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Posts from the ‘Wineries’ Category

The Story of O Wines

O Wines was established in 2006 in Woodinville, Washington by Stacy Lill and Kathy Johanson with a stated mission of funding college scholarships for low income, young women to assist them in achieving their greatest potential through education. Each bottle sold helps send young women to college through the O Wines “Opportunity for Success” Scholarship program. The College Success Foundation, based in Issaquah, Washington manages the scholarships.

Since the launch of the brand to the Pacific Northwest in 2008, followed by a nationwide rollout in 2013, more than $300,000 has been raised to support 52 college scholarships. Beginning in 2013 the program was modified so each scholarship is $20,000 given in $5,000 increments annually over a 4 year period.

To help expand her vision and impact, Lill realized that she could not do it alone, and in 2012, she sold O Wines to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Washington. The last year that Lill owned O Wines, production was 12,000 cases. Ste. Michelle was able to immediately increase production to nearly 100,000 cases. Despite selling selling O Wines, Lill remains actively involved, traveling the country speaking on behalf of O Wines and its cause.

O Wines currently produces a Chardonnay and a Red Blend. I recently received samples to try.

2011 O Wines Chardonnay – Light in color. 13% ABV. Lemon oil, hazlenut and vanilla on the nose. Granny smith apples, butterscotch and hint of citrus on the palate. Ready to drink. $12 at retail.

2010 O Wines Red Blend – A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Purple in color. 13.5% ABV. Red fruits, anise and plums on the nose. Cherries, currants and cocoa on the palate. Supple tannins and just enough acidity. Drink over the next year or so. $14 at retail.

Both of these wines would be good options for large functions. Well made, easy on the pocketbook and supporting a great cause.

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Woodinville Wine Country in One Day

I often get asked for recommendations on visiting Woodinville Wine Country. I am far from an expert on the subject, but I do know what wineries I like and am more than happy to share!

Before you plan a visit to Woodinville you need to have an understanding of the area:

  • Recent years have also seen the rise of the Warehouse District. Located a few miles to the northeast, this strip is home to well over 40 wineries, including Efeste, William Church, Darby, Barrage and Guardian.

I strongly recommend putting together a game plan before heading to Woodinville. It’s really easy to visit the Warehouse District and stop in at 10 or more wineries without ever moving your car. Obviously not a good idea unless you plan on spitting while tasting.

Personally, I like to  limit a day of wine tasting to right around five wineries. By doing so, I am sure to allow time for lunch and an afternoon cup of coffee before heading out to dinner. When I apply my five winery rule of thumb to Woodinville I like to start with a couple wineries in the Warehouse District, followed by lunch at a local cafe or winery with picnic facilities, then finish with a couple wineries in the School House District.

My favorite stop in the Warehouse District is Efeste, followed closely by either William Church or Guardian. For picnics consider Januik, Distefano or JM Cellars – Januik has a pizza oven and bocce court, Distefano serves a number of small plates and JM Cellars has a picturesque outdoor setting (bring your own food). I recommend closing out the day with Mark Ryan, Gorman or Alexandria Nicole in the Schoolhouse District.

If you have any gas left in the tank, the ultimate end to a day of Woodinville wine tasting is dinner at either Purple or Barking Frog. Both restaurants are busy year-round, so reservations are a must.

What did I miss? I’d love to hear some of your tips for visiting Woodinville Wine County.

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Avennia Fall Release Party: Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah & Cabernet Sauvignon

My wife and I received an invitation from Bob Silver of WA | Wine | PR to attend the Fall release  party for a newcomer to the Woodinville Warehouse District, Avennia Winery.

Winemaker Chris Peterson was the first graduate of Walla Walla Community College’s Enology & Viticulture program, and spent the better part of the last decade making wine at Delille Cellars. Chris and Managing Partner Marty Taucher’s appreciation for Old World winemaking is reflected in the name: Avennia is inspired by the Roman name for the city of Avignon.

Tasting and evaluating wine at a release party is always challenging – you typically only get a small pour and have just a few minutes to formulate an opinion. It’s also hard to take notes while catching up with friends and visiting with winery representatives. But we were up to the challenge!

We had the opportunity to try the current releases, a Sauvignon Blanc and two Syrahs, and two Bordeaux Blends slated for Spring.

2011 Oliane Sauvignon Blanc – 100% Boushey Vineyard fruit and 10% new French oak. Very light in color. Tart with hints of citrus, lemon and vanilla. 88 points.

Note to Chris, Marty and Bob: The Oliane was so refreshing on an unseasonably warm September afternoon that I can’t help but think the 2012 bottling might work better as a Spring release (in advance of Summer), as opposed to a Fall release when Summer is winding down.

2010 Parapine Syrah – 53% Force Majeure Vineyard and 47% Boushey Vineyard. 17% new French oak. Opaque purple in color. This wine is very tight but shows cherries, pepper and violets on the nose. Savory red fruits, game and bacon fat on the palate. Needs time. 91 points.

2010 Arnaut Syrah – 100% Boushey Vineyard fruit. 20% new French oak. 15% whole cluster fermentation. Dark purple in color. Pepper, cherries and flowers on the nose. This wine is very fruit driven. Intense and taut. Minerals, grilled meats and more cherry on the palate. I’d like to follow this wine over a day or two. 94 points.

These next two wines will not be released for another 6 months. While I have some initial impressions, I’ll hold off on a detailed note or score until after they are released.

2010 Gravura – 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc. 50% new French Oak. Sweet fruits. Bell pepper, mocha, leather, graphite and cassis. Super young.

2010 Sestina – 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc. 70% new French Oak. You could really taste the Cabernet Sauvignon here. Currant, cassis, pencil, leather, herbs and minerals. Exceptionally long finish.

I would encourage you to try a bottle and see what you think. I was impressed, and think Avennia is a winery to keep your eye on.

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New to Washington Wine? Check out Sleight of Hand, Gramercy & Force Majeure

Every once in a while someone wanting to expand their wine hobby asks me: What Washington wineries should I check out?

My first inclination is long-time favorites like Cayuse, Quilceda Creek or Leonetti, but the reality is your not-yet-born child is more likely to land a spot on the Cayuse mailing list than you are. Quilceda Creek and Leonetti also have full mailing lists. Even wineries newer to the scene like Betz and Reynvaan have full mailing lists.

So what’s a wine lover to do – move on to Oregon Pinot Noir or Idaho Riesling? Don’t give up! There’s a world of amazing Washington wine still available to consumers.

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Kosta Browne does not taste like Burgundy. Get over it.

We are right in the middle of Fall mailing list season and I expect the Kosta Browne Single Vineyard Pinot Noir mailer to hit my inbox within the next month or so. This will lead to the annual threads on and where invariably a handful of Kosta Browne mailing list members will pass on their allocation because “Kosta Browne does not taste like Burgundy.”

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California Wine Country Weekend: 8 Great Wineries to Visit

A weekend getaway to California wine country is always a good idea, but limited time means limiting the number of winery visits. We often have the good fortune of private tastings on our trips, but there are a number of great wineries with regular tasting room hours that are worth working into any itinerary. Read more

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Zinfandel: The All-American Wine

What better way to celebrate Independence Day, the most American of holidays, than with Zinfandel, the most American of wines? France can arguably lay claim to the best Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay. Germany to the best Riesling. But the USA lays claim to the best Zinfandel!

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Confessions of a Mailing List Addict

Conventional wisdom among wine consumers: as you mature in your wine buying habit, you gravitate from new world wines (and thus mailing lists) to the subtleties of fine Burgundy. While I do love a great Burgundy… I still get excited when a mailer arrives in my inbox. I’ve been at this for about 20 years now, and buy from more mailers than ever.

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