Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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Easter Ham with Pinot Noir

April 19th, 2014 by Mary Earl

There was always a big ham on the Easter dinner table.  And for the longest time, I thought all hams came smoked, on the bone with cloves stuck into the scored top and sprinkled with brown sugar.

Until many years later, after reading a recipe somewhere, I ordered a fresh ham from the butcher without knowing what I was getting myself into. When I unwrapped it, I had serious misgivings. It had the bone, it was the right shape but it just didn’t look like ham to me.

I faithfully followed the recipe and served it with a creamed horseradish sauce and a big jug of Navalle Burgundy. Forks were flying and before long there was just a soup bone left.

Fresh ham, it turns out, is a pork roast with a big bone in it. Never brined, cured, or smoked. It’s fresh.

Today, this baked fresh ham will be served3girls with a dried cherry and leek sauce and a Pinot Noir. And I have just the wine for the match! Having recently tried a couple of wines from a winery I was not familiar with – Oak Ridge Winery  -  I can highly recommend this Lodi winery.

Lodi lies between the Sierra Nevada foothills and the San Francisco Bay where the days are quite warm and the nights are cool. The Lodi AVA was established in 1986 but grape growing in this prolific farming region has been going on since the 1850s. Many German farming families formed cooperatives and sold their grapes to outfits like Sebastiani and Bronco.

The winery, opened in 1934, was originally a cooperative for the local growers. In 2001, winegrower Rudy Maggio and his partners, Don and Rocky Reynolds, bought the winery. They produce small lots of hand-crafted wines, and like many Lodi wineries, they’re known for Zinfandel, Old Vine Zinfandel.

While over 50 grape varietals thrive in Lodi, Zinfandel shines. Old gnarly vines, some over 100 years old, sculpted by time, yield small amounts of fruit to create a fabulous wine.

While Zinfandel would be great with this dinner, the wine that I had in mind was their Pinot Noir. Pretty unusual climate for Pinot Noir but there it is. The 3 Girls Vineyard California Pinot Noir is not produced from 80% Lodi grapes to get Lodi on the label.  And it actually has 13% Zinfandel in it!

I’m happy I didn’t know that while I was enjoying this delicious bottle of wine. The latent wine snob in me might have emerged.

Oak Ridge is one of the fastest growing wineries in the U.S. and easily the one with most extraordinary tasting room. It’s made from a 75 year old redwood holding tank. The tank had a capacity of 49,429 gallons of wine or 20,610 cases of wine.

Their very affordable wines can be found at these local markets:

CostPlus World Market – Silverdale

Fred Meyer – Port Orchard

Central Market – Poulsbo

Savage Vine – Kingston


Weekly Wine Defined – Bud Break

April 14th, 2014 by Mary Earl

The start of the grape vines’ growth cycle begins in the spring with bud break. The small buds on the vine start to swell or “break” out and shoots begin to emerge from the bud.
The buds have been hanging out since the previous summer. During the winter, they turn brown and go dormant. Then when the weather turns spring-like, tiny green shoots emerge from the buds. This growth is energized from carbohydrate stored in roots and trunks. Soon the shoots sprout leaves and photosynthesis begins. Six months later, it’s harvest time.


Springtime Wine

April 10th, 2014 by Mary Earl

chivesSpring brings out the fresh herbal dishes in my kitchen. When the bright green sorrel, pungent chives, lemony lemon balm and asparagus have sprung up in the garden, it’s time for my favorite go-to vegetable wine, Sauvignon Blanc. Having oysters, goat cheese or roast chicken? Try a Sauvignon Blanc. Grilled seafood, smoked salmon, vegetarian dish? Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc is an aromatic, herbal, citrusy and refreshingly acidic. These components pair well with seafood with lemon, goat cheese and strongly flavored vegetables. It’s pungent, grassy, citrus flavors range from grass, hay, green pepper, lemons, grapefruit to gooseberries. It all depends on how and where it is grown.

The vines are more apt to concentrate on leaf and shoot growth so a stern canopy management plan is needed to achieve balance between the green and the fruity parts of the vine.

Most Sauvignon Blancs are fermented in stainless steel at low temperatures to enhance and preserve every bit of fruit and tame the acidity. The wines are best drunk young.

Two classic, high-end Sauvignon Blancs come from two appellations on the banks of the Loire River in Central France, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. These wines have a minerality that distinguishes them from counterparts on the west coast and New Zealand.

But if you’re looking for a good value, the Loire’s less famous appellations of Touraine, Menetou Salon, Reuilly and Quincy are delicious.

A white Bordeaux is a blend of crisp Sauvignon Blanc with the much fatter, less acidic Semillon. In the value conscious Entre-Deux-Mers appellation, as well as Graves, it’s blended with Semillon in varying proportions and produces a great dry wine.

Some of the world’s most famous Sauvignon Blanc is grown in New Zealand. Vines were first planted in the early 1800s, but it wasn’t until the late 1980s they burst onto the wine scene with an lavish, fruity style that put New Zealand wines firmly in the forefront. The cool maritime climate and dry gravel soil of Marlborough are perfectly suited for this grape.

Sauvignon is the name seen on Chilean labels. Planted in the cool wine region of Casablanca Valley, Sauvignon is clearly in an ideal spot in Chile. Always a wine value.

Many of our west coast vineyards are too hot for Sauvignon Blanc. In the cooler vineyards of Santa Barbara, Oakville Bench and the Mayacamas Mountains, a California style of full-bodied, slightly sweet Sauvignon, often oak aged, are produced. Some labels may say Fumé Blanc, a term coined by Robert Mondavi in the late 60s.

Washington State makes some fine, racy Sauvignon Blancs in cooler vineyards like Horse Heaven Hills and Yakima Valley with an average elevation of 1,000 feet.

Suggested taste tour of Sauvignon Blanc:

  • Babcock Vineyards, Santa Barbara
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc
  • Henri Pele Menetou Salon, Loire
  • Kim Crawford, New Zealand
  • Les Gourmets Touraine Sauvignon, Loire
  • Veramonte Vineyards, Chile

Weekly Wine Defined – Macabeo

April 7th, 2014 by Mary Earl

This is a white grape variety widely planted (32,000 hectares) in Spain. If you’ve ever had a Cava from Catalonia, you’ve had Macabeo (traditionally blended with Xarel·lo and Parellada).   2_18876750_2

Macabeo is also the main grape in a white Rioja, where it goes by the name of Viura. Its natural acidity makes it a good candidate for the required extended ageing in Reserva and Gran Reserva wines. It is also found in the Valencia, Yecla and Jumilla regions of Spain.

In France, Maccabeu’s use is limited to the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France where production has pushed it into eighth place in the most widely planted grape varieties of that country.

For the most part, Macabeo makes a crisp little white for early consumption. Macabeo can be crisp with citrus and floral highlights when picked early on and fermented and aged in stainless steel, but when harvested later and aged in oak, it takes on a heavier weight with honey and almond flavors. In Roussillon, late picked Macabeo is made into a vin doux naturel or fortified dessert wine.

It’s a favorite blending grape in both Spain and France. In Rioja, a small amount is allowed to be blended with Tempranillo and Garnacha. It’s popular in Rioja because the grape has high level of the antioxidant resveratrol. This is important where barrel ageing for six or more years is required for Reserva and Gran Reserva wines.


Taste Washington Bites with Wine Review

April 5th, 2014 by Mary Earl

tastewaThe 17th annual Taste Washington featured dozens of restaurants. Each of those restaurants came up with a Pacific Northwest inspired bite that had their own signature. It was an inspiring array of dishes that you could put together for your next wine tasting.  From savory desserts (olive oil ice cream) to oysters on the half shell, scallops and salmon, with pork bellies, steak, lamb and cauliflower, beets, sweet potatoes, arugula, Taste Washington left no culinary stone unturned.

This tastings tapas-styled food bite was absolutely necessary when you are walking around with a wine glass, small food tray with the wine glass holder, program, pen, and, in some cases, a spit cup. That’s a lot of stuff to juggle with just two hands.

Following is the short list of the bites that inspired me and a Washington wine that I did or would pair with the little dish.

Andaluca‘s Cauliflower soup with lardons and pickled beets is an inspired dish. For the match, go with a Sauvignon Blanc from Yakima’s Chinook Winery or Novelty Hill’s Stillwater Creek. http://www.andaluca.com/

Anthony’s Pier 66 served up pan seared scallops with bacon jam and bib lettuce on a toasted bruschetta. This is the one for Chinook’s 2012 Chardonnay or Challenger Ridge Winery’s 2011 Columbia Valley dry Riesling. http://www.anthonys.com/

AQUA by El Gaucho was shucking Taylor Shellfish oysters faster than a speeding bullet but still could not keep up with demand. I love oysters with Champagne but my second choice would be a Sauvignon Blanc. Try the White Bordeaux blend from L’Ecole No. 41 Walla Walla 2012 or Cave B 2012 Ancient Lakes White Bordeaux blend. http://www.elgaucho.com/Aqua-by-El-Gaucho.html

Barking Frog’s Sweet potato and lamb chorizo croquette red pepper rouille begs for  a Syrah or a Sirah! One of my favs, Gordon Winery Pixie Syrah or the Laurelhurst Cellars 2009 Horse Heaven Hills El Humidor Petite Sirah. http://www.willowslodge.com/barking_frog/

Boom Noodle restaurant is named after a popular Japanese term, meaning the thing one is currently obsessed with. These guys are obsessed with Japanese cuisine and their Seared Albacore rice noodle salad is delightful. Try this with Facelli’s Columbia Valley 2012 unoaked Chardonnay or the appropriately named COR Cellars 2013 AlbaCOR Columbia George 2013 White. http://www.boomnoodle.com/v2/

Cheeseland Inc. Now we’re talking! Wine and Cheese have a natural affinity to each other. I really loved the Honeybee goat cheese, and Ewephoria sheep milk cheese. Long Shadows Vintners Columbia Valley 2010 Chester Kidder Red Blend or Mark Ryan’s 2011 Red Mountain Dead Horse Cab, despite the name is delicious. http://cheeselandinc.com/

Evolve Chocolate Truffles  This was a lovely treat in two ways, it was a passed hors d’ouvres and it was delicious.  “The Colombian” is a rich chocolate coffee flavored truffle that paired nicely with the Three Rivers 2009 Walla Walla Cab. http://www.evolvetruffles.com/

Far-Eats  Love the Name! This is an Indian restaurant with a wine list with over 50 Washington wines on the list. The bite served was Chana Chaat – Chana is Indian for garbanzo beans. These beans were dressed with green chili, onion and tomatoes and sprinkled with cumin seeds, red chili powder, lime juice and coriander leaves. Easy, nutritious and delicious! The Kana Winery 2011 Horse Heaven Hills Old Vines Lemberger has the depth and fruit and Kyra Wines 2011 Wahluke Slope Dolcetto would be another great match for this dish. http://www.geogychacko.com/far-eats.html

Kalaloch Lodge  Smoked salmon artichoke dip and rosemary crisp, loved the way this was served, the dip was on one part of the cracker, and the empty side hung over the side of an elevated tray. Easy to grab and delicious to snack on. W.T. Vintners 2013 Columbia Gorge Grüner Veltliner, an Austrian grape with the right amount of acidity is just the ticket. Or try Whidbey Island Vineyard and Winery 2013 Yakima Valley Sangiovese Rosato.  http://www.thekalalochlodge.com/

La Panzanella  Founded in 1990, La Panzanella, known for its hearty peasant bread and homey cafe, quickly grew into one of the most popular bakeries in Seattle’s Capital Hill area. They offered their original and rosemary croccantini crackers with a truffle-infused cheese. Ginkgo Forest Winery 2010 Wahluke Slope Barbera, or staying with the Italian grapes, Leone Italian Cellars 2009 Walla Walla Dolcetto or 2009 Wahluke Slope Nebbiolo.  http://lapanzanella.com/

Margaux  This French themed restaurant is in the Warwick Seattle Hotel. Chef Chris Zarkades, attended South Seattle Community College’s nationally renowned and accredited culinary program to learn the craft. His red wine poached figs with Roquefort cheese crostinis demand a Bordeaux styled wine like for a big bodied red with some maturity, Brian Carter Cellars 2008 Le Coursier Columbia Valley Red Bordeaux Blend.  http://www.margauxseattle.com/

Paella Seattle Dished up the classic paella recipes of Valencia, Spain, which means chicken, pork and Bomba rice with green and red peppers, onions, garlic, green beans, sweet peas and artichoke hearts. Gotta go with the Tempranillo grape here. Michael Florentino Cellars, Naches Heights Vineyard, Camaraderie Cellars, Cave B Estate Winery, Fall Line Winery, Kana Winery or Stottle Winery all do a rendition of Rioja, the Spanish classic red with paella.

Palisade Waterfront Restaurant  Assorted cured and smoked tartares – cured salmon with Meyer lemon crème fraiche, caper, dill, and a ‘everything bagel crumble, apple wood smoked scallops with pineapple, Fresno chili and micro cilantro, Hamachi apple with ginger, jalapeño, Ahi tuna sesame with tamarind, soy and green onion, and mesquite grilled avocado smoked chili salt, minis sweet pepper, and cilantro. My favorite wine of the day: Kyra Wines 2013 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc with any one of these wonderful tastes.   http://www.palisaderestaurant.com/

SkyCity at the Needle   Stinging nettle soup with crispy razor clams was delightful with JM Winery’s 2013 Red Mountain Sauvignon Blanc and another match would be Davenport’s 2012 Columbia Valley White Bordeaux blend. http://www.spaceneedle.com/home/

Tablas Woodstone Taverna is part of a family of Mediterranean restaurants, Is located in Mill Creek. Their gazpacho is best paired with the Cote de Ciel 2012 Red Mountain Viognier. http://www.tablaswt.com/

Trace Seattle Restaurant and Bar offers a dining experience led by Executive Chef Steven Ariel, who sports a menu filled with contemporary, inventive dishes with a 10-seat sushi bar.  Highlighting their inventiveness was the smoked baby octopus veggie was a bit on the spicy side and there for a perfect pair with Hogue’s Columbia Valley 2011 Gewürztraminer. http://www.traceseattle.com/

The Washington State Wine Commission launched Taste Washington in 1998 and is now produced by Visit Seattle. For more information, visit www.tastewashington.org.


Taste Washington Review

March 31st, 2014 by Mary Earl

by Guest writer Jeff Graham

One of the special things about Taste Washington is the opportunity to explore many different wines from many different wineries in one location. This is the wine tour that comes to the consumer — and there’s plenty offered for consumption.
A few years ago, Taste Washington was a one-day event. It ran longer, so single-day attendees had the chance to do a little more tasting, but CenturyLink’s events center often became bloated in the final hours as the crowds made their way toward the finish line.
Now a two-day endeavor, Taste Washington is still a well-attended event, but attendees no longer need to elbow around each other to get to the tables of their choice. This year’s event seemed … comfortable. There appeared to be more food available (70-plus restaurants/eateries represented) than in previous years. And there was still plenty of wine available (220-plus wineries in attendance).
Media members and VIPs were given four hours to taste, and trust me, the time flew by. My typical plan of attack is to seek out roughly 20-25, seeking diversity of grape and price point. One year, I went on a mission to taste Cab Franc from various wineries. While a worthy endeavor, I probably missed out on some other fine pours.
This year, I managed to reach 15 tables, and wasn’t disappointed not to make it around to more. These were virtually all new wines. My palate didn’t feel overwhelmed by day’s end.

I’d offer my stamp of approval to most of the wine tasted.
–Kyra Winery, for the price, might have been my big winner. Of course, some of the first wine tasted at an event can appear to be special, but the 2013 Chenin Blanc offers tremendous value for $15. A 2011 Dolcetto and 2012 Sangiovese ($20 each) got thumbs up as well.
–Whidbey Island Winery had a Rosato Sangiovese that rocked. I’m not a huge fan of Rosé, and admit I haven’t had a ton of experience with it, but this delivered in a fine way.
–W.T Vintners offered a Gruner Veltliner, the only one offered at Taste Washington. Nice and dry, it was in hot demand.
–Stottle Winery from Lacey was one of the few tables offering Nebbiolo and it was delicious. Appealing brickish color. A favorite of the day.
–Robert Ramsay Cellars boasted reds tailored specifically for food pairings, but I found their wines plenty drinkable as stand alones. A 2011 Par La Mer Red Rhone Blend ($25) is ready to enjoy. Their Old Vine Cab made a strong impression as well.
–Laurelhurst Cellars didn’t advertise its 2012 Late Harvest Viognier Roussane, but it’s a winner through and through. Find some if you can.
–Facelli Winery had a 2012 Chardonnay that made quite an impression. Not overly buttery or oaky, but expressive on the finish. For someone who doesn’t drink Chardonnay much, it delivered. On my next Woodinville excursion, Facelli is on the list.
Hope everyone who attended Taste Washington enjoyed their time as much as I did. Spring releases are on their way, so the tasting is just beginning!

 

 


Wine Defined – Loess

March 31st, 2014 by Mary Earl

Loess is a very important component in Washington wines. It’s an aeolian sediment formed by the accumulation of wind-blown silt, twenty percent or less clay and the balance equal parts sand and silt that are loosely cemented by calcium carbonate.

Many of Washington’s vineyards are located on gentle slopes or on valley floors. Almost all of these vineyards are planted in loess derived from sediments deposited by a series of glacial floods, known as the Missoula Floods.

Underneath much of these vineyards is the other reason Washington is unique in the wine world. The bedrock is basalt alluvium or just plain basalt. At higher elevations the loess directly overlies basalt bedrock.

Basalt is dense. Basalt keeps the average temperatures above average. And most importantly, basalt keeps the root louse away.


Taste Washington Today

March 30th, 2014 by Mary Earl

tastewa

 

 

 

 

Taste Washington is today at the Centurylink Event Center from 2:00pm. until 5:00pm. This is your big chance for the whirlwind tour of some of Washington’s 780+ wineries big and small, old and new.

Taste Washington is the nation’s largest single-region wine and food event. It features 225 winery booths and over 50 restaurant booths with delicious little bites interspersed among the wineries.

In addition to the 225 wineries serving up at least three wines, there are regional sections where you can taste several wineries offerings from a specific area such as Woodinville, Yakima Valley’s Rattlesnake Hills, Prosser, etc. For the most part, these are smaller wineries that don’t have a booth like Cascade Cliffs and Efeste.

And there is Taste the Vineyards. This area is organized by vineyard so you can compare and contrast the several different wines produced from one vineyard source. That is a real learning experience.

The Oyster Bar is the place to go first with a full array of whites and pinks and Oysters! There’s a big line for the oysters but quick and personal service for the wines. Cote de Ciel’s Viognier was stunning. As was the Airfield Estate unoaked Chard and Arch Terrace Cherry Hill dry Riesling.

Stop by Gorman Winery and Ask Chris why his delicious Pixie Syrah is 15% alcohol. I guarantee his answer will astound you.

And stop by Palencia Winery for an amazing Albariño. Victor Palencia is the wine maker for Jones of Washington and is working two wineries, theirs and his.

Kyra Winery has a dry Chenin (think Vouvray) that is 1.5% RS from 30 year old vines. V.G. They also make a very nice Dolcetto.

Cheers!


Taste Washington this weekend

March 29th, 2014 by Mary Earl

Taste Washington Dates: Saturday, March 29 and Sunday, March 30

Location: CenturyLink Field Event Center, Seattle, WA

Hours:

  • Seminars: 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • VIP Tasting: 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • General Admission: 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Ticket Prices:

  • One-day ticket price: $80 General Admission; $145 VIP
  • Two-day ticket price: $125 General Admission; $185 VIP

Tickets for Taste Washington are available online at www.tastewashington.org

Participating wineries: More than 225

Participating restaurants: More than 65

New wineries and vineyards:

  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  • Alleromb
  • Ambassador Wines of Washington
  • Ancestry Cellars
  • Armstrong Family Winery
  • Beresan Winery
  • Bunnell Family Cellar
  • Burnt Bridge Cellars
  • Celaeno Winery
  • Cinq Cellars
  • Cotes de Ciel
  • Coyote Canyon Winery
  • Davenport Cellars
  • Des Voigne Cellars
  • Diversion Wine
  • Eagle Harbor Winery
  • Elevation Cellars
  • Eleven
  • Ellensburg Canyon Vista Winery
  • Facelli
  • Figgins
  • Finn Hill Winery
  • Five Star Cellars
  • Frichette Winery
  • Hamilton Cellars
  • J Bell Cellars
  • J&J Vintners
  • L’Ecole No 41
  • Lagana Cellars
  • Leone Italian Cellars
  • Lobo Hills Wine Co.

 

  • Matthews & Tenor Wines
  • Michelle
  • MonteScarlatto Estate Winery
  • Palencia Winery
  • Patterson Cellars
  • Proper Wines
  • Red Sky Winery
  • Savage Grace Wines
  • Saviah Cell
  • Schilling Cider
  • Seattle Cider Company
  • Sheridan Vineyard
  • Sigillo Cellars
  • Silvara
  • Sleight of Hand Cellars
  • Syncline Winery
  • Tamarack Cellars
  • Tulip Valley Winery
  • Tunnel Hill Winery
  • Two Brothers Winery
  • Upchurch Vineyard
  • Va Piano Vineyards
  • W.T. Vintners
  • Waitsburg Cellars
  • Welcome Road Winery
  • Willow Crest Winery
  • Atam Vineyards
  • Canoe Ridge Estate
  • Cold Creek Vineyard
  • Milbrant Vineyards

 

Social media:

Twitter – @TasteWashington #TasteWA

Facebook – Taste Washington

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 2014 Taste Washington welcoming sponsor is Alaska Airlines; the event feature is Stella Artois; the premier sponsors are Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card, El Gaucho and Aqua, Muckleshoot Casino, Seattle Met and Total Wine & More; the magnum sponsors are Fonte Coffee and Maserati of Seattle; the patron sponsors are Fremont Studios, Woodinville Wine Country and Peninsula Truck Lines; and the media sponsors are Washington Tasting Room magazine and Seattle Dining.

About Visit Seattle:

Visit Seattle, a private, nonprofit marketing organization, has served as Seattle/King County’s official destination marketing organization (DMO) for more than 50 years. The goal of these marketing efforts is to enhance the employment opportunities and economic prosperity of the region. For more information, visit www.visitseattle.org.

About the Washington State Wine Commission:

The Washington State Wine Commission represents every licensed winery and every wine grape grower in Washington State. Guided by an appointed board, the Commission provides a marketing platform to raise positive awareness of the Washington State wine industry and generate greater demand for its wines. Funded almost entirely by the industry – through assessments based on grape and wine sales – the Commission is a state government agency, established by the legislature in 1987. For more information on the Washington State Wine Commission and the Washington State wine industry, please visit www.washingtonwine.org.

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Table Wine

March 24th, 2014 by Mary Earl

Any wine that doesn’t sparkle and isn’t fortified, is a table wine. The ATF says these wines will also be between 7% and 14% alcohol.
Table wine can also refer to that wine that is your good, everyday, well, table wine.
In the European Union, table wine was the quality category below quality wines or Quality Wines Produced in Specified Regions (QWPSR) such as the French AOC and the Italian DOCG wines. Both of these terms were eliminated in 2009.
Now most European wines that were labeled as table wines are just labeled “Wine.” A step up from there would be wines with the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).


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