Showing posts with label Cougar Crest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cougar Crest. Show all posts

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Cougars Prowl to Woodinville

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I have a thing for Cougars.

No, I'm not talking about an older woman who frequents clubs in order to score with a much younger man.

Believe it or not, I'm not talking about the Washington State University Cougars either, despite the fact that 100% of the WestToast staff are alumni in some way, shape, or form.

I've always been mesmerized by the mammal of the family Felidae, native to the Americas. The large cat species known as Cougars. Slender, sleek, and agile, I find Cougars to be elegant and graceful. It's long been a goal of mine to see one in the wild. I also fully recognize that if I do in fact encounter a Cougar in the wild, I'll likely be on the wrong side of the dinner plate and no longer will I find the animal elegant and graceful. Nonetheless.

Mirroring my impression of the large cat, the wines of Cougar Crest Winery have struck me as elegant and graceful since I first enjoyed them in 2005. Established in Walla Walla in 2001, the talent behind Cougar Crest comes from Deborah and David Hansen, respectfully a Pharmacist and Veterinarian by trade. For all intents and purposes Cougar Crest is an estate-only winery, with a few minor deviations for their second label.  A string of 93+ ratings for their Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon from their Stellar, Cougar Hills, and Golden's Legacy vineyard has placed Cougar Crest as a go-to winery for me.

We've been drinking Cougar Crest for years, and have featured the wine on the blog a few times in the why write about them now?  Allow me to direct your attention to the title of this post...something about prowling, Cougars, and Woodinville.

That's right.  I moved to Seattle so Cougar Crest opened a tasting room in Woodinville.  Imagine my joy and elation.  While I love trips to Walla Walla, the ability to hit up the tasting room on a random Saturday afternoon was significantly improved recently for all of the fans in the Puget Sound.

Walking into the Woodinville tasting room, you'll instantly be struck by the cozy, at-home feel as well as the prominent wrap-around tasting bar in the middle of the room.  You'll likely be greeted by Samuel Worden, the tasting room manager, who gladly pours 5 - 7 of their finest selections ranging from a Viognier to the Syrah, and everything in between.  I've taken two different groups of wine newbies to Cougar Crest so far, and both groups have walked away, bottles in hand, and a smile on their face.  Located in the same building as Zerba and across the street from a litany of tasting rooms, you can get your Eastern Washington wine fix without getting in the car.  I bought a magnum of the Cabernet Franc, which Rick and I gladly used to wash down the joy and festivities of New Years Eve 2012, enjoying every drop.

So the wine is simply fantastic, evidenced by both the smile on your palate and the wall of awards in the tasting room, and the staff and service is great.  It's one of those wineries, the list for me which is very small, where I enjoy pretty much anything they produce.

There are a few other factors that make Cougar Crest particularly compelling.  Beyond the obvious affinity to my alma mater, Cougar Crest also has a charitable side that has a really cool story behind it.  One of the wines that I've been enjoying lately is the 2008 Dedication Five.  A blend of four varietals -- Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc -- the Dedication series is dedicated to financially support the Doernbecher Pediatric Hospital at Oregon Health & Science University, where David and Deborah's daughter was saved years ago.  It's a great wine at a great price point, and you can feel good in knowing that a portion of your $20 is supporting charity.

Next time you make your way to Woodinville, stop by Cougar Crest and try some great wine.  They just opened a tasting room in Spokane as well, and the main facility in Walla Walla is gorgeous.

Cougar Crest Winery Woodinville Tasting Room
14545 148th Ave. NE #211
Woodenville, WA 98072

Friday, April 1, 2011

Walla Walla, Washington's Woodward Canyon Winery; It's a mouthful!

A mouthful of deliciousness, that is.  A few weeks ago, in celebration of not one, not two, but three birthdays in the month of March, a group of bloggers and friends converged on Walla Walla, Washington for a long weekend of wine, food, and friends.  If your first thoughts upon hearing Walla Walla are, “isn’t there a prison and some onions there?” then perhaps you are reading the wrong blog.  If, on the other hand, the sweet sweet city so nice they named it twice connotes an instant drool effect, makes you giggle like a school girl, or creates the unexplicable need to hold your bookbag in front of you like in junior high boy standing at the chalkboard, read on friends.

The trip to Walla Walla comprised 2.5 days and 6 people:  blog notables Me and Rick, friends Alyssa, Kathryn, and Gordon, and special guest from Minnesota Dominique.  Four years ago I never would have imagined Walla Walla would be the locale of choice to celebrate my 30th birthday, but that's exactly what happened.  You see, I grew up just 40 miles from this magical town, but my only memories were of a small town that was the destination for field trips and basketball tournaments.  Red wine came into the picture, and the rest, they say, is history.  Since then, I've made a point of hitting the "WW" every year or two and have a blast every time.

The first day of our trip was winery free due to travel, however, that didn't keep us from enjoying the local bounty.  Sweet Basil Pizzeria was the perfect setting for a low-key dinner, a few pitchers of beer, and a bottle of wine as we all caught up with each other and noshed on some mad grub.  Pizza, that is.  Awesome pizza.  And breadsticks.  We followed dinner with a bottle or two at The Vineyard Lounge at the Marcus Whitman Hotel and retired to the house for the evening for a rousing game of Uno with some more wine.  We dove into winery land the next day, an awesome day that Rick is going to chronicle in a coming attraction on the blog.  If you bat your eyelashes seductively, you might even convince him to talk about our awesome dinner at Brasserie Four.  What I'm going to focus on is what I lovingly refer to as "day 3", also known as Sunday or Woodward Canyon day.

I'll be honest, Sunday started a little slow for me.  Well, not really.  I woke up with a spring in my step and a gleam in my eye, made coffee, cooked pancakes for everyone, ate said pancakes, and promptly started to feel like crap.  You see, as legend holds, Rick and I were matching everyone else on the wine 2 to 1 the night before.  Given that Rick has a solid 10 pounds on me, I took the brunt of the damage.  It was the dreaded delayed hangover.  Ugh.  Well, virtually nothing was going to make me miss the day so while the ladies were buying us pie and Gatorade, I took care of business and was ready to rally and hit the wine trail.  We started the tasting at Cougar Crest Winery, ALWAYS a winner (pssst, I hear they're looking at a Woodinville tasting room), and progressed to L'Ecole 41.  Both were awesome, but the highlight of the day was a tasting we had scheduled at a local favorite, Woodward Canyon Winery.

Located in an 1870's farmhouse in Lowden, Washington, Woodward Canyon Winery was founded in 1981 by pillars of the Walla Walla wine industry Rick Small and Darcey Fugman-Small.  When I say pillars, I mean that Rick is currently the Chairman of the Washington Wine Commission and Darcey was one of the authors of the original petition for the Walla Walla AVA. That kind of pillar.  Our group was quickly greeted by Tasting Room Associate Taylor Oswald, who led us into the reserve house for what was to be a transformative tasting for our group.  As we entered the reserve house, we were greeted with a table set with customized tasting menus for us.  That's right, our own pour list.

An aside on the reserve about a gorgeous facility!  A literal conference room of wine, this building in the backyard of the winery also holds the owners offices, a full catering production kitchen, and the Woodward private wine cellar.  Taylor had pre-poured a selection of four reds for us and poured 2 whites on demand.  This particular day we tasted through a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, NV Red Wine, Barbera, Red Reserve. and Artist Series Cabernet.  Throughout the tasting, we playfully bantered with Taylor and basked in both his knowledge of wine and the winery, and the quality of the juice in our glasses.  At the end of the day, there were two unanimous favorites that emerged:

  • 2009 Washington State Chardonnay:  I'm pretty sure this is the best darn Chardonnay on the market right now in the state of Washington.  Based on what I heard at Taste Washington, I'm not alone in this opinion.  I'm not a white guy and I'm still salivating thinking about this one.  Crisp and clean with a nice balance of acidity, this wine integrates the oak in a very refreshing way.  Simply put, it's a must have even at the $44 price point.
  • 2008 "Artist Series" Cabernet Sauvignon:  The clear winner for the big red fans of the group, the Artist Series Cab is balanced with 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Syrah.  Primarily sourced from Champoux Vineyard, this cab has some nice earthy notes and has a fine portfolio of tannins.  Fruit forward with a finish of cocoa and chocolate, it's worth every penny of the $49 and I'm still trying to figure out how to convince Rick to open the bottle he purchased next time I visit.
So...great wine, great company, great staff...what more could we ask for?  Well, a trip the cellar hit the spot.  Described as the owner's private collection, the Woodward cellar reminded us of the Airfield "batcave" experience we had last February.  I was speechless in awe as we were lead down into the room with a small, intimate table, large chandelier, and thousands of bottles of wine dating back to the early '80's.  In fact, it appeared there was representation from every vintage Woodward has produced in this room. I tried to talk them out of a 1981, the year of my birth, but none of that was to be had.  We were incredibly lucky to see this special place.

Next time you're headed to Walla Walla, stop in Lowden and say hi to the nice folks at Woodward Canyon. Taylor and Marlene will take great care of you...and the wine speaks for itself.  If you run across the Chardonnay, you'd be silly to not pick it up.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ending 2008 On A Good Note

Last night (New Year's Eve Eve) found me enjoying a glass of wine with my friend Adam. Adam knows that I am a member of this wine blog, and tonight I tried to do something a little different. While at Adam’s this evening, I pulled out a bottle of Dedication Two from Cougar Crest Winery. Cougar Crest is a winery in the Walla Walla region of southeastern Washington. This bottle was from the trip some of us from the Oregon Wine Blog took to the region over the summer.

This is a very special wine in many ways. The daughter of the winemakers was in an accident and was taken to Doernbecher’s Children Hospital in Portland, Oregon. The doctors were successful in healing the daughter of the winemakers and as a result, a portion of the proceeds from this wine goes to Dorenbecher’s at Oregon Health and Science University.

The reason this is called Dedication Two is because this the second release of this wine. The website describes this red table wine as a “complex blend of classic Bordeaux varietals, plus Lemberger, and Syrah.” It is also noted that the Dedication Two has a little bit of an “extra Syrah,” and is aged longer in the barrel.

Tonight while Adam and I drank the Dedication Two, I decided to ask him what some of his thoughts were of this wine and make note of them to see where they might be different from my perceptions, so the evaluation of this wine will be different from others I have done.

Adam’s thoughts:

- Distinctly fermented smell

- Hits strong initially

- More like a strong whiskey finish than a wine, almost “burning”

- Sharp going down, even after a bit

- Color is deep crimson

My thoughts:

- Can taste spices – not sure if it is really because of spices or because of the wood

- Wood taste

- Flavor stays on the front of the tongue

- Warming sensation on the throat

I helped Adam with notice the way the blend coats the glass. I paid attention to the legs are somewhat absent. It should be noted that despite how it might appear, we did both enjoy this wine - the full flavor of it and rich nose - tipping our hats to the winemakers.

Until next time…