Local importers make it easy to explore exciting, affordable wines from one of Spain’s most dynamic regions

AMONG THE LARGEST and most dynamic wine regions, Spain produces twice as much wine as the United States. Within Spain, arguably the most interesting region is called Rioja, where the red grape Tempranillo dominates vineyards.

The history of Rioja goes back a millennium; it rose in fame in the 19th century, when phylloxera devastated the vineyards of France. Many French winemakers turned to Rioja to get them through the most difficult times. This not only brought recognition to the region, but the Bordeaux winemakers also brought expertise and upgrades.>>>Read the entire article featuring Chateau Ste Michelle on The Seattle Times




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Merlot: A Worthy Red Varietal Deserving of Our Attention

It’s Time to Celebrate Washington State Merlot

When you look at a wine list, do you check out the Merlot options? If this varietal hasn’t been on you radar before, it’s time you give it a try. A grape truly worth getting excited about? Absolutely!

Merlot grows in many places of the wine world, but growing merlot grapes that stand on their own requires a very specific climate, one that Eastern Washington provides. The cold nights, wind and arid climate all play a key role in gently stressing the grapes, keeping their skin thick and their flavor concentrated. The result is a grape with great wine making potential.

You can find extraordinary bottles of merlots to choose from. This is an approachable grape varietal that is known for being soft, ripe and elegant. Let’s indulge in some delicious examples of note-worthy Washington State Merlots. We’ll have a full glass please.

DeLille Cellars Merlot 
DeLille Cellars 2015 Merlot: A blend of four great vineyards from the Yakima and Red Mountain AVAs. These plots span the four compass points of the viticultural region showcasing Red Willow, DuBrul, Klipsun and Upchurch. Blending fruit from these celebrated vineyards adds complexity; yet the charm and purity of the region’s Merlot remains the central focus of this wine. This wine has received 90 points from Jeb Dunnuck. “A beautiful Merlot, it offers classic notes of black cherries, dark chocolate and roasted herbs in a supple, full-bodied, sexy, rounded style.” – Jeb Dunnuck.

Merlot: A Worthy Red Varietal Deserving of Our AttentionBrian Carter Cellars ONE Merlot
Brian Carter Cellars 2013 ONE Merlot: A single varietal single vineyard release. Brian Carter has made a lot of nice merlot over the years but either they did not reach the quality to stand on their own or Brian needed them for one of his bends (always the priority). In 2013 Brian had a lot of good Merlot for his blends, so he was able to keep this lot, clearly the best from the vintage, for bottling on its own in the ONE program. This wine from Olsen Vineyard is an outstanding example of what this variety can do in Washington State. Having tasted Merlots from all over the world, Brian has maintained that Washington has the best expression of Merlot fruit from anywhere. This wine is dark garnet in color. The intense and complex aromas include black cherry, blackberry, raspberry and pomegranate with hints of earth and toasted oak. The palate is round with just the right hints of tannin for aging and a balanced lengthy finish.

J Bookwalter MerlotMerlot: A Worthy Red Varietal Deserving of Our Attention
J Bookwalter 2015 Readers Merlot: An outstanding Merlot from Washington’s revered old vineyards Conner Lee and Dionysus. Their Readers blend tips its hat to all exploratory readers of books and wine. Blending Conner Lee Vineyard’s 1992 old block Merlot and Dionysus Vineyards’ block 15 Merlot combines two super character vineyards. Elephant Mountain Vineyard’s Cabernet bring spice and complexity to the blend. This powerful wine offers fragrant cherries and chocolate with rich marrionberry flavors in this delicious easy drinking style. The 2015 Readers Merlot just received the following scores: 90-Wine Enthusiast 88-Jeb Dunnuck 95-James Suckling. The 2015 Vintage of Readers Merlot shows slightly more acid and structure than your “quintessential” Washington Merlot making it perfect for pizza, pasta, grilled or braised meats.

Merlot: A Worthy Red Varietal Deserving of Our AttentionMathew’s Merlot
Mathew’s Winery Merlot: In celebration of Merlot season and the exciting release of their 2015 Merlot, they are offering a 3-year Merlot vertical (2013, 2014, 2015).

“The 2015 Merlot is a blend of 78% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon that was brought up in 69% new French oak. Crème de cassis, violets, a touch of vanilla bean, and incense all give way to a rich, voluptuous, beautifully textured, ripe Merlot that has sweet tannin and a silky, elegant texture. It’s ready to go, yet should keep for at least a decade.”



“Plum and cherry aromas are lifted by a note of wild herbs. Compellingly plush and generous in the mouth, offering a distinctly layered texture to its flavors of black raspberry, cigar box, milk chocolate and herbs. Already extremely appealing but I wouldn’t describe it as soft. The long, palate-staining finish builds inexorably. A knockout chocolatey Merlot with outstanding breadth and finesse.”

“Like with the Cabernet, the 2013 Merlot was reviewed last year under the Tenor 2:2 label. Incorporating 24% Cabernet Franc, it has a complex bouquet of plum pit, blood orange, leafy herbs and mint to go with a charming, ripe, supple style on the palate. I love its silky, elegant texture, and while good now, it should benefit from a few years in bottle.”

[photo cred: Duval Images, DeLille Cellars, Brian Carter Cellars, J Bookwalter, Matthews Winery]



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Merlot is Back

By Guest Writer: Chris Upchurch

I walked into the cellar the other day and a friend of mine was sporting a baseball hat that said, “Make Merlot Great Again.” How cool is that? I remember a time when we believed Merlot was going to be the king varietal here in Washington. All the journalists were raving about it. It seemed to have more structure than many California Merlots, and Chateau Ste. Michelle was planting it like crazy. Napa was going to make Cabernets, Oregon would make Pinot Noir, and we would make that deliciously layered varietal called Merlot. All was right in the world.

Despite this rosy forecast, Cabernet Sauvignon continued to dominate the red wine market. The movie Sideways didn’t help Merlot either. I told people that the character who refused to drink Merlot also drank from a spittoon later in the movie, and his favorite French wines, Petrus and Cheval Blanc, were Merlot dominant. Still, Merlot sales cooled while Syrah gained popularity and more and more outstanding Cabernets were being made here in the Northwest.

Regardless of the trends, I’ve always loved making Merlot. It’s a varietal that always delivers a key trait in my winemaking criteria: deliciousness. Soft and accessible, Merlot is always a crowd pleaser. It delivers the whole gamut of fruits and spices, yet still rewards aging in the cellar. And it grows so well here in Washington. From the Wahluke Valley to Walla Walla and everywhere in between, Merlot is the second most planted grape here after Cabernet Sauvignon. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, there were over 9,000 acres of Merlot planted in Washington as of 2017, a 54% increase from 2006.

You can imagine how pleased I am to see that Merlot is back. At DeLille Cellars, we’re making more than ever. Our Merlot-dominant D2 is our most popular wine and is recognized around the country and in several international markets. There are well over 100 varietal Merlots produced in the state, not to mention all of Washington’s Bordeaux-style blends where Merlot is key. While much of the world still struggles with Merlot (name a famous Australian Merlot), ours only gets better. With increasing vine age, better clonal selection and a whole host of other improvements, we’re making subtle, mouthwatering Merlots that I dare anyone to try and not love. At Walla Walla’s annual celebration this year, Merlot was the featured grape, and producers from around the world were invited to participate and compare. Most agreed that Washington Merlots were second to none, further demonstrating how fantastic this varietal is for our state and industry.

Finally, I noticed that the new generation of wine drinkers really loves Merlot. They’re not necessarily hanging around the local wine shop on a Saturday afternoon reading wine critics’ reviews and scores; they’re just looking for wines that deliver delicious pleasure to be shared with friends. While all varietals can be hedonistic, Merlot seems best suited to this aspect of wine drinking—it’s simply a delight to drink. And that’s probably the biggest reason to believe that Merlot has a big future. While I won’t try to predict just how big, one thing’s for sure: I’ve got to get one of those hats.

[photo cred: Duval Images and DeLille Cellars]


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Get a Taste of Woodinville Wine Country’s VIP Experiences

In Woodinville Wine Country, we have a whole menu of VIP wine experiences.

Whether you are seeking to enhance your wine knowledge, get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of winemaking, or simply looking to enjoy some new and unique wine pairings, there truly is something for everyone.

So now that we’ve got your attention, shall we explore some of the options?

Novelty Hill-Januik

You are cordially invited to step into an experience that introduces you to what makes Washington wines unique and what differentiates veteran acclaimed Washington State winemaker Mike Januik’s wine.

Private Reserve Tour & Tasting: On this tour a knowledgeable guide will lead you and your guests through an unforgettable tour and tasting experience. Be prepared to take a walking tour of the winery’s fermentation and barrel rooms providing an insider’s look at winemaking.  Along the way, you will enjoy a guided seated tasting of four specially selected limited-release wines, each thoughtfully paired with a small bite courtesy of winery Chef Seth Fernald. A true connoisseurs’ tasting you won’t want to miss.

Patterson Cellars

Wine and Chocolate Pairing Experience: Celebrate your decadent side with a flight featuring five winemaker-selected Patterson Cellars wines paired with distinctive, culinary-inspired chocolates from Seattle chocolate company, jcoco. Walk through each pairing for an educational and unique wine tasting experience.

Get a Taste of Woodinville Wine Country’s VIP Experiences


Wine and Cheese Pairing Experience: Indulge your fondness for the finer things in life with a tasting experience focused on artisan cheese and wine pairing. While sampling five current release and reserve wines, you will be served local and European cheese accompanied by fresh fruit.

Charcuterie & Roasted Vegetable Pairing Experiences: Savor the culinary tasting experience featuring both important and locally sourced gourmet offerings thoughtfully paired with five select Patterson Cellar wines. The flavor and textures of each pairing combine to create a perfect experience for the senses. And if you are so inclined, enhance your tasting experience by adding a selection of Heritage mini sammies and roasted garlic & basil potato chips.

Panther Creek Cellars

Friday Night Vertical Tasting Experience: What are you doing Friday night? Why not join Panther Creek Cellars for a flight? Come to their Woodinville tasting room and experience the evolution of the Panther Creek Cellars wine. Taste side by side different vintages for an in depth tasting of their highly esteemed Pinots. Each month on selected Fridays they will be featuring a vertical tasting of their different vineyards with small bites provided to pair with the wines.

Get a Taste of Woodinville Wine Country’s VIP Experiences

Madelaine, the tasting Room & Assistant General Manager will be there to walk you through the experience. Madelaine also happens to have over 13 years in the wine industry and is a Certified Sommelier. At Panther Creek, their goal for making wine is simple. “We hope that each wine will express the personality of its vintage and character of its vineyard.”

[photo cred: Wyss Photography]


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Treat yourself to the Chateau Experience

The wine experience. It’s the biggest reason people come to Woodinville. Let’s face it, anyone can buy a bottle of wine at the nearest market, but to enjoy premium wines in a beautiful setting with expert winemakers, paired foods, and fun, educational activities—that’s why you come to Woodinville. So when you come, you’ll want to experience Chateau Ste. Michelle.

One of the most rewarding advantages of being the oldest, largest winery in Woodinville and Washington is that you have over 50 years of experiences to draw on and share with visitors. And just as all that knowledge, experimentation and tradition inform the wines, they’ve also helped Chateau Ste. Michelle cultivate an indulgent menu of experiences and activities to surround them.

The first thing everyone experiences as they arrive at Ste. Michelle is the scenic, beautifully manicured grounds. Public and private tours and tastings are available daily, or visitors can simply stroll and picnic at their leisure. Once inside the spacious tasting room and wine shop, you can sample the daily Feature Flight, purchase a bottle, or simple relax with a glass or two.

But a tour and tasting are merely an introduction to everything else that’s going on here. There’s a daily food menu from their renowned culinary team to enjoy, event spaces and private salons for group functions and tastings, and summer brings a popular garden tour and world-class outdoor concert series.

Then there are all the delicious activities for enhancing your appreciation and knowledge of wine: “Artfully Paired” guides you through the ultimate food and wine experience; “Blend” allows you to become the winemaker, mixing and creating your own blend; “Sensory Sojourn” teaches you to recognize and appreciate the distinguishing characteristics in each glass. Specific tasting experiences are available to do a “deep dive” into aged wines, single vineyard and limited releases, Champagne and sparking wines, and more.Treat yourself to the Chateau Experience

With over 120 fine winemakers throughout Woodinville Wine Country, the options for relaxing with a great bottle are nearly endless. But for sheer wine appreciation and enjoyment, it’s hard to beat the full cellar of experiences to be had at Chateau Ste. Michelle.


[photo cred: Duval Images]



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Everything you need to know about the Auction of Washington Wines

When you think of an auction event what probably comes to mind is an action-packed evening gala where you and other elegantly dressed guests bid on amazing one-of-a-kind items and experiences; and the Auction of Washington Wines will deliver on that and so much more. Over the course of 3 days in August the Auction hosts multiple unique events tailored to a variety of interests from casual to formal and from intimate to lively, so there really is something for everyone. It’s no wonder that the organization has been around for 31 years and has raised over $41 million benefitting the local community, including Seattle Children’s Hospital, and continuing research to elevate and enhance the Washington wine industry.

Among these memorable events, one that’s not to be missed is the Winemaker Picnic and Barrel Auction. Hosted on the beautiful grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle winery guests have the opportunity to choose from over 100 wines, oftentimes being poured by the Washington winemakers themselves. And of course, with great wine comes great food and this year’s menu is no exception. The team of talented chefs at Tulalip Resort and Casino have developed an international menu, “Al Fresco International,” which features tasty savory and sweet bites from destinations around the world including Belize, Germany, Japan, Sweden and more. Also new this year, the Auction has added five wineries to their lineup, all led by female winemakers. We’ll drink to that! And to top it off, guests can try their luck at the picnic games and go home with special prizes, including an opportunity to win a Holland American Line cruise. You certainly won’t want to miss out on the all the fun and we hope to see you this there this Thursday, August 16th at 4pm.

Everything you need to know about the Auction of Washington Wines

If a more intimate setting and an incredible view is more your style, the Auction hosts a handful of exclusive winemaker dinners hosted at gorgeous, local private waterfront homes with handcrafted meals created and served by award-winning chefs paired with delectable Washington wines. These dinners allow guests to mix and mingle with both the chefs and winemakers while taking in breathtaking views. If a memorable food and wine experience is what you’re after, look no further. There are still a few tickets available to these winemaker dinners.

There are a lot of ways to enjoy the Auction of Washington Wines weekend and none of it would be possible without the help of over 250 volunteers working behind the scenes! It is truly incredible to experience the impact the Washington wine industry is making in our local community and certainly makes every sip even more enjoyable. To learn more about Auction of Washington wines and how you can get involved, visit their website.




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Explore the Craft Beverages of Seattle’s Eastside

Are you thirsty and looking to experience some of the Northwest’s best breweries, distilleries and wineries?

Woodinville, Bellevue, and Kirkland offer the complete experience for those looking to taste craft beverages, and unique offerings at a selection of breweries, lounges and tasting rooms. Cheers!

Bask in the Beauty of the Northwest on Bramble Bump (featured in photo above)
JM Cellars
Address: 14404 137th Place NE, Woodinville

Enjoy limited-release wines from this small, family-owned winery located on Woodinville’s beautiful seven-acre wooded hillside known as Bramble Bump. Using grapes sourced from the best vineyards in Washington, JM Cellars is known for its Bordeaux-style red blends.

Hot tip! Make some time to cozy up by the outdoor fire pit with a glass of wine, or test your skills on the bocce ball court. Plus JM Cellars is dog friendly!

Taste a True American-Made Original from Grain to Glass 
J.P. Trodden Distillery
Address: 18646 142nd Ave NE, Woodinville

J.P. Trodden is a small, family-owned-and-operated distillery in the heart of Woodinville Wine Country. It creates small-batch bourbon whiskey using corn and winter wheat sourced form a family farm just a few hours away, in Quincy, WA. The result is a bold, rich taste with a long finish of caramel, oak, anise and stone fruit.

Hot tip! Call to schedule a private tasting (or drop-in on the weekends), and don’t leave before purchasing a bottle of the 100% pure Vermont maple syrup aged 60 days in used bourbon barrels.

Not Your Grandmother’s Cider
Locust Cider
Address: 19151 144th Avenue NE, Unit B/C, WoodinvilleExplore the Craft Beverages of Seattle’s Eastside

Locust Cider puts an innovative spin on classic cider-making methods to bring out the best in Washington- and Oregon-grown apples. From classic dry cider to unique, limited-edition flavors like Thai ginger or chili pineapple, Locust is a great location for everyone, whether cider novice or aficionado. Stop by on a Sunday to pair your cider with offerings from a rotating lineup of food trucks.

Hot tip! With more than a dozen ciders on the menu, bring a friend so you can each order a flight and try almost every flavor!

Indulge in a Boozy Milkshake
The Hollywood Tavern
Address: 14508 Woodinville-Redmond Road NE, WoodinvilleExplore the Craft Beverages of Seattle’s Eastside

The Hollywood Tavern is a historic wine-country tavern and restaurant featuring inventive craft cocktails, expressive tavern fare and a fun, informal atmosphere. Relax around the fire pit, belly up to the bar or grab a table to enjoy a wide selection of seasonal cocktails, beer and wine. For a unique, sweet adult beverage, try the signature boozy milk shakes made with Woodinville Whiskey.

Hot tip! Order the Nutty Cow: a delicious blend of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, nutella and locally made whiskey from the next-door neighbor.

Grab a Beer after Exploring the Cross Kirkland Corridor Trail
Chainline Brewery
Address: 503 6th Street S., Kirkland

Chainline Brewing Company was founded in 2014 with the singular goal of creating the highest-quality ales and lagers for the discerning craft beer drinker. Located in Kirkland, WA, it was the first brewery to open along the newly minted Cross Kirkland Corridor Trail. Brewing on an 11 Hectoliter copper brewhouse from the Czech Republic allows it to create unique recipes and utilize processes and equipment not often seen on this side of the Atlantic.

Hot tip! Taste the Locust Original Dry Cider made with local apples and featuring citrus and pineapple notes.

Sip Craft Cocktails Inspired by Hemingway
Bottle and Bull
Address: 105 Lake Street S., Kirkland

Experience the travels of Ernest Hemingway through your palette, eating and drinking your way through the cities that Hemingway loved to frequent—Havana, Paris, Florence and Pamplona, to name a few—all in the heart of Kirkland!

Hot tip! Come and enjoy Cascadia G&T made with gin, Alpine liqueur, and JG’s kina syrup and topped off with soda. The beautiful garnishes of seasonal flowers and citrus peels take it over the top!

Go Grand Cru with an Award-Winning Washington Syrah
Maison DeLille Wine Lounge
Address: 15 Lake Street S., Kirkland

DeLille Cellars interprets the classic French styles of Bordeaux, the Rhône Valley and Provence. The winery focuses on the Red Mountain AVA and grape sourcing from Washington’s leading Grand Cru vineyards including Ciel du Cheval, Grand Ciel, Upchurch, Red Willow, Sagemoor, Klipsun, Boushey and Harrison Hill. Sip some of the most celebrated Washington wines at Maison DeLille in the heart of Kirkland. The 95-point Syrah or the Roussane are must-tries, along with anything on the small bites menu. Any three pours are $20. Add $5 if you go for a grand cru selection.

Hot tip! Enjoy $4 off any glass of vintage wine at DeLille’s happy hour, Monday–Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. and weekends from 12 to 6 p.m.

Grab a Pint of Small-Batch Craft Beer
Bellevue Brewing Company
Address: 1820 130th Avenue NE, Bellevue

With their privileged access to superior brewing ingredients and abundant natural resources, Bellevue Brewing Company’s beers are conceived and crafted with respect for the land and natural resources, and in harmony with the adventurous lifestyles enjoyed here in the Pacific Northwest. The small-batch beers use nothing but premium ingredients and a combination of traditional and innovative brewing techniques.

Hot tip! Enjoy the $7 stone-fired pizzas or $3 street tacos during happy hour – one of the best deals in town.

Shop your Way through Old Bellevue
Swiftwater Cellars
Address: 10360 Main Street, Bellevue

The concept of Swiftwater Cellars was born while Don and Lori Watts traveled through Italy and France. Their vision was to create the Northwest’s premier destination winery. Entrepreneur farmers, they founded the winery in 2007 on the very site of the historic Roslyn No. 9 coal mine, which operated from 1930 to 1963 and now lies in the heart of Central Washington’s Suncadia Resort. The wines found at the Old Bellevue tasting room and restaurant are sourced from vineyards throughout Washington State.

Hot tip! Check out the patio right on Main Street in Old Bellevue during the warm weather months; it’s a great place to enjoy a glass of Swiftwater Cellar’s Zephry Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, or its popular grilled cheese sandwich with apricot jam—YUM!

A Swanky Nightcap Featuring Local Spirits
Civility & Unrest
Address: 10455 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue

The drinks at Civility & Unrest, located in the W Bellevue hotel, are created from a large selection of locally made spirits and curated to form interesting departures from the cocktail culture of days past. Drinks are paired with Northwest-inspired small plates at this swank lounge with a modern speakeasy ambiance.

Hot tip! Arrive right at 4pm for happy hour and to secure a coveted seat in this cozy bar.

For more information about breweries, distilleries and wineries visit:

Bellevue – http://www.visitbellevuewashington.com/things-to-do/wine-beer-spirits/
Kirkland – http://www.explorekirkland.com/Do/Tours_Wine_Tasting.htm
Woodinville – https://woodinvillewinecountry.com



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Woodinville Winery Grows From Deep Roots

Freddy Arrendondo, Winemaker of Cave B Estate Winery, loves working in what he considers the sweet spot of Washington state. The Cave B vineyards are in the Ancient Lakes AVA near the Columbia Valley, right in the middle of the state, and Arrendondo says it’s a location that was initially overlooked. “It was thought to be too far north, but with our change in climate, we’re able to easily ripen fruit,” says Arrendondo.

Cave B was born from a vision of Carol and Vince Bryan, who, in the late 1970s, purchased hundreds of acres on the cliffs above the Columbia River. The Bryans planted vines and opened Champs de Brionne Winery in 1980, establishing the first vineyard in the area. To draw visitors to their winery, the Bryans created an outdoor concert venue on the property and built what soon became know as The Gorge Ampitheater. They eventually sold The Gorge and closed Champs de Brionne, but the Bryans wisely kept hold of the vineyards.

Fast forward to 2000 and the launch of Cave B. Those vineyards on breathtaking cliffs are now producing 17 varieties of grapes that Arrendondo uses to make more than 20 different wines. “I am focused on quality, trying to give the fruit its due.”

Arrendondo’s background as a chef has been indispensable in making wines that lend themselves to food. “Our wines are higher in acidity, lower in alcohol. To me, wine is a food. It’s not something that you drink for the effect. It’s something that you drink for the flavor and for the experience, for the times with friends and family.”



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Woodinville Winemaker Reaches New Fans With Ashton Troy

We recently caught up with Kit Singh, to talk about his new second label.

First, for those who aren’t familiar with Lauren Ashton, can you please tell us how you got into winemaking in the first place?

I’m a dentist by profession, but took some time years ago to explore wine regions of France as well as spending time in Napa and Sonoma. In 2009, I created Lauren Ashton Cellars.

Lauren Ashton Cellars was inspired by my two children, Ashley Lauren and Ashton Troy. I also wanted to reflect on my wife Riinu’s heritage by branding our labels with photographs showcasing the beautiful small country in Europe, Estonia.

My viticulture and enology education includes taking classes at South Seattle Community College and at the University of California at Davis. I interned at South Seattle Community College, Seattle and DeLille Cellars in Woodinville, Washington and taught wine science at South Seattle Community College.

I’m a hands-on operator. I look at where the grapes are coming from and want to express the grapes themselves with little intervention. I believe you have to start with great grapes, you have to taste the grapes often and guide the grapes through the vinification process.

How do you manage to have a pretty demanding day job and make wine, too? When do you find time to sleep?

I’ve had my dental practice, Eastside Dental, for over a decade, and am lucky to have a group of patients who know and trust me as their Dentist. We take appointments there Monday – Thursday, leaving Friday available for me to spend time at the winery. I have a remarkable team at Lauren Ashton Cellars that helps make us successful, including my wife Riinu, who runs our Woodinville tasting studio, our wine club, and so much more.

I could say something clichéd like “Sleep? What is sleep?” But truly I love what I do so it doesn’t feel like work (too often.) I come home when I’ve done what I feel like I set out to accomplish for the day, spend the evening with Riinu and Ashton, usually enjoying Riinu’s incredible home-cooking, take Ashton to ice hockey or soccer or night skiing (depending on the season), maybe catch a Yoga class, then after Ashton is in bed, I’m back to work for a few hours, finishing up anything that will help the next day be another productive one. Sleep comes next, and I try not to miss a night.

What’s the background on how this new project happened?

Yes – Ashton Troy Wines, our second label! This whole story started with my son Ashton (age 8) wanting his own label! We wanted it to be recognizable with the Lauren Ashton Cellars brand as well. We used Ashton’s first and middle name, then used Troy and a play-on-words to come up with the Trojan horse.

Our hope is that the two labels side by side are distinct, but also have the look and feel of the same family of wines.

When thinking about the label and the wine itself, I wanted everything to be inspired by Ashton. These wines are playful, full of energy and warmth, all attributes that Ashton embodies. He’s a very thoughtful kid and the wine takes inspiration from him as a child.

How does that look in the marketplace? Will it be easy for your fans to find?

We designed Ashton Troy Wines to bring to local, regional and national restaurants and help find a new fan base to learn to know and love Lauren Ashton Cellars. Ashton Troy Wines are designed exclusively for the restaurant market and were designed to be bold and stand up to restaurant flavors. The robust reds pair well with meats or red sauces. The wines have brilliant aromatics for the discerning restauranteur. When dining out, please ask the restaurant if they carry Ashton Troy Wines or wines from Lauren Ashton Cellars. If they don’t currently, maybe your request will encourage them to take a look!

Anything else you’re thinking about doing in the near future?

Can you keep a secret? I’ve been considering a sparkling wine and maybe a sparkling Rosé too. We also have some exciting things we’re planning for wine club member events and public events – but too early to spill the details there.

Guest Writer: Leslie Kelly




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The Why, When and How of Wine Blending

Wine Enthusiast
June 13, 2018

The majority of the wines you drink are blends, but why do winemakers blend and what does each variety bring to the final wine? Washington State winemakers tell us their tricks.

“I love blending,” says Ben Smith co-owner Cadence Winery. “It’s one of the two times a year—along with harvest—I actually feel like I’m making wine.”

Almost all wines are blends of some sort. Some might be a blend of different barrels, vineyards or blocks of a single variety. Others might be a blend of different appellations or varieties.

But why do winemakers blend?

“The art of blending, to me, is to take individual pieces and make the sum of what you’re blending better than those individual pieces you started out with,” says Mike Macmorran, winemaker, of Mark Ryan Winery.

Once grapes are in the winery during harvest, winemakers immediately start evaluating what they have, tasting first each fermenter and then barrel, keeping notes, rating and ranking along the way.

“I start building a map,” says Kevin White, proprietor and winemaker of Kevin White Winery. “I know this combination may work well because I’ve got earthiness here and bright fruit here and structure there and I’m going to get spice here. Five times out of ten, it was interesting in theory but didn’t work out, but the other five times it can be kind of interesting.”

The point at which winemakers decide to start blending varies. “I actually feel like the earlier you can get the wines blended, the more complexity you’re going to have in a youthful wine,” says White. He prefers to blend some of his wines immediately after fermentation is complete, while others he blends six months after harvest.

Others start much later. Macmorran typically blends wines 14 months after harvest. “It gives you more opportunity to taste the wines longer as an individual part,” he says.

Once winemakers start blending, they pull samples from a selection of barrels, and out come the pipettes and graduated cylinders, with winemakers often making 100 milliliter sample blends.

Many winemakers will start by making what is referred to as a ‘base blend,’ which will be the foundation of the wine.

“If I’m starting with our Cabernet-based blend, I’ll put together a really good Cab blend which will end up being 60–65% of the final wine,” says Brian Carter, winemaker and managing partner, of Brian Carter Cellars. “Then I look at increasing complexity and increasing balance by adding other varieties. If I add too many other things that it no longer tastes like Cabernet, then I’ve gone too far.”>>>Read the entire article on Wine Enthusiast



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