Captivating Wines and Mesmerizing Views at Notre Vue Estate Winery & Vineyards

Tasting Notes

Perched within the Chalk Hill and Russian River Valley AVAs in California’s Sonoma County is the spellbinding 710-acre domain of Notre Vue Estate Winery and Vineyards.  Founders/Owners Bob and Renée Stein established Notre Vue in 1992. The 710 acre estate encompasses 350 acres of protected open space land, majestic oak and cypress trees dotting the hillsides, and 250 acres planted to wine grapes including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Petite Sirah. Their estate vineyards, which are spread across diverse micro-climates, are sustainably farmed. 

Talented winemaker Alex Holman has had his hands in the soil of every AVA within Sonoma County, and believe me, Alex knows his craft.  His minimal intervention style results in wines of remarkable aromatics, precision, and character.  A tasting of his recently released wines gives credence to what this unpretentious, down-to-earth winemaker accomplished during his first vintage crafting wines under the Notre Vue and Balverne labels.

Alex combines his knowledge gained through his winemaking stints across Sonoma County, a B.S. degree in chemistry followed by viticultural program studies at California State University Fresno (under the tutelage of renowned Dr. Barry Gump), and his straight-forward, “clean, native fermentation“ approach to winemaking.  Here is a snapshot of impressive wines crafted by Alex: 

Balverne 2019 Sauvignon Blanc ($27), Chalk Hill:  Opening with fragrant aromas of fresh summer grasses, this energizing Sauv Blanc is bright and lively with pristine balance and a silky texture.  Thirst-quenching flavors of honeydew melon, lemongrass, and vine-ripened kiwi invigorate the palate, and lead to a lingering finish.

Notre Vue 2019 GSM Rosé ($29), Chalk Hill:  This zesty rendition of dry rosé composed of equal parts Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre is extraordinary.  A fireworks-like display of flavors burst in the mouth!  Layers of Opal plums, red raspberries, a trace of anise, orange zest, and ground nutmeg intertwine, and the finish is mouthwateringly delicious.

Balverne 2019 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, CA:   A shimmering pale pink hue and floral, fresh berry aromas welcome you into the glass.  There you will find a delicate, well-balanced dry Rosé with dynamic flavors of strawberries, Rainier cherries, and an underlying wave of spice. A graceful and thirst-quenching afternoon sipper. 

Notre Vue 2019 Chardonnay Musqué ($36) Russian River Valley:  Here is a distinctive Chardonnay (made from Chardonnay Musqué clone 809) that leads off with an enticing nose of pear sorbet and citrus blossom.  Flavors of green apple, lime zest, and subtle spice entwine. Stirring of the lees (bâtonnage) in neutral French oak barrels gives the wine a creamy texture and added complexity through the memorable finish.

Balverne 2018 Reserve Pinot Noir ($45), Russian River Valley:  Gorgeous red and black fruit aromatics make way for layers of black cherry, fresh strawberry, a touch of earth, black raspberry, underlying oak, and exotic spices.  Beautiful depth and purity of fruit all the way through.  Satin smooth and elegant with perfect balancing acidity, and a finish that persists long after the last sip.

2017 Notre Vue Proprietor’s Red Blend ($59), Sonoma County:  Cab Sauv and Bordeaux blend wine lovers take note!  Here is a rich, deeply flavored wine crafted of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec.   Hints of violets on the nose lead to well-defined flavors of black currants, tobacco, Black Beauty plums, Herbes de Provence, and a touch of mocha melding in harmony.  Well-structured and intense through the long-lasting finish.   

To schedule an appointment to taste the well-crafted wines on one of their Lakeside Pavilions or Block 23 Terrace, absorb the beauty and serenity of the stunning views, and explore their Wine Club Membership and shipping options, visit, or give them a call at 707 433-4050.  Wines can also be ordered online for curbside pickup, or curbside delivery for locals; enjoy!

Gems in My Glass . . . June 2020

Tasting Notes

Exhilarating Summertime Rosé

Summer is a perfect time to snap up bright, refreshing wines. Several delicious rosés I recently tasted fit the bill perfectly. Among those highly recommended include:

Abacela Winery 2019 Grenache Rosé, Umpqua Valley, Oregon: This vivacious, remarkable dry rosé shows off a shimmering peachy-pink hue and a nose of summer berries and floral tones. Layers of fresh picked raspberries, cranberry juice, a trace of lemongrass, watermelon, and sweet clementines right off the tree are irresistible. Bracing acidity keeps it perfectly balanced, and the perky finale delivers exceptional length.

Jean Philippe Moulin NV Champagne Rosé, Champagne, France: Here is a stylish Champagne crafted of 85% chardonnay and 15% pinot noir. Aromas of fresh-baked brioche and sun-kissed apples waft from the glass. Crisp apples, lemon verbena, strawberries and cream, and banana bread fill the palate.  Balancing acidity, tiny bubbles and a fine mousse add to its charm.

Russian River Vineyards 2019 Wedge Family Vineyard Petite Sirah Rosé, Fountaingrove District, California: The expressive berry aroma of this zesty dry rosé is very inviting. It is elegant while delivering great depth of flavor, with notes of Santa Rosa plum, fresh strawberry shortcake, huckleberry, citrus accents, and subtle spice. Finely balanced and crisp with a lingering finish.

Pennyroyal Farm 2019 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, California:  This juicy, elegant dry Rosé leads off with fragrant scents of a summer floral bouquet.  Waking up the palate are Sweetheart cherry and wild raspberry flavors with a trace of fresh chopped herbs.  Balancing acidity keeps it ever so lively through the persistent finish.

Notre Vue Estate Winery & Vineyards 2019 GSM Notre Vue Rosé, Chalk Hill, California:  This zesty rendition of dry rosé composed of equal parts Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre is extraordinary.  A fireworks-like display of flavors burst in the mouth.  Layers of Opal plums, red raspberries, a trace of anise, orange zest, and ground nutmeg intertwine and head to a mouthwatering finish.

Del Rio Vineyard Estate NV Jolee Rosé, Oregon:   Highly aromatic and inviting, here is a delightful semi-sweet rosé with a stimulating fragrance of fresh spring flowers. It is smoothly textured with crisp acidity and just  a touch of spritz. Succulent berries, cherries, and faint spice swirl richly on the palate as it heads to an upbeat close. 

Summerland Winery 2019 Grenache Rosé, Paso Robles, California:  This remarkably balanced grenache rosé springs open with a spunky citrus blossom aroma. Layers of loganberry, graphite, pink grapefruit, hints of earth, and spice-dusted red raspberry compote are scintillating. Brisk acidity and a silky texture transport the wine to a lifted finish. 

Merriam Vineyards 2019 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California: Enticing and expressive at first whiff, with a bowlful of fresh cherries on the nose, this rosé expands broadly on the palate. Sweetheart cherries, cranberry-raspberry chutney, lemon-scented peaches, and spice intertwine. Sleek, vivid, and well balanced with a persistent finish.

Gems in My Glass . . . May 2020

Tasting Notes


Just days before the coronavirus shelter-in edicts were announced in March, I had the pleasure of judging the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition, under the capable hands of Chief Judge Rich Cook, and a team of hardworking, dedicated volunteers. Unbeknownst to us at the time, ten wine competitions scheduled to be held over the next four months would be cancelled. This competition remains a fond memory, judging and socializing with longtime colleagues and friends, swirling and sipping noteworthy wines. And what an honor it was to be named the recipient of the David Stevens Award!

My co-panelists this year were Master Sommelier Wayne Belding and winemaker Christian Roguenant; a cohesive and energetic panel! The wines noted below are among my favorites of our Gold and Platinum awards. Congrats to these, and all the winners this year. For a full list, visit

Macchia 2018 Luxurious Old Vine Zinfandel Rous Vineyard, Lodi: This Platinum winner opens with a captivating nose of fresh ripe berries and spice. On the palate, juicy black cherry, spiced berry compote and vanilla accents intertwine. Full bodied and rich yet finely balanced with a lingering finish. SRP: $30

Macchia 2018 Sumptuous Zinfandel, West Side Vineyard, Lodi: From head trained old vines comes this gem, another Platinum award for Macchia. The shimmering blackish-purple hue engages the eye, and the aroma screams ZIN! In the mouth, a melding of blackberries, ripe plums, savoriness, and roasted marshmallows; sumptuous indeed! SRP: $26

Luisi 2017 Chianti Riserva DOCG; Chianti, Tuscany Italy: The engaging nose of this Gold medal winning Chianti is irresistible, and drives you into the glass. Aromas and flavors of forest mushrooms, Montmorency cherries, smoke and spice glide smoothly across the palate with brilliant acidity and nice depth. SRP: $17.99

Navarro Vineyards 2018 Barbera, Mendocino: This splendidly textured Platinum winning Barbera was also awarded Best Barbera of the competition. Opening with a hint of lavender on the nose, it bursts onto the palate with luscious Bing cherry and raspberry fruit, subtle oak nuances, vanilla bean and a hint of fresh ground star anise. Well structured and balanced through the extended finish. SRP: $25

Navarro Vineyards 2018 Pinot Noir, Methode a l’Ancienne; Anderson Valley, Mendocino: Capturing Gold, this deeply flavored, magenta hued Pinot Noir is mouthwatering. Immaculately balanced with silky tannins and bright acidity, it displays layers of Sweetheart cherries, pomegranate, sandalwood, exotic spice, and hints of earthiness, and the finish is memorable. SRP: $35

Louis M. Martini 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley: Earning a Platinum award is this expressive, well structured Cab Sauv. Alluring aromas of mixed berries and hints of tobacco waft from the glass. Flavors of cassis, purple plum, spiced blackberry jam and underlying oak weave brilliant flavors on the palate, persisting through the long finish. SRP: $35

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2018 Grenache, Umpqua Valley, Oregon: This Gold medal winning wine leads off with a nose that fully engages the senses. Purity abounds as layers of fresh raspberries, nutmeg, hints of clove, and cocoa dusted strawberries flow seamlessly across the palate. Impeccably balanced with refined tannins, and a vibrant finale. SRP: $29

Breathless NV Blanc de Noirs, Sonoma County: Earning Gold is this lively sparkling wine crafted of 45% Pinot Noir; 42% Chardonnay 13% Pinot Meunier. A fragrance of rose petals and warm baked bread leads to broad flavors of strawberry, Rainier cherries, cranberry-apple, grated ginger, and nutmeg accents, and the tiny bubbles are endless. SRP: $32

McBride Sisters Collection Sparkling Brut Rosé, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand: This tantalizing Brut Rosé captured Platinum and Best Sparkling of the competition. Vibrant and expressive, with the fragrance of a bowl of berries and citrus blossom tickling the senses. Zingy, as juicy strawberries, mandarin orange, and hints of lemongrass light up the palate. SRP: $22.99

Talbott 2018 Kali Hart Chardonnay, Monterey: Securing Gold, this Chard offers up aromas of Golden Delicious apples and hints of toast; no doubt what’s in this glass! The palate mirrors the nose, with butter-sauteed apples and well-integrated oak joining spice and citrus accents. Creamy in texture, while the bright acidity keeps it beautifully balanced. SRP: $23

Six Pick Program Launch at Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards

Tasting Notes

Stephen and Gloria Reustle, Winemaker/co-owners of Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards in the Umpqua Valley AVA in southern Oregon, implemented a creative marketing idea during the coronavirus shelter-in-place situation we are all faced with now.  Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards crafts stunning high-quality wines across their entire portfolio, several of which I include in my personal cellar.  Their wines are beautiful at release, and ageworthy too, if you have the patience to lay them down! 

I was honored to be Reustle Prayer Rock’s first guest speaker for their Six Pick program via online video.  It was my pleasure to warmly welcome members of the expansive Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards Wine Club joining Winemaker Stephen and Associate Winemaker Wade Smith for this online presentation.   

Each of the club members, loyal customers and I share something in common.  We are passionate about Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, the people, the vineyards, the winery and wine cave, and the impressive wines they craft.  

Deciding upon my Six Pick selection was no easy task.  Every Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyard wine I have tasted over the years shows spot-on varietal correctness, precise balance, and depth of flavor.  Any one of their wines could be among my favorite six at any given time.  Here is a snapshot of the video content, and a peek at my Six Pick selection.

First I reviewed their library selection 2014 Gruner Veltliner, wow.  When I first tasted this wine a few years ago it was extraordinary; brimming with classic flavors, purity, and brightness.  I declared that Reustle Prayer Rock’s Gruner Veltiners are the most beautifully crafted Gruners I had ever tasted. 

This 2014 GV remains a classic now, with layers of Granny Smith apple, white pepper, star fruit, subtle herbs, and citrus elements, and is still ever so fresh and bright.  And talk about ageworthy, it still has years of enjoyment ahead.

2016 Pinot Noir Reserve: Take note Willamette Valley, this PN from Umpqua Valley Oregon’s Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards is extraordinary!  Professional wine judge colleagues of mine from near and far agree it deserves high accolades.   This well-crafted Pinot Noir has secured THREE Double Gold (GG) medals in the past 18 months; at the 2020 American Fine Wine Competition, the 2019 WPNW Platinum Judging “Best of Best” Competition, and the 2019 Oregon Wine Awards.

It displays refinement and elegance in the glass.  Black raspberry, Sweetheart cherries, forest floor notes, and perfectly placed oak nuances join exotic spice and brilliant balancing acidity, and the finish keeps on delivering long after the final glorious sip.

Along with these two wines, the additional wines in my six pick selection for this program include the following:

Savory and bold 2017 Estate Tempranillo

Smooth and succulent 2016 Estate Merlot

Zesty and minerally 2018 Riesling

Richly textured and lively 2018 Dolium Gruner Veltliner   

Hats off to Stephen (winemaker/co-owner) and Gloria (marketing/co-owner), Associate Winemaker Wade Smith, and their entire delightful and competent staff for all they accomplish year after year in their well-groomed vineyards and gorgeous winery. And don’t miss the Reustle amphitheater, overlooking their Romancing Rock and Prayer Rock Vineyards; it is a remarkable venue for musical, wine tasting, and other scheduled events.  Their property also includes a beautiful two-bedroom two-bath Carriage House which can be booked for a visit (best to do so in advance, as it is extremely popular). 

Joining their wine club is easy, and includes invitations to special wine releases and delightful events which are engaging and tons of fun. You can also sign up for their Observer’s Club Email List, to stay up to date on special promos and events held throughout the year.   I urge you to plan a visit when wineries reopen, hopefully soon.  For now, you can give them a call, and/or order wines online.  They still have some of Ellen’s Six Pick wines available for purchase too, each of which are exquisite.  Reach them by calling the winery at 514 459-6060, or visiting their website,   Happy sipping everyone!

Gems in My Glass . . . March 2020

Tasting Notes

Gems in My Glass . . . March 2020

First, my heart goes out to all who have been battling the coronavirus. What we are experiencing with this pandemic is far from life as normal. My hopes and prayers are for those affected to return to good health, and that everyone continues taking precautions to assist in remaining healthy and preventing further spread of this disease.

Secondly, wishing everyone tasty sips to get through our current shelter in period. If need be, ordering online is a good way to ensure you don’t run out!  Many wineries are generously offering specials to have wines shipped to your doorstep.

Wines in this post include some noteworthy selections from Napa Valley, and impressive wines from Sonoma County.

Ehlers Estate 2018 Sauvignon Blanc; St. Helena, Napa Valley: Delightful white flowers and lemon verbena  on the nose welcome you into the glass.  On entry this Sauv Blanc  is crisp, glistening and citrus focused.  Creamy in texture as it expands on the palate with flavors of lemon gelato, a sprinkling of crushed herbs, fresh star fruit, and juicy Oro Blanco grapefruit. Refreshing and easy to quaff all the way through the gratifying finish. SRP: $32

St. Helena Winery, 2015 Sympa Cabernet Sauvignon; St. Helena, Napa Valley: This extraordinary Cab Sauv broadcasts a glorious aroma of forest berries and spice. Multi-layered and full bodied, it fills the mouth with dark plums, fresh tobacco, black currant, olive tapenade and savory spiciness.  Aging 22 months in 70% new French oak contributes underlying toasty notes that are well integrated. The firm backbone of tannins, brilliant acids and deep core of fruit promise many years of enjoyment ahead. Finishes long, strong and memorably. SRP: $140

Flora Springs 2017 Trilogy; St. Helena, Napa Valley: This complex Bordeaux blend is composed of 80% Cab Sauv, 17% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec from vineyards in the Rutherford, Oakville, and St. Helena. Expressive aroma of cassis and new leather open to mouth coating flavors of black currant, plum chutney, Bing cherry, and toasty oak nuances from 22 months of aging in 92% French oak and 8% American oak barrels. Fine grained tannins and ideal balance support the dark fruit; ageworthy. SRP: $85

Carol Shelton Wines 2014 Mancini Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel; Russian River Valley, Sonoma County:  Inviting and intensely aromatic with dark berries and spice wafting from the glass.  Richly fruited from start to finish, with a perfect level of acidity keeping it vibrant and well balanced.  Juicy, jammy flavors of boysenberries, huckleberry preserves, purple plums, and black cherries interlace with fresh ground black pepper and underlying oak.  Hints of vanilla bean add depth as the wine makes its way to a long-lasting finish.  SRP:  $38

Carol Shelton Wines 2016 Peaceland Vineyard Zinfandel; Fountain Grove District, Sonoma County:  This deep, dark, scrumptious wine engages the senses at first whiff, clearly broadcasting Zinfandel!  Bright and spirited as layers of sun-ripened wild blackberries, Chinese Five Spice, sweet black raspberries, a pinch of herbs, and chocolate covered blueberries meld with toasty oak nuances.  Beautiful purity of fruit and rounded tannins prevail through the mouthwatering finale.  SRP:  $35

Miro Cellars 2017 Hogan’s Run Vineyard Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, Sonoma County:  Aromas of a delicate floral bouquet start the party with this savory Pinot Noir.  Rich and precisely balanced with black cherries, a tinge of anise, cranberry-raspberry juice, hints of earth, strawberries and baking spice.  Toasted oak nuances from 14-month aging in 35% new French oak adds dimension, while sitting perfectly in the background. Refined and vivacious with an elegant finish.   SRP:  $27

Miro Cellars 2017 Pine Mountain Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak, Sonoma County:  The tantalizing aroma is all about Cab Sauv, with cassis and earthy notes.  Coating the mouth are blackberries, cloves, black currants, fresh pipe tobacco, and subtle earthy notes.  Aging 18 months in 33% new French oak, 67% neutral oak barrels give the wine a well-integrated toasty element.   Powerful yet graceful with a velvety smooth texture, deep fruit, and firm yet approachable tannins.  SRP:  $38

In Tune with Bells Up Winery

Tasting Notes

In Tune with Bells Up Winery                                                                                               

“Bells up” refers to a memorable moment in classical music when French horn players raise the bells of their instruments up to the heavens for a bright, brassy, dramatic projection. Former French horn player and winemaker/owner David Specter, along with his wife, co-owner/marketing maven Sara Specter, found that a fitting metaphor for their aspirations when naming their bucolic winery perched in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, at the northern part of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. 

Dave was a corporate attorney in Cincinnati for more than a decade when he traded in the corporate world to join the wine industry full time. Bells Up Winery, along with their 9-acre estate vineyard—born from rich Jory soil that previously encompassed a Christmas tree farm and wild blackberries—was established in 2013. The energy and passion that Sara and Dave exude is palpable, while daughter Naomi and Cupcake (their 6-year-old Pomeranian winery mascot) provide enthusiastic support. The Specters currently produce about 500 cases a year.

Sitting at an elevation ranging from 420 to 630 feet, the dry farmed vineyard today produces Pinot Noir clones 667 and Pommard, initially planted in 2014, followed by the Willamette Valley’s first planting of French hybrid Seyval Blanc, planted in 2015, and Pinot Noir clones Wädenswil, 113 and 943, planted in 2016.

Why Seyval Blanc? As a home winemaker in Cincinnati, Dave made a Seyval Blanc that earned a Gold Medal, and the couple has been drawn to the variety ever since. Additionally, David and Sara liked the idea of planting a distinctive crisp, white variety that was not yet grown in the Willamette Valley. After researching where the grape thrives, they felt confident that their site would be a perfect contender. And the Seyval Blanc they have crafted convincingly indicates that it is.

Annual production now includes estate Seyval Blanc and Rosé of Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc from Willamette Valley’s Plum Hill Vineyard, Pinot Noirs from their estate vineyard, as well as from one micro grower in the Chehalem Mountains and a second in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, and a Syrah from Summit View Vineyard in Milton-Freewater, Oregon, within the larger Walla Walla Valley AVA. On each of their labels: a French horn logo and the name of classical music pieces that prominently feature the instrument.

2019 Rhapsody Pinot Blanc, Plum Hill Vineyard, Willamette Valley ($28): This vibrant Pinot Blanc was aged sur lie in stainless steel for six months, giving it a rich texture. The nose offers up sun-ripened stone fruit that leads to minerally notes and a tapestry of peach, summer melon and apricot flavors. Crackling acidity keeps it well balanced.

2019 Helios Estate Seyval Blanc, Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley ($28): Snappy and fresh, this wine captures the essence of this French hybrid. Planted in volcanic Jory soil and aged sur lie, the wine opens with leesy, tropical fruit notes. Bright and focused as crisp acidity and harmonious layers of star fruit, gooseberry, and candied lemon traverse the palate with ease.

2019 Prelude Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains ($22): Brimming with vibrancy, this dry Rosé was aged 6 months in neutral French oak, giving it a pretty softness on the palate, while brisk acids keep it nicely balanced. Strawberry, pomegranate, and red raspberry fruits entwine with a touch of spice, and a twist of orange pops on the refreshing finish.

2017 Titan Pinot Noir ($40): A blend of Pommard, 777 and 115 clones from the Chehalem Mountains and Yamhill-Carlton AVAs, this lively Pinot Noir was aged twelve months in 32% new French oak. Cherry, plum, floral notes and a dusting of herbs interlace with a hint of licorice and sandalwood spice. Decant if imbibing now, or hold for future enjoyment.

2017 Candide Pinot Noir ($54): From the Loess soils of Nemarniki Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains AVA comes this spirited Pinot Noir. Exhibiting aromas of black raspberry jam, this zesty PN was aged 12 months in 44% new French oak. Broad and mouthfilling on the palate with sweet red cherry, raspberries, cola, underlying oak and exotic spices capping the finish.

2017 Villanelle Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley ($54): Sourced from the 4-acre Tonnelier Vineyard, enticing aromas of forest berries and rose petals rise from the glass. Silky in texture and palate pleasing as black cherry, wild berry, anise, savoriness, hints of earth, and crushed herbs entwine. Aging 12 months on 40% new French oak gives the wine a toasty note, and the long finale is elegant. 

2018 Firebird Syrah, Summit View Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley ($48): Beautifully expressive on the nose, here is a deep and delicious Syrah. From Ellisforde silt loam soils, it is well structured, with firm yet approachable tannins. Plum, Bing cherry and spice join accents of cured meats, and the flavors linger through the rich and pronounced finish.

Bells Up Winery is open year-round, and the Specters provide a warm and personalized welcome to visitors. Their charming tasting room is a renovated pole barn that served as a basketball court for the previous owners. Visits are scheduled by appointment. You can reach Sara and Dave via their website at, email at or phone at 503-537-1328.

Napa Valley’s Peju Province Winery in the Limelight

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Napa, Tasting Notes

Napa Valley’s Peju Province Winery in the Limelight

It’s been a few years since my last visit to Peju Province Winery, which was quite delightful.  I’ve been a fan of Peju wines for more than a decade.  The current releases I recently tasted confirm the family owned winery clearly remains on track, with talented VP of Winemaking and Operations Sara Fowler, their certified organic Rutherford Estate Vineyard, and sustainably farmed Persephone and Tess vineyards in Pope Valley, and the Wappo Vineyard in Calistoga.  

Peju 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley:  The tropical aroma knocks your socks off.  Pure and varietally spot on, the grapefruit, fresh spring herbs, pineapple, guava and lime zest flavors intertwine, exhilarating the palate.   It remains bright and snappy with bracing acidity and a focused edge of minerality throughout, and the zesty finish lingers on and on. SRP:  $25

Peju 2016 Merlot, Napa Valley:  Fragrant forest berries and subtle floral notes engage the nose.  Composed of 95% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Petite Sirah, it shows elegant structure and fine balance.  Layers of blueberry, blackberry, savory notes, well-integrated oak and a hint of cherry vanilla cola unfold in the mouth.  Velvety smooth from first sip through the cinnamon-laced memorable finish. SRP:  $48

Peju 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley:  Deep, dark black fruits and savory spice at first whiff speak clearly of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Cassis, bittersweet chocolate, fresh olallieberries, black plums, a touch of tobacco and star anise entwine with skillfully managed toasty oak.  Complex with a solid backbone of tannins and balancing acidity, and the velvety texture is divine.  Decant if opening now, or hold; this gem promises years of enjoyment ahead.  SRP:  $60

Peju 2015 “The Farm” red wine, Napa Valley:  This spirited blend of  80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Sangiovese offers up vivid blackberry and cherry aromas and flavors.  Light on its feet and charismatic, it boasts black currant, Bing cherry, hints of dusty earth, savory notes, and a sprinkle of cocoa powder.  Easy to quaff with good depth and balance, and the finish is long, bright and fresh.  SRP:  $80

Peju 2013 Petit Trois Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley:  Wildly expressive, fresh picked cherries and crushed herbs on the nose drive you into the glass.  Vivacious and lively on the palate, where delectable layers of black raspberries, Satsuma plums, cranberries, pomegranate, graphite, and spice elements meld in harmony.  Precisely balanced and silky smooth all the way through. A delicious example of stand-alone Cabernet Franc.   SRP:  $75

Peju 2017 The Experiment Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley:  This tightly wound Cab Sauv is complex and deeply layered.  Aerate to release the aroma more fully if opening now, or exercise patience, this is an ageworthy wine.   Cassis, black plum, blackberry fruits at the core are accented by anise, fresh tobacco, a suggestion of leather, vanilla bean, nutmeg, and toasty nuances from aging in French, American and Hungarian new oak.  Intensely built with firm tannins and immaculate balance, and the finish is everlasting. Extraordinary, and one for the cellar!  SRP :  $110

These beautifully crafted wines give me compelling reason to visit Peju (along with sister winery Calmére Estate) and taste the additional wines offered, and you may want to include them on your “must visit” list as well.   

Cheers, and Happy New Year to all!   

Wine Press Northwest 20th Annual Platinum Judging, Part 2

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Great Northwest, Tasting Notes

Red wines from regions across the Great Northwest judged by my panel in the 20th annual Platinum Judging included the following Platinum (P) and Double Platinum (PP) winners:

Bluebird Hill Cellars 2016 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR ($32):  Feminine and elegant is this well-balanced Pinot Noir, that awakens the senses with a eucalyptus and earth driven aroma.  Savory cranberry sauce, shitake mushrooms, wild red raspberries and exotic spices engage the taste buds through the lengthy finish. (PP)

Melrose Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir, Umpqua Valley, OR ($28):  A delicate, light ruby hue catches the eye, and this gem blooms in the mouth.  Strawberry preserves, pomegranate seeds, earthy tones, red cherry soda entwine gently, and a touch of caramel graces the finish. (PP)

Carlton Cellars 2015 Roads End Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, OR ($45):   Violet aromas segue to a bowlful of fresh strawberries on entry.  Nicely complex, it builds gracefully on the palate with black raspberry and cherry fruit, earthiness and licorice drops, and finishes with a note of sassafras. (P)

Panther Creek Cellars 2016 Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, OR ($50):  Forest floor and a whiff of dried flowers on the nose.  Red raspberries, chai tea, damp earth and wild mushrooms are framed by silky tannins and precise balancing acidity.  Finishes with verve. (P)

Cathedral Ridge Cellars 2016 Dampier Vineyard Pinot Noir Reserve, Columbia Gorge, OR ($48):  The fragrant lavender aroma of this intense yet lithe wine is intoxicating.  Red berries with subtle herbs, cherry candy, spice box nuances and the essence of earth mingle deliciously. (P)

Cubanisimo Vineyards 2016 Rumba Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, OR ($25):  The black truffle aroma entices you into the glass.  Satin smooth with a rich mouthfeel, black tea, Bing cherries, and a hint of soy swirl on the palate.  Finishes with a touch of vanilla.  (P)

Left Coast Estate 2016 Cali’s Cuvée Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR ($24):  Berries and cherries on the nose are echoed on the palate with this fruit focused Pinot Noir.  Deep and fully flavored with juicy purple plums, sweet black cherries and a pinch of spice.  (PP)

Northwest Cellars 2014 Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, WA ($24):  High-toned fruit shows forth on the aroma and entry.  Rich, layered and full bodied on the palate with plum, blueberry, spice box and licorice notes.  Well balanced with bright acidity and plenty of depth; a Cab lover’s Merlot. (P)

Finn Hill Winery 2015 Merveille Merlot, Columbia Valley, WA ($30): Highly aromatic, this fruit driven Merlot bursts with concentrated black fruits. A melding of forest berries, roasted green bell peppers, and mocha tantalize the palate, and the kiss of oak finishes it off in style. (P)

Milbrandt 2016 Merlot, Wahluke Slope, WA ($27):  Wow, the perfumed nose completely captivates!  Finely grained tannins support juicy blackberries and spiced blueberry preserves interlacing elegantly with accents of cocoa powder and tobacco.  Finishes with elegance.  (PP)

Market Vineyards 2012 Acquisition Cab Sauv, Red Mountain, WA ($55):  Deep, dark fruit and saddle leather on the nose engage the senses.  Intense and beautifully balanced with bright fruit, it unveils black currant, juicy plums, a hint of caramel, pipe tobacco, and underlying oak wrapped around refined tannins. 

Andrew Januik Wines 2016 Lady Hawk Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, WA ($50):  The beckoning scent of earth and fresh picked berries draws you in.  Cassis, blackberry, blueberry, and black raspberry fruits meld with savory elements, tobacco, and understated oak.   Finishes long with a twist of orange. (P)

Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery 2015 King’s Ransom Cab Sauvignon, Okanagan Valley, BC ($96):  Scents of fresh turned earth and ripe fruits will have you lingering over the glass.  Black raspberries, cassis, fresh tobacco leaf, black cherry and cocoa powder weave a fine tapestry of flavors. Complex with finely structured tannins and extended length; cellar worthy.  (P)

Woodward Canyon Winery Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State ($99): The intense, all-about-Cab nose is simply irresistible.  Cassis, fresh tobacco, spice tinged black plum chutney, hints of cedar, anise, black cherry, olive tapenade and well managed oak wow the palate.  Immaculately balanced, and the tannins are firm and taut through the lifted finish; ageworthy.  (PP)

Maryhill Winery 2016 Proprietor’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, WA ($46):  The heady aromatic fills the senses with dark fruit and spice.  Delivers consistent qualities on the palate, as boysenberries, huckleberries and black currants, herbs de Provence and oak spices fill the mouth. Well-structured and balanced, with a persistent finish. (P)                                                                                            

Coyote Canyon Winery 2016 Coyote Canyon Vineyard Big John Cab Sauv, Horse Heaven Hills, WA  ($42): Tightly wound and full bodied, decant this gem for fuller enjoyment now, or hold for future rewards.  Cassis, touches of earth and graphite, wild forest berries and chopped herbs align with full on tannins and good acid structure, and the oak adds toasty spice. (P)

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2017 Louis Delsol Cabernet Sauvignon, Lewis Clark Valley, ID ($32):  Purity of fruit that shines at first whiff, and continues to impress through the palate.  Black currant, dark-skinned plums, savory olive paste, dusty earthiness and crushed tobacco leaves blend harmoniously, and the bright finish sings.  (P)

Antolin Cellars 2015 Petite Sirah, Yakima Valley WA ($30):  The fruit dominant aroma presents concentrated sweet berry cobbler.   Deeply fruited in the mouth as well, with cassis liqueur and spicy  boysenberry jam filling the palate concluding with a showy finish.  (P)

Westport Winery Garden Resort 2016 “Swimmer” Petite Sirah, Yakima Valley, WA ($31):  This broad shouldered Petite Sirah captures a rich red and black fruit aroma, which is echoed on the palate. Multilayers of red raspberries, savory notes, blackberry reduction sauce, and juicy blood orange combine in harmony.  (P)

Cascade Cliffs Vineyard & Winery Petite Sirah, Wahluke Slope, WA ($60):  Wildly aromatic with tantalizing mint and spice notes.  Beautifully integrated tannins, fine balance support the dense berry and plum goodness at the core, and the oak sits neatly in the background.  Bold and strong while preserving elegance and purity. (P)

Valcan Cellars 2015 Syrah, Willamette Valley, OR ($30):  Earthy notes and wild berries lead to a brilliant palate that brims with Bing cherries, red and purple huckleberries, and freshly crushed herbs.  Roasted meat notes add complexity on the lingering finale. (P)

Vanessa Vineyard 2015 Syrah, Similkameen Valley BC ($45):  Charcuterie meats on the nose join brambleberries, black plums, cinnamon spice and roasted coffee beans unraveling onto the palate.  Savory qualities continue to deliver through the satisfying finish.   (P)

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2016 Estate Cuvée Syrah, Umpqua Valley, OR ($32):  Pure and deeply flavored, this Syrah opens with an inviting aroma.  Blackberries, grilled meat, well-integrated oak, a trace of smoke, and black pepper entwine, extending beyond the lifted finish. (P)

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2017 Winemaker’s Reserve Syrah; Umpqua Valley, OR ($42):  Full bodied and complex, this Syrah is tightly wound.  With aeration, layers of dark berries, black cherry, roasted meat with savory herbs begin to unwind.  Smooth as silk with a firm backbone of tannins. (P)

Colter’s Creek Winery 2017 Skookumchuck Reserve Syrah, Lewis-Clark Valley, ID ($25):  This intensely built Syrah starts off with aromas of sliced, cured meats.  Lithe and nicely balanced with juicy plums, chocolaty tones, oak spice and a pinch of herbs adding complexity. (P)

Maryhill Winery 2016 Cab Franc, Columbia Valley, WA ($27):  Aromas of fresh plums and tobacco leaf on the nose.  In the mouth, pencil shavings, Damson plum preserves, espresso, cassis and spiced oak nuances are supported by approachable tannins and fine balance. (P)

Orenda Winery 2016 Cab Franc, Columbia Valley, WA ($37):  Wafting from the glass are fragranced aromas of nutmeg and cinnamon.  Raspberries, strawberry jam, pie spice, olallieberries, hints of graphite and fresh cut herbs join firm tannins and nice underlying oak through the persistent finish. (P)

Weisinger Family Winery 2016 Malbec, Rogue Valley, OR ($32):  Deep, dark and delicious is this well-structured and elegant Malbec.  Blackberry, and black cherry fruit at the core meld in harmony with accents of dark chocolate and spice.  Balanced and pure all the way through. (P)

Zerba Cellars 2016 Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, WA ($45): Aromas of dark fruit and hints of toast lead the way to boysenberry jam, nutmeg spice, raspberries, and a smoky  oak underlay.  Supple and mouth coating as it heads to a smooth finish. (P) 

Rocky Pond Winery 2016 Malbec, Columbia Valley, WA ($42):  Fruit dominant from the fragrant berry aroma to the opulent blueberry, blackberry, plum flavors saturating the palate.  Nicely integrated oak, brown sugar, and a dusting of sweet herbs completes the lovely package.

Isenhower Cellars 2016 À Bloc Malbec, Columbia Valley, WA ($38):  Forest berries on the nose are mirrored on the palate.  Velvety smooth and round in the mouth, with brambleberries, tayberries and olallieberries accented by vanilla extract and fresh ground black peppercorns.  Elegance in a glass! (P)             

Structure Cellars 2017 Foundation Mourvedre, Snipes Mountain, WA ($35):  The plummy, berry aroma is engaging.  Entwining flavors of black raspberry, wild strawberry, savoriness, and a pretty smoky note delight the palate. Lush, well balanced and refined, with good length.  (P)

Cooper Ridge Vineyard 2015 Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley ($36):  Reminiscent of an old-world Rioja up front, with its earth driven nose.  The earthy elements join classic new world juicy black fruit on the palate.  Boysenberry, plum preserves, moist earth and hints of vanilla prevail all the way through the long-lasting finish. (P)

Stone River Vineyards & Winery 2015 Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon ($28):  Irresistible floral and berry aromas lead to burst of flavors dancing across the palate.  Juicy dark-fleshed plum, fig jam, dried herbs, and a touch of vanilla meld in harmony.  (P)

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2016 Estate Tempranillo, Applegate Valley, Oregon ($36):  Rich, dark-fruited aromas lift from the glass with this deeply flavored Tempranillo.  Black currant, boysenberry and fruitcake notes at the core, with a thread of exotic spice from bright start to lingering finish.  (P) 

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2016 Estate Winemaker’s Reserve Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley ($42):  Old world meets new world with this precisely balanced, refined wine. Rubyqueen plums, blackberry,  black currant, earthiness and tobacco join spice accents and nicely integrated oak, and the finish simply sings.  (P)

Maryhill Winery 2016 Pained Hills Tempranillo, Yakima Valley ($38):  Provocative floral aromatics guide you straight into the glass.   Expressive and bright, with layers of blackberry, marionberry, and huckleberry fruit, hints of toast and leather, and savory spice.  Elegant through the long finish.  (PP)

Dumas Station Wines 2016 Cow Catcher Red, Walla Walla Valley, WA ($24):  The aroma of a bowlful of fresh berries is engaging.  On the palate, spiced berry compote, blueberry pie, milk chocolate, black raspberries and hints of pipe tobacco coat the palate.  Fresh and lively throughout. (P)

Spangler Vineyards 2016 Claret, Southern Oregon ($28):   Fresh picked wild berry aromas and flavors on the nose and entry are bright and tasty.  Layers of huckleberry, tayberry,  graphite, and toffee flow seamlessly across the palate.  Finishes with a pinch of orange zest. (P)

Cellardoor Winery 2015 Aurora, American ($32):  This deeply structured Syrah dominant blend boasts an irresistible aroma.  A blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauv and Cabernet Franc, the layers of black cherry, cassis, and black raspberry are accented by vanilla bean, allspice, and hints of warm maple bars.  Finishes on a long and savory note. (PP)

Belle Fiore Winery 2015 Estate Icon Souspire, Rogue Valley, Oregon ($37):  This firmly structured, black-fruited Syrah-dominant blend is rich while being elegant at the same time.  Lush and smooth with blackberry and  black cherry fruit joining notes of toast, black licorice drops, and hints of earth; delectable.  (P)

Brian Carter Cellars 2015 Takahashi Red Wine, Columbia Valley, WA ($38):  Here’s a sophisticated Bordeaux-style blend of Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  Subtle eucalyptus notes on the nose pave the way for gorgeous flavors of black currant, Bing cherry, blueberry jam, nutmeg spice, a subtle roasted red pepper note, and underlying cocoa powder, well built. (PP)

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2016 Renaissance Red, Lewis-Clark Valley, ID ($23):  This blend of Malbec, Cab Franc, Syrah, Cab Sauvignon and Merlot is loaded with personality.   Intense and alluring on the nose, it kicks off with a dark berry, meaty nose.  Black cherry, blackberry, spice-scented blueberry sauce,  caramel, and toasty oak nuances meld in harmony, a delicious quaff. (P)

INTRINSIC Wine Company 2017 Red Blend, Columbia Valley, WA ($22):  This well-balanced Malbec blend weaves aromas and flavors of dark plum and black cherry compote, spice box accents, raspberry jam and crushed herbs.  Round and full with supple tannins and balancing acidity, and a drop of vanilla extract shows through on the finishing sip.  

Thurston Wolfe Winery 2014 The Geologist Red Wine, Columbia Valley, WA ($50):   This Cab Sauv based  red blend engages with its perfumed nose of violets and spice followed by a generous berry entry.  Raspberries, marionberries, hints of cocoa, a whisper of campfire smoke, and savory spice parade across the palate. Full bodied with firm tannins and a lingering finish. (P)

Cathedral Ridge Winery 2015 Rusty Red Reserve, Columbia Valley, WA ($44):  Juicy plums fill the senses with this confident red blend.  Black currant, spearmint, plum jam, a twist of mixed peppercorns, and  earthiness abound.  Firm, well defined, and smooth  through the powerful finish. (P)

Hightower Cellars 2015 Red Mountain Estate, Red Mountain, WA ($45):  Wild berries and a suggestion of flint rise as this dry red blend approaches the nose.  Dense yet lithe with berries and plums melding with savory olive tapenade and warm toast notes.  Well balanced with a trace of orange peel on the finish. (P)

Eternal Wines 2015 Eternal Passion Red Wine, Columbia Valley, WA ($69):  Heavenly aromas open to dark berries and allspice with this 50/50 blend of Red Mountain Cab Sauv and Walla Walla Valley Syrah.  Blackberry and blueberry fruit and grilled meat join tobacco,  vanilla custard, and baking spice accents.  Complex and smooth with firm tannins and good acids; approachable now and ageworthy.  (P)

Dunham Cellars 2016 Trutina, Columbia Valley, WA ($29):  Here’s an elegant red blend composed of 45% Cab Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 12% Malbec, 3% Cab Franc.  Blueberry, black currant, and black cherry fruit at the core are framed by approachable tannins and balancing acids.   Hints of smoke and teriyaki-marinated meat notes peek through on the finish.  (P)

Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2016 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Quarry Butte Red Wine; Horse Heaven Hills, WA ($26):  A deep blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Syrah, Malbec and Petit Verdot is intensely flavored and elegant.  Blackberry, huckleberry, cherry cola, pipe tobacco, and spiced fig compote create a colorful palate of flavors from start to lifted finish.  (P)

Hood Crest Winery 2016 Super Tuscan, Columbia Valley, WA ($48):  Bold aromas jump from the glass with the savory Sangiovese dominant red blend.  Layers of red cherries,  raspberries, black currants, and fresh turned earth meld harmoniously.  A fine backbone of tannins and acids support the dense fruit, and the texture is velvety smooth as it reaches an elegant finale.  (P)

Davenport Cellars 2013 Petit Verdot, Red Mountain, WA ($30):  Alluring nose of dark fruits and herbs sets the stage for this savory Petit Verdot.  Black plum and huckleberry fruit, fresh chopped herbs and nice oak integration glide across the palate, and the finish ends with a trace of orange zest. (P)

Spangler Vineyards 2014 Petit Verdot, Oregon ($35):  Aromas of black and purple berries on the nose.  Intensely built with dense purple plum, blackberry and sweet blueberry notes cascading upon the palate.  Well balanced and full bodied, with a nice backbone of chalky tannins. (P)

Mercer Estate Winery 2015 Petit Verdot, Horse Heaven Hills, WA ($30):  Bright and sassy is this rich and smooth Petit Verdot.  Brimming with boysenberry and huckleberry fruits, hints of vanilla, tobacco and dried herbs in the mouth. Precisely balanced and juicy, with blood orange accents lifting the finish.  (P)

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2017 Phinny Hill Vineyard Carmenere, Horse Heaven Hills, WA ($32):   Boysenberry pie on the nose fully engages the senses.  Bright and lively with raspberries, crushed boysenberries, strawberry sorbet, and fresh chopped herbs.  Precisely balance and pure through the long-lasting finish. (P)

Wine Press Northwest Platinum Judging Unveils the Best of the Best in the Great Northwest, Part 1

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Great Northwest, Northwest, Tasting Notes

Wine Press Northwest magazine’s Platinum Judging wine competition stimulates the palates of professional wine judges year after year.  Wines achieving Gold and higher awards within the prior year vie for Platinum honors.

Favorite White and Rosé wines from my panel in this 20th annual Platinum Judging included the following Platinum (P) and Double Platinum (PP) winners: 

Trella Vineyards 2016 Gewurztraminer, Southern Oregon ($24):  Fragrant florals on the nose.  Vivid layers of lychee, spiced tisane, honeysuckle nectar and orange zest are transported across the palate with brisk acidity and underlying notes of salinity.  A bright clementine note pops on the finish. (P)

50th Parallel Estate Winery 2018 Gewurztraminer, Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada ($20):   This zesty Gewurz offer up kiwi and lemon on the nose.  A colorful display of tart and sweet lemon drops, kiwi, lychee jelly, fruit cocktail, and candied pastilles unfold and remain bright and vivid through the close. (P)

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2017 Green Lizard Gruner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley, OR ($32):  Wildly aromatic with a lively entry, this vivacious Gruner is classic.  Elements of stone fruit, white pepper, fresh harvested snap peas, lemon grass, and chamomile paint a brilliant explosion of aromas and flavors on the palate.  Finely balanced and the finish is long and exhilarating. (P)

Trella Vineyards 2018 Gruner Veltliner, Southern Oregon ($29):    Expressive stone fruit and citrus aromas speak clearly to the variety, and the entry is vibrant and fresh.  Flavors of nectarine, apple skin, Ruby grapefruit, citrus blossom, and a hint of white pepper are well defined, and the lingering finish is uplifting.  (P)

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2017 Estate Cuvee Hefeabzug Gruner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley, OR ($26):  Minerally notes at first whiff stay present through the silky palate.  Granny Smith apple, white pepper, star fruit and lemon verbena notes are enlivening, and lead to a finish that keeps on delivering long after the last sip.  (P)

Carlton Cellars 2017 Auxerrois, Yamhill Carlton ($22):  This exuberant Auxerrois is refreshing and full of flavor.  Juicy summer sweet nectarines, lemon-lime soda, apple blossom and oyster shell salinity merge gracefully on the palate.  Lovely acidity and a satin-like texture carry it to a bright finish. (P)

Gehringer Brothers Estate 2018 Old Vines Auxerrois, Golden Mile Bench, BC Canada ($14):   This crisp and mouthwatering Auxerrois shows a touch of florals on the nose.  The entry is vivacious, and the wine builds on the palate as citrus fruits, white peach, a touch of lemon verbena, and a thread of minerality meld in harmony all the way through. (P)

Gehringer Brothers Estate 2018 Ehrenfelser, Okanagan Valley, BC Canada ($14):  The expressive, fragrant aroma of this white wine (a grape of German origin) drives you into the glass.  Juicy, bright and fresh with flavors of crisp pear, lime sorbet, star fruit, and lemon LifeSavers invigorating the palate. Finishes with verve.  (P)

Iris Vineyards 2015 Chalice Estate Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, OR ($25):  The brilliant hue is eye opening, and a stone fruit aroma lead to notes of fresh pear, kiwi and buttered toast.   Herbs and lemon curd complement the pear notes on the palate, and citrus highlights lift the long finish. (P)

Cougar Crest Estate 2017 Albariño, Walla Walla Valley, WA ($24):  Shimmering with electricity this wine really lights up the palate.  Steely and bright with tropical fruit, lime zest and bracing acidity, and a thread of minerality holds through the vivacious finish. (P)

Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyard 2018 Signature Series Albariño, Red Mountain, WA ($28): Hints of minerality join white fruits engaging the nose up front. Star fruit, key lime pie, fresh apricots and mandarin orange interlace and lead to a finale that is long and lifted. (P)

Thurston Wolfe Winery 2018 Crawford Vineyard Albariño, Yakima Valley, WA ($18):  Juicy and full of energy from the fresh cut apple aroma, to the sweet Meyer lemon, Macintosh apples, hints of lychee and brilliant acidity decorating the palate, to the perky finish. (P)

Coyote Canyon Winery 2018 Coyote Canyon Vineyard Albariño, Horse Heaven Hills, WA ($20):   Fresh and very aromatic with florals and citrus on the nose.  Sun-kissed crushed pineapple, chopped herbs, lemon sorbet, and poached pear join brisk acidity, and the wine concludes with a refreshing tangy note. (P)

Intrigue Wines 2018 “Social Sparkling” Okanagan Valley, BC ($17):  The perfumed nose of rose petals gets the party started.  Crisp apple, honeysuckle, pear and candied orange peel align with racy acidity, tickling the taste buds through the lively last sip. (P)

Cooper Ridge Vineyard NV Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Riesling, Umpqua Valley, OR ($29):  Inviting peaches and white flowers on the nose.  A lively bead carries peach sorbet, summer fresh nectarines, citrus accents and lovely minerality across the palate.  Refreshing and well balanced with extended length. (P)

Cave B Estate Winery 2018 Cave B Vineyard Cuvée Blanc, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, WA ($27):  Striking citrus and tree fruit aromas engage the senses with this Sauv Blanc dominant blend.  Crisp and bright with interlinking layers of pear, grapefruit, fresh chopped herbs and orange zest.  Rocking acidity keeps it vibrant through the last drop.  (PP)

Cliff Creek Cellars 2018 White White Wine, Southern OR ($22):  Aromas of stone fruit rise from the glass with this Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier blend.  Vivid flavors of peaches and nectarines on entry meld with apple skin and minerality mid palate, and the balancing acidity rocks.  Citrus notes peek through on the refreshing finish.  (P)

Martinez & Martinez 2017 Viognier, Yakima Valley, WA ($18):  Hints of peach tantalize the nose, and a burst of citrus explodes with vibrancy when this gem greets the lips.  Layers of pomelo, pink grapefruit, white peach and a sprinkle of fresh herbs are carried by crisp acidity.  The finish is tangy and bright. (P)

Westport Winery Garden Resort 2017 “Lighthouse” Riesling, Yakima Valley, WA ($27):  Tropical fruits with a touch of wet stone engage the nose.  Fresh peaches, guava, lime zest, a light touch of tarragon, and a clear thread of minerality flow across the palate with bracing acidity.  Bright and enlivening all the way through.  (P)

Ancestry Cellars 2017 Reminiscence Riesling, Columbia Gorge, OR ($20):  Wet stone on the nose speaks vociferously to varietal correctness, and the flavor profile lines up equally well.  Petrol, grilled peaches, sugared lime peel, green apples and minerally tones create a brilliant kaleidoscope of flavors on the palate.  Finishes with impressive length and energy. (PP)

Whidbey Island Winery 2018 Rosato, Yakima Valley, WA ($15):  This well-balanced dry rosé crafted of Sangiovese and other Italian varieties shows off a beautifully expressive rose garden aroma.  Juicy and bright on the palate as peach, strawberry and melon flavors interlace with lively acidity. (P)

Puffin Wines 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR ($22): A crystal clear rosy pink hue captures the eye, and the aroma is alluring.  Sweetheart cherry, raspberry sorbet, and watermelon flavors are accented by bright citrusy notes. Well balanced with a snappy and refreshing finish. (P)

Locus Wines 2018 vintage 7 Mile Rosé, Rattlesnake Hills, WA ($15):  This sunny blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault opens with a dusty berry aroma.  Multi-layered and vivacious as raspberries, rambutan, orange blossom and lemon verbena flavors harmonize through the finish. (P)

Gems in My Glass . . . September 2019

Northwest, Tasting Notes

Townshend Cellar, located just north of Spokane, Washington was founded in 1998 by Don Townshend.  Sons Michael and Brendon lead the operations there now, following in Don’s footsteps.  Grapes for all their wines are sourced from vineyards planted within the expansive Columbia Valley AVA.  Their wines are fruit driven, easy to drink, and good values across the board, too.

NV Brut Sparkling:  This easy to quaff sparkling wine (made in the traditional method) opens with a leesy, fruity aroma.  Crafted of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, it showcases creamy Rainier cherries, citrus blossom, fresh pie crust, lemon-splashed Honeycrisp apples, and a tiny stream of bubbles.  Lively and well balanced through the tingling finish.  SRP:  $14

2018 Chardonnay:  The pleasing aroma clearly speaks Chardonnay with its orchard fruits.  That theme continues through the palate, with flavors of creamy Comice pears and crunchy green apples joining lemon-lime notes, a trace of toast, and hints of honeysuckle.  Supple and well balanced through the lifted finish.  SRP:  $12

2017 Pinot Gris:  This refreshing and beautifully textured Pinot Gris opens with a tantalizing aroma.  Flavors of juicy fresh peaches, poached pears, minerally notes, and Meyer lemon ice unfold brightly on the palate.  Smooth and focused with lively acidity, it will have you reaching for more when the last vibrant drops glide to the long, heavenly finish.   SRP:  $12

2018 Sauvignon Blanc:  Citrus notes on the nose lead to Granny Smith apple, fresh squeezed grapefruit, and oyster shell salinity unfolding onto the palate.  Hints of hay and melon join in on the back palate, and a good level of acidity prevails.   Lean and straightforward with a punch of lemon zest on the finish.  SRP:  $12

NV Red Table Wine:  Here is a very appealing red wine crafted of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.  Bursting with sun-ripened fruit on the nose and entry, the generous fruit continues to deliver satisfying flavors throughout.  Layers of purple plums, Bing cherries and boysenberries accented by vanilla bean and toasted oak notes flow to a round, juicy finish.  SRP:  $12

NV Vortex Red:  Forest berry notes rise from the glass with this expressive and well-balanced blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot and Cab Franc.  Deeply fruited, it broadcasts aromas and flavors of plump blueberries, olallieberries, raspberries, and spiced plum jam, with a touch of crushed herbs adding dimension.  Gentle tannins and a velvety smooth texture lead to a finish that lingers.  SRP:  $16

NV T3 Red:  Also a blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot and Cab Franc, T3  leads off with black-fruited scents and a rich entry.  Succulent on the palate with plums, black currants, and blackberries, hints of pencil shavings, and savory spice.   Thirty months of barrel aging adds complementary toasty notes.  Balanced and smooth with cranberry and baking chocolate on the persistent finish.  SRP:  $20

2009 Cabernet Franc:  Supporting my outlook that Cab Franc shines in the Great Northwest, here is a nice example.  Dark, dense and delicious, it engages at first whiff with violets and berries.  Cassis, brambleberries, black raspberries, graphite, a twist of mixed peppercorns and hints of earthiness entwine, wrapped in approachable tannins.  The balance is fine-tuned, and flavors remain vivid through the long finish.  SRP:  $22

2009 Ice Riesling:  Aromas of orange blossom honey arouse the senses.  On the palate this gem is rich yet precisely balanced with a fine level of acidity.  Flavors of peach sherbet, roasted almonds, caramel, lemon custard, and butterscotch taffy create a delectable explosion of flavors on the palate.  The finish is zesty and extended, with a pop of candied orange peel; a delicious nightcap!  SRP:  $30

Greg in the tasting room provides a warm welcome.  He is professional, competent, knowledgeable and pleasant, with a positive attitude.  Visit Townshend Cellar’s tasting room Friday to Sunday, 12 noon to 5 pm.

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