At the first Taste Washington event we went to a couple years
ago, Mary and I stopped at the Two Mountain Winery table.
Mary knew one of the brothers who founded the winery from her
days at the wine shop, so we had a great time chatting with him
about the winery and upcoming releases.
My editor had also brought the winery to my attention, telling
me she really enjoyed the Riesling Two Mountain produces. So when I
was at the grocery store the other day and saw a Two Mountain red
blend, I decided it was time to give them a try.
The blend is the winery’s Hidden Horse Red Table Wine VIII,
which is a Bordeaux blend. The bottle doesn’t give a breakdown of
the grapes used, but the finish sang of Cabernet Sauvignon, leaving
me to believe that was the dominate grape varietal.
The winery has its previous blend, the Hidden Horse VII, on its
site. Here’s what they say about that wine:
A red blend for the ages. This is a great red for almost
anytime. Thirty-nine percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 37 percent Merlot,
15 percent Cabernet Franc, 6 percent Syrah, and 3 percent Malbec
has created a great combination of elegance, structure,
approachability. With wafts of boysenberry, blackberry, and a hint
of white pepper then working into a mouth containing dark rich
plum, over ripe bramble berries, sweet spice, and rich tobacco
leaves. What a gem!
I’m guessing the break down of grape percentages is relatively
similar, although maybe no Syrah in the Hidden Horse VIII blend — I
didn’t catch any of the jammy notes that could come with Syrah.
This was a great every day red wine and paired well with the potato
soup I made from a combination of russet and Yukon gold potatoes
and roasted cauliflower florets.
The wine retails between $15 and $20. I think we bought it
closer to the $15 mark.
Mosquito Fleet Winery came to life three years ago in a Belfair
warehouse. That’s when the first shipment of grapes made its way
from various Eastern Washington vineyards across the Cascade
Mountain range and into the industrial space where the winery’s
four owners and numerous volunteers anxiously waited to partake in
the winery’s inaugural crush.
A lot has changed since that first crush party. Most noticeable
is the transformation of the warehouse, which doubling as the
winery, opened to the public for the first time last week for an
inaugural release party.
What once housed crushing
equipment, including a destemmer and fermentation containers, is
now lined with twinkling white lights, fishing nets and other
nautical décor, stacked oak barrels filled with wine and photos of
the winery’s first days. Winemaker Brian Petersen credits his wife
Jacquie and business partner and close friend Jacy Griffin for the
transformation. Griffin’s husband Scott is the fourth owner of the
“They had a vision for how it could be and they hit it out of
the park,” Petersen said of the décor selections and attention to
detail — like Reidel stemware and specialized decanters used to
bring out the wine’s flavors before it was poured for guests.
Another, less obvious transformation, is the amount of wine
stored in the barrels. At its inception in 2009, the Petersens and
Griffins purchased enough grapes to produce 200 cases. That’s on
par with most small-scale wineries opening these days with a focus
on quality handcrafted wine over quantity.
But where the winery diverges from the norm is its growth
between its 2009 vintage and its 2010 vintage. Instead of making a
gradual increase in production over time as wine sales grew — the
most common path taken — Mosquito Fleet’s production jumped from
200 cases in its first year to 1,000 cases for its 2010 harvest.
The winery replicated that number with its 2011 harvest.
“We typically aren’t known for our patience,” Petersen said.
“It’s go big or go home.”
If he isn’t already, Petersen should be known for his
persistence. A chiropractor by day, Petersen set out on a mission
to not only learn what he needed to create top-notch wines —
attending a series of winemaking classes at UC Davis and picking
the brains of some of the state’s most respected winemakers — but
he also became determined to get his hands on grapes from some of
the state’s most well-known vineyards.
When others may have turned away after being told there was no
fruit available, Petersen didn’t let up until he got what he
Mosquito Fleet sources grapes from Elephant Mountain and
Copeland Vineyard, located in the Rattlesnake Hills appellation in
Yakima, and Double Canyon Vineyard located in the Horse Heaven
Hills appellation. Double Canyon is adjacent to Champoux Vineyards,
one of the state’s most highly regarded vineyards known for
consistently producing some of the state’s best cabernet sauvignon.
While it doesn’t carry the Champoux name, the grapes Mosquito Fleet
receives share the terroir that sets Champoux’s vines above the
rest, Petersen said.
The winery added fruit from Kiona Vineyards in the Red Mountain
appellation for its most recent vintages.
But the vineyard Petersen is probably most excited about is his
block within Pepper Bridge Vineyards, which is known for producing
some of the most sought after fruit not only in the state, but also
the Northwest. The winery’s cabernet sauvignon is 100 percent
sourced from Pepper Bridge and after one sip the similarities are
evident. Like Pepper Bridge’s cab, Mosquito Fleet’s cab is a deep
purple color with tight tannins evident on the finish.
Considering it’s the winery’s first release — along with a
Meritage Blend that is Petersen’s take on a left-bank Bordeaux
blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit
verdot — it’s evident the “go big or go home” motto has worked in
the favor of the Petersens and Griffins who have maintained all
along that they want to be known for producing quality wines.
In 2010 Mosquito Fleet will again release a cab and Meritage
Blend, but it will also add cabernet franc, petit verdot and a
syrah, mourvedre, cab blend to its line up. The winery will also
release limited quantities of its Touriga Nacional Port 2010, which
is a blend of 18 percent Tinta Roriz and 82 percent Touriga
Nacional — considered to be Portugal’s finest red wine grape.
Mosquito Fleet’s owners have
done a good job of marketing their product. A private inaugural
release party drew close to 200 people last week and the winery saw
around 250 people come through its doors on Saturday, the one and
only day it opened to the public.
“The fact that we were able to pull 450 people through our doors
for the first time we opened our winery was amazing,” Petersen
said. “The feedback we got was tremendous.”
The strong response solidifies efforts to market Mosquito Fleet
Winery as a community winery, Petersen said.
While he wondered whether they would sell out of the 2009
vintage after the initial opening, there are still some wines left.
But because of the limited supply, the winery won’t open again to
the public, at least not until 2013 when it’s time for the release
of the 2010 vintage. Instead wines can be purchased at the winery’s
website, or in the near future at an
area wine shop. They’re also in the process of working with local
wine shops and restaurants to feature the wines.
Mosquito Fleet Winery’s 2009 Releases
63 percent cabernet sauvignon
32 percent merlot
3 percent cabernet franc
2 percent petit verdot
Vineyards: Double Canyon Vineyard, Le Vignes de
Marcoux, Elephant Mountain Elevage: Aged 22 months on new oak, 83 percent
French, 17 percent American Cases: 89
100 percent cabernet sauvignon
Vineyard: Pepper Bridge Vineyard, Walla
Walla Elevage: Aged 22 months on new oak, 87 percent
French, 3 percent American Cases: 118
Touriga Nacional Port 2010:
82 percent Touriga Nacional
18 percent Tinta Roriz
Vineyard: Two Mountain Winery’s estate Copeland
Vineyard and Elephant Mountain Elevage: Aged 24 months on French oak; expected
bottling November 2012 Cases: 72 demi cases (selling in advance of
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
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).
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
This Washington winery is a nine-year-old family-owned operation
nestled in the Rattlesnake Hills of the Yakima Valley. Two
brothers, Matthew and Patrick Rawn, own and operate the winery and
Two Mountain Winery produces Merlot,
Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah, Lemberger, Cabernet
Sauvignon and Touriga Nacional. (Actually, this blog should be
titled: “What we wish we could have more of!”)
The Vinho Vermelho (Portuguese for red wine) is made from one of
the six grapes that are native to, and allowed in, Portuguese
Porto. Winemaker Matt Rawn aged the wine in American oak for more
than two years.
Most American wineries make port from grapes such as Cabernet,
Syrah and Zinfandel. In the U.S., very little acreage is planted to
the noble Touriga Nacional grape.
Their website says it best:
Inviting flavors of candied citrus, chocolate, dark fruits
and deep smoke.
The “deep” is a term hard to wrap the brain around, especially
when describing smoke. The Two Mountain Winery 2005 Yakima Valley
Vinho Vermelho is listed at $47.