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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:




I’m a faithful (and thankful) member of a tasting group!  Every other week I get together with a handful of fellow wine geeks and we blind taste wines.  Most of us are studying for the next level of a certification, while others are well educated wine lovers who want to expand their palates.

Sometimes our group has a theme (we all bring a Chardonnay or an Italian wine) and sometimes we just wing it! This past gathering we all brought a red.  That was the only stipulation.

We tasted through a bunch of lovely wines, but a few stuck out to me.  One was a wine from the Cahors AOC (now AOP) in France.

Argentinean Malbec is one of the “in” wines right now.  They can be a great alternative to a Merlot, or a great wine to order with a steak at a nice restaurant when you don’t have the budget for a big time Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  Argentina does, however, need to thank Bordeaux and especially Cahors for this fabulous varietal.

Cahors is located in the Quercy district in South West France, 100 miles east of Bordeaux.  It is the only appellation producing exclusively red wines that use neither Cabernet Sauvignon nor Cabernet Franc.  The wines of Cahors are allowed to use up to 30% of the tannic Tannat grape and the supple Merlot grape combined, but must contain a minimum of 70% Malbec.  Many of the wines here are 100% Malbec.  It is known as the “black wine” due to its deep intensity of color.

The Cahors I tasted with my tasting group this week was the 2011 Lionel Osmin & Cie.  This deep purple colored wine has blackberry, plum, and cinnamon on the nose.  In fact, we decided that it wasn’t just cinnamon, but Big Red chewing gum!!!  A fellow taster also suggested smelling wet saddle, which I agreed with completely.  This fruit driven wine is of medium to medium-plus intensity and has black currant, black cherry and a bit of licorice on the palate.  Although there is a lot of fruit here, there is a lovely earthiness and some serious tannin, giving it some backbone.

Cahors is a noble and ancient red wine.  In fact, this wine region is older than even Bordeaux, and is a hidden and affordable gem in the French wine world!

I strongly suggest that you seek out wines from Cahors!

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.

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