Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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Posts Tagged ‘Novelty Hill’

A red wine for grilling

Friday, June 14th, 2013

We’re finally coming into one of our favorite seasons: summer.

And why do we love summer so much? Beyond the obvious — sunshine, duh! — we like our increased cooking options (read: we love to grill).

Pairing wine with grilling recipes is fun because the selection is vast — many reds, and even some whites, are great accompaniments to food touched by a grill.

For this week’s pairing we wanted to ignore the go-to wines and instead recommend a varietal you might not be familiar with. The wine we’re thinking of is considered the backbone of many wines from one of our favorite wine regions in France, the Rhone Valley. But it likely originated in Spain.

It’s also a grape that has done well in Washington, especially in the Walla Walla area.

So what grape are we talking about? None other than Grenache.

Typically you’ll find Grenache in red blends that include syrah, mourvedre, cinsault and carignan. (Think France’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape). But we’ve seen a trend among Washington winemakers to use Grenache as a stand-alone variety.

That’s great for us wine lovers because this grape, if done right, is a perfect food wine. It’s also a great choice to match with Ann Vogel’s Persian beef shish kebabs and her Filipino barbecued port kebabs.

Grenache is a good red for summer because it is light enough for a warm evening, but holds the weight and structure needed to stand up to the range of flavors a grill can infuse on food.

Flavor characteristics of Grenache include fruits like blackberries and black currants, white pepper, allspice and cinnamon. It’s a wine that doesn’t need a lot of oak, but if oak is used it can add hints of vanilla and even smoke depending on how toasted the inside of the barrels are.

There are a number of Washington wineries that produce great Grenaches. Here’s a few to look out for the next time you’re in the store: Maison Bleue, Milbrant Vineyards, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Barnard Griffen Winery, Novelty Hill and McCrea Cellars.

We also recommend Trio Vintners, which we tried while at Taste Washington earlier this year. Winemaker Karen LaBonte lets the wine sit for 21 months in barrels with minimal new oak, which allows the grape’s flavors to shine instead of being muddled by oak.

The wine is listed at $26. The only hitch is it’s not available in Kitsap, but if you’re in Seattle it’s available at the Sixth Avenue Wine Cellar in the Pacific Place shopping center downtown or at Esquin Wine and Spirits, 2700 Fourth Avenue South in downtown Seattle.


What we’re drinking: Novelty Hill 2008 Roussanne

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Brynn writes:

Here’s a tasty winter white wine for you. Produced by Washington winemaker Mike Januik, this white Rhone grape varietal has quickly become one of my favorite.

Add Januik’s winemaking touch and you’ve got a winner. I bought this wine at the winery in Woodinville after tasting it there, but I’ve seen it in our local grocery stores/wine shops.

At first whiff you could be inclined to think you’re about to try a chardonnay, but don’t let the nose or warm yellow color fool you.

We drank this wine Sunday night with stuffed acorn squash and a garlic seasoned brown rice and quinoa mix. The finish at first left the impression of white grape juice, but the more I let it linger the more I noticed the sweet honeysuckle notes. I also tasted peaches and pear.

Here’s what Januik has to say about his Roussanne:

Vibrant and expressive with wild honeysuckle, juicy melon and fresh citrus aromas and flavors that linger across a lengthy, refreshing finish.

What I like about this wine is it provides crisp citrus notes, but also a medium body that gives some weight to the wine. The wine is aged sur lie for 10 months (which means the discarded yeast cells during fermentation stay in the juice, giving it a rounded mouth) and barrel fermented in neutral French oak. Only a small number of cases were produced, meaning some good TLC went into making this wine.

The grapes are handpicked from Stillwater Creek vineyard — the family vineyard — and fermented in small batches. I believe the price range is below $20.


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


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