Washington Wine

West Coast Book Tour Wine & Travel Adventures: Treveri Cellars

One of the great things about a West Coast Book Launch Tour (for my new book, KeeKee’s Big Adventures in Paris, France) is there were great travel and wine experiences to be had…from Washington to Oregon to California!

We started in Seattle which meant Washington wine. Just into town, a friend gave us a bottle of Treveri Cellars “Blanc de Blanc” Extra-Brut. The same winery happened to be featured at an event Saturday night at Bottlehouse, a great little wine bar in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood. This time the Trevari Cellars Sparkling Rosé.

Treveri is a family-owned sparkling wine house in Washington’s Columbia Valley. They opened in November 2010 with a mission to put Washington sparkling wine on the map. Since its opening, Treveri wine has been served at White House State Department receptions and the James Beard Foundation in New York.

Producing a wide array of sparkling wines, including non-traditional varieties such as Riesling, Pinot Gris, Petite Verdot, Mueller-Thurgau and Syrah, Treveri focuses on 100% varietal sparkling wines.

The “Blanc de Blanc” Extra-Brut is very interesting and bursting with apple notes. But my favorite was the…

Treveri Cellars Sparkling Rosé

  • Variety: Chardonnay and Syrah
  • Aroma: Berry and citrus
  • Taste: Sparkling strawberry with hints of rhubarb
  • Price: $18
  • My thoughts: This is an excellent sparkling AND rosé…similar to something you’d taste from France. It was a big hit with the crowd at the event!

Cheers to this great sparkler from Washington!

More to come from the West Coast Book Tour’s Wine & Travel Adventures.

The King of Red: Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the BIG six grape varieties, is often referred to as the King of Red. At a January event of the Fine Wine Divas, as we tasted through eight fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon wines from around the world, I was reminded of what makes this grape fabulous!

Cabernet, as it can simply be referred to, is originally from Bordeaux, where the cross of it’s parents, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, arose in the 17th century. It’s genetic parents were only recently discovered. And while many now associate California and Napa with Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux still grows more of the grape than any other region in the world.

What makes Cabernet the King?

  • Cabernet can and does grow almost anywhere. Every country that makes wines, produces a Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • It’s easy to grow and can do so in a range of climates, although it prefers heat and dryer soils.
  • It’s a VERY hardy grape. With thick skins, it’s hard to distort the characteristics. It maintains its flavor and structure very well.
  • Its thick skins also make it resistant to disease.
  • It’s the second most planted grape in the world (Merlot is first).
  • It’s an ideal wine for aging and loves oak aging. With five to ten years being optimal, it’s tannins are soften and new flavor and aroma complexities develop.
  • It’s also great for blending due to it’s big tannins.

Cabernet Sauvignons makes a big wine that becomes silky and elegant with age. They are usually medium to full-bodied with firm tannins and bright acidity. It’s characterized by fruit notes of blackcurrant, cassis, blackberry and non-fruit notes of green bell pepper, cedar and tobacco.

Friday night we tasted around the world, New World (South Africa, Chile, US) and Old World (France).

  • South Africa: 2006 Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chile: 2010 Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon, Puente Alto 
  • US/Washington: 2006 L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet, Walla Walla
  • US/Washington: 2008 Buty “BEAST” Phinny Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
  • France/Bordeaux: 2005 Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux
  • France/Bordeaux: 2005 Château Léoville Poyferré St. Julien
  • US/California: 2008 Ehlers Estate “1886” Cabernet Sauvignon
  • US/California: 2002 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

And while all the wines are truly fabulous, a few stood out as my favorites.

2006 L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet, Walla Walla

  • Variety: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington
  • Aroma: Spiced plum, earthy, leather
  • Taste: Medium-bodied, smoky plum and dried cranberry notes with hints of cocoa.
  • Price: $30
  • My thoughts: Overall Washington state Cabernets are meant to be approachable at a young age. And it’s said they seem to capture the best of France and California in a single wine. This is a fabulous example!

2008 Ehlers Estate “1886” Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Variety: 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot, from St. Helena, Napa, California
  • Aroma: Floral, red berries, spice
  • Taste: Silky wine with notes of black cherries, cinnamon and toffee
  • Price: $90
  • My thoughts: Yum is this a good wine…like chocolate covered cherries! And such a gorgeous bottle! St. Helena is a very historic wine growing region with cultivation dating back to mid-1800s. This vineyard is farmed with strict adherence to organic and biodynamic farming standards. 100% of the proceeds from sales of the wines is returned to the Leducq Foundation, supporting international cardiovascular research. Tastes good and does good!

2002 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

  • Variety:  83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, from California
  • Aroma: Plum, rose, sandalwood
  • Taste: Black plum, berries, tobacco and dark chocolate
  • Price: $99
  • My thoughts: This velvety wine was Rated 91 by Wine Spectator. Silver Oak has been making stunning wines since the early 1970s and this one is divine!

For the group of fifteen Fine Wine Divas, in addition to the Ehlers and Silver Oak, the favorites were 2005 Château Léoville Poyferré St. Julien and 2008 Buty “BEAST” Phinny Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. We had a mix of Old World and New World lovers.

Have a favorite Cabernet? Share it with us here. And if you’re interested in our Fine Wine Divas group in DC, let us know.

Cheers to the King of Reds!

Washington Wine Finds

In Seattle this week I’ve discovered two nice wines you might want to check out!

Pasek Cellars 2007 Syrah 

Pasek Cellars was started by Gene and Kathy Pasek in 1995. Located in Mount Vernon, Washington, their specialty is fruit wine but they ventured into Syrah.

  • Grape Variety: 100% Syrah
  • Aroma: Warm spice and berries.
  • Taste: Extremely smooth and flavorful wine of blackberry and spice (from the oak aging) with a nice lingering finish.
  • Price: $12
  • My thoughts: My girlfriend picked up a bottle of this in Leavenworth, Washington at a tasting room. It was an extremely easy to drink red wine full of berry flavor and perfect for a cold Autumn night.

Hestia Cellars 2010 Chenin Blanc 

Out to dinner at Tilth Restaurant (organic new American cuisine from James Beard award winning chef Maria Hines), I discovered this one. Hestia is a small family owned and operated winery making wine in the Snoqualmie River Valley not far from Seattle. Their grapes come from four small vineyards in the Columbia Valley AVA.

  • Grape Variety: 100% Chenin Blanc
  • Aroma: Melon and honey.
  • Taste: Dry and crisp acidity, medium body with melon, citrus and honey notes.
  • My thoughts: I really enjoyed this wine! It’s aged in stainless steel tanks for five months which gives it a nice balance of minerality and fruit. More medium bodied than a Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio and not as grapefruit forward as a Sauvignon Blanc. Unfortunately this wine is sold out on their website as only 200 cases were made. But keep an eye out for the 2011. Can you believe when I went to their website for more info I saw their winemaker/owner and I share the same name, Shannon Jones?!?! Must go meet him. 😉

2011 Harvest Season Full of Extremes

This growing season’s crazy weather conditions with extreme frosts, early summers and no summers have created quite a mixed bag for wine region harvests from California to Champagne to Chianti.

Many spots in Europe are already half way through their harvest creating the earliest harvest season many can remember. Reports from Greece last week showed several regions already underway. In France, due to a sunnier and warmer than usual spring, Champagne started on 19 August, their earliest harvest since 1822. Bordeaux also got underway in August due to high temperatures which advance the ripening.

Italian wine producers are predicting a great year although the temperatures could lead to volume down by 5%. Last year Italy surpassed France as the world’s leading wine producer with 49.6 million hectolitres produced vs. 46.2 million in France. For many Italian regions September weather will still be a factor. Cool temperatures at night will produce fragrant whites and well-structured reds.

The U.S. West Coast has dealt with a late short summer which will find some harvest seasons stretch into late November. California and the Northwest’s cold, wet early summer conditions mean a later than usual harvest. Oregon will have one of its coldest vintages in years. Eastern Washington’s late November frost could mean volumes are down 15-20% this year. Central California also had one of its worst frosts in years this growing season.

While those on the U.S. East Coast with last week’s crazy forces, an earthquake and Hurricane Irene, are reporting little impact. Virginia’s ideal conditions of a warm, dry summer should mean a great harvest.

As the grapes get picked and the wine starts production, we’ll see what all this means in the bottle in the coming months.

*Sources Wine Spectator, ANSA

Give Pink Another Think

I’ll admit that before living in Europe the site of pink wine automatically made me think of a sweet White Zinfandel. And needless to say, I’m not a fan. Now I see pink wine and I think Rosé, a lovely refreshing wine made from red grape varieties. The ‘pink’ comes from leaving the red grape skins in the grape juice during fermentation for only a few days to add color and characteristic.

I had tried a few Côtes-de-Provence French Rosé in the past which made me realize all pink wine is not White Zin. Then we moved to Amsterdam in Summer 2006 and Rosé was everywhere. It is the Dutch summer wine of choice so I had to take part. And being in Europe, there was plenty of good Rosé (or Italian Rosato or Spanish Rosado) to enjoy.

This summer Rosé is my favorite and it seems to be everywhere I turn… from Italy to Vancouver to Washington to Virginia.

Here are the top on my list if you’d like to seek one out.

  • Tenute Rubino Saturnino, Rosé, IGT Salento (Puglia, Italy): From Italy’s largest wine producing area and the ‘heel of the boot,’ this Rosé won the gold medal at Consours Mondial de Bruxelles international wine competition in May 2011 in Luxembourg. This gorgeous deep pink wine is made of 100% Negroamaro grapes, native of Puglia. The scent is lovely raspberry and violet while taste is round, crisp and refreshing, helped by its fermentation in stainless steel tanks. My favorite wine of my trip to Puglia in June!
  • Blenheim Vineyards Rosé 2010 (Virginia, U.S.): I’ve enjoyed many glasses of Kirsty Harmon’s fabulous Rosé most recently at their gorgeous winery outside Charlottesville. It’s 100% Merlot, bright pink in color, fragrance of banana and rose with a light, crisp taste.
  • Kiona Vineyards First Crush Rosé 2010 (Washington, U.S.): Just discovered this fruity refreshing Rosé at Urban Enoteca in Seattle. Crushed grapes were left on the skin for two days then pressed and fermented cold to preserve their pure fruit character.
  • 8th Generation Confidence Frizzante 2010 (Summerland, BC, Canada): This sparkling Rosé was the perfect sip for a sunny Vancouver day on Chill Winston‘s patio. Crisp, fresh field berries with a hint of grapefruit and cranberry.

Two others I’ve enjoyed are 2010 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Corallina Napa Valley Syrah Rosé from California and Crios de Susana Balbo Rosé of Malbec 2010 from Argentina.

So don’t be afraid of the pink! 🙂 It’s perfect for the last month of summer.