Brunello di Montalcino: the Rembrandt of my Wine World

Early during the first quarter of my freshman year at college, I decided I wanted to major in art history.  I was a couple months into an Art History 101 class and could clearly envision my future as curator for some fabulous museum or gallery, or possibly work for one of the big auction houses like Christie’s.  Even though this was my first ever art history class – I just knew that this was what I was destined for.  I excitedly called my Dad to inform him of my plans – and after our brief discussion, I hightailed it to the business office to declare my major in Business Administration.

To this day, my art history classes remain some of my most favorite.  They made me look at the world like I hadn’t before – and in a way I haven’t since.  Starting with ancient art – from ornate Egyptian tombs to Greek architecture to Roman marble sculpture.  Then the Renaissance with the David and Mona Lisa.  Next came the utterly fascinating, over-the-top religious works of Bosch and El Greco.  My art history course worked its way through each era and I found myself in awe of them all . . . and then we got to the work of Rembrandt and – well, I didn’t like it.

Was his work groundbreaking?  Was he able to capture people in their daily lives like no artist had before? Was his work influential to countless others?  Yes, yes, and yes.  Is he considered by many to be the best painter that ever lived?  Absolutely.

I’m not debating these assertions – all I’m saying is that I personally didn’t care for his work.  (And for the record – I still don’t).  I thought it was dark and dreary.  He did a lot of self portraits that all ran together in my mind.  Nothing about his work spoke to me.

Bottom line: I wouldn’t want his work hanging in my house (Hubs Note:  Yeah…..that was never an option in the first place).  I’d rather have a calming Monet landscape or fun and colorful Matisse:

Right about now you might be asking “That’s all well and good, but WTF does Rembrandt have to do with Brunello di Montalcino?”

Patience . . . I’m getting there.

In the vast world of wine, there are certain wines that are considered to be “classics” or “benchmarks” of their respective varieties.  Wines such as Burgundy (Pinot Noir), Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc), Barolo (Nebbiolo),  and Brunello di Montalcino (Sangiovese).

Brunello di Montalcino (hereinafter “BdM”) is considered by many to be the highest quality and most pure expression of Sangiovese.  It’s been called Tuscany’s grandest wine zone by Jancis Robinson. It was one of Italy’s first DOCs (1966) and later one of its first DOCGs (1980).  To qualify as a DOC/DOCG, several hoops must be jumped through – such as establishing geographical boundaries, permitted grape varieties grown, and limitations on yields.  For a more detailed explanation of these terms – read this short article by a Master of Wine.

Unlike many other Tuscan wines, BdM is not a blend – it is made from 100% Sangiovese.  Specifically, the Brunello clone that is grown exclusively in the region.  BdM has the longest aging requirements in all of Italy: a minimum of four years (2 years in oak, 4 months in bottle) before it can be released to the public.  These wines are full bodied with high tannins and acidity, and very long lived.

BdM is held in high regard by enthusiasts, critics, students and collectors alike.  When a classic BdM is served – words like “majestic”, “elegant” and “oh holy shit this is the best thing I’ve ever tasted!” fall off tongues.  Except for mine – because I don’t like BdM (insert blasphemous gasps here).

Now before you members of the Brunello Brigade come after me with pitchforks, let me explain.  Like with Rembrandt, I’m NOT claiming that BdM is crap nor am I saying that I cannot appreciate BdM. What I am saying is that I, subjectively, don’t care for it.  I would love to find a BdM that changes my mind.  Believe me, I’ve tried!  Over the years, I’ve tasted many – particularly during my studies for the Italian Wine Scholar and at the recent Master class I attended led by Master Sommelier Peter Neptune  where we tasted 11 different BdMs.

Valdicava 1997That evening, the wines tasted ranged from a 2013 Camigliano BdM to a 1997 Valdicava BdM.  There were BdM from 2001 and 2010 – both highly rated vintages.  All 11 wines tasted were very high quality and from top producers such as Altesino, Donatella Cinelli Colombini and Salvioni.  I appreciated these wines, and was particularly amazed at how their structure held up over the years.

But did I like them?  No, not really.  Why?  Well, for starters the tannins were overwhelming.  They usually dominate in a BdM’s youth, but are still over prevalent (for me) in an aged BdM.  And even if I can get past the Hoover suctioning tannins, I don’t particularly enjoy the taste of BdM.  While I’m definitely not a juicy fruit bomb lover, the orange peel/medicinal cherry/tea leaf flavors I find in BdM aren’t appealing to me either.

And it’s not that I don’t like Italian wines.  I love Barbera, Aglianico, and Etna Rosso.  And I actually really enjoy Rosso di Montalcino – more than most Brunellos in fact.  Even though Rossos are usually from younger or “lesser” vineyards, have few restrictions on production (no oak aging required!) and are way less expensive.  I know this is like saying I’d prefer to wear Tory Burch shoes as opposed to Manolo Blahniks, or that I’d rather drive a Chevy truck than a Tesla – but both of these examples are also true (Hubs Note:  She drove a Chevy truck for a decade).

However, like a Rembrandt painting that I don’t want in my house, I don’t want a BdM in my glass.  I’d rather have a dozen other wines instead.  And on that note, I’m going to go pour myself a non-BdM and leave you with this awesome outline on Montalcino.

 

2019 Wine Goals: Now THESE are Resolutions I can Keep!

In addition to being timely – which I still clearly need to work on – I made several resolutions for 2019. Not surprisingly, many are wine related. And while these might be more enjoyable to accomplish than my other annual goals (such as running “x” miles by year end, eating more greens, and limiting my screen time) they are by no means a slam dunk.

Find more daily drinkers. I want to find more (enjoyable!) wines in the $20 and under range.  So, this means purchasing less Champagne, Oregon Pinot and Northern Rhône Syrah – and more from undervalued wine regions like the Loire Valley, Chile and Portugal. It also means exploring some obscure varietals that don’t command the prices of many popular, international varieties – so hello Pinotage, Zweigelt, and Godello!

rosso di montalcinoA producer’s entry level or a region’s “second wine” can also be great daily drinker values.  I recently had a Rosso di Montalcino – considered to be the first example of a “second wine” concept in Italy.  The Rosso di Montalcino zone of production is exactly the same as the more prestigious Brunello di Montalcino.  However, Rosso di Montalcino is released earlier – so these wines are more fruit forward, easygoing and approachable than Brunello.  There is also no mandatory oak aging requirement and the price tag is usually much lower.  This one was full of floral and bright red fruit aromas, paired deliciously with lasagna and was under $20.

Stop waiting for special occasions to open up the good stuff! While I don’t have too many “daily drinkers” in my collection at the moment, I do have a number of bottles that I feel warrant some type of major event in order to justify opening them.  By no means am I bottle-bragging – I’ll never have that type of cellar – but bottles like Gramercy Reserve Cabernets and Syrahs, Quilceda Creek, Tignanello, Sassicaia, and wines from our travels to the Rhône and Burgundy have a more special place in my heart.  Oh yeah, and I would probably add to that list the Pol Roger ‘Winston Churchill’ that I might have just ordered.

These wines aren’t something I usually open on a Tuesday night to pair with my comfort food dishes . . . but – why not? Why not make a mundane Tuesday eve (sorry Tuesdays, I honestly don’t mean to pick on you) a little less so? What exactly am I waiting for?  I plan to change this in the coming year and open some of these “special occasion” wines when it is in fact NOT a special occasion.  Because as Maya said to Miles in the movie Sideways: the day you open a ‘61 Cheval Blanc… that’s the special occasion.

Keep up the Studying.  As I’ve said before, I’m not pursuing wine certifications so that I can end up having an alphabet soup of letters after my name.  I simply love learning about wine and am more disciplined about it if I have some structure .  Otherwise, I tend to dive deep into a series of rabbit holes that I struggle to get out of – such as trying to figure out the 65 soil types of the Ancient Lakes AVA and who are the 80+ owners of Vougeot.  You know, important need-to-know shit.

wset logo
I love that the WSET logo is a female!

In 2019, I’m hoping to obtain my Italian Wine Scholar certification (results expected in February!), get through at least 4 of the 6 Units of the WSET Diploma, and perhaps pursue another Wine Scholar Guild Master Level Course.  I’m leaning towards their Bordeaux course since this region is quickly replacing Italy as my “Achilles’ heel.” (Sidenote: I know that I will be afflicted with this “ailment” throughout my entire wine studying life . . . which is one of the reasons I love doing what I do.  There will ALWAYS be something to learn!)

Improve my tasting notes.  I think of this goal as kind of a “mindful drinking” type of thing. Basically, I need to pay more attention to what’s in my glass.  Sitting down and focusing on a wine’s aromas, structure, and quality helps immensely with the whole study process.  And as I continue to pursue the WSET Diploma, I should get to the level where I’m able to write a tasting note that meets an examiner’s criteria in my sleep.

I’m not a huge fan of publishing tasting notes – I think they’re boring and ubiquitous, so I won’t be doing that (did I just hear a collective sigh of relief?).  But I do have a beautiful tasting notebook for me to keep track of my thoughts.  I just need to bring it out more often – at least a couple times a week.

tasting notebooks
My tasting notebooks over the years

Have FUN with wine.  If I allow it to, studying wine can dominate my life.  It’s currently the focus of my school, upcoming travels, and honestly, quite a bit of my social activity.  I don’t want to get so caught up in the study of wine that I forget to enjoy it. Sometimes, I need to just have a glass and drink it – not analyze it (fortunately, this is Hubs’ strong suit!).

So on THAT note, I’m going to sign off, finish that daily drinker bottle of Rosso di Montalcino and binge watch last season’s Better Call Saul!

Cheers to a delicious 2019!!

 

 

 

 

My Wine “Best Of” 2018 – With Nary a Bottle in Sight

As 2018 comes to an end, many wine enthusiasts/geeks/bloggers put together their “Top Bottles I Drank this Year” lists.  While I do enjoy reading these posts, when I personally think back to my year in wine what comes to mind first isn’t the bottles that I drank, but my wine experiences: the places I’ve traveled, people I’ve met, events I’ve attended.  To me, these are more memorable then the wine I’ve consumed – and that includes the (purported) DRC.  I suppose this train of thought is keeping in line with me attributing my wine “a-ha” moment to a person as opposed to a bottle. 🙂

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my top 10 wine experiences of 2018:

My First Sabrage.  This “top moment” wasn’t so much about the actual sabering itself, but the fact that it occurred at my work goodbye party just before moving down to Southern California.  I’d been an employee of Capri Cellars for almost four years – it was my first job in the wine industry and will always hold a special place in my heart.  As a going away present, the owner and staff gave me a gorgeous saber and a bottle of Blanquette de Limoux (a sign perhaps?) to try it out on.  For my first attempt – I think I did quite well!

Starting the WSET Diploma.  Shortly after moving down to Southern California, I started my WSET Diploma studies at Neptune School of Wine.  (Oddly enough, even if we hadn’t moved here I was still planning on taking my classes at Neptune since there wasn’t anywhere in the Pacific Northwest that taught Diploma).  Over the past several months, I feel like I’ve become exponentially more well versed in Viticulture, Winemaking and Sparkling Wines having taken and passed Unit 2 (with distinction) and taken (and hopefully passed!) Unit 5.  I’ve likely got a couple more years before completing the entire program, and after that . . . who knows?

Joining The Vintner Project.  I discovered The Vintner Project (TVP) after seeing their post highlighting a winemaking couple in my hometown.  It’s not too often that something crosses my Instagram feed with the hashtag #Richland, so needless to say I was intrigued.  The goal of TVP is to focus on the stories and people behind the wine as opposed to scores or ubiquitous tasting notes.  Since these are the types of stories that I’d like to focus on myself, in May I joined The Vintner Project as a contributing writer.

Meeting Online Wine Peeps – In Person.  This was definitely a highlight of 2018 – and one I hope to add more names to in 2019!  I met several online wine people face-to-face this year, but two in particular stand out for me:

I followed Winetravel on Instagram for quite awhile before realizing that she lived in Orange County (where I was moving to) and was originally from my beloved Washington state (where I was moving from).  Since relocating, we’ve gotten together several times and have become fast friends – bonding over wine and travel (her online name obviously suits her).  We live close enough to one another that I could probably walk to her house in an hour . . . less if I knew she was opening a bottle of wine from her recent trip to Italy.

I can’t recall the first time I came across Spitbucket – it might’ve been the “60 Second Wine Review” she did on one of my favorite Washington wines: Gramercy Cellars’ Picpoul.  In any case, we discovered that we’d both been students at Northwest Wine Academy, and although we knew many of the same people, our paths hadn’t crossed yet.  I finally met her at the Wine Bloggers Conference in October and immediately knew we were members of the same wine tribe – she is equally as passionate and geeky about wine as I am!  Even though we’re not within walking distance, I’m hoping that our paths continue to cross – because she’s pretty damn awesome.

Buty WineryAuction of Washington Wines.  You know that feeling when you come home for Christmas break after your first year away at college?  That’s how I felt attending the Auction of Washington Wines this year four months after moving to California.  I ran into so many familiar faces: my old neighbors, Capri Cellars customers, people Hubs used to work with, my favorite wine photographer, and a couple that I see annually at this event – where we usually end up competing for the same wines!  This year was no different – we all fell in love with a new release from Buty Winery: Rockgarden Estate Grenache.  I left the evening one of the winning bidders on a case of this lovely wine – as did my favorite competing couple.  Who says you can’t go home again?

Trip to the Finger Lakes.  I’d heard a lot about the Finger Lakes wine region (also known as FLX) over the past few years, so I was excited to visit this past summer.  And who better to go with then my Best Galfriend with whom I could have fun in a cardboard box with.  Now, I’m not equating FLX with a cardboard box – but it IS rural (and I’m FROM rural).  So if you’re thinking you’ll catch an Uber to scoot out to dinner – learn from our mistake, and think again.  Nonetheless, the region’s reputation for delicious Rieslings is well founded – FLX is absolutely knocking it out of the park with this variety.  Hubs and I have already plowed through every bottle that I brought home.

Linus and IWSPassing the Italian Wine Scholar Exam – Part 1.  After months of studying, with some major time-outs for moving and WSET, I finally took and passed the first part of my Italian Wine Scholar exam.  For Part 2 (Central & Southern Italy), I’m doing a weekend intensive class next month in Portland (taught by two of my favorite wine instructors!) and am scheduled to take the exam in early February.  Although Italian wines will always be more challenging for me to wrap my brain and palate around than French wines, I’ve learned a ton through this program.  And more importantly, I have a better appreciation for Italian wine.

Becoming a San Diego Chevalier.  Shortly before we moved, I joined the Seattle chapter of La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin.  This was a fun bunch of Burgundy wine lovers and I was disappointed to be leaving them before I really had a chance to experience what the group had to offer.  Fortunately, I connected with (and joined!) the San Diego Chevaliers chapter and attended a fantastic Paulée earlier this year with my 1998 Vosne-Romanée in tow.  The next Chevaliers event is in a couple of months (it’s white tie – don’t tell Hubs or he’ll find an excuse not to come with me!) so I’ll be sure to post how that event goes.  And maybe with pictures this time. 😉

Learning From a Master of Wine.  It’s often said that in order to become better at something, you need to practice with, and learn from, someone who is much better at that “something” than you are.  A few months ago, I signed up for a series of blind tasting classes with Lindsay Pomeroy – a Master of Wine in San Diego.  In the short amount of time I’ve spent with her, I have learned so much more than I could have studying on my own with my nose in a book (or a glass).  She’s easygoing and friendly, but challenging. After I told her I was studying for the Diploma, she had higher expectations of me in her classes and would put me on the spot more often.  Which is good – because I usually don’t push myself outside of my comfort zone.  She’s giving me a level of confidence that I didn’t have before.

WBC remnantsAttending the Wine Bloggers Conference.  I know I said above that my Top 10 were in no particular order, but the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla was definitely my wine highlight this year.  It was my first year attending and it was incredible to be surrounded by so many other wine writing enthusiasts – especially in a wine region located just an hour away from where I grew up.  Bonus:  Hubs attended the entire conference with me and provided our wine “quote of the year”.

Next year’s location isn’t quite as close – the conference will be held in Hunter Valley, Australia.  However, it’s recently come to my attention (thanks Hubs!) that this can be my birthday present if I’d like it to be . . . and I think I might go for it. 🙂  And if I do, I have no doubt it will be at the top of my 2019 list!

5 Wine Podcasts Worth Tuning Into

I can’t remember exactly when I started listening to wine podcasts, but I know it’s been a couple of years – and I know that I have Hubs to thank for it.  For some time, he’d been falling asleep listening to one of his podcasts on sports or movies or music or whathaveyou and when I’d come to bed a couple hours later, I’d remove his headphones (because he’d once again fallen asleep with them on) and wonder what on earth fascinated him so much about these guys talking that he’d listen to them every night without fail.

When I finally asked him about his podcast fascination he said that there were podcasts about everything – and certainly some were out there about wine.  Wait….what?!?!?  We immediately set me up with a few – some of which are now defunct (where did you go Great Northwest Wine and Disgorged ?) – but many continue on.  So, in no particular order, here are 5 wine podcasts that I listen to regularly and, if you’re interested in wine, are definitely worth checking out:

I’ll Drink to That.

This is one of the longer running wine podcasts out there (it’s been going since 2012 – which is essentially the Paleozoic era by podcasting standards) and is hosted by Levi Dalton – a former sommelier (pronounced Levee like in the Led Zeppelin song – not Levi like in Strauss).  I’ll Drink to That claims to “get behind the scenes of the beverage business” – and it absolutely does so.  Levi talks to major players from all over the world in every facet of the wine industry – from authors to winemakers to restauranteurs.

My favorite podcast to-date is probably episode #315 in which he interviews Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible – and one of my wine heroes. 🙂  Even though I’d previously heard several other podcasters interview Karen, through Levi’s discussion with her I learned that she basically self-taughtilldrinktothaticonv2.1 herself to where she is today.  He really is amazing at getting new information from his guests.

Levi’s right-hand lady, Erin Scala, contributes interesting “warm-up” segments that often relate to the interviewee, but are sometimes just fascinating tidbits about wine – like why a typical wine bottle is 750ml (episode #325 for those of you who are curious!)

I’ll Drink to That is very good at getting the story behind the wine and humanizing the industry. Levi asks his guests pertinent questions and is adept at drawing them out (I swear he must have a background in journalism). And while it’s not as academic as some of the other podcasts, I always learn something listening to it.

Guild of Sommeliers.

With edge-of-your-seat topics like “Wine Chemistry” and “All About Yeast”, this podcast is likely to appeal more to true corkdorks such as myself (I mean, I publish a blog on wine outlines for Christ’s sake).  Even when dealing with nitty gritty subjects like these, host Geoff Kruth manages to direct the discussion at an understandable, and often entertaining level.

Guildsomm

As a Master Sommelier, Geoff knows more than 99.99% of the audience, yet he has a terrific knack for getting his guests to essentially start with the basics for the benefit of any wine newbies who might be listening.   Like in the “Three Elements of White Wine Making” podcast, Geoff begins the interview with winemaker John Raytek by asking him: “if you were going to explain white winemaking to somebody that wasn’t a winemaker, contrasting it to the way red wine is made – how would you explain the basic process of how white wine is made?”  For those looking for something a little lighter than a discussion on sur lie aging – the blind tasting and year in review GuildSomm podcasts are more on the amusing side.

Geoff has been the primary host since the podcast began, but lately Chris Tanghe has been taking over some of the hosting duties.  Chris is based in the Seattle area – so I’m hoping his presence means more focus on wines from my beloved Pacific Northwest!

Wine for Normal People.

This was one of the very first podcasts I stumbled upon and it remains a favorite.  Hosted by Elizabeth Schneider and her mysterious husband MC Ice (“just a wine loving normal person”) the WFNP podcast is conversational, entertaining and educational.  Their banter is genuine and adorable – even when she talks over him (which I totally can relate to – just ask Hubs!)

Wine-for-Normal-People

WFNP covers a wide range of wine-related topics – regions, grapes, and news like how Brexit could effect the UK wine industry (episode #209) or the 2017 California wildfires (episode #203).  Elizabeth also regularly interviews people in the industry, and while the interviewees aren’t usually “heavy hitters” like in some of the other podcasts, they all have incredibly interesting stories and I’ve found myself seeking out their wines on many occasions after finishing a WFNP podcast.

When I was studying for my WSET Level 3, I listened to WFNP religiously.  I’d download an episode on whichever wine region I was currently focused on and listen while I was in the car.  As the host, Elizabeth does a wonderful job of laying out the big picture in an  easily understandable manner before then drilling down into the specifics.  And she even warns you when she’s about to “dork out” on something – which is usually when I turn the volume up, but if you’re less of a wine geek, this might be when you take a break to refill your glass. 😉

Weekly Wine Show.

I just recently started listening to this one.  It’s another husband and wife team – Tony and Betty Notto and they’ve been podcasting for just over two years.  Their style is generally a little more informative rather than conversational, and they cover various wine regions, grapes, and some of their wine travels.  They also usually have wine recommendations that relate to their weekly topic – and often these bottles are incredibly budget friendly. weekly wine show

If the Weekly Wine Show were a wine, I’d describe it as a bit more rustic than elegant.  This podcast isn’t as polished as some of the others I listen to and occasionally it sounds as if they’re reading straight from a script.  However, when they go “off script” (which seems to be more frequently recently – especially with their monthly “Wine in the News” episodes) I love it. Their enthusiasm and excitement for wine is just so freaking genuine.  There’s something truly endearing about them.  Plus, Betty’s voice reminds me of Winona Ryder. 🙂

I admire their commitment and dedication: they have done this podcast weekly since its inception (other podcasts are published monthly or quarterly – if a podcast is “published”).  Not an easy feat as (I believe) they both have full-time jobs and Betty recently pursued and received her WSET 2 Level certification.  I’m looking forward to seeing where these two go with their podcast in the future – and hopefully meeting them at the upcoming Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla.

The Wine Enthusiast Podcastwine enthus podcast

This podcast bounces around from wine to beer to spirits and beyond.  Various editors of the Wine Enthusiast magazine take turns with hosting duties and transcripts are posted on their website – which is helpful for Tracy Flick personas like me who want to double check that I’ve gotten all the information correctly.

I’m not sure how exactly to describe the “personality” of this podcast since it’s all over the board.  For example – their episodes have included: Connections between Wine and Cannabis, The Trials and Triumphs of Wine Education, and “Goddesses of the Grape” featuring women in the wine industry.  The Wine Enthusiast Podcast is like an eclectic blend made up of dozens of varieties where each sip is new and different.  There’s not really a common thread to it – other than wine.

I think I like this podcast because it reminds me of my blog . . . sort of all over the place.  But when you’re a true wine enthusiast – I think you’re enthusiastic about a lot of things related to wine.  It’s hard to limit yourself to just one or two aspects when you have so many paths to choose from and learn about.

If you have a wine podcast that you love – please let me know in the comments!  And be sure to subscribe to Outwines by clicking the button right over there   ———————–>

 

 

12 Bottles & 1,000 Miles

In a few days I’ll be moving from my beloved Pacific Northwest to Southern California.  One of my biggest concerns of the move – besides how my 13 year old Lab will handle it – is how to get my wine down there safely.  I have about 15 or so cases, which in my mind isn’t a huge wine collection, although Hubs might disagree with me on this particular point.  (Sidenote: One somewhat uncomfortable part to the move thus far was having to disclose all of my wine hiding spots to Hubs – the two boxes behind my sweaters in the master closet, the one stashed under the extra dining room chairs, others that I won’t mention here so I can reuse these spots in our new digs.)

Thankfully, our moving company is going to handle transporting the majority of the bottles.  However, just in case (pun truly not intended), I’m setting aside a carefully curated case that will travel with us in the car.  We’ll take these 12 bottles of wine along with other precious and irreplaceable items (our Yellow Lab’s ashes, wedding photos, Hubs’s very first home run ball) and head south – funny that the things that mean the most to you in life have almost zero monetary value.

It was at this point in the move that I realized that I had some very difficult decisions to make:  What 12 wines would make the cut?  Which wines would I be the most distraught over losing?  The most expensive ones?  The oldest?  The wines purchased on our trip to France?  Those from my favorite wineries?  Those that elicit amazing memories?

After an extraordinary amount of consideration (and consternation) – I present to you in no particular order the dozen that made the I-can’t-live-without-them list and will be joining us on I-5 in a climate controlled environment…

Bottle #1:  L’Ecole No. 41 2012 Ferguson Vineyard Estate Red, Walla Walla Valley, Washington.  L’Ecole will always have a special place in my heart because it’s the first “real” wine that I ordered when we were out to dinner with friends who handed me the wine list.  This was at least a decade ago and it was a bottle of their Recess Red – back when they had the fun crayon drawing of a schoolhouse. L'ecole L’Ecole’s Ferguson wines have received some serious accolades the past few years (like best Bordeaux blend in the WORLD from Decanter Magazine).

Bottle #2:  Jean Foillard 2015 ‘Cote du Py’ Morgon, Beaujolais, France.  I had the 2012 vintage of this wine in my French Wine Scholar class back in 2014 and it totally turned me onto cru Beaujolais.  This Morgon tasted like a dirty Pinot – and I absolutely loved it.  Since then, I’ve been obsessed with the 10 crus and what differentiates them from one another.  Plus, I’ve ordered some 2016’s of this wine and want to geek out on vintage comparisons.

Bottle #3:  Betz Family Winery 2014 ‘Heart of the Hill’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Washington.  This is me when I think of Bob Betz:  Betz heartsHe is truly one of the most genuine, likable and admired people in the Washington wine industry.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know his wines over the past few years – as well as stalking him at various wine events.  And even though I’m not usually a Cabernet Sauvignon lover – particularly one from Red Mountain – this wine was my favorite at the Betz Spring Release last year.

Bottle #4:  Pago de los Capellanes 2016 ‘O Luar do Sil’ Godello, Valdeorras, Spain. It may seem odd to bring an under $20 bottle of fairly easily replaceable Spanish white as one of my “delectable dozen” but I have a good reason for doing so (besides this being an incredibly tasty wine and Godello a likely upcoming outline).  We’re stopping for two nights en route to SoCal, and I’m fully expecting the hotels’ minibars to only offer an overpriced, mass produced California blend.  So as to avoid that Conundrum (pun totally intended), I’ve included this wine as one that I won’t feel guilty opening.  Which brings me to . . .

Bottle #5:  Savage Grace 2016 Underwood Mountain Vineyards Riesling, Columbia Gorge, Washington.  As mentioned above, we’re stopping for two nights.  So one “ok to open now” bottle isn’t going to be enough.  Hubs loves Rieslings and I love Savage Grace – so this bottle will be a win-win.  Savage GraceBesides, I firmly believe that the primary reason the 2017 Auction of Washington Wines Picnic sold out was because their advertisement featured me and my galfriends with awesome winemaker, Michael Savage. 🙂

Bottle #6:  Zenato 2011 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Veneto, Italy. I’ve been studying for the Italian Wine Scholar certification for several weeks now and making slow progress.  (Note to self: next time you’re planning a move after 18 years in one house, don’t sign up for a challenging wine certification). This is probably the wine I’m most looking forward to tasting out of the several Italians that I purchased earlier this year.  And I’m saving it until I’m almost finished with my certification . . . which at this rate, will be around Thanksgiving.

Bottle #7:   Quilceda Creek 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington. This wine got 95+ points from all the major wine critics and is worth the most $$ of any bottle in my collection.  That’s a strange sentence to write as I’m not at all a points pusher nor do the most expensive wines typically grab my attention.  However, this is from an iconic Washington winery and my departure from the Pacific Northwest deserves at least one status bottle.  All that being said – I have no idea how I will personally feel about this wine as my palate tends to differ from some of the critics and, unlike shoes, I don’t always end up preferring the most expensive wine.

Bottle #8:  Guy Bernard 2013 ‘Cote Rozier’ Cote Rotie, Rhone Valley, France. Hubs and I purchased this bottle from the amazing Vincent on one of the most memorable days of my life. We hired him as our personal tour guide in the Northern Rhone and Guy Bernard was our last stop of the day.  Their facility/tasting room was a very unassuming place, charmingly cluttered and their wines were some of the best I’ve ever tasted.  And when Vincent took us in the back for some barrel thieving, I was hooked.

Bottle #9: Remi Niero 2014 ‘Chery’ Condrieu, Rhone Valley, France. This was another winery we visited with Vincent. He grew up in Condrieu and drove Hubs and me through its streets like a Formula 1 driver pushing his Peugeot to the limit. Vincent was also on a first name basis with the local winemakers including Remi Niero, who produces some damn delicious Viognier. If you’re ever lucky enough to find yourself in this beautiful wine region, I cannot recommend Vincent highly enough. He made our day so memorable and I’d go back just so he could take us out for another spin around his hometown. You can read more info about Vincent here.

 

Condrieu

 

Bottle #10:   Kevin White Winery 2013 ‘DuBrul Vineyard’ Red Wine, Yakima Valley, Washington. I have such fond memories of this wine!  I purchased a case at the Auction of Washington Wines barrel auction a couple years ago.   And, of course, after a few hours of tasting my competitive streak came out so I had to be the top bid and “win” the autographed barrel top.  Kevin WhiteKevin White remains one of my favorite Washington wineries for producing wines that taste like they should cost at least twice as much.

Bottle #11: Archery Summit 2013 ‘Looney Vineyard’ Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge, Oregon. I first visited this winery with my mom-in-law in 2010, thus beginning my love for Oregon Pinot Noir.  Besides being an absolutely gorgeous tasting room, Archery Summit produces unique, terroir driven wines from their six distinct vineyards.  Looney Vineyard is consistently my favorite, and I’ll be writing more about it in my upcoming Ribbon Ridge AVA post.

Bottle #12:  Gramercy Cellars 2015 ‘L’Idiot du Village’ Mourvèdre, Columbia Valley, Washington.  I could have filled my entire case with Gramercy wines.  So selecting just one was like picking a favorite dog – which Hubs might be able to do, but I cannot.  Greg Harrington is just the bees knees.  He’s an incredible winemaker and is always coming out with something different – Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Picpoul(!). And while his Syrahs are among the best I’ve had, his Mourvèdre is one of my favorite wines.  Ever.  I credit him for turning me onto this varietal, and giving me a borderline obsession with it.  I also credit him with teaching me the proper method for opening a bottle of wine so as to pass the certified sommelier exam (minus the screwy face). 😉  Gramercy

Greg – if you happen to read this,  and plan on opening a tasting room in Southern California, please let me know and I’ll get you my resume ASAP to apply to be your tasting room manager.  And if you’re planning on opening a spot in Woodinville . . .  well, I just might hightail it back to the Pacific Northwest.

So there you have it, the delectable dozen that made the cut!   Although my next blog post will be from my newly adopted home in California – I will always remain a PNW wine girl at heart!!