After months of planning, research and blogging, the lucky winners of the WBC or Bust Road Trip to Walla Walla Wine Bloggers contest began their journey across Washington state. Bloggers, along with a small group of traditional media and PR professionals, got on the bus from the Renaissance hotel to begin their road trip on Wednesday morning. The journey began in Woodinville with a tour of Chateau Ste Michelle and a food and wine pairing presentation. After their morning presentations, judges of the WBC or Bust contest were invited to join the contest winners at a Grand Tasting of Woodinville wines at the Willows Lodge.

Willows Lodge

Willows Lodge Tasting

The Willows Lodge, one of the contest sponsors, was the host for the Grand Tasting of Woodinville wineries. We picked up our wine glasses inside the luxurious (Northwestern style luxury) lobby and strolled through to the sunny patio where the wine makers awaited us. This was a unique experience where this lucky group got to taste select wines poured from the wine makers in intimate setting. With a small audience, the wine makers could share their stories behind their wineries and their wines.

BetZ Winery

Carmen and Bob Betz

Being a local, it might not be a surprise that I had never been in the iconic Willows Lodge. I can easily drive home to my own bed after a day of enjoying Woodinville wines. Not only was this a new location for me but I also had the opportunity to meet some legendary Washington wine makers for the first time. One of the highlights of the day was meeting Carmen and Bob Betz while sampling their yet to be released Cabernet Sauvignon and their recently released Syrah. The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Père de Famille although young, has all of the signs of evolving into a truly special wine. Dense, complex and elegant this powerhouse Cabernet will evolve as it continues to open up and integrate. Tight now, the occasional sharp edge just hints at the aging potential of this wine while allowing glimpses of luxurious dark fruit, cedar and dark chocolate. More potential aromas and flavors flirt with us and I am sure will make their appearance when they are ready to make their entrance.

Nuclear Blonde Chardonnay from Barrage Cellars was a great way to start my tasting adventure on a sunny Seattle day. The patio was hot but this Chardonnay was cool refreshment with a smooth body and a satisfying finish.  When I saw that the Abracadabra Rosé from Brian Carter Wines was available, I made sure to make my way over to their table. I first raved about this pink beauty at Rosé Revival and my love affair with this rosé has not faded. Clean, crisp with beautiful fruit and acid balance, it truly is a beauty.

Jay Soloff, DeLille Cellars

Discussing DeLille and Doyenne wines

Next, I tried the newly released Doyenne 2009 Rosé. This is an old world style rosé with restrained and elegant fruit and a full body, making it an ideal food wine.  Fruit and herb notes marry to create a more complex rosé that seduces you to linger over your glass.  I had the pleasure of meeting DeLille Cellars co-owner, Jay Soloff who introduced me to the Doyenne 2007 Syrah. This Syrah is an elegant combination of old world style wine making with the distinctive fruit characteristics of Red Mountain. Crafted with clone 99 Syrah to enhance the bacon and meaty characteristics of Syrah, this Washington Syrah is a blend from five vineyards, including  2% Viognier to enhance the floral aromatics.  Fermented with 40% wild yeast, this wine provokes mystery. Complex and meaty with beautiful black fruit and white pepper, this Syrah has a bold tannic structure that hints at its ability to age. I would let this wine rest a bit longer before opening to truly appreciate it. The DeLille Cellars 2006 Grand Ciel Cabernet Sauvignon is a prized jewel in the prestigious crown of Delille wines. This single vineyard wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Grand Ciel Vineyard on Red Mountain. This is a big, bold Cabernet redolent of complex black fruits and with milk chocolate and dried cherry on the finish.  Bold flavors are layered with assertive tannins that will continue to integrate with age. This wine is to buy now before this exceptional vintage is gone, but recommend to cellar it for at least a year or two before opening.

Participating Wineries

Although 2007 might be the vintage getting the most buzz for Washington wines in general, when it comes to Malbec, 2008 is a stellar vintage. Both Hollywood Hills Vineyards and William Church Winery were pouring their 2008 Malbec full of blueberry and a hint of smoke on the nose. The tannins are assertive and come close to overpowering the fruit on the Hollywood Hills Malbec, which has an almost chewy and dense mouth feel. The tannins are much softer on the William Church Malbec and it is lighter in body and color. These wines showed the delicious diversity of Washington Malbec, from inky dark, dense and chewy to deep amethyst colored and fruit forward.

Northwest Totem Cellars had released their latest Cabernet Sauvignon last weekend but I couldn’t make the release party (Look for Vivian’s review soon!) I made sure to taste this WashingtonCabernet during the Grand Tasting. I also made sure to taste the Des Voigne Cellars Montreaux Syrah on my way out as well. I had a good time introducing the Beer Wench to Des Voigne Cellars where she fell in love with The Duke, their Zinfandel blend.

Contest Winners

We have more pictures from the Grand Tasting on our facebook album.