Gems in My Glass . . . August 2016

Tasting Notes No Comments

Navarro Vineyards 2015 Pinot Blanc; Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California:  Gorgeous fragrant, floral notes lead the way as this dazzling Pinot Blanc approaches the nose.  Silky and elegant on the palate with Golden apple, lemon curd, blanched almonds, mineral notes and a touch of honeycomb thrilling the palate.  Fresh and sunny with a beautiful texture and a long lasting aftertaste.  SRP: ~$20

Adamant Cellars NV Scintillate Sparkling Tempranillo Rosé; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Fully engaging scents of potpourri and rose petals prepares you for this perfect evening bubbly.  Flavors of watermelon candy, fresh strawberries and a touch of bubble gum unroll onto the palate with a lasting stream of acidity holding firm.  The finish delivers a bright kick of orange zest.  SRP: ~$75

Garrison Creek Cellars 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Deep, dark and oh so delicious is this full-bodied, finely structured Cabernet.  Strikingly balanced with layers of cassis, blackberry, tobacco, savory spice, graphite and just the right touch of oak joining forces with refined tannins and a smooth texture.  Approachable now, yet also promises years of ageworthiness ahead.  SRP:  $65

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2015 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Wrap your mind around a bowl full of sweet strawberries, ripe raspberries and crisp watermelon with citrus highlights!  From the expressive aroma through the juicy palate, this dry Rosé is a winner.  Brisk, fresh and well balanced with lively acidity; entirely thirst quenching.  SRP:  $24

Long Shadows Vintners 2013 Pedestal Merlot; Columbia Valley, Washington:   Here is a sophisticated and complex Merlot that opens with expressive wild berry and violet aromatics. In the mouth it showcases wonderful purity and richness as flavors of sweet blueberries, black currants, marionberries, savory spice, hints of cocoa and well-integrated oak unfold.  Finely grained tannins provide the perfect framework, and the finish is persistent.  SRP:  $60

McCay Cellars 2015 Viognier; Lodi, California:  Scents of stone fruit and a suggestion of herbs awaken the senses.  This all stainless steel wine is a magnificent example of the variety, brilliantly capturing the spirit of Viognier.   White peaches, fresh apricots, a splash of lemon-lime and a pinch of white pepper entwine, and the mouthfeel is plush with a nice thread of acidity keeping it up beat through the satisfying finish. SRP:  $35

Ledson Winery & Vineyards 2012 Howell Mountain Zinfandel; Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, California: From vines that are head trained and dry farmed comes this classy Zin.  A delicious melding of fresh blueberry, black plum and sweet blackberry fruit, nice band of minerality, and healthy dash of savory spice elegantly coat the palate.  The juicy fruit is supported by a firm structure and medium to firm tannins.  SRP:  $60

Rousseau Freres 2014 Touraine Noble Joué Rosé; Loire Valley, France:  A blend of 50% Pinot Meunier, 35% Pinot Gris and 15% Pinot Noir, this is a delightful Rosé with a floral, fruity aroma.  Flavors of Rainier cherries, sweet raspberries, lemon curd and a sprinkle of thyme invigorate the palate and stay fresh and bright from start to finish.  SRP:  ~$16

Benziger Family Winery 2013 Tribute Estate Blend; Sonoma County, California:  Ripe dark berries and spice on the nose lead to an enchanting first sip.  This complex red Bordeaux blend (crafted predominately of Cabernet Sauvignon) is lush with a velvety texture, firm structure and supple tannins.   Generous layers of cassis, Bing cherries and blueberries accented by fresh tobacco and spice box notes carry nice weight on the palate, and the aftertaste lives on and on.  SRP:  $85

Gems in My Glass . . . July 2016

Tasting Notes No Comments

2016 International Women’s Wine Competition

The 2016 International Women’s Wine Competition got off to a fine start.  Elegant tables adorned with fresh multi-hued pink and violet orchids, lavender spit cups and matching lavender napkins greeted the judges.  A room full of women wine professionals, including winemakers, sommeliers, grape growers, vintners and wine writers were chosen purposefully (studies have shown that a greater majority of wines sold in the USA are purchased by women).   The competition continued as smooth as it gets with Debra Del Fiorentino at the helm, assisted by her experienced and well versed crew; they never missed a beat.

The entries from around the world impressed the judges from the get go.  To our delight, my panel began with sparkling wines (which I oft have the pleasure of judging at competitions).  Needless to say, our morning started off in a most enjoyable way!  Sauvignon Blanc and other white varieties came next to kick off our still wine categories, followed by Pinot Noir and Malbec, and our day ended evaluating Sherry and Sake.  Not a bad day’s work.

Noteworthy wines securing Gold Medal (or higher) awards from our illustrious panel included:

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards 2012 Late Disgorged Brut Rosé; Carneros, California:   Composed of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay, this delightfully dry sparkling wine shows off an eye catching mousse and pinkish salmon hue, citrus blossom aromas and an energetic tiny bead.  Baked pie crust, strawberries and creamy lemon custard interlace on the palate, carried by lively acidity.  A touch of spice brings the wine to a memorable finish.  SRP:  $50

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards 2007 Late Disgorged Royal Cuvée; Carneros, California: Biscuity aromas fill the senses with this blend of 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay, and royal it is.  Intensely flavorful, with Granny Smith apples, quince paste, creamy pears, fresh baked bread and minerally notes flowing seamlessly onto the palate.  The tiny, endless stream of bubbles will send you into a dreamy state of mind.     SRP:  $37

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards took home Best of Show Sparkling honors for their 2004 Late Disgorged Carneros Cuvée.  Wow, a blend of 53% Pinot Noir, 47% Chardonnay, this complex bubbly is exquisite.  The brilliant hue and pinpoint bubbles are mesmerizing, and the yeasty aroma knocks your socks off.  Bright layers of raspberries, fresh green apples, spiced pear chutney, flaky croissants and citrus accents unfold with remarkable vibrancy, and the lingering finish is simply divine.  SRP:  $75

Hagafen Cellars 2012 Late Disgorged Brut Cuvée; Napa Valley, California:   This engaging wine reeled us in with its heady aromas of sugar cookie dough, and a dazzling display of tiny bubbles delighted the eyes.    Luscious and vivid in the mouth with Golden Delicious apples, juicy Rainer cherries, a touch of orange zest and attractive leesy notes framed by spirited acidity.   Bright and invigorating through the lovely aftertaste.  SRP:  $48

Villa Maria 2015 Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc; Marlborough, New Zealand:  We all easily identified New Zealand style Sauv Blanc characteristics on the nose.  That profile remained consistent on the palate, with juicy melon, gooseberry, hints of herbs and fresh squeezed lime tingling the taste buds.  Classic varietal expression of NZ Sauvignon Blanc in a sparkling wine style, with nice acidity holding firm throughout.  SRP:  ~$16

Andis Wines 2015 Sauvignon Blanc; Shenandoah Valley, Amador County, California:  Floral aromas waft from the glass with this striking Sauvignon Blanc, which garnered the Best of Show White Wine award.  Bursting at the seams with sweet Meyer lemon, Granny Smith apples, perfectly ripened nectarines and fresh cut herbs, this precisely balanced, energetic wine electrifies the palate and lingers with brightness and persistence.   SRP:  $19.99

Charles Krug Winery 2015 Sauvignon Blanc; St Helena, Napa Valley, California:  Here is a highly aromatic, mineral driven Sauvignon Blanc that wows from first sip.   Well balanced with brisk acidity, it is vibrant and compelling as notes of lime zest, grapefruit and lemon verbena interlace with the lovely thread of minerality on the palate; brilliant.   SRP:  $18

Cupcake Vineyards 2015 Sauvignon Blanc; Marlborough, New Zealand:   The unmistakable profile screams Marlborough as the aromas lift from the glass.    Fresh mowed grass, gooseberries, grapefruit and lime sorbet fill the senses, and juicy fruit is complemented on the palate with crushed herb accents.   Bracing acidity carries through the zesty finish.   SRP:  ~$11 www.cupcakevineyards.ccom

Berryessa Gap Vineyards 2015 Estate Sauvignon Blanc; Yolo County, California:  Pale straw in color, this invigorating Sauvignon Blanc is clean, bright and fresh.  Star fruit, kiwi and fresh peach flavors highlighted by a generous splash of lemon and orange citrus fruit stream radiantly onto the palate. Bracing acidity keeps it lifted through the long-lasting finish.  SRP:  $23

Pico 2015 Malbec; Mendoza, Argentina:   A bit shy on the nose up front, this richly fruited Malbec opens more fully with aeration.  Dense dark berries and ripe black plums converge at the core.  This lush Malbec broadens in the mouth, with earthy elements and plenty of spice joining the sweet, jammy fruit.  Well balanced and easy to quaff with a fresh, clean finish.  SRP:  ~$18

Grizzly Peak Winery 2013 Estate Malbec; Rogue Valley, Oregon:   Expressive aromas of dark berries and spice draw you into the glass.  Delectable blackberry, black cherry and spiced berry compote flavors entwine with bittersweet chocolate and fresh ground pepper as it flows onto the palate.  Nicely textured and balanced, finishing with a subtle hint of chocolate covered coconut.    SRP:  $35

Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery NV Lauren Elizabeth; Door County, Wisconsin:   This tasty fruit driven white wine, crafted of La Crescent (a cold hardy hybrid grape) and Honeycrisp apples, is gentle yet lively on the palate.  Flavors of Honeycrisp apples, freestone peaches and apricots swirl in the mouth with a dash of lemon lime juice; easy to quaff.    SRP:  $14.95

Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider Winter Appey Spice Hard Cider; Portland, Oregon:  This full bodied hard cider capturing Best of Show Cider honors, is reminiscent of Grandma’s apple pie and warms you right up!    Fresh apple pie, cinnamon and nutmeg and raisin tart flavors take center stage, with roasted nuts and caramel adding complexity.  Perfect for a winter holiday feast.  SRP:  ~$13

Bold Rock Hard Cider Crimson Ridge Vat #1 Chiles Orchard Hard Cider; Monticello, Virginia:    Inviting aromas of spiced applesauce greet the nose with this rich and smooth hard cider.  Tasty layers of apples sautéed in butter and brown sugar, allspice, and citrusy notes coat the palate.  Round with no hard edges yet bright and energizing, it is remarkably balanced.  SRP:  ~$12

Kooksoondang 2012 Rice Makgeolli – Peach; South Korea:   A beautifully fragranced aroma lifts from the glass with this generously fruited frizzante style brew.  Silky smooth and elegant, this peachy elixir gently spills onto the palate with yummy flavors and mild to moderate acidity, and the spritzy element keeps it dancing on the palate.  Drink while it is young and fresh, and serve chilled.   SRP:  ~$10

Additional top awards equally worthy of seeking out included:  Best of Show Red Wine and BEST OF SHOW Wine to Oak Farms Vineyards for their 2014 Barbera from Lodi, California ($25); Best of Show Rosé Wine to Holman Ranch Vineyards & Winery for their 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir from Carmel Valley, California ($22); and Best of Show Dessert/Late Harvest to Cupcake Vineyards for their 2015 Moscato D’Asti Italy ($14.99).

Visit to review all the awards for this year’s competition, and CONGRATS to each and every award winner!

Gems in My Glass . . . June 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes No Comments

Savor your way through California’s delightful Central Coast

Heading south to Paso Robles for the 2016 Central Coast Wine Competition is always a joy, and this year is no exception.   The wines are showing beautifully, and the passion of the winemakers and vintners is palpable.  Results for this year’s competition are in!   The Best Red wine and Best of Show award went to San Marcos Creek for their 2014 Fling’s First Crush, a Grenache based blend.  Best of Class honors for sparkling wine was captured by Laetitia Vineyard & Winery for their NV Brut Cuvee.  Best Pink wine was awarded to Sexton for their 2015 Grenache Rose.  Gary and Marcy Eberle (owners of Eberle Winery) scored two Best of Class Awards, one for their 2015 Viognier (Best White Wine) and the other for their 2015 Muscat Canelli (Best Dessert Wine).

Here are my impressions of these fabulous sippers, and other Gold medal winning favorites:

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery NV Brut Cuvee; Arroyo Grande Valley, California:  This vivacious sparkling wine (made from 53% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 17% Pinot Blanc) displays a tiny bead, and draws you in with its fragrant scent of citrus-laced stone fruit.  Flavors of crisp pears, creamy apples, and lemon zest with hints of fresh baked bread are unveiled on the palate; dazzling!  SRP: $25

San Marcos Creek Vineyard & Winery 2014 Fling’s First Crush; Paso Robles, California:  From the enticing aroma and bright entry to the last juicy sip, this blend of 50% Grenache, 33% Zinfandel and 17% Petite Sirah is captivating.  Deeply concentrated with red raspberry, blackberry and ripe plums surrounded by all-spice and fresh cracked peppercorns.  It’s rich and mouth coating with a firm backbone of tannins, nice acids keeping it lively, and a finish that just keeps on going.  SRP:  $39

Eberle Winery 2015 Viognier; Paso Robles, California:  Here is a classic, gorgeous Viognier that is simply irresistible.  Aromas of delicate white flowers and a splash of citrus pave the way for a resplendent palate showcasing perfectly ripe nectarines, apricots and honeydew melon.    Hints of lemon verbena and fresh squeezed orange juice add further delight, and the wine is perfectly balanced.  SRP:  $26

Sextant Wines 2015 Grenache Rosé; Paso Robles, California:  Crafted of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, this seductive dry Rosé is crisp and radiant.  Strawberry, tropical melon and cranberry cocktail flavors with accents of citrus and chopped herbs enliven the palate; a lovely quaff.    SRP:  $21

Cinquain Cellars 2013 Reserve Malbec; Paso Robles, California:  Aromas of black fruit and vanilla bean waft from the glass.  This tightly wound, complex wine offers up dense blackberry and black cherry at the core, with accents of well integrated oak, exotic coffee, and savory spice.  Beautifully structured and balanced; an extraordinary Malbec. SRP:  $60

Hearst Ranch Winery 2014 “Pico Creek” Merlot; Paso Robles, California: This smooth, finely textured Merlot (composed of 75% Merlot and 25% Petit Verdot) fills the palate with fresh herbs, juicy blueberry, raspberry and blackberry fruit, and a tasty thread of cocoa.  Shows off immaculate balance, pretty tannins, and a lifted finish. SRP:  $30

Michael Rose Cellars 2015 Estate Bouschet Rosé; Central Coast, California:  Fragrant berry aromas draw you into this delectable Alicante Bouschet Rosé.  Lively acidity frames raspberry, blueberry, cranberry and subtle spice flavors that simply dance on the palate.  Thirst quenching, bright and elegant. SRP:  $26

Tlo Wines 2014 Pinot Noir; Edna Valley, California:  A highly expressive Pinot Noir displaying berry and cherry cola notes at first whiff.  The palate is equally compelling with layers of sun ripened Bing cherries, fresh raspberries, a touch of spiced oak and forest floor nuances; well crafted.  SRP:  $40

J Dusi Wines 2014 Dante Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel; Paso Robles, California: A rich and jammy mouthful! Reminiscent of a bowl brimming with juicy, ripe summer raspberries, blackberries and cranberries topped with vanilla bean scented cream.  Oh so spirited, fresh and pure, with a finish that lingers after the final sip.  SRP:  $38

Brophy Clark Cellars 2014 Chardonnay; Santa Maria Valley, California: Aromas of orchard fruit and buttery croissants set the stage for a yummy mouthful of sautéed pears, pineapple, baking spices and well placed underlying oak.  Fully flavored and well balanced with a satisfying, persistent aftertaste.  SRP: ~$20

Eberle Winery 2015 Muscat Canelli; Paso Robles, California:  This vibrant, semi-sweet Muscat Canelli awakens the senses with a pretty floral aroma and fills the mouth with luscious flavors of gingered pears and fresh peach compote.  Striking acidity creates a beautiful balance and the finish is heavenly.  SRP: $20

View all the results for the 2016 competition at  For more enjoyment, spend a few days in this delightful locale to taste and purchase these award winning wines, and other delectable wines being made throughout the Central Coast wine region.

Gems in My Glass . . . April 2016

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes No Comments

Lavender Ridge Vineyard and Winery 2014 Grenache Rose; Sierra Foothills, California:  Here is a yummy dry Rose crafted with immaculate precision and purity of fruit.  The enticing aromatic draws you in, and the vibrant flavors of fresh raspberry, watermelon, lemon-lime citrus accents and touches of fresh chopped herbs entwine sumptuously.  The finish is bright and persistent.   Vintage 2014 sold out, but do not miss the newly released 2015.  It is equally compelling, and just won a Gold medal!  SRP:  $16

Shadowbox Cellars 2009 Anne Katherina Vineyard Pinot Noir; Carneros, California:  I thoroughly enjoyed my last bottle of this classy 2009 vintage Pinot Noir.  Tantalizing forest floor aromas pave the way to a delicious mouthful of cherries, raspberries, exotic mushrooms, savory earth-driven spice notes and nicely managed oak (from 16 months in 45% new French oak barrels).  The wine remains beautifully balanced with good lift, and shows off a silky texture through the elegant finish.   SRP:  $56 (For the current 2012 vintage; the 2009 vintage is sold out.)

Gramercy Cellars 2013 The Third Man; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Here is a well-crafted red blend composed of 76% Grenache, 19% Syrah and 5% Mourvédre that captures the essence of these expressive Rhone varieties.  Black raspberry, blueberry, boysenberry and pretty spice aromas and flavors engage the senses from first intoxicating whiff.  In the mouth it is satin smooth, lively and well structured with pretty underlying oak nuances, and the finish is long and lifted.  SRP:  $42

Lady Hill Winery Fons Amoris 2012 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  The alluring aroma of a fragrant cherry compote laced with herbs lifts from the glass as this remarkable Pinot Noir approaches the nose.  Elements of black cherry, cola, pomegranate and exotic tea spice really hit the mark as the wine blossoms with elegance on the palate.  Silky and well balanced with hints of anise on the memorable, earth scented finish.  SRP:  $70

Dehlinger Winery 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon; Russian River Valley, California:  Wow, this provocative wine has aged beautifully and still has years ahead.  Minerality, old world earthiness, black currant, plum skin, licorice and sun dried cherries create a divine kaleidoscope of flavors through the palate.  Complex with refined tannins and perfect balance, and the finish is equally impressive as it lingers on and on.  SRP: This vintage is sold out.  To be added to their mailing list for new releases visit their website:

L’Ecole No 41 2015 Chenin Blanc; Columbia Valley, Washington:  The aroma is resplendent with lovely florality and tropical fruit.  Fanning out on the palate are well defined layers of star fruit, ripe melon, honey crisp apple, juicy clementine segments, and sweet Meyer lemon notes that meld in exquisite harmony.  Lively, well balanced and vibrant from entry through last satisfying drop.  SRP: $14

Galleano Winery Old Vines House Zinfandel; Cucamonga Valley, California:  This tasty wine, offered at an incredibly reasonable price, is simply delicious.  Generous in fruit and spice, it coats the mouth with succulent blackberries, boysenberries and blueberries accented by hints of cocoa, vanilla and spice.  Perfect as an afternoon sipper, or to pair with a juicy burger hot off the grill.  SRP:  $7.75

Galleano Winery Rose of Peru Sherry; Cucamonga Valley, California:  This rich elixir with a divine hue and nutty aroma is reminiscent of a fine old world Oloroso Sherry. Decadent flavors of honey roasted walnuts, dense, spicy fruit cake and candied orange peel unwind onto the palate.  The texture is velvety, the balance spot on, and the forever finish leaves you in a dreamy state of mind.  SRP:  $35

Cougar Crest Winery 2009 Cougar Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Walla Walla, Washington:  Setting the stage for this well built Cab Sauv you’ll find distinctive aromas of black fruits and decadent chocolate.  Multi layered with cocoa dusted boysenberry, red currant and blackberry fruit enhanced by a sprinkling of dried herbs, and savory olive tapenade notes joins in on the back palate.  Rich velvety tannins and well placed acidity shine from the initial sip through the lasting finish.    SRP:  ~$75




Judgment of Geyserville III – Scintillating Syrah

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Judgment of Geyserville, Tasting Notes No Comments

Five wine writers reconvened for our third annual Judgment of Geyserville, and this year it was all about Syrah.  The four geographic areas represented were British Columbia, California, Oregon and Washington. Three wines from the designated areas (each crafted by a different producer) were blind tasted, vying for Gold, Silver or Bronze acclaim.  After the blind tasting concluded and prior to the unveiling, a spirited discussion ensued.  Each wine clearly displayed good varietal characteristics and skillful use of oak. This year the scoring range was very tight; with high marks awarded to all (Gold or Silver was achieved by each of the twelve wines).


Drew Family Cellars 2013 Valenti Ranch Syrah, Mendocino Ridge:  Tightly wound, this wine opens with a minty, raspberry aroma.  Bright up front with layers of red cherry, raspberry and juicy plum highlighted by clove notes, pepper spice and a trace of brininess.  Supported by fine grained tannins, the wine remains lively as the flavors continue unwinding through the palate.   Purity and balance prevail from initial sip to lingering finish.   GOLD SRP:  $45

Lagier Meredith Vineyard 2013 Syrah, Mount Veeder: Dark berry and floral scents entice the nose.  This wine is radiant on entry and gains momentum on the palate with earthy, blackberry and olallieberry flavors melding with grilled meat elements and savory spice.  Well placed oak nuances, vivacious acidity and an uplifted finish top off the lovely package.  GOLD SRP: $48

Qupé Wines 2011 Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Syrah, Edna Valley:  Spicy berry and earthy aromas win you over at first sniff.   Well balanced and irresistible as purple plums, cranberry, cassis, black pepper spice and hints of black tea weave harmoniously on the palate.  This Syrah showcases a concentrated flavor profile and firm tannins yet remains elegant, and the finish is everlasting. GOLD SRP: $35


Ross Andrew Winery 2010 Boushey Vineyard Syrah, Columbia Valley:  Dusty earth and fresh picked ripe berries captivate the senses.  The entry is brilliant, and the flavors stay focused through the palate with cranberry, sweet blackberry fruit and mixed peppercorn accents.  This smoothly textured wine displays refined tannins, and finishes with impressive depth and persistence.   GOLD SRP: $38

Bunnell Family Cellar 2009 Boushey-McPherson Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley:  Here is a bold Syrah that opens with earthy, intense dark fruit and tobacco leaf on the nose.   Lush and balanced, it coats the mouth with deep flavors of black cherry, blackberry jam, hints of coffee and well integrated oak.  Round tannins show nicely through the supple finish. SILVER SRP: $42

Palencia Winery 2012 Syrah, Yakima Valley:  This compelling Syrah with gorgeous purity showcases crushed berries and floral, spicy aromas.  On the palate it remains spicy and lively with red raspberry, black cherry and wild berry fruit at the core.  Juicy and well balanced through the finish, with subtle oak and bright, sweet berries lingering on and on.  GOLD SRP: $30


Abacela Vineyard and Winery 2012 Estate Syrah (Barrel Select), Umpqua Valley: Engaging mint, mixed berry and hints of eucalyptus tantalize the nose.  The entry shimmers with boysenberry, huckleberry, cocoa, anise and savory spice, and the well-defined flavors intensify as they flow onto the palate.  Firm tannins frame the pretty fruit, and the wine remains expressive and lively through the persistent aftertaste.   SILVER SRP: $29

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2013 Winemaker’s Reserve Syrah, Umpqua Valley:   Here is a sophisticated, finely textured Syrah.  Dark berry and underlying gamey notes intrigue from the first whiff.  Layers of roasted meat, blackberry, dark chocolate, licorice and earthiness join splendid acidity, creating a kaleidoscope of flavors on the palate.  A precise balance and firm tannins carry this gem to a memorable finish.    GOLD SRP:  $39

Zerba Cellars 2012 Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley:   Black fruits and an appealing touch of cured meat greet the nose.  Lush and round on the palate, as juicy purple plums, huckleberries, charcuterie and cinnamon spice swirl deliciously in the mouth.  Refined tannins and complementary acidity provide excellent structure for the sustaining finish.  SILVER SRP: $36

British Columbia

Nichol Vineyard 2012 Syrah, Okanagan Valley: Aerate this wine to fully appreciate the dark fruit and savory aromas lifting from the glass.  Intensely structured with flavors of black plum, blackberry, wild game, herbs and spice unraveling on the palate.  Integrated chalky tannins wrap around the deep fruit, and the wine finishes with vigor.  SILVER SRP: $40

Vanessa Vineyard 2012 Syrah, Similkameen Valley:  This appealing Syrah was co-fermented with 6% Viognier.  Its vibrant fruit shines, from the black cherry aromas through the mouth filling boysenberries, plums and black cherries accented by vanillin and sweet spice.   Shades of oak sit neatly in the background, and the finish sings of sugar-dusted berries.   SILVER SRP: $39

C.C. Jentsch Cellars 2013 Syrah, Okanagan Valley:  Earthy, woodsy aromas excite the senses, paving the way to layers of dense black plums, blackberries, nutmeg, cinnamon, cassis, chopped herbs and roasted meat that entwine delectably on the palate.  Displaying beautiful oak management, clear-cut balance, and tannins that thrive; a complex, well-honed wine.   GOLD SRP: $30

In summary, the critics generally agreed these fine examples of Syrah are beautifully nuanced and meticulously balanced, with sound varietal character.  Syrah is a nice sipper on its own, and pairs remarkably well with a variety of foods, from vegetarian, to pulled pork, lamb chops, grilled beef, barbecued ribs, and hearty stews.  Well-crafted Syrah Rosé and sparkling Rosé wines are also available if you’re in the mood for refreshing and lighter, more delicate style Syrahs.  In my opinion, the popularity of Syrah/Shiraz has been trending up recently, and I think it is about time; hurrah for Syrah!

Gems in My Glass . . . February 2016

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Portugal No Comments

Wines from Portugal:  More than stunning Port worthy of praise!

Vintage Port, Tawny Port, Colheita and Late-Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port are Portuguese wines commonly purchased in America.  Not as easy to find in the USA are dry table wines made in Portugal, but they are plentiful and very reasonably priced in the country in which they were produced.  It was enlightening and palate pleasing to explore wines there from a number of wine regions.   The lovely, well-staffed Wines of Portugal tasting room, Sala Ogival is located in the west wing of the Terreiro do Paço (Commerce Square) in downtown Lisbon.  It is here you can taste many examples of table wines and ports, like those I had the pleasure of sipping while visiting Lisbon recently. Approximate prices noted are for purchases made in Portugal, in the country’s official currency, euros.  At the time of this writing, 1 euro equals 1.11 USD.  These wines are not widely distributed in North America, but still worth seeking out at your favorite wine shop, or when traveling to Portugal:

Principium 2014 Chardonnay Arinto; Lisboa, Portugal:  Crafted from grapes of Quinta da Romeira, this delightful blend of 70% Arinto (one of Portugal’s oldest indigenous white grapes) and 30% Chardonnay displays aromas of white wild flowers.  On the palate it is bright and lively with crisp apple and citrus accents melding with pretty herbal notes and a hint of minerality.  Easy to quaff and a great value.  (4 euros)

Quinta Dos Carvalhais Encruzado 2014; Dao, Portugal:  Encruzado is a white grape widely grown in the Dão DOC.  This rendition confidently shows off perfumed aromas, hints of earth and mineral notes, and shimmering flavors of stone fruit laced with fresh squeezed lime.  Six month aging in new oak adds dimension through the palate, and the oak is nicely integrated.  This complex, well-balanced wine culminates in a highly energetic, radiant finish.  (19 euros)

Quinta das Pereirinhas 2014 Alvarinho; Mancao and Melgaco, Vinho Verde, Portugal:  Here is a snappy dry white wine with an engaging citrus blossom aroma.  Rich and intensely flavored with layers of guava, lime sorbet, and pleasing earthy notes that entwine on the palate.  The wine remains spirited with well-placed acidity, and the aftertaste is perky and clean.   (9 euros)

Esporao Quinta dos Murcas 2013  “Assobio” Rose; Douro, Portugal:  From the oldest DOC in the world comes this blend of Tinta National, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Francesca and Touriga Franca,  It is a charming dry Rosé with a brilliant watermelon hue.    Engaging strawberry and cranberry aromas join flavors of wild berry, strawberry, lemon peel and chopped herbs on the lively palate. The nice level of acidity keeps the wine vibrant all the way through the upbeat finish.  (8 euros)

Companhia das Lezirias 2012 “Tyto Alba” Vinhas Protegidas; Tejo, Portugal:  This is a serious minded, bone-dry red blend, named after the barn owl (cleverly depicted on the label) that inhabits the area.  Crafted of Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Franca, it offers up scents and flavors of fresh mint, dense black plums, blueberries, tobacco spice, subtle oak and a hint of blackberry candy.   Full bodied and juicy on the palate, with a velvety texture and a backbone of refined tannins.  (12.5 euros)

Quinta dos Termos 2011 Baga; Beira Interior, Portugal:  This deeply hued red wine made from Baga, one of Portugal’s indigenous red grapes (small, thick skinned berries), opens with captivating brambleberry aromas.   Red berries, black plums, graphite, spicy bread pudding and savory notes entwine leaving a warm, satisfying impression as it coats the palate.   Sophisticated and well-structured with firm tannins and upbeat acidity offsetting the rich fruit, and the persistent finish is divine.  (20.5 euros)

Caves Sao Joao 2012 Quinto do Poco do Lobo; Bairrada, Portugal:  This spicy red blend, built of 45% Baga, 45% Touriga Nacional and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, is compelling from first whiff.  Cassis, tart huckleberry and black cherry unfold onto the palate with white pepper and fresh earth highlights.  Beautifully balanced with firm tannins and good acids, and pure through the pleasing finish.  (13.5 euros)

Bulas 20 Year Tawny Port; Douro, Portugal:  This delicious port is crafted of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca.  Toasted nuts and caramel greet the nose. The rich elixir fills the mouth with tiers of crème brûlée caramelized sugar topping, sweet figs, honey-drizzled almonds and a splash of orange liquor.  Gorgeous in texture and nicely weighted as it flows to a heavenly finish.  (40 euros)

Casa de Santa Eufemia 40 year Tawny Port; Douro, Portugal:   Here is a powerful and regal Tawny.  The exquisite aroma draws you right into the glass.  Multilayered with candied ginger, clementine, fig jam, tobacco, nutmeg, crystallized pecans, spice cake, espresso and toffee melding in harmony, creating a spectacular explosion of flavor on the palate.  With all its intensity, there is an elegance about this port from start to everlasting finish. (110 euros)

Sala Ogival is picture perfect spot located in downtown Lisbon at the water’s edge.  It is a worthy destination whenever you head to Lisbon, providing a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself into Portugal’s world of wine.

Gems in My Glass . . . January 2016

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Spain, Tenerife 1 Comment

Spicy, Captivating Wines from Tenerife in the Canary Islands

Tenerife captivates with its charm and history, spicy food and wine, and scenic beauty all around the island.  At the center of Tenerife is Mt Teide, a (dormant) volcano, the peak of which is at ~12,198 feet (the highest point in Spain).  There are now more than 8,000 hectares of grapes planted in rich, fertile volcanic soil here. The mountain range, coastal influence, trade winds and span of altitudes provide a wide array of micro-climates on this sub-tropical volcanic island (the largest of the Canary Islands); it is well suited for cultivating grapes.

Wines in Tenerife are crafted primarily of varieties that are rarely, if ever, grown in North America.  There are five unique Denominaciones de Origen (designation of origin regions) here.   Tacoronte-Acentejo was the first DO to be recognized in 1992, however grapes have been grown here for hundreds of years.  Grapes planted in Tenerife include Listán Blanco, Listán Negro, Negramoll, Tintilla and Vijariego Negro.   Grape growers and vintners ardently tend to their vineyards and winemaking, and the results are impressive.  The Monje family was one of the first to plant grapes.  Felipe Monje, a 5th generation winemaker, exudes the family passion and tradition that he carries on.  Additional talented vintners and I had the pleasure of meeting and sampling wines with include Borja Pérez González (Ignios), and Jonatan García Lima (Suertes del Marqués).

Be adventurous and expand the repertoire of wine varieties that delight your palate!  The following Tenerife wines are among many worth seeking out:

Bodegas Monje 2013 Tradicional; Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife:  A field of wild flowers and hints of gunpowder on the nose are unleashed onto the palate with tinges of earth, blackberry and Black Amber plum fruit, and savory spice highlights.  This red blend of Listán Negro (Listán Prieto), Listán Blanco (Palomino) and Negramoll (Tinta Negra Mole) is vivacious and elegant.  Soft, round tannins caress the palate, and lead to a lingering aftertaste.

Bodegas Monje 2003 Events Listán Blanco; Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife:  Just released three years ago, this aged, golden-hued white wine delivers scents and flavors of candied pineapple, notes of toast, honey and spice-dusted roasted almonds.   It is smooth in texture, powerful and deep, with hints of herbs and earthiness on the intense finish.

Bodegas Monje 2014 Hollera; Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife:  This easy to quaff 100% Listán Negro opens with dark berry and cardamom spice on the nose.  Allspice and cardamom notes meld with black plummy fruit, crushed pink peppercorns and nice oak integration throughout; balanced and pure.

Bodegas Monje 2012 Tintilla; Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife:  This blend of 90% Tintilla Castellana and 10% Listán Negro (with eight months French oak aging) showcases deep, dark berry and plummy fruit with spiced oak nuances on the inviting nose.  Spicy fruit compote and toasty nuances continue as the wine fills the mouth and heads to a warm, satisfying finish.

Bodegas Suertes del Marqués 2014 Vidonia; Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife:  Plenty of minerality here with this sleek, citrusy Listán Blanco.  Perfumed floral aromas lead to bright flavors of grapefruit, apple skin, banana chips, and spiced oak.  The thread of minerality remains focused throughout, and a splash of lime lifts the finish brilliantly.  Complex and well defined with racy acidity, this youthful wine promises good aging potential, too.

Bodegas Buten Crater 2008 Magma de Crater (Crianza); Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife:  Take a good whiff of the alluring scents of earthiness and Friar plum preserves; intoxicating.  This luscious blend of Negramoll and Syrah continues to entice with concentrated dark fruit, anise seed, hints of spiced meat, seasoned leather and nice toasty elements (from the French oak aging) dazzling the palate.  Intense and finely balanced with a well-honed backbone of tannins, I envision this wine aging impressively for years.

Bodegas Marba 2014 Blanco Barrica; Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife:  Tinges of earth and tropical fruit rise from the glass as this engaging Listán Blanco greets the nose.  Bright and lively with interlacing layers of lemon curd, candied pineapple wedges, lime peel and spicy pear chutney.   Elevated acidity balances the juicy fruit, refreshing the palate through the pulsating finish.

Bodegas Ignios Origenes 2013 Vijariego Negro; Ycoden Daute Isora, Tenerife:  Here is a beautifully textured Vijariego Negro.  Exotic aromas of potpourri and spice are enrapturing.  Fanning out onto the palate are rich layers of blackberry jam, freshly ground pepper spice, raspberries, flinty accents and nicely integrated oak from new and seasoned French oak aging.   Round tannins and a noteworthy level of acidity harmonize with the lush fruit, and the aftertaste is deep and persistent.

Bodegas Altos de Trevejos 2014 Mountain Wines Vijariego Negro; Abona, Tenerife:  Perfumed fragrances of violets, earth and spice scintillate the senses.  Layers of red-fleshed plums, currants, minerally notes and spice elements framed by firm tannins swirl scrumptiously on the palate.  Well-placed oak management adds further dimension, and the wine finishes with style and depth.

Cumbres de Abona 2015 Testamento; Abona, Tenerife:  This delightful white wine crafted of 100% Malvasia offers up mouthwatering aromas.  Enlivening the palate are layers of juicy guava and pineapple fruit accented with citrus and mineral notes.  It is sleek and steely with a pretty texture, and boasts lively acidity that keeps the wine fresh and energetic throughout.

Some Canarian wines are imported into the USA, check with your local wine shops.  Even better, visit Tenerife yourself, there is plenty to explore there within the world of wine and food, and beyond.

Gems in My Glass . . . December 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Great Northwest, Tasting Notes No Comments

Wine Press Northwest 2015 Platinum Judging; Gold sings, Platinum soars!

The Wine Press Northwest Platinum wine competition treats judges to a unique experience; judging wines from an elite group.  All entries in this competition secured Gold or Double Gold status in one of many  competitions previously held around the world.  Got your attention?  I’d imagine so, if seeking out well-crafted wines is on your list of favorite activities.  Here are some of the remarkable Platinum winning wines my panel had the pleasure to judge; surely you’ll find wines that trigger a must have thought in your mind!

Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Cuvée; Washington: This brilliant ruby hued blend, crafted of 36% Cabernet Sauvignon 27% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Carménère delivers nicely ripened red and black fruit and a dash of cocoa powder to the nose. Generous in the mouth with tasty blackberries and chocolate covered cherries interlacing with savory spice, underlying oak and tea leaf accents, it simply captivates. Nicely built with well-rounded tannins and a finish that is smooth and satisfying. SRP: $32

Henry Earl Estates 2010 Homesteader; Red Mountain, Washington: The fragrant floral aroma engages the senses as this velvety textured blend of 36% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Malbec, 13% Cabernet Franc and 14% Petit Verdot lifts from the glass. Fresh and lively on the palate with luscious flavors of cranberries, cherries, blackberries, cassis, anise and cigar box accents that unfold and wrap around grippy tannins. Drinking beautifully now, and the rich fruit, precise balance and structured tannins suggest it is also a good candidate for the cellar. SRP: $40

Mercer Estates 2012 Sharp Sisters Red Blend; Columbia Valley, Washington: Here is a plush, concentrated blend of 40% Merlot, 25% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 3% Sangiovese, 3% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Tempranillo and 1% Grenache that really delivers with its juicy blueberry, cola, wild raspberry, sweet plum, toffee, spice box nuances and lovely oak integration. The tannins are finely grained, and the wine shows good structure throughout. SRP: $26

Sinclair Estate Vineyards 2011 Pentatonic; Columbia Valley, Washington: Tightly wound and layered, I appreciate how this spunky blend, composed of 68% Merlot, 14% Cab Franc, 14% Petit Verdot and 4% Cab Sauvignon, provocatively opens up with aeration. Red currant, blueberries, cassis and blackberries entwine with graphite, well placed oak and savory spice as it unfolds onto the palate. This sophisticated Bordeaux blend displays refined tannins, and the finish is long and gratifying. SRP: $40

Eight Bells Winery 2012 Red Willow Vineyard 8 Clones Syrah; Yakima Valley, Washington: Alluring bacon fat aromas start the love affair with this complex, precisely balanced Syrah. Satin smooth in texture, with layer upon layer of juicy plums, blueberries, anise, black cherries, spice enhanced grilled meat, savory olives and minerally notes framed by powerful tannins. Deep, dark and delicious through the lengthy finish. SRP: $32

Chateau St. Michelle 2012 Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley, Washington: The scent of roasted coffee beans deliciously wakes you up. Rich red fruit, bittersweet chocolate and underlying toasted oak (from 22 months aging in 60% new French and American oak) swirling on the palate offer further stimulation. One glass leads to another of this silky, well-crafted Cabernet Sauvignon. The sumptuous flavors linger dreamily beyond the final sip. SRP: $36

Zerba Cellars 2012 Petit Verdot; Walla Walla Valley, Washington: Fragrant violets on the nose and the classic opaque purple/black Petit Verdot hue confidently steer this gorgeous wine onto the palate. Broadening in the mouth are multiple shades of dense blackberries, wild berries and purple plums, vanilla, cedar, earthy notes and a dusting of herbs. The flavors interlace in harmony and provide a perfect counterpoint to the vibrant acidity and firm tannins. This is a powerful, delectable Petit Verdot. SRP: $45

Dusted Valley Vintners 2012 Wallywood; Columbia Valley, Washington: This blend of 52% Syrah, 24% Petite Sirah, 16% Mourvédre and 8% Grenache is deeply hued and broadcasts intense berry and herbal aromas. Chock full of blackberries, plum skin, savory spice, graphite, roasted coffee and tasty highlights of cured meats that weave through from entry, through mid-palate, to the engaging and lifted finish. The dense fruit is lush, and the acids and tannins provide a firm structure; lovely. SRP:  $42

Dunham Cellars 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon XVIII; Columbia Valley, Washington: Here is an irresistible Cabernet with an intense, alluring aromatic of fresh tobacco and black fruits. Well defined and complex, the focused flavors of blackberry, black cherry and plums commingle with black olive, a pinch of multi-colored peppercorns and understated toasty oak. Powerful in structure and finely balanced with a firm backbone of tannins, this gem is approachable now, and promises to be age-worthy as well. SRP: $45

Desert Wind Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon; Wahluke Slope, Washington: This snappy Cabernet Sauvignon opens with notes of eucalyptus, ripe berries and herbs on the nose. Round and mouth filling with oodles of sweet boysenberry jam, spiced cherry pie, tart huckleberry and a touch of roasted green bell pepper melding with earthy elements. Nicely balanced, full flavored and easy to quaff through the pleasing finish. SRP: $18

L’Ecole No. 41 Winery 2012 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Syrah; Walla Walla Valley, Washington: This tantalizing Syrah offers up a handful of violets deliciously sharing the aromatic stage with dark berry fruit. Compelling and precisely balanced on the palate with roasted meat, notes of sizzling bacon, ripe blueberries, olallieberries, black plums, spiced black tea and a tinge of earthiness. This smartly crafted Syrah displays lovely purity, and the subtle oak provides a nice backdrop through the persistent finish. SRP: $36

Visit these wineries and/or their websites, or check with your favorite wine shop to pick up a bottle or two of the award winning wines from the Wine Press Northwest Platinum Judging. You can also find information about additional award winners in this month’s issue of Wine Press Northwest, or the website Cheers!

Gems in My Glass . . . November 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes No Comments

Laird Family Estate 2014 Red Hen Chardonnay; Oakville, Napa Valley, California:  This lean, mineral laden Chardonnay displays enticing tree fruit and citrusy aromas.  Vivid and energizing as layers of crisp green apple, clementine, fresh herbs and a subtle touch of oak unfold deliciously on the palate.  Decant to fully appreciate, or cellar for future enjoyment. SRP:  $35

Laird Family Estate 2012 Phantom Ranch Pinot Noir; Carneros, Napa Valley, California:  Here is a generously fruited Pinot Noir broadcasting juicy Bing cherries, wild raspberries, black tea and spice box notes from the engaging aroma through the rich, satisfying palate.  Well balanced and mouth coating as it makes its way to the buoyant, lingering finish.  SRP:  $55

WineSmith Wines 2005 Mangels Ranch Reserve Syrah; Suisun Valley, California:  Floral and dark berry aromas provide a pretty introduction to this stunning Syrah.  Flavors of blueberry compote, purple plums, and huckleberries meld with earthiness, saddle leather and creamy chocolate notes.  Rich and intense with a striking backbone of tannins.  Splendid now, yet also promises many years ahead.  SRP:  $50

Artesa Winery 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay; Carneros, Napa Valley, California:  Spicy aromatics wrap around fresh pear, apple skin and floral notes that delight upon entry.  Bright and bracing with Anjou pear, Honeycrisp apple, a dash of clove, and lemon-lime citrus notes that expand exquisitely on the palate and mingle with a thread of minerality and subtle oak.  Energetic and well defined through the lingering finish.  SRP:  $35

Artesa Winery 2012 Tempranillo; Alexander Valley, California:  Abundant black fruit and hints of spice tempt the nose with this dense yet lithe Tempranillo.  Brambly and rich on the palate with oodles of juicy boysenberries, blackberries, sweet black plums and brown spice creating a marvelous mosaic of flavors on the palate.  Full bodied and pure through the commanding, uplifted finish.  SRP:  $45

Trojak~Knier 2014 Chardonnay; Napa Valley, California:  The tantalizing, flinty nose of this Burgundian style Chardonnay paves the way to a gorgeous silky entry.   Stimulating the palate are layers of creamy pear, minerality, hazelnut and flaky, buttered croissants melting in your mouth.  Focused and well balanced with spiced barrel notes and lively acidity, this wine lingers well beyond the last graceful sip.  SRP:  $44

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2013 The Expedition; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  Earthy, wild blackberry notes rise temptingly from the glass as this juicy red blend approaches the nose. A blend of 34.5% Merlot, 26.6% Syrah, 24.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14.4% Grenache, here is a wine with copious fruit showcasing blueberries, blackberries and raspberries that entwine with a twist of pepper, anise and allspice.   Perky and fresh, and a great value too. SRP:  $15

Ayoub Wines ??? Vineyards Pinot Noir; Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Red fruit and mushroom aromas jump from the glass with this vibrant Pinot Noir.  The entry explodes with brightness and flavor.  Flavors of wild cherry, juicy strawberry, hints of pepper spice and the essence of forest floor wrap around finely grained tannins, exhilarating the palate.  Finishing with elegance; this wine shows off wonderful depth and purity.   SRP:  $55

Ayoub Wines 2013 Mojo; Dundee Hills, Oregon/Knights Valley, Sonoma County, California:  This unlikely pairing of Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir delivers a celebratory homerun.  Rich, full bodied and deeply structured; dark berry and graphite components of Cabernet Franc and black cherry, earthy, minerally elements of Pinot Noir mesh like a meticulously woven tapestry. Complex and precise in balance, with a memorable, lasting finish.   SRP:  $75

Maggy Hawk Wines 2012 Afleet Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  Alluring forest floor aromas draw you into this tightly wound, complex wine.  Cherries, pomegranate seeds and a suggestion of sautéed mushrooms exhilarate on entry and charm the palate, with exotic tea spice and oak nuances chiming in on the extended finish.  Velvety smooth in texture and oh so lively with vibrant fruit and acidity.   SRP:  $66

Maggy Hawk Wines 2012 Hawkster Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  Aromas of sun ripened cherries and a hint of fresh mint stimulate the senses as the wine approaches the nose.  Cola, a touch of earth and herbs, purple plums and sweet black cherries offset by upbeat acids saturate the palate.  A smooth, mouth filling wine that broadcasts well integrated oak and a hint of vanillin through the refined finish.  SRP:  $66

Maggy Hawk Wines 2012 Stormin’ Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  Decant for full enjoyment now, or cellar for couple years to fully appreciate this intense, full bodied Pinot Noir.  With aeration, it delivers savory spice, earthiness and dusty berry aromas upfront.  On the palate it is powerful and tightly structured with dark cherries, black raspberries, cardamom, anise, and firm tannins.  SRP:  $66

Domaine Serene 2011 Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:   From the cool 2011 vintage comes this impressive, zesty Pinot Noir.  Florality, dried cherry, exotic spice, earthy notes and skillfully integrated oak come together in harmony as this ethereal Burgundian style Pinot glides across the palate.  Beautifully restrained in alcohol at 13.1%, this is a chic and graceful Pinot Noir.  SRP:  $75

Domaine Serene 2013 Clos du Lune Vineyard Chardonnay; Dundee Hills, Oregon:  From their highest elevation Chardonnay vineyard, this cellar worthy Chardonnay begs to be decanted, and you’ll be finely rewarded by decanting if you choose to open it now.  Simply exquisite in structure, texture and balance, this Chard sings with crisp green apple, lemon zest and minerality. Complex and layered, with skillfully managed oak positioned nicely in the background.  SRP:  $70

Domaine Serene 2012 Grand Cheval; Willamette Valley, Oregon/Walla Walla Valley, Oregon: This blend of 66% Syrah (Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley) and 24% Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley) is available from the winery only and well worth seeking out.  Deep black fruit, roasted meat and bacon notes upfront are enhanced with tobacco spice, cherry licorice, savory spice and shades of oak.  Confident and full bodied, it’s a robust, intensely structured wine.  SRP:  $80

Robert Sinskey Vineyards 2012 Pinot Gris Late; Los Carneros, California:  Incredibly aromatic, this vivacious late harvest Pinot Gris really delivers, completely satisfying the sweet tooth.  Snappy, bright and in no way cloying, layers of citrus infused poached pears, honeysuckle, caramelized nuts, gingersnaps and crème brulee notes entrance the senses from the first whiff, to the irresistible rich and lively palate, through the elevated finish.  What a way to end the night!  SRP:  $24 (375ml)

2015 Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Great Northwest No Comments

I’ve got the fever!   This well run wine competition, under the direction of Chairmen Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue (owners of the Great Northwest Wine news and information company), is quite unique and compelling.  Judges are asked to nominate 100 wines to be blind judged; all of which must come from grapes grown in the great northwest; including Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Idaho.  Here are a few personal favorite noteworthy wines among those that my panel judged at the 2015 competition held at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel this month:

Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2014 Old Vines Auxerrois; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada:   A stunning interpretation of this delightful grape (more widely grown in Alsace).  Displaying worthy varietal typicity, its white peach, pear, grapefruit and lemony flavors intertwine in harmony on the palate.  This beauty is mouth filling and well balanced, with good acidity accompanying the fruit through the enduring aftertaste.  SRP: $13

Sparkman Cellars 2012 Rainmaker Cabernet Sauvignon; Yakima Valley, Washington:  Aromas of tobacco leaf and black fruits get the juices flowing, and prepare you for more delight.  This Cabernet Sauvignon is appealing in its depth and power.  Broadly expanding on the palate are layers of cassis, blackberry, Italian spices and smoky oak nuances.  The acidity zips through the dense fruit, and the tannins are smooth and reined in; extraordinary.  SRP:  $62

Tenet Wines 2013 The Pundit Syrah; Columbia Valley, Washington:  The floral component, wildly expressive and pleasing, implores you to dive into the glass.  Once the wine glides past your lips, the juicy mouthful of purple plums, orange-tinged boysenberries and dark chocolate syrup unfolds, and toasty oak spice is well situated in the background.  Smartly balanced and simply delightfully.   SRP:  $25

Maryhill Winery 2014 Chardonnay; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Alluring on the nose, this snappy Chard opens with pretty fragrances of citrus blossom and tropical fruit wafting from the glass.  On the palate it is pure and refreshing, with flavors of crisp apple, candied pineapple wedges, stone fruit and subtle spiced oak notes; finishes bright and clean.  SRP: $15

Seven Hills Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon; Columbia Valley, Washington:  The hue is luminous and the aromatic delivers perfectly ripened fruit, a sprinkle of sweet oak and vanilla spice to the nose. Tasty black currant, red cherry, pipe tobacco notes and brown spices wrap around firm tannins.  This wine is nicely weighted as it swells to a finish that is polished and persistent.   SRP:  $30

Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Estate Vineyard Syrah; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  The enticing aromatic bursts forth with herbs and black fruit.  The palate reveals underbrush, black plums, black cherry, mocha, fresh ground multi-colored peppercorns and a suggestion of sautéed green bell pepper.  Black licorice accents come forth on the satisfying finish; a well-crafted, cellar worthy Syrah.   SRP:  $40

Reininger Winery 2011 Mr. Owl’s Red; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  This blend of 55% Sangiovese, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot and 4% Syrah with an earthy edge is agile and compelling.  Softly fruited with black cherry, and raspberry fitting hand and glove with anise, orange peel and a suggestion of angostura bitters.  It is focused and clean, and the racy acidity fits its spry personality to a T.   SRP:  $34

Columbia Crest Winery 2013 Grand Estates Syrah; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Hints of Crayola crayons and dark fruit on the nose meld into jammy black and red berries on entry.  Delectably rich and creamy in texture, the flavors of black cherry, blackberry, toffee and herbal notes linger through the pleasing aftertaste.  Easy to quaff, and a terrific value, too!  SRP:  $12

Coyote Canyon Winery 2013 Albarino; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  Spicy and edgy from the endearing aromatic, to the mouthful of spiced peach/pear compote, lemon-lime and crystallized pineapple, to the rocking acidity that never misses a beat.  The components are well orchestrated and the wine flows elegantly as it makes it way to the celebratory finish line.  SRP: $22

Anam Cara Cellars 2012 Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir; Chehalem Mountains, Oregon:  Alluring floral and damp earth scents wow the nose.  In the mouth it’s ethereal and silky smooth, with notes of fresh chopped herbs, dusty cherry, black raspberry, anise and hints of toasted oak.   Smartly composed, it is lively and graceful with a long lasting, memorable finish.  SRP:  $33

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Dry Riesling; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Earthiness, hints of herbs and fragrant dusting powder greet the nose.  Orchard fruit, wet stone, citrus notes and dried apricot flavors swirl in the mouth, with racy acidity providing a wonderful backbone.  Vintage after vintage this value priced wine shines with vibrancy.  SRP:  $10

Airfield Estates Winery 2014 Rosé of Sangiovese; Yakima Valley, Washington:   This vivacious dry Rosé offers up spiced cranberry sauce, juicy cherry, orange zest, and mineral notes on the nose and through the juicy, fruit filled palate.  Balanced and bright with good acidity, it shimmers all the way through.    SRP:  $15 (Sold out; don’t miss the 2015 vintage upon release).

Karma Vineyards 2011 Méthode Champenoise Pink; Columbia Valley, Washington:  This expressive, full bodied sparkling wine leads the way with aromas of reds fruits and fresh flowers.  Magnificent on the palate with its stream of tiny bubbles and gorgeous acidity supporting flavors of fresh cherries and strawberries, watermelon candy and toasty biscuit notes; a divine bubbly.   SRP:  $39.99

Palencia Wine Company 2014 Sauvignon Blanc; Columbia Valley, Washington:   Enticing herbal aromas invite you into the glass and keep you stimulated as juicy white grapefruit, sweet fleshed peaches, crisp pears, and lime zest take center stage on the vibrant palate.  The wine gains dimension with a touch of dried herbs as it marches toward a brilliant finale.  SRP:  $18

Walla Walla Vintners 2012 Yellow Bird Vineyard Merlot; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Warm blueberry tart scents upfront join red berries, chocolate kisses, blueberries, spice box and subtle oak notes exploding onto the palate.  The well-defined firm tannins and accompanying finely placed acidity provide the perfect framework for this absolutely charming Merlot.  SRP:  $38

Sperling Vineyards 2012 Old Vines Riesling; Okanagan Valley; British Columbia, Canada:  Here is a fresh, meticulously balanced Riesling that really stimulates the senses.  Stone fruit, quince jam, minerality and citrus accents entwine and flow with ease across the palate.  Bright and satisfying with an aftertaste that lingers on and on.  SRP:  $32

Mercer Estates 2012 Merlot; Columbia Valley, Washington:  This irresistible Merlot struts out with a confident air and never retreats.  Appealing cherry, savory spice, blueberry and fresh leather aromas and flavors are enhanced by a velvety smooth texture and refined tannins.  Polished and elegant through the long, heavenly finish.  SRP:  $24

Rocky Pond Winery 2013 Clos Cheval Vineyard Riesling; Lake Chelan, Columbia Valley, Washington:  Here is a sleek and balanced wine with a petrol aroma that clearly shouts out Riesling.  Peach skin, sweet nectarine, fresh squeezed lime juice and slate accents that flow onto the palate are pure and vivacious, leaving a lasting impression.  SRP:  $18

At the conclusion of the competition, Eric and Andy announced names of the judges who captured the most Gold and Double Gold awards from his or her list of 100 wine nominations.   It was a very pleasant surprise to hear that I had captured first place honors!  Check out details regarding all the award winning wines at where you’ll find results from the 2015 Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, as well as results from the 2013 and 2014 competitions.  The fall season is here in all its glory, and now is the time to stock up on all YOUR favorites!

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