Tag Archive | "red wine"

Lynfred Winery 2007 Zinfandel

By Darin Pemberton

It’s been said the only constant in our lives is change.  Not the kind you find under your couch cushions – the kind that takes us from one state of being; one point of view; one condition to the next.   Last week my wife celebrated her 32nd birthday.  Folks have asked me what I got for her – what present did I buy.  I gave her the gift of change.   Up until last week one of my wife’s favourite wines was made by the late Colvin Vineyards of Walla Walla – their Allegresse.  Not a lot of folk I’ve met realize how good that juice was; it’s a shame the winery is no longer around.  The Colvin Allegresse is a wine my wife and i use as a measuring stick.  It’s generally asked like this:

“…did you like it better than the ‘gresse?”

I believe our new question may be more like “…how does that compare to the Lynfred Zin?”

The three-decades-old Lynfred Winery is located in Roselle, Illinois – just about 45 minutes west of Chicago – and is the creation based on “the love and ingenuity” of Fred and Lynn Koehler.   Starting with a turn-of-the-last-century home, the Koehlers created and organized a cellar during the house renovations.  Securely encased in 18″-thick walls, the cellar provides ideal conditions.   I can attest to that – based on the bottle I sampled for this review.

Thoughtfully included with the wine for this review was an information sheet which contained background information about the wine, as well as a suggested recipe – Savory Beef Stroganoff.  Thus, armed with an open bottle, a plate of Stroganoff, my wife and I sat to enjoy her Birthday dinner.

Technical Notes:

  • Aged: American and French oak
  • Residual sugar: 0.1%
  • Alcohol percentage: 14
  • Titratable Acid: 6.67 g/L
  • pH: 3.67
  • MSRP: $25.25


  • Beverage Tasting Institute: Gold – 91 points
  • Finger Lakes International: Silver
  • San Diego International: Silver

Smells like: Strong notes of pepper, leather, a little musk and earthiness, sweet/fruity

Taste: When sipped my first thought was “Now that’s a zin!”  The wine seemed to jump out of my glass and breakdance on my tongue.  The taste invoked images of smoking a pipe while walking along a path in an evergreen forest after a spring rain.  I could ‘taste the smell’ of wildflowers, maybe a little nuttiness and butter – very aggressive yet non-offensive taste.  Very smooth across the tongue.    After about 15 minutes of smelling and tasting the wine I realized I’d forgotten about my dinner.  The Stroganoff was a spot-on match for this wine. The flavors of the dinner blended and complimented what I was drinking.   Within 30 minutes my wife and I had polished off all but about half-glass worth of the Zin.  I re-corked the wine and placed the bottle in the refrigerator.  Before dinner the next day I poured what was left into a glass and let it sit for about 15 minutes.   Swirl, snif, drink – again, the Zin was fantastic.  I was shocked, really, as I’ve had many wines lose half their moxie after an over-night in the chill box.

Don’t wait for your, or your mate’s birthday to crack open a bottle of this Zin – even if you have to rummage through your couch cushions, or under your car seats – dig up enough change to pick up a bottle of this wine.  Don’t wait for your birthday…go now.

WEP Rating:  115%

Posted in Illinois Wines, ReviewsComments (1)

2006 d’Arenberg Sticks and Stones

Australian winery, d’Arenberg, has been producing wines in the McLaren Vale region for a long time and uses vines that are well over 100 years old. For many Aussies, they are a go-to brand that have and should continue to offer quality wines for generations.

One of its higher-end wines is the Sticks and Stones blend that incorporates Tempranillo, Grenache and two grapes I’m sure a lot of folks haven’t heard of – Tintacao and Souzao – both of which are Portuguese varietals.

  • Varietal Composition: Tempranillo 45%, Grenache 38%, Tinta Cao 10% & Souzao 7%
  • TA: 6.9g/L
  • pH: 3.44
  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • Fermentation: Cultivated yeast fermentation in cement and stainless steel vessels
  • Oak Maturation: 10 to 12 months in French and American oak
  • Price: $40

Nose: The smell of high-school pottery class while eating a handful of raspberries, gooseberries and cherries.

Taste: Tart rhubarb that’s been dusted with red dirt and modeling clay. The mid palate does have some of the nice red fruits I picked up in the smell, however, the finish on this wine is very jacked up for me – not feeling it at all. Yeah, hot finish, very bitter and too short – I’d avoid this wine like the plague right now. Sticks and Stones may only break bones but this finish is gonna kill me.

W.E.P Rating: 20%

Posted in Australia Wines, Grenache, Reviews, Souzao, Tempranillo, Tinta CaoComments (0)

A pair of 2005 Willis Hall Reds

Like most small wineries, Willis Hall prides itself on staying as close to the “purity of the fruit” as possible and sources from the best vineyard sites it can get its hands on. Winemaker, John Bell, is extremely passionate about his craft and is always eager to share the wines he produces.

Willis Hall has sort of carved out a small cult-like following and is one of the wineries that are starting to put Snohomish County on the map (well, that and some help from the scores  Quilceda Creek wines have garnered).

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting John a few times now over the past several months and am always impressed on how personable he is and the gleam in his eye whenever you get him started talking about wine – it’s great to see his passion.

2005 Cabernet Franc: Charbonneau Farms –  W.E.P. Rating: 100%

  • Alcohol by Volume – 13.2%
  • Blend – 90% Cabernet Franc; 10% Merlot
  • Vineyards – Charbonneau Farms
  • Barrels – 100% French Oak (50% New; 50% One Cycle Used)
  • Ageing – 22 Months
  • Price: $32

Nose: Cherries, raspberries, black cherries. The smell reminds me of a warm, safe place where as a child I’d Hide (Guns n’ Roses rocks!) – seriously, this wine has comfort-101 all over the nose. It’s pleasant, soft and full of fruit that you’d love to pound by the fistfull.

Taste: The sheer balance of tannin structure and dark fruits of this wine are “off the chain” – this is a Cab Franc that is truley world-class and shows good evidence as to why Washington State kicks ass with this grape. It has the classic darker berry fruits on the front-end with an incredible mid-palate transition that layers on a sort of caramel-pie-crust-like layer and the finish lasts for weeks.

2005 Dolcetto – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

  • Alcohol by Volume – 13.7%
  • Blend – 91% Dolcetto; 9% Sangiovese
  • Vineyards – Morrison Lane; Snipes Canyon Ranch
  • Barrels – 100% French Oak (40% One Cycle Used; 60% Neutral)
  • Ageing – 22 Months
  • Price: $28

Nose: Shampoo, black cherries, rhubarb, sour cherries, white pepper, bubble gum and beef jerky.

Taste: Good amount of an ocean-spray tartness that goes on in the fruit attack of this wine – flavors of cherries, raspberries and lognberry. A solid mid-palate transition that brings on some nice layers of cocoa, white pepper and a hint of medicine cabinet. Good finish that lingers on nicely for hours.

On the web: www.willishall.com

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Dolcetto, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (1)

2006 Liberty Lake Cellars Merlot

Liberty Lake Cellars, near Spokane Washington, started off in 2004 by producing small amounts of wine which was sourced from Red Mountain AVA. It’s owners, Doug and Shelly both have “day jobs” while working the winery in their off-time. It’s a winery built on hard work and a lot of heart.

They were participants in the #WaMerlot Tweet-up a couple of months ago and I was really drawn in to their passion via a few emails I’ve had with them.

  • Price: $22
  • Alcohol: 13.4%

Nose: Blackberries, dark cocoa, forest floor, cherry-flavored Robitussin, vanilla and oak.

Taste: There is some black fruit going on here, however, it seems to be overwhelmed with oak. Across the mid-palate I get notes of chocolate, tobacco and black pepper but again, the oak comes in and just kills it for me. The finish leaves a sort of black pepper-laced fruit roll-up on the tongue – but again, for me, it’s way too much oak coming through. If you’re a fan of the “California-styled” wines that do have that more pronounced oak/vanilla flavor, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this merlot.

W.E.P. Rating: 70%

On the web: www.libertylakewinecellars.com

Posted in Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

2005 Chandler Reach Parris Sangiovese

Located in the city that’s not really a city – Benton City WA – Chandler Reach is no stranger to success with its wines and adoring fans around the northwest. It’s one of the larger wineries  you’ll find in the greater Red Mountain area and has been producing wines since 2000. It’s Parris line of wines are its reserve program, named after its founders, Len and Jane Parris.

Technical Data:

  • 100% Sangiovese
  • Alcohol: 13.9%
  • Total pH: 3.56
  • Total Acidity: .66
  • Price: $36

Nose: Black currant, black pepper, plumsauce, pencil savings, toasted oak, forrest floor and the rubber from a sneaker shoe.

Taste: Definitely hit hard with the pepper-crusted plums on the initial attack – the mid palate does bring on the toasted-oak a bit that I know many will appreciate. The finish leaves a skid-mark of tobacco, dark chocolate and black pepper on the tongue and that’s something I really do get into. This wine is a total no-brainer with ANY tomato-sauced pasta dishes with meatballs or veal.

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

On the web: www.chandlerreach.com

Posted in Reviews, Sangiovese, Washington WinesComments (0)

Review: A pair of Trefethen Cabs

Cabernet Sauvignon is a grape which has defined the Napa region more than any other grape and for many good reasons. The climate and soil there are perfect for Cabs – hot days with cool nights at decent elevations and with good, fertile soils. Robert Mondavi helped shape the Cab scene in Napa and ever since it has become the Cabernet -capital of the USA wine-making marketplace.

The Trefethen Winery was started years ago by Eugene and Kathy Trefethen, who moved to the Napa area in 1968. They bought a 600-acre plot of land and the rest, as “they say”, is history. Fast-foward a bit to 1979, when they won the title of “Best Chardonnay” and it seemed their future in the wine business was a done-deal.

Fast-forward to 2009 and you’ll see that they produce some award-winning wines that remain true to the terrior of the Napa region at prices that span the full spectrum – this review, however, hones in on their cabs. Steak anyone?

Review: A pair of Trefethen Cabs

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

  • Varietal: 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 1% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot
  • Appellation: Oak Knoll District
  • Vineyard: Estate
  • Harvest: Sept. 12–Oct. 15, 2002
  • Oak: 17 months in French & American Oak
  • Alcohol: 14.1% by volume
  • Bottled: May 2004
  • Price: $75
Nose: Vanilla-laced strawberries and cherries along with casis, leather, blackberries and charcoal.
Taste: Profound vanilla notes coming thru from the oak along with the classic Napa Cab flavor notes of cherry, strawberry and plum. Good earthiness to the mouthfeel helps carry the fruit and leather components into the back-end palate transition. This wine is a no-brainer pick for a Rib-Eye steak toped with blue-cheese and mushrooms. A very hearty California Cab that takes no prisoners but can take your wallet for a bid of a ride at $75. If you have the money and want a solid cab that brings a lot to the table then I’d highly encourage you to give this one a whirl.

Nose: Vanilla-laced strawberries and cherries along with casis, leather, blackberries and charcoal.

Taste: Profound vanilla notes coming thru from the oak along with the classic Napa Cab flavor notes of cherry, strawberry and plum. Good earthiness to the mouthfeel helps carry the fruit and leather components into the back-end palate transition. This wine is a no-brainer pick for a Rib-Eye steak toped with blue-cheese and mushrooms. A very hearty California Cab that takes no prisoners but can take your wallet for a bid of a ride at $75. If you have the money and want a solid cab that brings a lot to the table then I’d highly encourage you to give this one a whirl.

2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – W.E.P. Rating: 60%

Technical Data:

  • Varietal: 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot
  • Appellation: Oak Knoll District
  • Vineyard: 82% Hillspring Vineyard, 18% Main Ranch
  • Vineyard: HarvestSeptember 26 – October 18, 2005
  • Oak: 30 months in French Oak
  • Alcohol: 14.8% by volume
  • Bottled: May 2008
  • Price: $100

Nose: Blackberries, chalk, pomegranate , black cherries, plums, farm dirt, tobacco and cocoa.

Taste: Huge leather-action on the front palette with a healthy dose of black cherries, chocolate, tobacco, road tar and plums for days. A superb mid-palette transition which stays very focused with a hint of “grit” into the back-end of the taste. A good finish that hangs out a long time – clearly a well-crafted wine, however, it’s not worth $100.00 to me as I have had cabs equally as good in the $35-$60 range.

Winery Website: www.trefethen.com

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wines, ReviewsComments (0)

2006 Powers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Meritage – Review

Powers Winery in the Richland WA, has been producing wines for longer than most other wineries in the state – its legacy extends back to 1982, which for WA is a decently long time. Started by brothers Greg and Bill Powers, they also produce wine under another label called Badger Mountain. It was also one of the first wineries in our state to transition to 100% organic grapes back in 1992 – long before it was the savvy thing to do.

2006 Reserve Meritage: W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

  • Vineyard Sources and Grape Varities: 31% Cabernet Sauvignon from Coyote Vineyard (Wahluke), 22% Merlot from Katharine Leone (Wahluke Slope, Milbrant), 21% Malbec from Goose Ridge (Columbia Valley), 18% Petite Verdot from Alice Vineyard (Wahluke), and 8% Cabernet Franc from the Estate (Columbia Valley)
  • Copperage:  The Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec both were in new wood (French), the rest in 3-4 yr old. 
  • Bottled in August of 2008
  • ph: N/A
  • Alcohol: 14.2% 
  •  240 cases made
  • Price: $35

Nose: Blackberries, tar, pie crust and some herbaceousness.

Taste: Black plum, blackberry and black cherries combined with some leather, sweaty sock, firm tannins and a finish that lingers quite well. This wine should easily lay down for the next 5-10 years. 

2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data: 

  • Vineyard Source: Champoux Vineyard
  • AVA:  Horse Heaven Hills
  • Release Date: 04-01-09
  • Alcohol:14.5%
  • Residual Sugar:0.0
  • Acidity:0.62 
  • pH 3.74
  • Price: $30

Nose: Obvious cherries, blackberries and big league chew, pomagrante, brussel sprouts on the nose along with some vanilla-laced tobacco. 

Taste: I get dried cherry, shoe-leather, dark chocolate, tobacco, anise, not a bad mouth-feel, hints of smoothness and a good finish. This wine would be a natural pairing with prime rib or grilled steaks topped with blue-cheese; however, at it’s price of $30, there are some better values out there – to me this wine is currently bringing about a $20 experience.

Winery website:  www.powerswinery.com

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

Review: XYZin 10 and 50

XYZin is an arm of Ascentia wine estates in California and as its name implies, it aims to be the final word in Zinfandel. Its  winemaker, Ondine Chattan, grew-up in Marin country so she’s been around the wine regions of that area most of her life. As one can tell from the way XYZin names its Zinfandels, one of the things it does is to showcase a span of history of what young-to-old vines can do in the bottle and ultimately, your glass.

In this review, we take a look at their 2007 “10” and 2006 “50” – made with 10yr old vines and 50yr old vines respectively.

2007 10 – W.E.P. Rating: 60%

Technical Data:

  • Wine Type:Red Wine
  • Varietal:Zinfandel
  • Appellation:California
  • Harvest Date:September 4th – October 15th, 2007
  • Acid:5.8g/L
  • PH:3.70
  • Alcohol %:14.2
  • Price: $16

Nose: bright cherries like cherry-flavored kool-aid action as well on the nose – a little fake-smelling. I also get subtlties of rose petal.

Taste: Tightly-woven, young tannins give way to a fruit-bomb with some bits of cherry/raspberry jam and white pepper. A finish that’s too short with tannins that are completely out of control and fruit that tastes too fake. Quite frankly, at $16, there are far better zins out there but I do appreciate the relatively low alcohol for a Zin as it helps to create a more balanced finish.

2006 50 – W.E.P. Rating: 70%

Technical Data:

  • Wine Type:Red Wine
  • Varietal:Zinfandel
  • Appellation:Russian River Valley
  • Acid:5.9 g/L
  • PH:3.7
  • Aging:Aged 15 months in French Oak
  • Residual Sugar:Dry
  • Alcohol %:14.3%
  • Price: $35

Nose: Bigtime raspberry/blackberry jam with nice hints of plum-sauce,  white pepper and euchaliptus and rhubarb.

Taste: Bright raspberries topped over rhubarb pie – add in hints of pepper and you have the front-end palate of this wine. I’m also getting some fruity-pebbles action along with red vines licorice. A decently long finish resounds with a lace of leather, vanilla, and white pepper, however, it’s doesn’t have near the overall mouthfeel and pizzaz a wine of its price range should have in my opinion. To me, this is a Zin that should be more appropraitely priced at $20-$25 to make it more competitive to what else is out there.

Winey Website: www.xyzinwines.com

Posted in California Wines, Reviews, ZinfandelComments (0)

McPherson Cellars – Round-up Review

Texas wineries have been doing quite well with both spanish and rhone grape varieties for awhile now and have vastly been under-the-radar for most of the greater wine-drinking community at large. While there are cleary some wines in Texas that show the immaturity of that region, yet others which provide a glimpse of promise and hope to how great it can be as well.

Kim McPherson, winemaker and owner, of McPherson Cellars in Lubbock Texas has been making wine in Texas for 20 years and learned his chops in Napa and from UC Davis. He’s no stranger to what it takes to make great wines and seems to be doing a good job of producing quality wines at price points which should do well – even in today’s economy.

2006 Rose of Syrah-Grenache – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data: 

  • Grape Variety: 77% Syrah, 23% Grenache
  • Appellation: Texas
  • Production: 1000 Cases
  • pH: 3.51
  • Total Acid: 6.4 gm/L
  • Alcohol: 13.1%
  • Residual Sugar: 4.0 gm/L
  • Aging: Stainless Steel
  • Price: $12

Nose: Dirty strawberries with some rosepedal, socks, laundry-detergent and some cherry pop-rocks.

Taste: Rubarb, cherries and strawberries for days – it has an insanely long finish which I find very pleasing.  A little bit on the hot side for me but chilling the wine would help take some of that out. Also get some red-clay action.

2005 Grenache Mourvedre – W.E.P. Rating: 92%

Technical Data:

  • Grape Variety: 51% Grenache, 49% Mourvédre
  • Appellation: Texas
  • Production: 357 Cases
  • pH: 3.67
  • Total Acid: 6.4 gm/L
  • Alcohol: 13.1%
  • Residual Sugar: 5.2 gm/L
  • Aging: 100% in 2 year old American and French barrels for 14 months.
  • Price: $18
Nose: Bright cherries, wool socks, leather bits, rose pedal, lavender soap.

Taste:  Good berry component going down the hatch which does an admirable job of coating the mouth with some smooth velvet action. If you took some spicey, cherry jam and coated it with dirt shoe-laces and fresh flowers – that’s what you’d have with this wine. 

It’s very pinot-esk in its approach and it’s not going to be geared towards the lovers of Cabs and Merlot’s. The finish lingers quite nicely and overall I’d easily hit this with a bowl of taco soup, spicey italian sausage-pasta or other heavily seasoned foods.

2006 Tre Colore – W.E.P. Rating: 50%

Technical Data: 
  • Grape Variety: 56% Carignan, 35 % Mourvédre, 9 % Viognier
  • Appellation: Texas
  • Production: 477 Cases
  • pH: 3.67
  • Total Acid: 6.8 gm/L
  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Residual Sugar: 7.0 gm/L
  • Aging: Stainless Steel
  • $14

Nose: Bright cherries, raspberries, hints of straw and sandstone – smells like vegas air. I’m also picking up some cherry-cola action as well on the nose.

Taste: Very kool-aid-like in its fruit-forward approach – the finish is rather weak and doesn’t leave much on the palate very long. This wine seems rather disjointed to me as if it doesn’t know who or what it’s trying to be. 

Winery website: http://mcphersoncellars.com

Posted in Reviews, Texas WinesComments (0)

2006 Efeste Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon – Review

Efeste’s winemaker, Brennon Leighton, is one spoild dude – he’s able to source from some of the best vineyards in Washington state and then act like a kid in a candy store with a “go-pass”. What a dream it is for winemakers to have access to the sort of fruits he does – old-vine, concentrated and full of tons of character.

If you ever meet Brennon then you’ll immediately know why he calls this wine “Big Papa” – it’s a huge cab that takes no prisoners and quite frankly has the backbone to stare-down any of the best of the likes of Napa-cabs.

Technical Data:

  • Barrel program: 20 months in 100% new french oak it
  • Fruit Sources: 100% cab from 45% kiona old block planted 1972, 40% sagemoor 208 planted in 1972,  and 15 %  Ceil du Cheval
  • Alcohol: 14.8%
  • Price: $45

Nose: Tons of cherry, rose petal, bright raspberry, hints of charred asparagus, cedar, cocoa. Some medicince cabinent action as well as hints of bits of leather round things out.

Taste: A massive fruit-attack on the front-end that assaults your palate with killer fruit. Excellent layering of raspberry, cherry with some nice hints of veggie action hit across the back-side of the mid palate. The purity of fruit comes shinging through like a rock-star and has a great supporting case of firm, yet balanced tannins. Massively focused fruits that linger for months on-end. This is easily the best cab I’ve had in the past few years and showcases how serious Washington cabs can be when done properly. This wine tastes really good now but should have room to improve over the next 3-12+ years.

W.E.P. Rating: 100%
Winery website: www.efeste.com

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (4)

Meyer’s Family Cellars Port Wine

Winery Website: www.meyerfamilycellars.com

I’m sure many of you have heard of the Meyer’s family out of California – if not, you’re almost certain to have heard about their work on making the Silver Oak brand synonymous with best-of-class California Cab. This family has a tradion steeped in wine making and has been involved with producing high quality wines for several decades. 

Matt and Karen Meyer met while working together at an Oregon vineyard, got married and not too long ago launched their own winery. Matt’s experience of growing up in the then-great Silver Oak days proved to be essential to his passion for making the best of what he can – year in and year out.

Karen is from the land down-under and has a similar background in the wine-making business there – both her and Matt share an unadultered passion and zeal for wine making – they both work on the wines they now make.

For those who might be new to Winefoot.com – let me get this off my chest – I LOVE ZINFANDEL. There, it’s out in the open – it truely is a grape that America owns – we do it better than anyone else and having it made into a port wine like this one shows how great it is – even in a variety of ways.

Meyer Family Port Facts:
Appellation: California
Grape Varieties: A solera-style blend, primarily old-vine California Zinfandel
Spirit: Pot-Still Alembic Zinfandel Brandy
Residual Sugar: 8%
Alcohol by Volume: 18%
Age at Release: 8 Years
Bottle Size: 500 ml
Price: $35 

Smell: black plums and black cherries coupled with some home-made fruit-cake action and spice. 

Taste: massive blackberry and plums coming thru across the plate which ends very nicely with some sweetened holiday spice action. If you took some black cherries and shoved them inside of a piece of fruit-cake, added in hints of pepper – you’d pretty much have this wine. Excellent finish that simply begs you to take another sip – I’d recommend putting on a seatbelt as this wine will certainly take your tastebuds on a killer journey.

Would pair great with:
– dark chocolate
– stinky cheeses
– BBQ Ribs

W.E.P. Score: 100%

Posted in California Wines, Port, ReviewsComments (0)

Novelty Hill’s WineFoot Debut

Winery Website: www.noveltyhillwines.com

For the past few years now, lots of washingtonians have been super excited about what’s been going on at Woodinville-based Novelty Hill Winery – it’s winemaker, Mike Januik is one of the state’s superstars and rightly so. His wines have a stellar track-record of kicking ass and taking names – he is held in high regard by both industry professionals and by the many fans of his work.

It was for good reason that the family-owned Novelty Hill Winery hired this guy to make its wine – and they’ve provided him a world-class vineyard in Eastern Washington called Stillwater Creek.

2006 Chardonnay – Stillwater Creek:

Technical Data:

  • Case Production: 1,375
  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • pH: 3.35
  • Total Acidity: 0.50 grams/100 ml
  • Barrel fermented in new and one-year-old French oak
  • Malolactic fermentation
  • Sur lie aging for nine months
  • Price: $22

Nose: Creamy pineapple chunks covered in vanilla – a touch of honeysuckle, minerality, and toastiness.

Taste: Toasted marshmallows with hints of kiwi, pineapple, green apple peel and vanilla bean. Extremely luscious mouth-feel in a wine that does a great job of balancing the fruit and acidity. The finish lasts for days on end – easily one of the better-structured chardonnay’s I’ve had in a long time.

W.E.P. Rating: 110%

2006 Viognier – Stillwater Creek:

Technical Data:

  • Barrel fermented in 100% French oak
  • Sur lie aged for nine months
  • Blend: 100% Viognier
  • Case Production 192 cases
  • Alcohol 13.5%
  • pH 3.51
  • Total acidity 0.59 grams/100 ml
  • Price: $22

Nose: Here we go – the nose on this wine is serious business – we’re talking HUGE amounts of pineapple, granny-smith apples, fresh carnations, a hint of flintiness and sour patch candy.

Taste: Take a fresh pineapple, top it with some kiwi, pear peel, some watermelon rine and shove it into your mouth – the explosive fruit of this wine cannot be underscored well enough in text. I get some hints of petrol, sandstone as well.

One of the best balances of fruit to acidity I’ve had in a white wine this side of Europe. I would hit this wine like the fist of an angry god – bring it on. For all you red wine snobs out there, you NEED to try this wine – this is the quintessential gateway white. This viognier is perhaps the best I’ve had at anytime, from any producer anywhere. It’s so well balanced that I’m a bit verklempt.

W.E.P. Rating: 120%

2005 Syrah – Sillwater Creek:

Technical Data:

  • Aged in a combination of new and one-year-old French oak barrels for 18 months
  • Gravity racked every 3 – 4 months
  • Blend: 98% Syrah and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Case Production: 1,909 cases
  • Alcohol: 14.1%
  • pH: 3.72
  • Total acidity: 0.53 g/100 ml
  • Price: $22

Nose: Gooseberries mixed with wild, freshly-cut game – some white and black pepper corns mixed with a nice blueberry jam and pie crust overtone round things out.

Taste: Bring on the stinky-socks covered in venison and peppercorns – then shove some fresh blueberries in your mouth and that’s what you have going on in this wine. Subtle hints of cocoa round out this quality syrah.

It has an insane amount of fruit that leaps onto your palate but it’s kept in check with a good sense of toasted leather notes. Excellent balance of fruit, oak and alcohol – this is a complete no-brainer wine for the money and one I’d highly recommend.

W.E.P. Score: 100%

Posted in Chardonnay, Reviews, Syrah, Viognier, Washington WinesComments (0)

Snoqualmie Reserve Reds

Winery Website: www.snoqualmie.com


Joy Anderson of Snoqualmie Vineyards has done an outstanding job of producing well-priced wines which do an admirable job of bringing good quality to their respective price-ranges. The wines she and her team produce have consistantly garnered wide-spread acclaim from both industry reviews and customer satisfaction.

What started out as a small winery has blossemed into one that is a part of the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates wine group. This coporate infustructure allows Snoqualmie to gain better national attention and all the resources it needs to keep producing top-quality wine. 

You won’t see wines that cost anywhere north of $30 in anything Snoqualmie produces as its wines tend to be priced at no more than $25 per bottle for these reserve wines.

2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon:
Technical Data:

  • Vineyard: Grapes are sourced from Rosebud Vineyards.
  • First Harvest September 22, 2005
  • Brix 27.1
  • Length 7 days on skins
  • Yeast type Premier Cuvée, BDX and D22
  • Total acidity 0.65 g/100ml
  • pH 3.65
  • Alcohol 14.2%
  • Blend 85% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 10.2% Merlot
  • 4.8% Petit Verdot 
  • Price: $25 

Nose: Black plums, black raspberry, blackberry, hints of leather and black pepper. Tons of dark fruit going on here in its smell..

Taste: Tobacco-laden plums and blackberries with hints of the elderberry coming through – this is definitely a wine that decants well and could easily sit out awhile. Firm tannins that do soften up with time. Good lingering finish but is a touch too hot with a heavy dose of road tar and tobacco.

This is a straight-forward cab which presents itself pretty good for the money – I don’t find it to be huge fruit-bomb which some folks may actually prefer but it does seem to be pretty well balanced if it weren’t for the hot finish.
W.E.P. Rating: 90%

2005 Reserve Merlot:
Technical Data: 

  • Vineyards: A majority of the merlot grapes come from 25-year-old vines are grown on the Wahluke Slope. The remainder of the Merlot and Petit Verdot come from the Yakima Valley.
  • First Harvest September 29, 2004
  • Brix 27.2
  • Length 6 days on skins
  • Yeast type Premier Cuvée
  • Total acidity 0.56 g/100ml
  • pH 3.57
  • Alcohol 13.57%
  • Blend 89.5% Merlot,
  • 10.5% Petit Verdot
  • Price: $25
Nose: Plum, blackberry, cedar plank, black cherry – hints of vanilla.
Taste: Excellent balance of fruit, pepper, vanilla notes and a hint of cedar box.. The finish brings a hint of veggie action which I like and lingers very nicely. Ends w/ a lot of fresh tar and tobacco drowning in blackberry.
The merlot is my favorite out of these three as it is the most balanced between purity of fruit and oak. I’m always a huge fan of wines which have a long finish and this merlot doesn’t disapoint.
2004 Reserve Syrah:
Technical Data:         

  • Vineyards: 100% Columbia Valley
  • First Harvest September 20, 2005
  • Brix 26.6
  • Length 6 days on skins
  • Yeast type D254
  • Total acidity 0.58 g/100ml
  • pH 3.70
  • Alcohol 14.3%
  • Blend 94.2% Syrah,
  • 5.8% Mourvedre
  • Price: $25
Nose: pepper, freshly killed game, loganberry, blackberry and some leather shoe-lace.
Taste: Right off the bat you get fresh game wrapped in loganberries and blueberries mixed in with white pepper. Take that and sprinkle in bits of leather and that’s what you have in this wine. Good fruit on the front and mid palate but falls a bit flat on the backend.
Here’s a syrah which could’ve been better than it is as it has a lot of the great syrah components I look for (blueberries and pepper), however, doesn’t do anything at all for me on the finish. If you start strong and finish short of the end-zone, it’s still not a touchdown.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Reviews, Syrah, Washington WinesComments (0)

Fidelitas gets jiggy with Optu

There’s little doubting that many in the Wine industry regard Charlie Hoppes as one of the State of Washington’s more premiere winemakers. His passion and know-how are about as good as you can find anywhere.

When he first kicked out his original “Optu”, it wasn’t called Optu it has the name of Meritage – and while the name has changed, it still consists of a blended wine which is made to be greater than the sum of its parts.

For the first time, Fidelitas has laucnhed an Optu white wine which I find really interesting as it sets to raise the bar for Charlie and Fidelitas in its efforts to help elevate the seriousness of white wine. All too many times, in many wine circles, white wine can sort of get a bad rap – red wine snobs; jeesh.

2007 Optu White Wine:
Technical Data:

– Vineyards: 54% Gamache Vineyards, 35% Stillwater Creek Vineyards, 11% Rosebud Vineyards
– Varietal Composition: 54% Sauvignon Blanc, 46% Semillon,
– Aging: 9 months: 40% new French oak
– Alcohol: 14.5%
– Release Date: Fall 2008
– Price: $32

Nose: Pineapple, kiwi, lemon, vanilla with hints of pea-gravel and limestone.

Taste: Flavors of vanilla-toasted pineapple rings right off the grill floods the front palate which is closely followed up with nice notes of grass, hay, lemon drops and lingers with hints of kiwi. I also get really green – raw – asparagus tips on the end as well. Excellent acid/fruit balance.

This is an exceptional white wine that really needs to be tried by those who “think” they dont’ like Semillon or even Sauvignon Blanc – the balance of fruit and toastiness from its oak aging is very well done.

W.E.P. Score: 90%


2005 Optu Red Wine:
Technical Data:
– Varietal Composition: 55% – Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% – Merlot, 6% – Cabernet Franc, 3% – Malbec
Vineyards: Weinbau Vineyard (40%), Conner-Lee Vineyard (20%), Kiona (18%), Stillwater Creek Vineyard (9%), Champoux Vineyard (9%), Boushey Vineyard (4%).
– Oak Aging:  21 months – 50% new French and American Oak
– Alcohol: 14.9%
– Release Date: Fall 2008
= Price: $40

Nose: Bell pepper, leather glove, blackberry, black cherry poprocks, euchaliptus, dry mud, clay and road-tar.

Taste: Floods of black fruit – I’m talkin, blackberry, black plum, black cherry and black raspberry – if it’s black, it’s in here. An insane amount of fruit with a smooth transition across the mid-palate into a finish that lingers for months.

This wine is has an excellent layering effect of black-fruit flavors – HUGE, BOLD black flavors in fact, I’m sure there will be folks who try this wine who won’t “get it”. Also, you’ll want to decant this wine for several hours to enjoy it at its fullest. It could easily lay down for 10 years or more but who wants to wait that long to drink good wine?

W.E.P. Score: 95%

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Reviews, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Washington WinesComments (0)

2007 Andeluna “Winemakers Selection” Torrontes

Winery Website: Andeluna Cellars
MSRP: $12.00 

It’s very exciting for me to watch other, newer, wine regions cropping up with such promise and one of the more recent ones has been that of the country of Argentina. Already known for its great Malbecs, this region is also producing some other interesting grape varieties such as Torrontes – a noble white grape that doesn’t get a whole lot of play here in North America.

Torrontes is distinctly an Argentinan grape which has some very interesting and food-friendly characteristics going for it which I hope will help it gain more popularity here in the states and throughout the rest of the world.

The Torrontes grape is usually round and medium-sized with a yellowish-green color which can appear to closer to that of a golden-delicious apple. It primarily grows in the following regions of Argentina:

La Rioja
San Juan
Rio Negro

Any of the fruit sourced from these particular provinces of Argentina are considered to be the best of its kind, anywhere in the world. 

Andeluna Cellars is considered by many to be one of Argentina’s top wine producers and has quite a long pedigree of churning out award-winning, palete-pleasing wines since 2003 – it’s grapes founders have been growing grapes in that region of the world for 120 years.

Technical Information
Varietal Composition: 100% Torrontés
Harvest Date: 4/10/07
Alcohol: 13.6%
Residual Sugar: 1.80 g/l
Total Acidity: 6.30 g/l
PH: 3.38
Cases Produced: 2,000

Nose: Jasmine-laced pineapple rings combined with some crisp, green apples, apricots and great components of chalk-dust, vanilla and white peaches.

Taste: Excellent balance of fruit and acidity here – the green apples are ripping my face of and the excellent acids make it a very food-friendly wine which pairs great with tomoto-based pasta dishes or even some clam linguini. Great mouth-feel that rides the palate very well with a finish that lingers quite well. The complexity of flavors of peach, jasmine, grapefruit and vanilla are VERY well balanced.

Overall Summary: This wine has excellent balance – there’s the killer acidity I love and adore while all the fresh fruit I want to make it extremely palatable. In the end, I’d easily tap this wine as a daily drinker or one that would pair well with a variety of chicken and seafood dishes.

W.E.P. Scale Rating: 150%

Posted in Argentina Wines, Reviews, TorrontesComments (1)

2005 Maryhill Syrah

Winery Link: www.maryhillwinery.com
MSRP: $20.00

Maryhill is one of the top wine producers of Washington State when you consider the amount of wine it produces at the quality to price points it charges. While there are going to be better quality wines from ultra-botique producers, few if any can match Maryhill’s quality-to-quantity ratio.

I’m usually more impressed with the Maryhill wines than I am not – namely its Zinfandel has really won me over in a lot. We recently got our hands on a bottle of its 2005 Syrah – this is my first time with a Maryhill Syrah so I was more than curious about tasting it.

Technical Data:
Alcohol: 14.5%
Vineyard Sources: 44% Tudor, 29% Gunkel, 19% Baily, 8% Milbrandt
Barrel Specs: 1-3yr mixed French and American Oak for 14-months
Acidity: 0.64
ph: 3.73
Residual Sugar: .13
Cases Made: 1333

Nose: Fresh game, blueberries, blackberries, black and white pepper, leather glove and some stinky sock are all here.

Taste: Good amounts of blueberry, vanilla and pepper – even pick up the leathery notes in it, however, its finish is too hot for my palate.

Overall Summary:
Not a bad effort on Maryhill’s behalf – in fact, I’m sure it’d smooth out some more if you lay it down for another year or two. It could be a food-friendly wine if you pair it with foods which would help mask the heat a bit – maybe a veal chop or marinated flank steak would be good with it.

The problem for Maryhill and this wine is that there are other Syrah’s in its same price range which I feel deliver a better experience.

W.E.P. Score: 80%

Posted in Reviews, Syrah, Washington WinesComments (0)

2006 Saviah Red Mountain Syrah

Winery Website: www.saviahcellars.com
Winery Phone #: 509-520-5166
Richard Funk, winemaker and owner of Saviah Cellars, is one of the more passionate dudes you’ll meet in the Washington Wine industry and his wine typically reflects that. I’ve been familliar with his wine for several years now and have generally held it in high regard as being great quality.

Over the years, Richard has really done a good job of cementing great working-relationships with some of the state’s top grape growers and his latest 2006 Red Mountain Syrah exemplify what a tasty Syrah from this AVA is capable of tasting like.

Technical Data:
Appellation: Red Mountain
Vineyard: Ranch at the End of the Road Vineyard
Benton City, Washington
Acidity: pH 3.64
TA 0.60 g/100mL
Alcohol 14.3% By Volume
Fermentation: 36-hour cold soak; 50% whole berry primary fermentation with
multiple stage yeast inoculation followed by secondary malolactic
fermentation; 100% complete.
Barrel aging: 100% French oak barrels
30% New French oak
Aged 16 months
Cases Produced: 227 cases
Bottling Date: February 13, 2008
Release Date: April 1, 2008
MSRP: $30.00

Nose: Dark cherries, plums, blueberries and loads of blackberries..Some sprinkles of vanilla…

Taste: Excellent mouth-feel – very smooth.. Well structured tannins which finish very smooth. The fruit does a great job of balancing the alcohol. tastes like berry pie. I get the floods of blackberries and black plums which are layered in leather straps and vanilla.

Overall Summary:
Rich has done a good job of nailing down a Syrah which showcases the terrior of Red Mountain – it has a good finish, is very food-friendly and is a Syrah I’d highly encourage all of you to seek out. The fruit on this wine and its structure present a very good overall wine experience.

W.E.P. Score: 100%

Posted in Reviews, Syrah, Washington WinesComments (0)

2006 Girasole Vineyards “Organic” Zinfandel

Winery Link: www.girasolevineyards.com
Winery Phone #:(707) 485-0322
MSRP: $13.00

There’s been a pretty big push over the last couple of years by some wineries to go organic – from the grapes to the type of yeast used. It sounds good on the surface, but really, when was the last time you had a stellar organic wine (seriously, email me and let me know) – dp (at) winefoot.com)?

Girasole Vineyards, based in Redwood Valley California, uses its own vineyards out of the Mendocino AVA and has been producing organic grapes since its founding in 1955. The folks behind the organic movement claim that it best represents the terroir of the region which I wouldn’t argue because certain chemicals and/or yeast products can influence the overall “terroir” profile.

I found this Zinfandel at a local store and thought I’d give it a whirl.

Technical Data;
Appellation: Mendocino
Fruit Composition: 100% Zinfandel
Harvest Brix: 22
Alcohol: 13.5%
Cases Produced: 1,673

Nose: Crimini mushrooms covered in plums and black cherries, bell pepper and white peppper and bacon fat.

Taste: Good fruit-foward action which seems to taper off a bit too quickly on the back-side of the mid palate. I get the pepper, blackberries and plums, however, the mouth-feel is too flimsy for me. The finish is way too short and a bit too hot.

Overall Summary:
There are other Zinfandel wines in this price range which are frankly more appealing to my palate and those would include some of the ones from Montevina and Rosenblum. If you have allergies to wine then this organic kind might be your ticket, however, if you want a better bottle of Zin for the money, it’s not hard to come by.

W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Posted in California Wines, Reviews, ZinfandelComments (0)

2005 Whitman Cellars Syrah

Winery Link: www.whitmancellars.com
Winery Phone #:509-529-1142
MSRP: $30.00

The 2005 vintage was one of the better years Washington wine growers have had and because of it, there are many wonderful 2005 wines from various regions across the state that are showing very well.

Steve Lessard from Whitman Cellars is no stranger to picking good fruit from some of the top vineyards in his area and this Syrah is a classic example of that. We’re talkin’ Spofford Station, Les Colines and Cougar Hills. The Walla Walla AVA is known for grapes that provide very rich colors of wine in the glass which lots of folks really dig- I’m one of them.

Technical Data:

Blend: 100% Syrah
Vineyard Sources: Cougar Hills, Spofford Station and Les Colines
Total Acidity: 0.62 grams/100ml
pH: 3.84
Alcohol: 14.2%
Oak Program: New, 1 year, 2 year, and 3 year French Oak
Aged for 16 months
Production: 1045 Cases

Nose: Black cherry, blueberries and a deep red delicious apple component combined with some tanned leather straps. I also pick up some pasture mud and fresh game meat. At the very backend of the smell there’s hints of a spicy fruit-cake.

Taste: Take some red cherry-flavored licorice and stuff it inside of an elk stake served raw – then toss in some black pepper, dirt and spice -that’s what you’ve got in this wine. It is a fruit bomb and also has the toastiness of oak – it creates a nice long finish and should easily cellar for another 5-7 years.

Overall Summary:
This is a wine that shows rather well – it has good tannin structure and is pretty well focused. It’s extremely food-friendly but will not really appeal much to fans of the old-world style of wine.

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Foods I’d hit with this wine:
Peppered Steaks
Heavily seasoned poultry
Blackened Salmon

Posted in Reviews, Syrah, Washington WinesComments (0)

WA vs CA – “Cheap Merlot” Shootout

This is a review I’ve actually been looking forward to for quite some time now and not because we’re dealing with cheap merlot here but because it’s WA vs. Cali. Washington produces more Merlot than any other red grape but California has been at it a lot longer. Both states have incredible wineries doing a really good job with this grape and each also have large-scale wineries which churn out wines for the cheap-skates.

For this review – I went to a local store and snatched up four bottles – two from each state and the only criteria is that they had to cost under $8 as we wanted to see what was possible from each state at this given price point.

I conducted each of these tastings completely blind in that I had someone else pour each wine and bring it out to me – one at a time, so I had no clue as to which wine I was drinking at the time.

2005 Hogue Cellars Merlot: W.E.P. Rating: 10%

* The fruit was harvested between September 5th and October 24th at an average 24.7°Brix.
* The base wines fermented primarily with Pasteur Red yeast for an average of five days at a peak temperature of 91°F.
* After pressing they were all inoculated for malolactic fermentation and allowed to reach dryness with frequent racking.
* Once dry, the wines were aged, with oak exposure for up to ten months with the goal of preserving fruit and mellowing the wine.

Technical Data
* Appellation: Columbia Valley, Washington
* Varietal Percentages: 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot
* Brix at Harvest: 24.7°
* Total Acidity: 0.63/100 ml
* pH: 3.77
* Alcohol: 13.9% by volume
* Release Date: June 2006

Nose: Shoe polish, leather straps and blackberries and my dad’s smelly socks..

Taste: A really unbalanced effort that’s completely disjointed for me. It’s fruity, it’s dry and really makes me wish I had those 10-seconds of my life back… The tannins completely overpower the fruit here.

2004 “Two-Vines” Columbia Crest Merlot: W.E.P. Rating: 70%

* Grapes were destemmed, crushed and inoculated to begin fermentation.
* Fermentation lasted 7-10 days on the skins, with a twice-daily pumpover regime.
* The wine aged 12 months in French and American oak barrels.

Technical Data
* Total acidity: 0.53 g/100ml
* pH: 3.66
* Alcohol: 13.50%

Nose: Dark plums and pepper-coated sued pants – some subtle hints of blueberry as well..

Taste: Cherry-coke without the fizz but mixed with white pepper and black raspberries and black plums. I also get the ramblings of some leather components as well and vanilla. Once again, the finish is too short and a bit too hot.

2003 St. George “Coastal” Merlot: W.E.P. Rating: 70%

Technical Data
* Appellation: California
* Alcohol: 12.3%
* Total Acidity: .61gm/100ml
* pH: 3.4
* Residual Sugar: .20

Nose: Not a strong nose here – I do pick up hints of cherries and tobacco with a slight twinge of white chocolate.

Taste: Serviceable – plums, black raspberry with hints of fruity pebbles. I get some dill pickle action on the end with a hot, short finish.

2005 Bohemian Highway Merlot: W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Technical Data
* Alcohol: 13%
* Residual Sugar: .5
* Total Acid: .63
* pH: 3.50

Nose: This wine has the most “grassy” smell out of the four – there’s some good vegetal action up in my grill like, tomato, asparagus and TONS of bell pepper. Blackberry and black plums round things out – this one definitely has the best nose of the bunch.

Taste: Will the person who left this piece of oak furniture in my glass please come forward? Huge vanilla notes which do come across as WAY over-oaked… Insane amounts of blueberry and blackberry for days.. Not a bad finish – it lingers on for a bit and isn’t too hot like the other wines. Nice peppery finish..

Overall Summary:
So I really wasn’t a huge fan of any of these four wines – the one I had the best hopes for, the Bohemian, has a tub of oak in it which killed it for me and the others were just rather uneventful. There are far too many other wines for the $8 mark which I’d easily gravitate to, the likes of most are from Argentina.

If you’re after an affordable Merlot then do yourself a favor and don’t be such a cheap-skate, spring for a couple more dollars or look to other producers and get something better.

Posted in Merlot, Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)