My wife Cathy and I just attended our 3rd Passport weekend.  For those of you who don't live in the Puget Sound area or are not into wine, this is an annual event where you get to spend a weekend touring 30+ wineries.  Not only are you tasting wine but you're also getting to chat with the winemakers.  For many of the smaller boutique wineries, this is the only time of the year that they're open to the public.  My friend John Dietz fondly refers to this as the annual Woodinville Drink and Drive.

We saw more limos and shuttle buses than ever this year so it's safe to say that the number of designated drivers is on the rise.  Some of these wineries are located in beautiful facilities while many others are located in warehouse and office park space.  We were sad to see that DeLille Cellars would not be participating this year.  You can't beat spending time in their beautiful hillside chateau with their giant fireplace and people serving you Filet Minion Crostinis while drinking D2 or Aix.

I'm happy to say that my personal winners this year didn't come from major wineries.  Two wines stood out from the crowd and they came from wineries you may not have heard of before.  The first one that grabbed my palate was the 2005 Tempranillo from Kennedy Shah.  This wine can be found at Woodhouse Family Cellars and is produced in the Rattlesnake Hills American Viticultural Area (AVA) of the Columbia Valley appellation.  I give it a 91.

The second wine that made its mark at this event was a 2004 Southern Rhone-style blend called Byzance from Brian Carter Cellars.  While the tasting room near the Hollywood Schoolhouse might be new, 2-time "Winemaker of the Year" award winner Brian Carter is no stranger to the business.  This blend of Grenache and Syrah comes from the Columbia Valley appellation and garners a 91 in my book this year.

As warmer weather approaches, I'm looking forward to spending more time in Columbia Valley and Walla Walla.