Monday, July 18, 2016

Woodinville Wine Country: Exploring the Best Of Washington State Wine - Part 2

Woodinville, located in a peaceful valley 30 minutes northeast of Seattle, is a crossroads where the fruit of Eastern Washington meet the vintners, chefs and flavors of the Pacific Northwest. Here’s the second installment from our recent visit.

Woodinville’s Warehouse Winery District

Our initial foray into Woodinville’s wine scene took us to the Warehouse Winery District, which has about 45 tasting rooms and wineries. We reported on three tasting rooms in the first installment of this story. Three tasting rooms is hardly a day’s work for your dedicated Toledo Wines and Vines tasting team, so on we pressed.


Efeste Nana Blend
I first became acquainted with Efestē (pronounced F-S-T) during a visit to Seattle and a large format wine event called the Red & White Party. One sip and I knew this was a sensational winery with powerhouse wines. I’ve sought them out ever since.

The Efestē tasting room is a few blocks north of the main Warehouse District action and their tasting room is a spacious affair with a long tasting bar, tables and retail area. There is also a barrel room which they use for wine club activities.

We began tasting with the 2013 Evergreen Riesling from the Ancient Lakes AVA. This has peach and tangerine flavors with a slight pop of sweetness.

There are no bad wines at Efestē, but two are standouts. The 2012 Upright Merlot reveals the greatness that is possible with Washington State Merlot. The grapes are from the Klipsun Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA and the wine is satin smooth, but with a complex mix of tannins and dark fruit. We favored the 2012 Nana Bordeaux Blend (45% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon) over the 100% Cab 2012 Big Poppa for its bright currant flavors and layers of spice.

Ashan Cellars Chardonnay

Gorman Winery

Chris Gorman is a rising star in the international wine scene. He is focused on producing premium Red Mountain AVA Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. We visited his Gorman Winery World Headquarters (aka Warehouse District tasting room).

A lively buzz livened the tasting room, which is decorated with a rock and roll theme. Although we tend to focus on the Washington State reds, there are some exceptional whites as well. Gorman offers a pair of Chardonnay, the 2013 Ashan Cellars Ceillo Chardonnay is fermented in mostly neutral oak, allowing the citrus flavors to shine. The 2013 Ashan Cellars Kestrel Chardonnay uses 100% new French oak for a rich full feel.

Gorman Winery has a full slate of superb wines, but we did have a couple of favorites. The 2012 Pixie Syrah from Red Mountain is smoky with deep raspberry and dark fruit flavor. The 2013 Bully Cabernet is also from Red Mountain and has rich, bold fruit. Green Dragon favored this as more accessible than the Syrah.

Elevation Cellars' Steve Stuart

Elevation Cellars

Elevation Cellars is owner Steve Stuart’s effort to capture the “journey from the grape to the glass.” We found his tasting room to be the perfect location for us to continue our journey exploring Washington State wines.

A mechanical engineer, Steve started as a “garagiste” winemaker after being offered a job in Woodinville. His focus is on wines with character, the ability to age and the intent that they will be enjoyed around the dinner table. Check, check and check!

Wine lovers at Elevation Cellars
We found the 2014 Imperium Riesling a bit too sweet for our liking, but found a winner with the 2011 Jammin’ red blend.This is an everyday blend with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon as well as Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. This is a tasteful bottle of berries and oak, with a great label by Steve’s wife Mary (who designs all the labels). Also notable is the 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, crafted from several exceptional barrels.

Our top pick was the 2011 Monolith, a 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Malbec blend. It won us over with its playful mix of cherry, blackberry and white pepper flavors. We purchased a bottle for $38. Elevation is a fun, family operation with wines that deliver in terms of value and quality.

More in our next installment!

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