Archive for What We’ve Been Tasting

Wine Engages The Brain More Than Solving Complex Math Problems

From Minnesota’s NPR station, and interesting take on the mechanics of tasting wines. According to Yale neuroscientist Gordon Shepherd, the flavor of wine “engages more of our brain than any other human behavior.”

Who knew?

CLICK FOR THE ARTICLE

And yes, Minnesota does produce wine, though I haven’t had any. Speaking of odd places to try wine – had a Cuban White (Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay) that if it would have been at the right temperature (room temperature in the Caribbean) was quite drinkable.

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Madrona Wine Merchants offers free wine tastings featuring 4-5 selections on a theme every Saturday from 2 until the bottles run out and on Sunday we offer a mini-tasting of two wines all day from 11-5.

How We Curate The Wines We Stock

Many of you have wondered why we are closed on Monday, others wonder how we choose the wines for our small shop.

The answer is basically the same — we are working choosing the wines we offer to you. In addition to the distributor’s representatives that stop by the shop Wednesday through Friday with anywhere from 5-10 sample bottles open, most Monday’s (especially in the fall and spring) distributors have large trade tastings – and we are there to swirl, sniff, sip and spit. It’s a hard job, but someone has to make sure you are getting the best quality and the best price.

Fall is always a crazy time for trade tastings, sometime three scheduled at the same time across the city – like today.

To give you an idea the first tasting of the day had 45 bottles open, the second, a whopping 235, the third, another 35. You really do have to SPIT!

But, there are some perks – there are some snacks to cleanse our palate.

Madrona Wine Merchants offers free wine tastings featuring 4-5 selections on a theme every Saturday from 2 until the bottles run out and on Sunday we offer a mini-tasting of two wines all day from 11-5.

10 Wineries You Can Visit

During a Long Layover

Lots of our customers know that one of the owners (Mark) is a travel junkie – now there is a way to combine both passions.

http://thepointsguy.com/2016/08/visit-these-wineries-during-long-layovers/

Madrona Wine Merchants offers free wine tastings featuring 4-5 selections on a theme every Saturday from 2 until the bottles run out and on Sunday we offer a mini-tasting of two wines all day from 11-5.

Tasting Report: Eldorado County California Wine Country

One of the lesser known, but fascinating California winery regions is Eldorado County, an hour east of Sacramento. Unlike the bustling regions of Napa or Sonoma, these smaller regions offer inexpensive tastings fees (if any at all), and offer up some great wines and stunning scenery.

As you can see from the map, there are no shortage of wineries in Eldorado County, many of which are only open weekends. Most everyplace you stop in will have maps of the area, including special maps for the sub-AVAs of Fairplay and Placerville. It being a Wednesday afternoon, my choices were a little more limited so I hit two that were recommended (and next door to each other) and one (Miraflores) that I just stumbled upon.

While none of the wines from the three wineries I stopped at are available at the shop, this is more informational about off-the-beaten track wine regions.

First up was Windwalker Winery in the Fairplay area of El Dorado County California. They produce 9-10,000 cases of wine a year with 10% being estate fruit. Of that production, 1/3 are white wine varietals, including dry-style Albariño (unusual for California) and a Viognier (both tasty, but I bought the Albariño). If you are a Chardonnay fan, their Chardonnay won the prestigious Golden Bear award at the California State Fair (front and center in front of their other medal placing wines).

As you can see from the chalkboard, they have an extensive and varied production. I even had a chance to chat with Ben, their winemaker:

Some of the more interesting reds they had open were the Alicante Bouschet (another rare California varietal) and their Estate Fruit Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. They also have several desert wines that I passed on. By the end of the tasting I’d had three whites/rosé and nine of the reds – yes, I was swirling, sipping and spitting.

Next up in the day’s adventure was Perry Creek Winery, which is just one long driveway away from Windwalker. Unlike Windwalker, most of their grapes are estate grown.

As with Windwalker, the major portion of their wines are red varietals (Chardonnay and Viognier being the two whites). I worked my way through them, finding the Zinfandels to my favorites – and oddly, the ZinMan Zin (which I bought) tastier than their Reserve Zinfandel. I ended up trying both the whites and half a dozen of the reds.

Last on the list for the day was Miraflores Winery, visually the most stunning of the bunch – no wander they have a full schedule of wine/food pairings, weddings, wine maker dinners.

For tasting they had your choice of six whites or rosé, and fifteen reds of which I sampled. With the exception of their Pinot Grigio and Misíon 1853, all of their wines are estate fruit grown on 50 cultivated acres

I really like their 2014 Barbara Rosé, along with their 2012 Méthode Ancienne – a traditional native yeast, foot-pressed Syrah. They used to invite people in to help with the stomp, but in recent years it’s just handled by the production workers. Other notable on the tasting menu were the 2014 Misíon 1853 – the first varietal planted in California in, you guessed it, 1853. Also deserving mention are their 2011 and 2012 Petit Sirah.

So, when you are travelling around the country, explore the less explored wine regions – when doing the research for this article I found a map for the wineries of Indiana – who knew.

Madrona Wine Merchants offers free wine tastings featuring 4-5 selections on a theme every Saturday from 2 until the bottles run out and on Sunday we offer a mini-tasting of two wines all day from 11-5.

Tasting Report: Gruet Cellars

Saturday, December the 5th we sampled Gruet’s Sauvage, a non-dosage (bone dry) Blanc de Blanc from New Mexico at Madrona Wine Merchants. Yummy! And a big seller.

Since I was already planning to be in New Mexico I arranged a tour of their facility in Albuquerque and thought I’d pass along my impressions.

While their estate grapes are grown outside of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, the augment their non-vintage sparklers with grapes from California and the Northwest. Coming online in the next two years will be Pinot Meunier grapes from a joint venture with the Santa Anna Pueblo near Santa Fe. They even have a few vines in front of their urban winery. Fun fact: Gruet is the largest (by square feet) winery located in an urban environment, followed by Seattle’s own Charles Smith in Georgetown.

I had a chance to run through their entire tasting room menu and take notes:

After working through the wine list it was time for a personal tour of the winery by their production manager:

Normally these tours are only available on the last Saturday of the month at 2PM. The tasting room, which is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico is open to the public Monday-Thursday 10am to 5pm. Friday-Saturday 10am to 7pm, Sunday noon-5pm.

I was lucky enough to arrive as they were bottling their non-vintage Rose.

After the bottles come off the bttling line, they are first stacked in massive wooden crates:

Before getting loaded in to rotating steel rakes that perform the “riddling” – the quarter turn twist to get all the sediment to float down to the neck of the bottle.

Before final labelling the bottles go through disgorgement – which done by freezing the neck of the bottle and then upcapping the bottle which because it’s a sparkling wine, blows all the sediment out of the bottle. Next up is the adding of the “dosage” – a bit of sugar to restart the fermentation to get bubbles to form again. Then it’s recorked, wired, and sometimes foiled. Fun fact – the clear bottles for the rose are made in Seattle down in the Georgetown neighborhood on Highway 99.

We had the Gruet Sauvage open on Saturday, December 5th. In addition, we also carry their Blanc de Noir. Tasting notes for both of those are below:

Gruet Blanc De Noirs    $16
Pinot Noir
New Mexico
Méthode Champenoise & aged for a minimum of two-years, berry aroma with toasty notes and a creamy texture.

Gruet Brut Sauvage Blanc de Blanc    $18
Chardonnay
Low-dosage domestic bubbles! Aromas of bright mineral notes followed by traces of green apple, lemon Meringue pie, with a hint of daisy. This wine finishes with bright, crisp acidity on the palate with a light yet long finish. With limited residual sugar, the Gruet Sauvage is for the sparkling connoisseur who appreciates bone dry acidity.

So, if you find yourself in Albuquerque with extra time, they are located just off the freeway – stop on by and sample their wares, which include still wines. Fun fact: the grapes for their Cabernet Sauvignon come from our own Columbia Valley.

We Live For Wine

Even when we aren’t behind the counter at Madrona Wine Merchants, we are searching the world for wines – fortunately, they mostly come to us through distributors and through trade wine tastings. Occasionally we will slip out of the city to explore wine country. Here is what I found in Walla Walla.

First stop was Balboa. They aren’t in commercial distribution and the tasting fee was $5. My favorite on the tasting was their 2013 Sangiovese ($30)

There were a couple of wineries out in the sticks (like Balboa) that we carry – Sleight of Hand, Gifford Hirlinger, that weren’t open on a Wednesday. Had I actually planned this trip better I could have probably gotten them to open up for us.

Next up was Kontos Cellars in downtown Walla Walla. Please note the prices in the upper left hand corner – these are VERY TYPICAL for Walla Walla wines. I think its cartel pricing at work. And they are in distribution with one of our distributors, but the price point is a hard sell in our neighborhood. Favorite at this stop was their 2012 Malbec ($44).

The final winery was El Corazon – which the friend who I was visiting had called a week earlier to set up a private tasting. Not in distribution, and the same pricing structure as Balboa and Kontos, but definitely a different attitude. Hey, they even put out snacks for us! Toss up on my favorite between the2012 Pistelero, their Bordeaux Blend ($40) or the 2013 Swordfight, a Syrah/Mourvèdre Blend ($50)

And the décor of the place is a hoot!



And they do have an amusing policy of throwing out people who are assholes:

No cheap wines in Walla Walla, but it’s was all really good wine. Next time you are on a holiday, check out the local wineries – they are now in all fifty states (including Alaska and Hawaii). Expand your palate.

Forgot The Name Of That Bottle You Liked?

One of the common peeves I hear from our customers is that they got this wonderful bottle of wine from us but can’t remember the name – or they were out at a restaurant and had a great bottle and now want to special order a case. It even happens to me.

Check out this app for your smart phone.

Click on the graphic above to go to their website.

With this app you take a picture of the bottle and it will search its database for information on the wine as well as letting you add comments either public or private. Unclick the check box if you want to keep the comments to yourself. If they don’t have it in their database yet, it magically appears several days later.

One nice feature is Vivino runs on all phone platforms. Latest release for iOS and Android, previous version for Blackberry and Windows Phones, just look in your app store and search on Vivino. I have a Windows 8 phone and it runs great.

Remember: Madrona Wine Merchants offers a 15% discount on all full-case special orders. Delivery time is usually less than one week.

We’re Famous!

The owners of Madrona wine merchants are pictured in an article called The Masters of Wine-Spitting. Click on the title to jump to the article.

To quote the article: “It’s a necessary evil for anyone wanting to taste many wines, but how on earth should one go about it?”

Here is a link to our very own spitting article: Swirl, Sniff, Spit, Dump, or Drink?

Bubbles Tasting A Success.

Thanks to all that showed up this afternoon for the Bubbles tasting – we barely made it to 4pm with the entire line open.

The value of your neighborhood wine shop…

According to the Wall Street Journal.

This is from the Wall Street Journal’s weekend cooking and eating section called: The Everyday Sommelier on the Corner.

This is the link.

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