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The Woodinville Winers visit Lachini Vineyards

  • Written by by Mike McClure and Terry Morse

As the number of tasting rooms and wineries in Woodinville continues to grow, a few wineries from outside of the state are starting to realize that Woodinville is the place to be for their tasting rooms. One of these is Lachini Vineyards (www.lachinivineyards.com), which specializes in Pinot Noir grown in Oregon.
 

Ron and Marianne Lachini have a 45-acre vineyard just outside of Newberg, Oregon where they grow and make premium Pinot Noir. In 1997, they moved to Oregon from Northern California where they bought their vineyard. Their passion then, as it is today, is to grow the grapes on their estate to make premium Pinot Noir. In 2001 they had their first limited vintage.
 

Caryn Wheat, their tasting room enthusiast, poured us several vintages of their Pinot. She was very helpful in explaining all the wines she poured while giving us a brief background of the winery and vineyard. The different Pinots we tried highlighted the different clones of grapes from the Oregon estate, with some being more feminine and some more masculine in character, as Caryn explained.
 

The 2007 Lachini Family Estate Pinot was exceptional, with hints of smoke, earthy tones and spice. This particular Pinot received 93 points from Wine Enthusiast. After tasting several Cabs that day (yes, we know we should try the Pinots before the Cab) this Pinot was actually refreshing to try as one can easily tell the difference of the light side of a Pinot from the big fruit of the heavier Cabs. Caryn told us some funny stories of Washington wine enthusiasts claiming not to like Pinots, who after trying those from Lachini ended up buying multiple bottles.
 

We also had a chance to try the 2010 Family Estate Pinot which was every bit as enjoyable as the 2007. They also poured a 2010 La Cruz Vineyard Pinot. They contracted those grapes from that vineyard near Petaluma, California. Needless to say everything we tasted made it worth the stop. What was a first for us was trying a Pinot Noir Port, which we normally find too sweet and syrupy.  This one was neither and was so good we ended up buying a bottle of this perfect dessert wine. Guess we are also a couple of Washington wine enthusiasts who continue to be proven wrong with our wine stereotypes.  
 

The tasting room is located in the Hollywood Vineyards Center near the main roundabout in the tourist district at 14455 ‘A’ Woodinvill- Redmond Road, Woodinville. It features roll- up garage doors, concrete floors and two levels of tasting room luxury, decorated with wood trim and a very unique wooden bar. It is a great place for an event – which Ron and Marianne occasionally host onsite. We heard stories of the most recent event, featuring Pinot, Pigs, and Poker. We think we might have to attend that one next year.
 

Tasting room hours are Thursday 2-6:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday noon - 7:30 p.m. and Sunday noon -5:30 p.m. Their wines run mostly in the $40-$60 range with the Port at $32.

The Woodinville Winers visit Eaglemount

  • Written by by Mike McClure and Terry Morse

On a nice day, we made the trek to the Olympic Peninsula to check out some of the wineries on the other side of Puget Sound. We came across an interesting winery just south of Discovery Bay called Eaglemount (www.eaglemountwinery.com).

Unlike Woodinville wineries, Eaglemount’s tasting room is located right at a working farm which was started on an 1883 homestead. The winery is somewhat difficult to find and includes a mile-long drive on an old dirt road before arriving at the tasting room and farm.

The homestead tradition is continued by harvesting variety apples from the old orchard to make apple cider. All ciders are made from certified organic or sustainably produced apples, pears and other fruits and don’t contain sulfites.

We entered the tasting room, located in an old house, and were greeted by Piper Corbett who convinced us we needed to taste both the ciders and the wines. The tasting room is decorated as an old traditional farmhouse.  It almost seems to be frozen in time, reminding us of what life was like over 100 years ago.

We started our tasting with three of the seven available ciders. The first was the homestead dry, made from heirloom apples. We were pleasantly surprised at the subtle taste, as we were expecting cider to be much sweeter. Next was the quince cider, a curiously aromatic one-of-a kind cider. But the most unique cider we tried was the Boot Brawl, which is hopped with Washington state Cascade hops. It was an interesting cross between a cider and a beer. We’ve never tasted anything like it.

But this is a wine column, so we also tried the Eaglemount wines, which were added in 2006. Grapes for the wines come from small vineyards in Eastern Washington. This is due to the fact that the climate on the Olympic Peninsula, much like Woodinville, is not really great for growing quality wine grapes. Washington state is really interesting in that 99 percent of all wine grapes are grown in Eastern Washington, but a significant number of wineries are located in Western Washington. We don’t know of any other area of the world that trucks so many grapes over a mountain range to bring them to production wineries.

We started with the Eaglemount red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. It was both earthy and woody in taste. The Cabernet Sauvignon was our favorite – a traditional Washington Cab – fruit forward and rich in taste. This wine won a silver medal in the Sunset International competition.

Eaglemount is located at 2350 Eaglemount Road, Port Townsend Wash. Tasting room hours are Thursday-Monday from 12 to 5 or by appointment. Wine prices range from $20 to $40.

The Woodinville Winers visit Trust Cellars

  • Written by by Mike McClure and Terry Morse

On one of our recent trips to the Tourist District, we stumbled upon Trust Cellars (www.trustcellars.com) and decided to give it a try. Trust is yet another example of a great Eastern Washington winery opening a tasting room in Woodinville. 

At the time we didn’t know much about them and were pleasantly surprised.

The Trust tasting room is located near the Purple Café in Woodinville where we met Terry Christiani, one of the most knowledgable tasting room managers we have ever met.

Terry started us off with the 2011 Riesling from Columbia Valley. As we started our tasting, we asked for tasting notes and found out that Steve, the winemaker, doesn’t believe in them. We couldn’t agree more. 

It has always seemed strange to the Winers that so many people let others tell them what they should be tasting in wine. 

We remind readers that you are the only one with your particular palette and are therefore uniquely qualified to judge the taste of wine on your palette. 

We applaud Steve’s stance on the topic of tasting notes.

As we moved onto the reds, Terry told us some other interesting stories about Steve, who was a television producer for CNN on the East Coast in his past career.

In 2005, Steve had a mid-life crisis (not our words!) and decided to move with his family to Walla Walla, Wash., to make wine, which he knew nothing about. 

Washington has been benefitting from his wines ever since.

We contrasted two different Syrahs from Trust, namely the 2008 Syrah from Columbia Valley and the 2010 Syrah from Walla Walla. 

This was a great demonstration of the different AVAs, with the Columbia Valley proving to be more about earth and spice and Walla Walla being more about fruit and pepper. 

This was a true reminder of how great the Syrah grape is in Washington state — a grape that very well may be the grape of Washington’s future. 

The highlight of the tasting was a 2010 "Mystery" Syrah from the Columbia Valley. Not even Terry could tell us about it as Steve insisted in making it a mystery to all of Trust’s employees. 

This wine had a distinct nose to it —  a subtle "grassy" and "barnyard" nose. 

We rated it the highest on the day. 

While we did try some of the other wines from Trust, we highly recommend the Syrahs. 

Trust also makes a very nice red blend called t.a.t.t. (tried and true table wine), which we would also highly recommend in the value category if you are looking for a good overall red table wine.

The tasting room is located at 14469 Woodinville-Redmond Rd. and tasting room hours are: 1 - 6 p.m. Friday & Saturday, Sunday 1-5 p.m.

The Woodinville Winers visit Zerba Cellars

  • Written by Mike McClure and Terry Morse

Did you know we now have Oregon wineries right here in Woodinville?  If not, let us introduce you to one of them — Zerba Cellars (www.zerbacellars.com).

Even though the Zerba vineyards are located in the Walla Walla Valley, this valley transcends the Washington-Oregon border, and the Zerba vineyards are all located south of the border, officially making Zerba an Oregon winery.

The Jon Cockburn Ranch Vineyard is located in the southeast corner of the valley, in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Dad’s Vineyard is located in the “Touchet Beds,” near the state line, and the Winesap Road Vineyard is located in the rocky floodplain of the Walla Walla River.

Zerba Cellars is the product of Cecil and Marilyn Zerba, whose family’s roots can be traced to the Walla Walla Valley back as far as the 1850s.  When Cecil and Marilyn were married in September 1981, they established Zerba Gardens, a local nursery producing quality plants and produce. Over the next 20 years, Zerba Gardens grew into one of the valley’s most successful and trusted local nurseries.  In 2001 Cecil and Marilyn Zerba left the nursery business and founded Winesap Vineyards.  The vineyards are all certified sustainable by LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology), IOBC (International Organization for Biological Control) and Salmon Safe.

Greeting us was Mike who poured us two whites and three reds. The standout in the white category was the 2001 Rousanne which was nicely balanced.  Two of the red wines stood out for us — the 2008 Merlot and the 2008 Syrah. The Merlot (which contains 20% Cab) showcases grapes from the ancient rocky floodplain of the Walla Walla River and from the valley hillsides.  It has an exotic nose featuring mint, red cherries, anise and hints of earthiness and light tobacco.  The Syrah was fruit-forward with a nice finish.

We ended our tasting with a bonus wine (Mike must have liked us) — a late harvest red blend of 67% Syrah, 33% Barbera, and a kiss of 2008 Semillon Ice Wine. This was almost like drinking a light Port wine and made for a really interesting close to our tasting. It is apparent to us why Zerba was named 2011 Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest and why a friend of ours insisted that we had to try it.

Most Zerba wines are in the $20-$30 price range, with our favorite Merlot and Syrah being $30. The tasting room is located at the Apple Farm development on the northwest corner of the main roundabout in the Woodinville Tourist District.

They are open from 12-5 p.m. on Sunday – Tuesday and 11-6 p.m. Wednesday – Saturday.

The Woodinville Winers visit Mark Ryan Winery

  • Written by Mike McClure and Terry Morse

If you know the Woodinville wine scene, then you probably know the name Mark Ryan Winery.

The winery was started in 1999 with the goal of making the best wines in Washington state.  The winery settled in the Woodinville area in 2003 and largely due to Mark’s personality (and great wines), made a quick impact on Woodinville Wine Country.

Mark quickly linked up with five other high-quality wineries (Baer, Darby, Gorman, Guardian and Sparkman) and dubbed themselves the “Grape Killers.”

Speaking of funny names, most of Mark’s wine names originate from Pearl Jam songs. Welcome to the whacky world of Mark Ryan.

Mark Ryan’s tasting room is located in the north outbuildings of the Hollywood Schoolhouse in the Tourist District. It is a funky space, with concrete floors, walls of wine and outside seating for those sunny days.  To bring the outside in, the front wall is mostly garage doors which can be opened on nice days to make one big wine tasting space. One of his trademarks is that he usually keeps some type of vintage motorcycle in the tasting room.  In short, it’s all Mark in character.

We were greeted by Nate Test who poured us five wines.

The first was the 2011 Voignier, which has grapes sourced from Red Willow, one of the very first vineyards in Washington state. We then moved on to Wild Eyed which is 100% Syrah which was spicy with hints of mocha and vanilla. We decided it was “a delicious party in your glass.”

The last three wines were all blends, namely The Dissident, Long Haul and Dead Horse. All were outstanding and received nines and tens on our own personal palette (this doesn’t happen very often with The Winers).

There is a reason that Mark was named the 2011 winemaker of the year and that Paul Gregutt of The Wine Enthusiast named Mark Ryan Winery one of the new “Cult Wineries” of Washington state.

So who is this Mark Ryan character? Actually, his name is Mark McNeilly, but he thought using his middle name for the winery sounded better.  We asked Nate for his favorite story and he chuckled that Mark was well known for being a transient winemaker when he arrived in Woodinville, meaning that the first vintages of Long Haul and Dead Horse were produced, crushed and pressed in garages of friends and family.  When he ran out of garages, he was finally forced to rent a warehouse so that he could actually live with the wine.

We also have a Mark story which we directly experienced ourselves when our good friend Lance Baer tragically passed away five years ago at age 39. It was Mark McNeilly who was one of the first to volunteer his time to look after the Baer Winery vintage that Lance had aging in barrels.  That is who this Mark McNeilly character really is.  He combines great wine with an overdose of personality and passion, and the industry is better off for it.

If you would like to get to know Mark better, stop by his tasting room, which is open from noon-5 p.m. seven days a week.  The address is 14810 NE 145th Street Building A-1 in Woodinville.  Tastings are $10 and his wines are priced from $28 to $52. Don’t get out of there without meeting Mark — as you too will be better off for it.