I recently uncorked a sample bottle of Mettler Family Vineyards Estate Grown GSM. When most people hear, “Lodi,” they tend to think, “Zinfandel.” However, there are over 100 varieties grown in Lodi. This wine is just one of many examples of fantastic Lodi wine beyond Zin. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If variety is the spice of life, Lodi is one spicy place!
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Lodi, California. I have visited twice, most recently receiving the great honor of being invited to Lodi for a “Behind the Bottle” tour last year with the people of Visit Lodi. So, you’re probably thinking, “She must be biased in her opinion!” Perhaps, but the hubby absolutely loves this wine and he wasn’t with me on the tour!
Mettler Family Vineyards
Lodi is all about multi-generational farmed family wineries, and Mettler Family Vineyards is no exception. One of Lodi’s oldest farming families, the Mettlers have been tending to vineyards of premium wine grapes in Lodi since the late 1800s.
Notably, Adam Mettler, Winemaker for Mettler Family Vineyards as well as Michael David Winery, was named 2018 Winemaker of the Year by Wine Enthusiast. This honor for Mettler and the Lodi region as a whole speaks to the innovation of the winemaking and its wow factor.
When I visited Lodi in 2017 the Mettler Family Vineyards Aglianico and Pinotage were on my list of recommended Lodi Wines. To that list I now add their GSM.
Mettler Family Estate Grown GSM
The price points on Mettler Family Vineyard wines are incredible for the quality, starting at just $19.99. Priced at $35, the current vintage of GSM is at the high end of pricing for this brand but still worth every penny.
The 2014 vintage is a blend of 40% Grenache, 36% Syrah, and 24% Mourvedre. Pretty aromas of violet emerge at first sniff, giving way to dried fruit. On the palate, the violet comes through along with baking spices and some candied cherry and raspberry. This red wine is an easy quaffer. I can still hear the hubby proclaim, “This is a great wine!”
Food Pairings for GSM
We enjoyed this wine with a tomato based pasta dish. However, the notes of baking spice coming off the wine had me thinking about rubbing a blend of cinnamon, clove, and allspice under the skin of a chicken before roasting the bird. Accompanied by a berry barbecue sauce, I think the fruitiness of the wine would come out even more.
Devison Vintners has just released its first wine. However, the Walla Walla based family behind the brand is anything but new to the industry. This year will be Winemaker Peter Devison’s 19th harvest, after all. His wife, Kelsey, began a career in wine sales and distribution 13 years ago. Together, they’ve launched their own brand and just released one of the most beautiful rosés I’ve tasted this year. If the 2018 Devison Vintners Rosé is any indication of what’s to come, expect to hear plenty more about this couple and their wines in the future!
I first encountered Peter when he spoke at the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington. Two years later, we worked together at a Woodinville winery after he moved across the state. Peter’s talent and dedication to the cellar were apparent from the start, and I have great respect for this hard working winemaker.
It is from Peter that I learned what makes rosé exceptional. Quality rosés made with intent are main stream today. However, he was at the forefront of the movement in Washington State, and is a master of rosé. While some winemakers bottled pink wine made with the cast-off juice from another wine, (saignée method, a process that concentrates the red wine), Peter made a point of bringing in grapes while they still retained acidity and had lower levels of sugars. He kept the wine on the lees (yeast particles) for a period of time in order to build mid-palate intensity and reduce astringency. Then, unlike the sweet rosé most of us know and fear, he fermented the wine to dryness.
Peter embraces a minimalist intervention style of winemaking and has mad skills when it comes to native fermentation. In other words, he relies on the natural yeast on the grapes and in the cellar rather than using commercial yeasts. Commercial yeasts can alter flavor and amp up alcohol. He also minimizes racking, the process of moving wine from one vessel to another. “The more you have to move a wine, it depletes greatness,” he’d tell me. Over the years, the resulting wines have been awarded top scores from critics. It will be exciting to see what happens when his latest wines reach the market.
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
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!
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.
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.
Prosser is about a three and a half hour drive from Seattle. With vineyards, a number of tasting rooms, the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center, and nearby Red Mountain it’s well worth the drive for wine lovers. Plus, it’s on the way to Walla Walla. In fact, if Walla Walla is your final destination, you owe it to yourself to stop in Prosser along the way. On Merlot Drive at the entrance to the Prosser Vintner’s Village, is the spacious County Line Tasting Room featuring 2Dor Wines. This summer we accepted an invitation to visit and enjoy a hosted lunch on the patio. Boy, are we glad that we did! If you like a swoon worthy story, food, and wine then pour yourself a glass to sip on while I reveal this gem of a place.
County Line Tasting Room
Sean Tudor grew up in the Yakima Valley across the county line from Robert Smasne. It only seems fitting that the two jointly purchased a winery (the former Olsen Estates) and now operate it as the County Line Tasting Room. Winemaking is done on site by Smasne for his own label as well as 2Dor Wines. This means that guests can taste wine from both brands while visiting. They may also get to meet Sean’s wife, Libbey, who was busy overseeing guests in the tasting room during our visit.
Back in the day, Libbey’s grandfather planted some of the vines at Otis Vineyard. Today, the Tudor family owns that historic vineyard which is home to some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Washington State. Cue the music! Sean even proposed to Libbey in that vineyard. Then the couple got married there. How sentimental is that?
If you’re not choked up enough already, get a tissue because there is a bit of a sad story here. Back in the 1970’s Sean’s grandfather intended to plant 600 acres of wine grapes. Unfortunately, an untimely heart attack led to his passing before that happened.
Regardless, Sean grew up around farming when his parents took over the land. At the age of 18, he attended the Walla Walla Community College viticulture program. Ironically, Sean didn’t even like the taste of wine at the time. The driving force was his vision to take over the farm and get into viticulture. Today that dream is being realized with 2Dor Wines.
Tasting 2Dor Wines
All of the wines crafted under the 2Dor Wines label are estate grown. In other words, the family owns and oversees the vineyards producing the grapes for their wine. Estate wineries aren’t abundant in Washington State, so you know they’re serious about this. As their web site says:
“Owning the vineyard, caring for the vine, nurturing the grape, harvest, pressing, fermenting, aging and bottling is up to us and no one else. It’s our hands and hearts that we put into each and every bottle of wine.”
On the day of our visit we were treated to sips of a number of the estate grown 2Dor Wines. The 2016 Viognier expressed fruity notes of pineapple. The 2Dor MRV Blend (that’s Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier) captivated me with its lush mouth feel. It’s as though the wine was made to pair perfectly with summer and seafood. Refreshing Rosé of Sangiovese came across as dry with notes of summer strawberries. The 2Dor Wines Red Blend composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Syrah was dominated by pleasant floral notes from the Malbec. The elegant Cabernet Franc expressed the classic pyrazine (bell pepper) character of the variety yet let notes of blackberry and tayberry shine through.
I am surprised by what a great value the 2Dor wines are at $15-45 a bottle! In fact, we purchased some taking home the MRV Blend, Rosé, Red Blend, and Cabernet Franc.
Eat it Up
The County Line Tasting Room has a kitchen. With a killer chef. OMG the food is incredibly fresh and tasty! It pairs beautifully with the wines.
As we sat down to our hosted lunch, Sean asked if he could order the tuna crudo for us. Whaaaaat, there’s tuna crudo in Prosser? I have to admit, I had my doubts, but Sean assured us the dish is his favorite. The bite size pieces of tuna were fresh and delicate, while rich in flavor.
We also gobbled down every last refreshing drop of gazpacho, a hearty BLT on artisan bread, and a satisfying shrimp risotto. Everything was delectable!
Had we known that Chef Kyle Hunter previously worked for Seattle restaurateur Tom Douglas, we probably wouldn’t have been so surprised. One might think perhaps this talented chef might grow wary of life in Prosser, outside of a big city. In fact, the opposite is true. Originally from the area, he went to Seattle long enough to get some valued experience. Then he returned home with a new skill set eager to enhance the quality of life east of the mountains.
The experience at County Line Tasting Room and the 2Dor Wines are not to be missed! I can’t wait to visit again this fall when the seasonal menu will likely incorporate Gala and Honeycrisp apples from the Tudors’ farm.
Visit County Line Tasting Room at 500 Merlot Dr, Prosser, WA 99350.
VinoSocial Savvy Tip: if the patio is open during your visit, take advantage of the opportunity!
Update: as of October 2018 food service is on hiatus for the season.