Dave Matthews and Wine?

Dave Matthews and wine? What? I was just as shocked when I realized it myself….

This may surprise some of my college sorority sisters, but I am not the biggest Dave Matthews music fan. At the time I attended college, Dave Matthews was the “thing” and many of my college-mates were very fond of him. I played along. But honestly I never got his music. I never understood everyone’s obsession with him. Then again, I am obsessed with Jimmy Buffett and many may not get that either. However, I am not here to bash Dave. He is a pretty amazing philanthropist who has not only contributed his time and resources to Seattle’s needy community, but all over the world as well.

So the day when someone came into the The Grape Choice and asked for his wine, I was floored. What?! Dave Matthews is making wine now? For some reason this annoyed me. I get tired of all these famous people thinking they can develop their own perfume, food, wine, vodka, etc. and expect consumers to pay for their name. Because of that, I had no intention of trying his wine.

Not long after my finding of his wine-making hobby, my girlfriend Natalie invited my family over for dinner. Since she knows me all to well, she of course had wine to serve with dinner. To my surprise she pulled out a bottle of The Dreaming Tree – aka Dave Matthews wine. I was skeptical to try it, but I didn’t want to seem rude. And in this crazy world of wine, I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, I was more than pleasantly surprised, I was excited. This wine excited and thrilled me. The Dreaming Tree was good, really good. The bottle Natalie purchased was Dreaming Tree’s Crush (red blend). After that fun night of exploring a new wine (that I would not have purchased on my own) I was eager to try more. Which leads up to my tasting notes on The Dreaming Tree wines.

Tonights Tasting:
The Dreaming Tree, www.dreamingtreewines.com
Costco, QFC, Safeway, online      $12.99-35.00 (depending on wine and retailer)

The Dreaming Tree has three different wines, the Crush, Cabernet Sauvignon (and one reserve) and Chardonnay. They are also a sustainable vineyard and conscious about the environment.  I have tasted two of the three; The Cab and Crush.

The Crush – is a red blend (table wine)- Zinfandel and Merlot. I expected this wine to be a “bam” and spicy wine since it has Zin blended into it. This is not the case. It is a very subtle, soft wine. It’s not my favorite blend, but for those new to wine, this is a great introduction. The Crush is smooth, slightly smokey and has a cherry jam flavor on the tongue. It is really an easy drinking wine that is not complex. If you like structure to your wine, you probably wouldn’t enjoy this. To argue though, I am a structure girl and  it surprised me that I was enjoying this wine. Maybe it was the company that surrounded me or the setting I was placed in, but whatever the mood was, the wine excited me. To note,  I have had it a couple of times since and still surprised in my delight of this wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon – From the North Coast of California and again is another easy drinking, crowd pleasing wine that isn’t overly complex. However I feel there is more structure to the Cab than the Crush. It has a rich vanilla and blackberry tone with some slight spice and tannin. I prefer this wine over the Crush. It is smoother, richer and tells a story. If you had to choose between the two, I would recommend the Cab. I just get a warm, smooth feeling when I drink this..and I believe it would be enjoyed by those who prefer white wines as well.

DTW_cab_med5As for the Cab Reserve and Chardonnay, I will leave it up you, my fellow novices, to tell me your feelings on the wine.

For the price and the easy-drinking ability, I would recommend either one of these wines. The Dreaming Tree is readily available in most grocery stores and is one of those “safe” wines you can grab, take to a party and feel confident about your purchase. It’s smooth and friendly. My only question is why didn’t Dave chose a Washington vineyard? (hint, hint Dave!)

Cheers and enjoy!

Washington vs. California wineries part 2

I am absolutely thrilled to be heading to Napa Valley in two weeks. This is a much-needed, mini-vacation with my mom (my wine inspiration). Although a bittersweet trip as well, since I will be saying goodbye to a dear friend from the bay area, who is packing up and moving to London. Talk about going out with a bang though, a final Napa Valley wine trip.

As I said in the last blog, I am a fan of local businesses and proud to support Washington wineries.  But, how can I resist a wine trip to California? The birthplace of US wines.  Visit almost any country and no doubt you can easily obtain a California wine. And they make damn good wines too. You must look past Gallo, Mondovi and Sutter Homes (I’m not putting them down, they have their place) and search for smaller (using the term lightly)wineries. There are so many wineries in California; it will take me years to get through them all, if that is even possible. There are over 107 American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) in California, which include, Napa, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Valley and Rutherford.

California wines really made their mark in the world (even though before that, many people in the were travelling to California to fill their empty wine bottles right from the barrels) in 1976 when they beat France in a famous wine competition. A huge blow to the French ego’s. Check out the movie Bottle Shock… it will tell you all about that!

 That was a beyond brief history lesson. Now, here are some of my recommendations for wineries to visit. To be honest, I have only been through Napa (about a half-dozen times). So, my recommendations are limited to that region. And if you hadn’t noticed, I am visiting again in 2 weeks, so I may discover some new favorites to tell you about.

Here we go! Take notes my friends: my top 5 favorite wineries in Napa.

1.) Plumpjack Winery, Oakville

620 Oakville Cross Road, Oakville CA 94562

www.plumpjack.com

Fun and hip. Those are the first word that pop i to my mind when I think of Plumpjack. They cater to parties and are off the beaten path. They make a killer Cab that you will want to hold on too, for probably 10 years or so. Very much worth the trip.

2.) Peju Province, Rutherford

8466 St Helena Highway, Rutherford CA 94573

www.peju.com

Who doesn’t love wine and chocolate? This is place to visit if you want beautiful scenery and grounds (fresh flowers everywhere), fabulous wine and chocolate. I don’t know what I love more, their Cabs or the chocolate sauce they make. To top this visit off, it is family owned, intimate and very friendly to visitors (even those visitors who are wine novices). Peju is a very easy stop; right off Highway 29.

3.) Cakebread Cellars, Rutherford

8300 St. Helena Highway Rutherford, CA 94573

www.cakebread.com

I heard about Cakebread through my Arizona girlfriend who is also a wine fan. She raved about them, so on my last trip to Napa, I made an appointment to taste (they are appointment only). Cakebread wines are expensive, but they make you feel like a million bucks when you visit. They tour you through their facility, which is breathtaking. It has a modern feel, but the building is a barn. I can see why they have such a loyal backing. They are known for their Cabs and Sauvignon Blanc, but to be honest I loved their Syrah. But, I am not complaining about their other wines (well, maybe their Pinot Noir, I am not a fan of that)- very impressive. They are also another family owned winery right off of Highway 29.

4.) Andersons Conn Valley, St Helena

680 Rossi Road St Helena, CA 94574

www.connvalleyvineyards.com

Now this is a winery off the beaten path, by about 15 minutes. The best thing about this winery is the location. You taste the wines in wine caves! With wine barrels surrounding you. It is pretty cool, to say the least. The wine is alright. Not my favorite Napa wine, but for the tour and tasting, the trip is totally worth it. The Anderson’s are down to earth and not pretentious. They are by appointment only as well.

5.) Salvestrin Winery, St Helena

397 Main Street St Helena, CA 94574

http://www.salvestrinwinery.com

Again, I save the best for last. And again, I may be a bit biased. My husband  and I stayed at their Inn the last time we visited Napa. Wow is all I have to say. We met the family, sat on their patio, tasted their wines (some from right out of the barrel), and woke up at 4:30 am to watch them harvest the grapes. And to top that off, their wine is truly outstanding. Sadly though, you will not be able to Salvestrin in stores. It is only available through their winery (they can ship though!). My two favorite is their Sauvignon Blanc and Retaggio (a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, Cab and Cab Franc – it will knock your socks off). They are also appointment only, but if you pop by without one, they will not turn you away. As a side note, if you want to throw a party, they have an amazing facility you can rent. A patio within the vineyards!!! And for a true experience, stay at their Inn for the weekend.

Happy wine trails in California and don’t forget your designated driver and wallet (you will need loads if cash in Napa).

Cheers!

Washington vs. California Wineries part 1

Ok, first of all.. I am slightly biased, since I live in Washington and a supporter of local businesses. However, in recent years it seems I have made more trips to California wine country than to Washington wine country. Really, I am just a fan of wine – California, Washington, Oregon, France, etc. Good wine is good wine.  There are some California wines that are so delicious, goose bumps run up and down my arms, than there are Washington wines that blow me away. No matter what region you are a fan of, you must visit wineries. You gain a whole new perspective on your favorite wines. The best thing about visiting wineries, is the history you receive. You learn all sorts of fun facts about that specific winery, as well as tasting wines you cannot find in your local grocery store. Plus, you spend all day tasting wine. How fun is that!

I want to tell you my top favorite wineries (as of this moment), but there are still thousands more that I have not been too. Since this is my blog however, I am going to let you in on some wineries you probably have not heard of and must check out. I will divide this into two parts. Washington is first, then California (within the next week). I know you are all busy, with short attention spans, so I didn’t want to make this a long, drawn out blog.

A few Washington wine facts:

In Washington, there are over 500 wineries and is the second largest producer of wine in the US (can you guess who is first). Washington wines really started to take off in the early 1980’s – and the quality rivals many California and Old World wines. Washington has 11 wine regions within the state. Northwest, Olympic Peninsula, Puget Sound/Woodinville, Southwest, North Central, Yakima, Red Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills, Tri-Cities, Walla Walla and Spokane.

So, now you have an extremely brief history  – now here is the fun part, 5  wineries you must visit – According to Carolyn!

1. Tefft Cellars, Woodinville/Outlook

Outlook: 1302 Independence Road, Outlook WA 98938

www.tefftcellars.com

Woodinville:  16110 Woodinville Redmond Rd, Woodinville WA

 My first visit to Tefft was 6 years ago in Outlook, WA. I was impressed by their wines. Not my favorite, but consistent and nice. The winery itself is beautiful. They also have a Guest House you can rent. A couple of years ago, they opened a tasting room in Woodinville. Which is a spacious, Italian-themed room, which you can also rent for private parties. They don’t charge a tasting fee, and want you lounge in their over sized couches, while tasting anywhere between 5-10 wines. They really make you feel special and don’t rush you. I have to add that the quality of their wine has increased and is closely becoming a favorite of mine.

2.) Windy Point Vineyards, Wapato

420 Windy Point Drive, Wapato WA 98951

www.windypointvineyards.com

View, View, View!! Holy cow, Windy Point has an amazing location on top of a hilltop in Wapato, where you gaze upon Yakima Valley, orchards and Cascade mountains. Plus, they make some fabulous Syrah’s and Cab Franc’s (first place I ever had a Cab Franc). It is a little off the main road, but worth taking this detour for the view and outstanding wines.

3.) Pontin del Roza, Prosser

35502 North Hinzerling Road, Prosser WA 99350

509-786-4449 (no website)

For me, this winery is similar to those wineries I visited in France – Family run, vines in their backyard, tastings in their home (well, a trailer next to their home), with cats, dogs and various other animals running around. They are very welcoming with picnic facilities available for you. Nothing fancy, but a family feel attraction. Pontin wine has to be one of my favorite’s from Washington, and priced right as well.

4.) DeLille Cellars, Woodinville

14421 Woodinville-Redmond Road, Woodinville, WA 98072 (this is for their tasting room)

http://www.delillecellars.com/index.cfm

DeLille Cellars, hands down, makes top-notch wines. Although, you pay the price for top-notch wines. If you cannot afford a DeLille wine, you at least need to visit the tasting room. As you taste it, you can feel the hard work and passion they put into their wines. Most of DeLille’s grapes come from Red Mountain (not all however).  Red Mountain is known for killer Cabs.

5.) Wineglass Cellars, Zillah

260 North Bonair Road, Zillah WA 98953

www.wineglasscellars.com

So, I saved the best for last. My most favorite winery (and wine for that matter). You must bring a picnic to this tasting, you will be here for a while (unless you come on one of their pizza nights, then they will supply you with plenty of pizza). You may also want to think about biking to this winery, as the website gives you directions on a bike loop! Biking, driving, running, however you get to Wineglass, there is not a bad wine in the bunch.  I cannot even begin to tell you a favorite, I love them all (which I why I belong to their wine club!)

I am not trying to be exclusive;  there are many wineries I have enjoyed visiting, and more I dream of seeing – and will someday. These 5 stand out in my mind as wineries worth the trip. Do you have a favorite Washington winery? Let me know!

Happy Trails!!

ps – some of my facts came from the book Wine Trails of Washington by Steve Roberts

Drinking my words

A few months ago, I tried a Chilean wine and I was not a fan (check out my past blog). But, before I judged  just one bottle of wine, from one winery, I knew I would have to try a Chilean wine again. I was out to dinner one night, took a gamble and ordered the Chilean wine on the menu. Again, I was disappointed. I wanted to give up on the region all together… figured the taste and flavor didn’t mesh well with my palate. However, I was saved.. and now I must drink my words.

One of my co-workers introduced me to one of her friends, Cliff, about a year and a half ago. She figured I would have a lot in common with him. He is a Physical Therapist like my husband and he enjoy’s good wine like me.  Cliff was kind enough to invite us to his yearly wine party about a year and a half ago. I was blown away by this knowledge, collection and enjoyment of sharing his beloved wines. His knowledge surpasses mine and I envy his nose for wines. Even though I am a novice (and will be at his level someday.. I hope) he still reads my blog. He did not want me to give up on this South American country. He was very generous and sent me a bottle of wine from Chile.

All I have to say is vino sorprendente!! Gracias Cliff!

Tonights Tasting:

Concha Y Toro Don Melchor 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon (wine.com $41.99) – Wine Spectator 94 points (although, not the end all be all, but they are conservative with their points, so it must be a serious wine to receive that score)

At first smell, this wine is full of chocolate and plum. We let this wine decant for about 25 minutes, which I believe helped to open up. The smell of this wine only increased in richness, which also matched the taste. I tasted a little spice and coffee along with chocolate and plum. After a few more tastes, I also noted a smokey flavor. This wine far exceeds my expectations. I think I might have tasted heaven, or close too.

The price is not a bargain  and I am not even sure where you can buy it. According to wine.com this vintage is sold out. And I can see why. If you happen to stumble upon this wine, invest. I promise you will be in love at first sip. Plus, you will really impress wine and non-wine connoisseurs alike.

Muy hermoso el vino, disfrutar de!

Concha y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

Grocery Store Challenge 1

Alright, it has been a couple of months since I decided to take the “Grocery Store Wine Challenge”  and I now have my first chain grocery store finding.  This was hard for me… since I am so partial to my local stores. So as I stopped by Safeway, with a sleeping baby, I decided to use my time wisely and peruse the wine section. I went in to this, with a sour attitude,  but to my surprise the wine section  at Safeway wasn’t horrific (meaning, there was more than just Carlo Rossi boxed wine!). So, to my fellow novices who are unable to hit West Seattle Cellars, Picnic on Greenwoood, Esquin wine merchant, and/or Vino Verite on Capital Hill (or any other wine shop in your neighborhood), there are decent options at your local grocery store. Here are some of the wines I found at Safeway on Roosevelt (and 75th). I am sure that each store (especially in a different state) has different wine selections, but take a look at these wines the next time you pop by Safeway.

*** I also have a wine tasting tonight, so take a look below!

Grocery Store recommendations – Safeway

Just a little information – if you purchase 6 or more bottles, you receive a %10 discount – with their Safeway Club card

L’ecole 2006 Caberent Sauvignon  $26.94- A Walla Walla red. I have only had L’ecole once, but loved it. For the most part Walla Walla wines are smooth and full of flavor. This wine is worth the investment. You can also find this wine in local wine shops as well.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon - Columbia Valley

Kestral – Lady in Red  $14.99 – Prosser WA – another great wine. I have been to this winery twice and have always enjoyed their wines. Great everyday drinking wine.

Gascon Malbec – Argentina  $11.49.  I have had this wine once. Not my favorite Malbec but has a nice, light flavor. Good wine to take to a party.

Red Bicyclette Syrah – France  $8.99. A can’t beat price. I purchased a glass of this wine in a restaurant once and had a nice flavor – a hint of pepper if I remember correctly.  

Powers Cabernet Sauvignon 2007  – Tri-Cities, WA $10.84. I met one of their wine makers about a year ago. Very nice gentleman and his wines do not disappoint. They also own Badger Mountain Vineyards as well. Once fact about Powers, is that all their wines are organic. Exceptional price.. pick up a bottle.

If in doubt and need a wine in a hurry – Bogle Vineyards  in CA make inexpensive wines that hold their own. Make sure to drink this wine last. Always start with your more expensive, hard to find wine first – then end with the cheap stuff. Bogle wines are around $10.00 and I have seen them at most major supermarkets.

Tonight’s Tasting:

Tre Donne – D’Arc 2006 Italy ($15.00 West Seattle Cellars):

This wine is a blend of 40% Barbera D’Alba, 30% Pinot Noir, 20% Dolcetto D’Alba, and 10% Freisa.

We opened this wine with our dinner – which was vegetarian Chili. Wow!! That is pretty much all I have to say.  A smooth, vibrant and intense wine, I was more than impressed.  I was planning on having just a glass with dinner, but I have a feeling this bottle may be gone by the end of the night. If you can find this (and it won’t be at Safeway) – please grab a bottle. They say this wine goes perfectly with pork, but I beg to differ. It goes great with a vegetarian meal. Take my suggestion, grab this wine while you can.

I hope you have a great time searching for tonight’s tasting or grabbing a Safeway wine!

I apologize for the delay… but I have new wines

Portuguese wines… have you ever thought about Portuguese wines? I have. Lately I have had my heart set on visiting Portugal’s wine region. And if you know me.. when I have my heart set on something, I usually go for it. Portugal has some amazing wines. When you think of Portugal however, you usually think of Port. But, Portugal has some dynamic, and affordable, wine regions. My dream is to take a week and explore Portugal’s wine region the summer of 2011 (if someone will take my kids for a week). I don’t know why I am obsessed with exploring it, but I am. When I became with obsessed with Spain, I moved there, ( I hope I have that same drive about Portugal except, I probably won’t move there at this moment) . I just wished while I was in Spain I visited Portugal, but I didn’t. I went the other direction to France. So now, I am on a mission to explore Portugal. 

At the moment, I am in Scottsdale AZ. Ian ran into a great little wine store/bar called Bacchus in North Scottsdale (for my AZ peeps, in Kierland Commons).  Ian knows what wines I prefer and grabbed this Portuguese wine that he read about – thinking I would really enjoy it. Ian scored BIG time. This is a delicious wine!! Take notes my fellow novices. This is a wine worth the price. I just hope I can find this in Seattle. 

Tonight’s Tasting: 

Animus – Douro, Portugal  2005  (Bacchus, Scottsdale AZ $14.99) 

Wow!! What a wine for a vacation…. just wish it was a vacation in Portugal. This is from the northern region of Portugal. Animus was a pleasant surprise. It is a very simple wine, yet a party on your palate. Animus has a nice blend of dark cherry and raspberry flavor. Very clean, soft and fresh tasting. It has an inviting aroma – wonderful conversation with your friends you are sharing this wine with. Great for a night sitting out on your patio. Please ask your local wine store for this wine. I promise it won’t disappoint. 

Animus, Portugal

 

Since I am on vacation, why not open another bottle!  I popped open another wine I think my fellow Novices would enjoy (and their wallets too). While I was visiting my girlfriend Caroline last week (she has a new baby,Preston – adorable), I noticed a bottle of wine on her counter called Cupcake (FYI- best gift to give a new mom.. a bottle of wine. I know from experience). She hadn’t tried it yet and I was very curious about it’s flavor. When I see wine’s on counters, I become curious… So, while I was in Scottsdale, shopping at the local Fry’s (a Kroger store).. I noticed that same wine. I grabbed a bottle since it was a nice price of $9.99. 

Cupcake Vineyards – Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007  Central Coast CA (Fry’s – aka QFC, Fred Meyers  in Seattle $9.99) 

Another decent wine at a great price. I had a glass of this wine, after Animus. I was prepared to be disappointed since I loved Animus and guess what? I wasn’t. This is a heavy wine, but with great flavor. A blend of Plum, Cherry and Mocha is what stands out in my mouth. No bite at all. Smooth, rich and sweet. Bring this bottle to your next book club meeting for sure. Then that way you can focus on the wine and not on the fact you never finished the book! 

Keep on enjoying wine my friends….

wineries, wineries, wineries….

Just beginning our day at DeLille

I love wineries! Which makes sense because I love wine.  I love wineries because it gives you such an insight to their wines. Some wineries, like their wines, are over priced and pretentious. Some wineries take the time to get to know you, as you them, and let you absorb the wines at your own pace. Then there are those who get you in and out as fast as possible , cheap service and probably cheap tasting wine – like a fast food restaurant. Horrible food, but it fills you up quickly. I obviously prefer the second, but sadly have experienced the other types as well. 

I am not going to get into all the wineries I have been too. I am not here to bash wineries (or their wines) either. I would like to tell you about the wineries I explored yesterday and the wine (and one particular winery) I feel you should invest in!   

Yesterday was a marvelous day! We set out on an adventure of exploring local wineries. Our wine tasting group included, my husband, brother, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, mom and myself. And since going to the Eastern side of Washington was not a possibility, we decided to check out Woodinville. Now, Woodinville is notorious for two of the biggest wineries in Washington, Columbia and Chateau St Michelle ( honestly are far from my favorite) – but did you know there are 45 wineries/tasting rooms in Woodinville? I didn’t, but now I do. I mean, this is a wine lovers paradise. But, since we had little one in tow (yes friends, it is possible to wine taste with a baby,  some wineries more welcoming than others. Just be mindful – swish, swirl and spit!) we had to limit the number we visited. 

Stop #1 DeLille Cellars

Ok, I have had one of their most popular wines called D2. FABULOUS wine! My brother-in-law Michael introduced me to this little piece of Heaven and have been in love with ever since. Just one slight problem, the price. DeLille’s wines over priced (for us novices who don’t have unlimited funds). The taste of their wines impressed me, but  turned off by the price. Nothing under $35.00. If you are in the mood to splurge, I will tell you the two wines I found the most delightful. 

2006 Doyenne Signature Syrah – $34.00 – A very rich wine with a taste of berry and spice. Not my favorite Syrah, but seductive on the palate. 

2007 DeLille Cellars D2 – $35.00 – Like I said a little piece of Heaven. The taste is of plums, cherries, vanilla and little spice. It is a smooth wine and goes down very easily. One of my top 10 favorites.   

Stop#2 Tefft Cellars 

 

This winery just opened a tasting room in Woodinville. Their original winery is located in Outlook, WA – a suburb of Yakima. I have been to the Outlook winery twice and enjoy their nicely priced wine. Out of the three I visited yesterday, this winery by far had the best service, class, atmosphere, price and wine. All 6 of us walked into this well designed wine cellar with lush chairs, couches and friendly smiles, in awe. We sat back and enjoyed our tasting of 14 wines (I did not taste all 14, I apologize) – for about an hour and a half. We had the full attention of the owner and his knowledge and enthusiasm for his wines was inspiring. I enjoyed so many of Tefft’s wines (and bought) – but I will give you a couple of the wines I recommend the most. I HIGHLY recommend visiting this winery as well! 

Viognier: Light, crisp, sweet, and citrus fruit taste. Very enjoyable. Most people think you can only drink white wine in the summer, but not true. This wine would taste wonderful anytime of the year. A great price of only $16.00 

Villa Toscana: A classic Chianti – everyday table wine. Bold smell, yet a light pepper and cherry taste. $18.00 

2006 Merlot: All 6 of this agreed this was a tasty wine. Very spicy and earthy. $23.00 

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon: a smokey Cab – at first taste is dry, then ends with a sweet finish (weird I know, but once you taste it you will understand). Very powerful, but extremely yummy. Splurge on this! $28.00 

They also have three ports that were a hit with our group ( I did not taste). You are able to find Tefft wines in local grocery stores, as well as Trader Joes and Whole Foods. 

Stop #3 Facelli Winery 

 

I have to say I was a little disappointed with this winery. Facelli was the third winery to open in Woodinville. You can only purchase their wines from the winery. I would recommend one wine from Facelli: 

 2008 Lemberger – It has a light taste with a smooth finish – tastes of plums, cherries and raspberries. $17.99 

For those interested in learning more about Woodniville wineries, you should explore the Passport to Woodinville April 17th and 18th. Check out their website! http://www.woodinvillewinecountry.com/index.cfm 

If you attend this, let me know what your favorite wineries are! 

Happy wine touring!