, grape-stealing coyote on the label is named “Petro” after local petroglyphs. Winemaker Gordon Taylor likes this wine for its round aromas and flavors of dark cherry and blueberry which on the palate shows a softer side of vanilla custard and butterscotch – also a spiced meat character with coffee rub. Davenlore.com


Blason d’ Aussieres, 2015, Corbieres, France - $14

This wine comes from Chateau Lafite Rothschild’s vineyards in southern France and is a southern Rhone-style blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Carignan. In the glass, the wine shows dark red with violet edges beckoning a sniff which yields dark fruits, spicy rose and toasty notes of berry. The round palate adds fresh berry, elegant tannins and a spicy finish.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Rhone Reds and Blends with Neapolitan Pork Chops


I continue my celebration of red wines crafted from the Rhone varieties Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and others. In the Pacific Northwest, our mild summer has yielded to a cool fall, enticing wine lovers to reach for hearty reds that accompany the meaty, flavorful meals of the season. I begin with some southern Rhone blend selections and move to northern Rhone (Syrah) wines at the end of the column.
 

Southern Rhone Blends

Columbia Winery 2016 Vision Red Blend, Horse Heaven Hills – $45

This is actually more of a Northern Rhone blend with a larger percentage of Syrah than the other varieties. (64% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre, 11% Grenache) My tasters found it the most complex and interesting wine in the flight showing ripe plum, cranberry and cherry fruit with spice and soft tannins. Columbiawinery.com
 

Rocky Pond Winery 2017 Stratastone GSM Blend, Columbia Valley - $35

This unique blend comes from Rocky Pond Winery’s estate vineyards near Lake Chelan in Washington’s Columbia Valley appellation. The wine offers cherry and plum aromas and flavors and expands upon aeration to include notes of floral, mineral and smoky meat notes – very tasty with meats from the grill. Rockypondwinery.com



Andrew Januik 2016 Los Molinos, Columbia Valley - $60

The son of a world-renowned winemaker (Mike Januik), Andrew Januik was born with winemaking in his blood and the proof is in the pressing. Every single one of the wines that Andrew has made since starting his eponymous label in 2011 have all been rated above 90 points. His Los Molinos (the olive mill) GSM blend shows somewhat of the influence of his father with layers of complex fruit and distinct notes of spicy oak and caramel. Noveltyhilljanuik.com

Kendall Jackson 2016 GSM, Grand Reserve, Santa Barbara County - $35

It’s nice to see more California wineries adding Rhone blends to their offerings. This flavorful Grand Reserve offers red currant and mixed wild cherry flavors with background notes of chocolate and cedar box. Aging in French oak and pre-fermentation cold-soak adds layers of complexity adds complexity and hints of vanilla and caramel.

Andre Brunel 2016 Cotes du Rhone, France - $14

This tasty Rhone blend features 70% Grenache with 20% Cinsault and 10% Syrah. The grapes are harvested from properties on different sides of the Rhone River – each offering different terroir and contributing different styles to the wine. Look for aromas and flavors of dark plum and earthy mineral with notes of violets and spice.

Syrah and Shiraz

‘The Jack 2017 Syrah, Columbia Valley - $18

Rich Funk of Saviah Cellars says of The Jack series of wines, “they are the best bet for high value and exceptional quality. My tasters agree! Saviah has offered several varieties of The Jack for almost a decade and they are among the very best Northwest wines for the money. Look for aromatic cherry and raspberry with notes of floral perfume, toasty oak and mineral – great with rich meats and hearty sauces.Saviahcellars.com

Penfold’s 2016 Kalimna Bin 28 Shiraz, South Australia - $30

“Bin 28 offers a showcase of warm climate Australian Shiraz – ripe, robust and generously flavoured.” I have been a fan of this bottling for years, enjoying it with hearty meat dishes and as a pairing to dark chocolate when the occasion arises. Aromas of ripe blackberry dance among olives, tobacco and mineral leading to rich flavors of dark fruits, tar and caramel-vanilla. Penfolds.com

L’Ecole No 41 2016 Syrah, Seven Hills Vineyard - $37

This special wine from the Walla Walla Valley comes from the most widely esteemed vineyard in the AVA and demonstrates why Seven Hills has gained its reputation. I joined other Seattle wine writers with the vineyard owners in the mid-1980s for a show-and-tell of the vineyard’s attributes at the first harvest. My tasters enjoyed the classic Syrah character of mineral, smoky game and earthy tar over layers of blueberry, plum and hints of floral perfume. Lecole.com

Three Rivers Winery 2016 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - $42

Winemaker Holly Turner crafted this rich and rustic Syrah from grapes grown in the Walla Walla Valley, mostly at Minnick Hills Vineyard north Walla Walla. Aging in French oak – 50% new – added character and toasty nuances with hints of caramel and vanilla.  Aromas and flavors of dark fruits, smoked meats and dusty herbs create a perfect wine to pair with your fall meats from the grill. Threeriverswinery.com

Copain Winery 2016 Syrah, Tous Ensemble, Mendocino - $24

Iconic Copain Winery overlooks the bucolic Russian River Valley in California, crafting Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.  Their Tous Ensemble (all together) wines are approachable, casual and ready to drink. The Syrah from select cool climate vineyards in Mendocino County offers raspberry, blackberry and spice with notes of pencil lead, toast and soft tannins.

DeLille Cellars 2016 Signature Syrah, Yakima Valley - $44

This wine came from the much-heralded Boushey Vineyard in Washington’s Yakima Valley.
This site is known for world-class Syrah that brings fame to the region. My tasters noted deep aromas and flavors of dark fruits, spicy pepper, violets and smoked meats.  Additional complexity includes cigar wrapper, savory olive and balancing acidity. Delillecellars.com

Rose

Prima Pink 2018 Rosé, Washington

Greg Osenbach of Whidbey Island Winery crafts this savory rosé for his friend Sieb Jurriaans for his Prima Bistro in nearby downtown Langley.  The wine is a natural for the French-inspired Northwest bistro fare at this popular local restaurant. The pale orange-pink color leads to aromas and flavors of melon, light strawberry, savory herbs and refreshing citrus and mineral.

Warr-King Wines 2018 Rosé, Marie Noelle - $19

Winemaker Lisa Packer named this beautiful and tasty wine for her French friend Marie Noelle.  The deep salmon pink color leads to aromas and flavors of pomegranate, lavender, red raspberry and melon with hints of rose petals and strawberry.

Merlot and Malbec with Sausages from the Grill

This is the 11th year of my Merlot and Sausage Challenge, and we continue the October tradition of tasting juicy and fl...