Taste Red Mountain Wine

Do you believe you can taste terroir? Red Mountain AVA is the smallest and warmest wine grape growing region in Washington State. Wines crafted with fruit grown here are known for their structure and concentration. Often, I sense a bit of smokiness in the wines. Whether or not you believe it’s due to the terroir, one thing is for sure – there are phenomenal wines being crafted with Red Mountain AVA grapes.

Last week the Taste Red Mountain event took place at the World Trade Center in Seattle. Read on for a few highlights from that experience.

Now you might be thinking, “There’s Nancy going on about Washington State Wine again!” However, people from all over gush about wines from Red Mountain. In fact, here’s what Texas based Kat René, Certified Specialist of Wine and author of The Corkscrew Concierge, says about her experience with the region:

Tasting wine from Red Mountain was one of those “aha” moments for me. I don’t drink a great deal of Cabernet Sauvignon and I was convinced that I would never love Syrah. Red Mountain changed that for me. I was like, “who knew?!” It does an amazing balancing act between power and elegance.

Duckhorn Wine Bottle

Canvasback

The Canvasback 2016 Grand Passage Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is a show stopper! For those not familiar with this brand, it is part of the Duckhorn portfolio. This bottling of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot is composed of their very best lots. Admittedly, at $84 it’s not cheap but dang, it’s worth it!

White Wine

Fidélitas

2017 Optu White Wine ($30)
Sure, many associate Red Mountain with red wine. However, for a refreshing change of pace try the 2017 Fidélitas Optu White Wine, a Bordeaux-style white blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon sourced from Klipsun Vineyard. It spends time in 50% neutral oak, 25% new oak, and 25% concrete egg, making it a textural delight on the palate. I’m suddenly craving seafood!

Red Mountain Wine

Hightower Cellars

2015 Merlot ($30)
After recently hearing a local wine buyer wax poetic about this under the radar winery, I just had to have a taste. Am I glad I did! At $30 a bottle, the Hightower Cellars Merlot is a steal of a deal for the level of quality. This juicy wine offers bright fruit on the palate wrapped up in velvety tannins. Pair this wine with Friday night and Netflix.

Sangiovese Wine Bottle

Kiona Vineyards

2016 Estate Red Mountain Sangiovese ($30)
The Kiona tasting room was the first one I visited on Red Mountain way back, so the wines – and the family behind the wines – have a special place in my heart. This Sangiovese is a delectable easy drinker with characteristics of sweet tobacco along with chocolate notes. Will somebody please bring me some pasta?

Red Mountain Syrah

Muret-Gaston Winery

2013 Syrah ($50)
I have been partial to the wines of talented owner/winemaker Kyle Johnson ever since I became familiar with them as a wine buyer for a small shop. If there’s a variety that reveals a sense of place more than any other, it has to be Syrah. The Muret-Gaston Syrah showcases the intensity of the region with its rich black fruit profile. Uncork a bottle and put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door!

Do you have a favorite Red Mountain winery? Head on over to Twitter or Instagram and #letstalkaboutwine!

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in exploring more wine from Washington, get to know some Walla Walla wines.

Many thanks to Laura Huston of Belle & Bottle for the invite to Taste Red Mountain. Her Bothell studio is a great place to seek out quality wines of Washington State and enjoy some fun wine events.

Ahtanum Ridge Tempranillo

Sure a lot of people buy wine at the grocery store. I’m not usually one of them, though. Here’s what happened when I recently purchased a bottle of 2015 Ahtanum Ridge Tempranillo at a local PCC store in Seattle.

I wasn’t intending to buy any wine. Typically, we have an ample supply at home from purchases made during visits to wineries. However, my curiosity does tend to compel me to browse the wine aisles at grocery stores. That’s when I saw the unfamiliar label. The shelf talker claimed the wine was perfect with tacos. It just so happened that tacos were on our menu that night. Coupled with a $12.99 price tag, this Ahtanum Ridge Tempranillo kept begging me to pick it up.

A closer look revealed that Phil Cline of Naches Heights Vineyard was behind the bottle. Phil, a viticulturist in Washington State’s Yakima Valley, is known for farming with organic and biodynamic practices whenever possible. Since this Tempranillo is a collaboration between Phil and PCC and isn’t available anywhere else, I consider that maybe it’s worth giving it a try.

Wine Glases

Ahtanum Ridge Tempranillo Revealed

At home as I remove the foil and twist the corkscrew into the closure on the bottle I wonder, “At this price point is the wine going to be a dud?” After all, red wines from Naches Heights Vineyard usually run $20-38 a bottle. I pour and sniff. The bright ruby liquid gives off whiffs of dark chocolate, toffee, butter. I swirl the glass, then detect some mint and eucalyptus. At first sip I am pleasantly surprised. This wine is quite an easy drinker! It’s fruity and fresh, definitely a new world expression of the Spanish variety. The splash of Mourvèdre blends in seamlessly. In the words of the hubby, “That’s the best $12.99 wine I’ve had all week!” Thankfully, this Ahtanum Ridge Tempranillo is a winner of a weeknight wine.

Do you buy wine on impulse at the grocery store? Head on over to social media and share your experience! Let’s talk about wine on Instagram, or tag me on Twitter. Meanwhile, let’s pour another glass.

Learn more about Tempranillo:

Celebrating Tempranillo
Pairing Tempranillo with Vegetarian Food

Walla Walla Wines to Get to Know

Every year, the Walla Walla Wine event comes to Seattle. Think of it as a wine road show, where 50 wineries from the acclaimed region show up and pour their latest vintages. In fact, it’s kind of a big deal considering it’s about a 5 hour drive from Walla Walla to Seattle. Not to mention, there are a lot of exciting wines coming out of the region. Here are just a few highlights of this year’s tasting at McCaw Hall, as time is limited at these events.

Wine Tasting

Participating wineries include esteemed pioneers Woodward Canyon and L’Ecole Winery. Wines from these producers are consistently top quality. For this reason, I always want to taste their current releases. Then, there’s my obsession with ALL the wines from The Walls. However, with so many options on hand, I make it a point at this event to explore uncharted territory.

Red Wine Bottle

Consequently, wines such as the Figgins Estate Red are a priority. With limited production, this Washington wine is available first and foremost to those on their mailing list. So, do you blame me for wanting a taste? The 2015 bottling is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Merlot built to go the distance. Plus, the 2015 vintage was a warm year. Take all that into account, and it’s no surprise that this wine currently has some grip. Beyond the tannic structure, cherry flavors linger on a velvety, long finish. Think of this as the Dwayne Johnson of wine with a range starting as big and muscular going to polished and smooth. Just give it some time to see how it evolves. Like Dwayne, it’s likely to make you weak in the knees!

New(ish) and Exciting

New-to-me Elephant Seven has been creating some buzz on social media, compelling me to have a sip. I sample the 2017 Cosmic Reflection, a dynamic blend of 61% XL Vineyard Mourvèdre, 39% Yellow Bird Vineyard Syrah aged in neutral oak. I pick up some spicy pepper notes and lively acidity. A visit to their newly opened tasting room in downtown Walla Walla is now on my list for our next visit to the region.

Chardonnay Wine Bottles

Of course, no Walla Walla tasting is complete without a sip (or two) of Lagana Cellars. I can always count on them to offer a refreshing palate cleanser such as their Breezy Slope Pinot Noir Rosé. The Eritage Vineyard Chardonnay, is not to be missed either. Modeled after Chablis, this sleek wine only sees stainless steel. I also have to give a shout out for the fact that these guys are rocking it on social media, so give them a follow!

Carménère

Curious about Washington Carménère, I taste all I can find. My discovery of the day is that the Walla Walla grown Carménère crafted by Balboa Winery and Watermill Winery expresses spicy white pepper notes of rotundone. These wines conjure up images of warm, exotic destinations with bold, flavorful cuisines. By contrast, the bottling by Tertulia Cellars crafted with Carménère sourced from Phinny Hill in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA expresses the classic bell pepper pyrazine notes that the grape is known for. What a difference the source makes. So, pick your bottle based on your personal preference to spice things up or veg out!

The wines of Walla Walla are not to be missed. If you didn’t taste them in Seattle, there are plenty of other opportunities coming up. Make a point to get to know them!

Walla Walla Wine Events

March 11, 2019: Walla Walla Wines @ Portland
April 14-15, 2019: Reveal Walla Walla Valley
May 3-5, 2019: Spring Release Weekend
May 7, 2019: Annual Membership Meeting
June 13-15, 2019: Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine – The World of Cabernet Sauvignon
Nov. 1-3, 2019: Fall Release Weekend
Dec. 6-8, 2019: Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend

Ammunition Wine Offers Bang for the Buck

For months I’d seen images of Ammunition Wine come across my Twitter feed. I have to admit, when I see a bunch of wine loving peeps on social media creating a buzz over a particular wine or wine brand, it piques my interest. So, I was excited when a shipment of sample bottles from the California winery arrived at my door!

The box included bottles of the Ammunition Wine Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and “The Equalizer” red blend. While each bottle contains different varieties, it could be said that all of these wines are pleasant, easy drinkers.

From the bottle: 

The Taste of Freedom

Raised in families of outdoorsmen, we created these wines as a tribute to our fathers and as an expression of the freedom that resides within the American Spirit

For some background on the founders, Briscoe Bites offers an enlightening story.

Sonoma County Pinot Noir

Food Pairings for Ammunition Wine

2017 Pinot Noir SRP $28

The Pinot Noir composed of fruit from Sonoma County comes across as bright and fruit forward with classic cherry and red fruit characteristics. We enjoyed it with my hearty Lentil Salad.

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon SRP $23

Sure to be delightful with classic Cabernet Sauvignon pairings, we savored this substantial Paso Robles Cab with a substantial tomato based pasta dish.

2015 Equalizer Red Blend SRP $23

The dark and brooding Equailizer red blend is full of dried plum, red fruit leather, and tobacco notes. Those qualities make this easy weeknight drinker perfect for hearty winter braises.

If you’re making a New Year’s resolution to explore more wines, incorporate some Ammunition Wine into your experience. These quaffable wines are priced from $23-28 and offer a lot of bang for the buck. Hunt some down for yourself!

A Tale of Two Carménères

Is there a big difference between Carménère grown in Chile versus Carménère grown in Washington State? I put them to a taste test and was surprised by what I discovered.

Although Washington State is home to roughly 70 varieties, there are not a lot of Carménère vines planted. So when I received a sample bottle of a new release of the variety from Davenport Cellars I couldn’t wait to experience it! I also wanted a point of reference. So I picked up a bottle of Carménère from Chile to see how the two compare.

Washington State vs. Chile

With the first whiff of the ruby red Davenport Cellars wine, one word came to mind. Granted, it’s not something I say in everyday conversation. It is, however, a word emphasized by a sommelier when I participated in an advanced wine sensory class last winter. That word is rotundone. Simply put, it’s a peppery characteristic. In this case, it was present as a pronounced aroma of white pepper. Each delectable sip of this wine confirmed the presence of that spicy compound.

Here’s where things get interesting. When tasting the Chilean Carménère, the first thing I noticed were strong notes of bell pepper. This trait is known as pyrazine, a fancy word for an aroma compound identified by its noticeable vegetal attributes. In fact, Carménère is known for its high level of pyrazines. Sipping this wine was like tasting a bite of veggie pizza with green bell pepper, black olives, tomato sauce, and sprinkled with oregano.

What caught me by surprise was that one wine roused my senses with its vibrant spicy character while the other taunted with an intense green and herbaceous nature. If all Washington State Carménère is this distinctive and lively, I must have more!

It’s not often that I share my tasting notes and opinions of wines. What I taste and experience is just that – my experience. Nevertheless, I hope by sharing this particular tasting it will inspire others to explore Carménère for themselves.

In the interest of full disclosure, I work with Davenport Cellars in Woodinville Wine Country. I have long been a fan of this husband and wife owned winery.

The Wines

Davenport Cellars 2015 Carménère
Available direct from the winery for $30.
This Woodinville based boutique winery produced just 77 cases of this wine crafted with fruit from acclaimed Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley.

Concha y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Carménère 2017
Available online via U.S. retailers for around $8.

If this does encourage you to try Carménère, please share your findings on social either via Twitter or Instagram and #LetsTalkAboutWine!

Want to learn more? A great resource on wine is the latest Wine Folly book.