skip to Main Content

Did You Know that March is Taste Washington Wine Month?

March is Taste Washington Wine Month so I thought that I’d join in the festivities!

I’m not able to get to the fine state of Washington this month, so I did the next best thing! I cracked open a bottle of Washington wine!

A few years ago my husband and I made a really fun wine trip to Washington State. We flew into Seattle and started the wine journey in nearby Woodinville, a delightful little town full of fun tasting rooms and restaurants. From there we headed to the Cascade Mountains and spent a few days in the adorable and wine friendly Bavarian town of Leavenworth. We hit the road again and hung out in Yakama Valley for two days and then on to Walla Walla, where we spent the majority of our time. We ended our trip in Spokane and flew home from there!

It was in Woodinville that we discovered Mark Ryan Winery. When we were there six years ago this was a small, quiet tasting room with a friendly and knowledgeable gal named Kyra pouring their fabulous wines. Considering the quality of the wine my guess is that this tasting room is no longer small or quiet, but I’d put my money on the fact that the wines are still fabulous!

Sadly, the bottle I pulled from our cellar last night was the last of the Mark Ryan wines we bought on that trip. It sure was lovely, though! The 2008 Mark Ryan Winery Water Witch is a blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot and 2% Malbec. All of the fruit is from the Klipsun Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA, a warm sub-appellation of the Yakima Valley.

Dark ruby in color, this Bordeaux blend has cherry, currant, some vanilla and baking spices on the nose. There’s some violet there too! The palate is cherry cola, cherry cola, and cherry cola!!!!! The vanilla and baking spices are there as well, along with some chocolate and sweet tannins. How can you go wrong with chocolate covered cherry cola???? The finish is long and graceful!

The ’08 Water Witch is drinking absolutely beautifully right now. Do you have a case of this wine in your cellar? If you do … I’ll be over ASAP! If you don’t, but you are curious, you can check out Mark Ryan Winery here:



“Taken” Me Away …

I’ve been looking for a wine at a fair price to “take me away” … and I’ve found it! I’d heard of the Bordeaux blend Taken, but had yet to find a bottle to purchase. Well the other day I was fortunate enough to find a bottle and I grabbed it. Now I wish I’d grabbed a case!

Taken is the brainchild of two childhood friends, both of whom are from Napa wine families. Josh Phelps is the son of Chris Phelps (former winemaker for Dominus, Caymus & Swanson) and Carlo Trinchero’s family runs Trinchero Family Estates. Let me tell you something, these two young men have got it going on!

The 2012 Taken is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. It is already drinking so well, and some time in the bottle will only bring out more of its earthy qualities.

The wine’s color is deep garnet red with a rim variation of bright purple. On the nose are blackberry and black cherry. The velvety mouth feel provides flavors of chocolate covered cherry, blackberry and coffee. The fruit isn’t overbearing, and there is a wonderful earthiness that follows with smooth tannins on the finish. This wine has nice complexity and rocks, especially for the $30 price tag. Now I just need to find more!

Phelps and Trinchero have two brands under the Taken Label (Taken and another called Complicated) and are about to launch a third, which they’ve named Available! I sure am looking forward to trying them as well.

So … if YOU’RE ready to be Taken away … give this lovely wine a try. Here’s their website:


Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar

A Tiki Bar with good wine????  I know that it sounds unlikely, but I’ve discovered one and it will knock your socks off!

Located in Cape Canaveral, FL, Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar is the real deal.  They have plenty of indoor seating, along with a great outside deck and bar where one can eat good food, drink some great wine, listen to fun live music, all while enjoying the water front view.

I’ve visited Grills a few times over the years, and I remembered that they have some darned good wines on their list, served in nice glassware (not the typical Tiki Bar plastic cups).  My most recent visit was this past weekend, and I was surprised that I hadn’t remembered another important thing about their wine list:  the prices!  I was with a good-sized group, so we got to try a few different bottles.

First up was a 2012 Cakebread Chardonnay.  This is light and crisp, unlike the oak bombs that one often comes to expect from Napa Chardonnay.  With citrus, pear and ripe green apple, this wine was a great way to start the day of tasting.  Its lively acidity makes it a great pairing with many of the items on the Grill’s menu!  Oh, and did I mention that the list price is $55?

The second wine of the day was a 2010 Swanson Merlot from Oakville in Napa for $36.  This wine is composed of 83% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petite Verdot.  On the nose are plum and coffee.  The palate has blackberry,  black cherry, the plum and soft tannins.  It has a very pleasant mouth feel and a good finish.  It’s definitely a winner, especially at this price point!

Next up was the 2005 Opus One.  We couldn’t believe that they have the ’05 Opus on the menu for the very consumer friendly price of $150 per bottle.  We ordered two!  This Bordeaux blend has 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 
1% Malbec.  There is licorice on the nose, along with some mint, blackberry, plum and violet.  The palate sang!   It is beautifully balanced with chocolate, black fruit, black olive and an Old World earthiness.  Interestingly, I tasted the ’05 Opus at the winery in February and it was going for $225 a bottle!  Can you see why I love Grills???

Last but not least was the 2005 Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon, made of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc.   On the nose are dark cherry and vanilla.  There is still a lot of fruit on the palate, especially blackberries, sweet currant, ripe plum and even cassis.  This wine was a lovely way to end the tasting.  All of this for $85.  In a restaurant!!!!!

The evening itself ended out back with a gorgeous sunset.  What more could we ask for???

I’m almost afraid to post these prices because I don’t want them to jack up the costs on the wine list.  I have heard, however, that the owner of Grills is a huge wine lover (obviously) and that he loves to offer these lovely wines at a price people can afford.

So … if you live in Florida, or plan on visiting anytime soon, be sure to stop by Grills for a casual bite and a nice bottle at a very fair price!  Now remember, it’s a Tiki Bar!  Grills is laid back and a bit rustic.  Don’t expect anything hoity toity here!  I do, however, think that they could almost be renamed “Grills Seafood & Tiki “Wine” Bar”!!!

Opus One’s Second Wine – Overture

Top wineries and chateaux blend together their best grapes’ juice to produce their best possible wine for the Grand Cru or “first wines”.  What do they do with the remaining juice???  Many of them make a second wine. Usually made by the same winemaker in pretty much the same way as the winery’s famous wine, the big difference is that the juice for the second wine is often from younger vines or the second press. Although these wines may not be as complex, balanced and sublime, they ARE a lot less expensive!  It’s a great way to try big name Bordeaux or other famous wines without the big time price tag.

Opus One is a winery in Napa that produces a second wine.  Founded as a joint venture between Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild and renowned Napa vintner Robert Mondavi, Opus One’s goal was to create a Bordeaux style blend based on Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  The other four Bordeaux varietals (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec) are also used.  They use grapes from some of the most well respected vineyards in Napa.  The winemaking, however, is modeled after the techniques of Bordeaux.  This happy marriage produces some of Napa’s finest wines.

While their signature wine is called Opus One, their second wine is appropriately (especially if you’re a music enthusiast) called Overture. Overture is only available at the winery or on their website.  We had a tasting at Opus One a couple of years ago, and had purchased a bottle then. We cracked it open the other night.

I decanted this wine for about an hour before pouring.  The color is a medium purple and has a wonderful aroma of chocolate-covered cherries.  On the palate are some nice dark fruit, specifically black cherry and currant, as well as some tobacco.  It is well balanced with some earthiness and a hint of baking spices.

Yes, the vintage Opus One is a fabulous wine with a lot going on.  I wouldn’t mind having cases upon cases of it resting in my cellar.  With the going rate of about $235 a bottle, not many people can afford that.  Overture isn’t cheap, but at about $80 a bottle most of us are a lot more likely to be able to afford multiples.  If you’re someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with a price tag over a couple of hundred bucks, but you’d like to splurge a bit, Overture is a very nice option.

2009 Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon

With dinner last night I had the 2009 Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s still a baby, but with some decanting it is very approachable now.  And what a nice wine it is!

This Bordeaux blend is 76% Cabernet Sauvignon (just past the required amount of 75% to be called a Cabernet Sauvignon in California!), 11% Malbec, 9% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot.  The grapes are grown in the dry, rocky soils of Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley.

The nose produced a wonderful floral aroma, specifically violet, along with some currant, black cherry and plum.  On the palate were the currant and plum, along with blackberry, cassis and some cinnamon and ginger.

This is a complex wine that is nicely balanced with just a touch of oak.

What a great bottle with which to start the long weekend!



Back To Top