Friday, March 23, 2018

Seattle: Where Purple is more than a colour, and where one of the great Cabernets on the planet lives.

Spent this past weekend in Seattle, where our main purpose of the trip was to pick up our wine order from Quilceda Creek, one of Washington State's best producers of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet-based blends. We were on the waiting list for about a year and a half before we finally started to get allocations of their terrific products about 3 years ago.

But, we'll get to that. We were picking up our wine on Sunday, and we were heading down on Friday morning, so we had the better part of 2 days to explore the city. We spent our time on Friday at the Woodland Park Zoo, a nice little zoo that reminded me a bit of the Stanley Park Zoo before it's closure in 1996.

The animals here sure seem chill.

I mean, I guess I shouldn't be surprised, marijuana IS legal here.

Before I go any further, I have to talk about our Hotel. We stayed at Loews Seattle 1000, and it was simply sublime. I cannot recommend it enough if you are staying in Downtown Seattle. The staff could not have possibly been more friendly or helpful, our room was spacious and comfortable, the food we had delivered to our room for breakfast each day was terrific, and the ice. Oh, the ice. No need to trample down a hallway with your champagne bucket to fill it up with ice cubes, while spilling them all over the floor, as happens in most hotels. Not here.

That is the ice centre, right outside the elevator, where you just reach in and take all the pre-packaged ice you want. Oh, and if that is just too difficult for you, they will deliver ice to your room, 24 hours a day, free of charge. I almost wanted to test it out, just to see if I could call room service and order ice without breaking out in laughter.

Saturday we spent wandering and shopping, including several hours at the Pike Place Market. I can't believe it took me almost 49 years to get there. For those of you who have never been there, I'd describe it as Granville Island on steroids. We had a fantastic time there and will definitely be back.

For Saturday night's dinner, we decided to check out Purple Café and Wine Bar, which had been recommended to me a couple years ago. The wine list did not disappoint; in fact, it's so big it would be logistically impossible to digest it all.

Think I'm exaggerating?

So although you can get a bottle of just about any wine from just about any wine producing country in the world, they also offer a tremendous portfolio of wines by the glass (or, the half-glass). We took advantage of the 'half-glass' option to sample a bunch of wines, mostly at their recommendation. They take great pride in their food and wine pairings, so we stuck with those and took exactly what they suggested would go with our food. And, outside of one awful Sherry, we enjoyed every single one of them.

The food itself was very good; not transcendent or anything, but very good. After starting our meal with a tasty charcuterie plate, my wife ordered a salad which she enjoyed very much, except that it had "too much bacon". I am sure I have never typed that phrase before (and am positive my wife has never uttered it!!!), so you can imagine how much bacon must have been on that salad.

My steak was cooked perfectly, accompanied by some delicious roasted potatoes and something I have never eaten before: collared greens. They were....fine....I guess. I know you can find those in Canada if you look hard enough, but they are just one of those things that Americans love that we never really embraced.

Anyway, on to the wine!

Since everything we drank at Purple was in half-glasses or wine flights, I have no clue about the prices for a bottle. I've given my best guess based on Internet info.

Vina Reboreda 2016 Godello ($15ish USD? from Spain)

Sweet aromas of stone fruit, red apple, pear and white flowers. Apple and quince dominate the palate, which shows well-balanced acidity and a medium finish. Tasty, and my first experience with the Godello grape.

Calmel & Joseph 2012 Minervois ($16CAD? from France - Languedoc)
50% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 20% Carignan

Aromas of black plum, bergemot and white pepper. Blackberry, cassis and pepper on the palate. Medium finish.

Louis Antoine Luyt 2014 Clos Ouvert la Grande Vie Carmenere ($35CADish? from Chile)
Intense green olive notes, with herbs and earth as well on the nose. Little to no fruit comes through on the nose, as it's clearly being saved for the palate. Black fruit, cherry cola and a touch of spice and earth. Medium finish, which is the only thing keeping it from a higher score....but lovely nonetheless.

 Now, onto a flight of Syrah, all from Washington State:

Eight Bells 2013 'Red Willow Vineyard, 8 Clones' Syrah ($42USD from website)
Funky mushroom, forest floor, raspberry jam, charcuterie and smoke on the nose. Blueberry flavors overwhelm the palate at first, soon joined by blackberry, cherry and espresso. Lovely.

Amavi 2014 Syrah ($33 USD from website)

Less intense nose than the above, with red cherry and plum showing. Cassis, eucalyptus, olive and fig on the palate. Lovely, long finish.

Gorman Winery 2012 'Behind the Black Curtain' Reserve Syrah ($80USD from website, wine club only)
Aromas of blueberry jam, mint and just a touch of white pepper. Dark berries, earth, fig and clove on the palate. Nice, but it left me wanting more for some reason; perhaps this one just needs more time in the bottle.

At this point, we were done with food but decided to try a "sweet white" flight, and we added on a Sauternes for good measure. The first sample of the Sauternes was oxidized, which my wife recognized immediately. They were happy to replace it with a much better one.

Elvo Tintero 2016 'Sori Gramella' Moscato ($18ish? Moscato d'Asti, Italy)
Strong aromas of guava, lychee and honeycomb. Flavors are intense and delightful; melon, perfume, and even pineapple. Very pleasing.

August Kessler 2015 'R' Kabinett Riesling ($14.99USD from - Pfalz, Germany)

Slight notes of petrol, mostly pineapple, on the nose. Honeydew, apricot, peach and pineapple flavors. Decent enough, but a far cry from our favorite Kabinetts.

Clos De Nouys 2014 'Demi-Sec' Chenin Blanc (Vouvray, France)

Light aromas of papaya. The palate brings more, with papaya, pear, ginger, Granny Smith apple flavors mixing in. This was my first "sweet" Chenin Blanc, which wasn't really sweet at all. Off-dry, at best.
Chateau Raymond-Lafon 2006 Sauternes ($30ish? Sauternes, France)
Aromas of caramel, honeysuckle, papaya and creme brulée. The palate is viscous and impressive, flavors of honeysuckle, lemon curd and banana. Really tasty, but still a far cry from some of the greats from this region.

All that wine, charcuterie and 2 meals, and a very nice tip to our outstanding server, and our bill was under $300 CANADIAN, even after AMEX's inflated F/X rate. Very fair.

On Sunday, we went to our event at Quilceda Creek, where appetizers and dessert were served along with sample of 2 wines; their entry-level Bordeaux-style blend, and their most-lauded wine, their Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2014 vintage received a perfect 100-point score from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. I have yet to see any scores for this, the 2015 vintage, but from what I hear (and was about to taste), it should be a very comparable vintage.

Quilceda Creek 2015 CVR ($42 USD from winery)

81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot

Arresting aromas of black fruit, blueberry, smoke and a touch of spice. Blackberry, cherry, blueberry, mocha and smoke on the palate, framed with impressive minerality. For their entry-level product, this is just wonderful.

Quilceda Creek 2015 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($140 USD from winery)

It's almost unfair to your nose to present it with these aromas and then take them away. Cocoa, toasted coconut, forest floor, violets, black fruit.....they seemingly go on forever. The warmest growing season in Washington State history brings us a wine of unparalleled power, grace and finesse. Blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, tobacco, dried herbs, minerals, dark chocolate...the flavors just keep coming. At this stage of it's life, so young and impressionable, I'd recommend a nice, long decant if you just can't wait. This should age gracefully for two decades. Breathtaking.

That's all folks! Next up, I'm in the process of preparing a random entry of stuff we've been enjoying lately, with a special report on several pricey Chardonnays from new BC winery, Checkmate!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Vancouver International Wine Festival........EVERYONE ELSE!

Although we didn't know it at the time, we were about to spend a great amount of time tasting wines from NEXT year's host region, California. I was in the tasting room with several different groups of friends, and they all wanted to take a big bite out of Cali, and I believe I tasted at least one wine from every winery from that region (and the other USA wineries too). Also got to taste some wines from Uruguay, Hungary and Turkey! Let's see how they stood up!


Finca Decero 2013 Mini Ediciones Petit Verdot ($?)
Honestly don't remember how much this was but I intended to buy one but they were sold out. Beautiful aromas of pear and blueberry. Blueberry flavors abound, with a hint of spice and dark chocolate on the finish.

Finca Decero 2013 Syrah - 89
Finca Decero 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon - 88
Finca Decero 2016 Malbec - 88


Alpha Box & Dice 2014 Fog Nebbiolo ($42.99)
Oh my, this is not your father's Barolo. Aromas of walnuts, dates, rose petals, leather, tobacco and sandalwood. Tobacco and roses on the palate. Luscious, velvety mouthfeel and a long finish. I was told this will go for a decade or two just like big, fat Barolos. I bought two; one to drink now, because it's so damn good, and one to put away for a while. We'll see.


Harper's Trail 2016 Cabernet Franc - 88
Harper's Trail 2016 Silver Block Riesling - 88

Haywire 2014 Canyonview Pinot Noir - 87
Haywire 2016 Switchback Organic Pinot Gris - 86
Haywire 2016 Waters & Banks Sauvignon Blanc - 85

Hester Creek 2014 Reserve Cabernet Franc - 89
Hester Creek 2014 Reserve Merlot - 89
Hester Creek 2016 Character White - 87
Hester Creek 2013 The Judge ($45.00)
Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromas of red cherry, sage, vanilla and plum. Complex flavors including fig, blackberry, mint, cherry and vanilla. Finishes long. Tannins are strong in this one, it needs a good decade to really mature, but it's already very tasty. 
Hester Creek 2017 Trebbiano ($23.95)
Aromas of pear, citrus, green apple and pineapple. Citrus flavors up front, with asian pear and honeysuckle lurking in the background. The only example of this traditional Italian varietal grown in the Okanagan, and it is very special.

Harper's Trail 2016 Pinot Noir ($21.99)

From Kamloops' first winery. Ripe plums, strawberry, cherry and herbaceous notes on the nose. Flavors of strawberry, plum, leather and a hint of earth. Very tasty with a lot of potential for improvement. 

Harper's Trail 2016 Pioneer Block Riesling ($17.49)

Aromas of citrus and pineapple with impressive minerality. Slightly-off dry with a beautiful long finish and flavors of tropical fruit. Just delicious. 

Unsworth Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir - 86
Unsworth Vineyards 2016 Pinot Gris - 86


Vina Montes 2015 Alpha Chardonnay ($23.99)

Pineapple, banana, mango and toasty oak on the nose. Peaches, pears, asparagus, vanilla and hazelnut on the palate. Juicy and delicious with a lovely finish. 

Vina Montes 2015 Purple Angel ($74.99)
Mostly Carmenere with a touch of Petit Verdot. Aromas of violets, nutmeg, blueberry, blackberry and clove. Blueberry, spice and violets on the palate. Finishes forever and it is still so young. This is a stunner.


Chateau de la Galiniere 2016 Rosé

This beauty from Provence is the only bottle of French wine we purchased; not because there wasn't other good stuff there, there was, but it was all sold out by the time we went to get it. And I can't even tell you about it, because ALL of my France notes were deleted from the app. GRRRR. Might go back to paper and pen next year.

This is a traditionally dry Rosé from Provence, made from Grenache and Mouvedre. Light salmon in colour, with intense aromas of white grapefruit, cranberry and lime. Finishes crisp and dry, flavors include pomegranate, citrus and anise. I really enjoyed this; we bought one and drank it this week and I think my wife liked it even more than I did! 


Grand Tokaj 2014 Tokaji Muscat Late Harvest - 89
Grand Tokaj 2013 Tokaji Aszu - 87
Grand Tokaj 2014 Yellow Muscat - 89

Grand Tokaj 2014 Tokaji Harslevelu Semi-Sweet ($9.29)
A quality dessert-like wine for under $10? Sign me up! Sure it's not particularly complex or sophisticated, but if you want a dessert wine that is less sweet than a traditional icewine, and you like flavors of pineapple and honey, this is a steal.

New Zealand
Craggy Range 2014 Te Kahu - 85
Craggy Range 2015 Te Muna Pinot Noir - 87
Craggy Range 2015 Kidnappers Chardonnay - 87

Craggy Range 2017 Te Muna Sauvignon Blanc ($25.39)
Aromas of fresh cut grass and stone fruit. Typical of New Zealand style, the herbaceousness is paramount on the nose and palate. Flavors of pineapple and stone fruit with well balanced acidity.

Sileni Estates 2016 Hawke's Bay Pinot Noir - 88
Sileni Estates 2016 Hawke's Bay Chardonnay - 87
Sileni Estates 2017 Cellar Selection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc - 87
Sileni Estates 2016 Straits Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc - 88

Stoneleigh 2016 Rapura Sauvignon Blanc - 87
Stoneleigh 2017 Latitude Sauvignon Blanc - 87

Oyster Bay 2017 Rosé - 86
Oyster Bay 2017 Sauvignon Blanc - 86
Oyster Bay 2016 Chardonnay - 88
Oyster Bay 2016 Pinot Noir - 87


Suvla Wines 2010 Sur - 87
Suvla Wines 2011 Kirte - 88
Suvla Wines 2016 Kabatepe Rosé - 86
Suvla Wines 2016 Karasakiz ($22.99)
Karasakiz is a native grape of Turkey (occasionally found in Greece). Reminiscent of a light-bodied Pinot Noir, with notes of balsamic, red fruit and herbs. The palate is lush and juicy, with flavors of dried herbs, strawberry and black plum. A nice change of pace for a good price!

USA - California

Duckhorn 2015 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($47.99)

Intense aromas of banana and papaya, with a hint of butterscotch hanging around. Flavors include pineapple, banana, macadamia nut, oak and caramel. Lovely.

Paraduxx 2014 Zinfandel - 88

Geyser Peak Winery 2016 Outlet Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc - 87
Geyser Peak Winery 2014 Outlet Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - 88
Geyser Peak Winery 2015 Outlet Sonoma Chardonnay - 87
Geyser Peak Winery 2016 Sauvignon Blanc - 88
Geyser Peak Winery 2016 Pinot Grigio - 88

J Vineyards & Winery 2015 Pinot Noir ($30.49)

Fruit from three counties: Monterey, Sonoma and Santa Barbars. Intoxicating wafts of cherry and strawberry jam, baking spices and black tea. Very intense. Cherry cola, black pepper, red raspberry and black plum on the palate. Finishes beautifully. A steal.

J Vineyards & Winery 2015 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($40 USD from winery)
Another one of the "Trade only" wines that wasn't available for purchase, and believe me, I looked! Opens with red cherry, spice and sage aromas. Cola, raspberry, strawberry and pomegranate flavors. Juicy and delicious!

J Vineyards & Winery 2015 Russian River Valley Chardonnay - 88

Joseph Carr 2014 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($40.00)
Joseph Carr 2016 Carneros Chardonnay - 89
Josh Cellars 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon - 88
Josh Cellars 2015 Reserve North Coast Cabenet Sauvignon - 90
Josh Cellars 2016 Chardonnay - 88

Kendall-Jackson 2015 Camelot Highlands Chardonnay ($47.99)
Tropical fruit of every kind on the nose, with notes of oak and toasted almond. Flavors of butterscotch, creme brulee, lime, cinnamon and pineapple. Lovely finish. So good, and SO much better than their entry-level Chardonnay which is one of the most popular California Chardonnays. Another great example of how you most often get what you pay for.

Kendall-Jackson 2016 Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay - 88
Kendall-Jackson 2017 Vintner's Reserve Rosé - 87
Kendall-Jackson 2015 Vintner's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - 89
Kendall-Jackson 2013 Jackson Estate Hawkeye Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon - 87

Kenwood Vineyards 2016 Sonoma Chardonnay ($19.99)
It's ridiculous to get a Chardonnay this good for $20. Apple, citrus, toasty oak and pear on the nose. Terrific flavors of baking spice, apple, caramel and brown sugar. Buy this one by the case.
Kenwood Vineyards 2014 Jack London Cabernet Sauvignon ($39.99)

Aromas of red currant, blackberry, vanilla and red cherry. Blackberry dominates the palate, framed by hints of tobacco, eucalyptus and toasty oak. Finishes long. Excellent value.

Kenwood Vineyards 2014 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon - 89
Kenwood Vineyards 2013 Artists Series Cabernet Sauvignon - 92
Kenwood Vineyards 2015 AVA Six Ridges Pinot Noir - 89

La Crema 2016 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir - 89

La Crema 2015 Monterey Pinot Noir ($31.99)
Aromas of rhubarb, black plum, black cherry and earth. Plum, red raspberry and orange flavors, with impressive minerality and balanced acidity. A treat and really good value.

La Crema 2015 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir ($55.99)

The only wine in this category that doesn't actually belong here, as the grapes come from the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Aromas of wild berries, forest floor, baking spices and tobacco. Blackberry, black cherry, dark chocolate and clove flavors. Balanced acidity and a very long finish. So delicious and so different than it's cousin above.
La Crema 2015 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($40.99)

Aromas of jasmine, butterscotch, stone fruit and Meyer lemon. White plum, pear, tangerine and citrus on the palate, which finishes with hints of butter and toasted hazelnut. Superb.

Lake Sonoma Winery 2014 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir - 87

Lange Twins Family Winery 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel - 91
Lange Twins Family Winery 2015 Old Vine Zinfandel - 88

Michael David Winery 2015 7 Deadly Zins - 87
Michael David Winery 2015 Lust Vinfandel - 88
Michael David Winery 2015 Earthquake Zinfandel - 88

Michael David Winery - 2015 Petite Petit ($25.99)
85% Petite Sirah, 15% Petit Verdot. So why is "Petit" spelled differently in those two grapes?? Full bodied with a rich, lush mouthfeel. Black fruit and vanilla on the nose. Black fruit, spice and oak on the palate. This bottle is just BEGGING for BBQ meat.

Oak Ridge Winery 2015 Lodi Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - 87

Signorello Estate 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($143.99)
Oh my goodness. Aromas of black cherry, blackberry, licorice, oak, spice, mint and rose petals. Full-bodied with flavors of red cherry, blackberry, spice, earth and tobacco. Subtle and understated, give this 3-5 more years in the cellar or decant for several hours. This should drink beautifully for 20-25 years.

On a related note, I had a nice chat with winery owner Ray Signorello, Jr., who had a terrific attitude in response to the total loss of their winery building in last fall's fires. They didn't lose any of the wine that had already been bottled and lost almost no grapes (and all of the grapes had already been picked), so while there will obviously be some significant work in getting everything back to where it was before the fires, there is little doubt that the quality of the wines will still be top notch.

Signorello Estate 2013 Padrone - 92-94
Signorello Estate 2015 Veilles Vignes Chardonnay - 92
Signorello Estate 2015 Seta - 93

St. Supery Estate Vineyards 2016 Virtu White Blend - 87
St. Supery Estate Vineyards 2014 Napa Valley Elu Red Blend - 89
St. Supery Estate Vineyards 2014 Rutherford Napa Valley Merlot - 89
St. Supery 2017 Napa Sauvignon Blanc ($34.99)
Interesting colour, almost a combination of pale yellow and green. Lemon, lime, pink grapefruit and passion fruit on the nose. The palate is dominated by lime with touches of grapefruit and lemon. Intense and delicious, and an excellent example of what Napa can do with this varietal.

St. Supery 2015 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($61.99)
Aromas of blackberry, dark cherry, anise, nutmeg and plum. Black cherry, black licorice, red raspberry, vanilla and mocha on the palate. Tannins are round and finish is long. This is a beauty.

Trefethen Family Vineyards 2014 Merlot ($53.99)
Intense aromas of dark chocolate, black cherry, and vanilla. Savory notes of black cherry, chocolate, mushroom, black pepper and earth. This would pair beautifully with any peppery dish; try it with a peppercorn-crusted prime rib or filet mignon.

Trefethen Family Vineyards 2016 Napa Valley Riesling - 89

USA - Washington
Canvasback 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($47.99)

Duckhorn's Washington-based Cabernet from the Red Mountain is a treat at this price. Mountain berries, plum and wild strawberry on the nose. Black fruit, strawberry, caramel and a hint of mocha on the palate. Ripe tannins and a lovely finish.

Charles Smith Wines 2014 Boom Boom Syrah - 86
Charles Smith Wines 2015 Kung Fu Girl Riesling - 88
Charles Smith Wines 2014 The Velvet Devil Merlot - 88
Charles Smith Wines 2014 Eve Chardonnay - 87
Charles Smith Wines 2014 Chateau Cabernet Sauvignon - 87

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Columbia Valley Syrah - 88
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Indian Wells Chardonnay - 88

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon ($28.49)

From one of the warmest vintages in Washington State history, aromas of dark fruit leap from the glass. A touch of Syrah is blended in to give the wine richness and concentration. Black fruit, a hint of spice and mint on the palate. A nice value; compares favorably to California Cabs around this price point.

K Vintners 2014 Motor City Kitty Syrah - 88
K Vintners 2015 Wines of Substance Cabernet Sauvignon - 88

K Vintners 2014 Wines of Super Substance Merlot ($39.99 USD from

Beautiful aromas of rose petals, vanilla, chocolate and red cherries. The cherries stick around on the palate, joined by anise, mocha and red raspberries. Tannins are strong, this one will age beautifully for a decade, but it's already drinking so well. This is another one of the "Trade only" wines that I would have bought at the Festival had it been available, but I was able to find one on

Bodega Garzon 2017 Estate Pinot Grigio - 87
Bodega Garzon 2015 Estate Cabernet Franc Tannat - 89
Bodega Garzon 2016 Albarino Reserva - 89
Bodega Garzon 2015 Tannat Reserva - 86

This was the only winery from Uruguay present and all the wines were available for purchase, but by the time we went to look for them they were all sold out. We would have definitely picked up the Cab Franc/Tannat blend.

So, not a single wine from Italy or Germany tasted (there was only one German winery present), and not much reviewed from France or Australia. There is just not enough time, and I was at a total of 5 tastings, plus 2 other events. There is SO MUCH WINE! Every year we seem to do a really good job tasting just about everything from one country, and this year that country happened to be the USA. As I mentioned previously, we were obviously unaware that next year's host region is California, so I guess we'll just have to suck it up and taste a bunch more great wine from that region next year. Oh, the humanity.

Another wonderful Festival. Until next year, and CALIFORNIA !!!........................