Archive for July, 2011

Live Wire by Darby Winery

The Entrance

After tasting the wide range of wines at Sparkman Cellars I walked down a few doors to Live Wire which is produced by Darby Winery.  Darby is a relatively young winery with the first commercial release back in 2005.  Live Wire is the second label and was recently launched this spring.  While the Darby Winery label encompasses both single varietal and blended wines, the Live Wire label focuses only on single varietal wines.  The Live Wire wines are also a bit less expensive.  The tasting room is spare with a vintage industrial vibe to it.

It is certainly easy to find amped up wines from Washington that feature big, concentrated flavors and lots of new oak.  The Darby and Live Wire wines are certainly big and forceful but the alcohol is kept reasonably in check.  I have certainly enjoyed some Darby wines in the past, with some abundant and complex flavors, but they are not my preferred style.  I rather liked Le Deuce but this is the only Darby white wine that I have tried.  If you are a fan of this style or only looking to drink a glass or two then check these wines out.

Tasting Glasses

2010 Darby Winery, Le Deuce
This wine is a blend of 58% Viognier and 42% Roussanne.  The Roussanne was aged in stainless steel tanks and the Viognier was aged in 100% neutral oak barrels.  There were 185 cases produced.  This wine was round and rich with floral flavors that were easy to drink.  There were flavors of sweet white peach and honeysuckle supported by lively acidity.  The rich mouthfeel was pleasing.  Not Rated.

Bottles and Tasting Notes

2008 Live Wire, Cabernet Franc
This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc sourced from Stillwater Creek, Stonetree, and Sheridan vineyards.  It was aged for 18 months in 50% new French oak.  There were 200 cases produced.  This wine was dark purple in the glass.  There were concentrated blue/purple fruits with some herbs and spice.  There are barrel influenced flavors that become apparent towards the finish.  It drank well at a cooler temperature.  Not Rated.

2008 Live Wire, Syrah
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from Discovery, Boushey, and Dineen vineyards.  It was aged for 18 months in 30% new French puncheons and 70% neutral barrels.  There were 275 cases produced.  This wine shows the peppery side of Syrah in a full-bore style.  The flavors were very concentrated producing a big wine with delicious salty and savory characteristics.  Not Rated.

2008, Live Wire, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Conner Lee, Sheridan, Stillwater Creek, and Double Canyon vineyards.  It was aged for 18 months, 25% in new French oak and 75% in one year old French oak.  There were 300 cases produced.  This wine steps up the concentration even more with massive flavors of dark berries and fruits along with tannins and a spicy edge.  Not Rated.

Door to the Back Room

2007 Domaine Santa Duc, Les Aubes, Vacqueyras

Domaine Santa Duc produces many wines that I enjoy.  This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah sourced from les Aubes and la Ponche in Vacqueyras.  The les Aubes parcel has sandy slopes.  The le Ponche parcel has lime-chalk soils.  It was aged for 18 months in casks on lees.

I have twice bought this wine for $24 from MacArthur’s.  If you like full-bore Vacqueyras then this bottle is for you.  It is well made and certainly worth the price.  It is an attractive drink right now because it is vigorously youthful and the ripe tannins are not bothersome.  It certainly has the stuffing to age for the short to medium term, it just depends on how you like your wine.

2007 Domaine Santa Duc, Les Aubes, Vacqueyras
This wine has a light to medium nose of rich, spiced fruit.  In the mouth it immediately delivers heady blue fruits, creamy flavors, grit, and spices.  There are ripe tannins that coat mouth as spicey midpalate develops.  The profile of the wine is sensitive to heat so be careful to drink it at cellar temperature.  Jenn noted, “Completely full mouth experience.  A storybook wine.”  ***(*) Now-2022.

Sparkman Cellars

After tasting wine at Efeste I drove across the street to the main wine warehouse area.  I first stopped at Sparkman Cellars where Bryan Keavy was pouring wine.  Sparkman Cellars was founded in Woodinville back in 2004 by Chris and Kelly Sparkman.  It is very much a family run winery where they provide a comfortable and inviting tasting room.  The wines are quite good and show development potential from aging.  I rather liked the Lumiere Chardonnay, thought their Malbec showed that it might be the next fun grape for Washington, and the Wilderness and Stella Mae, though rather different styles, were adroitly made.

The Tasting Room Entrace

The Tasting Room

2010 Sparkman Cellars, Pearl, Sauvignon Blanc
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc with 56% sourced from the Evergreen and 44% from the Klipsun vineyards.  It was aged for eight months in 56% stainless steel and 44% neutral French oak.  There was an intense nose of nearly full-strength stone-fruits, grass, and a little candy. There are grass notes in the mouth with ample flavor of grapes, tart fruit with a mouthfilling aftertaste.  Not Rated.

2010 Sparkman Cellars, Lumiere, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley
This wine is 100% Chardonnay from the Columbia Valley.  It was aged for eight months in 40% new French oak.  The color of this wine is very light. The nose is full of old-school aromas and stones that are interesting. In the mouth there are some barrel influences mixed with flavors of white and yellow fruits. A nice wine.  Not Rated.

Wines that I Tasted

2009 Sparkman Cellars, Preposterous, Malbec, Red Mountain
This wine is 96% Malbec and 4% Syrah sourced from the Klipsun Vineyard. It was aged for 18 months in 23% new French oak.  This wine smoothly delivers dark berries and spice in an easy to drink manner. While it retains a Malbec profile it is made in a Washington style that is sure to gain fans bored of Argentine Malbec.  Not Rated.

2008 Sparkman Cellars, Wilderness, Columbia Valley
This wine is a blend of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah, 18% Cabernet Franc, 18% Merlot, and 6% Petit Verdot.  The grapes were sourced from Klipsun, Kiona, 2 Blondes, Hedges, La Coye, Sheridan, DuBrul, and Les Gosses vineyards.  It was aged for 18 months in 45% new French oak.  A light nose of red fruits, stones, and purple berries. There is much more going on in the mouth. The initial burst of flavors is a complex blend of NW fruit but then it fades off leaving a dark aftertaste. This would be an attractive wine at a lower price.  Not Rated.

Tasting Room Decor

2008 Sparkman Cellars, Ruby Leigh, Columbia Valley
This wine is a blend of 42% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec, and 5% Petit Verdot.  The grapes were sourced from Klipsun, Hedges, Kiona, Two Blondes, and Dubrul vineyards.  It was aged for 20 months in 56% new French oak.  A light nose but with focus. There is a good mouthfeel to the dusty fruit that turns spicy in the finish.   Not Rated.

2008 Sparkman Cellars, Stella Mae, Columbia Valley
This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon 21% Petit Verdot, 16% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc.  The grapes were sourced from Klipsun, Kiona, and Hedges vineyards.  It was aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak.  This has more power than the Ruby Leigh, in a structured and controlled manner. The concentrated blackberry flavors have an enjoyable inkiness.  Good stuff that needs some age and a step up from the Ruby Leigh.  Not Rated.

2009 Sparkman Cellars, Ruckus, Syrah
This wine is a blend of 75% Syrah and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Syrah grapes were sourced from the Klipsun vineyard and the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Klipsun and Kiona vineyards.  It was aged for 15 months in 26% new French oak.  Purple in color and flavor with ample savory flavor. This is an enjoyable wine with some red candy flavors.  Not Rated.

Barrels in the Back Room


The Efeste Sign

After Matthews Estate I drove over to the Woodinville Warehouse WineriesEfeste is located off to the side and is a working winery, tasting room, and test kitchen.  Efeste is pronounced like the letters F, S, and T which are the initials of the last names of the owners: Daniel Ferrelli, Patrick Smith, and Kevin Taylor. Brennon Leighton is the wine maker and gained his preference for indigenous yeast while working at Chateau Ste. Michelle.  Although there was a small private event taking place and a tour, Daniel kindly poured the wines for me to taste and Brennon also stopped by the tasting bar.  I really liked the 2008 Ceidleigh Syrah and on a future visit I would certainly look for the Eleni and Jolie Syrahs.

Tasting Room Entrance

2010 Efeste, Feral, Sauvignon Blanc, Evergreen Vineyard, Ancient Lakes
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc sourced from the Evergreen Vineyard.  It was made with indigenous yeast and aged in 100% neutral French oak.  The nose was definitely wild with grassiness.  There are grassy flavors in the mouth with a sour-tilt to this different wine with notes of grape fruit.  While it is interesting, I was quite distracted by the grass aromas and flavors.  Not Rated.

2010 Efeste, Evergreen, Riesling, Evergreen Vineyard, Ancient Lakes
This wine is 100% Riesling sourced from the Evergreen Vineyard. It was made with purchased yeast.  More floral fruit of peaches, well done, fills the mouth with the aftertaste. A step up from the Feral Sauvignon Blanc.  Not Rated.

Tasting Room with Daniel and Brennen in the Background

2008 Efeste, Ceidleigh, Syrah, Red Mountain
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 40% Klipsun, 34% Ciel du Cheval, and 26% Ranch at the End of the Road vineyards.  It was made with indigenous yeasts and aged for 15 months in 22% new French oak.  There was a light nose of pure, dark red fruit and some lipstick.  In the mouth there are wild flavors of dark berries combined with heat breaking through.  The flavors turn towards pervasive, bright fruit, with an incense note that is consistent and attractive throughout.  My favorite wine of those tasted.  Not Rated.

2008 Efeste, Final-Final, Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah, Columbia Valley
This wine is a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon and 42% Syrah.  The grapes were sourced from Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, Kiona, Sagemoor, Bacchus, Red Willow, Boushey, Weinbau, and Stone Tree vineyards.  It was made with indigenous yeasts and aged in 54% new French oak. There is an interesting nose, similar wildness, but with harder fruit of black cherries and berries.  There are some scents in the finish and plenty of tannins.  This might be in an awkward, youthful state and should settle down in a year.  Not Rated.

2008 Efeste, Big Papa, Columbia Valley
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced with 35% source drom Kiona, 27% from Klipsun, 20% from Sagemoor, and 18% from Weinbau vineyards.  The vines average 31 years of age.  It was made with indigenous yeast and aged in 83% new French oak.  This is a young wine that reveals dark flavors of blackberry and other black fruits but no complexity.  There are plenty of tannins and medium-bodied flavors. The tannins develop and put this wine just over the top.  Not Rated.

Women's World Cup Final in the Tasting room

2008 Weingut Leth Fels, Roter Veltliner, Hofweingarten, Lagenreserve, Wagram

July 23, 2011 2 comments

Franz Leth, Image from Weingut Leth

Weingut Leth has been producing wine since the 1960s.  The soils are composed of an incredibly thick layer, up to 20 meters, of loam, sand, and chalk that provide both water and minerals for the vines.  The grapes are sourced from such vineyards as the Schieben, Brunnthal, Floss, Wagramterrassen, and Steinagrund vineyards.

Vineyards Near Fels am Wagram, Image from Weingut Leth

The Hofweingarten is a special wine just for the Domaine Select importer.  The grapes are sourced from various parcels located on Loss which are sandy gravel soils.  These parcesl are located on terraces between 200 and 300 meters.  This 100% Roter Veltiner is produced from vines that are 15-20 years old.  No herbicides have been used for 25 years and the vines are not irrigated.  The grapes are hand harvested then fermented and aged in stainless steel for three to four months.  There were 350 cases produced.

Franz Leth Junior, Image from Weingut Leth

I bought this wine for $16 from MacArthur’s.  I must admit I rarely drink wine from Austria so this was a bit of a wake up call for me.  I recommend this wine and will certainly be picking up other selections so I may explore this region in depth.

 2008 Weingut Leth Fels, Roter Veltliner, Hofweingarten, Lagenreserve, Wagram
This wine has a light color of green-yellow.  I drank this bottle over three nights and it held up quite well.  The nose released aromsa of crisp, green apples.  In the mouth this medium-bodied wine show ripe fruits that, again, tilt towards apple flavors.  The acidity comes out in the begining and keeps things lively as stone qualities and sweet fruit develop.  There is a gritty, tannic nature to the finish.  Good robust stuff that shows overall balance!  *** Now.

the Walrus and the Carpenter

July 22, 2011 1 comment

The Oysters with the Walrus and the Carpenter, "Through the Looking-Glass", by Lewis Carroll, 1871, Image from Wikipedia

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

Looking Through the Entrance

I was able to join Clark and Julia for dinner one night in Ballard at the Walrus and the Carpenter.  They are frequent patrons to the many restaurants and quirky bars that have opened over the years.  The mixture of 19th century buildings, originals features, new build outs, and creative energy has made Ballard a neighborhood that I enjoy visiting during each of my trips.  This is a popular restaurant and was recently featured by Frank Bruni of The New York Times.  They specialize in oysters and other dishes made from the freshest ingredients.

The Bar

We started off by ordering cocktails.  I chose the pamplemousse which is a mixture of aperol, white wine, and grapefruit juice.

The pamplemousse

Being a popular restaurant with fresh cocktails and only one bartender, our cocktails did not arrive until we were halfway through our plates of food.  We then opted to drink a bottle of the 2009 Antoine Arena, Rose Patrimonio, Corsica.

Wines by the Glass and a View Into Staple and Fancy Mercantile

The bottle was not chilled so our waitress dunked it in a big bowl of ice water to chill down.  Antoine Arena makes wine with his family from their biodynamic estate.  He aims to be regarded as the best produced on Corsica.  The Patrimonio Rose is a blend of 80% Niellucciu and 20% Vermentinu.  Niellucciu vines originated in the 12th century as Sangiovese vines that were brought over when Corsica was part of the Republic of Pisa.  The Niellucciu for this cuvee is sourced from the Morta Maio vineyard which was planted in 2001.  This wine is made primarily from the saignee method.  The color really stands out as more salmon than rose.  Very fresh with flavors of peach and minerals.

2009 Antoine Arena, Patrimonio

The Author with His Wine

They do not take reservations so if you find yourself waiting for a table and do not want to wander far then venture into the Dutch Bike Co. next door.  While examine the beautiful bicycles you may also have a drink!

The Cheerful Dinning Room

Entrance to Dutch Bike Co. with Drinks List on Door

Matthews Estate

After leaving the Amavi, Pepper Bridge, Ross Andrews, and J. Bookwalter complex I headed north towards the warehouse district.  I saw the Matthews Estate tasting room and made a quick decision to stop by.  I had a glass of the 2007 Matthews Claret during my last visit to Seattle so I have always wanted to try more of their wines.

Matthews Estate was started in 1993 and until recently, produced their wine in Woodinville.  This is evidenced by the design of the building and the fact that there are still bits of stainless steel equipment about.  There is certainly change at this estate.  The Estate Red Wine was declassified into the Claret in 2006 then the Estate Red Wine program was terminated.  Aryn Morell was hired by Matthews in 2007 and became the winemaker in 2008.  Matthews estate then moved production to Walla Walla with Aryn becoming a consulting winemaker as he also moved to Walla Walla to start a wine consulting company.  According to the Washington Wine Report Aryn’s focus is to produce “less forward, more elegant” wines.  Aryn is also the winemaker at Tenor.  If they can produce wines of restraint like the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from selections such as the 2007 Claret, they will be on track to elevate the entire portfolio.

Matthews Estate Tasting Room, Woodinville

2008 Matthews Estate, Blackboard, Red Wine
This wine is a blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 8% Syrah, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1.5% Malbec, and 1.5% Petit Verdot sourced from 52% Horse Heaven Hills and 48% Columbia Valley.  It was aged for 20 months.  This wine has a light nose, of soft fruits but is still forceful.  In the mouth it is disjointed with black currant and some roughness.  There are coarse flavors in the finish.  A decent wine that needs some time to settle down.  Not Rated.

2006 Matthews Estate, Claret, Columbia Valley
This was aged for 20 months in 50% new and 50% in 2-3 year old French oak.  All of the flagship Estate Red Wine was declassified into the Claret.  This has a nose of meaty, red fruit and sour, red berries.  While this nose is softer than the Blackboard the dark core is mixed with some spice.  The flavors fill out in the mouth with blue fruits and a pleasing texture midpalate.  The aftertaste leaves very fine, puckering tannins on the lips and in the mouth.  Not Rated.

2007 Matthews Estate, Claret, Columbia Valley
This wine is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 3% Syrah, and 2% Malbec.  This was aged for 22 months in 40% new and 60% in 2-3 year old French oak.  With the Estate Red Wine officially cancelled those sources are now dedicated to the Claret.  As a result the Claret is made from a higher proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon than in the past.  This wine is more forceful with a meatiness that is appealing.  In the mouth the flavors are almost creamy with black berries and sweet minerals towards the middle.  It is almost too plump with chocolate notes in the aftertaste and pervasive flavors.  This is a significantly bigger wine than the 2006 and straddling the line of too much.  Still, it is a step up from the Blackboard.  Not Rated.

2008 Matthews Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon

2008 Matthews Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
This is the first Cabernet Sauvignon since the last bottling of the 2001 vintage.  It is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Stillwater Creek and Hedges Vineyards.  It was fermented then aged for 21 months in 100% new French oak puncheons. This is made from declassified Tenor fruit.  It is a tightly wound wine with a nice mixture of wood and grape tannins.  The red fruit is almost tart and is delivered in a compacted manner that still reveal good flavors.  I enjoyed tasting the restraint.  This will have a strong showing after several years of age.  Not Rated.