Where to Begin with so Many Wines?

I find the infinite variety of wine, beer, and spirits to be both overwhelming and an adventure. As I was taught while training for sprint distance marathons, the hardest part is getting started.

Take Taste Washington marathon for instance. When faced with the delightful dilemma of a roomful of wine, where do you begin? Are you the adventurous type? The loyal kind? Or the frugal approach?

At Taste Washington this year, there were over 200 wineries, each pouring three or four wines with the opportunity to taste approximately 700 wines if you attended both days. This does not cover the vineyard designated areas that were pouring a dozen or so wines. Or the wines at the Red and White event, Taste on the Farm or the seminars.

Taste Washington is overwhelming but an adventure I look forwards to each year. While pausing at a table to set down my wine glass and a small plate of Assagio’s bolognaise (so good) for a free hand to make notes, I shared a table with older couple. We chatted about which wines were our favorites and where to go next. They had gone to the big names, Betz, Mark Ryan and Long Shadows.

I talked with a friend of a friend after the event and he had pretty much followed the path of tried and true 90+ point wines. He also whined about too many unrated wines and he wasn’t willing to spend valuable tasting time researching so he stuck with the ones he knew.

There was a time that I’d head for the most expensive, the 90+ pointers and make that the plan. But that evolved to wineries that I read about but had never tried. This year, the plan progressed to wineries that were fermenting unusual grape varieties.

Choices included traditional Italian varieties such as Barbera, Nebbiolo, Primitivo, Sangiovese, and Dolcetto. French varieties were well represented by Auxerois, Carmenere, Chenin Blanc, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Lemberger, Mourvedre, Picpoul, Roussanne, Petite Verdot, and Petit Syrah.

German grapes that do well in the Puget Sound AVA were represented with the scarce Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine. Even more scarce are Albarino and Tempranillo, a white and a red that epitomize Spain. Scarcer still, Grüner Veltliner (Austria), Tannat (Uruguay) and a handful of Vermouths (Germany, Italy, France). There was a lot to taste, so where to start?

Custom frequently requires one should begin with a sparkling wine. And so I did. Karma Vineyards was pouring their Blanc de Noir, Blanc de Blanc and Pink sparkling wines. These were classically made – dry, crisp and really paired well with Blue C Sushi’s seared salmon bite with crème fraiche and the cider poached tuna salad with chickpea mayo from Capitol Cider.

The Barbera grape is from the Piedmonte region of Italy so that was an easy choice for me. Maryhill, MonteScarlatto and Cascade Cliffs were particular standouts. Cascade Cliffs and Maryhill are located along the Columbia River in the Columbia Gorge AVA which is dubbed “A world of wine in 40 miles.”

Cascade Cliffs has been making Barbera for a couple of decades and this 2016 was classic with the big black fruits and the high acidity the Barbera grape is prized for.

Cascade Cliffs has been making other Italian varieties, like a Tuscan Red that is a fabulous blend of Cab, Merlot and Sangiovese. They also make a Nebbiolo of Barolo and Barbaresco fame. Seattle’s Upsidedown Wine had a delicious Nebbiolo Rosé that would be great some hot summer day.

Maryhill as Winery of the Year for a number of years, made this 2015 with 18 months of barrel aging in 40% new French oak. It’s a mouthful yet smooth. My favorite pairing with Barbera is fresh sliced tomatoes splashed with balsamic and olive oil, fresh ground pepper, basil and a crusty, rustic bread.

The MonteScarlatto Vineyard at Red Mountain is a fairly new vineyard of 10 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Merlot, Malbec and Petite Verdot. They were pouring the 2013 Barbera which my Tasting Partner raved about.

Located in Woodinville, Martedi Winery also produces wine in the Italian tradition with a Sangiovese Rosé, a great spring and summer wine. They also have a Sangiovese and a great Nebbiolo.

Claar Cellars 2013 Sangiovese – the grape that made Chianti famous – was really nice, perfectly balanced strawberry and herb flavors. It spent 12 months on oak which probably accounts for the smoothness of the wine.

Vines from the original Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain were planted in the 1970s. Another 80 acres was planted twenty years later. This prestigious vineyard grows grapes for some of the top wineries of the state.

Grenache is widely planted in Spain where its known as Garnacha and is a large component in France’s Chateauneuf du Pape where it adds body and fruit to the wine. Woodinville’s Convergence 2013 Ciel du Cheval Grenache was a favorite from this prestigious vineyard. And then I ran across Ded Reckoning’s 2013 Ciel du Cheval Grenache.

Lots of Rhone type wines both red and white. Red could be a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Counoise and Cinsault. Whites would be any combination of Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul. There are other grapes but I haven’t seen any Clairette Blanche or Bourboulenc, both white grapes.

With summer on the way, it’s time to be looking for Rosés and whites. Tranche Rosé is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Counoise. There were a handful of Grenache Blancs and a couple of Picpouls. These white grapes are the best summer wines. The Walls Vineyards in Walla Walla Grenache Blanc was easy drinking, Cairdeas and Callan had fabulous Grenache Blancs, crisp, fruity and minerals. Callan’s Picpoul was the white wine of choice at Taste. It was very, very good. Another Picpoul worth seeking out comes from Syncline in the Columbia Gorge AVA.

Woodinville’s Warr-king Winery and Seattle’s Latta Wines both have a Roussanne also worth seeking out and Lobo Hills Auxerrois was amazing. This white grape originates from the Alsace region of France.

Forgeron, Hedges and Stottle all made a white Rhone; Forgeron’s was a blend of 39 per cent Roussanne, 34 Viognier and the remainder Grenache Blanc. Hedges blend is 75 per cent Marsanne and the rest Roussanne. The wine was full-bodied, rich and viscous. Stottle’s was a blend of 78 per cent Viognier and the balance in Roussanne. Viognier is a very aromatic grape and this was showed that off to the hilt.

Seattle’s Bartholomew 2015 Rattlesnake Hills Tannat the was an adventure with stunning results. Tannat is the ‘black wines’ of Madiran in southwest France, a fairly obscure wine region. Uruguay recently latched onto this varietal and is making some black wine of its own. And yes, inky black in color. This is a big, big wine.

One last winery with spectacular wines is Samson Winery in Whatcom County. They make the absolute best fruit wines. No words can describe their perfection. Try them and you too will be captivated!

Taste Washington Musings

Taste Washington is a wonderful opportunity taste many wines and to talk with industry leaders, winemakers, cider makers, and reflect on our state’s agricultural culture.

While waiting for the doors to open, I passed the time with fellow standees, Dick Boushey and Sommelier Christopher Chan. Topics ranged from the World Vinifera Conference, to Riesling’s fate in Washington and the 1980s era Langguth Winery.

Dick Boushey had a cherry and apple orchard before planting his first vines in 1980, four years before Washington’s first American Viticultural Appellation. The vineyards, planted to Cab and Merlot, were in a cool part of the Yakima Valley, a different climate than the warmer Red Mountain to the east and Wahluke Slope to the north.

Recognized today as one of the top 10 vineyards in the state, Boushey grapes are prized by Betz Family Winery, Bunnell Family Cellar, Chateau Ste Michelle, Cairdeas Winery, Callan Cellars, Chinook Wines, DeLille Cellars, Fidelitas Wines, Forgeron Cellars, Gorman Winery, Hawkins Cellars, K vintners, McCrea Cellars, Three Rivers Winery, Ross Andrew Winery, W.T. Vintners, Willow Wine Cellars and Long Shadows. Most of these wineries were pouring at Taste Washington’s Grand Tasting.

Another Taste Washington event was an opportunity to visit small, unique farms for a tour of the operations and to enjoy a specially prepared farm to table luncheon.

Delightful wines and ciders, fresh local ingredients and a dose of down-on-the-farm adventure began in Chimacum at the crossroad of Center Road and Chimacum. You can’t miss it. Finnriver Orchard, Tasting and Cider Garden has a 10-acre orchard, a tasting room and Cider Garden right beside the fire station.

This 40-acre plot of land is protected by the Jefferson Land Trust and cared for by the Finnriver crew. Finnriver is certified salmon safe and committed to pursuing sustainable land stewardship through organic agriculture, farmland preservation, habitat restoration, and community outreach.

The original farm is a secluded 80-acre organic farm and orchard about three miles from the crossroad. Organic apples are sourced from these orchards of over 500 trees, with 20 varieties of heirloom and traditional cider apple varieties and across the state.

Other specialists cultivating this farm are The Organic Seed Alliance with a couple of greenhouses and Friends of the Trees in their second year cultivating an herb garden with over 100 species.

Chimacum Creek runs alongside the property and its stewardship group, North Olympic Salmon Coalition is also a big part of stream restoration. This former floodplain and meandering creeks have been altered into agricultural land. Chimacum Creek, much like Clear Creek before the restoration, is constrained into agricultural dikes, meaning they have lost their original meandering.

Despite the blustery day, many of us took the option of tasting Finn River ciders while touring the farm with Cameron, the orchard wizard and Andrew, the production manager.

The orchard is planted in rows according to when bud break occurs, early varieties together, followed by mid-season and then late varieties. This facilitates the honey bees which can then pollinate one area before buzzing off to the next. Other orchard allies include a flock of geese whose job is to weed up and down the rows and with the sheep, keep the grass in “putting green shape.”

In the orchard with the geese honking at the intruders and Nulla, 6-day old lamb to cuddle, we tasted the Golden Russet cider and Black Oak cider. This beautiful rose hued cider gets its color from the addition of black currants. It was aged in oak barrels for a lively, complex and colorful handcrafted cider.

After explaining the complexities of cider apple varieties, the benefits of russets and keeping an orchard, our hosts led us back to the warm Cider Garden for a repast prepared by Chef Dan Rattigan and crew of the Fireside Restaurant at the Resort at Port Ludlow.

We tasted the Finn River artisan sparkling cider with appetizers of SpringRain Farms deviled duck eggs with crispy leeks, Finnriver quinoa cakes with Chimacum Valley tomme and roasted red pepper remoulade.

We slurped a creamy foraged mushroom bisque with melted Red Dog Farm leeks and crème fraiche, accompanied by Waterbrook’s Rose of Sangiovese and Bledsoe Family’s Healy Rose, both from the 2017 vintage.

The main course was a cedar planked Neah Bay Spring King salmon on a bed of Spring Rain kale, purple broccoli and Dharma Ridge Farm Yukon golds all splashed with a roasted shallot vinaigrette.

Paired with this delicious dish was Doubleback’s Red Blend, an everyday red wine in a square shaped bottle with a flip-top – Italian style. We were also treated to Waterbrook’s 2015 Reserve Merlot, a rich wine with good structure and luscious black fruits.

Desert was downright splendid. A cider poached pear with a Mystery Bay goat cheese mousse sitting on Finnriver blueberry compote and paired with Finnriver’s Pommeau, a fortified apple wine that was better than any apple brandy I’ve ever tasted.

With all this freshness within reach, it’s no wonder that Washington has a fabulous farm-to-table dining scene. This amazing adventure illuminated people’s passions for their chosen work from the orchardist to the production manager to the winemakers, the chef and the folks who attended us with impeccable service. I raise my glass to you all. Cheers to you!

While researching this article, I ran across some very interesting facts. If you’re farming in Washington, you’re blessed with one of the most productive growing regions in the nation. In fact, Washington is #1 in the nation’s raspberry production (producing 92.3%), hops (79.2%), spearmint oil (78.7%), cherries (58.6%), apples (57.4%), pears (47.9%), grapes (37.3%), carrots (35.6%), peas (32.4%) and sweet corn (29.7%). We have the #2 spot in asparagus (28.6%), potatoes (22.7%) and onion (21.2%) production. Percentages are for 2016.

Taste Washington Today through Sunday

This annual festival celebrates its 21st year with exceptional wine and winemakers, national and local chef tastings and new adventures. Visit Seattle, Washington State Wine and hundreds of wineries, restaurants and related exhibitors from throughout Washington State will be on hand for this premier wine and food festival .

 

Taste Washington on the Farm (March 23)10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Seattle Region

Three unique lunch excursions join together local farmers, Washington State winemakers and Seattle celebrity chefs. This year’s featured chefs and locations are Chef Kyle Peterson at the Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle, Chef Tad Mitsui and Chef Zoi Antonitsas at Heyday Farm on Bainbridge Island, and Chef Dan Ratigan at Finnriver Farm & Cidery in Chimacum on the Olympic Peninsula (Finnriver SOLD OUT).

The New Vintage (March 23) 7 to 10 p.m., Fisher Pavilion (New Location)

Entering its fourth year, The New Vintage is Taste Washington’s most buzzed-about evening event. Hosted at a new location, Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center, it’s also bigger than ever before. Featuring its first-ever live performance by Los Angeles-based synth pop duo Man Made Time, the event also showcases more than 50 wineries, 10 national and regional chefs, and the highly anticipated new release rosés from 20 coveted wineries.

 

Seminars (March 24 and 25) 10:30 a.m. to noon, Four Seasons Hotel Seattle

Taste Washington seminars feature renowned national experts leading in-depth explorations of Washington State wine. This year’s seminars include Spotlight: Celilo Vineyard; A Rhone of our Own?; Single Vineyard Syrahs of Washington; Beyond the Mystique: A Look at the Science of Washington Wine; Washington vs. the World: Old World, New World, Our World; Blind Tasting Bootcamp (SOLD OUT); and Through the Hourglass: An Exploration of Rare and Aged Washington Wines (SOLD OUT).

Grand Tasting (March 24 and 25) 1 to 5:30 p.m. (Hours vary), CenturyLink Field Event Center

The 21st annual Taste Washington Grand Tasting features more than 225 Washington State wineries pouring their favorite wines and more than 65 Northwest restaurants serving specially-prepared bites throughout two days. General Admission tickets are still available. While Saturday and Sunday VIP tickets are sold out, Sunday VIP tickets are still available by purchasing our new Sunday Brunch + Sunday VIP Grand Tasting ticket bundle. Celebrity chef schedules for both the Alaska Mileage Plan Chef’s Stage and the Albert Lee Culinary Experience mobile kitchen are below.

Sunday Brunch (March 25) 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Quality Athletics

Join us before the Grand Tasting on Sunday to see what happens when music and food collide. Our three celebrities (Chef Daniel Cox, Quality Athletics; Chef Josh Henderson, Huxley Wallace Collective; and Kris Orlowski, Seattle-based singer/songwriter) will collaborate on a menu and a playlist – served up with Grey Goose Bloody Marys and St~Germain Mimosas.

 

About Taste Washington:

Taste Washington is the largest single-region wine and food event in the United States, featuring more than 225 Washington State wineries and more than 65 Pacific Northwest restaurants. The 21st annual event will be held on March 22-25, 2018 at various locations in Seattle. The 2018 Taste Washington welcoming sponsor is Alaska Mileage Plan, the premier sponsors are Albert Lee Appliance, Fire & Vine Hospitality, Seattle Met, Lexus, and Total Wine & More. Taste Washington attracts more than 6,400 wine and food enthusiasts to the Seattle area. The Washington State Wine Commission launched Taste Washington in 1998 and it is now produced by Visit Seattle. For more information, visit

 

www.tastewashington.org.

It’s Time for Taste Washington

Taste Washington draws more than 6,400 wine and food enthusiasts to the Puget Sound to celebrate Washington wine and farm fresh food. March is Washington Wine Month and will culminate with exclusive tastings, farm-to-table lunches, wine seminars and a two-day Grand Tasting of over 230 wineries and sumptuous bites from 65 fabulous restaurants. Taste Washington is a wine and foodie extravaganza.

This long weekend of celebrating Washington Wines begins on Thursday with the fifth annual Red and White party by AQUA at El Gaucho, an elite tasting of some of the top wine producers’ recent releases.

And then on Friday, three rustic, chic luncheons reflect Washington’s agricultural heritage with Taste Washington on the Farm. Home to everything from shellfish farms to fruit orchards, it’s no surprise Washington would have a fabulous farm-to-table dining scene.

Washington has hundreds of acres of grapes and hops, organic veggies and wheat. Orchards produce the biggest apple crop in the nation, and the state is well-known for its cherry crop. Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries are just within reach. And with our miles of shoreline, freshly harvested mussels, clams, Dungeness crab and, of course, salmon grace our tables.

Delightful wines, fresh ingredients and a dose of adventure add up to three exciting new excursions to experience special farm-to-table lunches in Seattle and the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas.

Each adventure offers tours of the farm with the farmers, rubbing elbows with the chefs who create a locally sourced spread, and sipping wine with the winemakers. From the three offered, it’ll be a tough choice to make.

One choice is “Wine in the City” at the Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle, where you’ll enjoy a gourmet lunch in a charming urban farm tucked into 16 acres of beautiful gardens at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Chef Kyle Peterson from Palace Kitchen has a delectable meal planned using produce from the urban farm, supplemented by additional ingredients from Tom Douglas’ Prosser farm. Featured wineries include Mercer Family Estate and Matthews Winery.

Choice No. 2 is “Dining on Heyday Farm” on Bainbridge Island. Heyday Farms is a family-owned, 25-acre sustainable and historic farm. Diners will savor a delightful meal in the barn prepared by two local chefs, Tad Mitsui, executive chef and proprietor at Heyday Farm, and Chef Zoie Antonia.

Island wines that will be poured with lunch include Bainbridge Vineyards, Eagle Harbor Wine Co. and Fletcher Bay Winery. Others featured will be Amelia Wynn, Eleven, Perennial Vintners and Rolling Bay.

The third and most adventurous is the “Flyaway to Wine.” This is where you’ll find me. You get to travel by floatplane to the Olympic Peninsula, touching down at the picturesque Resort at Port Ludlow. Greeted dockside with a taste, you’ll then be escorted to Finnriver Farm & Cidery, a 50-acre organic family farm, orchard and artisan cidery in Chimacum. Tickets without the floatplane ride are also on sale.

After the tour, enjoy a delicious lunch in the Cider Garden prepared by Chef Dan Ratigan of The Fireside Restaurant at the Resort at Port Ludlow. Featured wineries and cider include Waterbrook Winery (one of the oldest wineries in Walla Walla), Doubleback (Drew Bledsoe’s family winery) and Finnriver Farm & Cidery.

The Grand Tasting takes place on Saturday and Sunday. In addition to the 230 wineries and more than 65 restaurants, Taste Washington will again feature an all-star chef lineup Guests are invited to watch and interact during hourly chef demonstrations from 2 to 5:30 p.m.

This year’s celebrity chefs include Brooke Williamson of Hudson House in Redondo Beach, California. Williamson was the runner-up in Bravo’s “Top Chef” Season 10, set in Seattle. The chef of Tin Roof in Maui, Sheldon Simeon, also competed in “Top Chef: Seattle” as a finalist and won fan favorite. His tropical cuisine is sure to be a hit at Taste Washington.

Tickets for the Red & White Party are $175. Tickets for the farm events range from $85 to $185. Other events include educational seminars ($45-$85), Sunday brunch ($75) and the Grand Tasting ($95-$210) To purchase tickets, visit http://tastewashington.org/

Hope to see you there.

Mary Earl has been educating Kitsap wine lovers for a couple of decades, is a longtime member of the West Sound Brew Club. She volunteers for the Clear Creek Trail, is a member of the Central Kitsap Community Council and a longtime supporter of Silverdale.

Ledger David Cellars has Talent

Ledger David Cellars’ owners David Traul and Lena Varner, like yours truly, have a passion for food and wine. Unlike me, their dream place is their vineyard, winery and the Le Petit Tasting Room in Talent, Oregon.

I can’t read “Talent, Oregon” without memories of one of the greatest wines of the world – Chateau D’Yquem. I was dining in a restaurant with incredible depth to their cellar. I don’t recall the red wine we with had dinner but I will never forget the bottle of wine we had for dessert.

We had a 1979, not a great vintage but an affordable one. It was an exquisite wine that I only had to share with one other person. It cost around $90 for a half bottle, but heck, I was on vacation in the Rogue Valley.

Chateau D’Yquem is the world’s most difficult and expensive wine to produce. Being from the Sauternes of region of Bordeaux, it’s a blend of white grapes – about 80% Semillon and the remainder Sauvignon Blanc. Their vineyard is susceptible to Botrytis Cinerea, a good mold that attaches itself to the grape skins and sucks all the moisture out of the grape. It’s not pretty but it is an incredibly beautiful, sweet, concentrated wine whose importance began in a spectacular vineyard.

So why is D’Yquem so difficult and expensive? The biggest factor is how the grapes are harvested. When the time comes, vineyard workers make many passes through the vineyards picking only the choicest grapes. They do this about twenty times during harvest. Imagine the hours of labor of picking berry by berry. Not cluster by cluster. Each fuzzy grape picked is wizened by the botrytis, a small capsule of intense flavors and sugars. It could take a month to harvest. In off years, the wine is not produced.

Ledger David Cellars appears to have the same exacting standards in the vineyards if not the same type of climate or soils. The vineyards, closer to California than Willamette Valley, have a warmer and drier climate than its neighboring Oregon AVAs up north.

The vineyard is in an area known as the Wagner Creek Sub-basin, part of the Rogue Valley Appellation. Grape varieties are also different from the other cooler regions of Oregon in part because of the climate but also the unique soils that are generally volcanic, shallow and well-drained.

The Varner-Traul Vineyards have over 15 acres of wine grapes planted. They were established in 2007 with an extensive line of grapes that include Chenin Blanc, Malvasia Bianca, Viognier, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Syrah.

While not world renowned yet, they have been awarded gold and silver medals for many of their wines both past and present. Their 2016 Rogue Valley Viognier is very aromatic, reminding me of melon and peaches with lush stone fruit, a hint of citrus with a lingering finish. Loved the balance and was surprised to see the 14.5% alcohol. Pair with pork chops with roasted apples and shallots or a warm bowl of chowder.

The 2016 Sauvignon Blanc was aged sur lie with the bulk of it in stainless and 15% in neutral French oak for 7 months. That accounts for the pale golden color. The flavors are less Bordeaux in style leaning more towards stone and tropical fruits in the New Zealand style. The bright acidity lends itself to a beautiful seafood wine. Think about crab cakes with a mango puree or steamed clams with garlic, shallots and chives. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Other whites to try are the Radiant White, a blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Malvasia Bianca, that’s full bodied with aromas and flavors of ripe pear, apple, tropical fruits with a dollop of vanilla. There is a balancing minerality and bright acidity that makes it a refreshing quaff. Seared scallops, Thai curry or fried chicken?

Another star of this winery is the Dark Night Red, a blend of mostly Tempranillo with a touch of Malbec and Syrah. This rich, lush wine with dark berry aromas tasted of blackberries and mocha and another long finish. This was also shared with just one other person. Pair with a pork loin in an orange sauce or a hearty beef stew.

I loved their Tempranillo from Spain’s indigenous Rioja grape. It’s all cherries, plums and herbs, a perfect foil for Pepper Steak Bundles with Coriander Seeds or the classic Paella. The balance and the aromas will make your mouth smile.

I also loved their 2014 Syrah. Intense, rich and lush, with blackberry and licorice, I should have waited for a year or two. But like a 16-year-old, I couldn’t keep my hands off it. I marveled at the purple hue that stained my empty glass. This would have been perfect with a seared duck breast with savory lentils on the side. Dang it!

The 2014 Sangiovese is sublime with layers of black fruits and dusted with a balancing mineral note. The balanced acidity makes this a wonderful accompaniment to a steaming dish of spaghetti and meatballs or cannelloni stuffed with spinach and ricotta.

These and other limited production estate wines are available for shipping. Or perhaps a road trip is in the stars? Near their Le Petit Tasting Room in Central Point is the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Rogue Creamery and Lillie Belle Farms gourmet chocolates. All excellent reasons for a road trip.

And speaking of Oregon, where Nick Tomassi, a wine buddy of many years, moved. For a number of years, Nick taught wine classes at Olympic College and wrote for several local publications. He was a huge promoter of northwest wines – particularly the red ones. He only loved one European wine more than his beloved northwest wines – Tomassi Amarone. Nick moved again a few days ago to his heavenly wine cabinet. Cheers to you, Nick.

Washington Wine is Fun

Wine is Fun. That’s what Eleven Winery’s winemaker/owner Matt Albee believes. And it certainly was fun one sunny Saturday during Wine on the Rock. There were even some bicyclists pedaling from winery to winery.

All of the Bainbridge Island wineries were open and pairing their wines with chocolate. But not just any chocolate. These were local chocolatiers making some incredibly good candies. Bon Bon, Pink Peony, L’Atelier, Powell and Jones, some wineries had chocolates made with their wines and one winery served up a homemade chocolate éclair.

The Eleven Winery folks were pouring their gold medal winning Syrah from Elephant Mountain Vineyard with a Bon Bon dark chocolate fudge made with the wine.  That was the best fudge I’ve ever tasted. Another sweet match was the Sweet Sarah port-style wine also made with Syrah. It was served in a festive chocolate cup.

Fletcher Bay’s new digs in the Coppertop Loop business park had Powell and Jones Chocolates, a relative newcomer to Bainbridge. Their truffles were beautifully crafted and delicious.

They paired well with the heavenly scented 2015 Walla Wallla Cab from Oidos Vineyard. An interesting trend for a few BI wineries is the use of French, Hungarian and Virginian oak before blending the final product. It seems to be the right thing to do for this wine. A very, very good wine.

Fletcher Bay also poured their Yakima cherry wine that was not too sweet and not too dry. And yes, the wine naturally went well with the dark chocolate.

Eagle Harbor’s owner Emily Parsons’ passion is Bordeaux. The 2014 Founders Merlot from a vineyard in Walla Walla had a beautiful nose and great balance. While the 2014 Cab also had a gorgeous nose, it leaned toward the mineral and cedar side of the aromas wheel.

Consultant Hugh Remash was on hand to pour the 2013 Raptor, a blend of equal parts Cab Franc, Cab and Merlot with a drop of Petite Verdot. It received top honors in Seattle for best Bordeaux style blend in 2017. It’s well polished with a long finish.

It was great fun comparing it to the 2014 Raptor, a blend of Merlot, Cab and Cab Franc. I preferred the 2013 but I’m pretty sure next year I’ll be saying that I preferred the 2014 to the 2015. These big wines age gracefully.

The wines were matched with chocolatier L’Atelier whose shop is set up across the parking lot from Eagle Harbor. You need to go there. This is the ultimate in eye and eatin’ candy, everything was so beautiful. They also make pastries, so having had plenty of chocolate, we decided to share a buckwheat pastry. Next time, it’ll be a Belgian cheese waffle.

Amelia Wynn’s Crawford Vineyard Yakima Valley Orange Muscat sports a bright citrusy label. It was awarded 2017 Seattle Wine Awards Best of Class and #2 of the Top 50 White Wines! The wine is dry yet fruity and the perfect match with the chocolate éclair.

Their 2014 Duovin Merlot was from the Dwelley Vineyard in Walla Walla. It had a wonderful nose and rich flavors with a long finish. It seems the folks in San Francisco agree, they awarded a gold medal to this wine.

The 2016 Den Hoed Vineyard Tempranillo was another three star wine for me with its cherry nose and flavors with light herbs. Nicely balanced with a long finish. This one took a double gold in 2018 San Francisco.

The 2014 Sangiovese from Red Mountain’s Kiona Vineyard also took home gold at the 2018 San Francisco competition. I had another éclair, that gets a gold in my book.

Rolling Bay has new location out in the country near Bay Hay and Feed. Their 2015 Malbec earned a star in my book and the 2015 Uplands Vineyard Cab Franc won a silver in San Francisco. My favorite was the Cuvee Aldaro a blend of 78% Cab, 12% Cab Franc and 10% Merlot.

Pink Peony on Bainbridge Island made the dark chocolate bites. Caramel salted, cherry and one spicy one. Loved these chocolates. They can be purchased at Bon  Bon Chocolates.

Bainbridge Vineyards served up a lovely handcrafted chocolate made with and accompanied by their Raspberry wine.

We were the last ones in the door at Perennial Vintners. We were delightfully surprised by the Siegerrebe, a highly aromatic grape that is a cross between Madeleine Angevine and Gewurztraminer. This dry white table wine would pair perfectly with fish or a light chicken dish. But not bad with the cheesecake either.

Next month is Washington wine month culminating in the largest single region grand tasting otherwise known as Taste Washington. I highly recommend this extensive tasting to build your knowledge of some of the over 850 Washington wineries.

For more info on the 225 wineries pouring and the 65+ restaurants dishing up delectable bites, go to TasteWashington.org

Cheers!

 

Craft Brewing began in Belgium

In Belgium, craft brewing was probably launched in the 13th century with the emergence of guilds and regulations. Brewers began adding fruits, herbs and spices to the fermenting batch of brew. Beer was aged in barrel and fermented multiple times, much like a sparkling wine.

The connection to wine began when Burgundy’s extensive realm at one time included Belgium. The influence on the beer industry can be seen today in beer bottles with corks and bale, aging in wood and blending aged beer with freshly made batches.

Modern-day France and Belgium are both known for their food and drink. In fact, if you are particularly fond of your food and beer, Belgians may call you “Burgundian” rather than gourmand.

To ferment a basic beer, all you’ll need water, malt and hops. That’s how it was done in the middle ages when beer was also known as liquid bread. Back then wild fermentation was relegated to the religious orders who also happened to house the hospitals and hotels of the day. Like wine, beer was healthier to drink than water since the nasties were fermented out of the water. This is the reason why saints and abbeys are still seen on many labels.

How did a small country renown for fantastic fries, celebrated chocolate and exquisite lace come to be a world leader in beer? The answer lies in Belgium’s hybrid history and culture.

The country has three distinct regions: Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north, French-speaking Wallonia in the south and a German-speaking community to the east. Beer is produced in just about every city and village across this nation of 11 million plus people.

The beers from each region also have a wide range of flavors, from sour to fresh and fruity to big in flavor and octane. Many Belgian-style beers are bottle-conditioned or re-fermented in the bottle. Herbs such as coriander and licorice, spices such as pepper and ginger and apples, cherries and raspberries are de rigueur in the north and south regions of Belgium.

This wide range of beer styles includes abbey beers, an array of wheat beers and pilsners, brown ales, red beers, strong golden and brown ales, saisons and other regional specialties such as Karmeliet and Cantillon. Most unique are the austere, wild yeast Lambics, a relic from the time before yeast was cultivated.

Let’s fast forward to craft brews: take two. In the early 1980s, a California microbrewer started adding stuff to the homogenous light yellow lagers, rules changed, more stuff was added and craft brewing was all the rage. Thirty-some years later, there are over 350 craft breweries in Washington alone with over 6,000 jobs producing thousands of brews and raising $1.65 billion in revenue, according to the Washington Beer Commission.

The Washington Beer Commission’s 9th annual Belgian Fest had 40 Washington craft breweries serving over 100 Belgian-styled beers. There were tripels, dubbels, saisons, blondes, wits, sour and strong ales.

Being wine-biased, I naturally gravitated to brewers that had been aging their beers in wine barrels. Bale Breaker’s Joindre Dubbel spends time in Cabernet Franc barrels. Black Raven poured the Les Oiseaux saison, La Mort Rouge strong ale, and 5×6 sour cherry, all of which showed immense complexity and balance.

Spokane’s Iron Goat Brewing went to a lot of work for their Brett d’Or du Claret. The complexity of this one comes from blending a 2 and 4-year-old golden ale, then fermenting again in Barrister Merlot and Cab Franc barrels with crushed grapes. The beautiful rose-colored beer is layered with fruit, tart and crisp.

Fremont’s Biere de Garde is aged in French oak for seven months, and Mount Vernon’s Farmstrong Brewing’s Wild Farmhouse Ale is aged in a Betz family barrel. Paradise Creek out of Pullman aged its Daily Dubbel in French oak for two years. This single barrel beer had nuances of brett, tartness and balancing sweetness.

Silver City Brewery poured its Giant Made of Shadows, a blend of the 2016 aged in bourbon barrels and the 2017 aged in port barrels. This strong ale is a hefty 10.5 percent alcohol balanced by dark fruit and caramel aromas and flavors. Please pass the Belgian chocolates.

Another style unique to Belgium is the sour beer. The introduction of lactic acid in the brewing process imparts a sharp and acidic tart taste. Sour beer, typically a red beer or oud bruin (old brown), is an acquired taste. But, sour beers are among the most versatile beers to pair with just about any dish because of that tartness.

Silver City poured its Luminous Libation tripel, a Chardonnay barrel aged beer with lots of apple and spice character and refreshing crispness. Also aged for two years in a Chardonnay barrel was the Charming Disarmer peach sour that is subtly tart, crisp with a little vanilla on top of its peachiness.

Matchless Brewing in Tumwater brought a taste of its Blueberry Sour, a 100 percent Munich malt sour ale made with 100 pounds of blueberries. Thick, rich with blueberry sweetness to balance the tartness.

From Seattle, Lantern Brewing had the most beautiful rose-colored sour wheat ale with beets and other fruit flavors. Beautiful!

And lastly, one of my favorite Belgium beer styles – Saison or Farmhouse Ale. Traditionally made with surplus ingredients and poured for laborers, it has evolved to have some of the most interesting flavors in beer. Anacortes Peppercorn Saison is made with four types of peppercorns — savory to say the least.

Diamond Knot’s gin barrel-aged saison was aged in Copperworks Northwest gin barrels. Very botanical. Figurehead Brewing was a not to be missed 1710 Saison with lavender and rosemary that also has that botanical nose, was light bodied and was very refreshing. Another gorgeously colored saison from Matchless Brewing: Pink Moon saison.

You may want to catch the Washington Beer Commission’s eighth annual open house on Saturday, Feb. 24 from noon to 5 p.m. More than 140 Washington breweries will open their doors and offer rare and unique beers, behind-the-scene tours and a chance to talk beer with the brewers.

 

Red Wine and Chocolate Events

There are many opportunities in the next couple of months to taste and learn. February has a plethora of Red Wine and Chocolate events around the state. These tastings lead into March designated as Washington Wine Month and culminating in the grandest grand tasting of Washington wines in the nation.

But first, one of my favorite listen, taste and learn events is the Belgian Beer Fest organized by the Washington Beer Commission. The 9th Annual Festival will take place this year at the Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion where there will be over 100 Belgian Beer styles crafted by Washington breweries.

Belgian beers are unique in the beer world. This amazing beer region has a myriad of styles including Saisons, Wits, Lambics, Dubbels, Tripels and Abbeys. Many are made with wild yeast, fresh fruit and aged hops. Traditional brewing methods blending new with aged and aging in neutral oak for a couple of years.

Way before bourbon barrel aged stouts, Oud Bruins (old brown) were aged and blended old with new. They tend, in my opinion to be more wine like than beer like. For years, I could convert a wine only aficionado or at least have them concede that a Belgian Lambic was almost as good as a sparkling wine.

This is truly a new adventure for IPA fans but you could still sport the standard beer fest accessory – a pretzel necklace. The event is Saturday, January 27th, at the Fisher Pavilion in the Seattle Center. There are two sessions, the first from 12-4pm and the second from 5:30-9:30 pm. Tickets are $37 in advance or $45 at the door. But you take your chances at the door where limited tickets are available. The later session always sells out.

Admission includes a tasting glass and 10 tasting tokens. Each taste is 4 oz. so a tasting companion is a good idea. As of this weekend, there are 4 food trucks and about 40 breweries for your tasting pleasure. You can check out who’s bringing what here: https://washingtonbeer.com/festivals/belgianfest.php

Next on the fun and exciting things to do calendar is Wine on the Rock. Wine on the Rock is a two-day wine and chocolate affair held at each of the seven Bainbridge wineries.

This year, Amelia Wynn, Bainbridge Vineyards, Eagle Harbor Wine, Eleven Winery, Fletcher Bay Winery, Perennial Winery and Rolling Bay Winery will pour their wines and serve up tasty tidbits of chocolate, February 10 and 11, from noon until 5p.

Tickets are good for both days for one visit per winery if you wanted to check all seven out and includes a commemorative wine glass and a wine tote to take your treasures home with you. Purchase your tickets here: https://www.bainbridgewineries.com/special-events

And if you want to venture a little further afield, there is a Red Wine, Cider & Chocolate tour on the Olympic Peninsula February 10th and 11th, and 17th and 18th from 11:00am to 5:00pm. Tickets include wine glass, wine tasting and chocolate samples at all nine OPW Wineries & Cideries. Online tickets are $40 and remaining tickets will be sold for $45 at participating wineries, on a first come basis. A $10 wine tasting fee will be charged at each winery for non-ticketed visitors.

Beginning in Port Angeles, you’ll find award winning wines at Camaraderie, located at 334 Benson Road and check out one of my favorite Washington wineries, Harbinger on the west side of Port Angeles. They serve up award winning wines, local beers on tap, and handmade chocolates every day.

Founded in 1979, Olympic Cellars was Washington’s 15th bonded winery. It was founded by Gene Neuharth who planted an experimental vineyard next to his winery in Sequim. The vineyard and winery were later relocated to Port Angeles in a 100+ historic barn.

Their Dungeness Series is a nod to Neuharth and the winery’s first name. They also produce Working Girl wines, a nod to the three women who work hard at this award winning winery.

Around Port Townsend, FairWinds Winery will be pouring tastes of Lemberger and other hearty reds. They are the only winery in the state that I know of that produces a little known white grape called Aligote’, a native of Burgundy. Other rare finds are the Fireweed Mead and the Port O’Call, a wine made for chocolate.

Eaglemount Wine and Cider has moved to Port Townsend at 1893 South Jacob Miller Road. The new digs have plenty of room for dinners, dances and receptions and a guest house.

In 2006, Eaglemount started making ciders from over 30 varieties of heirloom apples on their 1883 homestead orchard. Grapes for their red wines are sourced from eastern Washington and processed at the winery. Their red wines and hard ciders have won double gold, gold, silver and bronze medal at numerous competitions.

The main focus at Wind Rose Cellars is Italian varieties, primarily Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Primitivo, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese and Orange Muscat. Orange Muscat is definitely a chocolate match even if it’s not red.

The oldest AVA in Washington state also has the oldest running Red Wine and Chocolate event. The weekend of February 17th and 18th over 40 wineries in the Yakima Valley AVA will be pouring tastes of fine wines and nibbling on decadent chocolates from 10:00am until 5:00pm.

Wineries from Yakima, Zillah, Prosser and Red Mountain will be offering a weekend of divine decadence with the Premier Pass, which gives you a variety of specialty food pairings, library tastings, and tours not available to the general public. Premier Passes are available for $35 at the door at select wineries during the event weekend. For more information, www.wineyakimavalley2@msn.com

And finally, Taste Washington is the most decadent of wine events. Exclusive pours from world-class vintners, gourmet bites from great restaurants and private food and farm tours are events you don’t want to miss.

It’s impossible to sample everything at the Grand Tasting, I know, I’ve made valiant efforts. Thank goodness there are two days to enjoy the very best Washington State has to offer. More info: http://tastewashington.org/wineries-2018/

Beer & Wine can be part of Health Resolutions

In the new year, we sometimes make resolutions. We’ve all done it at one time or another — deciding to get fit, diet or enjoy life to the fullest. It’s a tradition that dates back to the Babylonians who made promises to their gods they would return borrowed objects and repay their debts.

Other religious traditions required one to reflect upon one’s wrongdoings over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness. The concept of resolutions, regardless of what religion, is to act upon self-improvement.

After the indulgences of the holidays, it’s time to be a bit more disciplined. Practicing a regimen with foods that contain the right amount of nutrients, antioxidants and fiber can be delicious — especially when it involves a healthy glass of red wine or beer.

Red wine may have a significant effect on cholesterol levels (“may” because studies have shown good results but …) On top of lowering bad cholesterol, polyphenols, which are the antioxidants in red wine, can help keep blood vessels flexible and reduce plaque forming in your arteries.

Antioxidants are believed to fight infection and protect cells against the effects of free radicals, which may play role in diseases. The skin of red grapes is a rich source of a polyphenol called resveratrol, which may (there’s that word again) help regulate blood sugar and systolic blood pressure. Resveratrol may also be the key to keeping your memory sharp.

The hops, yeast, and grains in beer contribute to health with a small amount of B vitamins, potassium (strong bones and teeth), phosphorus and folate. Beer also is one of a few significant dietary sources of silicon, which research shows may help prevent osteoporosis. That silicon in your pint is an essential mineral for bones.

Another study that I’ve been hearing about for a few years is that beer can keep bacteria from forming and growing on your teeth and gums. Biofilm (gelatinous masses of microorganisms capable of attaching to virtually any surface) promote tooth decay and gum disease. Never fear, just have beer!  Beer is at its best blocking interaction between bacteria, slowing its growth. My kind of mouthwash.

Hops also have anti-inflammatory properties. Being an essential ingredient in most beers, hops have been found to interfere with inflammation. Forget the ibuprofen, pop me an IPA.

Living in the great Northwest where beer, wine and salmon are readily available, gives us our first nutritious meal. Steamed salmon with ginger and scallions. There are lots of Omega 3s in the salmon, powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in the ginger, and scallions have calcium, iron and vitamin A, C and K.

To accompany this delicious dish, I recommend an Alsatian Gewurztraminer, which is fragrant, dry and full-bodied. Another wonderful pairing would be Harbinger’s La Petite Fleur another aromatic wine that is a blend of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling. It’s the perfect match for seafood. For a beer pairing, go with the Pyramid Apricot Wheat. It’s fruity and crisp in all the right places.

“Buckwheat is sweet, relaxes the nerves, eases irritability and helps clear out the stomach,” a 1697 Japanese nutritional text reportedly proclaimed. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat, which contains rutin (a compound that lowers cholesterol) and thiamine, an enzyme used by the body to metabolize food for energy and to maintain proper heart and nerve function. Another nutrient in soba, choline, is good for the liver, which may be why this soup is good for you after a night out on the town.

Soba noodle soup with mushrooms, onions and chicken would warm you up on a cold winter’s night. If you top it with diced serranos, a bottle of Sound Brewery’s Dubbel would pair nicely. Or you could skip the serranos and open a bottle of Ponzi Classico Pinot Noir because mushrooms and Pinot Noir are a classic pairing.

Heart-healthy, lentils contain protein, B vitamins and soluble fiber and much like mushrooms, they attract the flavors and aromas of the spices in the pot. Cumin and ginger aid digestion, and turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. And don’t skimp on the garlic! It’ll keep the vampires away.

Even though its strong aromas can last a while, garlic has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Its disease fighting instinct comes from its sulfur compounds, which act as antioxidants, providing many of its cardiovascular benefits. Garlic acts as a blood thinner, reducing the formation of blood clots and your risk of heart attack or stroke.

Another hearty and healthy winter soup is made from lentils, spinach and garlic. Please pass the Syrah. Lentils are healthy and budget-friendly with loads of protein and plenty of dietary fiber, iron and high in folate, a nutrient that supports reproductive health, the cardiovascular system and the brain.

Add spinach to your soup to protect your eyes from macular degeneration. With its high concentration of vitamin K, spinach can help maintain bone density. The green stuff is also a source of potassium and magnesium as well as folate, all of which can keep blood pressure low.

For snacking or a sweet treat, blueberries have — like red wine — anthocyanins that protect you from heart disease, age-related blindness and memory loss. And they are delicious with dark chocolate. Without the sugar, dark chocolate is an extremely healthy snack packed with the same antioxidants that are also found in red wine.

From disease-fighting antioxidants to heart-healthy fats, these delicious and nutritious dishes, beverage suggestions and the health benefits are here to help you improve.

The best part is drinking a bottle of wine or beer tends to be a group activity, which makes everyone happy and that has its own amazing health benefits. So, cheers to the new you.

Cheers to the Champagne Season!

The history of Champagne has many, many chapters about a small community of people living in a demanding climate and subjected to centuries of invasions from the Barbarians, Crusaders, Prussians and Germans and the triumph over these adversities to create the most prestigious effervescent wine.

It all began with the Romans who first planted vines around 57BC. But it wasn’t until the eleventh century that Champagne made its first big splash. What happened was a great honor – the son of a vigneron from Chatillion–sur-Marne was elected pope. It was well known to gain audience to his holiness, a case of Champagne would ease the way. Sales of the vins François, a sweet, pale red to pinkish brown still wine increased.

Champagne was first famous for its fine quality wool and being strategically placed, became a commerce center generating trade fairs that attracted merchants from Belgium with lace, Russian furs, Italian leather, Mediterranean oils and wool from France.

But not wine; that was made to accompany the shepherd’s meals. By the 12th century, wool producers who made wine on the side came up with a novel idea. To entice trade fair visitors to buy their wool, they decided to provide free wine.

It was in 1668 that the wine trade started to overtake the wool industry. That’s when Dom Perignon arrived at the Abbey of Hautvillers. Louis XIV was sitting on the throne. The two had little in common other than being born the same year, dying in the same year and their love of Champagne. And both did a great deal to launch Champagne on its path to prominence.

At that time, the wine was pale red, cloudy from the leftover yeast, sweet and still. Due to fermentation with wild yeasts, no knowledge that yeast even existed and with a colder climate  than most wine growing regions, fermentation would go dormant in the winter.

But as temperatures warmed up, fermentation would begin again. Yeasts would consume the unconverted sugars and because there was a cap of sorts, bubbles were trapped until the pressure was great enough to explode. Therefore, bubbles were considered a flaw, the devil’s brew.

As the business manager of the Abbey which included the church, hospital, storehouses and vineyards, Dom Perignon’s goal was to “Aim instead for quality that brings honor and profit.”

And that he did. He set down the golden rules of winemaking: Use only the best grapes, prune vines hard in the early spring to avoid overproduction; harvest in the cool of the morning; press the grapes gently and keep each pressing separate. He was the first to use cork rather than a wooden peg wrapped in an oil soaked rag. It was the finest still wine that Louis XIV drank and what the king drank, his subjects drank.

In the late 1700s, a key Champagne house emerged – Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin was the daughter of an affluent textile businessman who lived next door to Philippe Clicquot who also ran a successful textile business in Reims. Clicquot had a son Francois, so Mr. Ponsardin and Mr. Clicquot did what any shrewd business owner in the 18th century would have done: arranged a merger.

As the newlyweds, Francois’ interest in his family’s wine business grew. All was well until 12 years later, Francois died suddenly and Barbe-Nicole became the veuve (widow) Clicquot. Her father in law allowed her to continue the business perhaps recognizing a woman with business sense. Her small business thrived until the Napoleonic Wars crushed business.

Facing bankruptcy, Veuve Clicquot took a huge gamble. She knew that the Russian market, when the wars ended, would be thirsty. If she could corner that huge market, success would be hers. Despite the naval blockades, she smuggled her wine to Amsterdam, where it waited. As soon as peace was declared, the wines were shipped – ahead of her competitors by weeks.

When sweet Champagne debuted in Russia, Tsar Alexander declared it to be the best. His order was huge – 23,000 bottles. And his subjects followed suit. Veuve Clicquot would need to improve production to keep up with the new demand.

When the yeast digests the sugar, it produces alcohol in the primary fermentation and carbon dioxide, better known as bubbles, in the secondary fermentation. The problem was the sediment – the dead yeast cells in the bottom of the bottle gave the wine its cloudy look. The Champenois removed sediment by pouring the wine from one bottle into another, a time consuming, wasteful process.

Veuve Clicquot developed a better method. Instead of transferring the wine from bottle to bottle to get rid of its yeast, the bottles were turned upside down and twisted, shaking the dead yeast into the neck of the bottle where it could be easily expelled and the bottle topped up. This method, known as riddling, is still used today. It would be a long time before any of the other Champagne houses became wise to the riddling method, giving Veuve Clicquot an advantage.

Charles Heidsieck grew up in Reims and in 1851 at the age of 29, founded his own Champagne house. The house of Charles Heidsieck focused on selecting, blending and ageing wines to produce higher quality champagnes, and buying grapes from individual growers.

He was successful selling to Belgium and England and in 1852 became the first merchant to market his own Champagne in the United States. He became a social sensation with one New York newspaper describing him as “Champagne Charlie”.

He traveled to New York three more times until the Civil War disrupted trade. In 1862, he returned to recover his debt from his New York agent but the agent refused payment on the grounds Congress had passed a law absolving northerners of all debts to southerners.

Desperate, Heidsieck secretly traveled to New Orleans to recover his money directly from the merchants but found them bankrupt. One merchant, however, did have a warehouse full of cotton and Heidsieck accepted that as payment. His use of blockade runners to smuggle the cotton out had him arrested for spying and imprisoned.

At the intercession of President Lincoln, he was released and returned to France very sick and bankrupt. Shortly thereafter, the brother of the agent sent a messenger to Reims with a bundle of papers. He was paying his brother’s debt in the form of land deeds to a small town in Colorado called Denver.

With the money from the land deeds, he was able to pay his debts and purchase several old chalk quarries, called crayères which dated from the Gallo-Roman era. These were used for riddling while the wine matured. Today, all Champagne houses use the crayères to mature their wines. During World War I & II, most Champenois lived for years in the crayères.

Wishing you a very Happy Holiday!