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!!

 

 

Marsanne

I’ve loved white Rhône blends since well before I learned that’s what these wines were actually called. For those of you in that camp now, white Rhône blends (or “Rhône-style” blends if from somewhere other than the actual Rhône Valley) are primarily blends of Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. Sometimes lesser known grapes like Clairette or Grenache Blanc are added – particularly in the Southern Rhône.

White Rhône wines range from zesty with flavors of bright citrus to full bodied with floral and honey notes. The higher the percentages of Viognier and Marsanne in the blend, the more likely the wine falls into the latter category.

I first discovered Viognier around 2005 and remember being thrilled to find an alternative to my usual Chardonnay. (I can’t be the only one who started out pronouncing it Vie-og-knee-er, can I?) 😉 And while this remains a favorite varietal of mine, I’ve recently become more intrigued by its blending partner – Marsanne.

I’ve sipped on a couple of white Rhône-style blends lately, and got to thinking how perfect these wines are for this time of year. While I love my zippy summer porch pounders, I’m wanting something with a little more weight and texture right now. And these hit the spot:

Rôtie Cellars 2016 ‘Southern White’, Walla Walla Valley. 12.5% abv. Blend of 50% Viognier, 35% Roussanne and 15% Marsanne. Tons of fruits going on here – ripe peach and apricot on the nose, baked lemon square and peach nectar on the palate. Crisp acidity, maybe from the cooler Walla Walla climate or the nice percentage of Roussanne in the blend.

Cornerstone Cellars 2016, El Dorado Marsanne/Roussanne, David Girard Vineyard, California. 14.1% abv. Blend of 47% Marsanne, 47% Roussanne and 6% Viognier. Beautiful floral, peach and honeydew melon aromas. Rich and weighty mouthfeel. Slight bitter note on the finish. Not a shy wine.  This would definitely be a go-to winter white for me.

Unfortunately, it’s rather challenging to find single varietal Marsanne wines – the grape is usually a supporting player to the more well-known Viognier. Nonetheless, it does make for a delicious blending partner, or solo artist, if you can find it (Rôtie Cellars often puts out a good one)! Here’s more about Marsanne.

Vacqueyras AOC

I’ve been taking the Rhône Valley “Master Level” program through the Wine Scholar Guild for the past few months, so lately I’ve been completely immersed in all things Rhône related.  Which is not a bad place to be!

Although I’m confident in my knowledge of the Northern Rhône, the South hasn’t come quite as easily.

Maybe it’s because there are about 27 permitted grape varieties in the South compared to only four in the North. Or because the Southern Rhône represents a whopping 95% of the area’s total production. But it’s likely due to the fact that one of my best wine days ever occurred last Fall when my hubby & I did a private all day tour of Côte Rôtie and Condrieu. Places I’ve visited in person tend to stick better in my brain.

Whatever the reason, I decided to pick a Southern Rhône Cru at random (congrats Vacqueyras!) and do a more detailed outline on that region. At least then I’m guaranteed to nail exam questions on this area. 😉 Here’s the Vacqueyras outline.

[Note: There was some conflicting information among sources while I was putting together this outline. Since I’m taking the exam through the WSG, I went with their materials – even if they differed from GuildSomm. As a general rule though, I prefer and trust GuildSomm as a resource pretty much above everything else.]

Discrepancy between WSG and GS:

Rosé required blend

Per WSG: Grenache – minimum 60%, Mourvédre & Cinsault – minimum 15%

Per GS: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, and Mourvèdre (but no single variety may account for more than 80%), maximum 10% other varietals allowed for rouge wines