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.

Visit 2Dor Wines at the County Line Tasting Room

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.

Chalkboard hours and entry County Line Tasting Room

County Line Tasting Room

Sean and Libbey Tudor

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.

Robert Smasne and Sean Tudor

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.

County Line Tasting Room Winery Food
Tuna Crudo paired with 2Dor 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!

County Line Tasting Room Food
Shrimp Risotto

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.

Meet Mari Womack of Damsel Cellars

All roads may lead to wine, yet many of us take different paths before reaching that destination. Mari Womack, owner and winemaker of Damsel Cellars, did not take a direct route to crafting wines. How did this damsel – who is clearly not in distress – reach her goal of developing her own brand while traveling a route with various twists and turns? Read on to learn how her experiences along the way influence her adept winemaking.

Mari Womack, Damsel Cellars Owner and Winemaker

Mari worked in restaurants while going to college in her 20’s, and developed an appetite for food and wine pairing. Her studies were rewarded with a degree in landscaping and horticulture. Then things took a turn, steering her toward working in Woodinville tasting rooms and volunteering during harvest. That path eventually led to a position as Assistant Winemaker at Darby Winery.

While at Darby, Mari processed 85 tons of grapes per year for four years affirming, “Repetition makes you an expert.” During that time she also worked on developing her own brand. In 2017 Damsel Cellars moved into its own facility located in Woodinville Wine Country.

Today, that restaurant background informs Mari’s food and wine pairing focus and a desire to craft food friendly wines. That degree in landscaping and horticulture provides a focus on the right plant in the right place. The result is a keen sensibility when sourcing grapes. Even going into her eighth vintage Mari admits, “I’ll never know all there is to learn about wine.” Regardless of the path taken, I think most people in the wine industry say the same thing about themselves. After all, that’s part of wine’s allure.

The Wines of Damsel Cellars

The lineup at Damsel Cellars focuses on fun and youthful wine with great acidity. Fruit is procured from high quality growers such as Dick Boushey of Boushey Vineyards. It’s no wonder these wines are selling out! On the day of my visit the tasting began with a delightfully fruit forward Chardonnay. Then an easy drinking Red Blend, a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) blend aptly named the Fates, and the Stillwater Creek Syrah were poured.

Crafting varietally specific bottlings was the initial plan for Damsel Cellars. Then, in 2015 some anticipated grapes were damaged resulting in less Grenache and Mourvèdre than anticipated. Co-fermenting the two and adding Syrah to the blend was the solution. “Syrah is my favorite and I think everything can be improved by Syrah,” declares Mari. It was completely randomly fated, hence the blend, The Fates. Matured in all neutral puncheons, the fruit expresses itself beautifully. It wows with an old-world character and conveys the classic savoriness inherent in wine grapes from Boushey Vineyard.

I received a sample bottle of the Malbec to taste at home. The wine comes across as much softer than typical Washington State Malbec. Its brambly fruit flavors make it a terrific match for my Berry Barbecue Sauce atop roasted chicken breasts coated with a smoky spice rub.

Visit Damsel Cellars

In 2017 Damsel Cellars moved into its own facility located in Woodinville Wine Country. If you’ve been to Woodinville you know this Washington State wine tourism area is not the typical wine destination. Rather, what began as a rural and industrial area is now a region densely packed with tasting rooms. About a half hour drive from Seattle, the location is much closer to city life than the state’s vineyards. Find Damsel Cellars tucked away among warehouses in what is referred to as the Artisan Hill District. The cozy tasting room is housed in the front portion of the winery. It’s a clever repurposing of the space, really.

Woodinville Winery
The tasting bar at Damsel Cellars offers a peek into the barrel room

These are serious wines, yet Mari sets a casual, lighthearted tone for the winery.  The experience conveys her belief that it can be fun learning about wine, especially with a group of friends. So if you enjoy wines with old world character and an intimate tasting room experience, it’s time you visit the Damsel.

Experience Livermore Valley’s Harvest Wine Celebration

If you long to be in wine country for harvest festivites, now is the time to plan to attend the Livermore Valley Harvest Wine Celebration coming up on Labor Day weekend! Last fall I had the great opportunity to become a winemaker at Wente Winemakers Studio in Livermore Valley Wine Country. That experience combined with an exploration of the area’s picturesque vineyards and other family owned wineries made me a fan of this destination. Ideal for wine lovers, Livermore is located in the Tri-Valley Region just about an hour east of San Francisco.

Taking place on Sunday, September 2, 2018, the popular Harvest Wine Celebration festival in its 37th year includes 35+ local wineries showcasing Livermore Valley wine, food, art, crafts and music for ticket holders—each at their own winery. That means that guests will experience the true personality of each winery through its wines, people, and activities. This is a notch above the usual wine tasting! As a bonus, 30 wineries will honor event wristbands for free tasting on Monday as well. That means ticket holders receive a two day experience for $40 in advance and $45 at the event on Sunday.

wine tasting livermore valley
Murietta’s Well

Event Highlights

Concannon Vineyard will host an Escape Room for ticketed guests
Murrieta’s Well will offer vineyard tours every hour
Retzlaff Estate Winery will give a cork demonstration and tours of the historic estate and organic vineyard and garden
Garre´ Vineyard & Winery will host bocce ball and lawn games
Wente Vineyards will serve up barrel samples with a food pairing at the Estate Tasting Room on Tesla Road
el Sol Winery will present beekeeping demonstrations throughout the day

Resources:
Check the Livermore Valley Wine Country web site for a full list of participating wineries and details on activities at the Livermore Valley Harvest Wine Celebration.