Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Seattle's Urban Wineries Part 8: Vintner's Annex


In the last little while, the Washington Wine community has been creeping westward, though some of them have always been here in Seattle, or points west. Well-established wineries like Andrew Will, Cadence and McCrea Cellars have been making wine on the west side for a long time. Newer wineries like Bartholomew Wine, Laurelhurst Cellars and Domanico Cellars have called Seattle home from the beginning.

Recently, there has been movement afoot as established Eastern Washington and Woodinville wineries are moving west, opening tasting room locations in Seattle. One such example is Vintner's Annex in Ballard.

Vintner's Annex best described as a secondary tasting room for four Woodinville wineries from the busy Warehouse District. Alta Cellars, Barrage Cellars, Cuillin Hills and Des Voigne Cellars have paired up to bring their Woodinville wines even closer to Seattle by coming...to Seattle. We decided to swing by on a Thursday night and check out the space.

Gwynne and I arrived at the hip looking Ballard spot, located across from arguably the world's greatest bakery, Cafe Besalu. We were greeted by Karen Wagner, one of the proprietors of the Vintners Annex and sister of Darren and Derek DesVoigne. The four wineries at Vintner’s Annex consist of mostly a family affair, Derek's Cuillin Hills, Darren's DesVoigne and Karen and her husband make the wine under the Alta Cellars label. Barrage Cellars proprietor and winemaker Kevin Correll is a close family friend (and in my opinion a very nice guy). In talking to Karen, I learned the Des Voigne family is from Ballard, so this site was a natural choice.

When friends Michelle and Andrew arrived, Michelle did the honors of selecting a bottle of the Des Voigne Montreaux. Michelle is a sucker for Syrah and this one is a 100% varietal blended from four vineyards: Stillwater Creek, Snipes Canyon Ranch, Meek and Wahluke Slope Vineyard. The wine, like all the Des Voigne I've had, is a hedonistic wine that's velvety smooth, like the jazz musicians that grace the labels.

Karen tasted me through the Alta Cellars releases as well, and I think the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was the best of the bunch. The wines made by Alta Cellars are seeing substantial amounts of oak, with the Cabernet spending 22 months in 80% new French oak. The wines is bounding with red fruit and substantial oak tannins. In addition to the 2007 Cabernet, Alta Cellars has released a 2008 Cabernet Franc and a red blend called Escape, also from 2008, which is a Bourdeaux style blend, with Cabernet, Merlot and a bit of Petit Verdot.

While it was quiet on Thursday night, Karen told us that the joint is jumping on the weekends, and there's always live music on Saturdays. As spoiled as I feel like we are in Seattle with Woodinville so close by, Vintners Annex makes it that much easier for the lazy amongst us. If I were to recommend two wines that you must try I'd say the killer Rhone style blend that is the Cuillin Hills "Shackled" and The Duke, a Zinfandel based blend by Des Voigne Cellars. Get to the Vintner's Annex, the wines are at retail by the bottle. The winemakers will take turns making appearances and bring a little bit of the Woodinville Warehouse District to Ballard.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

They Make Wine There? New Hampshire Edition.

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Just when you thought we couldn't get any more obscure than Indonesia or Texas in our "They Make Wine There?" series, we've done it. New Hampshire. Live Free or Die? Well I don't know about that, but I do know about wine so here we go.

The Story

At the Block 15 Beer Dinner, Matt and I were talking about this particular series on the blog and he mentioned that there were a few wineries in his home state of New Hampshire. I chuckled. More of a guffaw, really. Well, next thing I knew the holidays had passed with Matt's obligatory trip home and my wine rack was suddenly graced with the presence of two bottles of New Hampshire's finest. Matt's only stipulation in sharing this delight was he be invited when I cracked it open. With a pending move to Seattle at the end of January, I needed to get rolling and drink some wine.

Sunday night I invited Matt and Chris over to play some scrabble, but I had ulterior motives. It was the perfect time to crack open the first of the New Hampshirian selections. Jason and Clare, new friends of the Blog, joined and we had us a party. I asked Clare to bring some "snacks" suitable for wine expecting a hunk of cheese and some crackers, boy was I surprised when she unloaded a veritable cornucopia of awesomeness on a platter in my kitchen.  On the pairing menu included:

  • Whole grain herbed bread with dill, cumin, flax, and sunflower seeds
  • Organic extra virgin olive oil with cracked pepper and rosemary
  • Herbed Utah chevre and Salem bleu cheese
  • Moab apricot and nutmeg preserves
  • Roasted garlic hummus
  • Balsalmic vinegar and honey reduction

With snacks, friends, and a few words on the Scrabble board we were ready to taste.

The Location and Winery

New Hampshire is relatively new in the world of wine production, starting in 1994 with vintages produced by 2 wineries. While still small with 5 vineyards and 15 wineries, the state produces primarily white and specialty varietals. A number of the wineries use imported fruit from New York, California, and Canada.

Located in Amherst, New Hampshire, LaBelle Winery produces wines made with grapes and other fruit from New Hampshire and New England that reflect the orchard spirit. The winemaker, Amy LaBelle, is a corporate attorney turned winemaker, a pursuit of her lifelong passion.

The Wine

LaBelle Winery Blueberry Wine

When Matt brought the wine too me, he mentioned that it had been marketed as a merlot-like style despite it's blueberry roots. My only experience with blueberry wine was from the Flying Dutchman Winery on the Oregon coast, a super sweet dessert wine. I really didn't know what to expect. Here's what LaBelle has to say about the wine:

This wine is not sweet… it’s like a dry, light Merlot in body and style. A light red, meduim bodied wine, it pleases the palate with rich but soft notes of vanilla and fresh fruit. Made with 100 % New Hampshire wild blueberries and aged in French oak, this light dinner wine has something for everyone with a hint of sweetness and a lingering, dry finish. LaBelle Winery Blueberry Wine is light and refreshing for spring and summer, yet full bodied enough to accompany pork, turkey, chicken, pasta and even grilled meats.

We found a fruity bouquet of cherry and clove on the nose. If we didn't know better, none of the tasting crew would have predicted blueberry origin based on the aroma of the wine. A deep gorgeous purple graced the glass and upon first taste, Jason declared the wine to be different. That matched Chris' initial reaction of unique. It was dryer than expected, however, had we read the description of the wine beforehand I think our expectations would have been a bit different. On the palate the cherry and fruit-forward characteristics continued, although the finish was relatively mellow and almost flat. When sipped with some of the bleu cheese, the wine picked up some depth and complexity that led Matt to the analysis that it would pair well with traditional Vermont style apple pie, cheddar cheese and all. We had pie later in the evening, but the wine was gone by then.

All in all, the wine was good although I was slightly disappointed. Based on comparisons to either merlot or a dessert wine, I was looking for something close to one or the other when I tried this wine. Finding neither, my expectations weren't met although in reality I should have been looking for an entirely different wine all together. Darn those preconceived notions! I'll still take Oregon or Washington any day!

Next up in the series, Utah.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Vino Collabos 3: You Can Go Home Again...and Make Cabernet

While the Vino Collabos series has been all about the hip-hop collaborations with other musicians up to this point, bear with us as (get it?) we make a foray into American classical literature.

In the Thomas Wolfe novel You Can't Go Home Again up and coming author and main protagonist George Webber depicts his hometown in way that doesn't necessarily please those he's left behind in Libya Hill. At the end of Wolfe’s novel, Webber exclaims "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time — back home to the escapes of Time and Memory." To that Kyle Maclachlin says, "Don't be such a whiner, home is where the heart is, and where some of the world's best wine is being made, get back there and enjoy it." (Kyle never actually said that, but he might have thought it.)

Famous son of Eastern Washington Wine Country, Yakima's Kyle MacLachlan left the Evergreen State for the draw of Hollywood, the tutelage of David Lynch and a long lived career in film and television. Kyle, however, has gone home again, and when he went back home he partnered with Eric Dunham of Dunham Cellars to produce one helluva Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend.

The wine, Pursued by Bear ($65), is more than just a hobbyist’s passing go at making wine because he can. This wine is for real as is Kyle's focus on a serious and world class Washington wine. It's a substantial expression of Washington fruit, a big bold wine and yet another example of the skills and knowledge that Eric Dunham brings to the wine-making stage. MacLachlan and Dunham met when the actor was in the market for some large format Walla Walla wines for his wedding. The two hit it off and when Kyle, who’d been a serious wine drinker for quite sometime, decided to give making wine a go, his collaboration with Dunham seemed a natural and easy way to “go home again.”

The 2006 vintage of Pursued by Bear is 75% Cabernet, 17% Merlot and 8% Syrah. The fruit is sourced from Lewis Estate Vineyard and Phinny Hill Vineyard within the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. The wine sees 100% new oak (and some two years in the barrel, plenty of time.

The result of this collaboration, besides the great name and label(borrowed from Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale) is a beautiful dark plum colored wine. There is a roasted coffee nose - compliments of the oak program - and tons of layered dark black fruits including plums and berries on the palate. The most impressive feature of the wine is its excellent structure and balance. I enjoyed the hell out of this wine, think of it as Purple Velvet, instead of Blue Velvet. The impression this wine leaves is not that of a new guy's foray into wine making. It's clear that the skill and experience with Washington vineyard sites and fruit on the part of Eric Dunham is on display. As Kyle and Eric continue to develop this wine, from blending, to the oak program I imagine it will only get better. That thought alone is impressive.

(Wine was provided as a sample.)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Red, White, and Green.

No, this isn’t a tribute to Dr. Seuss and as far as I know, Heinz is the only company to experiment with making a product unnaturally green, and we all know how that worked out. No, this is about the wine industry going green with their practices and philosophies. In a previous post, I discussed Quivira Vineyards, located in the Dry Creek Valley and mentioned how they practiced the principles of biodynamic farming and winemaking. I recently had the chance to take an extensive tour of Quivira where I learned much more about biodynamics as well as taste through their wines with winemaker Hugh Chappelle. Here I offer a very simplified explanation of their practices and why it is important.

Starting out in the gardens, General Manager Nancy Bailey explained that the 3 core values of biodynamics for Quivira are biodiversity of the land, a closed loop system, and giving back to the local community. The gardens consist of 120 raised beds of organic produce that were built and planted by the current Farm Manager, Andrew Beedy. The beds are on a 4 year rotation which changes the properties and adds to the richness and diversity of the soil. I don’t claim to understand all of the science that goes into this, but I can tell you that the fresh from the ground carrot I got to try was delicious. In addition to the vegetable gardens, Quivira also maintains multiple bee hives and a chicken coop. These are all part of creating a self-sustaining closed loop vineyard farm.

While exploring the farm a bit more we came across the pig pens. While talking about them Nancy referred to them as “workers on the farm.” I was really struck by this comment but it was explained that they are destined to restaurants or events Quivira hosts. While this may be tough for some to hear, it helps to demonstrate the closed loop principle. Everything and every animal on the farm have a role that contributes something to the winery. Manure used in composting, vegetables used for events and to provide nutrients into the soil, and the solar panels are all part of a self-sustaining vineyard farm.

Perhaps what I love most about Quivira is their commitment to the community. Many of their vegetable beds are on contract with local grocers. Rather than being paid for the produce, the grocers work on credit and then donate money to charity when their credit limit has been reached. Additionally, Quivira partners with many organizations and agencies on restoring Wine Creek, which serves as a spawning ground for Coho salmon and Steelhead trout.

I admit that I am passionate about sustainability and efforts to go green so it is really easy for me to get excited about what Quivira is doing. But I don’t think you need a passion for going green to appreciate what they do. All of these practices result in some really great wine, which I had the chance to taste through. Because of the health of the soil, the balance of sugar, acid, and flavor, and the distinctiveness of each terroir, the wines are well balanced and vibrant, including my "Best of 2010" pick, the 2008 Mouvedre.

Is this a new direction for winemaking? Maybe it is and maybe it isn't, but I can tell you that if you are looking for a place that values the land as well as the great wines they produce, Quivira is a must stop on any trip to Sonoma County.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Powered by Pinot Noir: Panther Creek Cellars

Panther Creek Cellars, a mainstay in the Oregon wine industry, began production in 1986 under Ken Wright. Their tasting room and production facility, located off the main street in McMinnville in a power plant dating to 1923, adds a unique element, as a combination of beautiful brick and woodwork greets guests. The occupation of the former power plant is both a novelty and a nod towards sustainability. Oddly enough, they moved to the plant location in 1989, the same year as the release of LL Cool J's Walking with a Panther release. (That's really just a coincidence.) During a visit to McMinnville, we received an invite from Panther Creek sales and social media maven Kendra Wessels to come by and check out the wines.

On to the wines: Panther Creek makes a fair bit of wine, and they make wine from a variety of Oregon's best vineyards. Panther Creek looks for a few characteristics when they source grapes. They are looking for interesting Pinot Noir and also for grapes that show the variety that Oregon's Willamette Valley is really capable of presenting in that varietal.

Kendra gave us the rundown on the Panther Creek approach. Of the nearly 8,000 cases that Panther Creek makes, 3,500 of those are their Winemaker’s Cuvee. This Cuvee is comprised of a variety of barrels and single vineyards, and is selected first, blended, and put away. The barrel selection changes from year to year with the goal being a wine that is a bit fruit forward and accessible now, as it's always the first release of every vintage.

After the Cuvee is chosen, Panther Creek turns their attention to their single vineyard designate Pinot Noirs. Panther Creek has been in the Pinot game for a good long time and have long-standing relationships with a number of vineyard managers and growers. They've honed in on the blocks they're interested in and focus on lower than average crop yields and fruit that really reflects the unique terroir of the site.

We tasted the 2007 Vista Hills Pinot, from the the Red Hills of Dundee. The wine was brighter than the other Pinots we had tasted. There were marked red fruit characters and a tinge of the earthy elements that are considered signatures of the Dundee Hills.

The 2007 Shea Vineyard Pinot from the Yamhill Carlton AVA followed. Panther Creek is the first winery to make a Shea Vineyard designate Pinot; and after tasting it, it’s clear why this was a good move, which many winemakers followed. The wine exhibits dark fruit, pepper and spice and is a darker, more full-bodied wine that can likely lay down a long while.

The 2007 Verde is not a single vineyard designate but rather a blend of "green" vineyards, or vineyards with LIVE certification. This Pinot blends Momtazi, Temperance Hill, and Elton Vineyards in an homage to sustainable viticultural practices. 2007 was the first year that Panther Creek produced the Verde and it's a brighter Pinot, with some minerality and young red fruit characters.

We also sampled the 2008 Pinot Gris, which blends fruit from the WIllamette Valley and Southern Oregon. The Pinot Gris is fantastic, and brings the structure structure from the Willamette Valley and the acidity from Southern Oregon together into a damn fine wine. We also had the opportunity to sample the 2006 Reserve 20th Anniversary Pinot, which is an enormous wine and could likely lay down into eternity.

Panther Creek has been bringing Oregon Pinot Noir to us for a long time, and their 8,000 cases are very well distributed and can be found throughout the country. They clearly have their stuff together. Kendra is another example of that: she has an extensive knowledge of the Valley, the vineyard sites and AVA characteristics, and she goes out of her way to give you an opportunity to try what Panther Creek offers. She opened up the tasting room for Gwynne and I while on her way to enjoy a day off. If you're in the Willamette Valley, or most places in the country you can likely find Panther Creek's Cuvee. Give their single vineyard wines a whirl, and go see them in McMinnville if you get the chance, they've got a great location, great wine, and some of the nicest tasting room staff we’ve come across.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 From Our Glass to Yours

2011. It's here. I have a feeling that the coming year is going to be an awesome one for all associated with The Oregon Wine Blog. 2010 was a pretty rad year also, and in true TOWB style, I'm going to spend a few sentances pontificating on some of the highlights of the year in a general sense and then get down to the nitty gritty...the "Best of 2010" selection from each of our contributors.

The past year has been huge for us here at the Blog.  In the way of quantification of 2010, our staff has made 154 posts, nearly 1000 tweets, attended countless events, and cleared and refilled our respective wine racks a number of times over the last 12 months.  We successfully completed the second annual Le Tour de Pinot. We released the Taste of Terrior and the They Make Wine There? series', the Blog was converted to the [yellow tail] Wine Blog for a magical day, and who can forget the Voodoo Donut pairing of last New Year's Eve? Our California office got up and running, we did our first review of Sake, and we chronicled a legendary winemaker's battle with a large crab. Who can forget our Picazo 7Seventeen experience, time at the Taste Washington, or the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend? We had a writer on the judging panel of a wine competition, and oh yea, released a new layout and logo for the Blog.  It truly has been a banner year, and I'm just scratching the surface of highlights.

With all of that excellence swirling around, what whet our palates in 2010? Following the format of last year's Best of 2009 post, I didn't want to provide too much structure for our year in review. For this post, each writer could "do whatever the hell they want" as long as it involves wine and 2010; it could be the best bottle, best experience, best varietal, most handsome blogger, best pair of spandex...what? *Cough*, back to wine.  Without further ado, I bring you the Best of 2010 Picks from the Staff at The Oregon Wine Blog.

Jesse's Pick:

2008 Quivira Vineyards Mourvedre

It’s hard to believe that we are already at the end of 2010 and talking about our “Best of 2010” post. I have been blessed to be a part of the team here at The Oregon Wine Blog and have made some great friends here in California wine country. I have been fortunate to taste a lot of great wines and to attend a lot of great events so coming up with just one pick is not an easy task. I decided to think about a couple things when defining what “best” meant for me. Obviously, the wine must be good and it must stand on its own. After a day of tasting I like a wine that I can easily go back to and remember everything about it. Next, the wine must change over time, even in the tasting room. This shows complexity and richness of the wine. Lastly, it must be accessible to everyone. I’ve had some really great $100 bottles of wine this year, but not everyone, including myself, can afford those on a regular basis. When I take all that into account, I came up with a wine from a place that I will be writing a couple in depth posts about in early 2011. My best of 2010 is the 2008 Mourvedre from Quivira Vineyards.

Quivira Vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley has become one of my favorite places to visit. Practicing biodynamic winemaking, Quivira takes great pride and is intentional about every step in the winemaking process. On a recent trip I had the chance to tour the farm, meet some of the animals, and chat with the Nancy, the general manager, and Hugh, the winemaker for almost three hours. The 2008 Mourvedre was fifth on the tasting list but stood out amongst all the rest. With flavors of blackberry, plum, and vanilla, this wine felt very rich upon first sip and then stuck around awhile on the finish, which was just fine by me. The care and craft that must go into harvesting Mourvedre comes through and is very apparent in the wine. Rarely seen as a single varietal wine, likely because of the challenges it presents during harvest, Mourvedre is slowly popping up around the Dry Creek Valley as more than just a blending grape and I highly recommend giving it a chance if you can, especially from Quivira.

Josh's Pick:

2001 Griffin Creek "The Griffin"

Boy, this was a tough choice.  For me, wine is often defined by the experience in which it is consumed, and 2010 had some phenomenal experiences and wines to draw from.  The Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages from my Sonoma trip, the Cooper L'inzio from Picazo 7Seventeen, and the Harris Bridge Sarah's Story from our winter wine pairing dinner stick out in my mind.  Spindrift's Pinot Blanc and barrel samples of the 2008 Tyee Pinot helped define Le Tour de Pinot, and Gordon Brother's Six Reserve Cabernet was just a damn good bottle.  An awesome day at Pend d'Oreille Cellars complemented their Malbec, and how could I forget perhaps the best Thanksgiving ever with the 2008 Erath Leland Vineyard Pinot Noir?  Ringing in the new year with Coeur d'Alene Cellars Boushey Syrah, Barnard Griffin Ciel du Cheval Merlot, and Gilbert Estate Malbec was a pretty rad time as well.  I was racking my brain trying to figure out how on earth I was going to narrow my pick down to one and then I remembered March, and definitely my Best of 2010: The 2001 Griffin Creek "The Griffin", produced by Willamette Valley Vineyards.

Rick and I are both children of March, and for our birthdays in 2010 we decided to go big or go home.  We wanted The Griffin and we wanted a magnum of it.  It was the perfect gift for each other.  We each pay for half, crack it open, and get to have a hell of an evening drinking the creme de la creme of wine in celebration.  Easier said than done.  Turns out, there hadn't been a vintage of The Griffin released in a few years and it was not readily available.  After some finagling, wheeling, dealing, and enjoying the perks of being a long-time member of Willamette Valley Vineyard's wine club, a magnum of the 2001 vintage was located in the library and was tucked away behind the tasting room counter with our name on it.   The morning of the celebration, we walked into the tasting room and found Mickey Bellman, founding shareholder, working the counter.  He pulled the bottle out, got a wistful look in his eye, and said: Wow, how did you get this? This is a really special bottle, you know.  It was our first magnum, and it was indeed a special bottle.

The Griffin, a mythological creature that is half eagle and half lion, traditionally carries a duty to protect the treasures of the gods; it is the namesake of Griffin Creek's best effort, a meritage blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (71%), Merlot (21%), Cabernet Franc (7%), and a sconce of Malbec (1%).  From the Rogue Valley's best clones, vineyard lots, and barrels, The Griffin is barrel aged for 11 months, assembled into a four barrel lot, and aged for another 8 months prior to bottling.  A well-balanced wine with a wonderful nose of berry and a bit of minerality, this blend is as smooth as silk and left us wanting more. The bottle is pretty sexy, too, with simply a gold Griffin on the front.  This one will always hold a special place on my palate.

Rick's Pick:

Non-Traditional Wines of the Pacific Northwest

I've been thinking long and hard about what I consider the most stand-out wine of 2010. This was a year of incredible variety and we hit up a ton of events, so it's not like I don't have much to choose from. Instead of picking just one one, however, I'm going use a strategy Time magazine has used in the past as a cop-out to make all sorts of people winners. My winner as the stand-out wine of 2010 is a fairly broad category: the nontraditional varietal.

Hear me out. While going through the process of identifying just one wine, wines such as Cana's Feast's Counoise, Airfield's Mustang and Lightning blends, and Zerba's Cab Franc all ran through my mind. That made me realize that what got me excited about wine in 2010 was more of a consistent theme of Northwest winemakers pushing the envelope and working with new grapes. Sure, this doesn't always mean a non-traiditional grape will outshine a cab sauv (and it most cases it won't), but it's going to grab my eye and I'm going to be more prone to wanting to try it.

What I'm really trying to get at is that if you're reading this blog, you're probably a somewhat experienced wine drinker at this point. You know your reds from your whites (beyond just color) and have settled into the varietals you enjoy. Instead of complacency, however, I highly urge you to go out and find a bottle of something with a grape you've never heard of. Maybe it's a blend at first, but the point is there are dozens of other varietals out there that we normally don't see in the Northwest that are finding their way into some of my favorite wines. I expect this trend to continue, so do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle of Tempranillo, or Counoise, or Marsanne, or Mourvedre, or...

Clive's Pick:

2007 Waters Winery Forgotten Hills Syrah and 2006 Forgeron Cellars Zinfandel

I tasted a lot of great wine this year too, there were some real stand outs, the 2007 Solena Estate Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir, Pursued by Bear Cabernet, Cote Bonneville Chardonnay and an entire flight of Terra Blanca's Onyx, 1997 through 2006. There were two particular wines that I kept coming back to this year. The first wine I tasted at the Washington Wine Commission's Restaurant Awards in the days leading up to Taste Washington. The 2007 Waters Winery Forgotten Hills Syrah, is a stinky, gamey earthy Syrah. An expression of that vineyard site that is consistent vintage to vintage. This is a style of wine, similar to those stinky Syrahs from Cayuse and the Reynvaan Family that you either love or hate. Put me down for love on this one. It is a profound example of the variance you get from Washington's Syrah, which has me time and again claiming this state as the best place to grow Syrah.

The second wine I really fell in love with this year was the 2006 Forgeron Cellars Zinfandel. It's a beautiful wine with different berry and cherry elements that pop out at you but what I love is the spice that comes across in the wine. Marie Eve Gilla came from France to Washington over a decade ago and she makes her wines in a style that blends old world technique with Washington's world class fruit. The wine is a blend of three different vineyards from three AVAs, Walla Walla's Les Collines, Wahluke Slope's Clifton Vineyeards and Alder Ridge of the Horse Heaven Hills. These two wines have nothing in common except that they're both very beautiful examples of incredible winemakers and the world class wine that is coming from Washington.

Micheal's Pick:

2007 Cristom Vineyards Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir

2010, like some years before it is one that found me not drinking lots of wine. Correction, I am drinking wine, but not writing about it. I don't know if it is writer's block, or what, but I am just not writing about the wines I am drinking. I am hoping that 2011 will find me finding my mojo for writing about wine the way I had before. As a result of a "hiatus" I find myself nervous about recapping my favorite wine from the last year. I am finding myself having to balance this post with an upcoming post that I have been working on since Thanksgiving weekend, and when I finally make that post, you will hopefully see why it took me so long. But nonetheless, my selection for 2010 wine of the year is the 2007 Cristom Vineyards Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir. Because I am sitting on a post from Thanksgiving, this entry may not be as clean and obvious as one might hope.

Josh and I went to Cristom Thanksgiving weekend, and I think they have become one of my new favorite wineries. When I tasted this wine, I was in love with it, literally. One of the very first words to come to mind with it was pure "elegance." On the nose you get a fragrant fruit and spice. The burst of flavor that erupts on the palate is something I find as a hallmark of Cristom Pinot Noirs. The colour, the legs, everything about this wine makes it a top tier wine. Whether you enjoy it by itself at the end of the day, or with a meal, the perfect balance of fruit and spice, and the way the flavors linger on the palate makes this wine my top of 2010.

So where do we go from here? Glass by glass into 2011, of course. Related, I have some news to share with our wonderful readers. After nearly 5 years in Oregon, I will be moving to Seattle at the end of January. Now you probably are thinking the same thing that has been vocalized a number of times as I share this exciting development with various people, "But Josh, what about The Oregon Wine Blog?" What about it, I say. We're certainly not going away, if that is what they are wondering. With Rick in Portland and Micheal in Salem, we still have strong roots in Oregon in addition to Clive and I in Washington, and Jesse in California. Will we become the Pacific Northwest Wine Blog?  Maybe.  We kind of already are in terms of content, huh?  Long story short, I don't know what the next year will bring but I do know that you can count on us for another year of our life as not-really-snooty up-and-coming winos in the Pacific Northwest.  Beyond that, I'm not really worried about labels and it's a heck of a lot of work to rebrand.