Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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Posts Tagged ‘Castle Rock Winery’

Our favorite wines of 2011

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

It’s that time of year, when we look back on all that we tasted and reflect on the great flavors that crossed our palates over the last 12 months.

It’s also a time when we get excited about what to taste in 2012.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, here’s a look at some of our favorites that we tasted in 2011. (Note this is only a highlight, and not a comprehensive list; also note the list is not in any preferential order).

Brynn and Mary’s memorable wines from 2011:

Bogle Petite Sirah 2008: This came as a recommendation from Consumer Reports as a best value buys and it lived up to the review. Winemaker notes include the following description:

Full-bodied on the entry, aromas of black plum jam and toasty oak set the stage for what is to come. Vibrant boysenberries and luscious fruit are framed by serious tannins, while wisps of leather and vanilla seduce just enough. A final touch of acidity finishes the wine with a precisely balanced mouth feel.

 

Novelty Hill Royal Slope Red: This is a wine Brynn first tried at a friend’s house and instantly fell in love with. It’s by longtime, and well-known Washington winemaker Mike Januik. Here’s what he has to say about the wine:

Generous and round offering delicious, red ripe plum, blueberry and currant aromas and flavors, with a lip-smacking, spicy finish.

 

Two Mountain Winery Vinho Vermelho: Produced by brothers Matthew and Patrick Rawn, we tasted selections from this Rattlesnake Hills winery at the Taste Washington event last spring. Shortly afterwards, Mary had some of the winery’s Port, or Vinho Vermelho, which was aged in American oak for more than two years. The winemaker’s notes on this wine include the following description:

Inviting flavors of candied citrus, chocolate, dark fruits and deep smoke.

 

Castle Rock Pinot Noir: This is a favorite go-to winery out of California; however, the grapes are sourced up and down the West Coast including Washington State. We recommended it twice this year for recipes that were mushroom-focused. It’s a versatile wine that is also friendly on the pocketbook.

 

Cline Cellars Cashmere: This is a wine we both got to try when we attended the Rhone Rangers tasting event over in Seattle at the Bell Harbor Conference Center. Cline Cellars is one of the oldest wineries out of Sonoma, which means they have some of the oldest vines in the area. Here’s what we had to say about the winery’s Cashmere blend:

The 2010 Cline Cashmere California is a luscious blend of Cote du Rhone grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. It has earthy undertones and flavors of raspberries, cherries and chocolate, with a hint of plum. The finish is long and lingering.

 

Long Shadows Winery Pedestal Merlot: This is another wine we tried while at the Taste Washington event in March. It made our “Top Sips” list and was Mary’s all time favorite wine from the day. Here’s the winery’s summation of the wine:

Wonderful intensity of fruit, with a vivid array of black currant, cocoa, violet and smoky aromas that lead to a full-bodied mid-palate marked by ripe blackberry flavors. Rich and complex, yet pure and focused, with supple tannins that provide a silky and prolonged finish.

 

Sparkman Cellars Ruby Leigh: Another wine that made our “Top Sips” list from the Taste Washington event. This Washington take on a Right Bank Bordeaux blend was both our favorites. Here’s the winemaker’s take on the wine, named after his youngest daughter:

Ruby Leigh is rambunctious elegance. The nose is all violets, sweet vanilla, smoke, candied roses, mint, chocolate and cassis. On the palate black cherry, mocha, spice and a pinch of tobacco lead to a toasty oak and cigar box finish. Soft, fine tannins support a seductive mouthfeel and silky texture.

 

Commanderie de la Bargemone: Ah, just thinking about this wine brings us back to the hot August day (yes, we did have at least one or two of those this year) when we enjoyed chilled sips of the Provincial-style Rose. Incidentally, this is the last wine Brynn documented in her “little black journal of wine” and is the last wine she had a full glass of since late August (any guesses why?) Here’s a hint: She’s got three more months before she can return to drinking wine, albeit at a somewhat reduced volume and frequency. What a great wine to have as a last hurrah before a nine month “vacation” from wine, if you will. Here’s the winemaker’s thoughts:

Offering classic aromas of wild strawberries and red currants, with a light floral character and a crisp, bone-dry palate, this is a rose of reference, to be enjoyed year-round on its own or with a wide range of lighter fare and Provence-inspired cuisine. 

 

Fâmega Vinho Verde: This is another wine we used in our regular recipe recommendations to go with an Israeli Couscous. This wine from the DOC region of Northwest Portugal has citrus, bright apple and fresh pear flavors that’s pleasant, mellow and with flowery aromas. In finishes with delicious notes of mineral and citrus peel. It’s also quite affordable — $8 at the grocery store.

 

Januik 2006 Columbia Valley Cabernet: This is a bottle Mary pulled from the cellar especially for 2011 — the year she celebrated a milestone birthday. (She finally turned 21, he he). Here’s what made it so good:

The 2006 Januik Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was awarded 92 points by the Wine Spectator — the finish just doesn’t quit, best after 2012 — and 90 points from Stephen Tanker. Januik blended 7 percent Merlot and 2 percent Cabernet Franc with the Cab and aged it primarily in new French oak barrels for 20 months. The ruby hued, medium-bodied wine had lots of currant, blackberry and black cherry fruit on the nose and palate with a hint of licorice spice. Smooth as velvet with a mouth-watering finish.

 

Rulo Chardonnay: This is another wine Mary enjoyed for her milestone 21st birthday celebration. This Birch Creek Vineyard Chardonnay has nicely integrated oak, vanilla spice and yummy lemon custard flavors, all that and wrapped up in a full-bodied, balanced wine with a long, lingering finish. And while in Walla Walla tasting this wine, Mary also learned it might soon be making an appearance on the shelves of Trader Joe’s, so keep your eyes peeled.

 

Hedges Family Estates CMS Red: What a wonderful wine to end our list with. This has become a go-to wine for Brynn to bring to parties, it’s affordable and tastes like it cost a lot more than the sticker price. It’s also a good red wine for those with a discerning palate, or those who just like to drink. And a quick reminder, the CMS stands for Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. Here’s Brynn’s take on the wine:

The wine has fruity hints of the Syrah upfront that are balanced by the minerality of the Merlot and the weight of the Cab.

 

Thanks for your comments and reading us this last year, we hope you stick around for 2012 when we’re sure to have more wine recommendations, reviews and raves about what’s happening in this ever-evolving world of wine. And, if you have a favorite wine from the year that you want to share, we’d love to hear from you.

Cheers!

Brynn and Mary


Ahi tuna, shiitake mushrooms and wine

Friday, May 13th, 2011

White wine goes with fish, right? Well maybe.

With Carter’s recipe — thanks Carter! — for ahi tuna with ginger-shiitake cream sauce, the ginger immediately makes us think Chardonnay. It’s probably clear by now that we love Chardonnay, but that’s because it’s a great white wine that pairs well with dishes of varying styles.

Ginger makes us think of Chardonnay because the two have an affinity for each other – possibly because of the dryness of the Chardonnay and the piquant characteristic of the root.

Beyond this affinity, Chardonnay has the body to match the meatiness of the ahi.

But since we recommended a Chardonnay with Ann Vogel’s recent Iowa Stuffed Chop recipe, we’re going to stay away from Chardonnay this time and instead recommend red wine to pair with the tuna.

Because of the density of the fish, we recommend a Pinot Noir or a Pinotage.

Pinotage is a South African red grape that is the result of a cross between the Pinot Noir and Cinsault grapes.

Both wine varietals have weight and flavor that would pair well with Carter’s dish — which is made even richer by the shiitake mushroom sauce.

If you’ve never tried a Pinotage, we recommend branching out for this meal. Look to the Goats du Roam winery for its interesting blend of Pinotage — 33 percent Pinotage, 22 percent Shiraz and 13 percent Grenache. There are four other grapes with lesser percentages also blended in this wine, which results in a medium-style red that would match the recipe’s ginger and soy nicely.

If you’d rather stay with Pinot Noir, our favorite go-to Pinot is from Castle Rock.

Castle Rock Winery is located in California and sources its grapes up and down the coast from California to Washington. Their wines are always affordable and dependably good.


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