Cote Bonneville Sunnyside, WA

We stumbled upon Cote Bonneville on our way home from a trip to Red Mountain and were absolutely delighted with what we found. The tasting room is an old train station that has been transformed into a wonderfully intimate space – perfect for savoring their wines.

It really is a family business. The grapes are from the 45-acre DuBrul Vineyard. Kathy and Hugh Shiels planted their vineyard in 1992 on the site of a former apple orchard. Kerry Shiels is the winemaker for Cote Bonneville. She attended UC Davis and has worked in Argentina, Australia and Napa learning all aspects of wine making.

On the day we visited, Alex was pouring for us. She was terrific. Quite knowledgeable and anything she didn’t know; she was willing to look up. Alex gave us lots of information about the winery, the vineyard and each wine as we tasted it. We loved her enthusiasm. The day we were there, another couple from Germany was visiting and we had such fun watching them have fun. At the end of our tasting, Kerry came in and it was such a treat to be able to chat with the winemaker.

Kerry told u that she has always enjoyed working with wine. She made her first bottle of wine for her 7th grade science project. I’m sure that she passed with flying colors. She proudly told us about her all-female crew and her eleven-year-old niece who has already decided she will be the winemaker when Kerry retires. You have to love a family like that!

The tasting fee is $20 which is refunded with a purchase of $100 or more.We tasted the following wines:

2022 Riesling – A bit sweet, but not too much – just right. Not usually a white wine drinker but I did get a couple of bottles of this beautiful wine. $25/bottle
2022 Cabernet Franc Rose’ -This Cab Fran wine is bright and playful. Very nice bottle for the price. I surprised myself and also purchased this. $33/bottle
2018 Carriage House – A Bordeaux-style blend of Cab Sav, Merlot & Cab Franc. This might be a good bottle to lay down in the cellar for a bit to mellow. $56/bottle
2020 Syrah – Herby with a bit of a tart finish – $70/bottle
2015 Cote Bonneville – This bold Cab Sav / Merlot blend has an intense fruitiness with layers of minerality. $125/bottle
I was really surprised at how much I liked Cote Bonneville’s white and rose wines. I am usually a red wine girl through and through but these were delicious and I wanted to take them home to share with my white wine loving friends. It was a gorgeous day; the tasting room was charming and you really have to love the folks who work there. Definitely worth a visit.

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Plain Cellars

Last weekend we had the pleasure of discovering Plain Cellars. I had never heard of them before, but while staying with friends at their cabin, they suggested we give it a try.

The place was packed when we got there but we still managed to sit on the outdoor patio.

A very good band was playing and they also had a food truck called “Taste Of Plain”. The food truck had such yummy items such as Sweet Chili Shrimp Tacos, BBQ Pork Stacked Baked Potatoes and Vanilla Pudding Cake with Expresso.

We ordered a glass of 2019 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and a bottle of the 2018 Petite Syrah to share. The Petite Syrah was outstanding.

The next day we went into Leavenworth for lunch and saw that Plain Cellars had a tasting room there also. We were very excited t try more of their wines and went in to do a tasting with Richard. The tasting room is very cute and conveniently located. We tasted several of their wines and concluded that Plain Cellars is a wonderful secret – great wines moderately priced.
The only negative on the tasting was that they were sold out of the 2018 Petite Syrah. I had wanted to purchase a half case. But they said the 2019 was being released next week and is just as yummy. Our friends have promised to pick up a bottle for us to try.

Here are the wines that we tried:
2019 Merlot – Very jammy, but nice. A bit sweet. $35/bottle
2019 Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – $38/bottle
2020 Summer Solstice – a nice blend of Merlot, Cab Sav, Petit Syrah & Petit Verdot – $40/bottle
2019 Reserve Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon – Plummy, rich a little fruity, smooth. Very good $70/bottle
Winter Solstice – A port-style Dessert wine consisting of 4 different Portuguese grapes $35/bottle

The tasting fee of $15 is waived with a purchase. The wine club is full and has a five-year waiting list. When we visited on Sunday both the Petite Syrah and The Eclipse were sold out.
This is a great winery that you have never heard of. If you are in Plain or Leavenworth you should really check it out!

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Lauren Ashton Cellars

Woodinville, WA

On our latest “date night” my husband took me to Lauren Ashton Cellars. It was a first visit and we really enjoyed it. Our host was Janine and even though she was the only one there, and quite busy, we never felt we lacked for attention.

Janine told us that the name of the winery was inspired by Kit Singh’s, the winemaker, children: Ashley Lauren and Ashton Troy. Kit was a dentist who really enjoyed sampling all the various wine regions in Sonoma, Napa and France. In 2009 he decided to start his own winery and Lauren Ashton was born.

We really enjoyed the tasting room. It is casual and comfortable. The night we were there a fabulous young artist Ali Diana, a local singer/songwriter was playing. It was really nice to have a “smokey” soundtrack to our evening. There is a bar in the tasting room and seating at smaller tables as well as nice outdoor seating. Something for everyone.

The wines were good. The grapes come from Columbia Valley: Dineen, Dionysus-Weinbau, Quintessence, Ambassador and Sagemoor. All well-established Washington Vineyards. Because the Columbia Valley AVA is the largest appellation in Washington, there can be quite a variety to the grapes.

There is a $20 tasting fee that is waived with a $45 purchase. The wines we tasted on our visit:

2020 Cuvee meline – This wine is a Sav Blanc and Semillon Blend. High acidity and a bit of pineapple. This would be good ice cold with a summer salad. $30/bottle

2021 Chenin Blanc – Fermented in new French Oak. A bit of green apple. $28/bottle

2022 Rose – equal parts Grenache and Mourvèdre – quite oaky (Spent time in American Oak?) I think our taste needed to be colder $25/bottle

2017 Merlot- lots of berry notes, it was chalky without too much minerality. Good with tomato-based pasta sauce. Bold. $45/bottle (We did purchase this)

2017 Cuvee Arlette – Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sav & Petit Verdot Blend – Spicy in a good way $58/bottle

2016 Syrah – full-bodied, chalk finish but not overwhelming $48/bottle (We did purchase this)

2017 Proprietor’s Cuvee- Cab Sav, Cab Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot Blend – Silky and smooth tannins yet it has complexity $68/bottle

This is a nice winery and well worth a visit. I think it proves my point that “It’s Not Just Grapes” as Janine, the atmosphere and entertainment made this an all-around fun experience.

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Woodinville Warehouse District, WA

Genoa Cellars was a new winery for us. It is located in the Woodinville Warehouse district and I am sure we walked by a million times. The owners have been making wine together since 2004. The focus is on super Tuscan wine style. Their grapes are sourced from Red Mountain (my fav) and Wahluke slope. The décor and wine names have a sailing theme (I’m not really sure why).
On the day we visited the ladies pouring were very preoccupied with something else. Sadly, we did not get much information on the winery or the wines. We decided this was not a very good representation of the winery and will plan a future visit.

We tried several wines. A couple were pretty good however we were not given a sheet or any information on them and so I am not confident in what we actually tried and how we liked it. No one in our group purchased wine, opting instead to pay the $10 tasting fees.
Here are two of the wines that we tried:
2017 Flying Colors Red Blend – $31/bottle
2017 Full Keel Red Blend (Red Mountain) $36

With over one thousand wineries in Washington State, I am sure the competition for good staff is stiff. But it takes more than a good wine to give your customers a great tasting experience and to have them come back.

New review coming after I try the other 999 wineries 😊

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Balboa Winery Walla Walla, WA

One of my favorite areas in Walla Walla is the Pepper Bridge area. We often will taste at North Star, Pepper Bridge, Sleight of Hand or Saviah Cellars. So I was very excited to try Balboa Winery. Even though this winery was founded in 2006, I had never heard of it. They have small production mostly from vineyards in the Rocks District.

We had our dog, Angel, with us and so we opted to sit outside and do our tasting. We always share a tasting as one of us is driving. We purchase bottles that we like to enjoy later. The setting is lovely. There is beautiful fencing made with barrel rings and really gorgeous barns and fields. They also served us a bottle of water to share.

On this particular day our server was Eva. Unfortunately, Eva was phoning it in that day. She was not really telling us much about the wines that we were trying or about the winery itself. I finally resorted to looking up information on their website.

Our first taste was a “Bonus Pour” of 2021 Balboa Gruner Veltliner. It is a white grape primarily grown in Austria, Hungry, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. I had tried this grape previously at Dr Konstantin Frank Winery in the New York Finger Lakes region. This grape is grown 100% on their property. I felt the taste ( a bit peppery) was very different than the bouquet which was cedar and herbs. $25/bottle

2022 Sparkling Rose – We were not told the type of grape and when I looked it up on line there was no information. For me, it had an odd finish – almost metallic. It also tasted like the carbonation was forced. $30/bottle

2017 Cabernet Franc – This was okay. It had a bit of tobacco and stone fruit. The finish was a bit chalky. But it had a lot of body – legs for miles. $45/bottle
2017 Carmenere – I am a fan of Carmenere and this was pretty good. It had a bit of white pepper and a bold mouth-feel. $50/bottle
2017 Sangiovese – This is 100% estate grown. This was a bold Sangiovese and would hold up well with heavier food such as a red sauce. $40/bottle
2016 Grenache – A classic grenache with flavors of ripe fruit – blackberry, cherry and a bit of vanilla. Unfortunately, I didn’t love it. $55/bottle

While Balboa Winery is a lovely spot for a tasting I really didn’t enjoy it. It could have been my palette that day, the server’s attitude or just that the wines are a bit too minerally for my taste. A tasting flight is $15 for 5 current releases and 1 library pour. The fee is waived if you spend $100 in wine purchases. Even though we had shared a tasting we were charged $30. By the time we realized this it wasn’t worth going back to ask for a correction.
Susan’s Score – This would be a SKIP IT for me. There are so many fabulous wineries in the surrounding area that I wouldn’t put Balboa Winery on my dance card.

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Dumas Station

Dayton, WA

On a recent trip from Montana, we came from the east and discovered Dumas Station approximately 20 miles from Walla Walla in Dayton, WA. This former apple packing plant and train station is now a charming family-owned winery that was started in 2003. The barn-style tasting room is comfortable and dog-friendly. There are decorative touches as a nod to the area’s history.

On this gorgeous, sunny day, Pete was our host. He good naturedly ran back and forth from the interior tasting area to the comfy seating that we enjoyed with our dog, Angel. The tasting fee is $15 refunded with a wine purchase.
Dumas Station’s estate vineyard is Birch Creek in the Walla Walla Valley. The 900-foot elevation adds to the complexity of their red wines. They also source grapes from Breezy Slope and Minnick Hills. On our visit, we tasted the following wines:

2022 Vue Des Blues – this is a classic white Bordeaux-style blend. It is 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon in stainless steel. It was a warm day and we really enjoyed this wine. $29/bottle
2022 Pinot Gris – This was 100% Pinot Gris in stainless steel and I was very surprised that I didn’t really care for it. I think that people who really like a long finish on their wines may enjoy this. $29/bottle
2019 Cow Catcher Red – This was a good “Tuesday Wine”. I like the name as it does seem to be a catchall of wines – Merlot, Cab Sav, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Cab Franc. It has a nice flavor of baking spices and would complement a variety of different foods. $26/bottle (A good bargain at $20.80 for wine club members)
2019 Cabernet Franc – This was a very pleasant surprise for me. I am usually not a fan of 100% Cab Franc, but this was very good. Lots of pepper and complexity. This was my favorite wine. $39/bottle
2019 Merlot – This 100% Merlot was very good. It was extremely good and while I enjoyed drinking it, I think it would be even better if it was aged a few more years. We bought a bottle to check out our theory. $39/bottle
2020 Syrah – This is 82% Syrah and 18% Cab Sav. It had a nice peppery taste and some complexity. $39/bottle
2018 Cabernet Sauvignon – 94% Cab Sav and 6% Cab Franc, this wine had a concentrated flavor and really burst through after a couple of sips. This was definitely my husband’s favorite taste of the day. $45/bottle
2018 Reserve Petit Verdot – This Petit Verdot has 10% Cab Franc which I found interesting. It was a bit too much perfume and too chalky a finish for my individual taste. $55/bottle

Dumas Station is a lovely stop. It was nice to get outside Walla Walla and enjoy a smaller, family-owned winery. I would have enjoyed hearing a bit more about its history and about the winemaker. Doing a bit of on-line searching, I found that Dirk Brink, the winemaker, is from South Africa. He had an internship at Chateau Ste Michelle and has also worked at Kestrel and Bookwalter. I am looking forward to tasting here again to see how the wines change and mature under Dirk’s guidance.
Susan’s Score – Worth a stop if you are coming from that direction. I am not sure I would drive 40 miles round-trip for a visit.

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Maison Bleue Winery

Walla Walla, WA

Last week we were in Walla Walla and wanted to try some new wineries that we had never tasted. This turned out to be an excellent idea. We discovered Maison Bleue on Second Avenue right downtown.

We were greeted by Barb. She was super pleasant and very knowledgeable about both the winery and all of their wines. It was really fun talking to her.

The grapes come their estate vineyard which is near the Rocks District in the Milton-Freewater AVA. I am not usually a fan of minerality in my wine and avoid wines that use grapes from the rocks, so I was completely surprised by these wines. I thought they were delicious.

Other vineyards they source their grapes from include Funk Estate, LeFore, Les Collines and Stone Valley.

A Reserve Tasting Flight is $25. You can also purchase a plate of Cheese & Crackers or Dark Chocolate Truffles to go with your tasting. We tried the following wines:

2021 Lisette Rose (Grenache) – This was our “Welcome Pour” and I really enjoyed it

2020 Voltigeur Viognier – This was just an okay for me. If you really that baking spice flavor in your wine then you should love this, $45/bottle

2016 Voyageur Syrah – This was very nice. I enjoyed the very deep lush bouquet. $58/bottle

2018 Frontiere Syrah – Al liked this one. I thought it was a bit minerally for my taste. $75/bottle

After these tastes, Barb turned us over to Joe. He is Tasting Room Associate for the Pambrun Wines. Joe was very knowledgeable about these wines. They come from the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley on a high elevation and have a completely different character than the other wines that we tasted.

2016 Merlot – Many Merlots are a bit flabby but this one was complex and interesting. I actually enjoyed the nuances of minerals in this wine. I couldn’t resist and purchased a bottle. $65/bottle

2019 Chrysologue – This is a Bordeaux-style blend has a very complex concentration of fruit and herb. I especially liked the finish. $70/bottle

2017 Cabernet Sauvignon – This would be an awesome wine with grilled meats. It has a wonderful soft mouth-feel. While it is delicious now, I think it would really be amazing if it were to age for a few years. $75/bottle

This is a terrific spot with very good wines. I would not overlook it when planning a Walla Walla tasting. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable and we enjoyed a great spot outdoors. They even brought out a bowl of water for our dog.

Susan’s Score – I enjoyed this immensely and will be back. If you like some minerality in your wines, you will definitely be a fan. Definitely add Maison Bleue to your itinerary.

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Murrietta’s Well Estate Vineyards

Livermore, CA

Revisiting another Livermore winery that is definitely worth talking about is Murrietta’s Well Estate Vineyards. One of the original California wine estates, Murrietta sources all the grapes from the estate.  The vineyard was started with cuttings from the famed French winery – Chateau Margaux in the Bordeaux region and the Chateau d’Yquem in Graves.

We arrived at Murrieta’s Well on a gorgeous sunny day and were immediately greeted by Kayla who gave us each a glass of Muscat Canelli as a “welcome wine”. It was very welcome – a light refreshing wine perfect for a summer’s day. She found us a table on the patio and we ordered a delicious charcuterie board as well as the mac and cheese (recommended by Ben who is a self-proclaimed mac and cheese aficionado.

During our delightful lunch, Lindsay, the General Manager, stopped by to give us a bit of history of the winery, which traces back to 1884 when Luis Mel built a gravity flow winery into the hillside and planted the vineyard.

In 1922 the property was sold to Ernest Went and became part of the Wente Family Estate.(Check out the previous blog about Wente Wines). In 1990 Philip Wente partnered with winemaker Sergio Traverso and they named the winery Murrieta’s Well after Wakene Marietta who was a sort of Robinhood of that era. He would rob the rich and then ride on stolen horses to take the riches back to the poor in Mexico. There is an artisan well from 1884 that is dedicated to him.

While we enjoyed lunch and a tasting on the patio (I would really recommend this) you can also enjoy the indoor Tasting Bar.  It has gorgeous views and also a very knowledgeable staff.

Susan’s Score – A great spot for a warm day. I would recommend lunch as well as the tasting.

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We are Back!!!

After a long Covid hiatus we are back. Join us as we travel around tasting meeting, exploring and enjoying all the aspects of wine tasting.

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Obelisco Estate Wines

Woodinville, WA


Obelisco wines have always been one of my favorite Washington State wines. We recently had the opportunity to visit their new (at least to us) Apple Farm Village Tasting Room located on 148th Ave NE. (They still have their tasting room in Woodinville’s warehouse district and the “Wine Cellar” in Leavenworth.

We visited on a beautiful fall day and were able to sit outside on the veranda for our tasting. Tastings are $15 and they pour all of the wines that are currently available. Our server was friendly and very knowledgeable about each wine that we tried, and she smiled as she brought out each new wine to the veranda. It was right before dinner, so we did not try any of the delicious sounding appetizers available. We did however, hear a bit of the live music.

Wines we tasted:

Sauvignon Blanc 17 – $35 – I was surprised when Obelisco came out with a white wine. I never was, and still am not a fan of this wine. I feel it is quite overpriced.

Syrah 2014 – $50 – Very intense with a deep color and berry flavor. We loved it.

Cabernet 2014 – $50 – This was very drinkable but also felt like some time in the cellar would really soften it out and make it even more delicious.

Merlot 2014 – $50 – This is almost 20% Cabernet so it has a wonderful richness that I was not expecting with a Merlot. It is also made with 100% Obelisco Vineyard grapes.

Nefer III 2014 – $125 (750ml) – Full disclosure – I have never been a fan of the electrum or the Nefers. I don’t know why as we have many friends who love them. This one was 100% cabernet sauvignon. The tasting notes said oily finish – maybe that is my turn off – not sure, but at $25 per taste or $125 per bottle I am not too upset that it is not my favorite. I could drink their Syrah or Merlot everyday and be quite pleased.


Susan’s Score: Obelisco is a class act. We have been wine club members on and off since they opened their first tasting room in Woodinville. Deep rich chewy red wines are their hallmark.

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