Thursday, July 28, 2016

Woodinville Wine Country: Exploring The Best of Washington State Wine – Part 3

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 third installment from our recent visit.

Hollywood Winery District

Woodinville has two main winery areas, the Warehouse District and the Hollywood District. Each has 45 or so wineries or tasting rooms. As we wound down our visit to this area, our focus was on the Hollywood District.

The name doesn’t come from celebrities or a thriving movie industry, but rather holly trees. Although tasting rooms are packed wall to wall in much of the Hollywood District, there are certain locations that provide the full winery experience. The Novelty Hill Januik winery is a case in point.

Novelty Hill-Januik Winery - Woodinville, WANovelty Hill Januik

Novelty Hill Januik winery is a Mecca for wine lovers in Washington. Having tasted some superb Januik wines before, I certainly wasn’t going to pass up a chance to explore their first-class operation. The winery is sleek and modern with an airy, light-filled tasting room decorated with contemporary prints. Outside there is an expansive patio and also a fabulous bocce area.

Mike Januik is the winemaker for both the Novelty Hill and Januik labels. Each has superb wines, but Januik is the upper tier. We opened with some chilled whites and a rosé. The Januik 2013 Sagemont Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc is a subtle wine without the grassy notes you might expect. The Novelty Hill 2014 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Viognier has a slightly floral tone and is fresh and juicy with a tart finish. The Spring Run 2015 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Rosé has a splash of residual sugar and was the most popular wine on this hot day.

The winery offers an amazing array of fantastic reds. The Januik 2013 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Petit Verdot is a light and beautiful wine with layers of dark berries and chocolate. There were two standouts. The Novelty Hill 2013 Columbia Valley Cascadia is an inaugural release. It is a 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot and 2% Malbec blend. It’s a true blast of Bordeaux elegance. The Januik 2013 Reserve Red Wine is intense with tart cherry and spice flavor notes and a coating finish.

This is a full sensory experience. Wonderful wines, helpful staff, stylish surroundings and some very good pizza. Green Dragon and I strolled off the bocce court and finished our visit with a match. I’ll let her tell you who won.

Amavi Cellars and Pepper Bridge Winery

Amavi and Pepper Bridge - Woodinville, WA

Amavi is a longtime favorite with our tasting team. Amavi Cellars and Pepper Bridge share the same vineyards and winemaker, but have different styles of wine. Amavi focuses on (amazing) Syrah while Pepper Bridge creates wines with Merlot and Cabernet from older vines within estate vineyards. It is a Walla Walla winery with a Woodinville tasting room.

The tasting room is quaint and comfortable. On this day we had the tasting room to ourselves with Chris, who led us through a tasting. We started with the Amavi 2015 Sémillon which is blended with 12% Sauvignon Blanc. This is a solid hot weather choice with bright acidity. The Amavi 2013 Syrah features fruit from Les Collines Vineyard (and several others). It is incredibly smooth with raspberry, dark fruit and savory flavors. Bam!

Moving to the Pepper Bridge lineup, the Pepper Bridge 2013 Merlot was velvety with rich currant and chocolate flavors. This is a $50 Merlot and worth every penny. Winemaker Jean-Francois Pellet is a true artist, crafting elegant wines with solid values. The height of his work, based on our visit, is Pepper Bridge 2013 Trine, a blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Cabernet Franc, 18% Merlot, 8% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. I’d be content to sip this elegant wine for days on end. It is well balanced with earthy notes around ripe cherry and plum flavors.

In your local store and in their home state, seek out both Amavi and Pepper Bridge!

Brian Carter Cellars

Brian Carter Cellars - Woodinville, WA

Our final stop in our Woodinville adventure was Brian Carter Cellars. It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been chatting to other wine tasters and asking for recommendations. Brian Carter is the reigning Washington Winery of the Year and we wanted to find out why.

Brian has a love of Rhone, Italian and offbeat grapes. His focus is the blending of wines in the European tradition. He has also been important to the Washington State wine industry by being an advocate of planting different grape varieties.

We started with a unique white. The 2013 Oriana is a blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Riesling – an unconventional blend that has a fresh nose, quenching taste and off-dry finish.

The 2012 Corrida is a new release with a decidedly Spanish flair. It is a blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a dash of Garnacha. This is an earthy wine with coffee threads. The 2011 Le Coursier is a “Right Bank” style Bordeaux blend driven by Merlot.

Our favorite wine was the 2011 Byzance, a southern Rhone blend with Grenache and Syrah plus lesser amounts of Mourvedre, Counoise and Cinsault. We bought a bottle of this, but sadly it didn’t make it home – we opened it that night and enjoyed it at the pool!

Woodinville is for lovers – wine lovers that is. For more information, check out the Woodinville Wine Country site.

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