Red Mountain Wine and Jazz Festival

The 2nd Annual Wine & Jazz Festival livens up the riverfront campus of WSU Tri-Cities  on Saturday, June 25, 2016 beginning at 6:00p.m.   Auction of Washington Wines is partnering with Washington State University Tri-Cities to present the Wine & Jazz Festival featuring live entertainment, heavy appetizers and tastings from 25 Washington wineries. Proceeds support the WSU Viticulture & Enology Program. Here’s the skinny.

Wine & Jazz Lover – $85.00
All-inclusive wine and food tasting throughout the evening.

Jazz Lover
– $25.00
Concert only pricing with one glass of wine, tickets for additional wine and food available for purchase.

Wine & Jazz Weekend Package, June 24-25 – $900.00
Two seats at your choice of Vineyard Dinners, two VIP tickets to the Wine & Jazz Festival, brunch for two at Bookwalter Winery on Sunday, June 26, and accommodations at Springhill Suites by Marriott on Friday and Saturday night.

Cougar Brunch at Bookwalter WineryJune 26, 10am-3pm
Featuring sparkling wines made in the WSU Blended Learning  Program.

Follow this link for a listing of wineries and ticket purchase:

The Savvy Taster’s Guide

You can have loads of fun and more importantly, learn a lotwalter clore tasting room at the many tasting events available year round. The more you know, the better choices you’ll make and more fun you’ll have!

Venues for tasting events vary from outdoor promenades to top of the town restaurants. They can be private tasting room intimate or ballroom standing room only.  The choice is yours.

The 6th annual Summer BrewFest on the Bremerton Boardwalk is a fabulous venue. It’s a two day festival this year, July 15 and 16. Tickets are available from the Washington Beer Commission. You will want to be there soaking up the sun, refreshing yourself with a craft brew or two.

The 8th annual Kitsap Wine Festival in August at the Harborside Fountain Park is another gorgeous venue with wonderful Washington wines, cool fountains, sunshine and boats sailing past. Tickets are now available for this event at Kitsap Wine Festival dot com.

One of the many places for a spectacular view while tasting is the top of the Columbia Tower where the women’s restroom was an experience that even the men were dragged in to see. That practice was halted but the view and artwork are still stunning.

My most stunning venue this year, was at the toph3 tres cruces of Horse Heaven Hills, tasting Coyote Canyon Vineyards’ wines with Mike Andrews. The red and white checkered tablecloth was anchored with horse shoes and the mighty Columbia River was in the distance. Wines from these vineyards have garnered many medals and are well worth the search.

Call me Ms. Manners but whether it’s a beer, wine, or even a spirits tasting event, here are a few tips that will ensure everyone’s tasting experience is enlightening and enjoyable.

  1. Let the Only Fragrance be from the Glass.

Aroma is half the pleasure of tasting. It’s the reason all those wine geeks have mastered the art of swirling in order to release the esters and smell the bouquet. If it smells delicious, it’s probably going to taste delicious.

It’s downright annoying when all you can smell is the person next to you. Instead of inhaling the wine’s beautiful fruits or the subtle hop nuances, all you can smell is Eau de Stinkum.

Leave the perfume, cologne, after shave, or scented body lotion in the bottle. Save it for another special occasion. Same for smoking or vaping – anything. Don’t do it before or during a tasting. It messes with everyone’s ability to smell the bouquet.

  1. It’s Perfectly Acceptable to Spit.spit buckets

After swirling, you taste. But if you swallow everything, by the eighth taste your palate is shot. So, if you really want to learn and take advantage of the opportunity, spit. Save the swallowing for the really good ones that have a long finish.

You can actually tell if the wine or beer is of excellent swallowing quality as you roll it around in your mouth, taking in a little air to appreciate all the complexities or lack thereof. You get the essence of it when you hold it in your mouth for ten to fifteen seconds. And then choose to spit or swallow.

All events have spit buckets or if it’s outside, plants that need watering. Spit buckets have evolved over the years. No more ugly splash back when a funnel like contraption tops off the spit bucket. Or you can use a plastic cup as a personal spit bucket. Either way, it’s perfectly acceptable practice.

You can and should dump any remainders in your glass into the spit bucket. It may be difficult after paying all that good money to taste, but remember, you’re on a reconnaissance mission. You’re looking for that perfect brew or wine to grace your table. Finding the region you prefer, or the perfect balance of the hops and malt, that’s your mission, should you accept it.

  1. Ask Questions.

You’re on a mission to learn, right? Reading is the best way but there isn’t enough time at an event and taste too. Asking questions of the people pouring gets you the facts faster. These folks could be the actual brewmaster or winemaker and they’re here to talk about what they love to do. So ask and they will expound away. Take advantage of all that knowledge and make it your goal to learn one fact about each wine or beer you really liked.

  1. You’re Not the Only One There.

For some unfathomable reason, some people park themselves in front of a table while tasting, ignoring the fact there are other tasters waiting behind them. Don’t do that. Ask your question while your beveridge is being poured. What’s in the blend? What are those very aromatic hops I smell? How many times is it distilled?

Then step back to swirl, sniff, sip and spit.

  1. Remember the Ones You Love.

Events usually have tasting sheets listing the brewery or the winery and what they are offering. Take notes of the ones you really liked and find out where you can get them. Ask who distributes them and where they are available in your area. Sometimes you can purchase that day but always find out where you can get your favorites after the event is history.

For imported products, there is always an importer listed on the back label. Make a note of that also. It’s easier to track it down afterwards.

If note taking is not your forte, take a picture of the label with that fancy phone of yours.

  1. Get a Ride.

Be responsible. Arrange for transportation before you start to sip. There’s a lot to take in at these big, sometimes overwhelming events and while you’ve been spitting and pouring out leftovers, be responsible and take a ferry, bus, cab or designated driver.

The beauty of these tasting events is meeting interesting people and learning about great wines or beers. Be safe because the next tasting is this weekend and you need to be there.

Horse Heaven Hills is Vineyard Heaven

Certain factors in viticulture produce intensely flavored grapes with balanced sugars and acids.  And that can only happen in the vineyard.

Washington’s average sixteen hours per day of summer sunlight, cool nights, hills and slopes, rainfall or lack  there of and alluvial soils produce some of the best growing conditions for vinifera grapes.

Each micro-climate, as if there could be micro in eastern Washington, has its own geology, soil, temperature fluctuations, water source and sunlight intensity. That’s what makes each American Viticultural Area (AVA) unique.

There are fourteen Washington State AVAs, defined by the United States Treasury Department’s Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau.

The first to be recognized was Yakima Valley in 1983. In 1984, Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley joined the Club. Eleven years later, our very own unique Puget Sound joined the ranks.

The turn of the century brought Red Mountain into the fold, followed by Columbia Gorge (2004), Horse Heaven Hills (2005), Rattlesnake Hills and Wahluke Slope in 2006 and Snipes Mountain in 2009. Naches Heights and Ancient Lakes were added in 2011 and 2012 respectively. This year Lewis Clark Valley was added to the state’s AVAs – the first shared with Idaho.

Grapes were first planted in the Horse Heaven Hills by Don & Linda Mercer in 1972. Horse Heaven Hills or H3 as some refer to it, is around 570,000 acres of which about 10,130 acres are planted to grapes. Today, it represents 25% of Washington’s total grape production.

H3 rises up from 300 feet at the Columbia River to about 1,800 feet on the border of the Yakima Valley AVA. The AVA’s steep south facing slopes are perfect vineyard locations. vines along the columbia

The well-drained, sandy soils and dry, windy conditions of the Horse Heaven Hills have stressed the vineyards just enough to produce those sought after  intensely flavored grapes.

Older, established vineyards also have a reputation for  intensely flavored grapes. In the Horse Heaven Hills AVA look for Alder Ridge, Andrews Horse Heaven Vineyard, Canoe Ridge, Champoux, Columbia Crest, Destiny Ridge, McKinley Springs, Mercer Canyon and Wallula Gap Vineyards.

Destiny Ridge, just 800 feet up from the Columbia River, is a pretty breezy place for grape vines; the winds that blow are what makes this part of the Horse Heaven Hills appellation distinct.  The best part of the constant wind is the inhospitable habitat for vineyard disease and pests. And much like the mistral winds of southern France, the vines are stressed and would dry out were it not for drip irrigation.

Destiny Ridge Vineyard also benefits from its close proximity to the Columbia River.Mighty columbia  It’s rare to find temperature extremes close to a big body of water. Thanks to the modifying effects of the mighty Columbia rolling on (Woody Guthrie’s immortal words) and the land sloping toward the river which pushes cold air away from the vineyards. Further north away from the water, vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills have had killing frosts.

Overlooking the mighty Columbia River, is Alexandria Nicole Cellars.anc anova  Owners Jarrod and Ali Boyle planted the first vines at Destiny Ridge in 1998 while Jarrod was working with Dr. Wade Wolfe at Hogue Cellars. The plan was to use the fruit from their Destiny Ridge Vineyard to produce small case lots for other wineries. And that worked for about six years until the vines came into full production with such fruit intensity, the seeds of another new winery were planted.

Alexandria Nicole Cellars’ (ANC ) first vintage from the 367-acre estate was in 2004.  Ten years later, the 2014 Shepherds Mark, their signature white, is a blend of 60% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne, and 20% Viognier. And it’s a medal winning wine with a Double Gold, three golds, Best of Class, 93 points and a Silver. This lovely wine is crisp with fresh floral notes and a rich mouthfeel of juicy  Asian pear, citrus and crisp apple.

Why Shepherds Mark? Well, in the early 1900’s, sheepherders left their mark on the Horse Heaven Hills in the form of rock monuments.  These monuments – some still stand along the ridge line of Destiny Ridge Estate Vineyard – were used for identification, way-finding, recreational pastime, artistic expression, or to simply leave one’s mark on the world.

Other ANC wines currently available are the medal winning 2012 Gravity Merlot which also received a Double Gold from the Seattle Wine Awards and 92 points from two industry magazines. The blend of  92% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, and 2% Carmenere was aged 22 months in new and 1 year-old French oak barrels.

The 2013 Jet Black Syrah is another medal winning wine with three golds, Best of Class, 92 points and a Best Buy. This 100% Syrah from blocks 1, 15, 17 and 43 was whole berry fermented and then aged in new and 1 year-old French oak barrels. Prepared to be awed!

If you would like to tour and taste the the wines and wineries of Horse Heaven Hills, mark your calendars for Saturday, July 16, 2016 to experience the Horse Heaven Hills Trail Drive. You’ll meet the growers and vintners behind some of Washington’s most highly rated wines.

During this is a self guided tour, you’ll visit with grape growers and winemakers, enjoy beautiful vistas and sample some excellent wines. There will be music and wine tasting at the BBQ at Crow Butte Park. This annual fundraiser raises money for scholarships in viticulture and oenology.

Tasting History, One Glass at a Time

Have you ever wondered who planted the first grape vine in Washington? Was it the Italian immigrants, German settlers or French fur trappers that roamed the eastern part of the state? Was it in East Wenatchee, Walla Walla or Grapeview?

When we opened Grape Expectations in the fall of 1985, there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 Washington wineries. Today, some still exist, in one form or another and others are no longer. There are now somewhere in the neighborhood of  980 wineries in Washington and over 600,000 acres planted to vitis vinifera.

Two of the most influential wine pioneers in the early 1900s  were Dr. Walter Clore and Canadian immigrant, William  B. Bridgman, who encouraged the young Dr. Clore to plant grapes in Yakima Valley Research Center in addition to other fruits, vegetables and grains.

When W.B., as a young  attorney, arrived in Sunnyside,  he set up shop, bought some acreage and also played an important role in the development of irrigation laws in the Yakima Valley.  As manager of the Sunnyside Irrigation Canal, he authored the guidelines to develop and share water resources.

Dr. Clore was an assistant horticulturalist at the Irrigated Agricultural Research and Extension Center just outside of Prosser. Initially, the research center was 200 acres of sagebrush planted to corn, millet, potatoes, wheat and clover. That all changed when vitis vinifera came to town.

Sunnyside, where Bridgman settled in, was founded in the late 1890s by some Midwestern folks from the Progressive Brethren Church. They were determined to keep the sins of the world at bay in their new community. Wine may have been ok for Jesus at Cana but not in the backyards of these Sunnyside residents.

Sunnysiders survived, for a few years anyway, on the produce of their truck gardens but shipping outside the area was beyond their scope of work. So, they discovered the best way to make money was to sell land to unsuspecting newcomers. W. B.’s arrival in the “holy city” of Sunnyside in 1902 was definitely a blessing the residents weren’t counting on.

As his law practice thrived, it allowed him to purchase land. Being from a farming community, farmland was a top priority. He also had viticulture in his background. Back home on the Niagara Peninsula, his family grew Concord grapes. So, in 1917,  Mr. Bridgeman planted a vineyard on Snipes Mountain in the Yakima Valley.

These were the first commercial wine grapes in a region that has been the center of the Washington wine industry ever since. The place, called Harrison Hill, turned out to be a great place to grow wine grapes.

Bridgman became the local celebrity, two-time mayor, and Sunnyside’s biggest promoter. He encouraged the business of farming throughout the valley and the agricultural bounty of the irrigated farmlands.

After Prohibition, Bridgman took advantage of the opportunity and opened Upland Winery on Snipes Mountain. In 1934, the winery produced 7,000 gallons of wine from his vineyards planted to a smorgasbord of vinifera grapes. He had 165 acres of Semilion, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Palomino, Thompson Seedless, Sultana, Black Muscat, Carignane, Zinfandel, and Mataro under contract with more than 70 growers.

While he wanted to focus on table wines using European grape varieties, he found most of his success in sweeter fortified wines that were popular in the ’40s and ’50s. Bridgman sold the winery in 1960 and died eight years later.

Of all his contributions, one of Bridgman’s greatest achievements was convincing young Dr.Walter Clore at the Washington State University Experimental Station in Prosser that wine grape production was viable in Eastern Washington.  Looking back, that was sage advice.

Al Newhouse, a second-generation Yakima Valley farmer, purchased Bridgman’s vineyards and expanded the plantings over the years to four hundred acres. His grandson, Todd Newhouse, joined the family business in 1996 and relaunched Upland Estates Winery in 2006.

In 2009, the federal government recognized Snipes Mountain as an official American Viticultural Area. At 4,145 acres with over 800 planted to vinifera grapes, it’s small but making a huge impact.

And those vines Bridgman planted in 1917? Astonishingly, several of them survive to this day, including Thompson Seedless and Muscat of Alexandria. There is also Black Muscat and Cabernet from the 1950s and ’60s.

Newhouse and winemaker Robert Smasne, before he struck out on his own, have made award winning wines from those vineyards. Other winemakers have too. DeLille Cellar’s Harrison Hill and Thurston Wolfe’s Black Muscat were made from Bridgman’s early planting.

On a recent trip to Yakima Valley, I became reacquainted with Upland Estates Winery over lunch at the Cowiche Canyon Kitchen and Ice House. The place would have made W. B. smile. It’s a “polished American Tavern” constructed in the fashion of an old fruit warehouse, all concrete and wood décor to reflect Yakima’s agricultural industry.

Lighting, walls and flooring are re-purposed materials. With an open kitchen, a wood fired oven, smudge pot and ice block lights, concrete walls ingrained with wood and a steel warehouse door that opens to outside dining, the place has wonderful ambiance with so much to see and enjoy. Which I did with glass of Uplands Sauvignon Blanc and a dish of Ahi Tuna with Mango Salsa. It was a perfect lunch.

And while your in Yakima, do stop by the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser. Named for the Father of the Washington Wine industry, it is a learning center that promotes Washington State wines and foods.

You’ll be dazzled when you visit this spacious tasting room, where you can taste wines from across the state and learn about the wide variety of grapes, soils and climates that make our wines so distinctive.

Established at the request of wineries and other petitioners, boundaries for the thirteen Washington AVAs are defined by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Each month at the Walter Clore Center, one of the 13 AVAs are featured for a month. The decision on the featured AVA is decided by drawing a name out of a hat.

You’ll learn to really appreciate the work, quality and diversity of wine and food produced in the state through the Center’s seminars, programs and events. There is even a Legends of Washington Wine Hall of Fame where you may stumble upon who planted the first vineyard and where in Washington State it was planted.

 

Here’s to You from Yakima Valley

One of the many highlights of a recent trip around Yakima Valley was a wonderful gourmet dinner experience that you should treat your dining partner and yourself to.

The Carousel Restaurant & Bistro is fine dining with French flair. Many of the recipes are from the French chef who originally opened the restaurant. The service was exquisite, the food was fabulous and with Casablanca playing on the wall during dinner, what could be better?  casablanca

The soundless black and white movie created an exotic atmosphere in the middle of this historic farming community.  During dinner, an amazing harp player entertained with familiar tunes.

But the fresh, local food and the wine pairing is the subject of this week’s story.  If it seems like I’m gushing, it’s probably because there’s lots to gush about!

For a dinner such as this, it’s important, almost mandatory, to have a dinner party partner, affectionately known as the DPP.  This ensures that you get to taste twice as much.  I would also like to mention that when in a French restaurant, I like to choose the more adventuresome Chef’s Choice dishes, especially if the DPP chooses the usual dishes.  boar w glasses

The first of five courses was an appetizer of Provence Boar Paté (mine) and crab cakes (the DPP).  I chose the paté made from slow simmered chicken and boar foie gras served with bacon jam. It was perfectly paired with a Domaine Collette Beaujolais Village 2014.

This ruby colored wine has a fruit bowl of flavors that include raspberry, red currant, and strawberry. The tannins were supple and beautifully balanced probably because of the whole bunch fermentation. This wine was a stunning match with the pate. Bravo to Greg, our maître d for the first of many thoughtful and spot on matches.

The DPP went for an appetizer of crab cakes on a  bed of arugula tossed with a lemon vinaigrette and brown butter capers. This too was expertly paired with a Dopff & Irion 2013 Riesling from an often overlooked area of France – Alsace. Here is an old world wine with place names not as prominent on the label as the grape names.

Constructed in 1549, the Chateau was originally owned by the Princes of Wurtemberg, who ruled over the city and its region for almost five centuries. Even a Chateau founded in the 16th century can survive 5 centuries because it embraces new technologies.

This particular bottling was done with screw caps! Gasp! Which surprised me in a pleasant sort of way. We all need to embrace screw caps especially with white wines which are typically enjoyed within a year of being bottled.

Considering a cork tree has to be at least 25 years old before its bark can be harvested, we need to rethink our carbon footprint. Even though its cork can then be stripped every 8 to 14 years after that first harvest, we should adapt as this old chateau has done.

My salad was great but the DPP salad was the show stopper. flambeeingCooked tableside, the salade d’epinards (spinach) flambé was a flaming success. The red wine vinaigrette was reduced and then the cooked bacon was added and flambéed with brandy to produce a two foot high torch.

Salads were served with the Cote de Bonneville DuBrul Vineyard Rosé. This 45 acre site produces small berries, small clusters, and low yields.  DuBrul Vineyard has been recognized as one of the top Washington State vineyards.

french onion soupThe soup course included the ubiquitousasparagus soup but very French, French onion soup and soupe de jour was made with fresh Yakima Valley asparagus. The former was accompanied by one of my all time favorite wines, Owen Roe Abbotts Table which is a blend of Zin, Sangiovese, Blaufrankish and Petite Verdot. The later with a Tour d’Auron 2013, a Bordeaux Supérieur blend of Cabernet, Cab Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot. Another great match by Greg.

And for the pièce de résistance, the chosen entrées were duck and rabbit. The duck was seared and braised in a house red wine sauce with flambéed green peppercorns served over mushroom risotto.

It was complimented by the 2012 King Estate Oregon Pinot Noir, a very aromatic wine with wonderful cherry flavors with with hints of earthy mushrooms.

I chose another chef’s choice created with seasonal ingredients. When in a French restaurant, there are certain dishes guaranteed to be on the menu that you wouldn’t find on a Kitsap County menu, snails, frog’s legs and rabbit.

My dish turned out to be a delicious casserole of rabbit DSCN4305with house-made noodles, arugula and Asiago.  This dish was accompanied by a Kestral 2012 Cabernet. According to winemaker Flint Nelson, “This expansive wine boasts full body, ripe dense fruit flavors, with supple tannins and a lingering finish.” I would heartily agree.

mousseFor dessert, the choices were obvious. Chocolate mousse cake, pastry chef’s choice and a glass of Treveri Rosé. Chef’s choice was a raspberry tart with basil, lemon peel and an apricot glaze. raspberry tartBoth were pleasing to the eye as well as the palate. But I had to use stealth to get a bite of the cake. The sharing was over as the DPP only likes raspberries in his beer.

Treveri Cellars is a Yakima Valley winery that produces some really great handcrafted sparkling wines. This family operation is led by a husband and wife team, Jürgen Grieb, head winemaker with almost 30 years in the Washington wine industry and Julie Grieb, business manager.treveri rose

Treveri opened its doors just days before the Thanksgiving rush in 2010 with a mission to put Washington sparkling wine on the map.  In almost six years, Treveri has been served three times at White House State Department receptions, the James Beard Foundation in New York,  received a Double Gold at the Seattle Wine Awards, 90+ point scores from national 100 point scorers and voted one of the nation’s Top Ten Hottest Brands of 2014 by Wine Business Monthly. Mission accomplished!

Producing a wide array of sparkling wines, including non-traditional varieties such as Syrah, Riesling and Gewurztraminer, Treveri uses state of the art techniques to produce these beautiful bubblies.

This Rosé, aged an average of 24 months, was a gorgeous rose color with big strawberry flavors and a lingering finish. The wine was a perfect match with both desserts and a beautiful and so very continental way to end the evening.

This is a dining experience you deserve! Carousel Restaurant & Bistro, 25 North Front Street, Yakima. (509) 248-6720

Tasting Washington White Wines

So, how was Taste Washington this year?  In a word – Grand.  TasteWaWineMonth_RedPlaid_NoDate_LogoThere were so many wines to taste and bites to match.  To be organized, a plan was made but like a dog after a squirrel,  I  gave chase to the bottle at the next table and the one next to that and the one next to that…

The plan was to taste Chenin Blancs the first hour and then on to the more unusual red varietals, like Carmenere, Tempranillo, Mourvedre, Petite Verdot, Barbera, Dolcetto, or Nebbiolo.

Chenin Blanc is probably the world’s most versatile grape variety. It’s capable of producing some of the longest lived sweet wines and with its naturally high acidity, it’s easily the most balanced of wines. This high acidity is also quite useful for a range of sparkling Chenin Blancs.

I thought exploring wineries I hadn’t even heard of would be more educational than visiting the usual suspects. After all, there are over 900 Washington wineries today.

Chenin Blanc was first planted in Washington in 1948 from UC Davis stock. My love affair with Chenin Blanc began when Pontin del Roza released their second vintage in 1985.

The story of how Scott Pontin’s high school FFA project culminated into a successful estate winery is amazing. Here’s a kid making wine and not even old enough to walk into a bar.

However, his family have been farming the Roza since 1954. They began as turkey farmers, and then planted concord grapes and sold the juice to Yakima Valley Grape Producers. The family also farmed wheat, mint, potatoes and sugar beets and apples.

Pontin del Roza roughly translates to mean Pontin from the Roza. This  pioneering family came to the Yakima Valley and planted the terraced vineyards just as their Italian ancestors had done for centuries.

The 2014 Chenin Blanc has 13.6 % alcohol and residual sugar of 2.8% with aromas of lemon zest and melon leading into peach and pineapple flavors that paired wonderfully with Salty’s on Alki’s lobster gyoza with red curry.

Ancestry Cellars in Woodinville was offering up their Le Cortege 2014 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc.  The wine is a refreshing lemon, juicy green apple and honey flavors with aromas of honey and white flowers. It has great weight for an off dry style and has  a fair amount of acidity. The grapes are sourced from the 30 year old vines at Bella Terra Vineyard. It was fermented in stainless steel for a crisp, fresh wine with a residual sugar of  1.67%, and alcohol at 13.3%.  Awarded a Double Gold at the Seattle Wine Awards.

On a hillside overlooking the Wenatchee River Valley, Silvara Vineyards is Leavenworth’s newest winery. They recently garnered a Gold Medal at the Washington Wine Awards for their Chenin Blanc.  It has the sweetness of melon, apricots and honey with a hint of effervescence. Very impressive for this young winery. The drawback is no distributor.  To get a bottle of this wonderful wine, call 509-548-1000 or email info@silvarawine.com  It’s worth it!

At this point, the plan began to unravel. Blame it on the freshly shucked oysters. Had to have some of the Chinook 2014 Sauvignon Blanc and Palencia’s Albarino, two of my all time favorite wines.

My nose led me to Urbane Restaurant’s smoked salmon cake, with Savage Grace next door.  Their Riesling vineyards on Underwood Mountain are on a steep hillside high above the Columbia River Gorge. The climate is a natural for Riesling. Flavors of tangerine and lime with wet stone combine to make this delicious Riesling that paired well with the smoked salmon cake.

Convergence Zone Cellars is a family-owned winery in Woodinville.  The grapes are sourced from some of the best vineyards in the Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain and Columbia Valley AVAs. Their Dewpoint is an off-dry Riesling with aromas of lemon zest, lime and peach. It has bright peach, green apple, and lemon flavors. The juicy fruit and crisp acidity is balanced, and paired perfectly with the Kalaloch Lodge’s Dungeness crab with jalapeno aioli crostini.

We’re big fans of Treveri Cellars, a family owned sparkling wine house that produces some of the best Washington sparklers. They producing a bevy of sparkling wines, including Syrah, Riesling and Mueller-Thurgau.  We tasted the Blanc de Noirs made with 100% Pinot Noir which had a hint of strawberries and brioche with crisp acidity with a creamy finish. It was en tirage which is French for fermenting in the bottle, for 23.5 months. Swiftwater Cellar’s duck comfit with Asian plum sauce was just the ticket to pair with this bubbly.

And then there are the red wines but we’ve run out of room.

And just a reminder that the Yakima Spring Barrel Tasting is next weekend. You can sample a new vintage straight from the barrel, enjoy cooking demonstrations, winemaker dinners, vineyard tours and other educational experiences. This is a great opportunity to delve into some of the wineries and vineyards in Washington’s oldest AVA on April 23rd and 24th .

And right here on the Kitsap Peninsula, Bainbridge Island wineries have scheduled a special event for April 23 and 24. You’ll taste locally made cheeses with locally made wine. More info at www.bainbridgewineries.com/winerytours

The following weekend, April 29 through May 1st is the Gorge Wine Experience  This three day series of events is for wine enthusiasts to learn about Gorge wine and meet the winemakers. There are over 20 wineries with activities throughout the Gorge.

Tasting Washington Wines this Spring

Taste Washington is the largest wine tasting I’ve ever attended except one. That tasting happened in San Francisco over 30 years ago. It was held in a huge lavish hotel ballroom where wines from every major wine growing region at the time filled hundreds of tables. The amount of glassware used at the event is mind boggling.

With under 60 wineries, Washington was a speck on the world’s wine map at that time. But, my oh my, how things have changed! Today, there are over 890 wineries in this dynamic fruit growing region. On average, a new winery opens every 30 days, making the number of wineries in Washington second behind California.

The first recorded winery operating in Washington was founded by an immigrant from Baden, Germany, in 1874 in East Wenatchee. When John Galler first moved to Washington, he made a living trapping with the Indians before settling down to farm and ferment. He had an orchard and planted 20 acres of grapes, producing wines for some 36 years before retiring.

In the 1900s, the wine industry was based on native American grapes such as the concord which took to the climate of Eastern Washington quite well. Grandview Winery and the National Wine Company or Nawico for short, were the largest along with Seattle’s Pommerelle and Upland winery out of Sunnyside.

There were also wineries popping up in Selah, Vancouver, Vaughn, Wenatchee, Bellevue, Lake Stevens, Edmonds, and Dockton to name a few. Even little Grapeview had one, Stretch Island Winery, operating from 1935 until 1947.

Except for the three larger wineries, most of the smaller community wineries made wine with whatever fruit they could get their hands on.  Apples, cherries, pears, blackberries, gooseberries, loganberries and currants were abundant. One adventurous vintner even made a melon wine.

Grape varieties used were the American Island Belle, Campbell Early, and Concord.  And Muscat, Alicante Bouchet and Zinfandel vines were brought by immigrants.  These wines were very much like the wine coolers of the early 1980s. Sweet, fruity and with not even a hint of complexity.

Dedicated to the lifelong work of Washington’s pioneering viticultural researcher who shaped the Washington wine industry and is recognized as the Father of Washington Wine.
Dedicated to the lifelong work of Washington’s pioneering viticultural researcher who shaped the Washington wine industry and is recognized as the Father of Washington Wine.

The change from Concord to Cabernet was gradual. It started in 1937 at the Irrigated Agricultural Research and Extension Center. They hired Dr. Walter Clore. His job was to evaluate the apple irrigation project and other fruits, including grapes, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries.

A trial block of about 30 grape varieties was planted with both American and European varieties. This grew over the next six years to 45 American, 71 European and a dozen hybrid varieties. By 1974, over 300 varieties had been established at the research center.

Today, over 350 wine grape growers have over 40 varietals planted on some 50,000 acres all across Washington State. The latest record harvest year was 2014 with 227,000 tons of vinifera grapes harvested. And those 890 wineries produced 16 million cases of wine from all those grapes.

In 2015, Washington’s wine grape harvest totaled 222,000 tons, down 2 percent from the record harvest of 2014. Many grape growers attributed the decrease to unusually warm weather, which resulted in a much smaller berry size. The upside of this is more concentrated aromas and flavors.

There are thirteen American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), as recognized and defined by the United States Treasury Department; Alcohol & Tobacco Taxes & Trade Bureau in Washington State.

The first to be recognized was Yakima Valley in 1983. In 1984, Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley joined the Club. Eleven years later, Puget Sound joined the ranks.

The turn of the century brought Red Mountain into the fold, followed by Columbia Gorge (2004), Horse Heaven Hills (2005), Rattlesnake Hills and Wahluke Slope in 2006 and Snipes Mountain in 2009. Naches Heights and Ancient Lakes were added in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Washington’s average sixteen hours per day of summer sunlight and alluvial soils produce some of the best growing conditions for vinifera grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon was the top producing red variety at 47,400 tons. Riesling was ranked second, at 44,100 tons. The latest economic impact numbers for the wine industry is $4.8 billion in 2013.

No wonder Taste Washington is the largest single region wine event today. There are so many wines from so many varieties to choose from. There are still tickets available for Sunday’s Grand Tasting. This is a great opportunity to learn more about Washington’s wineries and what delicious bites pair well with them. For more information, TasteWashington.org

Another great tasting event is coming up. Yakima has their Spring Barrel Tasting right around the corner. This is an opportunity to delve into some of the wineries and vineyards in Washington’s oldest AVA on April 23rd and 24th. Tasting from the barrel is a unique experience. Many wineries have local food pairings, live music and festivities. More learning opportunities! More fun!

And right here on the Kitsap Peninsula, Bainbridge Island wineries have scheduled a special event for April 23 and 24. You’ll taste locally made cheeses with locally made wine. More info at www.bainbridgewineries.com

Taste Washington this Weekend!

If you haven’t made the move, now is the time.  Purchase your tickets to  the premier Washington Grand Wine Tasting on April 2 -3, 2016. There are over two hundred Washington wineries pouring samples and 70 restaurants servings up tasty bites this weekend. In addition, there are educational seminars and the Alaska Chef’s Stage where you can see real live chef’s whipping up tasty dishes.  TasteWaWineMonth_RedPlaid_NoDate_Logo

Your Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card will get you access to the  VIP Cardholder’s Lounge where you can sample delicious food along with library wines. From the Seastar Restaurant Catering and John Howie Steak try some Porcini Mushroom Soup, Mini Dungeness Crab Cakes,  American Wagyu Beef Meatballs with Foie Gras Demi Glace,  Asiago-Blue Cheese Stuffed Red Potatoes, Sushi, Sesame Peppercorn Crusted Ahi, Prime New York Strip with Maitre d’sauce, and/or Deviled Eggs with Truffled Bacon.

The reserve and library wines will be from some of Washington’s most prestigious winemakers. Here’s the line-up:

Saturday, April 2
1pm – 2pm Chateau Ste. Michelle
2pm – 3pm Dunham Cellars
3pm – 4pm DeLille Cellars
4pm – 5pm Mark Ryan Winery

Sunday, April 3
1pm – 2pm Chateau St. Michelle
2pm – 3pm Barons Winery / Matteo Wines
3pm – 4pm Sparkman Cellars
4pm – 5pm Avennia Winery

If that doesn’t make your mouth water, we need to talk – preferably over a bottle of wine.  More info here,  tastewashington.org

Cheers!

March is Washington Wine Month

March is Washington Wine Month with celebrations and events you won’t want to miss.

On Bainbridge Island, it’s raining gold and silver at Eleven Winery! The judges at Savor NW have chosen the 2013 Syrah and 2013 Roussanne as Gold Medal Winners. The 2013 Viognier and the 2012 La Ronde were awarded Silver Medals.  Available online, in the tasting room or at the  winery with the exception of the sold out  2013 Syrah.

The biggest event of them all is Taste Washington. TasteWaWineMonth_RedPlaid_NoDate_LogoAt Taste Washington, you can sample wines from over 225 Washington wineries, delicious bites from 65 local restaurants, wines from featured Washington AVAs and seminars to learn the nitty gritty about Washington Wines!

The series of educational seminars is truly enlightening. On Saturday, Washington vs the World, will compare Washington Rhone-style wines to Rhone-style wines from around the world. King Cab will explore this Bordeaux grape from various AVAs across the state. Tasting Washington is a discussion and tasting on the Washington-ness in Washington wine.

On Sunday, Through the Grapevine: Lessons learned from a lifetime in Washington wine will feature some of the state’s finest growers and winemakers. Riesling on the Rise and A Sense of Place explores the grape and the winemaker and the vineyard influences on wines. Tickets for the seminars are offered separately from the other events.

After the seminars, The Grand Tasting takes place at CenturyLink Event Center on Saturday,  April 2nd and Sunday, April 3rd. You’ll taste and learn about the the latest and greatest and the tried and true of Washington State wine varietals, AVAs and culinary bites.

During the Grand Tasting,  Alaska Chef Stage will host various live chef demonstrations from an all-star culinary line-up. In a state-of-the-art kitchen, these talented chefs will be demonstrating their cooking skills and offering up culinary tips.

Hear Ryan Burnett, the Chef at the award-winning Coyaba Restaurant at the Muckleshoot Casino. Chef Jason Stratton, Executive Chef of Capitol Hill’s Mamnoon Restaurant, named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 10 Best New Chefs in 2010, and a James Beard semifinalist.

Chef Sarah Scott of El Gaucho Bellevue prepares  signature dishes and Chef Aarti Sequeria, Host of Aarti Party will be on hand. Sequeria competed on and won Season 6 of The Next Food Network Star in 2010. Born in India and brought up in the Middle East, Sequeria brings her varied culinary background to the Taste Washington stage.

More about the wine lineup later but to put a few new ones out there to think about – Port Townsend’s Lullaby Winery , Ambassador Wines out of Red Mountain, MonteScarlatto also on Red Mountain, Walla Walla’s Cadaretta and Lodmell Wineries, Woodinville’s Genoa Cellars,  Pomum Cellars and Pearl and Stone Wine Co.  Meanwhile, for a complete listing and ticket information, visit tastewashington.org

Tickets are on sale now so don’t delay. Join the fun today! Taste Washington – March 31 – April 3, 2016.

Next up is the Spring Barrel Tasting on April 22 through April 24th.  Spring Barrel Tasting weekend is your chance to taste wines from some of the oldest vineyards in the state.  This weekend you’ll sample yet-unfinished wines from the barrel.

Purchase a Premier Pass which will gain you access to added benefits  during this Spring Barrel Tasting weekend at 40 participating wineries. Premier Pass holders will be able to experience a variety of specialty food pairings, library tastings, and tours. Online Premier Pass sales end April 19. The wineries ask that you bring your own glass this weekend. yakimavalleyuncorked.com

Spring White Wines

Much like the clothing industry, the wine industry is getting their spring line up ready for the new season.

Katie Morrow places foil on the bottles during the bottling process at Eleven Winery on Bainbridge Island on Thursday, May 30, 2013. (MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN)

Three very spring white wines I’ve recently tasted were in the French way – that is made from French grapes and in a very French style. The grapes were Pinot Gris, Columbard and Viognier.

Other French grapes often found in the Alsace region and in Germany are Gewurztraminer, Muller-Thurgau, and Riesling.

Pinot Gris, also known as Pinot Grigio in Italy, is the grey skinned Pinot grape. Pinot Blanc is the “white” skinned Pinot and Pinot Noir, or Nero in Italian, is the black skinned Pinot grape.

There is another, very obscure cousin to these well-known Pinots and that is Pinot Meunier. It’s rarely found outside of the France’s Champagne region.

These Pinots cousins have one thing in common besides the “Pinot” in their name. They are mutant ninja Pinots. Pinot Gris is a somatic mutation of the genes that control the skin color.

Pinot Blanc is a further mutation and can produce, to further muddy the must, Pinot Gris or Pinot Noir. The DNA profiles of the Gris and Blanc are identical to Pinot Noir.

All this superfluous information is given to help you understand what a finicky grape Pinot can be.

Recently, I happened across the Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris and was delighted with the elegance and complexity of the wine.

The elegance and complexity can be attributed to several wine making techniques used to produce this wine. The grapes were pressed rather than crushed to produce smoother flavors. Then the juice was slowly fermented at cold temperatures to enhance the fruit flavors.

Another technique is sur lie which is the practice of conditioning a wine on the spent yeast cells. This produces an additional flavor profile. In addition, fermenting in stainless steel further enhances the fruit flavors.

This would be a great match with salmon whether grilled, smoked or seared. Add a little pasta and a cream sauce and you’re in heaven.

Other pairing candidates could include pork and julienned ginger wrapped in lettuce leaves, halibut with chili jam, shrimp salad with garlic croutons or panko-crusted salmon.

Another stunning wine recently tasted is the Michel Gassier les Piliers 2013 from southern Rhone. This was also made with care by removing 100% of the stems, cold skin contact for 48 hours, partial racking of the must and fermentation in vats.

It’s quite exotic with aromas and flavors of passion fruit, citrus and apricot. Made from 65% Columbard and 35% Viognier, it would pair wonderfully with pasta with Gorgonzola cream, sushi, stir fry or an orange and red onion salad.

We’re all familiar with the fragrant Viognier grape but Columbard is something we may have tasted but didn’t know we tasted. Columbard is one of the blending grapes used in both Cognac and Armagnac.

The prolific grape, Ugni Blanc, or Trebbiano if you were Italian, makes up about 95% of Cognac production.

Trebbiano is one of the most widely planted white grapes in the world. Originally from Italy it is also widely planted in France. It’s most commonly used as a blending grape.

Frascati, another wonderful spring time wine, is a blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia Bianca. Under DOC laws, Frascati can be made in either a dry or a sweet style and either still or in a Spumante (sparkling) style.

The dry table wines are the most popular. They are labeled as Novello, Superiore, or Novello Superiore. The Trebbiano is more delicately flavored with floral notes that add a striking acidity to the wine. Any fish dish would pair very nicely with this dry wine. And you can pretend you’re on some Italian beach.

Another white recently revisited was the Montinore Estate Borealis. Established in 1982, Montinore Estate is a 210-acre Demeter Certified Biodynamic and Certified Organic estate that lies at the northern end of the Willamette Valley appellation.

The vineyards are planted to Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, and Lagrein.

The 2014 Borealis is a blend of Gewurztraminer, Muller-Thurgau, Riesling, and Pinot Gris. This blend of grapes covers the full fruit spectrum on the nose with peach, yellow apple, pineapple and bright citrus popping out, accented with whiffs of lychee and fresh rose petals.

On the palate it starts with a slightly sweet taste of ripe peach and pear balanced with zingy citrus, which evolves into a delicious crisp finish of tropical and stone fruit. Spicy Asian, Thai or Indian dishes are the way to go for pairing with all that juicy fruit.

Many of these grape varieties can be tasted at Taste Washington which is on April 2nd and 3rd this year. Taste Washington, the nation’s largest single-region wine and food event, brings together over 225 Washington wineries, and 70 restaurants.  This is a great opportunity to learn about these grape varieties and what to pair with them. For more information, go to TasteWashington.org