Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

I went to a “Meet the Makers” Visit Seattle event at Filson’s flagship NYC store in Union Square  and soaked in the idyllic and nostalgic Pacific Northwest vibe. One of the highlights, of course, was the selection of Washington State wines available to sample. And I have to say, I was fairly gobsmacked by many intriguing and delicious bottles.

Here are some highlights.

6 Washington State Wines to Covet and Drink

Orr Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc (2016)

Save the Washington Chenin! There’s very little left, and a lot of it is old-vine goodness. Kudos to winemakers like Erica Orr, creating Loire-esque wines with the grape.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Two Vintners O.G. (2017)

Morgan Lee must have been the first person to make an orange wine in Washington State. If you know who beat him to it, LMK. This is the 6th (!) vintage of this wine. Oh, O.G.=Orange Gewurztraminer. The color comes from the grape skins spending extra-special time with the juice. This is killer!

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Smockshop Band Pinot Noir (2016)

Whoa, a stunner! (The label and the wine.) This winery is new to me, part of cult-y Hiyu Wine Farm. This Pinot comes from a single vineyard in the Columbia Gorge AVA. There is simply no more exciting region for wine in Washington State than the Gorge.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Savage Grace Côt (2016)

I’ve been a fan of Michael Savage’s wines for a while now. They have an appealing light touch. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this Malbec. He calls it Côt as a nod to how the grape is referred to (and the style of the wine) in the Loire Valley: elegant, not jammy.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Gramercy Cellars Forgotten Hills Syrah (2015)

Greg Harrington is firing on all cylinders and nowhere is this more apparent than his Syrah. It’s a very gulpable, old-world influenced bottling. A great synthesis of grape, site, and winemaker.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah Stonessence (2015)

In contrast with the Gramercy Cellars, the Reynvaan is a meaty, smoky, gamey affair. The first whiff you take  places the fruit from the extremely distinct “Rocks” area of Walla Wallla Valley. (Which is actually in Oregon, but that’s another story.)


Also thanks to these folks representing the city and state:

The reps from the Space Needle providing an update on the, well, major updates there. Chihuly Garden and Glass for the tiny, precious piece of glass I have purposed for salt-keeping. Hama Hama for the amazing oysters. Chef Jeff from No Anchor for the creative veg and salmon bites. Boo and Christophe from Hedges Family Estate, an always entertaining duo. (Check out their biodynamic Cabernet in magnums.)

Finally, Washington State Wine for all the eye-opening bottles.

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Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors


Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole originating in the south of France, made with duck confit, sausage and beans. Served with good crusty bread and a good bottle of hearty wine Cassoulet is just about the finest warden against the cold dark night.

There are as many versions of Cassoulet as there are French grandmothers and Chefs. Some include Lamb, pork shoulder or even partridge. Below I give you a basic version that comes very close to traditional.

Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors
Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet
4 ounces bacon, diced
1 cups chopped onion (3/4 lb))
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrot, peeled diced
1 lb Sausage links, cooked and sliced
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp thyme
1each bay leaf
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 (14-oz) can stewed tomatoes, chopped with juice
2 each confit duck legs*
1 14 ounce can white beans
2 cups beef broth
1 Tbl tomato paste
2 Tbl olive oil
1 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

In a large pot render diced bacon
2. Add carrots, onion and celery cook until translucent
3. Add sliced sausage
4. Add herbs and season
5. Add tomatoes, beef broth and tomato paste
6. Add duck confit legs
7. Drain and rinse beans and add to pot
8. Cover and simmer for 1 hour9.
Remove bones from cassoulet adjust seasoning if necessary. In a pan heat olive oil and toast bread crumbs. To serve portion out cassoulet and top with bread crumbs and chopped parsley. Serve with crusty bread and a hearty red wine.

Cassoulet calls out for a hearty wine, say Cotes du Rhone, Madiran or Cahors. Malbec has been made famous in Argentina where it produces lovely fruit forward reds, in Cahors where the grape is called Cot the wines are a little more rustic. Cahors is a small AOC wine region located in southwest France (the land of Cassoulet). The AOC is only for red wines, which must be made from a minimum of 70% Malbec and up to 30% Merlot or Tannat. Cahors Malbec tend to be deeper in color, more structured and fuller bodied than their Argentine counterparts.

Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and CahorsChâteau Eugénie has been in the hands of the same family of winegrowers for generations. Their great great grandmother gave her name to the property.

Chateau Eugenie Cahors Tradition ’13 (France) $9.99 btl / save $4
Like most Tradition wines in Cahors, this fruity and perfumed wine has been aged in stainless steel to keep the fruitiness. Blackberry flavors are cut with acidity and a tight tannic character. Drinking beautifully right now!

With the weather the way it is I suggest putting on a pot, open a nice bottle of Cahors and don’t forget the bread.

Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors

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Familia Zuccardi Malbec and Asado

I have the distinct privilege of having Asado in Argentina, in Mendoza, on the Pampas.
The Asado. It is not just a dish, it is a social gathering, it is a celebration of meat and flame and sauced with liberal amounts of Malbec. The National dish of Argentina, an Asado consists of Beef, sausages and pork cooked over a charcoal fire. Out on La Pampas the cattle graze on the plains overseen by the Gauchos. Beef in Argentina isn’t just what’s for dinner, it is part of the culture.
It seems only natural to serve up beef with a great bottle of Argentine Malbec. I love Malbec. Bright fruit and refreshing acidity balance out the tannins give Malbec the unique ability to be both a great food wine and easily quaffable while you are waiting for your steak to grill.
Malbec is Argentina’s flagship variety, and the country has the largest Malbec acreage in the world. This variety originally comes from South West France, where it is called Cot and features a hard, tannic style. But with high altitudes and cool nights Mendoza can produce Malbec of beautiful aromatics, bold fruit and silky tannins.
There are many great producers of Malbec in Argentina. Just one of my favorites is Familia Zuccardi.
Alberto Zuccardi came to Mendoza in 1950 when he was 30 years old, not to plants grapes and make wine but to install fancy new cement irrigation pipes. He decided the best way to demonstrate his irrigation system was to use it the way they in California – by planting a vineyard. One thing lead to another and by the 1970’s he had winery and had expanded his vineyards and was selling wine in the bulk market.

Familia Zuccardi Malbec and Asado
In 1976 his son Jose had joined him in the family business. It was Jose who saw that future lay in the export market. This was the 1980’s and even though Argentina was the fifth largest producer of wine globally, little if anyone outside of Argentina had tasted let alone heard of Mendoza Malbec. It was that push into the world market that drove the winery and also drove Jose and Alberto to constantly improve the wine both in the winery and vineyards.
In the 2000’s, Jose’s son Sebastien joined the team. It was Sebastien who saw what was happening up higher in the Andes in the Uco Valley. ‘The character of the high-altitude grapes spoke for itself, so looking toward that area was natural.’ So impressed with e grapes they made a wine called Zeta, a blend of Cabernet and Tempranillo. A stand-alone wine of place much like a Bordeaux.

Familia Zuccardi Malbec and AsadoLast year they completed construction on their new 100 percent concrete winery in Altamira. Zuccardi Valle de Uco boasts concrete eggs and amphorae for fermenting, concrete vats and neutral barrels for aging. The concrete vats are made from all natural materials including sand, clay, rocks and silt coming from the land around where the winery was built. The Zuccardi family keep advancing in their search for excellence, for purity and freshness. Oak can hide a lot of mistakes, it can also disguise the true terroir of a place. By removing all the makeup and airbrushing these wines have an honest expression of place.

Familia Zuccardi Malbec and Asado
“Familia Zuccardi produces wines from the local terroir, placing focus on the region and essence of the wine and the variations found in different zones throughout 
the Uco Valley,” says Sebastian Zuccardi. “We want our wines to have personality and to express the region where they were created.”
The winery is truly state of the art as is the research and development lab. The focus and culture of Zuccardi has always been one of constant improvement. The have planted experimental vineyards all around to see what untapped production areas there might be and what other varietals hold potential in the Uco Valley. Oh and not surprisingly Familia Zuccardi also place emphasis on the study of irrigation and water management, working to preserve the essential resource that is all too scarce in the area.

Familia Zuccardi Malbec and Asado
These are simply some of my favorite Malbec’s.

Familia Zuccardi Malbec and AsadoZUCCARDI Q MALBEC 2015 $17.99 btl / save $5
“Wow. This is exciting. Blackberries, flowers, dark fruit and hints of walnut shell here follow through to a medium to full body, fine tannins and a juicy finish. This is tight and polished. Give it two or three years to soften, but it is already very pretty.” 94 pts James Suckling

ZUCCARDI SERIES A MALBEC 2016 $13.99 btl / save $3


Familia Zuccardi Malbec and Asado“The 2016 Malbec Serie A is sourced from different vineyards across the Valle de Uco (San José, Los Árboles, Tupungato, El Peral, Gualtallary, Vista Flore and La Consulta) and was fermented in concrete vats an used 500-liter French oak barrels. There is more than fruit here, there is some expression of the soil, with subtle nuances and more complexity, hints of aromatic herbs and lower in alcohol (13%). The profile of all the wines is very clean, precise, juicy with good acidity. This is a superb example of it, with even some chalky sensations in the texture. Great value too.” 91 pts Wine Advocate

ZUCCARDI Q CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 $19.99 btl / save $3
Familia Zuccardi Malbec and AsadoA refined and savory red, featuring notes of white pepper to the cherry and crushed red plum flavors. A wine of great personality, aromas and black pepper spices. Lengthens out on the palate, with medium-grained tannins. Silky finish. Great aging potential. 92 pts Tim Aiken


Familia Zuccardi Malbec and Asado

Argentine Asado
Serves 20 – 30

The National dish of Argentina, an Asado consists of Beef, sausages and pork cooked over an charcoal fire. You can do a simple version of an Asado at home with a charcoal grill, some select cuts of meat and copious amounts of Malbec. The secret to great Asado is patience, sea salt and Fresh ground pepper


2 – 4lbs Rib Eye Steak, cut 2” (Bife ancho)
2 – 4 lbs Short Ribs, cut 2” (Tira de asado)
2 – 4lbs Flank Steak (Vacio)
2 each Pork Tenderloin (Lomo de Puerco)
4 lbs Chorizo (Spanish or Basque)
Coarse ground Sea salt
Coarse ground Black pepper
Olive Oil
12 bottles Malbec
4 each Lemons, wedges
4 each Baguettes
One Big Simple green Salad
2 cups Chimichurri Sauce (below)

1. Start your coals. When Coals are ready begin with the Ribeye and Short Ribs. Rub steaks with olive oil and liberally dust salt and pepper. When ribs are about half way done 30 minutes or so turn.
2. To grill add the Flank steak, Pork and Chorizo. Turn after 10 minutes
3. Remove meat to platters and cover and let rest 10 minutes before carving.
4. Serve with lemons, baguettes, salad and Salt & pepper and plenty of Malbec!

Chimichurri Sauce

3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 each Onion, diced
3 ea garlic cloves, minced
½ cup Chopped Parsley
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

1. Combine all ingredients in bowl of food processor and pulse until well combined.

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Corks of the Forks: A Look at the “Other” Local Grapes

A couple months ago, I devoted my column space to what has become the de facto “signature variety” for Long Island wine country: merlot. There are approximately 700 acres of merlot planted on Long Island — roughly 30 percent of the total vineyard acreage — and there are reasons for that. It grows and ripens dependably and consistently, even in all but the most horrid of vintages. That’s important here and why it’s the backbone of the industry.  But the East End isn’t like many parts of Europe where regulations dictate what grapes can be grown where. Long Island growers…

Wine Reviews: Argentina & Chile

Chile and Argentina are, of course, different countries with varied winegrowing regions and winemaking histories. But we received just a handful of South American wines this season — hence this catch-all review.

Most of these wines fall into that South American sweet spot: those $10-$20 bottles that deliver reliably tasty (if rather predictable) wines. The Alamos brand of wines from Mendoza’s Catena have long served this purpose for American consumers by offering straightforward, well-made, varietal wines with accessible price points and wide availability. My first Torrontés, Bonarda and my first Argentine Chardonnay were all Alamos wines, so I’m proof that these wines provide a great introduction to the wines of Mendoza.

The major outlier in this report is the Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon from Concha y Toro. The 2011 represents the 25th vintage of this iconic Chilean Cabernet, which has been receiving praise and high scores for more than a decade. Another killer wine in this reportis Trivento’s Eolo Malbec. This top of the line for Trivento (also owned by Concha y Toro), the Eolo is an old-vine, high-elevation (3,000+ feet), single-vineyard Malbec of stunning precision — and it ages beautifully as well.

The following wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2014 Alamos Chardonnay - Argentina, Mendoza
SRP: $13
Light gold color. Aromas of yellow apples, sliced pears, nougat and honeycomb. Creamy on the palate, bright acid, light in intensity and quite clean, but plenty of yellow apples, apricot, honey, some nougat. A bit simple, but done well, and quite good for the price. Aged in French and American oak for six months. (85 points IJB)

2014 Alamos Cabernet Sauvignon - Argentina, Mendoza
SRP: $13
Light purple color. Smoky aromas, like charcoal and scorched earth on top of red currants and black cherries, hints of loam and coffee as well. Medium-bodied, softly dusty tannins, medium acid, the fruit is juicy and smooth but not too deep (black cherries, juicy plums) Hints of coffee, vanilla, smoky earth, mint and cola. Fun, simple, a drink-me-now style, but well-made and a good introduction to Mendoza Cabernet. (85 points IJB)

2013 Familia Zuccardi Cabernet Sauvignon Serie A - Argentina, Mendoza, Valle de Uco
SRP: $15
Deep ruby color. Aromas of Tart red currants, raspberries, plums, loam, some cedar and eucalyptus notes. Full-bodied, really velvety tannins, moderate fresh acid. Red plums, currants and some black cherries thrown in. The fruit is smooth, rich but shows some tangy edges. Rounded out by coffee, cedar, loam and a hint of bell pepper. Smooth, tasty, approachable, solid value for sure. (87 points IJB)

2013 Bodega Santa Julia Reserva Mountain Blend – Malbec/Cabernet Franc - Argentina, Mendoza, Valle de Uco
SRP: $13
Vibrant purple color. Smells of jammy blackberries and raspberries along with cola, cherry wood, and some earth and violet petal notes. Medium-to-full-bodied with a moderate tannic structure and some tang from the acid. Tart blackberries, plum skins and raspberry jam, the fruit is forward and juicy but tangy too. Notes of cola, violets, pepper, sweet herbs, coffee, even some elements of graphite and pepper. Juicy fruit and plenty ripe, but the non-fruit complexity is solid and there’s enough freshness to make this food-friendly. Impressive structure at this price point. The value of this wine is exceptional. 70% Malbec and 30% Cabernet Franc aged 10 months in French oak. (88 points IJB)

2012 Trivento Malbec Eolo - Argentina, Mendoza, Lujan de Cuyo
SRP: $79
Deep purple color. So rich and deep on the nose, I get saucy plums, currant jam, blackberry, and lots of non-fruit elements: a blend of sweet (vanilla, violets, fig cookie) with the earthy (granite, loam, charcoal). Needs time to open, but lots to unpack aromatically. Rich and concentrated on the palate, the tannins show serious grip and structure, medium acid helps a bit but this is a bold wine with a chewy, slightly gritty texture. The black cherry, dark plum and blackberry fruit is rich, chewy but shows signs of freshness as well. Complex cedar, vanilla, black tea and anise cookie mix with deep notes of graphite, pencil shavings and rocky minerals. Serious structure here, a bit intense to fully appreciate at this young age (I’d love to taste it in five to eight years) but this is a beautiful Malbec for sure. (91 points IJB)

2013 Criterion Collection Carménère Reserva - Chile, Rapel Valley, Colchagua Valley
SRP: $16
Rich purple color. Smells of juicy black cherries and currant jam along with a hefty dose of tobacco, bell pepper, spiced coffee and fallen leaves. Juicy and fleshy on the palate with some light to moderate tannic grip, medium acid keeps it moving forward. Juicy black cherries and tart currants, the fruit is velvety and smooth but matched by a web of black pepper, green coffee, wet moss and earth. Approachable, fruity but loving the mix of non-fruit elements. Drink in the next few years. (87 points IJB)

2011 Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Don Melchor - Chile, Maipo Valley, Puente Alto
SRP: $125
Vibrant purple color. Rich but compact aromatics, it takes time to coax out the nuances. But still tons to contemplate: chewy black cherries, red and black currants, blackberries. Lots of non-fruit complexity: woodsy, earthy, loamy aspects, creamy oak, rich coffee, graphite and iron. Full-bodied with a ton of grip to the tannins but some moderate acid underneath seals the deal and makes this a wonderfully balanced and stunningly ageworthy wine. Compact blackberry, black currants, black cherries – rich fruit but tight and needs time. Tons of other savory, earthy and sweet aspects: loam, chewing tobacco, espresso, mint, vanilla, cedar, graphite, dark chocolate. Complex but wound up, the structure will allow 10-15 years of complex aging, at least. Alcohol (14.5%) is integrated well and, despite its brawniness, I feel confident using the word balance. Aged 15 months in 70% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

<85 points
2013 Criterion Collection Malbec Reserva - Argentina, Mendoza
SRP: $14
Deep purple color. Aromas of tart red and black currants, some tart plums, cola and mocha. On the palate, this shows a tart approach, with bright acid, light tannins and crunchy red and black fruit (currants, blackberries). Notes of roasted coffee, toasted oak (a bit too much perhaps), and vanilla, hint of peppery spice on the finish. Simple, pleasant.

2014 Alamos Red Blend - Argentina, Mendoza
SRP: $13
Vibrant purple color. Smells of juicy plums mixed with smoky blackberries, some tobacco, charred herbs and sweet cola. Medium bodied, slight acid, soft tannins. Chewy blackberries and plums mix with notes of cola, vanilla and tobacco. Fun stuff to drink now, it does well for the price. 65% Malbec, 16% Bonarda, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Syrah.