Wine Blogger Conference 2010 – Day 1

The GrapeSmart gals took off for Washington yesterday morning at the uncivilized hour of 7am, but we landed in Seattle with a whole day to get ourselves out to Yakima Valley. We grabbed our rental car and headed for, duh, Pike Place Market, because, well, we’re foodies and it’s a must-go!


After an early lunch at a tiny little chowder place in Post Alley with amazing smoky chowders and super fresh fish we found ourselves a wine & coffee bar called Local Flavor to settle in with. A couple of glasses of Washington wines from Portteus (which we didn’t love) and our first coffee of the day made everything start humming. Then we spent some time wandering through the market–it was freaking food heaven and a festival for all of our senses–before jumping into our car for the spectacular journey across Washington state in anticipation of a somewhat spontaneous “tour” with our twitterpal @wino4ever (Scott Abernethy).

Scott generously introduced us to the who’s who of the Red Mountain AVA at an Industry Night event at Picazo 7Seventeen (a great Spanish restaurant in Prosser by Chef Frank Magana). Scott brought us two wines from a winery called Cooper which isn’t even open yet! The first was a and the second was the 2009 Cooper Pinot Gris.

  • 2007 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
    My experience with the wine: Top notes of Vanilla or Chocolate and a touch of red or black berry in the background; Bouquet was less aromatic when it was first opened, and I think I detected leather but it may have just been terroir; Initially it struck me as a French-style Cab (less fruit, more finesse) but as it opened up the finish developed and I began to detect cherries & chocolate.
    Takeaway: This was a nice quality wine and I enjoyed it.
  • 2009 Cooper Pinot Gris
    My experience with the wine: Honeysuckle and anise on the nose paired with I think was some kind of tropical fruit; in the mouth this wine was balanced and bright, with flavors of citrus (later I determined this to be grapefruit), green apple, and a hint of mint at the back of the mouth.
    Takeaway: Yum! At $20 suggested release price this is a GREAT white wine. Very food friendly but tame enough to drink alone. Best when it’s cooler which is great for summer afternoons!

As the evening wore on, the other guests lubed up and loosened up. Scott started introducing us around and in particular introduced us to Robert O. Smasne of the ROS Wine Company. Possibly the hardest-working guy in the wine business, Robert has his hands in 24 wineries! He has several labels of his own, owns a crushpad and other facilities for helping smaller winemakers get the product out, AND he consults with MANY local wineries on their winemaking. When someone is this popular you’ve got to figure they’re good… and from what I can tell this quiet and sensible man makes sophisticated wines that rival the best anywhere in the world.

  • Smasne Cellars Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon from Snipes Mountain (a brand new Washington AVA)
    My experience with the wine: Carries characteristics of old vine Zinfandel (the only old vine wine I can compare it to based on my own tasting experiences). Tasted to me like a nicely-made red blend.
    Takeaway: I’d serve this to anyone who came to my home and I’d bring it along to a nice restaurant for dinner out
  • Smasne Cellars shiner
    My experience with the wine: Surreal. One of the finest wines I’ve ever tasted. I didn’t even balk at the $115 release price and I’ve never purchased a bottle that expensive. A blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Petite Verdot, 8% Malbec and 8% Carmenere. The nose was vanilla and blueberry with no hint of alcohol. In the mouth was “excellent” “fantastic” blueberry “mmmmm.” This is Robert’s first reserve wine in what he’ll call his Signature Series. It’s already sold out on futures so unfortunately you can’t get any… but you should definitely check out some of his other labels: Farm Boy wine (value-priced) and AlmaTerra, a “project” where Robert is experimenting with Syrah’s from 8 different vineyards to get deeper insight into how terroir affects his wines.

We also got a taste of Chateau St. Michelle Malbec shiner from Wahluke slope that was lovely and an introduction to a winemaker not yet in business. The line of wines is going to be a favorite among women who have loved labels like Bitch… except it’s better than Bitch! Be on the lookout for Dumb Blonde wines being released in September! Oh yes, and we met Gary Hogue, co-founder of Hogue Cellars, too :)

Last but not least, Chef Magana is private labeling some wines from Alexandria Nicole for his restaurant. You can only get them if you go to his restaurant in Prosser, but they’re worth mentioning here because they were enjoyable and we want to thank him for his hospitality! When it comes to house wines, there’s nothing better than a chef who consults with top notch winemakers to get the right flavor profiles for his food…

  • Vino Rojo is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec, and 3% Petite Verdot. It’s sourced from Horseheaven Hills and goes brilliantly with the Spanish food being served at Picazo 7Seventeen. The nose was peppery & spicy followed by a fruity punch-in-the-mouth with a relaxed Bordeaux-style finish.
  • Vino Blanco is a blend of 65% Roussane, 24% Marsanne, and 11% Viognier. I LOVE Rhone wines and especially Roussane/Marsanne. I’m not a huge fan of Viognier though and I would have liked to see a little less of it in this wine. Knowing that my palate is a little tweaked compared to what’s popular among white-wine drinkers, I think this wine is for meals calling for a bright and sophisticated white.

Over dinner Scott gave us the rundown on the top local vineyards to be seeking out and some wineries we can’t wait to try! Here are the ones we’re keeping a lookout for:

  • Barnard Griffin Winery (high quality, value priced wines)
  • Kiona Winery (high quality, value priced wines)
  • Alexandria Nicole Winery
  • Maison Bleue Winery (Rhone)
  • Skylite Cellars
  • Phinny Hill Vineyards
  • Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
  • Klipson Vineyard
  • Champoux Vineyard
  • Boushey Vineyards
  • Sagemore Vineyard
  • Taptiel Vineyard
  • Seven Hills Vineyard
  • Pepper Bridge Vineyard

Today we’re off for a tour of Yakima Valley where we’ll continue to be wined, dined, and happy!

P.S. Here’s the view from our hotel room… the majestic Columbia River! (Not the Yakima River as I mistakenly exclaimed earlier before I had my coffee)


Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wine Tasting Trips

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