Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holiday Gifts: Best Wine Clubs

We posted holiday gifts ideas for the wine lovers in your life on our Facebook page today. They include a WinewomenPSP one-year membership that includes a fabulous custom-designed sterling silver and Swarovski crystal wine bottle necklace, gift certificates to our local wine merchants and gorgeous hand-painted wine aerators that bring taste and festive color to your holiday table.

If your wine lover is really special, you might treat him or her to a wine club membership. With wine clubs springing up all over, it can be hard to know where to begin. Here are a few ideas for wine clubs that deliver the goods – excellent and intriguing wines, from travels and tastings over the years.

Byron Wines
We have yet to taste a Byron wine we didn't love. The focused portfolio of this Santa Barbara County winery features a range of styles in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from a variety of vineyards. They also make a delicious Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. You can order only Pinot Noir or a mixed collection from their wine club. Either way, you'll get to know beautifully textured and balanced Byron wines. Club members also receive special invitations, which gives you another good reason to visit Los Olivos.

Byron Wines
Santa Maria Winery (805) 934-4770
Los Olivos Tasting Room (805) 938-7365

Oregon Pinot Noir Club
Former journalist and owner Bob Wolfe is an avowed PinotGuy and engaging wine writer. Wolfe makes it his business to uncover gems and values from Oregon's best Pinot Noir producers, big and small. OPNC offers two wine club tiers: World Class and Premium. Choose Premium and your summer shipments will automatically be held until the weather is cool enough for safe transport. OPNC also offers other types of Northwest wines from whites to exotic blends and special bottles from Burgundy. If you're serious about Pinot Noir, this your club.

Oregon Pinot Noir Club
(800) 847-4474

St. Supéry
Napa's family-owned St. Supéry has a remarkably broad portfolio, and it's all good. Their Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon are two sure bets you can find at Vons and Albertsons. While they're both good and excellent values, they only hint at St. Supéry's quality reach. In fact, the limited edition 2006 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon drinks so well that you could enjoy it alone, or with a wedge of cheese. We didn't encounter a single ho-hummer among the many we tried at their Napa tasting room, from single-varietal whites to elegant white and red blends. They also make a juicy rosé and a fresh, light Moscato to end your holiday meal with a kiss of sweetness. The Wine Club offers discounts, special events and a choice of all red, white or one-and-one shipments. The Divine Club is for lovers of robust reds, and St. Supéry makes quite a few that are indeed, divine. Ask about their new Case Club with special discounts on case purchases.

St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery
(866) 963-4535

Other wineries with clubs that tap into terrific portfolios are Andrew Rich, Beringer and Maryhill. Do you have a favorite wine club we should know? Tell us what makes them special and we might include them in another post.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winning Washington Wines

The Discover Washington cover stories in this month's Wine Spectator are definitely worth a read. We had that distinct pleasure last year, as we tasted our way through nearly 100 Northwest wines. The occasion was the first Renaud Society wine competition, held in conjunction with the 5th International Wine and Heart Health Summit in Walla Walla that you read about here.

At the 2009 competition, the Renaud Society – an international organization of medical and wine professionals with an interest in better health and a passion for wine – awarded its best-in-show Tastevin to little-known Skylite Cellars for their 2006 Columbia Valley Reserve, a blend of Malbec, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon.

This year's Renaud Society competition was a bit different. First, the venue had changed to Silverado Resort, in the heart of Napa Cab country. As before, the 2010 contest was held blind using the same 20-point scoring system as in Walla Walla, but with a different panel of judges that tasted their way through a new batch of wine entries. In the end, a surprise outcome carried a familiar ring: the winner of the best in show Renaud Society 2010 Tastevin was Skylite Cellars once again, this time for their 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Scoring a second coveted Renaud Society Tastevin recognizes talent at young Skylite Cellars, founded in 2003 by owners Tom and Cheryl Hodgins. To make Skylite's winning 2007 Reserve, winemaker Robert O. Smasne uses 100% Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from three Walla Walla vineyards.

Other Washington wines that landed top-ten scores for gold medal awards were four reds by Maryhill Winery. A Columbia Valley 2009 Gewürztraminer by Maryhill received the highest white wine score for a gold medal. Located along the northern bank of the Columbia River in the gorgeous Gorge region, Winepress NW named Maryhill Winery the 2009 Washington Winery of the Year.

Filling out the 2010 competition's top ten picks were red wines by Napa's Rocca Family Vineyards Grigsby Vineyard 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2007 Syrah; 2006 M by Michael Mondavi Family Wines; and Lamborn Family Vineyards Howell Mountain 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. Check out the full list of competition winners from 2009 and 2010 on the Renaud Society website.

As the nation's second-largest wine-producing state, Washington is producing terrific wines worth a pop. More than 30 different grape varieties are under vine with acreage dominated by its big four: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Riesling. Add to that Syrah, a variety that appears destined for signature status, much as Pinot Noir dominates Oregon's wineprint.

Find tips for your next visit to Washington wine country on our WinewomenPSP website, with updates coming soon. In the meantime, treat yourself to Washington wines. Many wines flagged by Wine Spectator are available at local outlets. Find wines by large producers Columbia Crest and Chateau St. Michelle at grocers and big-box stores. Wines by smaller wineries noted in Steiman's articles and those hailed by the Renaud Society can be found at valley wine shops, online at Avalon or from the wineries themselves.

Pick up the December 15th Spectator and start your own Washington wine discovery. Wines by Leonetti, Cayuse, Woodward Canyon, Tamarack Cellars, Pepperbridge, Buty, K Vintners, Abeja, Walla Walla Vintners and Otis Kenyon are just a few you won't want to miss. Give your 'buds a treat, Washington style.