Kitzke Cellars Candy Mountain, Washington

Since I am a huge fan of Red Mountain, I have been very eager to try wine from Candy Mountain. They are so close to each other that I thought that the wines would be very similar, but I could not have been more wrong.

Since we were heading that way for an event at another winery that we belong to, I emailed Audrey of Kitzke Cellars and asked her if we could stop by for a tasting. She could not have been any nicer. We set up to meet Seth and do a tasting. Currently, the tasting room is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Around 2000 the Kitzke’s planted a small vineyard of Bordeaux varietals on Candy Mountain. The first vintage was made in 2005. Seth, their son, took over as winemaker in 2016. Seth has worked at K Vintners/Charles Smith Wines as well as Brian Carter Cellars.
Seth was super enthusiastic and very informative giving us as much information as we wanted. He even had rock samples to show us how Red Mountain is basalt (which has good moisture retention and more fertility) and Candy Mountain is caliche (which is sand, silt, clay and gravel). So the Candy Mountain wine has a very different, more minerality flavor. Seth also talked about the higher winds which cause the grapes grow thicker skins giving the wine a richer color and texture. Strong winds can also dry the grapes and concentrate their aromas and sugar.

I did like that Kitzke does not use herbicides. They also do not add any additives like proteins or tannin or artificial colors to their wines. I have experienced terrible headaches after drinking a single glass of wine that has been “boosted” with additives. For me, the more natural the better.

The day we visited we tasted the following wines:
2017 Reserve Field Blend– Excellent. Loved this and purchased a bottle – $65/bottle
2017 Petit Verdot – Rich and complex – a nice wine at a reasonable price – $45/bottle
2018 Cabernet Franc – This was another winner for us. A bit more minerality – $49/bottle
Seth and his wife Audrey also founded Upside Down Wine. They will be opening a tasting room in Cle Elum this summer. We were fortunate enough to also taste a couple of those wines as well.
2022 Rescue Red – A good value. $24/bottle
2021 Marsanne-Roussanne – Very nice mouth-feel. Quite complex.
2021 Sages Red Wine – Wine Advocate gave this wine a 95.

This is a great stop on your wine tasting itinerary. Small, boutique with very nice wines. If you are like I was and think this could be a Red Mountain clone – think again. 😊

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Heinen’s Grocery Store

Cleveland, Ohio

We recently had a reason to visit Cleveland, Ohio. While there a friend recommended, we visit the Heinen’s Grocery Store in downtown Cleveland. I thought that it was an odd recommendation until she told me that in addition to their great selection of wine, they also has a self-serve wine by the glass tasting station.

This regional, family-owned supermarket chain was founded in 1929.  The store we visited is located in a gorgeous restored Cleveland Trust Bank building at 900 Euclid Avenue. The Cleveland Trust Rotunda was designed by architect George B. Post, and features a Tiffany-style-stained glass ceiling.  Just below the ceiling, 13 murals painted by Francis Davis Millet entitled The Development of Civilization in America depict the exploration and settlement of the Great Lakes region.

The second-floor balcony is where the wine is located and overlooks the ground floor. You start by purchasing a card and then you can use the wine kiosks. There is a choice of 2, 3 or 5 ounce “tastes” of several different wines. There is a lot of comfortable seating so you can relax and sip. There are several (maybe 6 or 8) wine kiosks all around the balcony so if you don’t find a wine you like in one, you can visit the next.

The tastes start at $1.25 for 2 ounce pour of one of the lower priced wines and go up from there as the price of the wine goes up. I think the most expensive taste we saw was $5.25. It is also really nice that the wines you are tasting are located in the kiosks for purchase.

We had a wonderful time sipping away a snowy afternoon and I would highly encourage a visit if you are in the Cleveland area. I think this was my favorite attraction right behind the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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The setting for Freehand Cellars is breathtaking, Visit on a nice day so you can sit outside and enjoy the Yakima Valley below. The venue would be perfect for a private event such as a wedding. They also have a Vineyard House on Airbnb with one bedroom and one bath for about $150 per night.

We often stop at Treveri on our way home from Walla Walla or Red Mountain and I had wanted to try Freehand for a while. We certainly enjoyed the outdoor space, but our tasting was very mediocre. Our server was Kelly. She was way too busy to give us much time or information. We requested to share a tasting since we were driving home to Seattle. The wine was already all poured into mini carafes with plastic wrap over them. We were given served our wine and that was it – no interaction, no checking back – nothing until we went in to pay before we left. I was a bit surprised because it was not busy. One other couple besides us sitting inside and while we were there two woman and a small child came and sat outside.

There is a limited food menu that looked good. Snack Boards, Chicken Skewers, Seared Shrimp. We did not have any food.

I did like the fact that they serve local rotating beer. Several of our friends who love wine have spouses or significant others who are not that interested, but go tasting with us to be social. I like that they can enjoy a beverage other tan wine or water as in most tasting rooms.

Here is what we tasted that visit:

2021 Sauvignon Blanc – a bit citrusy – Maybe a bit too tart – $25/bottle

2021 Chardonnay – It was a bit oaky for me – $27/bottle

2021 Syrah – This was alright, a bit too oaky for my taste – $27/bottle

2020 Petit Verdot – This was good, very drinkable – $32 / bottle

2020 Cabernet Sauvignon – I enjoyed this and would have purchased a couple of bottles had we have had better service.

I believe in the title of this blog – “It’s not just grapes”. There are a lot of elements that go into enjoying wine. When you are in a tasting room the atmosphere, the way the wine is served and the attitude and enthusiasm of the server are huge elements. I think that the interaction with our server, the wine sitting out with plastic wrap and the general disinterest in whether we enjoyed ourselves or enjoyed the wine or learned anything about the winery lead to a very mediocre visit. That being said, I would give it another try just because the venue is so beautiful.

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We have enjoyed visiting Avennia at their Red Mountain location, so we were eager to try their new location is Woodinville. They are in the former Tsillan Cellars location on Woodinville-Snohomish Road.

On the day we visited, Elaina was pouring with help from Loris. They were both terrific personable and knowledgeable. We were wit a couple of friends and all of us enjoyed both the wine and the experience.

Chris Peterson is the winemaker. He began his winemaking journey at cellars such as Dunham, Glen Fiona, Forgerson and eventually DeLille Cellars. He is now a co-owner of Avennia and is one of the hottest young wine producers in Washington State.

Avennia sources grapes from some of the best vineyards in Washington state including Boushey, Red Willow, Sagemoor, Champoux, Upland, Kiona Heart of the Hill and their own Avennia Estate Vineyard on Red Mountain. No wonder their wine is so good.

On our most recent visit, we tasted:
2021 Justine – Southern Rhone Blend – light and a bit of herb $45/bottle
2021 Arnaut – Syrah with grapes from Boushey Vineyard – I did buy this one – so delicious $60/bottle
2020 Gravura – Bordeaux-style left bank blend – full bodied – yummy – Yes, I bought a couple of these too. $45/bottle
2020 Sestina – Left Bank Bordeaux-style Cab Sav Blend. Would cellar very well $75/bottle
2020 Valery – Right Bank Bordeaux-style Blend. A little smokey. $50/bottle

We love both the Red Mountain Tasting Room and the Woodinville location. I am looking forward to visiting the Walla Walla Tasting Room in the near future.

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Barnard Griffin Winery

Woodinville, WA

Over the holidays we had a group visit Barnard Griffin in the schoolhouse district. We had previously visited the tasting room in Richland, but this was our first visit to the Woodinville location. Randy was pouring for us that day and he was terrific. He gave us lots of information about the wines and the winery without overwhelming us.

We learned that Barnard Griffin is one of the oldest family-owned wineries in Washington State. Rob and Deborah Griffin are the founders and Rob is also the head winemaker. Their daughter, Megan Hughes, is their second-generation winemaker.

Barnard Griffin sources their grapes from diverse areas: Red Heaven on Red Mountain; Lonesome Spring Ranch and Crawford in Yakima Valley; Kiona also on Red Mountain, Gunkel on the Columbia Gorge; Balcom + Moe in Columbia Valley (Sangiovese) and Sagemoor in the White Bluffs AVA. Lots of my favorites, so I had high expectations.

Here is what we tasted:

Gorge Sparkling NV – Everyone in our group liked this wonderful glass of bubbles. It was clean and crisp and had some citrus notes. $40/bottle.

2022 Roussanne –Light and delicate to the point of being a bit flabby. $27/bottle

2020 Cotes du Rob – This is a GSM on steroids – the addition of Cinsault, Durif (which I had never heard of. It is the product of a cross between Shiraz and Peloursin) and Counoise (another new on for me that hails from the Rhone Valley) really boosted the spiciness. Unbelievable legs on this wine. $42/bottle

2017 Reserve Merlot – This was quite a light Merlot. It was less oaky than some I have had recently (a good thing for me). In general, our group really liked this wine. $45/bottle

2017 Sagemoor Cabernet Sauvignon – This is a really good cab. I purchased a couple of bottles. It had some fruit and a bit of spice that will really be good with fats. $65/bottle

We really enjoyed our visit to Barnard Griffin and felt that Randy was a real asset to the experience. We are looking forward to visiting again and I would highly recommend both locations. There is a third tasting room in Vancouver that we haven’t visited yet, but would love to hear others opinions if you have been there.



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Walla Walla, WA

This was our second visit to Yellowhawk. We had visited several times when it was Basel Cellars and really love the changes that have been made. The same investors who own Walla Walla Steak Company (one of my favorites) bought the 84-acre property in December 2020.

Yellowhawk offers what they are calling “Rustic Luxury Lodging”. Something we have not tried yet. This includes the Estate House with 8-bedrooms and 6-bathrooms as well as the one-bedroom Pool House. They have also begun offering their site as a wedding venue. They are also focusing on sparkling wines.

The grounds have always been spectacular and this visit was no different. You can choose to do your tasting indoors or outdoors as we did. They offer two tastings: Bubbles Tasting for $15 which includes the sparkling wines made with tank carbonation and Sparkling Tasting for $20, which includes the more traditional process of fermentation in the bottle.

Our server that day was Roxanne and she hit it out of the park. She was all the things that you would want someone pouring your wine to be: knowledgeable, professional, friendly and a bit funny. We had a great time.

The food was excellent. I had a club sandwich and fries – delicious. We also shared the caramelized onion dip served with pork rinds. I remembered it from our previous visit and it is so addictive. As good as the food was, the sparkling wines stole the show that day. Here is what we tasted:

Bubbles- White – Pinot gris & Riesling – bright and crisp. I purchased a couple. $30/bottle

Bubbles-Rose – spends 6 months in oak. I felt it had a strong oak aftertaste. $30/bottle

Bubbles – Red – This is a great date night bottle, maybe with kabobs.  $30/bottle

Sparkling White – We called this “sunshine in a bottles” very crisp and light.  $38/bottle

2021 Vineyard Select Blanc – I was impressed with the delicate bubbles.  $48/bottle

2021 Vineyard Select Rose – Absolutely a gorgeous color. Perfect wedding wine. $48/bottle

Yellowhawk is gorgeous and the wines are excellent. Definitely worth a visit. We also joined “Reveler’s Club” which includes two free tastings at Yellowhawk plus a 10% discount as well as monetary credits on your birthday and anniversary. This is a great value if you are in Walla Walla or the Seattle area as the club includes Aqua, Crossbuck Brewing, Walla Walla Steak Company, El Gaucho and T-Post Tavern

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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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