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January 21, 2011

Well deserved praise for 2008 Oregon Pinot noir

Eric Asimov, wine critic at The New York Times, gives high marks to Oregon Pinot noir after he and several others in a panel tasted twenty different wines from 2008. Asimov joins an expanding chorus of reviewers heaping praise on this vintage - you can see his list of recommendations here. While Asimov cautions that his top ten picks aren't necessarily the "best" Oregon Pinot noir from 2008 (rather, just the favorites from the twenty tasted), I am not surprised to see some of the producers featured on his top ten list of recommendations. Belle Pente (#1), WillaKenzie (#2), Adelsheim...

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January 06, 2011

Most Popular/Favorite Posts from 2010

Here's a list of the most viewed (and implied read) posts from last year, along with my favorites published in 2010. One thing is clear about this site: most of those visiting seek wine reviews or tasting notes. Even still, a significant number of visitors read my "Perspective" posts, which focus on relevant topics that go beyond how a wine tastes. A heartfelt thanks to all of you who visited BeyondtheBottle.com in 2010. I hope you enjoyed reading about my experiences with Oregon and Washington wine. I also hope my coverage helped enhance your own enjoyment of a wine,...

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November 13, 2010

Video: Harvest Day 2010

Last month, I had the opportunity to spend two days at Lemelson Vineyards, capturing a variety of activities during the peak of harvest in the Willamette Valley. This short video offers an intimate look at the hard work and team effort that goes into harvest each year, from the pick in the vineyard at sunrise to the sort in the winery thru sunset. Harvest Day 2010 from Beyond the Bottle on Vimeo....

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November 02, 2010

Photos: An afternoon at Brick House Vineyard

Upon arriving at Brick House Vineyards to shoot one afternoon during harvest, Doug Tunnell and Melissa Mills invited me to first sit down with the rest of their crew to have a glass of wine as they finished up a late lunch. That's what it is all about - taking pause and soaking it all in before getting back to work. I like that approach and appreciated the kind welcome from Doug and Melissa, who were such gracious hosts throughout my stay. Grace is a word that aptly describes Brick House wines, ones that I am a big fan of...

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May 29, 2010

Connections: WillaKenzie Estate

A couple of years ago, I wrote how WillaKenzie stood out amongst its peers for the approach they took online. Anyone visiting their website's homepage is immediately connected to the sense of place that is WillaKenzie Estate. The ariel shot of their vineyards along with interactive descriptions of varietal plantings, sustainable practices, and wine products offers a terrific means toward understanding the who, what, and where behind this Oregon producer. Even better is the way WillaKenzie Estate integrates what it offers online with that provided offline in their tasting room. For example, the same ariel photo from their site's...

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May 18, 2009

Review: Adamant Cellars Winery

One of the aspects I enjoy most about visiting new wineries is that you are usually served by the winemaker him/herself. It's a great opportunity to not only meet the person behind the wines you're sampling, but more importantly to hear firsthand their motivations to getting into the business and their approach toward their craft. Entering Adamant Cellars on a late March Sunday afternoon, I was immediately approached by Devin, founder/winemaker, who proceeded to pour several of his wines at no charge. Along the way, he offered stories about growing up in Portland and learning to make wine from...

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Review: Kontos Cellars Winery

To see firsthand that starting a winery can be a full time family affair, all one needs to do is walk into a tasting room and see kids hanging out. Such was the case when I arrived at Kontos Cellars, where I had the privilege of meeting Chris Kontos and his young daughter working one Sunday afternoon in late March. Kontos Cellars is one of several incubator wineries built in an identical group of buildings on the northeastern edge of the Walla Walla Regional Airport industrial park. Kontos and its neighbors each have a six year lease on their...

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May 17, 2009

Review: Mannina Cellars Winery

If you're looking for evidence of things changing out at the Walla Walla airport, then look no further than Mannina Cellars. This winery is located on a street containing several newly constructed buildings housing some upstart winemakers in the valley. The backdrop of wheat fields and the Blue Mountains just behind this stretch of wineries is just beautiful. On the Sunday afternoon I visited, a Walla Walla Community College eunology student was working in the tasting room, pouring a merlot and a red blend with no tasting fees attached. I was impressed when the young woman behind the counter...

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Review: Otis Kenyon Tasting Room

What a terrific experience I had at the Otis Kenyon tasting room in downtown Walla Walla. On the Sunday afternoon I visited in late March, I was greeted by Jessica, who proceeded to pour four distinct red wines with no tasting fees attached. These included a cab sauv and a syrah, both 100% varietal makeup, as well as a malbec and a carmenere, both blends. Jessica is the type of person you want working in a tasting room, for she is well trained about serving and well informed about the wines she pours. Even better, she's a good story...

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Review: Zerba Cellars Tasting Room

Just south of Walla Walla across the WA-OR border on highway 11 is the Zerba Cellars tasting room. It is located inside a modern log cabin next door to one of their estate vineyards. On the Sunday I visited, Marilyn Zerba was pouring a broad flight of wines for about half a dozen folks, with everyone clearly having a good time. I really enjoyed meeting Marilyn and hearing her story about how she and Cecil, her husband, were long standing nursery owners in the area who decided to go into the wine business about ten years ago. She did...

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Review: Saviah Cellars Winery

In late March, I paid a visit to the Saviah Cellars winery, which is located about 10 minutes south of downtown Walla Walla. Having enjoyed a bottle of the Saviah 2005 Malbec, I was eager to taste the 2006 vintage in hopes of getting more. On the Sunday of my visit, I was greeted by a friendly young woman who offered eager pours but seemed a bit reserved when it came to going beyond the bottle with each wine. Fortunately, there were some detailed winemaker notes available with each of the four wines poured on this day, which included a...

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September 23, 2008

Washington Wine Country Getaways in Seattle Magazine

The October issue of Seattle Magazine has a cover feature on Washington wine country getaways. The spread offers commentary on wineries to visit, places to stay, and where to dine in the Walla Walla Valley, Yakima Valley, and Spokane areas. It is a magazine worth picking up if you're planning a visit to eastern Washington this Fall. In addition, I encourage you to review the Washington wineries BeyondtheBottle.com has visited over the last year: aMaurice Cellars Amavi Cellars Ash Hollow Basel Cellars Brian Carter Cellars Chatter Creek Covington Cellars Dama Wines Fort Walla Walla Cellars Isenhower Cellars L'Ecole No...

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July 30, 2008

IPNC 2008: Connections, Context, and Community

For me, the measure of a good wine experience is how often and to what degree you reflect on it afterward. Since returning from IPNC 2008, I have been thinking a lot about what I gained from attending this event. If I were to distill it down to just a few themes, then IPNC for me was all about connections, context, and community. Connecting to People and Places I heard it said many times during the weekend, that it is the wine that brings folks to IPNC, but it is the people that make it special. That was clearly validated...

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July 27, 2008

IPNC: Day Two, Part Two

IPNC Northwest Salmon Bake Dinner The second half of Day Two at IPNC followed a similar sequence to Day One, with several seminars, special pourings, alfresco tastings, and dinner. Mid-afternoon, I dropped by a book signing featuring Tyler Colman, Ph.D., a.k.a. Dr. Vino, and several other authors. Tyler, whom I met earlier in the day, publishes a popular wine blog and has recently released a new book entitled, Wine Politics: How Governments, Environmentalists, Mobsters, and Critics Influence the Wines We Drink. I am looking forward to reading Tyler's book, which combines two of my favorite topics. Along with the book...

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July 26, 2008

IPNC: Day Two, Part One

IPNC Sustainability Without Sacrifice Seminar Today is the second and last full day at IPNC. It began with two wine seminars indoors and was followed by lunch outside on the lawn. In keeping with the theme of this year's IPNC, the two seminars focused on sustainability in the vineyard and winery. Both sessions were moderated by Andrea Robinson with a panel of special guests commenting on the various wine flights in front of us. The first session featured Jasper Morris, wine expert and writer, and Dominique Lafon, of the Burgundy estate, Domaine des Comtes Lafon. Dominique spoke about his...

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July 25, 2008

IPNC: Day One, Part Two

IPNC Grand Dinner What an amazing evening the first night of IPNC has been... It started with the al fresco tasting event, featuring dozens of producers from around the world pouring recent and past releases of pinot noir. As much as these types of tasting events offer a useful cross-section of wines, I find it challenging to really enjoy wine in this setting without food. The cocktail wines always show well, while the food friendly wines struggle. Following the tasting reception, we all came together for "The Grand Dinner", with a variety of wines and vintages being poured throughout...

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IPNC: Day One, Part One

IPNC Vineyard Tour and Winery Lunch What a terrific first day at IPNC. I got started at 8 am joining Craig Camp of the Wine Camp Blog for breakfast. Craig is clearly the man when it comes to blogging about the Oregon wine scene. It was a lot of fun meeting him, chatting about wine and the Web, as well as being introduced to some folks he knows. After breakfast, several hundred attendees gathered on Linfield's commencement green for the opening ceremonies. After a welcome from the president of Linfield College and comments from special guests, each of the...

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July 24, 2008

Pre-IPNC Dinner at Lemelson Vineyards

On the eve of IPNC kicking off tomorrow, more than a dozen wineries in the McMinnville area are hosting dinners tonight. I had the good fortune of selecting the pre-IPNC dinner event at Lemelson Vineyards winery, which ended up being an incredible evening of amazing food, delicious wine, and best of all, good company. Before getting into too much detail, I want to share something special that happened earlier today on my journey from Seattle to the Willamette Valley. While driving south, I was listening to the radio when Garrison Keillor came on with The Writer's Almanac, his daily feature...

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July 22, 2008

Review: Seven Hills Winery

When it comes to running a tasting room, there are wineries that get what it means to provide a truly connected experience. And then there are those that clearly don't. The folks at Seven Hills Winery get it, for their tasting room is one that provides strong connections to the people and places behind their wines. Seven Hills Winery is located in the historic Whitehouse-Crawford building in downtown Walla Walla. Their spacious tasting room offers a wide bar with views into the winery's barrel room. The restored wood plank floors, high ceilings, exposed beams, and brick walls provide a...

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July 13, 2008

Review: Trust Cellars

While in Walla Walla over the Fourth of July, my father-in-law, Bob, a.k.a. Pappa Rosso, suggested I check out Trust Cellars. Then Catie, the Walla Walla Wine Woman, urged me to stop by as well. As a result, it quickly moved to the top of my list of wineries to see during that weekend. The Trust Cellars winery and tasting room is just a short drive south from downtown Walla Walla. It is located in a small building situated on the outskirts of a sizable vineyard. Trust shares its tasting room with Chateau Rollat, another start up winery, which...

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July 09, 2008

Review: aMaurice Cellars Winery

àMaurice Cellars is located east of downtown Walla Walla on Mill Creek Road. It is next door to Walla Walla Vintners and just down the road from K Vintners and the Abeja Inn. Along the lane leading to the winery, rows of lavender greet you, which were in full bloom on the Saturday afternoon I visited. The winery is housed in a temporary structure (there are plans to build a larger complex) next to the 13 acre estate vineyard planted in 2006. àMaurice, is a family-owned and operated winery, named after Maurice Shafer, the father of founder Tom Shafer,...

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April 09, 2008

Isenhower Cellars: Team Terroir

While in Walla Walla weekend before last, I had the opportunity to stop by Isenhower Cellars to visit with my father-in-law, Bob, who works in their tasting room. For full disclosure, I have no financial or business interest in this winery, just a connection through family. It was an opportune visit, in that they had recently started pouring some of their new releases. At the same time, it was a very inspiring visit, for Isenhower Cellars has clearly set a new benchmark when it comes to focusing on terroir. While tasting through their new wines, I noticed how the...

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April 03, 2008

Tertulia Cellars: A Social Approach

A few miles south of downtown Walla Walla amongst acres of wheat fields, a new colorful winery has arisen. Tertulia Cellars is a place that stands out amongst its peers in terms of architecture and design. From the outside, one is immediately struck by the bold multi-colored building as a place that might be taking a different approach to the winery experience. Walking inside only confirms what these folks have brought to the Walla Walla Valley: a place designed to be a social gathering around wine. The approach Tertulia Cellars is taking with their tasting room is in keeping...

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November 29, 2007

Local Guidance for Holiday Barrel Tasting

If you're headed to Walla Walla this weekend for the annual Holiday Barrrel Tasting, I encourage you to visit Catie's blog, Through the Walla Walla Grapevine, and Amy's blog, amyrootvik.com. Both bloggers not only live in Walla Walla, but have been involved in the valley's wine industry for some years now. Catie has been writing about Walla Walla wine for over two years now, while Amy began blogging last December. Their blogs offer some useful guidance on how to get the most out of this weekend's event as well as providing insightful background on both established and new wineries in...

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November 27, 2007

Review: Penner-Ash Wine Cellars

I could not have ended my tour of Yamhill County wineries in a better way than the experience provided at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars. This is a special place in so many ways, from the facility's thoughtful architectural design, to the connected experiences offered tasting Penner-Ash wine. I had learned about Penner-Ash while listening to the 3 Wine Guys, who recommended their wine during a podcast that featured four 2005 Oregon pinot noirs. After hearing their show, I was eager to visit the Penner-Ash winery and try some of their wines myself. Little did I know how this online discovery...

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November 26, 2007

Walla Walla and Woodinville Wine Weekend Events

This weekend there will be two significant wine events in Washington state. In Walla Walla, the 12th annual Holiday Barrel Tasting will be held with over 50 wineries offering barrel tastes of upcoming releases on Saturday and Sunday. In Woodinville, the St. Nicholas Day Open House will be held with more than 30 wineries opening their doors to visitors on both days as well. For those planning to attend either event, I wanted to highlight the wineries I have visited in the last six months that provided experiences that went beyond the bottle to connect me to the who, what...

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November 19, 2007

The Fruits of Paul Gregutt's Labors

Fall is always a busy time for wineries, with harvest bringing in the new vintage and the previous years' bottlings being released. It seems Paul Gregutt, wine columnist for The Seattle Times, has been just as busy crafting some enjoyable and insightful pieces on the Pacific Northwest wine scene. Terroir Is Not A Small Dog! - an excerpt from Paul's new book, "Washington Wines & Wineries", which should be a good read considering the witty approach he takes with this piece about Washington state vineyards. Acquiring A Taste - a recent cover story for the Pacific Northwest magazine's annual wine...

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November 14, 2007

Review: Scott Paul Winery

It's hard not to miss the Scott Paul Wines facility, regardless of which route you take into Carlton. The winery and tasting room are housed in two circa-1915 granary buildings on Pine Street, one block south of Main. The photo above is the winery, which is located across the street from the tasting room. The smaller building housing the tasting room and offices has tremendous character inside and out, incorporating a variety of elements from the old granary, which offers a delightful setting to enjoy Scott Paul Wines. One of the first things you notice upon entering the tasting...

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November 13, 2007

Review: Soléna Cellars

The next stop on my recent Oregon wine country tour was Soléna Cellars. I had enjoyed a bottle of Soléna 2005 Grande Cuvee Pinot Noir a couple of months back, therefore was eager to learn more about this outfit and try some of their other wines. Soléna Cellars maintains a spacious tasting room a block south of Main Street in downtown Carlton. On the day I visited, wine was being poured by Lisa, who did a great job sharing stories and answering questions. Right off the bat, I was impressed with the fact that Soléna Cellars provided complimentary tastes...

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November 12, 2007

Review: Anne Amie Vineyards

Anne Amie Vineyards, located in Carlton, Oregon, is the first winery I have visited as a result of being introduced via a wine blog. The blogosphere served not only as a means of discovery, but more importantly a way to connect me to the people and places that are behind Anne Amie. Before ever tasting their wine, I learned about this winery by first reading Craig Camp's blog, The Wine Camp, and then following this fall's harvest on the Anne Amie blog. During the last two months, Craig and other folks at Anne Amie have posted stories and photos...

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November 09, 2007

A Day in Oregon Wine Country

Yesterday, I had the chance to spend an entire afternoon in the Willamette Valley visiting wineries in Yamhill County. It was a great day, meeting friendly staff, visiting some picturesque places, and discovering some really good wine. I will be writing detailed accounts of my experiences in the coming week, but wanted to provide a quick rundown of the places visited. After a delicious lunch at Tina's in Dundee, I began my tour at Anne Amie Vineyards, then visited Soléna Cellars and Scott Paul Wines in downtown Carlton, moving on to Cana's Feast Winery, and finally ending my day...

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November 05, 2007

A Toast to Pappa Rosso

You may recognize Bob, aka Pappa Rosso, from a Washington wine event or the tasting room at Isenhower Cellars in Walla Walla. I wanted to write about Bob for several reasons, all of which focus on how he celebrates wine in a way that clearly distinguishes him from others. First, I believe Bob is the benchmark when it comes to tasting room managers. He is truly unique when it comes to connecting folks to the wine he pours. Second, Bob's been a terrific teacher and mentor to me. Over the last decade, my knowledge and appreciation for wine has...

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October 31, 2007

Time to Visit a Few Wineries

With today being the last day of October, I turned my attention to the topics covered in this month's posts. With the exception of an Oregon winery review, a book report, and a shout out to other Washington wine bloggers, most of October's writing was focused on what my wife and I ate and drank at our dinner table. I had not realized until now how much of the past month had focused on "What I Drank With Dinner" (WIDWD). It is definitely time to visit some wineries! I am going to try to get out to Woodinville or south...

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September 25, 2007

Washington wineries going beyond the bottle

With the official arrival of fall, Washington wine country will see more folks visiting to taste new releases and experience the harvest season. I thought it might be useful to list the state's wineries that went beyond the bottle to connect me to the who, what and where of their wines. Of the twenty wineries and tasting rooms visited these last few months, the following places (in alphabetical order) received either a four (highly recommended) or five (exceptional) cork rating: Amavi Cellars (Walla Walla) Basel Cellars (Walla Walla) Brian Carter Cellars (Woodinville) Covington Cellars (Woodinville) Dama Wines (Walla Walla) Fort...

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September 20, 2007

What wineries do you enjoy visiting?

In The Seattle Times today, I was delighted to see a column entitled, "Winery fans toast top choices for tours". Readers describe their best experiences touring wine country in the Pacific Northwest, with most of the favorites located in Washington state. I am excited to hear these stories, as they provide a good list of places to visit in the coming months. What struck me the most in reading this list was the emphasis folks placed on the quality of staff, service, and setting. The quality of wine certainly counts for a lot in one's experience, but most folks...

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September 18, 2007

Review: The Tasting Room - Wines of Washington

One of the things my wife and I enjoyed most about traveling around northern Italy was visiting an enoteca to taste the local wines. At each place visited, we could find a variety of wineries represented with dozens of tastes to choose from and sample. There were also light snacks or bar food to complement whatever you were drinking. It was just a wonderful way to discover and enjoy wine. I had always thought this concept would do well in the US, especially here in Washington state. After recently visiting The Tasting Room in Pike Place Market, I have...

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September 12, 2007

Review: Woodhouse Family Cellars

The Woodhouse Family Cellars winery is located in an industrial business park southwest of downtown Woodinville. But don't let that dissuade you from paying them a visit to sample their wines. This family owned and operated winery has taken strides to make you feel welcome in their unique setting. The raised herb gardens leading into their tasting room are a nice touch, as this would otherwise be a rather drab entrance. When you enter the tasting room, you can't help but feel really small due to the cavernous warehouse space. With an adjoining commercial kitchen, it's clear this winery was...

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September 09, 2007

Review: Chatter Creek Winery

There's probably no other winery in Woodinville Wine Country offering as many wines for a $5 tasting fee as Chatter Creek Winery. It seems they are either fully committed to satisfying your thirst or just want to ensure you experience the full gamut of their wines. On the Saturday I visited, they were pouring two white and seven red wines. Tasting fees are refundable with a wine purchase. They also served bread and cheese at not charge. The Chatter Creek tasting room is located in an industrial area of Woodinville north of downtown. As mentioned in my post about their...

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September 07, 2007

Review: Covington Cellars

Covington Cellars is owned and operated by David and Cindy Lawson, who named the winery after their hometown, Covington, WA. David, the winemaker, and Cindy, the tasting room manager, opened the winery in 2002. I had a really good time tasting their wines, experiencing their winery and hearing the stories Cindy shared during my visit. Their winery is located north of downtown Woodinville in what appears to be an industrial complex. Their close neighbors include Chatter Creek Winery, Stevens Winery and Ross Andrew Winery, who all suffer equally from a setting that suggests a self-storage facility. Even still, it is...

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September 06, 2007

Review: Brian Carter Cellars

Brian Carter Cellars is a fun place to enjoy and discover new wine. Located south of downtown Woodinville, Brian Carter Cellars maintains a temporary tasting room near the construction site that will become Woodinville Village. This new residential/retail/wine community will be home to four boutique wineries, with Brian Carter opening a brand new facility sometime in late 2008. Their tasting room offers outdoor seating and plenty of room inside at the tasting bar. The place was busy when I arrived, with folks seated at all of the outdoor tables, clearly enjoying the beautiful weather with their wine. The tasting room...

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September 05, 2007

Review: Novelty Hill-Januik Winery

What an incredible facility Mike Januik and his design team have created at the new Novelty Hill-Januik Winery. This extraordinary winery makes its older, more established neighbors look staid and stale. Novelty Hill-Januik was clearly designed to encourage visitors to linger, allowing one to connect to Mike's wines in ways that extend beyond the bottles being poured at the tasting room bar. In fact, it is a place one should dedicate an hour or more to slow down, relax and enjoy the setting, the people, the food, and of course, the wine. From the parking lot, the concrete exterior can...

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September 03, 2007

Touring Woodinville Wine Country

On Saturday, I decided to head east to Woodinville Wine Country, where I ended up visiting half a dozen wineries. Overall, I had a really good time discovering new wines, meeting nice folks, and learning more about these wineries. You can expect to see reviews of each winery in the week ahead. In the meantime, here are few quick highlights from my visit. All wineries were well staffed with knowledgeable folks eager to answer questions and ensure your glass was full. With the notable exception of Novelty Hill-Januik, most of the wineries I visited were housed in industrial or nondescript...

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July 20, 2007

Review: DaMa Wines Tasting Room

DaMa Wines was a pleasant surprise amongst the many tasting rooms in downtown Walla Walla. On the day I visited, Mary Derby, the “Ma” in DaMa, was working the tasting room bar in their well designed, modernist space located on Main Street. She and her business partner, Dawn Kammer, the “Da” in DaMa, have clearly created something novel with this new wine venture. DaMa Wines was offering complimentary tastes of 4 wines (a riesling, viognier, syrah, and cab sauv), all from various appellations within the state. Although DaMa’s wines are targeted primarily to female drinkers, they would be suitable at...

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July 18, 2007

Review: Fort Walla Walla Cellars Tasting Room

Fort Walla Walla Cellars maintains a tasting room in downtown Walla Walla, while the actual winery is located outside of town. The tasting room is housed in what was once a corner gas station, although you wouldn’t know it from either the outside or inside. I learned this from Terry, their tasting room manager, who also informed me that Fort Walla Walla Cellars’ name was chosen due to the two founders, Cliff Kontos and Jim Moyer, being history buffs. I enjoyed meeting Terry and hearing his stories about the winery's founders, why they got into the business, and how they...

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Review: Whitman Cellars Winery

Whitman Cellars winery is located a few blocks west of downtown Walla Walla. It's in the same industrial area where Amavi Cellars and Canoe Ridge wineries are located, but is situated on a corner underneath some trees giving it a sense of being "in the country". Their tasting room is spacious and offers one of the most unique ways to go beyond the bottle while sampling their wines. As soon as you enter the front door, there is a glass wall that allows you to see right into the barrel room. What a great design idea to help showcase what...

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Review: Amavi Cellars Winery

Wow, what an amazing beyond the bottle experience I had visiting the Amavi Cellars winery, which is located in an industrialized area west of downtown Walla Walla. The name, Amavi, is derived from the Latin words, amor (love), vita (life), and vinum (wine). Their mission is “to capture the best of love and life in every bottle” of wine. It’s clear this mission extends to the winery experience. Whatever the Amavi Cellars winery lacks in terms of its setting, they more than make up for it in providing a great experience inside their tasting room. In fact, they lived up...

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May 30, 2007

Review: Basel Cellars Estate Winery

Driving up to the Basel Cellars mansion-turned-winery, I expected to be received with pretension and high-brow attitudes. Instead, I was treated with good old Southern hospitality from their winemaker, Trey Busch, a native of Atlanta, Georgia. Trey just happened to be in the tasting room on the day I visited, which made my experience at Basel Cellars really fun. If it weren't for my chance meeting with Trey, I wouldn't have left Basel Cellars feeling connected to their wine in a way that went beyond the bottle. With each sip I took of the 1 white and 6 red wines...

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May 24, 2007

Washington Wine Highway Event

The 2nd annual Washington Wine Highway event is being held this weekend in Woodinville. This event is a great way to go beyond the bottle and connect with dozens of wineries and winemakers from around the state. I attended last year's gathering and found it to be one of the more enjoyable tasting events held in the Seattle area. The venue on the grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville is a much better setting for a tasting event than being inside some cavernous exhibition hall. In fact, nothing beats being outside on a nice spring day tasting a broad...

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May 16, 2007

Washington Wine History Lesson

Any study of Washington wine history must include Chateau Ste. Michelle, the state's oldest winery. Chateau Ste. Michelle is not only responsible for putting Washington state on the map, but continues to serve as a rising tide for the rest of the industry. Although I am not a frequent consumer of their wines, I admire them because of their contributions to the state's wine industry. For example, they serve as host to the annual Washington Wine Highway event, which features over 70 wineries and 50 restaurants from around the state. If you enjoy sampling wine and good food outdoors, then...

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May 08, 2007

Review: Pepper Bridge Winery

A few months back, I was grilling steaks for dinner and decided to open a bottle of Pepper Bridge 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon. I had not tasted a Pepper Bridge wine before, therefore was excited when someone gave me a bottle to try. A very generous gift considering this bottle retails for $50. From the first sip before dinner, throughout our meal, and then afterward, my wife and I were really taken with this wine. We were pleasantly surprised that it wasn't your usual high alcohol fruit bomb, like many Washington cabernets made from Columbia Valley fruit. The fact that this...

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May 03, 2007

Winery Reviews and Ratings

Whenever I visit a winery, the one thing I look for more than anything else is a connection to the wine beyond the bottle. What makes this connection happen? Stories. Stories about the people and places behind the wine I am sampling. The more unique and understandable the stories being shared, the better the winery experience for me. This connection is what ultimately determines whether or not I would recommend a winery to family, friends or you. It also influences what I buy. In fact, I would much rather visit a winery that serves mediocre wines but offers a deep...

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Review: Woodward Canyon Winery

About 12 miles west of Walla Walla on the main highway into town, you’ll find Woodward Canyon Winery. The tasting room is located in an old farm house, which provides an appropriate setting for one of the state’s earliest wineries. Opening the door to the farmhouse, I was immediately greeted with a friendly welcome by Sarah, the person behind the bar. The tasting room takes up most of the first floor of the house, with plenty of space to walk around and enjoy your wine. This is a shop focused on selling wine, with few, if any, of the traditional...

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Review: Reininger Winery

Reininger Winery is located about 6 miles west of Walla Walla on Highway 12. This winery is housed in two former potato sheds, which were renovated into a nice facility with a comfortable tasting room. On the Monday I visited in early April, the new tasting room was nearly finished, providing a much larger expanse with beautiful pine flooring reclaimed from the old potatoe sheds. This new addition, which will offer a view of acres of wheat fields, will serve as a nice spot to try Reininger wines, including those under their other label, Helix. The tasting room features some...

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Review: L' Ecole No 41 Winery

On Highway 12 going to Walla Walla, you'll find L'Ecole No 41 winery just outside the town of Lowden. Like the other wineries on Highway 12 coming east into town, L'Ecole is a frequent stop for folks traveling to Walla Walla. And this Monday visit was no exception, with about a half dozen cars in the parking lot. L'Ecole No 41 is named after the school house in which it is located. It is a beautifully restored building that was originally constructed in 1915. L'Ecole produces about 30,000 cases each year, making it one of the larger wineries in the...

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