Top Summertime Wines

Summer encourages lots of time outdoors, paddling around, beach walking, biking and hiking, dining al fresco, grilling and gardening. Menus feature lighter fare. Summer’s bounty, from our gardens or the farmer’s market, is beckoning, and so is that chilled, refreshing bottle of wine.

This time of year, no wine is more refreshing than a Vinho Verde. That’s Portuguese for “green wine” which refers to its age when its sold rather than the color. It’s light, slightly sparkling and acidic. They are dry, low alcohol, charming hot weather wines. Best with fried calamari, steamed clams, crab cakes, grilled fish or seafood stews.

Whether it’s by itself or with its traditional blending partner Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc is the best choice for vegetarian fare or seafood. This light to medium bodied wine has crisp acidity, the stuff that makes wine refreshing. The citrus and herbal notes are a perfect choice for the grilled fish, oysters on the half shell, sautéed zucchini, salad of all types or roasted red peppers and goat cheese.

Chinook Winery’s Sauvignon Blanc – a longtime favorite – is fermented at cool temperatures to retain the floral and fruity aromas. The perfect balance of body and acidity, it is a serious contender for grilled fish with a citrus glaze and corn on the cob.

Frichette 2014 Semillon is elegant with pear and honeydew flavors, a medium body and a refreshing crispness. Grilled pork chops with sautéed apples or grilled peaches, bouillabaisse or paella would be my pick.

Maryhill’s 2013 Celilo Vineyards Gewurztraminer has that very aromatic spicy nose. It’s a dry wine with a touch of residual sugar. Spicy Asian dishes like Pad Thai, anything with ginger or smoked cheeses are the heavenly match here.

The ever popular Fetzer Monterey Gewurztraminer is all fruit and spice with the right amount of acidity and another Asian cuisine partner. Ceviche is also a winner with this wine.

Pinot Noir is known to have been cultivated in Burgundy, France for about 2,000 years. Occasionally a gene drops out and the grape mutates. The loss of color in the skin of the mutated grapes is where Pinot Gris or Grigio comes in. Noir is French for black and gris or grigio translated means grey.

Pinot Grigio is a light to medium bodied white best drunk young. Its best foodmates are chicken, fish, mussels, pork chops and following in the Italian tradition, antipasto.

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2014 Pinot Gris is made by lightly pressing the grapes rather than crushing them.  It’s cold fermented in stainless steel to highlight the Pinot Gris flavors and underwent sur-lee aging. This is an ideal picnic wine.

The other Italian summer grape is Prosecco also perfect with antipasto. The beautiful thing about Prosecco is the elegance and aromatics. From the hills surrounding the Veneto region in Italy, Prosecco is a summertime quaff. Gently pressed grapes are fermented in stainless steel produce a dry sparkling wine with lemon, apple and pear with high acid that is crisp and invigorating. Fresh fruit and cheese on the patio, anyone?

Speaking of sparkling wines, you must try, if you haven’t already, Treveri Cellars. This Wapato Winery makes premium sparkling wines from a wide array of grapes. From the traditional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to Riesling, Viognier, Gewurztraminer, and even Syrah.  These wines, served at the state department dinners several times, are aged on average 24 months. The Rosé is my favorite with big strawberry and bready flavors and a delightful finish.

Rosés are the red wine lover’s summer wine. The color and the weight of a red wine comes from the skins of the red grapes. For a red, the skins are left in contact with the fermenting juice for an extended period. For a Rosé, separating the juice from the skins after a brief time together means that the color and tannic acid are reduced. Without the tannic acid, the wine becomes chillable and a very refreshing summer wine. There are many shades available today from very pale to just about red.

These wines can be and are made from a variety of grapes such as Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, and Zinfandel.  As Julia Child’s once said, “Rosés can be served with anything.”

Talking about Pinot Noir without mentioning Oregon would signal the wine police so let me introduce you to a French winemaker’s Rosé from the Willamette Valley.  Domaine Loubejac Pinot Noir Rosé with bright aromas and flavors of strawberries and raspberries with a lingering finish. An impressive match with grilled salmon, shrimp or chicken topped with a cherry or raspberry sauce or vinaigrette.

Palencia Wine Company out of Walla Walla has a delicious 2015 Pinot Noir Rosé from the Ancient Lakes AVA. Vino la Monarcha is a beautiful rose colored wine made with juicy cherry and raspberry aromas and flavors and crisp acidity.

I really liked the balance of the Terra Blanca 2015 Rosé. A blend of 64% Sangiovese and 36% Cab Franc, with lighter red fruit flavors and zippy freshness. Aged parmesan, gouda, or gorgonzola with olives, crusty bread would work for a picnic at the park or on the beach.

Owen Roe makes a tongue-in- cheekiness Super Tuscan Rosé from Red Willow Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet. This light bodied wine has very melony flavors and a dry finish.  Grilled pizza with your favorite toppings is a great match.

Cool and refreshing, familiar or undiscovered, that’s the ticket for a summer sipper.

 

Washington’s Oldest Vineyards

Location, location, location is the mantra for real estate whether home or business. It’s true for vineyards too. However, a vineyard needs are way different than a building.

What does a great vineyard need? Mostly, it depends on the type of soil, the climate, and the of variety of grape vine.

South facing slopes have more sun than north facing slopes. Some grape varieties are drought resistant, and some prefer cooler places.

Higher elevations and volcanic soils are preferred places to plant vines over the more fertile valley floor. These tend to have warm days (sugar development) and cool nights (acidity development).

The Old World’s centuries of grape growing experiences taught them that a cool climate is best for Riesling with notable vineyards on the German hillsides of the Mosel, the high elevations of Alsace, France and Italy’s mountainous Alto Adige.

In the mid1800s, California’s valley floors, ridges and hillsides were planted willy-nilly with a variety of vines brought from the old country and some thrived and some died.

For instance, during California’s Riesling boom of the 50s and 60s, vineyards were planted on the valley floor to supply demand. The acreage planted to Riesling peaked in 1985 at 11,423 acres. By 2000, many of those vineyards had been replanted to other more suitable and more profitable varieties leaving California with only 2,049 acres of Riesling.

The Riesling migration north had already begun in the 1960s when a UC-Davis grad planted Riesling in the Oregon’s cool Umpqua Valley. By the 1980s, 23% of Oregon’s production was Riesling.  Oregon wine pioneers often planted Riesling to keep the cash flowing as their Pinots aged. Today, Washington is America’s largest growing region for Riesling with 6,099 acres.

Over decades, early wine pioneers experimented, learned, planted, learned some more, and replanted their vineyards.

Some of the top vineyards in the state that have been around for 60 or so years could include Sagemoor, Bacchus, Weinbau, Dionysus, Otis, Kiona, Upland, Shaw, Red Willow, Ciel du Cheval, Champoux, Cold Creek, and Harrison Hill. Many were abandoned and then brought back, or replanted to more conducive varieties, it was all trial and error back then.

In 1914, W.B. Bridgman planted grapes at Harrison Hill. He worked with WSU Viticulturist, Dr. Walter Clore and in 1917, was the first to plant Vinifera on Snipes Mountain adjacent to Harrison Hill. When he died, Al Newhouse bought the Snipes Mountain vineyards from Bridgman’s family.

Al Newhouse’s grandson Todd now runs the vineyards. He oversees some of the last remaining grapes Bridgman planted on Snipes Mountain. Muscat of Alexandria is still harvested from original vines planted in 1917. In 2006, the Newhouses launched Upland Estates Winery with winemaker Robert Smasne.

Otis Harlan purchased a plot of Yakima Valley land in 1954. Two years later, he planted what would become his Otis Vineyard. Harlan continued to plant this vineyard through the years with a little help from his friends, Bill Bridgeman and David Lake. A block of Cabernet planted in 1957 is still producing today. In 2013, Harlan asked his neighbors Tom and Sean Tudor who had an adjacent vineyard if they wanted to purchase his vineyard. They did and continue to produce grapes for award-winning wines.

Mike Sauer married into a farm family fresh out of college, began working on the family farm and experimenting with grapes in his spare time. The first vineyard was planted in 1971, 30 acres of Concord and a few rows of Chenin Blanc and Semillon. The two viniferas did not survive in the rich soil where the non-vinifera Concords were thriving.  This was Sauer’s first of many lessons to be learned.

In 1973, Sauer met Walt Clore who suggested an experimental plot with over 20 varieties of wine grapes be planted at the family’s Red Willow vineyard.  Three acres of Cabernet from cuttings from Harrison Hill Vineyard were also planted that year. They are still producing.

Five years later, a contract with Associated Vintners, now Columbia Winery, for the Cabernet was signed. A year later, David Lake was hired as winemaker. The fortunes of Red Willow and Columbia Winery were changing for the better.

Beginning in 1981, Columbia Winery’s Cabernet from Red Willow designated the vineyard on the label, a practice that continues to date. Lake, being a Master of Wine, also brought a new prospective to the Washington wine industry. In 1986, Lake persuaded Sauer to plant Washington’s first Syrah vines. The wine when first released in 1991, received considerable acclaim.

My favorite place to hang out at Taste Washington is Taste the Vineyards. In 25 feet, you can taste many wines made by many wineries from the same vineyard. When a winery, whether in Washington or elsewhere in the wine world, puts a vineyard name on the label, it’s always a sign of quality and partnership.

Originally a farm, Sagemoor came about through a group of investors that purchased the land in a fire sale in the late 60s. After Dr. Walter Clore pronounced it a good site for wine grapes, it was planted 1972 to Cabernet and a few other non-vinifera varieties. Today, Sagemoor has 100 acres of grape vines, 20 of which are the original and highly prized Cabernet.

The investors also acquired more property eight miles north and divided into two parcels, calling them Bacchus and Dionysus, after gods of wine and grapes.

Bacchus, also planted in the early 70s, is 180 acres of wine grapes. Twenty acres of the original planting of Sauvignon Blanc, and 35 acres of Cabernet make this vineyard a leading source of old vine wines.

Dionysus has plantings going back to 1973, including some of the oldest Riesling vines in Washington. The 150 acres are planted to wine grapes except for about a dozen acres of apples.

Weinbau Vineyard is a 460-acre vineyard on the Wahluke Slope. It was planted in 1981 by Langguth Winery, a German producer that hung its hat on Riesling. That didn’t work out.

Over the last 35+ years with experimentation, and feedback from winery partners, these investors had the vineyards replanted to varieties more suited to the terrain and climate. There are still a few acres of some original Riesling and Chard vines from that 1981 planting,

Selections by Sagemoor is an “un-club” experience. They own the above named vineyards and grow the grapes. But they don’t have a winemaker, they do have 100 or so winemakers that buy grapes from them. This gives you a chance to try some of Washington’s best vineyards from award-winning wineries. You can get on the list for these limited time offerings at https://selectionsbysagemoor.com/offerings/

Many wineries and vineyards are offering virtual tastings and tours. You should join in the fun. Cheers!

Sorting out Syrah, Shiraz, and Petite Sirah

If you’re looking for one of the darkest, most full-bodied red wines in the world, reach for a Syrah or Petite Sirah. Syrah is grown in France (Rhone), Argentina (Mendoza), Australia (Barossa, McLaren Vale), Chile (Colchagua and Maipo Valleys), Italy (Lazio, Apulia, Tuscany), South Africa (Stellenbosch, Paarl), Spain (Priorat, Montsant, Yecla), and the United States (Columbia Valley, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, The Rocks, Walla Walla).

Syrah, Shiraz – same, same. Both have the same French parentage Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. Whereas, their distant cousin, Petite Sirah, also known as Durif, parents are Syrah and the rarely found Peloursin grape.

Syrah is the grape of Rhone. In northern Rhone, the appellations of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas, and Côte Rôtie may blend un to 20% Viognier with the Syrah. Most only co-ferment 5% with the Syrah.

In southern Rhone, Syrah is always blended with up to 13 grape varieties but typically it will be a Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre blend.

Rhone’s terroir, where the dry mistral winds blow, has the rockiest vineyards you’ve ever seen. The vines are head-trained and cut low to protect the vines from those winds.

Some of the most elegant and perfumed styles of Syrah are from regions with cool nights and high diurnal temperature swings. The result are powerful wines with fine-grained tannins, redolent with raspberries, black currants, violets, with savory hints of licorice, olives and black pepper.

Before appellation control in France, some Bordeaux may have had Syrah blended  into their wines in weak vintages to make them richer. This practice is no longer allowed in Bordeaux but you can find it in the Languedoc, Australian and American Cabernet-Syrah or Shiraz blends in today’s markets.

In Australia, Syrah is known as Shiraz. Same grape, just a different continent and style. It’s Australia’s most widely planted grape. Traditionally, known for fruit forward wines with lots of vanilla from oak, styles have been evolving.

When phylloxera ravaged Europe in the 1860s, halfway around the world, Australia escaped infection. This island nation has some of the oldest Shiraz vines planted on original rootstock. Vineyards that were planted pre-phylloxera are ungrafted and produce tiny crops of intensely concentrated grapes.

In the 1950s, pioneering winemaker, Max Schubert, produced a dry wine (once called Grange Hermitage until the French put a stop to that) made predominantly from Shiraz. This was unusual because at the time, Australians were drinking sweet port-like Shiraz. It was not well received.

Penfolds’ Grange is one of the most iconic wines in the world and a collector’s dream. As recently as last December, two bottles of the first vintage of Penfolds Grange 1951 sold for more than $81,000 each.

Petite Sirah (aka Durif) is a different variety of grape but genetically related to Syrah. First discovered growing in Francois Durif’s nursery in the mid-1800s, the grape is a cross between Syrah and the rare Peloursin. It was imported to America where it became known as Petite Sirah. Today, it is mainly found in California with pockets in Australia and Washington.

While “petite” does translate to little, Petite Sirah is a small but mighty berry. It has that deep inky color that can stain your glass and your teeth in an instant with its full-bodied flavors of blueberry, plums and black pepper.

There are several wineries that have been growing Petite Sirah for generations. Most notably, Bogle Winery, Foppiano Vineyards, Parducci, Stag’s Leap Winery and Ridge.

Vineyards planted in the late 1800s were done in a field blend style. Field blends were typically a row of this and a row of that, harvested and fermented together. So for the longest time, Petite Sirah was a blending grape.

The Bogle family has been farming around Clarksburg for six generations. Their involvement in the wine goes back 50ish years. The first red grape founder Warren Bogle and his son Chris planted in 1968, was Petite Sirah. For 10 years, the family grew grapes for other wineries, until releasing their own label in 1978.

In 2002, Foppiano Vineyards helped found P.S. I Love You, a trade organization dedicated to the Petite Sirah grape. An Italian family that had been growing grapes for over 120 years, they have over 40 acres planted Petite Sirah.

In 1967, the first Foppiano Petite Sirah was released with a vintage-dated bottling. In 1994, new Petite Sirah vineyards are planted on the estate to accommodate demand. The following year, a twenty-year vertical tasting of Foppiano Petite Sirah was conducted in London. In 1999, Foppiano won the coveted Civart award at Vin Expo in Bordeaux for its 1996 Petite Sirah.

Ridge Vineyards was probably the first American winery to put vineyards and percentages on the labels. A veritable winemaker’s notes, if you will.

In 1968, Fritz Maytag purchased a ranch on Spring Mountain in Napa Valley with several Petite Sirah blocks that were planted in the early 1900s. In 1971, Ridge used the fruit to make its first York Creek Petite Sirah. Their oldest Petite Sirah vines on the Lytton Estate were planted in 1901 and the youngest in 2008. The first wine from the property was made in 1972.

Stag’s Leap Winery has one of the oldest blocks of Petite Sirah, planted in 1929. The block is predominantly Petite Sirah, though it includes at least 15 other varietals in small amounts. Year after year this gracefully aging block produces a small lot of wine. They also make a Petite Sirah from estate vineyards that were planted in the 1970s.

 

Staying Home and Drinking Your Cellar

How do you entertain yourself when sheltered at home for weeks? Drink the cellar, that’s what. And cooking up magnificent dishes to pair with those gems. Here’s my feasting report: 

Caymus Vineyards began as a farm in Rutherford. In 1915, the Wagners were producing bulk wines and during the 1940s they were known for their excellent grapes. Their first commercial vintage of 240 cases of Cabernet was in 1972. Over the decades they have produced many award winning, stunning Napa Cabs.

Caymus Special Selection is the flagship wine of the Wagner family and is comprised of the very best barrels of the vintage. The Caymus 1997 Special Selection Napa Cab – rated in the high 90s by many – had been resting in my cellar for a couple of decades. The occasion had arrived.

This 23-year-old wine had that tell-tale ruby color with an orange rim. Definitely the right time to drink it! Showing amazing cassis fruit at first; it faded and all that was left was a rich, smooth, umami and mineral full-bodied wine.

And then the weather turned warm and sunny and bottles of white wine were then brought up from the cellar.

Pacific Rim Riesling was first released in 1992 by Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard (BVD). Grahm released three Rieslings that year. One quite sweet, one medium sweet and one dry! Unheard back then outside of Alsace, France.

It was also an anomaly in the BVD stable of mostly Rhone reds such as Le Cigare Volant (you must read the label), Old Telegram (a play on Vieux Telegraph), and Clos du Gilroy Grenache. BVD released the inaugural vintage (1984) of Le Cigare Volant in 1986, an homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Over the years, BVD expanded with more brands – Big House, Cardinal Zin and Pacific Rim Riesling, sourced from Washington State. Then in 2006, a small band of Bonny Doon expats moved to Washington with a desire to craft the best Riesling in America.

In 2010, Pacific Rim became its own winery in Washington. A winery so obsessed with Riesling, there are 12 styles to choose from. The range is extensive – from dry and lean, to sparkling, to light and slightly sweet to dessert. They have a Riesling for everyone and every dish.

The 2016 Horse Heaven Hills Wallula Vineyard Riesling at 11.5% alcohol with bright, citrus flavors, juicy pear and crisp acidity is the perfect wine for Asian cuisine.  So I whipped up a curried cauliflower, coconut, garbanzo bean stew. It was warm, spicy and comforting and the Riesling was a sweet contrast.

Note: if you want to escape into the Dooniverse, read this web page: https://www.bonnydoonvineyard.com/about/history/  It’s highly entertaining and informative about changes to the wine industry over 30 years.

Another juicy Riesling is produced by the Woodhouse Wine Estates in Woodinville. While visiting last fall, I bought a bottle of the 2015 Yakima Valley Riesling because it was so delicious. This lovely wine is also made in the dry style by a winemaker that hails from Alsace. It’s stainless steel fermented, aged sur lie and sees a tiny bit of oak.

It was the perfect wine with the Moroccan potato, carrot and garbanzo stew, laced with cumin and pumpkin pie spice.

I reorganized my spice rack looking for pumpkin pie spice. Did you know that you can make your own pumpkin pie spice with what’s in your spice rack? Now I have enough pumpkin pie spice to make more stew, pumpkin pies and to share.

In 1986, local grape growers formed a cooperative in the northwest corner of Spain in close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Bodegas Martín Códax was named after a thirteenth century Galician troubadour who sang of love, the sea and the coastline.

The 2017 Martín Códax Rias Baixas Albariño, aptly named the wine of the sea, has crisp notes of apples and pears, and a great complement to the creamy bowl of homemade clam chowder.

Brett and Marnie Wall established Open Claim Vineyards in 2012 with a 21-acre vineyard near Dallas, Oregon. The family vineyard has supplied Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to several well-established wineries.

The property has been in Marnie’s family for over 20 years. The name, Open Claim, reflects the spirit of the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, a statute enacted by the United States Congress, intended to promote settlements in the Oregon Territory. It worked nicely.

In May 2018, the Walls released Open Claim Vineyards Chardonnay and Pinot Noir produced by renown winemaker, Tony Rynders. Rynders is a driven and brilliant winemaker. In addition to his own Tendril Wine Cellars and Child’s Play Wines, he’s the outstanding winemaker behind many other great Oregon wineries.

This rich, complex 2016 Willamette Valley Chardonnay is a fantastic wine. Partially aged in new French oak, its aromas of lemon zest, melon and pineapple were intoxicating.  A simple dish of fish and sweet potato chips doused in lemon juice was the perfect pairing for this Chardonnay.

Once named Enotria for its abundant vineyards, Italy (thanks to the Romans) has had an enormous impact on the wine industry. From the shores of Italy, the Romans brought grapes and winemaking to Spain, Portugal, Germany, and, of course, France.

Although not in my cellar until recently, you have the opportunity to buy the Pieropan 2018 Soave Classico right now. This white wine, made mostly in the hills near Verona, is a classic. Soave must be made with the Gargenega grape; DOC law requires at least 70 percent must be Gargenega. The addition of Trebbiano di Soave may also be used.

Pieropan 2018 Soave Classico is a wine with a steely mineral character, citrus, peach and apricot aromas and flavors and considerable body. It was fabulous with a Cobb-like salad that I tossed together with leftover Easter ham, white cheddar, grilled asparagus, marinated shrimp and baked goat cheese.

Hope you’re faring well and also enjoying the fruits of your cellar. Cheers!

Staying in isn’t so bad when there’s a case of wine on the way

Now that we’re all stocked up on soap, paper towels, tp, and homebound for a while, let your next case purchase be Washington wine. It’s beneficial for many reasons:

1) Washington wine is good for you because it relieves stress. Set the dinner table, whip up a homey meal, light the candles and enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. Hell, put on your party dress or shirt and make it real special. The mood will lighten with smiles all round.

2) Washington wine purchases support the wine industry in this time of need. With tasting rooms shut down statewide, 59,000+ acres of vineyards and production at nearly 17.5 million cases, the total economic impact to the state is $7 billion. Every bottle purchase helps the economy.

3) Red wine has a compound believed to offer health benefits. Resveratrol is produced in certain plants to fight off bacteria and fungi, and to protect against UV. Resveratrol comes from the skins of red grapes. Blueberries, cranberries, and peanuts are also good sources of resveratrol but wines made of these are only so so.

4) Right now, many Washington wineries are offering free or reduced shipping with certain conditions.

5) The one tasting that I look forward to every year – Taste Washington – cancelled, gosh darn it. Here is a virtual tour of some Washington wineries that we would have tasted had Taste Washington not been cancelled.

A winery that has beguiled me for some time is the craft winery Adrice Wines. Winemaker Pamela Adkins’ first remarkable rosé was produced in Napa Valley. When she and her partner transplanted to Washington, they started their winery and she continues to produce rosés.

Two recent wines include 2019 Rattlesnake Hills Rosé the Riveter Grenache and the 2019 Horse Heaven Hills Nebbiolo Rosé. There are other cool wines in their cellar but rosé is a perfect springtime wine so try these now.

Syncline Winery, located in Lyle, Washington, is another small, craft winery making some big, award winning whites (Grenache Blanc) and reds. Reds to choose from include the 2017 Boushey Vineyard Syrah, 2017 Columbia Valley Mourvedre, 2018 Columbia Gorge Gamay Noir, and the 2018 Subduction Red.

Some bundles offered may include free shipping, 10% discount, and/or $10 gift certificate. Details on the website. Another wonderful option are gift cards or sending wine to family or friends to celebrate their birthday or anniversary.

One of my favorite winemakers is Dr. Brian Peterson, on the Kitsap Peninsula. At Mosquito Fleet Winery’s website, you can order wonderful award-winning wines and have a boatload of fun learning about the historical mosquito fleet and how cork is made.

They’re happy to ship a full-bodied, rich Malbec, Merlot or the Sidewheeler Red Blend. You can also purchase gift cards or send a bottle of wine to honor special events such as birthdays, anniversaries or milestones. Just a text or call and they’ll have your gift on its way. Website link

Arvid Monson planted his first vineyard on the advice of Dr. Walter Clore, the Father of Washington’s wine industry. “Find a tall sage” advised Dr. Clore, “and plant your vineyard there.” Years later, the Monson family sustainably farms their 2,200-acre vineyard for their five wine brands, sells bulk grapes to other wineries and is a custom crush house.

The tall sage turned out to be on a saddle of land called Goose Gap, tucked in between Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills. Vines are planted on original rootstock with south to north row orientation for maximize sun exposure and managed for low yields. These practices ensure wines of very good quality.

I fell in love with the Tall Sage 2015 red blend a couple of years ago. It’s that affordable, delicious, every day red that you were hoping for. They also produce an affordable, delicious Tall Sage Chardonnay.

Otis Kenyon is offering Black Friday pricing for your stay-at-home needs. Double Discount Pricing on all current releases includes 15% off all purchases with free shipping on case orders! This offer is valid through March 31st.

Stock up on the 2015 Stellar Vineyard Syrah or the delightful Roussanne. These Rhone varietals will pair very well with nearly every hearty dish, including your stockpiled MREs.

When we were old enough to hold a handful of cards, my father taught us some games to keep us entertained. When he passed away some years ago, we all pinned a card to our lapels so friends would know where in the lineup we were. I wore the two of hearts.

One of his favorite card games was pinochle. Reverberating in my head was his sage advice, “When in doubt, play a Jack.” At the time, Saviah Cellars made a red blend called The Jack. It seemed fitting to have a case at his celebration of life.

The Jack was a Bordeaux-type blend, that was at once affordable and delicious. In the ensuing years, The Jack is now a brand that includes the red blend, Syrah, Cabernet and Riesling and named one of the Top Value Brands of the Year by a major wine media.

Self-taught winemaker Richard Funk and the Saviah Cellars Team sends this enticing offer: Shop online for door-to-door delivery. Shipments in the Northwest typically deliver within 1-2 days after the order is processed. Shipping specials include $10 flat-rate ground shipping on orders of 4-11 bottles or purchase a case of 12 for free shipping. Click here to shop

It’s a very good time to Taste Washington wine. And we have the time! Raise a glass and toast to good health.

Note: these offers came to me through winery newsletters. Some have not updated their websites to reflect these offers. Always good to give them a call if you don’t see what you’re looking for.

It’s a very good time to taste wine

Staying in isn’t be so bad when you know there’s a case of wine headed your way.

Now that we’re all stocked up on soap, paper towels, tp, and homebound for a while, let your next case purchase be Washington wine. It’s beneficial for many reasons:

1) Washington wine is good for you because it relieves stress. Set the dinner table, whip up a homey meal, light the candles and enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. Hell, put on your party dress or shirt and make it real special. The mood will lighten with smiles all round.

2) Washington wine purchases support the wine industry in this time of need. With tasting rooms shut down statewide, 59,000+ acres of vineyards and production at nearly 17.5 million cases, the total economic impact to the state is $7 billion. Every bottle purchase helps the economy.

3) Red wine has a compound believed to offer health benefits. Resveratrol is produced in certain plants to fight off bacteria and fungi, and to protect against UV. Resveratrol comes from the skins of red grapes. Blueberries, cranberries, and peanuts are also good sources of resveratrol but wines made of these are only so so.

4) Right now, many Washington wineries are offering free or reduced shipping with certain conditions.

5) The one tasting that I look forward to every year – Taste Washington – cancelled, gosh darn it. Here is a virtual tour of some Washington wineries that we would have tasted had Taste Washington not been cancelled.

A winery that has beguiled me for some time is the craft winery Adrice Wines. Winemaker Pamela Adkins’ first remarkable rosé was produced in Napa Valley. When she and her partner transplanted to Washington, they started their winery and she continues to produce rosés.

Two recent wines include 2019 Rattlesnake Hills Rosé the Riveter Grenache and the 2019 Horse Heaven Hills Nebbiolo Rosé. There are other cool wines in their cellar but rosé is a perfect springtime wine so try these now.

Syncline Winery, located in Lyle, Washington, is another small, craft winery making some big, award winning whites (Grenache Blanc) and reds. Reds to choose from include the 2017 Boushey Vineyard Syrah, 2017 Columbia Valley Mourvedre, 2018 Columbia Gorge Gamay Noir, and the 2018 Subduction Red.

Some bundles offered may include free shipping, 10% discount, and/or $10 gift certificate. Details on the website. Another wonderful option are gift cards or sending wine to family or friends to celebrate their birthday or anniversary.  

One of my favorite winemakers is Dr. Brian Peterson, on the Kitsap Peninsula. At Mosquito Fleet Winery’s website, you can order wonderful award-winning wines and have a boatload of fun learning about the historical mosquito fleet and how cork is made.

They’re happy to ship a full-bodied, rich Malbec, Merlot or the Sidewheeler Red Blend. You can also purchase gift cards or send a bottle of wine to honor special events such as birthdays, anniversaries or milestones. Just a text or call and they’ll have your gift on its way. Wine link

Arvid Monson planted his first vineyard on the advice of Dr. Walter Clore, the Father of Washington’s wine industry. “Find a tall sage” advised Dr. Clore, “and plant your vineyard there.” Years later, the Monson family sustainably farms their 2,200-acre vineyard for their five wine brands, sells bulk grapes to other wineries and is a custom crush house.

The tall sage turned out to be on a saddle of land called Goose Gap, tucked in between Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills. Vines are planted on original rootstock with south to north row orientation for maximize sun exposure and managed for low yields. These practices ensure wines of very good quality. 

I fell in love with the Tall Sage 2015 red blend a couple of years ago. It’s that affordable, delicious, every day red that you were hoping for. They also produce an affordable, delicious Tall Sage Chardonnay.

Otis Kenyon is offering Black Friday pricing for your stay-at-home needs. Double Discount Pricing on all current releases includes 15% off all purchases with free shipping on case orders! This offer is valid through March 31st.

Stock up on the 2015 Stellar Vineyard Syrah or the delightful Roussanne. These Rhone varietals will pair very well with nearly every hearty dish, including your stockpiled MREs.

When we were old enough to hold a handful of cards, my father taught us some games to keep us entertained. When he passed away some years ago, we all pinned a card to our lapels so friends would know where in the lineup we were. I wore the two of hearts.

One of his favorite card games was pinochle. Reverberating in my head was his sage advice, “When in doubt, play a Jack.” At the time, Saviah Cellars made a red blend called The Jack. It seemed fitting to have a case at his celebration of life. 

The Jack was a Bordeaux-type blend, that was at once affordable and delicious. In the ensuing years, The Jack is now a brand that includes the red blend, Syrah, Cabernet and Riesling and named one of the Top Value Brands of the Year by a major wine media.

Self-taught winemaker Richard Funk and the Saviah Cellars Team sends this enticing offer: Shop online for door-to-door delivery. Shipments in the Northwest typically deliver within 1-2 days after the order is processed. Shipping specials include $10 flat-rate ground shipping on orders of 4-11 bottles or purchase a case of 12 for free shipping. Click here to shop

It’s a very good time to Taste Washington wine.  And we have the time! Raise a glass and toast to good health.

Note: these offers came to me through winery newsletters. Some have not updated their websites to reflect these offers. Always good to give them a call if you don’t see what you’re looking for.

Celebrate Washington Wine Month

March is Washington Wine Month, a time to celebrate Washington’s more than 1,000 wineries, 370 wine grape growers and the bounty produced.

Taste Washington is the highlight of March – except this March. Staged every year in Seattle since 1998, it’s been scheduled to return on March 19-22 for almost a year. In 2019, the four-day festival attracted a record attendance of 8,479 wine lovers.

In the aftermath of Gov. Jay Inslee’s update of Covid-19 outbreak, the Washington State Wine Commission concluded not to move forward with Taste Washington. It is with much disappointment for over 9,000 that Taste Washington has been canceled.

Feeling a little blue about this, I offer as some consolation, some outstanding Washington wines recently tasted that you should definitely seek out.

Eagle Harbor Wine Co. is an award winning winery on Bainbridge Island. They’re tucked into a small business park off Three Tree Lane. Their grapes are sourced their grapes from some of the finest eastern Washington vineyards, such as Dwelley and Seven Hills in the Walla Walla AVA and Kiona in the Red Mountain AVA.

There are millions of yeast strains in this world, each imparts a unique aroma to the wine. Winemaker Emily Parsons has experimenting – with notable success – some pretty innovative fermentation techniques, employing both non-Saccharomyces and Saccharomyces yeasts.

The most common yeast used in winemaking is Saccharomyces cerevisiae which is a favorite because it’s predictable, vigorous and tolerates relatively high levels of alcohol.

Employment of non-Saccharomyces yeast starters is a growing trend in the winemaking industry. They are used to improve aromatic complexity.

Parson began fermenting a wine with two yeast strains two years ago. The wine is first inoculated with the non-Saccharomyces strain. Because the yeast dies out when the alcohol reaches 6%, a wine yeast is then used to finish the fermentation. A wine yeast will continue to ferment to 13 or 14 % – the normal range for wines.

At a recent new release event, I tasted five wonderful Eagle Harbor wines.

Known for their big rich reds, they also produce a delicious white called Goldfinch. Always a blend of Chardonnay and Viognier, this year’s blend is 50 – 50 with an unoaked Chardonnay and a Viognier that spent some time in oak. The result is very aromatic, crisp and juicy, with some weight to it.

And just in time for spring parties, 2019 Red Mountain Rosé from Kiona Vineyards’ Sangiovese. This Rosé is a springy, rosy red, dry, with watermelon aromas and flavors.

Another new release, is the 2016 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Seven Hills West Vineyards and Dwelley. The wine spent 2 years in French oak and is redolent with dark fruits, minerals and a very smooth, rich finish.

The 2016 Walla Walla Valley Reserve Merlot from the Aria vineyard, was the first wine fermented with two yeast strains before spending 36 months in French oak. Very aromatic with luscious black cherry and red currants flavors. It was easy to see why the two yeast fermentation is favored.

We stayed for a taste of the 2016 Reserve Cabernet from the Seven Hills Vineyard. This gorgeous wine is stuffed with dark fruits, baking spices, slate, graphite with a smooth finish. This one came home with us. Highly recommended.

Another long established Washington winery is Walla Walla Vintners, the eighth winery in Walla Walla’s wine region. Founded by Miles Anderson and Gordy Venneri, Walla Walla Vintners has garnered many golds over the years.

Anderson also played a critical role in establishing Walla Walla Community College’s viticulture and enology program. He was inducted into the Legends of Washington Wine Hall of Fame in 2011 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers in 2014.

Scott and Nici Haladay are the new stewards of the iconic red barn winery and Cut Bank Estate vineyard. Longtime wine lovers, they bought Walla Walla Vintners in 2017 with the retirement of Gordy Venneri and Myles Anderson.

The Cut Bank Vineyard sits at 1,467 ft. along the Mill Creek Valley in the shadow of the Blue Mountains. Its relatively high elevation, has cooler temperatures that encourages that wonderful balancing acidity.

The southwest exposure ensures abundant sunshine and the slow, even ripening that promotes steady sugar buildup and natural acidity. Committed to sustainability, the vineyard is dry farmed.

Walla Walla Vintners 2017 Waliser Vineyard Cabernet Franc has wonderful aromas of earth, raspberry, dried herbs and spice. There’s cherry and chocolate flavors but it needs some rough decanting, 3 -5 years of aging or a grilled leg of lamb with a side of lentils.

The 2017 Columbia Valley Sangiovese is blended with a dollop of Syrah and a drop of Malbec. Sourced from some great vineyards, such as Sagemoor, Seven Hills, Kiona, and Cut Bank Estate it’s aged for 15 months 85% neutral oak barrels.

The enticing aroma of wild berries, contrasts nicely with fragrant herbs. On the palate, layers of cranberry, white pepper, currants and herbs is framed by smooth tannins and bright acidity, making this a wine to pair with your next pizza or baba ganoush.

These are just a few of my favorite Washington wines. More favorites will be posted on Facebook in the coming weeks so you’ll be able to wisely stock the cellar. Cheers!

Tasting what’s new from Walla Walla Wineries

Walla Walla Valley is a wonderful place to wander thanks to a combination of climate, charm and over 140 wineries.

According to the Walla Walla Wine Alliance: “The average wine visitor visits nearly two times per year, spends three days in the Valley, and visits nearly seven wineries per visit.”

While we love a wine-themed road trip, last month the Walla Walla Wine Alliance brought the wine to us — sort of. More than 50 Walla Walla Valley wineries and winemakers filled the upper lobby of McCaw Hall in Seattle, giving those of us west of the mountains a chance to taste the latest releases from one of our state’s impressive wine-producing regions.

With each winery pouring three or more wines, we decided our best plan was to divide and conquer: Brynn tasted whites, leaving me the reds.

And while red wines dominated, there were plenty of whites — both single varietals (Chardonnay, Viognier, Rousanne and Marsanne) and traditional blends. There was also an outstanding sparkling wine.

In this column, we’ll highlight our standouts, and identify the wineries we tasted with an * that will be at Taste Washington on March 19-23 at the CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle.

We’re kicking off our review with two wineries that should be on your “must taste” list: Grosgrain Vineyards* and SuLei Cellars. Their Albariños, a grape grown primarily in Spain and Portugal, were memorable. Known for its light body, aromatics and citrus notes, Albariño is an excellent choice with seafood dishes.

Grosgrain sources its Albariño from a small vineyard planted entirely to Spanish varieties. The majority was matured on the lees (leftover yeast particles) in a concrete egg, while the remainder was matured in neutral barrel or stainless steel. The splendid result was a creamy feel with citrus and peach notes.

SuLei sourced its Albariño from Crawford Vineyard in the Yakima Valley AVA. Fermented and aged in stainless steel, the nose was redolent with peach, citrus and guava. The flavors were a delicate balance between apricot, peach and minerality.

The only Riesling, sourced from the prestigious Frenchman Hills Vineyard, was a showstopper. Made by Canvasback*, this wine is balanced with a shot of sweet fruit upfront and layers of mouth-watering grapefruit and blood orange. It’s an off-dry style, cold-fermented and aged in stainless steel.

Next on the list of standout whites were a trio of Chardonnays (Brynn’s favorite white) from Tranche Estate*, Saviah Cellars* and Woodward Canyon*. These three wineries did not disappoint with their masterful winemaking.

Tranche sourced its grapes from Celilo Vineyard, a much-coveted white grape vineyard in the Columbia Gorge AVA. After fermentation, a third was aged in oak and then concrete egg. This Chardonnay spotlights how deep, rich and complex a Chardonnay can be from start to finish.

Saviah’s 2018 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Chardonnay has wonderful toasted notes, followed by a rich creaminess — the result of sur lie aging in French oak. The lees were stirred weekly, which contributes to the wine’s full-bodied mouthfeel.

Longtime favorite Woodward Canyon also sourced its grapes from Celilo and its estate vineyards to make a Burgundian-style Chardonnay. The wine is vibrant with ripe pear, minerals and toast.

The last white on our list showcases an emerging style of fermentation called Pétillant-Natural or “pét-nat”, which means “naturally sparkling.” Made in the Méthode Ancestrale style, pét-nat sparklers are fermented in a one-step process. For comparison, Méthode Traditionelle, which is how Champagne is made, is a two-step process with more equipment and time.

Foundry Vineyards* made a pét-nat with its 2019 Sparkling Rousanne. The wine was partially fermented and bottled without dosage. As a result, the bubbles (carbon dioxide) are captured inside the bottle along with crisp acidity and fruity character. This wine showcased this style beautifully.

Must-try reds

Founded in 2005, Balboa Winery* produces a wonderful Eidolon Estate Bordeaux blend from the 2014 vintage. There is lots of stuffing to this wine with blackberry, plum, cassis, black cherry and a nice touch of minerality.

Canvasback* 2016 Red Mountain Cabernet is a rich blend of 88% Cabernet with a dollop of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Its dark fruits, baking spices and earth are graced with fine-grained tannins and a polished finish. Wow!

Tero Estates 2013 Hill Block Cabernet from the Walla Walla Valley is 100% Cab with licorice aromas in the lead, followed by spice, herb and black fruit. Soft, quite ripe fruit flavors follow. Hill Block was planted in 1998.

Another notable Bordeaux blend, Caprio Cellars Eleanor Estate, is mainly Cab, with Merlot and Cab Franc. This silky wine has dark fruits mingling with mocha and a little minerality.

Saviah Cellars* took first place for Syrahs, offering one from the Walla Walla Valley AVA and one from the Rocks District (in Oregon).

The Walla Walla Valley Syrah has all that you would wish for in a Syrah — olives, fresh-cracked pepper, blackberries, plums, balance and a superb finish.

Their Stones Speak Syrah from The Rocks District is a big wine from a single vineyard. There is so much going on in the glass: dark stone fruit, olives, dirt and a lovely touch of anise. The finish is silky but it has the weight to go the distance. This is too good to pass up.

The Walls Vineyards* Ramparts offered a sensational blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, Counoise and Syrah. Spicy aromas and tasty flavors of blackberry, cherries, leather and lavender are nicely balanced with velvety tannins.

Valdemar Estates* 2017 Klipsun WWV Syrah is sourced from an established vineyard on Red Mountain. This exceptional wine comes from a prominent winery in Spain’s Rioja region that saw a promising future in Washington state.

French, Italian and Spain see the potential here. And lucky us, these great wineries are in our backyard and will be even closer when they pour at Taste Washington. So go and explore Washington’s renowned wine country!

Mary Earl has been educating Kitsap wine lovers for a couple of decades, is a longtime member of the West Sound Brew Club and can pair a beer or wine dinner in a flash. Brynn Grimley is a communications professional whose love for wine began while studying abroad in France and has continued as she explores wines from Washington state and around the world. Follow Cheers to You on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Cheers2YouWine and Twitter at @Cheers2YouWine

It’s Red Wine and Chocolate Season!

Many wineries and even a few craft breweries up and down the coast are putting on the Red Wine (or brew) and Decadent Chocolate Show.

Like a good red wine, dark chocolate is a source of antioxidants and minerals, and it generally contains very little sugar. So, to guide you through the myriad of how and perhaps when to pair chocolate with your favorite flavor of beverage, remember the cardinal rule: The drink must be sweeter than the chocolate. This is especially applicable when enjoying a rich, dry red wine.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. A mug of dark roasted coffee and a molten chocolate lava cake is a great example. The acidity in the coffee is another factor to consider. It cuts through the chocolate sweetness and makes a beautiful match.

Unless you happen to think that chocolate is overrated like my wine buddy, Brynn Grimley. Long-time readers may remember that she was my counterpart when this column first started. Brynn is rejoining us!

More than a decade ago, Brynn and I had the desire to share our love for wine with the Kitsap Sun community. But in 2013, Brynn’s career took her away, so I continued the column – alone.  After nearly three years of talk about resurrecting our wine writing “dream team”, we elected 2020 as our year to officially reconnect. Expect to hear from her from time-to-time in future columns as we share our wine adventures with you.

But back to chocolate and red wine. Since the Olympic Peninsula Red Wine and Chocolate Tour began this past weekend and continues the hoiday weekend of February 15 – 17th throughout Washington, we thought a reconnaissance mission would be our next wine adventure.

We started at one of Washington’s western most wineries outside of Port Angeles. Harbinger Winery dished up a buttery pan au chocolate with the award-winning Dynamo Red, a sinfully delicious combination. This red is mostly Syrah has a dollop of Cab Franc and Malbec.

Our eyes went wide tasting the Raspberry Bliss packed with 2 ½ tons of freshly picked fruit from Graysmarsh Farm in the Dungeness Valley.  Although dry, it was bright with lots of sweet fruit. This is the one for that triple chocolate brownie.

Savory chocolate dishes are not unheard of. Mexico’s iconic mole, a sauce of chilies, spices, and Mexican chocolate is a savory chicken dish calling for a Zinfandel – red or white. Other savory chocolate dishes could be an arugula, ham, and pear salad tossed with a fruity vinaigrette and garnished with cocoa nibs. Or try my show-stopping recipe for seafood ravioli with a white chocolate-cayenne sauce. Pass the rose’ bubbly, please.

Another Olympic Peninsula Wine, Cider and Chocolate Tour stop was Camaraderie Cellars, tucked into the hills of Port Angeles. Such a welcoming place! The outdoor firepit, sculptures and gardens were warming.

Their 2012 Reserve Cab, from an exceptional vintage, was superb. They also dished up a savory cocoa, spice-rubbed pulled pork. Unsweetened chocolate, such as 95 – 100% cacao, adds smoky and earthy quality to a savory dish.

Brynn writes: if you’re looking for a new wine adventure this year, or maybe you’re like me and aren’t a huge chocolate fan (gasp!), consider venturing to the Monbazillac region of Southwest France. Here you’ll find three white grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle take center stage in this tropical dessert wine.

This is a sweet wine but it has the balancing acidity to make it a particularly delicious dessert wine. With flavors similar to Bordeaux’s esteemed Sauternes made with the same grapes (but with an affordable price tag) this wine offers a beautiful bouquet of fruit — touches of melon, ripe pineapple, and even notes of citrus linger.

We enjoyed a Chateau Belingard from Monbazillac after a delightful epicurean feast. The wine presented beautifully with notes of ripe pineapple and hints of botrytis (noble rot) on the finish. But what made this wine even better was the dessert we paired with it. A scoop of bourbon ice cream and a peach half dusted with cinnamon that was easy to whip up in the blink of the eye.

The Monbazillac region is France’s largest late-harvest sweet wine district by acreage and production. Situated just 45 miles east of Sauternes, in the small, relatively unknown wine region of Bergerac (where the unrequited romantic, Cyrano de was staged).

Monbazillac is an Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC) situated on the banks of the Dordogne River. The chance for noble rot to develop in this maritime climate is very good. Noble rot or botrytis cinerea is a fungus that attaches itself to the skins of the grapes and sucks the moisture out, concentrating the sugars and flavors.

Back to wine and chocolate and another style of wine tasted on the Olympic Peninsula Tour. At Wind Rose Cellars in downtown Sequim, they make an Orange Muscat cold soaked for 6 hours before pressing and then fermented in stainless steel. It has the heady aromas of honeysuckle and candied orange peel. This is another sweet, white dessert wine that is a wonderful partner with chocolate especially a creamy, chocolate heart-shaped mousse.

And a reminder that there are many Red Wine and Chocolate events this sweet weekend. I hope you find yourself at one of them. Bainbridge Island Wine Alliance, Yakima Valley, Lake Chelan, Rattlesnake Hills and even Whidbey-Camano Islands wineries!

We wish you many wonderful wine adventures.

Many Ways to Taste Washington Wines

This has to be my favorite time of year. Perhaps for winemakers too. The rush of harvest is over, the wines are resting in tank, barrel or bottle and the vines are dormant. It’s time for a road trip or two.

On Monday, February 10th, head on over to McCaw Hall at the Seattle Center and connect with over 50 Walla Walla Valley wineries and winemakers. Each winery has two or three wines including new releases they would like you to sample.

Many of these craft wineries have vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley AVA and its sub AVA, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater. This sub AVA is nestled within the Walla Walla Valley AVA, but its entire footprint resides in Oregon.

The Rocks AVA stands out among all American AVAs. Approved in 2015, this AVA gets its name from the extremely rocky basalt. It is the only AVA in the U.S. whose boundaries have been fixed by virtue of a single soil series – the Freewater Series.

According to the USDA, the “Freewater series consists of deep, somewhat excessively drained soils formed in gravelly alluvium mixed with loess in the upper part. Freewater soils are on high stream terraces and have slopes of 0 to 3 percent. The mean annual precipitation is about 14 inches and the mean annual temperature is about 52 degrees F.”

By contrast, the Walla Walla Valley AVA has four distinct soil series. On valley floor, Ellisforde silt loam; in the foothills, Walla Walla silt loam; in the floodplains, Freewater covered with basalt rocks; and on the steep slopes of the foothills and canyons, Lickskillet, a very stony loam.

The Rocks District Winegrowers organization has 30 members, both producers and winegrowers. This 3,767 acre AVA is planted to almost 350 acres of grapes with over 200 acres in development. To learn more, get your tickets here.

During the long Valentine/President Day weekend, Red Wine and Chocolate occurs from the Olympics to eastern Washington and beyond.

At the annual Olympic Peninsula Red Wine, Cider and Chocolate Tour, eight Olympic Peninsula wineries welcome you with wine, cider and sensational chocolate bites. And you don’t have to do all eight in one day or even one weekend. This event encompasses two weekends, February 8th and 9th and the long holiday weekend February 15th through 17th. Tickets can be purchased at OlympicPeninsulaWineries.com

Some highlights that may tantalize your taste buds: Camaraderie Cellars 2014 Sangiovese, 2012 Reserve Cab and newly released 2016 Cabernet Franc are featured with the ever-popular Cocoa-Spiced Pulled Pork.

At Eaglemount Winery & Cidery, Chocolate Serenade caramels are paired with new releases of ciders and wines. Fairwinds Winery has a chocolate fountain to pair with their outstanding Port of Call.

Harbinger Winery features a carnival of culinary delights beginning with a white chocolate apple bread pudding paired with the crisp La Petite Fleur; pan au chocolate with the award-winning Dynamo Red; devil’s food mini-cupcakes crowned with a spiced chocolate butter cream is sinfully delicious when paired with the newly released 2014 Bolero.

If this isn’t enough, Harbinger will have one more behind the velvet curtain of the VIP room, the reserve wine with Theo’s Chocolates.

Wind Rose Cellars is hosting chocolatier Yvonne Yokota from Yvonne’s Chocolates. Each weekend will feature a different lineup of their wines. I tasted the 2014 Bravo Rosso at the Kitsap Wine Festival this past August. It’s a 3 out of 3-star wine for me.

You could also spend your Valentine’s Day weekend on Bainbridge Island during their annual Wine on the Rock: Wine & Chocolate event. It highlights the wines of the Winery Alliance of Bainbridge Island’s award-winning producers paired with local chocolates. Each of the five participating wineries (Amelia Wynn, Eagle Harbor, Eleven, Fletcher Bay, Rolling Bay) will be pouring four specially selected wines into very cool wine glasses that you get to keep.

After purchasing tickets online, you pick up your wine glass and other goodies at any winery you choose and start tasting. With the exception of Amelia Wynn Winery, the event will take place at the wineries. Amelia Wynn will pour at their downtown Winslow Way tasting room.

And right around the corner on March 19 through the 22nd, is the granddaddy of all delicious Washington wine and food tastings – the 23rd annual Taste Washington. This year, there are exciting changes with the addition of evening events on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Pacific Standard is a nautically inclined, wine-imbued, mountain-framed, pier-stacked, stuff-your-face with delicious food kind of Friday night commemorating Washington’s most inspiring places. The Saturday night marquee event, The New Vintage, showcases culinary legends: past, present and future with outstanding Washington wines.

The Grand Tasting is the main event, a two-day wine and food celebration with more than 200 of Washington’s award-winning wineries, 60 Seattle restaurants and so much more.

Whether you’re a full-fledged wine geek or burgeoning aficionado, Taste Washington has great seminars. These taste-while-you-learn sessions are hosted by leading experts, including top winemakers, Master Sommeliers and academics. Learn about what makes the terroir of Washington’s vineyards stand apart, the future appellations coming to Washington state, dive headlong into the latest wine science and, of course, taste a lot of fantastic wine.

Tickets are on sale now (a wonderful Valentine gift) both individually and package deals. Go to TasteWashington.com.  Cheers!