Aspen Food & Wine Classic

Aspen – many times I only correlate that name with skiing. But every once in a while something else gets partnered with the name. For me this time it was the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. I had heard about it awhile back and it sounded amazing. But when I glimpsed at the ticket price I had no interest in going; costs a little shy of $2,000 to attend.

But this year a company that I work for reached out because they needed some help at their table. So, that meant free entry. Bring it on! I got to experience this at no cost.

This festival is amazing. While I didn’t get to take part in most of the seminars or do as much wine tasting as I would have liked, I still got a feel for all of it. Was able to get some quick sips of wine here and there, little nibbles of during prep time and meet lots of folks. Many regions of the world are represented, so many varietals of wine, so many cultures, so much fun. And you get to see the town all around you. These pictures are just a tidbit of it.

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I found out that volunteers at the event get a one day free pass. Going to consider doing that next year…help out the amazing event then enjoy it, too.

Cheers!

Cascadian Outfitters, Woodinville, WA – get canned

Checked out Cascadian Outfitters when I was in Woodinville. Now, they do have their traditional wine (Goose Ridge), but then they have their other stuff. And what is that? Canned wine! I totally had to do that tasting. Why stick to the norm? Canned wine is becoming more common and it’s great for if you’re going tailgating, camping or doing anything else where you don’t want a heavy, fragile bottle.

Stats…according to an article on Vine Pair, numbers they had from Business Insider mentioned that canned wine jumped from generating $1.9 million in 2012, to $6.4 million in 2016.

 

So, back to the tasting; at Cascadian Outfitters their tagline is ‘Wine is a can? You bet! Because our adventurous drinkers like to take it along on hikes, picnics, bike rides and beach days. Cascadian outfitters is the “can-do” fit for everyday life!”

They have three wines available in cans:

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2016 Rose – 13.4% ABV

Enjoy the fresh red fruit flavors of strawberry and citrus with hints of tropical mangos and pineapple. A fun and expressive palate of bright and juicy fruit with a refreshing spritz, finish with intense red fruit flavors. This Rose is crisp, bright and more expressive than the view from any summit you club! Cascadian Outfitters is committed to being your leading outdoor essential. Not matter your adventure, take it with a can.

-Perfect for summer, medium dry, so great for a rose.

2016 Chardonnay – 13.7% ABV

This Chardonnay had expressive white floral aromas with subtle notes of orange zest. On the palate it’s fresh and lively with a refreshing spritz, and bright fruit flavors of grapefruit and lemon finish with a subtle hint of spiced pears. This Chardonnay explores bright and fresh notes that hit even the highest of peaks.

-Light on the oak, so for me, not bad for a Chard.

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2016 Red Blend – 13.8% ABV

Our Red Blend has rich red fruit flavors of plum and cherry mixed with toasted notes of spice and caramel. This wine places a big footprint onto your palate with savory spices and bold fruit!

-Pretty light for a red, so especially good for summer heat. Nice balanced blend.

The one problem with these wines is that you couldn’t buy them individually, it had to be by the 6 pack ($30). I was only in town for the weekend and then was flying back home. I wanted to grab a can or two to take back to my friends’ place. And, I didn’t want to check a bag to take them home with me, even though I was flying SW.

But, regardless, it was so much fun to try these out! Love seeing how this part of the wine industry is growing.

 

Cheers!

Ryan Patrick Wines, Woodinville, WA

Another winery/tasting room I had the opportunity to visit in Woodinville was Ryan Patrick Wines. This year they are celebrating their 20th birthday (dang, not even drinking age!). At this one it’s a $15 tasting free for your choice of 4 wines (waived with a $30 purchase). But once again, you go in there, it’s slow, you talk to the great people about their great wine, you get more than 4.

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Rock Island Chardonnay, 2015, Columbia Valley, $20

Enjoy this at your next gathering. This Chardonnay is the perfect accompaniment to a cheese and charcuteries board. (First Place Wine Press NW Chardonnay Competition (tied with Milbrandt, 145 entries) 91 Points, San Francisco International Wine Competition)

-Oaked, with crispier bite at end, but wouldn’t consider it a Chard if I hadn’t seen the label.

Reserve Chardonnay, 2016, Wahluke Slope, Weinbau Vineyard, $35

Enjoy this during your next picnic or boating adventure. This refreshing Chardonnay is the perfect summer wine. (New release)

-All I can say is that it was oakier than the first one, it is truly a Chard.

Rose, 2017, (no spec on location), 75% Syrah, 14% Mourvedre, 9% Grenache, 2% Sangiovese, $15

Enjoy this now! Spring is the official start of Rose season and now is the perfect time to enjoy a glass! (New release)

-As I was told before tasting – ‘the nose is sweeter than it is’ – totally right! There was rose (the flower) on the nose then a light subtle powder taste. Totally a summer time rose to enjoy outside.

Rock Island Red, 2015, (no spec on location), 73% Syrah, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot), $20

Enjoy this with friends. Our Rock Island Red Blend is a crowd pleaser and enjoyed on its own or with food. (94 Points, Gold Medal Winner, Savor NW Wine Awards)

-WOW, ‘BFF Wine’ – per the pourer and I agree 110%! Had the ‘good’ maraschino cherry taste in there (just totally can’t remember the name of them. This was amazing. I left with a bottle to enjoy while in town. This is one I have to get more of.

Reserve Syrah, 2015, Red Mountain, Red Heaven Vineyard, $35

Enjoy this at your next BBQ. This Syrah pairs perfect with barbequed meats like pulled pork and ribs. (Gold, Wine Press NW).

-100% Single Vineyard. Would be so perfect with BBQ’d food. Not sure I would spend $35 on a bottle for a BBQ, but still very good.

Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015, Rattlesnake, Elephant Mountain Vineyard, $45

Enjoy this with dessert like chocolate molten lava cake or coffee ice cream with red berries.

-Good medium body, pretty sturdy.

I had such a great time at this place. Talked to the ladies pouring the wine for a while. Learned a lot about that wine region and what they’ve done at the vineyard. As mentioned before, I picked up a bottle of the ‘BFF’ wine, or Rock Island Red. Absolutely amazing stuff. Another one that I hope gets distributed in CO sooner than later so I won’t have to order it and have it shipped.

 

Cheers!

 

J. Bookwalter Winery

Was in Seattle a bit ago and knew that not far north was a great small wine region. I had a day to do nothing so it was the perfect opportunity to check it out! Woodinville, here I come (this is where Chateau Ste. Michelle is).

I checked out the map and it has several areas you can visit. I was there about a decade ago so was aiming to go to a new section. Come to find out the (new to me) parts I wanted to go to are only open on the weekends, and this was a Friday. So I just went back to the ‘old’ ones.

When you park in one place pretty much everything is walkable. Perfect! The first tasting room I checked out was J. Bookwalter Winery, from Columbia Valley. They were established in 1983 and produce roughly 30,000 cases a year. For their Classic Wines they work with co-distributors to bring great grapes to the bottle.

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Nice little shop/tasting room and pretty quiet.  The tasting was $10 (refundable with a $35 bottle purchase)

The tasting is 5 wines…but like any great place, they don’t give you just five wines…so here we go.

2016 Readers Chardonnay, $20
76% Chardonnay/24% Viognier

Our Readers Chardonnay, previously Couplet, continues to be an outstanding 100% stainless co-fermented blend, which offers aromas of fresh citrus, honeysuckle, and peaches,. The symphony of fruit on the palate echoes the aromas and is accented by minerality, quince and chamomile flowers.

-Yes, totally stainless steel!! Love it, no oak Chard taste!! Almost like a Pinot Grigio.

2015 Double Plot Chardonnay, $28
100% Conner Lee (100% Chardonnay)

The Classical style Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay with Asian pear, Meyer lemon and crème brulee aromas. A restrained young wine, it opens to shows abundant sweet fruit and rich persistent lemony flavors. The purist of Chardonnay fruit is the focus, with clean flavors in a rich smooth textures puncheon ages chardonnay.

-Oak, but not brutal! Not buttery. Liking it for a change.

2014 Readers Cabernet $28
50% Conners Lee | 40% Dionysus | 10% Elephant Mountain (75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 10% Syrah)

90 points Wine Enthusiast

A stunning Cabernet from Washington’s older and most revered vineyards. Sourced from Conner Lee Vineyard’s old vines from ’97 and ’88 blocks, Dionysus Vineyards’’ old block 18 and Elephant Mountain Vineyards’’ high elevation superior Cabernet blocks, the powerful wine offers fragrant blackberries, mocha and mineral complexity, all built into this fantastic old vine Cabernet’s delicious style.

-Nose from heaven! So smooth.

2015 Readers Merlot, $28
80% Conner Lee | 10% Dionysus | 10% Elephant Mountain (90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet)

An outstanding Merlot from Washington’s revered old vineyards Conner Lee and Dionysus. Our Readers blend tips its hat to all exploratory readers of books and wine. Blending Conner Lee Vineyard’s 1992 old block Merlots and Dionysus Vineyards’ block 15 Merlot combines two super character vineyards. Elephants Mountain Vineyards Cabernet bring spice and complexity to the blend. This powerful wine offers fragrant cherries and chocolate with rich marionberry flavors in this delicious easy drinking style.

-Smells ‘Italian’. WOW. Have to drink it to understand this amazing work.

2015 Antagonist, $45
100% Elephant Mountain (95% Syrah| 5% Cabernet Sauvignon)

Our 2015 Antagonist is a dark and concentrated wine that will deserve to see the inside of a cellar for several years. Aromatics bursting with flowers, oak and dark fruits lead into black cherries and black berries plus smoke, and meat, sandalwood and sweet spices. The smooth fruit profile is nearly identical on the palate as it is aromatically with sweet dark fruits taking center stage.

-I give it crisp and smooth.

The extras I got to taste were their:

2017 Scarlet Hexflame Rose, $24
100% Columbia Valley | 100% Conner Lee

Vintage 2017 was long in the Columbia Valley. Success of our Washington state vintage was due to our desert’s cool nights during ripening in August. A long history with this old vineyard afforded us a predictable harvest of flavorful early fruit. Harvested in August and early September, mainly Cabernet Franc and Malbec, the fruit was full of flavor early with balanced acidity. We protected the fruit from sun burn with a full canopy of leaves. Overall intensity and depth of flavor are the hallmarks of this outstanding vintage.

-It was sweet, but not killer.

2015 Suspense, $60
100% Columbia Valley | 100% Conner Lee

Our most floral reserve wine displays the ripe cassis, cherries and dried rose petal aromas of perfectly ripened Cabernet Franc. Generous and smooth textured, our lucious blend shows off the best of our 2015 vintage Cabernet Franc supported by its classic Merlot complement.

-I got a lot of pepper on the nose and tongue, a bit different than their description

Very much worth the visit. I did not buy anything at the time because I was flying back and was not going to check a bag but they are very high on my list to order from. They are not yet available in my area, but hope they will be eventually.

Cheers!

Cafe Vino, Ft Collins

Need wine? The name Café Vino seems like a good place to go.

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Decided to check it out for Happy Hour one evening. The Happy Hour menu title alone it great – Adult Swim.

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They have wine, beer and food specials. Now the wine is only down to $6 – would hope for something a bit better in Ft. Collins, but I’ll live. After a quick taste of both the red and white from the great bartender I actually opted for the blanco. And, it was a (semi) chard! The wine was Feudo Zirtari, 55% Inzolia/45% Chard. It wasn’t too heavy, no oak on it, and despite the fact that it wasn’t hot out, it was very nice and refreshing and I would have loved to be sitting outside on the deck with it.

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This is another one that I can’t find anywhere in the stores (did much research afterwards). Just not right that I can enjoy it in the restaurant but no further.

So, will have to return here for the wine, if nothing else. Will also have to check out their food menu at some point.

 

Stonecross Pinotage

When wine shopping, anytime I come across a Pinotage, which is very difficult in Colorado, I have to jump on it. The newest one I have come across is Stonecross at Square Beverage in Ft. Collins. Well priced at about $13. It has some nice fruit it in and I found some of the nice smokey body of Pinotage. Pick it up if you can find a bottle at your local store.

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Post Winery, Arkansas

When driving across the country you learn and see a lot of things. For me, one of those was that it is really true that all states have wineries. Found this out even more with research while writing this — check it out. One of the wineries that I visited was Post Winery in Arkansas. Oh yes, Arkansas. Post Winery has been making that grape juice since 1880.

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Per the site, they are ‘the largest winery in Arkansas and the first commercial vineyard to produce here, and the first to bring you 100% Muscadine Juice and that famous Muscadine Wine. Post Familie Vineyards is our sustainably managed farm in the foothills of the Arkansas Ozarks, altitude 780 feet, straddling the first plateau above the Arkansas River valley.’

They have a decent selection of wines. For the (free) tasting, you can pick what you’d like to sample. I will say, they weren’t from Napa or Bordeaux. Most had a taste close to Welch’s. There wasn’t anything there that I needed to leave with, but it was nice to check a winery state off the list.

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Top 12 Rose of 2017 at Capital Wine School

Want to get educated on wine? One of the best places in DC you can go is Capital Wine School.

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It’s located in Friendship Heights and run by Jay Youmans, MW. They have a wide variety of classes, which makes it tough to pick which one to take.

This summer I decided on the Top 12 Rose of 2017. It was originally only supposed to be 10, but darn, Jay added two more.

Over the course of the evening, we sipped, talked, and learned a lot. Some of the brief wine notes I scribbled:

  • Rose has had double digit growth over the past 14 years, with 8-9% in 2016 alone
  • Champagne is the best marketed ‘brand’ in the world
  • Champagne is the only places allowed to blend
  • ‘Most Rose is not for contemplation’ – just open them and enjoy
  • Half of Rose consumed in the US is French
  • Drink Rose young
  • Drink Rose at 55-60 degrees
  • New world wines will be screw tops, French will have corks

The Roses we tasted are below with my comments. And a link to Jay’s presentation is in the picture below.

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  • NV Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose Champagne – France – $75. 50% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier. This was a nice way to start class off. But, not worth $75/bottle.
  • 2016 Miraval Cotes de Proven Rose – Provence, France – $22. Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Rolle (White). This is Brad Pitt’s wine (if you’ve seen it before). It’s the #2 brand in the US. Lemon, melon, medium acid. It’s good, but I don’t like saying that since it’s a celeb’s wine.
  • 2016 Chateau d’Esclans “Whispering Angel” – Cotes du Provence – France – $20. Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah. #1 selling Rose in the US. Tiny bit of oak at finish.
  • 2016 Chateau de Bregancon Cru Classe – Cotes du Provence – France – $25. 50% Grenache, 50% Cinsault. Deeper body, peach, aged in oak casks. Can get it at MacArthur Beverages in DC.
  • Domaine Ott – Chateau de Selle – Cotes de Provence, France, $45. Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah. ‘Creamy nose’ – like an oaked chard. Not good! It’s ‘getting old’ – you need to drink Roses young. Why $45?
  • 2016 Famille Bougrier Rose D’Anjou – Loire Valley, France – $12. 70% Gamay, 40% Grolleau – 16g/l = 1.6% sugar. Very pink, very sweet. Tasted like cotton candy. Not one I’m headed to the store to buy.

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  • 2016 Jean Reverdy Sancerre Rose (Les Villots) – Loire Valley, France. $18. 100% Pinot Noir. Sancerre MUST use Pinot Noir. Crisp. One of my favorites of the night.
  • 2016 Domain de la Mordoree-Tavel-Rhone Valley  — France – $32. 60% Grenache, 15% Clairette, 10% Syrah, 10% Cinsault, 5% Bourboulenc (white). Raspberry color, fairly dark. Super fruity nose, oh wow, flavors jump in the mouth.
  • 2016 Stobi Rose — Tikves, Macedonia. $12. 80% Rkatsiteli, 20% Vraec. Floral and lychee nose. Subtle grapefruit taste. Just so unique. Another one of my favorites of the night.
  • 2016 Early Morning Rose – Virginia – Madison, VA, $24. 60% Merlot, 25% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec. A bit tasteless then a bit of bitterness.
  • 2016 Francis Ford Coppola “Sofia” – Monterey, CA, $22. Syrah, Grenache, Pinot Noir. Dark, nice nose – roses, strawberries. It’s the one that comes in a bowling pin bottle. This wine came about as a mistake from Sutter Homes. Was supposed to be a white wine, then this happened.
  • Mystery Wine – was a bit sweeter. Ended up being the Underwood Rose in a can.

Such a fun class and night. If you’ve never been to this school, add it to your list!

 

 

 

 

Lost Creek, Leesburg, VA

A friend and I explored some local wine country on a beautiful DC day in August. What is upper 70s in this month?

We went to The Vineyards & Winery at Lost Creek in Leesburg, VA.

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This winery has been in the works since 1998 and has 16 acres of land. My friend and I split a tasting which included the following, for $15.

2016 Vidal Blanc. 100% Estate Grown. Tropical Fruit. Stainless Steel Aged. $22. Unique, had a bit of oak on it.

2014 Chardonnay. 100% Estate Grown. Bright & Crisp. Stainless Steel Aged. $24. I tasted beef jerky and tire?! Then some lemon meringue. Ok, odd.

2015 Reserve Chardonnay. 100% Estate-Grown Whole Cluster Pressed. Ten months French Oak. Best of Class SF Chronicle Harvest Club Wine Only. $29. Not too yellow for an oaked Chard.

2016 Rose. 11% Zinfandel Dry Rose Blend. Barrel Aged 6 months. Food friendly. $24. Watermelon nose. Definitely dry. Very nice. Ended up getting a glass to enjoy later.

The following 3 are their Bordeaux Blends.

2015 Trinity. 43% Cabernet Sauvignon/36% Cabernet Franc/8% Merlot/13% Petit Verdot. 16 months French Oak. $36. This is the 3rd blend they’ve made. Peppery.

2015 Genesis. 62% Merlot/16% Cabernet Sauvignon/16% Cabernet Franc/6% Petit Verdot. 16 months French Oak. $40.  1st blend for them. They gave it that name because genesis means ‘new beginnings.’ Very smooth. My favorite.

2015 Provenance. 45% Cabernet Sauvignon/30% Merlot/20% Cabernet Franc/5% Petit Verdot. 16 months French Oak. Premium Selection. $42. Heaviest of the three. Nice nose.

As mentioned, I decided to enjoy a glass of the Rose. My friend and I sat outside in their very nice garden/pavilion area. Tables, chairs, where you can sit back and relax. We didn’t need anything to eat, but they have quite the menu. This is a place where you cannot bring your own food.

The staff was quite knowledgeable about the wine and they were all quite good for VA wines. It’s so nice to see how VA wines are getting better and better each time a winery is visited, and the difference between various VA wine regions.

Pollak Vineyards, Greenwood, VA

Another winery visited in the Monticello Region was Pollak Vineyards.

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This one opened in 2008 and all grapes are estate grown. But a bit more history on them can be found here, about how they started growing their grapes in 2003. They had a beautiful tasting room and quite the staff to give us information on the wine.

2014 Chardonnay. Characteristically golden straw in color, with an assortment of aromatics ranging from ripe apricots to tropical fruit. Flavors include quince, pineapple and citrus fruit which are all interlaced with notes of fresh white flowers. The wine is crafted to be fruit-forward, medium weight, with a crisp clementine like finish. $24. 80% unoaked/20% oaked. Like the unoaked percentage!

 2016 Viognier. Gold, Finger Lakes International. Bright, tropical and intense apricot and peach aromas that mingle with a beautiful spiciness. Displaying youthful acidity and a clean crisp but creamy finish. $26. Tropical fruit nose. Crisp and clean. Very good wine.

2016 Pinot Gris. Nose of stone fruit, orange blossom and fresh tropical fruit flavors. Rough and creamy with bright minerality and a fruit forward finish. $25. No nose at first, eventually got one after a few swirls.

2016 Rose. The bouquet of aromas range from ripe red raspberry to strawberry and spice. On the palate flavor of fresh red fruit race alongside a great acidity leaving a desire for another taste. $24. All stainless. Sweet smell, ok, not my favorite rose.

2015 Cabernet Franc. Bright ruby in color, with fragrances of pomegranate, cherry jam and fresh cracked black pepper. On the palate: soft impressions of ripe blackberry, cassis, and dark cocoa mingle into a velvety finish. $28. Nice nose, pepper. Really like this one.

2014 Merlot. Gold, Finger Lakes International. Aromas of fresh, ripened cherries and blueberries burst from this perfectly balance Merlot. The wine retains freshness and vibrancy through to the finish, yet has soft, silky but firm tannins. $30. Thick and chocolatey. Very nice.

2013 Meritage. Best in Category Gold, Atlantic Seaboard Gold, Monticello Cup. Complex nose, smooth, rich and silky, this handcraft wine finds its center around a core of blackcurrant, black cherry and sweet raspberry fruit. Spice, cedar and earth notes add complexity, but the generous fruit and supple texture that anchor the mid-palate. $35. Smooth…

2015 Petit Verdot. A very deep and complex vintage of this robust varietal. Full-bodied and rich, this wine is drinking nicely now but also has great potential to improve in the cellar. $30. Nice nose, bad taste.

2012 Mille Fleurs. Port of Viognier. Voted Best Dessert Wine in Virginia, Virginia Wine Lover Magazine. $30. Too sweet.

During the whole time and discussion the folks at the winery also suggested watching Blood Into Wine. Have to check this out because most movies about wine can’t be bad, right?

Much enjoyed this winery and look forward to going again. Cheers!