When our son and his wife told us they were moving to a place called "Woodinville," and were going to take our granddaughters with them, we suddenly realized that our 57 years in San Jose were over. Woodinville is awesome for family and winos. We'll be adding spirits, beer, and ciders to our notes.
We were invited to join our neighbors for an afternoon tasting at Ambassador and I'm glad we did. Somewhere in the ownership is an attorney or politician (sorry, not meant as an insult) which you can see from some of the wine names. It was a very pleasant experience. We had a chance to meet with Mike Amato, a Managing Partner/Board Member, and he explained that the terroir of Red Mountain really helps produce these rich wines. It's big heat during the day and cool during the nights so the vines fight and rest in cycles. I think you'll be happy dropping in, tasting some wines, and enjoying them at home or out with friends.
Sauvignon Blanc, 2018, Red Mountain, $22.00. 78% Sauvignon Blanc with 22% Semillon. This is the only Ambassador wine for which they do not grow the grapes. It is a very pleasant Sauvignon Blanc that gets away from the typical grapefruit flavor. It has a light citrus touch with a little strawberry and apple. Crisp, but no bite. It lingered through the finish with what reminded me of a nice ripe melon taste (Casaba). Good balance and drinkable right now and probably pretty fresh for a couple of years. A nice salad, light fish, or shrimp/scallop wine.
Rose, 2018, Estate, $22.00. Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. The color is a pretty pink; I called it "coppery rose" in my notes, but it's prettier than that. The nose is fresh strawberries. Tasting was complex and hard for me to sort out. There is a lot going on in the glass with strawberry, lemon, and red berry flavors. Not sweet but a great sipper all by itself or with a nice dinner or cobb salad. I think it will be a favorite of our local daughter-in-law.
Grenache, 2016, Estate, $45.00. 96% Grenache and 4% Petit Verdot. If there is such a thing as a "pepper berry", that's what I got on the nose. Flavors were raspberry and toasted berry. It's not heavy at all but will still hold up well to a lamb or pork course. It has enough spice to accompany veal parmesan or lighter red pastas.
Diplomat, 2015, Estate, $40.00. 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Syrah, 6% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot. The nose is of dry cherries and currants. A nice dark ruby color. It has a little astringency with moderate tannins underlying the dark cherry/berry flavors. The balance is good and I think in 3-5 years it will drop some of the tannins and bring the fruit forward more. That being said, I liked this wine a lot. I think it will be great with prime rib or a nice New York steak.
Syrah, 2016, Estate, $35.00. 81% Syrah, 8% Malbec, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot. I am so glad when my percentages add up to 100%. Another Ambassador wine with a cherry nose and a dark ruby color. A little brighter, fruitier flavor than the Diplomat. Big fruit with enough body to pair with a leg of lamb or a variety of red-sauced Italian dishes.
Plenitotentiary, 2015, Estate, $50.00. I didn't get the mix, but it is predominantly (and obviously) Cabernet Sauvignon. This is their boomer; really good with a lot of bright full cherry/dark berry fruit. You can pair this with your best bbq ribeye or filet, or even with a nice pepper steak.
Ambassador Wines of Washington is located at 19501 144th Avenue NE, Suite C-400, Woodinville, WA 98072. Phone (425) 949-8322 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
DeLille Cellars just moved into a new, massive, and beautiful site at Hollywood Station, within walking distance of the Barking Frog Restaurant at the Willows Lodge in Woodinville. By "walking distance" I mean the parking lots meet. They recommend reservations for tasting, so we had reservations for 4:00PM on a Sunday. There staff was ready and we were immediately seated at a table for the four of us after being poured our first taste at the counter. Tastings cost $25 but the fee is waived if you buy two bottles. You'd be crazy not to. Here's what we tasted.
Grenache Rose; with some Mourvedre and Cinsault in the blend. A light blush color with a soft strawberry and lemon nose (okay it smells like that, it doesn't actually have nose). This wine is very smooth and pleasant to drink. It finished with a fuller flavor than I expected, showing quite a bit of substance to it. This is very easy to drink wine and I think it would pair well with lighter white fish. Since it was served at the counter, I forgot to get the year and the price, so I'll just have to go back.
Roussanne, 2018, Red Mountain AVA, $35.00. This is 100% Roussanne, a wine that I've always enjoyed. It came home with us. The nose is light with a little stone-fruit aroma. The color is a very light soft cream. At my first sip, I thought it tasted like a nice Viognier with what I taste as a blend of apple and pear flavors with a very refreshing light acidity. If you like Petrale Sole Dore in a lemon caper sauce, I think you found the perfect wine.
Metier, 2017, Columbia Valley AVA, $38.00. This is basically a GSM (39%, 19%, 39%) with 3% Cinsault added to the typical Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre mix. I sniffed a big bright red berry nose. The color was a rich, sparkling ruby. This is a very complex wine with good balance. It's tough to describe so many different taste aspects, but I picked up some red cherry and smoke tastes that were wonderful. Tannins are moderate and I'd expect this wine to mature well for 2-4 years. I don't think it will go bad for much longer, but it's tasty now and doesn't need much time. I'm thinking lamb chops.
Doyenne, 2017, Red Mountain AVA, $45.00. 60% Syrah, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. If you like deep ruby colored wine, you found the right place. This has a deeper, rich berry nose than the Metier. Super smooth, and yet a lot of fruit up front. It doesn't whack you, but it's all there. Balance is great with nothing jumping out except the overall richness. I get currant with a little vanilla for taste. This wine went home too. This wine is bbq ribeye ready but will stick around for 5 years or longer.
D2, 2016, Columbia Valley AVA, $45.00. 59% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot. Yes, the are all in there, the five kings of Bordeaux (forget about Camenere, it's too rare). Deep ruby color and I got a sniff of tobacco on the nose. I sometimes wonder if winemakers put the tiny percentages in for taste or just to cover all five bases. Either way, this is another big fruit-up-front wine with red and blue berry flavors and light tannins. Not as spicy as Doyenne, I'd pair D2 with a nice roast of prime rib and age it 2-5 years. Mac the wife loved this one so it came home too.
Chaleur Blanc, 2018, Columbia Valley AVA, $35.00. Here we have a white Bordeaux of 71% Sauvignon Blanc and 29% Semillon. Light in color and a little baked fruit on the nose. The taste was a lovely apricot with a little bright citrus. Very refreshing and ready to enjoy anytime. I wouldn't age it more than 2 years.
Four Flags, 2016, Red Mountain AVA, $68.00. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. You better like ruby. I got a dry, dusty nose with a little white pepper. I expected much bigger tannins, but this wine is tame enough to drink any time. I tasted red cherries and nice oak in a well-balanced package. It has enough tannins to produce a little astringency on the finish. Another nice bbq steak wine that will age well; I'd guess 7-10 years.
Grand Ciel Cabernet, 2014, Red Mountain AVA, $160.00. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Want to guess the color? Yes, ruby, deep rich, ruby. I picked up a dry raspberry nose. Taste was a little flinty (that's a good thing) with moderate tannins and big dark berry fruit. This is a big boomer wine that will hold its own with the best of bbq beef (okay, you can broil it too, but don't add that red bbq sauce). Fresh and rich get to meet each other and become good friends with this wine.
You can find DeLille Celllars' new and very impressive building (3 stories with plush member lounges) at 14300 NE 145th Street, Woodinville, WA 98072, call them at (425) 489-0544 or email to email@example.com.
Grandpa Trodden was known as JP to his friends and worked delivering mail along the Star Route between the US and Canada. It's rumored that he may have had a bottle or two mixed in with his letters to deliver. His grandson, Mark, now handcrafts fine bourbon in JP's honor. We have been here twice and have been delightfully hosted by Mara. They stick to bourbon and they do it well.
Black Label, Star Route 5. Three years old, 90 proof, $59.95. By-the-way, we now live in Washington and the prices include a 20.5% tax, so spirits cost a little more here than elsewhere. It's still worth it. To maintain consistency, this bourbon is a blend of three barrels so you don't get the unique attributes that may occur in a single barrel, but you do get a much more consistent profile. It is aged in new American oak from the Midwest. I taste vanilla with just a tickle of sweetness. It's an easy drinker and you can sip it neat or on the rocks.
Red Label, Single Cask. Four years and two months old, 100 proof, $89.95. This one steps up the game a bit. Even with the extra strength, its a little smoother and less sweet; I called it cleaner and dryer than the Black Label. It's amazing how an extra 14 months in the barrel can make a difference.
Blue Label, Single Cask. Six years, 96 proof, $109.95. This one really shows the miracle of aging. They pull 20% of their production t age into this well-balanced whiskey. It's still dry but even smoother than the Red Label. I dare say that it finished so cleanly that I think it leaves you a little breathless as it disappears on the palate.
Cocktail! 4 parts Black Label, 1/2 part Giuseppe Carpano Antica, and a few drops of Jack Rudy Aromatic Bitters. Add a cherry and you've got a really tasty Manhattan. You'll need to be careful because it is so smooth it goes down like adult Kool-Aid. Mara mixes a good drink.
Maple Syrup. This is the second maple syrup we have found in Woodinville, both aged in used bourbon barrels. It cost $23.95 for a 375ml bottle but a half-teaspoon will have you wanting it on everything. This syrup is marvelous. It's a little less smoky than the other one we've tried.
J P Trodden just moved into a new facility at 9206 200th St. SE, Maltby, WA 98296. Phone is (360) 863-2190 or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. They are a great place to visit after you enjoy a late breakfast at Maltby Café just down the street.
Okay, right up front, I was very impressed when I found that none of the wines at Martedi are blends. They are all 100% of the pure varietal stated. To me, this is very impressive. While nearly all vintners blend varietals together to get the profile and balance they want, Winemaker Joseph Miglino and his team make it all happen from the same grape. Joe also enjoys a good cigar, which he also sells, and is rumored to be willing to raise a glass of brown liquid with a friend (offsite) from time to time.
2018 Pinot Grigio, $21.00. With a very light color and almost Chardonnay nose, I didn't know what to expect. The flavor of light baked lemon and melon were very nice. Enjoy this with a sole meunier (which I can't spell) or other light white fish.
2018 Salvaggio, $26.00. "Savage" or "Wild", this is a 100% Semillon wine, also very light in color with a soft citrus nose. It's very nice as a sipper all by itself or with a shrimp of scallop dinner in a white wine sauce.
2019 Rose Sangue di Sangiovese, $34.00. Okay, I admit to being a Sangiovese junkie anyway but am usually not big on rose. This is wonderfully fresh wine with lots of strawberry and pear fruit taste. I could sip it all afternoon. Cheese and crackers could not be better enhanced but by this Rose.
2015 Sangiovese, $34.00. Did you read about me being a Sangiovese junkie? This is why. A dry musty nose comes from the ruby colored liquid. This is a classic Sangiovese with a little spice and the flavors of raspberry and dark cherry. I am now in search of a nice bright fresh tomato pasta to enjoy with it.
2015 Nebbiola, $45.00. The color is a lighter copper ruby. This is a very complex wine; you'd swear it was a blend of several varietals. It is very smooth with moderate red cherry flavors. Now I really need some pasta with a spicy arrabiata sauce.
2014 Cabernet Franc, $44.00. You see the rich ruby color and smell the dry red berry nose. Rich but very smooth (how does he balance this without blending?) with light but evident tannins. Ready to enjoy now but I think it will improve for 2-5 years. This is a solid Cabernet Franc and I'm thinking a good bbq peppered New York steak is in order.
2015 Giovanni Syrah, $38.00. A dark berry nose and an even deeper ruby color than the Cabernet Franc. Lots of raspberry and red cherry fruit up front. Well balanced with only a tickle of acid on the finish. I'm thinking it will age well for another few years (it's already 4 years) and go very nicely with a bbq leg of lamb.
2015, Vin Santo, 375ml $52.00. New to me, this is the Italian answer to a nice tawny port and they have answered very well. The grape is Semillon. The color is a tawny/amber. It seems to have more fruit than a port with flavors of dark pear, vanilla, and a little caramel. Definitely for dessert, whether alone or with a nice crème brulee.
Martedi was a real treat. We had the privilege of the winemaker's attention for quite a while and I came away knowing a lot more than I did when I walked in. To present these well-balanced, fruity, and rich wines so smoothly without blending is a lost art that is well accomplished here.
Maryhill Winery is named after the Maryhill area, which seems to be in Klickitat County, Washington. They source their grapes from 16 vineyards throughout 7 AVAs. They recently moved into a gorgeous new facility in Woodinville. We visited with a couple of friends and learned a lot about the area around our new home in general and Maryhill wines in particular.
2018 Classic Chardonnay, $17.00. A very pretty soft golden color with a nice light pear nose. I get soft pear, a little apple and light citrus. This Chardonnay is not oaked but it does spend some time aging on French oak staves. You'll enjoy this as a smooth sipper by itself, with a nice green salad, or with lighter white fish.
2018 Roussanne, $24.00. With an even lighter color than the Chardonnay, the nose has some vanilla mixed with light citrus and apricot. They say mango, but I don't eat mango often enough to remember what mango tastes like. This is crisp and light and I think it will be a favorite summer sipper on the patio.
2016 Grenache, Proprietor's Reserve, $44.00. Light bright color and a wonderfully big cooked strawberry nose with a little cherry. Very fruit forward with tons of fresh strawberry, melon, and cherry flavors. This Grenache will stand up to almost anything from roasted chicken to hot links. The fruit here will not disappoint.
2015 Malbec, Proprietor's Reserve, $40.00. A medium ruby color and a dryer, light cherry nose. Super smooth with soft cherry and a touch of white pepper spice. I'm thinking this would be a nice wine to swap out for a Pinot Noir every now and then. It would pair nicely with roasted chicken or even a nice heavier fish (yes, I know it's red) like a big rich Chilean sea bass.
2016 Classic Syrah, $28.00. I think "Classic" fits this Syrah very well. It has a deeper ruby color that is slight muted; not crystal clear, and a dry dark berry nose. This was our first hint of tannins at Maryhill but was still remarkably smooth. It's drinkable now or you can probably wait a couple of years. This bigger structure will pair nicely with prime rib or a nice roast.
2016 Merlot, Vineyard Series, $40.00. From Elephant Mountain in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA in the Yakima Valley. You have to love the vineyard and AVA names. I was told that Elephant Mountain is so named because it looks like an elephant from overhead. This Merlot has a dry musty nose and rich ruby color. Nice fruit up front with just enough tannins to give it a tickle of astringency on the finish. This well balanced and structured Merlot will improve during the next 3-7 years.
2015 Cabernet Franc $40. Also Elephant Mountain at Rattlesnake Hill. Only 140 cases produced. The nose is a dry cherry and the color is a rich ruby. Just a little bit of spice and big structure with solid but not at all obnoxious tannins. This Cabernet Franc is going to be good for a long time; I think at least 5 years and likely 10 or more. Find a ribeye and enjoy it now or later.
We had a good time at Marhill. Our host has been working in the industry for over a decade full-time and has his time in as a cellar rat (production). He was very well informed and treated us nicely.
Their tagline is "Bordeaux Inspired, Washington Crafted." Across the board, Matthews wines are big with strong flavors and a lot going on in each sip. We visited 12/31/2018, and they have new vintages out. There have been some price adjustments too (down on some), but I think you'll get the idea. They also had a wine called "Tenor" which I don't know see on their website.
2017 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, 100% Sauvignon Blanc, $37.00. On the nose, I get grapefruit, pineapple, and mango; quite a lot of fruit. The color was light; almost clear. Taste was big grapefruit up front settling in a slightly sweet pineapple flavor with the grapefruit. This is a big Sauvignon Blanc. It has a ton of fruit flavors with a touch of flint. They said it was aged in a combination of concrete eggs and French oak puncheons (big barrels). Bring on the rich Caesar dressing salad and spicy shrimp or catfish.
2016 Cuvee, 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot, 4% Syrah, 1% Malbec, $29.00. Dark ruby color, deep rich berry nose. This is a well balanced, rich dark berry wine that has just a little light spiciness to it. Well balanced with moderate tannins. It will improve over 3-5 years. In the meantime, enjoy it with a nice roast or London Broil.
2015 Columbia Valley Claret, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot. A little lighter color than other Clarets we've tried. The fragrance is of raspberries. On tasting, I found blackberry and ripe plum flavors. There is a lot going on in the glass, ranging from subdued to sharp, bright to deep. All of it comes together in a pretty yummy wine to go with your grilled steak (yes, phony...I mean vegetarian substitute for beef is fine). This is a very versatile wine and can be enjoyed from now until probably 5+ years. It will change in the bottle, but change isn't necessarily good or bad, but is different.
2015 Tenor Syrah, 100% Syrah, $60.00. Flinty plum and current flavors with a little spiced and olive flavors. They say it has tastes of bacon fat, and if you concentrate, you can get a little of that on the finish. A big wine I'd pair with BBQ lamb.
2015 Reserved Claret, 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot, $67.00. Dark berry and sawdust on the nose. Deep rich ruby color. This Claret has less fruit up front but is richer than their regular Claret. Think of it as a grown-up version of their other Claret. It has more tannins, but still has a great plum and dark berry finish. This wine will probably be just as good 10 years from now as today, and I encourage holding it for a couple of years. Nice big steak wine.
Matthews is at 16116 140th Place NE, Woodinville, WA 98072. Phone 425-487-9810 or email email@example.com.
With the exception of a rum company in Puerto Rico, I'd never been to a distillery before and I had no idea what I was missing. I need to point out the picture to the right which was purchased for me by my son, who really did suggest we take half the laundry room and build a bar in the adjacent bonus room. Little did I know that he would thereafter stake his claim by naming it "Dan's Bar" and claiming that it was founded by my favorite son. That's confusing to me because I'm not sure who founded it now.
Woodinville Whiskey is an adventure in whiskey. They make both a bourbon and a rye and they twist them around a bit with different proofs, different barrels, and now and then, a different element. We have now been there twice and each time has been a very pleasant education.
Flagship Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 90 Proof, $54.95 (there's that pesky tax thing again). 72% corn, 22% rye, 6% malted barley. This is a very smooth whiskey with nice vanilla and caramel flavors. It is barreled in heavily charred American oak for 5 years.
Flagship Straight Rye Whiskey, 90 Proof, $54.95. (does anyone know what "straight" means in whiskey? Is there a crooked?) I've never liked Rye... until now. This 100% rye is aged 5 years in new American oak and comes out of the barrel with a nice spicy flavor of cinnamon smoothed by undertones of honey and caramel. It's almost enough to dethrone Scotch as my drink of choice but it will definitely have a spot on the bar.
100% Rye Whiskey finished with toasted apple staves, 100 Proof, no longer available but I hope it comes back. Just a hint of apple on the nose which helps smooth the whiskey and leave a little lingering cinnamon on the tongue. Very nice and we hope it returns soon.
Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 100 Proof, finished in Port barrels, $69.95. The first thing I noticed was an intense nose. Just a little tiny taste of dark berry fruit on the tongue. It seems a little more viscous; not at all syrupy, but just a little thicker. Mac the wife said it would be great after dinner with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Double Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 86 Proof, $54.95. This is aged in the same new American Oak but then finished for a year in used bourbon barrels. It comes from the still at a much higher +/- 183 proof and is reduced to 86 proof. It is a smoother version of the 90 proof Flagship and more mellow than Woodinville's other whiskeys.
Straight Rye Whiskey, Cask Strength at 124.36 Proof, $69.95. Still the same wonderful, but a bit smoother and more intense flavor. This is a great rye.
Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Cask Strength at 124.14 Proof, $69.95. Even smoother than the 90 proof flagship with an intense flavor but no alcohol burn at all. It takes a little bit of your breath away on the first taste and might numb the lips of a lightweight, but it's a pleasure to me.
Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup, 375ml $19.95. Awesome smoky flavors imparted into fine dark amber maple syrup. It is wonderful. A real treat with pancakes or ice cream.
Woodinville Whiskey Company is at 14508 Woodinville Redmond Road, Woodinville, WA 98072. Phone (425) 486-1199 or email info@Woodinvillewhiskeyco.com