Friday night, I grabbed a sneak peek at some Woodinville Passport parties and release parties at Cuillin Hills Winery, DesVoigne Cellars, Patterson Cellars,  Pondera Winery and William Church Winery. It was a great evening without crowds and plenty of time to talk directly with the wine makers.

Cuillin Hills Winery

Derek DesVoigne was pouring, the tunes were rockin’ and the stories of drinking in far off lands abounded. Derek was pouring the four wines in current release: 2008 Riff Raff, 2008 Cabernet Franc, 2007 Dungeon and 2007 Shackled. It was my first tasting of the Riff-Raff and the Cabernet Franc. The Riff Raff is the Cuillin Hills table red blend and priced to sell at $19. I was impressed with the Cab Franc from Wahluke Slope, it is a bit tight so I would let it lie a bit or decant it. Well worth the wait.

DesVoigne Cellars

Darren DesVoigne was  pouring two new releases for a private party: 2009 Menina Flor and a new red blend 2008 The Groove. The Menina Flor is a Viognier Rousanne blend. The nose is floral and fruity with sweet aromas that trick you into thinking that this might be a sweet white wine. Instead, the palate is refreshing green apple, Bosc pear and a hint of citrus. Barrel fermented, this white wine has a bit of body and creamy, not cloying mouth feel and finish. The Groove is a red Bordeaux table blend,  predominantly from Pepper Bridge Vineyard Merlot. Surprising depth and complexity in a table blend at this price point. Both The Menina Flor and The Groove retail for $20/bottle or $200/case.

Patterson Cellars

Pre-passport party at Patterson Cellars included pours of the 2009 Patterson Cellars Chardonnay, 2006 Patterson Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon and the newly released 2009 Patterson Cellars Late Harvest Roussanne. Volterra was serving a sumptuous creamy buckwheat risotto with oxtail ragout that was a terrific match with the Cabernet Sauvignon. John Patterson took the time to talk to me about his first late harvest wine. The 2009 Patterson Cellars Late Harvest Roussanne was crafted from Rousanne grapes that were allowed to hang until mid November. The natural degradation and dehydration concentrated the fruit flavors and sugars. John opted to use 1 year French oak barrels for aging and kept the wood contact to only four months to protect the fruit from becoming overwhelmed by the oak. This is fruit forward and reminiscent of the inside of a pear tart. I get lots of sweet fruit and baking spice. John watched the fermentation process carefully to create an ideal alcohol, sugar, acid balance. It is undeniably a sweet wine at 17.5% residual sugar but retains enough acidity to prevent the wine from tasting syrupy. Although many dessert wines are high alcohol, this one clocks in at a respectable 11.5%. I could serve this to my guests for dessert and not feel like I need to hand out pillows to let them sleep it off.


Ponderas is another winery making the move to Woodinville. They just opened their tasting room next to DesVoigne Cellars and are in the process of moving their production facility into that space as well. Shane Howard took us through a full line up of their current releases. After a full evening of wine tasting, it takes something special to really capture your attention. The 2006 Melvado grabbed my attention at the first sniff and held it through the last sip in my glass. It was one of the few wines that I didn’t do the whole sip, spit dump routine. The Melvaldo is basically a Bordeaux blend with some Sangiovese added in. It is an exceptional blend with layers of flavors that evolve over the palate. The fruit persists from the nose through the finish. Persistent fruit and sturdy tannic structure suggest that this wine will age exceptionally well but it is really drinkable right now. This is definitely a wine you want to buy at least two bottles of, one to drink now and one to age.

William Church Winery

William Church Winery released their new Cabernet Sauvignon called Bad Habit. Assistant Wine maker Marcus Rafanelli tells me this Washington Cabernet is sourced from Gamache  and Chandler Reach Vineyards.  This Cabernet is still a bit tight, Rod Balsley suggests that you decant the wine or open it up a couple of hours in advance.  At only $17/bottle this food friendly wine is designed to be your “Tuesday night” wine.  William Church Winery was also pouring pre-release tastes of their 2009 Viognier. This vintage is sweeter than last year’s Viognier. The nose is loaded with tropical fruit and honey. The flavors are fruit forward with honey drizzled on top. It isn’t as sweet as the first time I tasted it a month ago and I am curious to how it will continue to evolve when it is released next month.