Novelty Hill Winery 2008 Columbia Valley merlot

It’s about time someone had the balls to critique the tasting rooms of Woodinville. This is not the typical vague, passive-aggressive generalized rants like a typical ‘wine blogger’ like “Oh this wine is corked.” Oh boo-hoo. Call it out or stop your whining, Sean.

Perhaps the following commentary will help the warehouse district’s newest winery, Kevin White Winery (located where Baer Winery resides at), from avoiding the mistakes made by his peers.

Ratings are based on my experiences and are used to recommend (or not) to my guests and business acquaintances. I place heavier emphasis on: (1) easy access; (2) tasting room appearance; (3) tasting room staff etiquette; (4) conviviality; (5) wine knowledge, both general and specific to the wines poured; (6) enthusiasm; and (7) intangibles.

Wineries, take this commentary to heart. This is to help improve your bottom line and, possibly, clean up the crap that is hindering your sales. Isn’t that why you have a tasting room in the first place?

The best

Adams Bench Winery (+ unique location; family atmosphere; smiles; enthusiasm; exciting red wines. – inconsistently open (hint: join mailing list))

Barrage Cellars (+ Kevin’s a hoot; infectious enthusiasm; great stories; grossly underrated wines. – interior design)

Facelli Winery (+ Lou is your happy Italian grandpa; been open since 1988; only family working the counter. – hidden location)

Januik/Novelty Hill Winery (+ best of the large-production wineries; spacious; friendly staff; great selection of bling wines. – overcapacity at times; “cold” interior)

You need help, PRONTO

Airfield Estates Winery (bar counter too small; disorganized interior; overworked staff; wines inconsistent)

Elevation Northwest Cellars (enthusiasm?; what interior design?; label still looks like predecessor Arlington Road Cellars; only three wines)

Silver Lake/Hoodsport/Glen Fiona (the wines are (insert rectal substance synonym here); some staff you just want to flick into oblivion; dead atmosphere)

I think of one word when you mention this tasting room:

Alder Ridge: confused

Alexandria Nicole Cellars: pub?

Alta Cellars good start

Amavi/Pepper Bridge Winery: overpriced

Amelia Bleu/DeArmond Family/Patterson Cellars/Woods Lake: any more fit in there?

Anton Ville Winery: quaint

Baer Winery: stuck (move forward from your past)

Betz Family Winery: exclusive

Bookwalter Winery: open late

Brian Carter Cellars: blends

Canon de Sol/Irlandes: hot babes, way overpriced

Celaeno/Elsom Cellars: middle

Challenger Ridge/Patit Creek Cellars: knock, knock. Is this Hollywood Hill?

Chateau Ste. Michelle: tasting counter too small

Chatter Creek Winery: garage

Columbia Winery: they’re trying

Convergence Zone Cellars: small

Covington Cellars/II Vintners: the next big thing

Cowan Vineyards: farmer

Cuillin Hills Winery: lack of interior design highlights Derek’s persona

Darby Winery: red wine and women

Davenport Cellars: rooting for them

DeLille Cellars: Carriage House vs. Chateau. Two different experiences.

Des Voigne Cellars: jazz never tasted so good

DiStefano Winery: move closer to the others

Dusted Valley Vintners: great red Rhones

Edmonds Winery: pulse?

Efeste Cellars: club pick

Flying Dreams Winery: Spain lives here

Gard/Smasne/Farm Boy: so many good wines

Gecko/Michael Florentino Cellars: Taze him

Goose Ridge: on the upswing

Gordon Brothers: vibe-free

Gorman Winery: release parties

Guardian Cellars: wine club coming…book ‘em, Danno

Hestia Cellars: be happy Shannon, be happy

Hollywood Hill Vineyard: timing

Isenhower Cellars: why people used to drive to Walla Walla

JM Cellars: location location location, oh and great wines too

Kaella Winery: too small to stand out at this time

Kestrel Vintners: need more happy

Live Wire: see Darby Winery

Mark Ryan Winery: success has spoiled a little. Just a little.

Matthews Estate: room too small

Northwest Totem Cellars: get closer

Obelisco Estate: too pricey

Otis Kenyon Wine: still incubating

Page Cellars: ‘Pour Fool’ killing your rep with overhype

Pomum Cellars: Spain of the south warehouse district

Pondera Winery: wines creeping up to quality of hanging art

Red Sky Winery: 1st time I left a tasting room without buying wine

Robert Ramsay Cellars: underrated syrah

Ross Andrew Winery: too good to still be in the shadow of Mark Ryan

Sparkman Cellars: expensive but worth it

Stevens Winery: a must-visit when in the south warehouse district

Tefft Cellars: warm alternative to big box producers

Tenor Wines: world-class wines in warehouse-class box of a room

Trouvaille Winery (by appt): sleeper pick for elegant reds

William Church Winery: would love to see Rod laugh more

Woodhouse Family Cellars: pretentious at times; wines overpriced

Woodinville Wine Cellars: in no-man’s land

XSV: in no-man’s land

Z Wines (Zerba Cellars): humility does sell wines

I’m on the way to: Alleromb Winery, Boudreaux Cellars, Cashmere, Cougar Crest Estate, DenHoed Wine Estates, Lachini Wine Co., Matteo Wines, Trust Cellars, White Cellars, and Pacific Wine Enterprises!

A special note of thanks goes to Michele Rennie of Wine Direct Solutions for providing inspiration and advice. If I operated a winery, she would be my marketing consultant. No question.

To the wine…

Food pairing was a bloody, beefy flank steak. You betcha.

Tasted at 59-68 degrees on the IR temp gun. Dark magenta in the glass, this velvety merlot seduced with pleasant aromatics of black cherry liqueur, ripe plum, raspberry, and A&W root beer. Thick, dense and full-bodied on the palate, the flavors followed true with black fruits, cloves, menthol, dark chocolate, tobacco, and red spices with moderate resilience.

Alcohol: 14.4%. Vineyards: Stillwater Creek, Alder Ridge, Weinbau, Wahluke. 5% cabernet sauvignon. Aged 18 months in new and 1 year-old mostly French oak. pH 3.63. TA 0.54. 1248 cases. Rated: 91. Value: $22. Paid: $22. Music pairing: “Keep Your Head Up” by Andy Grammer. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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11 Responses to Novelty Hill Winery 2008 Columbia Valley merlot

  1. Scott Abernethy says:

    First, let me comment on the Novelty Hill Merlot. I can’t recall if I have had the 2008 vintage yet, but I’ve tasted previous vintages and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this wine at the price point. I think I was paying $18 at the liquor store. Any Washington Merlot under $20 is a bargain.

    Now, the Woodinville tasting room reviews. Although my experiences there are very limited, I think you mentioned about six of which I am a wine club member. 1) ANC has a pub-like atmosphere, and I think that is why they have such a diverse following. Being of the older persuasion, I sometimes find the atmosphere a little raucous, but I have survived. 2) Pepperbridge may be overpriced, but I think Amavi wines are very reasonably priced and well worth the money. 3) Kestrel – they have always lacked a personality in their Prosser tasting room, and if it weren’t for the fact that several of the staff are friends, I would have dropped them long ago. 4) Only been in the Gordon Brothers tasting room once. I was treated nicely, but nothing special. I hope things pick up for them as a small family-run operation. 5) Cowan – regretfully, I think you hit the nail on the head. 6) Gard/Smasne/Farm Boy – Just opened a tasting room in Kennewick, and I’m learning more about their wines all the time. Robert Smasne loves to share his love for wine. Check out his new 1/2 Ass wines. The Woodinville tasting room will miss Cheryl, but William Church Winery should benefit and maybe it will put more smiles on Rod’s face.

    Signing off and heading to Mercer Estates and Alexandria Nicole Cellars for their release parties.


  2. wawineman says:

    Scott, I’m beginning to wonder if you’re my long lost bro.

    1) Is that the image ANC wants to display? 2) Pepper Bridge IS overpriced. No question about that. Amavi…riding the Walla Walla image to high prices. 3) Kestrel has not found its identity yet. 4)Gordon Bros.–you got it. 5) In a sense, I want Cowan to stick around since there’s nothing like it in Woodinville. It isn’t a super-wow experience, but…how else can I say it? A farmer. It’s got it’s pluses and minuses. Unique for Woodinville (and all of Puget Sound). 6) Although Almaterra is leaving the tasting room, the lineup is still strong. No, it’s not over-the-top, cult wines, but it ain’t plonk either. Not a whole lotta excitement or bling. Just wines that stick around. Kinda like Steely Dan. As for Cheryl, outside appearances of her defecting to Bill Church do not impress me, but what little do I know? I personally did not care for her little white lie but it’s her life. She mostly just sat and stared at the computer monitor while I was there on one visit. I hope she learns to stay offline while at work.

    I chose to spend the afternoon grilling some short ribs while noshing on Marcona almonds, sea salt crackers, parmesan and Beecher’s Smoked Flagship cheeses, and Breton crackers to go with a skippy merlot while listening to some Gene Vincent pumped up to 11 on the volume knob.

  3. We are closer to the roundabout that Adam’s Bench. We are .65 miles from the roundabout… Too far? Well unless my memory is faulty, you have NOT been to my place. Interesting. However, you are certainly invited this weekend for our Sangiovese release. Fill up the tank before you leave! 🙂
    Mike Sharadin, @NWTotemCellars

  4. wawineman says:

    Mr. Sharadin of Northwest Totem Cellars!

    I am in no way nitpicking, but we actually did meet. It’s easy to forget me since I can be a most forgettable personality. Your merlot was the pick of the pack. I go to Betz twice a year. I go to DeLille’s chateau once a year. Adams Bench…maybe 3-4 times a year. The Schoolhouse…probably an easy dozen. The warehouse district…I may as well rent a unit there. True, you are not that far away from the action, but I was hoping that if your winery had an inpost near other tasting rooms, you could get more foot traffic and thus, more notoriety. I’m a little disturbed that “outside” wineries can just come into Woodinville and take a fair share of the money action when it should be Woodinville wineries (and Redmond) that get the spotlight.
    Thanks for the party invite! If I’m not out of town, I will stop by. I’m low on sangiovese for autumn.

  5. Michele R says:

    Wawineman, you honor me with high praise, so I returned the favor with a posting on FB & Twitter. I heard that Gordon Brothers are not staying in WDV — just part of the musical wineries who are finding out that maybe their brand is not for the big city. Covey Run is another example. Yes, the location was tricky, but Village Wines pulled it off. Here’s hoping that Cougar Crest can do a better job than the poor quail.

    When will wineries learn that you just can’t hang out a shingle and expect droves of buyers? Come on wineries! You gotta put out for the folks! Good wines, great energy and a terrific experience are what will move your dial. If you are a winery, check out my last two blogs on customer service and take it to heart! You can smoke your competition! Tks again, Wawineman!

  6. duanep says:

    Boo freakin’ hoo.. “Outside” wineries coming into Woodinville… Sounds like someone needs to build a bridge and get over it… 😀

  7. wawineman says:

    Even if you didn’t like my rants and raves, I would still consider you the premier go-to person to help improve a tasting room’s bottom line. That’s how much I respect ya. You got the pedigree. You got the skills. Your posts are a joy to read and I learn something new everytime. When you left your previous employer, the dropoff in creativity was all too noticeable; enough so that I dropped my club membership. You are the real deal. Perhaps, if you were with the State Tourism Board, they wouldn’t’ve folded–what a shortsighted, dumbass decision that was.

  8. wawineman says:

    oh duanep. u still crack me up, dp! -.-

  9. Antoine Pin says:

    Oh crap!! I’m gonna chime in since the rest of the world has. FINALLY, the TOINE has come BACK to CHARMVILLE, sorry, Woodinville.

    First on my list: Mike, love you man, m’y name is WAwineman.

    Second: Scott & Ed: agree on RoS, 1/2 Ass, The Billy Church / Diva saga and Kestrel, if you’re *listening Harry, needs to find their way for sure.

    Duane: you’re right, too many people cry and look like fools. That’s why bloggers/wine customer rant. But yes, point taken on getting over it.

    And lastly, who’s Michelle?

  10. Wawineman – I like this post. A lot. Only disagreement is on your lack of identity comment RE: Kestrel. Clearly they have positioned themselves in the value price range, and I think they have done a kick ass job of it. Their merlot, syrah and cabs hold up very well and have structure you wouldn’t expect for a sub $20 wine. I do agree, that their staff is not friendly at all. Boring. No joy. No personality. But their wines are still fantastic.

  11. wawineman says:

    Imma chal itsonni, thanks for the comment!

    Kestrel Vintners has a marketing winner in their ‘Lady in Red’ and white versions, no doubt. As for the entire lineup… we agree to disagree on this one. I’m glad to hear you are passionately in favor of them because a winery needs staunch defenders. Nothing wrong with their wines, but just not the vibe I’m in search of, imma.

    So then, I ask you– what other wines in the sub-$20 category found in the general Woodinville surroundings rock your world? Here are some of mine: Tuesday Cellars no.11 red wine, Glaze cabernet, Stevens sauvignon blanc, Efeste riesling, Barrage Cellars riesling, Hestia chenin blanc, Facelli pinot grigio, and Gecko rose. And yes, I’ve had them all this year.

    Suchupum tachima!

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