404 error - MadWine.com

Yealands Estate: Endless Views, Vines, and Wines

Rolling Hills
Spent a wonderful long afternoon tasting wines and touring the impressive property at Yealands, outside of Seddon in the Marlborough region of New Zealand. I was truly awestruck by the amount of vines planted here; the above view just hints at what’s going on. Driving into the winery, it’s an unbroken, endless vista of vineyards as far as the eye can see.

The Winery

This is your first view of the winery. What’s more impressive than the structure is what’s going on inside and out. “Sustainability” is buzz word thrown around a lot in the wine business, and business in general, but I’m not sure there is a winery with a bigger commitment than Yealands. I won’t bore you with details, but just illustrate a few small examples:

Yealands Trio

Wetlands to capture rainfall, 350kg-worth of bailed vine prunings burned for fuel, and sheep instead of tractors to “mow” between rows of vines. (Note that these are a special miniature breed of sheep that are not tall enough to reach the grapes!)

Once again I have been distracted by the scenery in New Zealand (don’t worry, more photos to follow), but allow me to focus on the wines. While I tried a myriad of bottles, I want to focus on my two favorites that also happened to be the most intriguing as well. (Honorable Mention goes to the Tempranillo.)

Duo of Yealands

The Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc was a revelation. Take everything you love about zesty, lively, thirst-slaking Sauvignon Blanc and add bubbles. I could drink an ocean of this stuff! This needs to make its way to the States, posthaste! Great Gewurztraminer, too. I couldn’t get over the gorgeous ginger aromas and flavors; light and fresh without that oily bluntness of some Gewurtz.

And now back to the views. Here’s a shot looking back at the winery:

Looking Back on the Winery

And when you turn around, it’s the ocean:

The Ocean

Now where’s my well-chilled bottle of Sparkling Sauv Blanc?!?

Yealands View

New Zealand: Stunning Views, Wines to Match

Te Whau Vineyard
Greetings from New Zealand! The guy who picked us up from the airport in Auckland has become like a God to me. First he recommends we have dinner at the O’Connell Street Bistro in downtown Auckland, which was charming, cozy, and delicious; a restaurant staffed by a friendly and quietly brilliant lot who steered me towards excellent wines from Hawkes Bay. (More on that meal and those wines to come.) Second he tells us to check out the wines on Waiheke Island. Huh? Sure I’ve heard of Marlborough and the Otago, but drawing a blank here. Since it involved a ferry ride to an island, how bad could it be? Turns out it was aces.

The first two wineries we visited had some wines that ranged from ho-hum to adequate. Fortunately, the best was saved for last: Te Whau Vineyard. Can you believe how gorgeous this place is?!? The top photo is a shot of the steep vineyards planted to Bordeaux varietals. The slope is so perilous that the grapes must be hand-harvested as, even in 2011, there is no machine that could do such a job. (Though if I had to turn my back on that view to pick grapes, I’m not sure how much progress I’d make.) And if you’re wondering about the netting, it keeps grape-decimating birds away from the fruit. Anyway, let’s go inside and check out the restaurant and tasting bar, shall we?

Always nice to pull up a stool and gaze out at this:

View from the Bar

Or maybe you’d rather sit down at a table with someone special. Hell, with this view, even someone not-so-special:

View from the Cafe

Get to the wines already! Sorry, distracted.

The Point

We tasted two vintages (06, 07) of Te Whau’s signature Bordeaux blend, The Point. It’s a Cab-heavy mix of Merlot, Cab Franc, and Malbec. Both were very, very good. The 2006 was a little riper and richer than the more finessed 2007. If I was served these wines blind I would have said Bordeaux. Though I would have been wrong (nooooooo!), I took solace in noting the surrounding evidence suggested that I was at least philosophically on the right track:

Mouton Fan

And big cheers to proprietor Tony Forsyth. He gave the most informative, educational, humorous, down-to-earth, and passionate talk about wine and Te Whau, specifically.

Tony Forsyth

From now on when someone mentions how so-and-so is “Living the Dream”, I am going to think of Tony. He’s probably sitting out on the patio, enjoying some food, some wine, and life right about now.

Restaurant Deck

Drinking Local: Whidbey Island Winery

cochon whidbey 197
There is an unbridled enthusiasm here in Seattle and beyond for local eating and drinking. If you’re living in these parts and really want to drink local, look no further than the wines made from grapes grown right on Puget Sound at Whidbey Island Winery. Though the grapes may have unfamiliar names (Sigerrebe, Madeline Angevine, Madeline Sylvaner, anybody?) the wines are light, refreshing, and full of charm. A good place to start is with the Island White, a blend of Madeleine Sylvaner and Madeleine Angevine. The Siegerrebe offers a little more complexity and richness. And though both of these whites have a touch of residual sugar, they are thirst-quenching and not cloying. If you’re looking for something completely dry, check out the Madeline Angevine; it’s the liveliest of the bunch. This trio of whites would all go great with seafood and spicy fare. Try steaming up some local Penn Cove Mussels with Madeline Angevine.

I would be remiss if I did not point out that the winery makes a full compliment of reds from grapes brought in from Eastern Washington; stylistically they are light on oak influence and moderate in alcohol. The Italian varietals are especially promising; don’t miss out on the Dolcetto. And the unfortunately named Lemberger is a must for any Pinot Noir fan; serve it blind and you will win converts. I also got a tank sample of a rosé made from Lemberger and Sangiovese (!) that was dry and delicious.

Not only are the wines charming, but the location is idyllic and contemplative. Let’s take a tour!

Here’s the winery:

whidbey 216

The vineyards:

Whidbey Island Winery Vineyards

The entrance gate to the vineyards:

cochon whidbey 215

Some pruning work:


Winemaker Greg and Assistant Winemaker Leah posing for the camera:

cochon whidbey 239

Future bottlings of Merlot and Roussanne:

Barrel and Tank

Winery Cat Sangiovese scares the hell out of poor Dioggi:

Winery Cat and Dog

Good use of leftover wine barrels:

whidbey 228

So have you had any Puget Sound whites before? Check out the information for a whole host of wineries courtesy of the Puget Sound Wine Growers Association.

Cochon 555 Seattle: Wine and Pork Galore

Buty and Bacon

What can I say about Cochon 555 in Seattle? A lot. But I’ll let the photos do most of the talking. Not only was there Buty and bacon, but also delicious wines from K Vintners, Domaine Serene, and Syncline:

Cochon 555 Wines

Charles Smith of K Vintners was on hand to pour the Phil Lane Syrah:

cochon 555 032

The hacksaw came out for a butchering demo courtesy of Tracy Smaciarz from Heritage Meats:

cochon 555 084

The menu of Spinasse and Chef Jason Stratton plating:

Spinasse at Cochon 555 Seattle

Here’s the skin and ear salad with cherry bomb chiles:

cochon 555 157

The trio of offerings from Lark:

Lark Trio of Pork

And here’s what they looked like. Are you hungry yet?


There was palate-cleansing beer courtesy of Charles Finkel from Pike Brewing. (Where do I get one of those beer-dispensing backpacks?)

cochon 555 137

Cafe Juanita had a menu both instructive and delicious:

Cafe Juanita

Of course there was dessert:

cochon 555 144

How did Ethan Stowell color his ravioli dough? The secret was pig blood.

Ethan Stowell Ravioli

Joule had wonderful sauces to accompany their roasted pork. I had the one on the left with serrano chiles and fish sauce. (At least that’s what I thought it was. Regardless, it was fantastic.)

Array of Sauces by Joule/Revel

Thanks for being awesome, Cochon 555. See you next year?

Cuts of Pork

Full disclosure: Cochon 555 provided me with a ticket to this event.

Still Life With Rosé

Seattle Restaurant Sitka & Spruce in Capitol Hill

Ah Seattle, such a bizarre day from you Wednesday. A sunny afternoon, bright light streaming through the windows of Sitka & Spruce. Then I return to Esquin and barely escape a torrential downpour. No matter, I’m still glowing from a lovely lunch with fantastic French wines from importer Kermit Lynch.

The pictured rosé, the 2010 Domaine Fontsainte Gris de Gris, was actually a tank sample, thus the DIY vintage labeling. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it’s ready to go. Looking forward to the arrival of this rosé in about a month or so. I also really enjoyed the red wines Fontsainte produces in the Corbieres region of France. What was most interesting about these wines is that they go through a process called carbonic maceration. I know, it sounds a little…unsettling. But without getting bogged down in details, it’s a process most widely used in Beaujolais that helps produce very fresh, fruity, and lively reds. Do not fear the carbonic maceration!

Speaking of Beaujolais, we also sampled a few offerings from Domaine Dupeuble. Like the Fontsainte rosé, we tasted a few 2010 wines that were samples yet to be officially bottled. I had a similar reaction: “These are tank samples?!?” Could have fooled me. The 2010 Blanc, made of Chardonnay, was lively and bracing like a good Chablis; the Gamay, ready for a slight chill and to be passed around the table.

So are you ready for rosé yet?

Thank you to Kermit Lynch, Domaine Fontsainte, Domaine Dupeuble, and Cavatappi for providing lunch and the wines.

Mark Ryan Winery: Black and White Photo Love

1928 Indian Scout

While Mark and I sure had fun eating pizza, drinking beer, and talking wine at Big Mario’s, there was a lack of tasting wine. So on a recent trip out to Woodinville I was determined to rectify that situation.

First, a little bad news:

Last Vintage

Noooooooooo! I knew this was coming, but seeing that 2009 will be the last vintage of Chardonnay was a serious bummer; it was probably my favorite from Washington. I loved how the oak provided richness and structure, without turning the wine into a liquid 2×4.

Tasting at Mark Ryan

Rolled through an impressive lineup post-Chardonnay trauma. I have a similar, though not as fan-boy, fondness for the Viognier for the relatively light-handed style of production. (Brief rant: too much domestic Viognier just tastes like oaked-up, super-heavy, oily Chardonnay. And nothing stateside comes close to Condrieu, the supreme ruler of aromatically sumptuous Viognier.) My favorite reds were the accesible-now 2008 Dissident (a Columbia Valley Cab/Syrah/Merlot blend) and the 2007 Water Witch (a Klipsun Vineyard Cab/Merlot blend).

Dead Horse Club

I was then unfairly teased by these wooden six-packs containing wines only for the lucky few members of the Dead Horse Club. (Sounds like a biker gang name or something.) Contact the winery if you want to get on the waiting list.

1928 Indian Scout

And here’s a ubiquitous shot of me posing in front of this ultra-cool 1928 Indian Scout. Don’t worry Mark, I didn’t touch it. Nor did I spill any wine on it. (None that didn’t wipe up pretty easily.)

Special thanks to Joan for being a lovely and gracious host at the tasting room.

Woodinville Wine Tasting: Pictures of Ross Andrew (and Bud Light)

Ross Andrew Lineup

What a pleasure to taste through a lineup of very understated* wines from Ross Andrew Mickel. Though only slightly visible on the left in the above photo, I have designated porch-pounding status upon the 2009 Pinot Gris. More Pinot Grigio (light, fresh, gulpable) than Pinot Gris (oily, heavy), it’s a Washington wine that should be on hand, and well-chilled, in your residence at all times.

Other charming touches at Ross Andrew? I enjoy the unwavering enthusiasm for the consumption of large bottles, especially when full of the excellent 2008 Boushey Syrah. There is a great program in place to encourage drinking those big bottles rather than tucking them away in some deep, dark cellar never to see the light of day or to fill a glass:

Ross Andrew Growler

Oh, and maybe you would be concerned how to safely pour such a giant bottle? On display is a custom-made (though not for sale) apparatus of a certain genius. Not only an engineering feat, and an example of DIY ingenuity, this invention uses leftover wine barrel parts for its construction. You can see how the wine seeps into the staves: functional and educational!

Ross Andrew Wooden Pourer

Wait, I haven’t explained the Bud Light! If you recall a scorcher of a summer a few years back, a birthday party for one of Ross’s friends not only demanded well-chilled Meadow, but light beer as well. And, naturally, like all winemakers, Ross realizes that it takes a lot of beer to make good wine. Therefore, a photograph to immortalize that event and a reminder to all who pass through the door that the people who make and drink wine don’t have to be so serious.

How To Stay Cool In Woodinville

So now that I’ve crossed Ross Andrew off my list, where next in Woodinville?

*I must give credit to Kirsten at the tasting room for providing me with the one word that I though perfectly and thoughtfully summed up the wines.

Curious About Portuguese Wine

Encosta dos Curiosos Portugal WineI’ll admit for quite a while I was only familiar with two wines coming out of Portugal: Port (duh) and Vinho Verde. But there is a whole host of new and exciting Portuguese wines that need to get their due. Like the Encosta dos Curiosos, which I am now decreeing as My Official House Wine.

What do I love about the Encosta dos Curiosos (EC)? Well, it satisfies my penchant for the obscure and unusual. I can’t say that I’ve had a wine that was a blend of these four grapes:

  • Castelao
  • Tinta Miuda
  • Alicante Bouschet
  • Aragones

The EC also defied my shopworn stereotype of Portuguese reds. I always found them to be rustic, and I’m using rustic as a euphemism for hard-as-nails, tannic, and barnyard-y. (Clearly I was a Portuguese wine dilettante.) But the Encosta was light, refreshing, and gulpable. At only 12.5% alcohol, the EC’s easy-going personality can play nice with a variety of everyday foods from burgers to pasta. And possibly a steak, especially if it was in taco form. Wash down some carne asada with a slightly chilled bottle of EC!

And with so much to love about the EC, what was the clincher to making it my house red? The astoundingly low price: 6 bucks. Take a flier on a bottle and come back for a case. (Before I buy it all myself.)

So what is your house wine?

2008 Bordeaux: We Do The Hard Work

bordeaux wine 2008Not to be outdone by my tasting in an ornate hotel ballroom, our Arnie Millan recently attended a whirlwind tasting of the 2008 Bordeaux vintage. Here is his report:

I flew into San Francisco last for an intensive tasting of top Bordeaux from the 2008 vintage. The Union of Grand Cru de Bordeaux put on this tasting of 100 top estates. It’s almost easier to list who wasn’t there: all the five First Growths (Mouton, Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Haut Brion), Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Petrus and other high priced exotica of that ilk.

Alas, we were to taste only the other remaining top classified, or otherwise renowned, estates and have the rare opportunity to meet the Chateaux’s owners; people whom we only heretofore knew by name, mentioned in print in somewhat hushed tones. How cool is that? And they were all pleasant and unpretentious.

Overall, this is an excellent vintage which favored the Right Bank (Pomerol, then Saint-Emilion) and the estates of the Médoc, particularly Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Margaux. These wines are drinking well now and I think they’ll show even better with age.

The biggest disappointment was the wines of Graves and Pessac-Léognan. They did not show well at this tasting. I hope age will be kind to them. This was the only region from which we tasted dry whites. The superior white was from Château Pape-Clément followed by Domaine Chevalier. One of my favorite estates there is Smith Haut Lafitte but the wines were disappointing, especially after tasting Pape-Clément immediately beforehand. On the plus side, I was able to meet and chat with the charming proprietress Florence Cathiard and her husband.

My list of the top wines of the tasting must start with Pomerol’s Château La Conseillante and Pauillac’s 2nd Growth Pichon Baron (de Longueville). They were extraordinary and smoked the rest of the pack. They were both distinguished by a vibrancy, a depth and complexity of flavor which was transparent and fresh. Amazing.

Other top wines were Les Ormes de Pez, a Saint-Estephe I tasted with Sylvie Cazes whose family owns this estate along with Lynch-Bages (tasted but not as good) and whose brother is the famed Jean-Michel Cazes. What a lovely, unassuming person!

bordeaux wine 2008Also, I enjoyed Saint-Émilion’s Pavie Maquin with owner Nicolas Thienpont (right), whose family also owns Pomerol’s elite Le Pin. Canon La Gaffelière was delicious, represented by the irrepressible and perpetually grinning Count Stephan von Niepperg (see below, dressed in amazing style).

bordeaux wine 2008A surprise was the Médoc’s Chateau La Tour de By. This is an obscure small estate whose inexpensive wine was first-rate. Here are the others I enjoyed, not already mentioned:


Léoville-Poyferré, Léoville-Barton, Talbot, Branaire-Ducru, Lagrange, Beychevelle, Gruaud-Larose and Saint-Pierre


D’Armailhac, Clerc-Milon, Grand Puy-Ducasse, Haut-Bages Libéral, Pichon-Lalande

Rauzan-Segla, Brane-Catenac, Giscours, Kirwan, Lascombes


Clinet, Gazin

Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
Angelus, Canon, Clos Fourtet, Figeac, Larcis Ducasse, Troplong Mondot

So those are Arnie’s thoughts on the 08 vintage. Do you have any questions for Arnie about Bordeaux?

VINO 2011: The Grand Tasting

VINO 2011 Grand Tasting

It’s here: the big finish to the three-day Italian wine extravaganza that is VINO 2011. A tasting of wines so deep, so enormous, and so loaded with every type of wine imaginable (reds, whites, rosés, sparklers, dessert) that I desperately needed this map:

VINO 2011 Grand Tasting Map

Once again, navigating your way through an event like this requires strategic planning. My first order of business was to hustle to the Allegrini table to see my friend Robin.

Robin Shay of Allegrini

Not only is he a dapper and charming fellow, he happens to represent two of my favorite Italian wines. Pictured is the Amarone, which for a wine of such concentration, richness, and strength somehow finishes with an elegance belying its brawny profile. And I wouldn’t dare step away from the table without trying what I consider to be an iconic wine of the Veneto: La Poja. It’s a single-vineyard, 100% Corvina that you need to get into your glass ASAP. (I’d be remiss if I also didn’t mention that Robin knows where the best pizza in New York is: Kesté. Check out this review with great photos from one of my absolute favorite food blogs, John and Elana Talk About Food. But I digress….)

So where did I go from here? I decided that I just was going to try totally unfamiliar wines. Like this late-harvest Primitivo from Cignomoro. It was a sweet, but not cloying, red wine that I would love with some fromage blanc cheesecake or blue cheese. (I dig the labels, too.)

Primitivo Dolce

Or how about a Passerina from the Marche? Made by Domodimonti, it’s a crisp and dry white. And I really liked their Pecorino (not the cheese, the grape) which had a nice richness from oak aging and would be great with heartier seafood dishes.

The Wines of Domodimonti

Needing a break from wine, I wandered over to the area of the tasting I call “Aperitif Alley.” (Or possibly more accurate, the “Digestive Detour.”) Loveliest was a beautiful anise liqueur from Varnelli, pictured on the left. I adore the flavor of black licorice, especially in clear alcoholic form.


This post was composed in the VINO 2011 Press Room, and greatly aided by the genius-in-a-pouch combo of espresso, sugar, and Varnelli over ice.

Genius in a Pouch

Full disclosure: The Italian Trade Commission has provided my transportation and accommodations.


Product was successfully added to your shopping cart.

« Continue shopping
Checkout »

huston we have a problem

« Continue shopping
© 2016 Mad Wine™ All Rights Reserved by Esquin Wine Merchants. logos