Let the Celebrations Begin

The Celebration Season has begun. What bottles will you open? Here are some enologically education events to get you in the swing of things in the next few weeks.

The JW Restaurant in Gig Harbor presents an evening with Dave Huse, owner of Walla Walla’s Five Star Cellars. Dave is a wonderful man with a twinkle in his eye and some great stories. The twinkle is probably because he has some of the best wines in Washington. A while back I won, hands down, the Blind Wine Group Tasting with his 2008 Cab.

It’s Wednesday, November 18th at 6pm, mosey on down to the JW Restaurant in Gig Harbor for a delightful 4 course dinner paired with his wines. Reservation only. For more info, www.jwgigharbor.com

Beaujolais Nouveau release day is always the third Thursday of November, the week before Thanksgiving. It may be coincidence that this wine from the Beaujolais region of France in southern Burgundy is a very good wine for that big family dinner a week later. The Gamay grape is harvested in September (concluding mid September this year) and in bottle just before Thanksgiving. The wine actually originated about a century ago as a cheap and cheerful drink produced by locals to celebrate the end of the harvest season with a new wine or Nouveau. It’s an excellent gauge of the 2015 vintage in Europe. This year’s harvest is reportedly small but intense.

Next up is the BIG FEAST – Thanksgiving. Spending Thanksgiving in wine country is a wonderful way to spend the holiday weekend researching the newer wineries. Yakima Valley, Washington’s oldest AVA, is one of my favorite places to go. Not a ton of people, more face time with the winemakers and plenty of holiday cheer.

Thanksgiving in Yakima Valley Wine Country, from Friday, November 27 to Sunday, the 29th, offers the perfect opportunity to taste wine from dozens of wineries that you’ve only heard about! For instance, have you tasted Antolin Winery, Gilbert Cellars, Kana, Lookout Point, Naches Heights, Owen Roe or Treveri Sparkling Cellars? If not, this could be a perfect opportunity.

Around Zillah try Cultura Winery, Dineen (Chef Chris Guerra of Guerra’s Gourmet will be making fresh tamales and pizza in the wood-fired oven), Knight Hill, Maison de Padgett, Masset Winery, Paradisos del Sol (Albarino), Reflection Vineyards, Severino Cellars, Tanjuli Winery, Two Mountain Winery (port) and Wineglass Cellars.

The Prosser neighborhood has Airfield Estates, Chinook, or Cowan Vineyards. And then the compact Red Mountain neighborhood wineries: Chandler Reach (a fav), Cooper, Hightower, Kiona (a must), Kitzke Cellars, Tapteil Vineyard (VG), Terra Blanca and Tucannon Cellars. Details and directions at https://wineyakimavalley.org/events-item/thanksgiving-in-wine-country-taste-to-fight-hunger/

Our own Kitsap Peninsula Wineries will have an open house that weekend too if you want to take visiting relatives and Mom out for a drive. All the wineries, Amelia Wynn Winery, Bainbridge Vineyards, Eagle Harbor Winery, Eleven Winery, Fletcher Bay Winery, Perennial Vintners and Rolling Bay Winery are open for tours and tasting from 12 to 5pm Thanksgiving weekend. Meet the winemakers, enjoy the lush surroundings and great wines. More info and directions at http://www.bainbridgewineries.com/winerytours/

Mom will absolutely love the newly released Eleven Late Harvest Viognier. One whiff of the heavenly nose and she’ll think she’s gone to heaven. It’s made from grapes dried on the vine for many weeks, resulting in highly concentrated flavors and aromas.

And finally, here are the results of the Beer vs. Wine Tasting. It was a great event for wine lovers and  beer lovers too. It definitely opened up some eyes on the what and the why of pairing. We kept adding special beers and wines and dishes to pair with them. Of the nine courses, wine won three and beer won three with one tie, one both and one result tossed out.

The results were tossed out for the salad course because one of the beer bottles was off and the reinforcement was a heavier beer and it was served before the lighter in body wine. In retrospect, it should have been wine first and then the beer. And the record did not specify which beer was the best match.

Other complexities – we started out with 8 people and a few left before dessert. But not all courses add up to 8, anyway as some guests couldn’t do fish or just simply couldn’t make a definitive decision. And a category “both” was added for those open minded diners who thought both were great with the dish.  This dinner was designed to be a tasting menu so we could add so many special beers and wines.

Geoduck Ceviche marinated in Lime Juice with Shallots, Jimaca, Cilantro and Avocado.

1 – Wine: Espiral 2014 Vinho Verde

  • 4 – Beer: Godamsel Belgian Golden Wild

3 – both

illed Oysters Alki on the Half Shell

5 – Wine: Sauvignon Republic 2013 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

2 – Beer: Homebrewed Smoked Porter/Alaskan Smoked Porter

1 – both

Seared Scallops with Citrus Cream Sauce

3 – Wine: Chateau St Jean 2011 Sonoma Chardonnay

  • 5 – Beer: Rodenbach Red

Muscat or Rodenbach Poached Pears with Napa Cabbage, Curried Walnuts and Vanilla Vinaigrette

Beer: North Coast Old Stock 2011/ Tripel Krullekop

Wine: Domaine Laurier Brut


Aged Gouda, English and Vermont Cheddar Cheeses

2 Wine: Chateau Ste Michelle 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon

  • 6 – Beer: Pike Old Bawdy 1994

Multiple Mushrooms Risotto with Mushroom Stock, Fresh and Dried, Truffle Oil, Dust, and Truffle Salt

  • 5 – Wine: Berberanna 2009 Rioja

1 – Beer: Cuvee Rene

2 – both


Butternut Cream Soup garnished with Crème Fraiche and Pine Nuts

  • 5- Wine: Lustau Los Arcos Amontillado Sherry

3 – Beer: Rogue Hazelnut Brown

Ruhlman’s Pastrami Beef Short Ribs with Potato and Parsnip Mash and homemade Dill Pickle

3 – Wine: Maryhill 2009 Zinfandel

3 – Beer: Firestone Walker Anniversary 18

Homemade Smoked Lamb & Elk Sausage with Shredded Golden Beets garnished with Goat Cheese, Pickled Mushrooms, Beets, Onions, and Olive Oil Drizzle

Beer: Liefman’s Goudenband

Wine: O – S Winery 2003 Champoux Cabernet Franc 1.5L

  • 4 – both


We were all stuffed so for another day:

Gingerbread Trifle With Stroopwafel Cookie

Wine: Hinzerling Rainy Days Tawny Port

Beer: Southern Tier Crème Brulee

Life with Sherry

Most of us first read about sherry when we were in grade school. Only The Cask of Amontillado probably made no sense whatsoever to those No. 2 pencil clutching students of my class.

Yep, Edgar Allan Poe’s 1846 penning of The Cask of Amontillado was my first encounter with wine, but I was blissfully unaware of the turn in that direction my life would take.

But if you think about it, back in 1846, if you were writing about wine, sherry was one of the outstanding wines that came to mind. And not only the wine but how it’s made.

The wines of the Jerez (hair reth) area of Spain have been counted amount the world’s best wines at many points in history. Over the centuries, a myriad of styles and winesmaking techniques that are pretty much foreign to other wines of the world had developed. Techniques such as the Solera method, flor and bota are unique to the wines of Jerez.

Indeed, it is the most complicated wine to explain. But that’s not going to stop me. So sit back, relax with a glass of wine and listen to the story of sherry.

Sherry covers about 30,000 acres near the southernmost point of Spain’s Mediterranean cost. It is surrounded by three towns, Jerez de la Fronters or simply Jerez, Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria. Palomino is the primary gape of the region, accounting for about 90% of the acreage planted.

Other permitted grapes are Pedro Ximénez (fondly called PX) and Moscatel. Their traditional role is to sweeten things up but nowadays it is easy enough to find bottlings of just these grapes which make heady dessert wines

Remember this: not all Sherries are sweet! In fact, all sherries begin as very dry wines. It’s how they are treated as they grow up and develop personalities that determine whether they will remain a dry Fino or turn into a sweeter Oloroso. Sherries are as complicated as some FB relationships. Trust me.

Sherry styles, from light and dry to heavy motor oil and very sweet, are Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso, Cream and Pedro Ximénez.

Traditional sherry making is complex. After harvest, the grapes are quickly pressed and the acidity level is adjusted with tartaric acid. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. After fermentation, the wine is stable enough to be fortified. This is all based on flavor and quality. The finest and least alcoholic wines, often from the free run juice, rapidly develop flor. These will eventually be transformed into finos and amontillados.


The more powerful stuff will be fortified to 17 to 22 percent. That effectively creates an environment that the flor can’t live in so it says its final adios. Now those wines are ready for a little sweetening and a new life as an Oloroso or cream.

All wines are kept in a “nursery” in butts filled four fifths full. In the nursery, sherries spend time with flor, a floating yeast that provides protective cover from oxygen.  The flor develops or not, in the Solera

A Solera is a room full of casks where the unique aging process begins. Wine is taken out of the oldest cask and replaced with wine from the next oldest cask. That wine is replaced by wine from the next cask and so on down the line. A Solera could be fed by as little as three or four casks and as many as 14.


With the errant nature of these casks, even wine from the same vineyard can develop in different ways. The essential difference is the development flor

Sherry is complicated, unpredictable wine to make, so there are considerable differences between styles of sherry. This is just a general guide with some of my favorite pairings

Fino is the lightest style and crisp somewhat bitter like an IPA. It’s aged for about three years completely under flor. They pair well with almonds, fried delectables, green olives, sushi and roasted vegetables

Manzanilla only from Sanlucar de Barrameda near the sea is also dry. It also picks up a bright sea salt aroma and flavor. Perfect match to slurp with oysters on half shell, a skewer of shrimp off the barbie or tapas made with Serrano ham, olives or almonds.


Amontillado begins life as a Fino but after some time, maybe six years, the flor dies and is filtered out. The wine will continue to age. This style picks up notes of walnut, almond and dried orange peel. It’s fabulous with a chunk of Manchego or Gouda cheese, fried, grilled or smoked fish, chorizo and soup.

Palo Cortado is rather rare. It shows remarkable range with dried fruit, nut and spice flavors. Tapas made of ham, snails, almonds, hard cheeses and richer dishes work very nicely here.

Oloroso is the heartiest of the Palomino based sherries. This wine spends little or no time under flor before its initial fortification. With its nutty, orange peel and spice notes, it may be sweet or dry. The range is broad. Almonds, blue cheeses, ham with Manzanilla olives, pate, and flan.

Pedro Ximénez is a very dark brown dessert style wine named for the grape type that makes it all possible. Grapes are left on the vine to raisin in the sun. And the resulting wine, as a friend described it, looked like motor oil but had heavenly flavors of date, raisin, caramel and toffee. Think chocolate with this one

Creams are usually the ones that every one thinks of when the word sherry is spoken. This is an Oloroso sweetened with Pedro Ximénez and shows a heavy, creamy texture and dark dried fruit and toffee flavors. Apple pie, anyone? Or maybe a flan, a chunk of blue cheese, or a slice of pecan pie. You’ll be making those yummy sounds for sure.

The Red King

I found a very interesting bottle of wine in a disco bin recently. Disco bins are those shopping carts in the front of the store with prices severely reduced. The back label had enough information to make it sound intriguing — to me anyway. It was vinted and bottled by JL Giguiere out of Zamora, California. I was not familiar with Giguiere or Zamora but I knew where California was on the wine charts.

It was called Tinto Rey, which means Red King, and that alone sounded good enough for my wineglass. Tinto Rey was a blend of Tempranillo, Syrah, Garnacha, Cab and Tannat. The Tannat was the clincher for me. I rarely see it anymore. The last time I had it was in the last century.

The Tempranillo and Garnacha are widely planted in Spain and contribute spicy red fruit flavors. The Syrah (also planted in Spain) gave it rich black cherry and blueberry fruit, and the Cab (first planted in Spain two centuries ago) and Tannat added structure, depth and spicy notes to the wine. It reminded me of a very expensive wine I once had a tiny taste of because I was in the right place at the right time some 30 years ago.

In the 1970s, Vega Sicilia was Spain’s crown jewel. Situated in a vast dust bowl plateau that few knew about or visited, it wasn’t even a Denominación de Origen (DO). The estate was planted in the 1860s to Cabernet, Malbec, Merlot and Tinto Fino. It was an expensive wine built with structure, balance and the cut of a big Bordeaux.

Today, this bodega has 500 acres planted to Cabernet, Malbec, Tinto Fino (Tempranillo to the rest of the world) and Garnacha (Grenache) on a plateau some 800 meters above the river. After having spent 10 years in barrel, tiny quantities are rationed out to the world at very high prices.

Then in the early 1980s, Alejandro Fernandez had been fanatically tinto pesquerapursuing his version of perfection at Bodega Pesquera. Pesquera’s wines are made with Tinto Fino, Syrah and Cabernet and aged in oak. From much research, I can report these wines have concentrated fruit, high alcohol and a luscious quality. They are much, much more affordable then the Vega Sicilia.

From two bodegas in the 1970s, to 24 when the Ribera Del Duero became a DO in 1982, to almost 300 today, this wide, high, hot plain has been transformed. Ribera Del Duero, or loosely translated River of Duero, has some of the world’s most wonderful wines across the spectrum of pricing from great value to Vega Sicilia. This diversity reflects the complexity of the blends and the dry, hot, dusty, rural region just north of Madrid in Central Spain.

Many of these wineries don’t even grow their own grapes but instead rely on contracts with cooperatives to buy their grapes. Even Vega Sicilia has contracts in the region.

Much like Eastern Washington, Ribera Del Duero’s desert has huge temperature swings between day and night. Enough to balance the grape sugars with acidity. And there is an average of 16 inches of rain per year. Just enough to stress those vines into producing beautiful bunches of grapes.

The hot relentless summers often shut the vines down and the grapes stop ripening, leaving early autumn a scramble to get the ripening before the temperatures drop. But irrigation, officially allowed in 1996, has relieved that pressure.

Spain’s dry soils cannot support many vines, so vines are planted unusually far apart and trained in a bushy fashion. This low-vine density explains why Spain has the most acreage planted to vines in the world with production substantially lower than France or Italy.

When looking for a good Ribera del Duero, understanding the label helps. Don’t just go for the pretty label. Denominación de Origen (DO) is the guarantee of quality. Other terms good to know are Crianza, which is wine aged for a minimum of two years after the harvest — at least 12 months has to be in oak.

Reserva is wine matured for at least three years, of which at least one is in oak and one is in bottle. Gran Reserva is a special wine that is aged for at least five years, at least two in oak and three in bottle.

Bodegas to look for would be Tinto Pesquera Crianza, Condado de Haza, Bodegas Torremoron Tinto, Bodegas Torrederos and Abadia Retuerta, although not technically from Ribera del Duero it’s only 7 miles east of Vega Sicilia. And if you win the lottery, there is always Vega Sicilia.

Cheers to you!

It’s Beer v. Wine in this Dinner Challenge

October is full of challenges.

When the rains begin, the delectable mushrooms pop up and the salmon begins its end of life journey. Mushroom picking is a challenge — wouldn’t want to choose the wrong one or spend all day and only find two. And salmon have quite the challenge swimming up stream to spawn.

And then there’s the perennial challenge for the Chicago Cubs. Being a Cubs fan since high school has been a challenge. In those days, the challenge was not to get caught ditching school for Opening Day. Rest assured, Opening Day at Wrigley Field then was much more exciting than any baseball in October, except maybe this particular October.

My biggest October challenge this year is a birthday dinner that we gifted a friend four years ago. It’s evolved from a beer dinner with friends into an eight-course gourmet delight with a beer vs. wine contest. This contest has been on the uber-beer-geek birthday boy’s bucket list for some time.

My challenge is to present wines that will, at the very least, bring the beer geek dinner guests to say, “Hmm, not bad!” The ultimate win would be for the beer geeks to reluctantly admit that the wine is a better match than the beer. Wish me luck there.

Or better yet, maybe you could help by telling me your favorite beer or wine pairing with the following preliminary menu, which is subject to change. As Alexander Graham Bell noted, “Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.”

A few thoughts first. As we added to the menu, the courses started to multiply. Portions will be in the tasting size but a sufficient amount for a couple of bites with the beer and a couple of bites with the wines.

In any well-planned dinner, we’ll start with the simple dishes paired with lighter beverages and then move progressively to the more intense dishes with the more weighty beverages. Which beverage to sip first will also be suggested with this same principal.

Progressing from dry to sweet is another rule. The opposite, tasting a sweet barleywine and then to an old Bordeaux, would be a wine crime of the first order.

Oysters Alki on the half shell

The Alki part is a vinaigrette on warmed oysters that I had years ago at Salty’s on Alki. It was so good that I went home to recreate it. My version is made of cilantro, shallots, sushi rice wine vinegar, pepper and light oil.

Beer: Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin is India Pale Ale made with grapefruit.

Wine: Some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that is citrusy with a touch of herb.

Geoduck Cerviche

Seafood marinated in lime juice served with chopped onions, hot peppers, tomatoes and a slice of avocado.

Wine: Vinho Verde is the green wine from Portugal that has a citrusy and spritzy flavor and low alcohol.

Beer: Sound Brewery Monk’s Indiscretion Belgian Strong Pale Ale. The Citra hops impart a lovely citrus note to the beer.

Mushroom Risotto

The risotto is from another memorable meal at the Joel Palmer House in Dayton, Oregon. The only reservation we could get was at 10:30 p.m. We were famished by the time we sat down at a table on the third floor of an historic farmhouse. We ordered a bottle of Tony Soter Rosé and much to our surprise, a small, wonderfully fragrant mound of mushroom risotto appeared with it. It was heavenly match.

Wine: An earthy Pinot Noir, maybe California or Oregon

Beer: Scaldis Prestige de Nuits is a top-fermented blended brew of new and old, the old having spent at least nine months in a Hospice de Nuits (Pinot Noir) barrel.

Poached Pear Salad with Curried Cashews

Beer: Tripel Karmeliet is a big Belgian beer with lemony flavors and medium body.

Wine: Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Rose is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Trepat, with some lovely scents and flavors of raspberry and cherry.

Short Rib Pastrami with Golden Beet Hash

Wine: Ridge Zinfandel, possibly a single vineyard, we’ll see.

Beer: Silver City Winter Lager is lagered for several months in ice-cave like conditions. It has a bit of sweetness and big body.

Select Aged Gouda, Cheddar & Parmesan Cheeses

Wine: An old Washington Cab from the last century

Beer: Not sure yet but it has to be something Belgian, aged and delicious! Any suggestions?

Lemon White Pepper Ginger Cake

Always end dinner with a stunning dessert. This is my go-to cake that even people who don’t like dessert will eat. It’s that fantastic.

Beer: Southern Tier Crème Brulee This imperial milk stout has a nose of vanilla, custard and brown sugar with flavors of caramelized sugar.

Wine: Sauternes One with age and a little bit of botrytis, which concentrates the sugars and flavors. This could be the one that works the best.

September is Definitely Beer Month

September is definitely a beer month. While your sitting there wondering, let me explain.

First, there is Oktoberfest which traditionally begins the third weekend in September and ends the first Sunday of October. It all started in 1810 with the Royal Wedding. Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony. After the ceremony, there was this big kegger out on the lawn in front of the castle. It was such a great party, it continues every year.

This year, the festivities in Munich begin with a parade and the tapping of the first beer barrel on September 19th. It ends on Sunday, October 4th with a gun salute at noon, at least, they claim it’s guns.

Today, Oktoberfest beers are malty lagers brewed for brisk weather and festivals. But before refrigeration, beer was made in the cooler months as hot weather is not the best time to ferment. Beer made in March was stored and consumed over the summer months. Bavarian brewers went a step further and developed Märzen (March), using bottom fermentation and making use of caves and cellars, sometimes packing them with ice for lagering.

September is also pumpkin beer release month. After wandering the Kitsap County Fair last week and seeing one of the biggest pumpkins ever, all I could envision was a barrel of pumpkin ale. I first heard about pumpkin ale many years ago, when the fledgling West Sound Brew Club would flex their brewing muscles with really wild beers. In September, pumpkin was one of them. I thought they were goofy.

But they were really on the cutting edge. Nowadays, many harvest beers are made with pumpkin and fresh hops. Pumpkin Ales are varied but typically it’s mild amber-colored, malt-forward ale, with prominent caramel and nutty flavors, little hop bitterness and a malty tone. There are also Pumpkin Porters, Stouts and Barleywines. Many will contain a full bodied mouthfeel from the addition of pumpkin. These beers range in ABV from moderate 5% lagers to 17% behemoth ales.pump ale3178

Some brewers opt to add roasted pumpkins into the mash while others use puree. They are usually spiced with traditional pumpkin pie spices like ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. Unusual additions could include chocolate, cocoa and coffee. Then some may be aged in brandy, bourbon, rye or wine barrels.

Pumpkin beers are an ideal pairing for some of our favorite autumn meals. Hearty harvest fare such as Reuben Sandwiches, a spicy bowl of Chili, Chicken Mole, Beef Stroganoff, Turkey with the Trimmings, or Pumpkin Ale Braised Beef Short Ribs would pair well with a full bodied pumpkin brew.dogfishN3180
Let’s not forget the dessert. The flavors of pumpkin, caramel and spice are great with Bittersweet Chocolate Cake, Apple Pecan Crisp, or Caramel Flan. As with wine, your beer should be sweeter than the dessert.

Here’s a few to look for:

Almanac’s Dark Pumpkin Sour is a rich, dark sour ale brewed with organic heirloom pumpkins and spices and aged in used red wine barrels for a year. Serve this complex ale as a counterpoint to savory Thanksgiving fare. This wild ale was aged in used wine casks with the house “Dogpatch” sour culture, a cocktail of wild Belgian and American yeasts, including San Francisco sourdough starter.

Punkuccino is an Elysian Brewing specialty. It’s a Northwest favorite that could have been brewed by your favorite barista. Punkuccino packs pumpkin and a short shot of Stumptown coffee toddy in your pint with just a shake of cinnamon and nutmeg. Sounds perfect with a slice of homemade pumpkin bread with sweet cream butter.

In the spirit of the season, Laurelwood Pumpkin Ale is an amber colored beer made with pumpkin puree and the usual pie spices, “sure to chase away the evil spirits!” A Day of the Dead brew to pair with Chicken Mole.

Avery Pump[Ky]N Porter is highly unusual at 17.22% ABV. This “monstrous pumpkin porter” is aged in bourbon barrels and spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and hops. Please pass the Bittersweet Chocolate Cake.

Elysian The Great Pumpkin is the world’s first imperial pumpkin ale. Brewed with five different malts, roasted pumpkin seeds in the mash, and extra pumpkin added in the mash, kettle and fermenter and spiced with the usual cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. This one is perfect for hearty fare such as the Beef Stroganoff or Braised Short Ribs.

Jolly Pumpkin Noel De Calabaza Barrel Aged Strong Ale is another monster of an ale. It begins as a Belgian Christmas ale, all malty, raisiny and lightly hopped and then its aged in oak barrels. May I have an extra helping of the Pecan Pie, please?

Southern Tier Brewing Rum Barrel Aged Pumking is dessert style ale made from roasted pumpkins and aged in 30 year old rum barrels. A serving of bread pudding with a Rum Barrel Aged Pumking hard sauce would be divine.

Almanac Heirloom Pumpkin Ale is the dessert beer made with real hand-roasted heirloom pumpkins. The caramelized gourds were then added to the American Barleywine and aged in rye and brandy barrels for a year. Finally, the barrel-aged beer is blended with freshly brewed ale and a delicate hint of pumpkin pie spices are added to round out this decadent sipper. 50% of the ale brewed with pumpkins aged in rye and brandy barrels and 50% ale brewed with spices.

Cheers and Happy Harvest!

Chilled Red Wine and Al Fresco Dining

Ever wonder what Italians sip under the hot Tuscan sun with their lunch of mozzarella caprese, grilled calamari and carpaccio?

It would not be a Super Tuscan, that’s for sure. But it would be made with the same grape – Sangiovese.  Sangiovese (san-jo-veh-zeh) is a red grape which translated means “Blood of Jove.” Jove was one of many important gods of the Roman Empire, by Jove.

Sangiovese is the essential, and required by law, ingredient of some of Italy’s most famous wines. Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino are 100% Sangiovese. Chianti’s main component since 1996 is 75 to 100% Sangiovese.  Carmignano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano, and Super Tuscans all use some or all Sangiovese. But these are not the types of wines for dining al fresco. Too big, too heavy and we need something fruit forward and with a chill on it.

Enter Sangiovese Rosé, one of the most food friendly wines out there. Perfect with antipasti, salads of any type, grilled oysters or salmon, barbequed ribs, hamburgers, chops, and grilled pizzas. You get the picture. There is a swarm of Sangiovese Rosés right here in Washington State that you need to explore this summer.

One that I would highly reccommend is from Kaella Wine kaellaCompany.  While touring the Woodinville Warehouse District a few months ago, I happened upon the winery.  This was my first taste of Rosé this year and boy! I was impressed. This Rosé is a red wine drinker’s  summertime best friend.

Made from 100% Sangiovese from one of the best vineyards in the state, Ciel du Cheval on Red Mountain, the grapes were processed in the usual fashion of Rosé making.

After harvesting, those tough stems are removed, in a process called destemming, and then they’re crushed, and the skins are left to macerate for 24 hours to allow the skins release their color, flavors and aromas. The next day, the juice is pressed and then fermented in stainless steel tanks. Stainless steel fermentation accentuates the fruitiness. Rosés rarely see oak.

Kaella’s Rosé has enticing aromas of strawberry, watermelon, and raspberry that are rich and full bodied with great acidity and an impressive finish. Consumed over three days with all manner of fresh crab dishes, I swear I did not notice the 14.2% until the last drop.

Maryhill, Winery of the Year in 2014, makes a wonderful Columbia Valley Rosé of Sangiovese that is bright pink in color and has this sun ripened strawberry and watermelon flavors. Crisp and clean, it also was fermented in stainless steel. Sourced from two award-winning vineyards, this Rosé is comprised of 86% Sangiovese from the Tudor Hills Vineyards and 14% Grenache from Art den Hoed Vineyards.

Barnard Griffin has been producing award-winning rose1wines for over 30 years. It was founded in 1983 by Rob Griffin and Deborah Barnard, while Griffin was still working for Hogue. Barnard Griffin Winery only recently built their own winery in the heart of Washington State’s wine country, at the confluence of the Yakima, Columbia, and Snake rivers.

Their Rosé of Sangiovese is a luscious array of strawberry, melon and cranberry notes with crisp acidity. The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition has awarded this wine Gold or better nine times. A seriously great summer quaffer.

At the Kitsap Wine Festival, celebrating its seventh year, there are a number of Washington Wineries that will be serving up rosés. This fun-in-the-sunshine event is the perfect opportunity to try before you buy.

What to sample? Well, top on my list would be Chandler Reach. Their wines have a certain Tuscan flair to them. Rich, full bodied, always smooth and very food friendly. chandler reach

Their villa is located at the top of a hill just like Tuscan Villas. And the vineyards are blessed with Tuscan-like terroir, located in an area historically considered to be among the warmest in the state. Patio Red is a light Sangiovese blend with strawberry and dark cherry aromas and flavors. It pairs nicely with deck chairs, grilled foods and great friends!

Last year, we gushed over the Forgeron 2013 Ambiance, a blend of white grapes in the Rhone way with Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, &  Marsanne. Forgeron is back again this year, serving up a versatile and food-friendly Rosé of Sangiovese. Crisp and delicious from start to finish with juicy red berry flavors.

Davenport Cellars is a boutique winery located in the warehouse district in Northeast Woodinville. Davenport Cellars also makes a Sangiovese called Rosé de Vins from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain.

Their other fabulous summertime sipper is the Orange Muscat from Lonesome Spring Ranch with a residual sugar of 3.5%. This is a perfect wine for a summer’s day, fragrant, crisp and 100% stainless fermented. Try adding sparkling water for a really refreshing al fresco wine.

Olympic Peninsula’s Harbinger Winery will be pouring their rosé, a crisp beauty from Red Mountain. Although technically a Rhone Rosé, It’s well balanced with bright berry notes and racy acidity, this ruby-colored gem is all cherry pie and sweet spices.

Many of these Washington wines can be tasted at the Kitsap Wine Festival on the waterfront, Saturday, August 8th starting at 2:00pm. Harborside Fountain Park is one of the more splendid venues Kitsap has to offer. Close to the ferry, gorgeous views and spectacular fountains. Enjoy the wines, the delectable bites and friendship; it’s a great Kitsap summer event. Tickets are for sale at Brown Paper Tickets. More info at http://www.kitsapwinefestival.com/sip.php

Washington Craft Fruit Beers

The Bremerton Summer BrewFest was a blast. washington_beer_buttonComing in waves off the ferry, driving across three major bridges to get to the Kitsap Peninsula, happy beer enthusiasts filled the boardwalk from the Turner Joy to the ferry terminal.

The 5th annual Summer BrewFest was hot in more ways than one. Shade was at a premium but this year’s festival, featuring of fruit infused beers, was just the ticket to cool things off.

There were quite a few Washington craft brewers that made a fruit infused brew. They used one or more of the following: pineapples, raspberries, apricots, blood oranges, blackberries, limes, peaches, watermelons, lemons, strawberries, or grapefruits with other refreshing, non-fruit additions such as basil, ginger, rosemary, honey, rhubarb, chili peppers, Szechuan peppers or black peppers.

Many of these ingredients were added during fermentation but another way to introduce a really refreshing note into your glass is to pour it through a Randall. A Randall is a device that is connected to the tap and filled with flavor enhancers be it fruit, hops or spices. The beer flows through the container and Voila! You have a very cool, refreshing beverage.

For instance, Silverdale’s Rainy Daze poured their session IPA with its big citrus hop notes through a Randall of citrus fruit. This refreshing brew is a session brew meaning its alcohol content is lower (4.5%) than an IPA (5.5 – 7.5%).

Fish Brewing out of Olympia served up a Randalled Peach Imperial Pilsner made with German malts, hops and peaches. (10%)  Another was Dirty Bucket out of Woodinville. Their Hefen’ Pineapple is a German weisen made with fresh pineapple and Randalled through a homemade fruit cocktail. (5%)

One of the most refreshing brews of the day was In the Shadow Brewing, a nano-brewery outside Arlington. They brewed up a blonde ale with crystal and honey malts and threw in some basil and lemon during fermentation and added local honey at the end for a touch of sweetness and perfect balance. (5% with 13 IBU) It would be a fun summer jaunt to the brewery to get your growler filled but do make an appointment.

Top Rung Brewing from Lacey poured the Raspberry Lacey Lager through a Randall of Raspberries. Very aromatic and refreshing summertime sipper at 4.5% with 24 IBU.

Other unRandalled, made-with-real-fruit brews include the ultra refreshing Boundary Bay Steady as She Gose infused with Raspberries. Gose is an old German beer style made from malted wheat, which creates a cloudy, yellow color but provides crispness. It has low hop bitterness, spice from ground coriander seeds and twang from the addition of salt.

Fremont Brewing’s Summer Mojito is a refreshing take on the classic summer cocktail, they take their Summer Ale and infuse it with lime and mint. A seriously quaffable ale. (5.2% / 45 IBU)

No-Li Brewhouse’s Brass Monkey is a very good, sweet malt ale combined with orange peel zest. This refreshing, citrusy summer seasonal has that robust citrus aroma from the cascade hops and orange peel.

Schooner Exact brewed a wheat beer called Seamstress Union Raspberry Wheat. The raspberry aromas explode from the glass and the palate is all tangy raspberries. (5% / 20 IBU)

Another perfectly refreshing summertime filtered wheat beer infused with raspberries is from Walking Man Brewing. Crafting award winning beers along the Columbia River Gorge at Stevenson, Walking Man Brewing has a 17-barrel system that produces about 1200 barrels per year. (4.8% / 28 IBU).

Saving my favorite for last, drum roll please… Pyramid’s Apridunkel. Woot! Woot! This is a stronger and darker version of their gold medal winning Apricot Ale. Made with 2-row, caramel 40, chocolate malts and flaked wheat and only enough Cascade hops to balance the sweetness of the apricots. Really, really good. (6.8% with 25 IBU).

Many of these breweries have limited distribution so a trip to the brewery may be warranted. Or try Kitsap Peninsula’s best beer store – Marina Market in Poulsbo. They have a huge and many times unique collection of Northwest brews.

More hoppy news – It was great seeing Mike Hale pour on Saturday and pass out postcards announcing Hale’s Barrel House Tavern opening this fall at 15th and Wycoff in Bremerton.

This festival is presented by the Washington Beer Commission. They hold many craft beer festivals throughout the year.  Next month:  August 15th is the Everett Craft Beer Festival and August 29th is the South Sound Craft Beer Festival. More information at WashingtonBeer.com


It’s the Hop Days of Summer!


Hops are important to beer the way salt is to French fries.  Hop growing is a big industry in the Pacific Northwest, one of the top hop producers of the world.

Hops are the female flowers or cones of Humulus lupulus, the hop plant. They are used for aroma, flavoring and a stability agent in beer. There are over 240 varieties of hops, some are used for bittering and preserving, and  some are used for aromatics.

Aroma hops have low alpha acids. These are generally used at the end of brewing for aroma and not extraction of the International Bittering Units (IBU). Bitter hops have higher alpha acids and more oils. These hops are used in the boiling process to extract bitterness. The longer it’s boiled the more extraction and bitterness.

India Pale Ale (IPA) is the perfect match for hot weather meals from smoked meats to grilled shrimp, corn on the cob and fruity desserts. These beers have aromas of tropical and citrus fruits and a bitterness that balances the big maltiness – for the most part.

IPAs were invented in the British Empire in the 17th Century when the Empire included India. Brewers added more hops to the barrels of beer so the beverage wouldn’t sour during the month long voyage to the troops in India.

In the Pacific Northwest, craft brewers evolved the IPA style by using more pale malts and a heavier hand when it came to adding hops to the boil. Thanks to the potent crop of locally grown hops, the West Coast style of IPA was created.

To be classified as an American IPA, the brew must have between 40 and 70 IBUs. Our obsession for even higher IBUs inspired the creation of another category of beer, the Imperial or Double IPA. These brews can have between 60 and 120 IBUs and even higher alcohol content.

The most frequently used hops for IPAs include:

Amarillo with its flowery, citrus-like aroma and medium bittering. Cascade has flowers, citrus and spice with grapefruit the noticeable fragrance. Centennial has a dual purpose – aromatics with mid to high bittering value.

And good old Chinook is a pine forest washed with spice and infused with grapefruit. The alluring aroma and a high bittering value has gained this hop full respect from craft and major brewers.

Columbus is high on the bittering scale and valued for its oil content. Mosaic is a new hybrid derived from Simcoe with earthy, grassy, herbal, citrus, cedar, tropical, spice and stone fruit notes adding to the pine-based pungency. Simcoe is a 10 year old hop variety that has a dual purpose but generally used as a bittering hop.

Our Kitsap craft brewers have made some pretty incredible and for some, award winning India Pale Ales. Here’s what’s available:

Bainbridge Island Brewing crafts small batches of Downrigger Double IPA, 8.0% ABV and Eagle Harbor IPA at 6.0%. IBUs not published.

Der Blokken Brewery in Bremerton has a delicious Hessian Session IPA that is clean, crisp, and glowing with lemon and grapefruit and clocks in at 5.2% ABV and 44.5 IBUs.

Downpour Brewing in Kingston has a Hop Llama Double IPA at 7.5% ABV and hang on – 110 IBUs.

Hales Ales, used to be in Silverdale so I’ve included them, hoping they’ll pop up in Kitsap again. Their Supergoose IPA is aggressively, dry hopped and rich in hop flavor and aroma with grapefruit dominating. 6.9% ABV   67 IBU

Kingston’s Hood Canal Brewing has their Dabob Bay IPA. The prominent hop flavor is provided by numerous hop additions during the boil and dry hopping in the kegs. ABV: 6% IBU: 63

Rainy Daze Brewing’s Silverdale Sod Slayer ISA is a session IPA, with big citrus hop notes and only 4.5%. 60 IBU

Silver City Brewery’s Saint Florian, the Patron Saint of Firefighters, is their IPA with a portion of the proceeds going to a Washington State Council of Firefighters benevolent fund. Silver City uses Washington grown Cascade and Columbus hops. ABV: 6.5% IBU: 55

Whoop Pass is their Double IPA, without a doubt the hoppiest mother of a brew they have ever created. More than 50 lbs. of Washington State Cascade and Columbus hops are infused, injected, or otherwise inflicted upon a single batch. Welcome to hop country!

Slaughter County Brewing in Port Orchard, the county seat for Kitsap, formerly known as Slaughter County, has a Rabbit Imperial IPA originally from a homebrew recipe that uses an extreme Citra hop load. The finished product is 9% ABV with over 100 IBUs.

Slippery Pig Brewing in downtown Poulsbo has a refreshing Rhubarb IPA.  At the Bremerton Brew Fest, it was randalled over rhubarb and strawberries. A Randall is a device that is connected to a tap of your favorite beer and filled with flavor enhancers, be it fruit, hops or whatever. 9.4% ABV

Award winning Sound Brewing’s Humulo Nimbus Double IPA is a “towering thunderstorm of Northwest hops against a sky of clean, dry malt.” 8.5% ABV with 72 IBU.

Poulsbo’s Valhöll Brewing Brew Bitch IPA is a classic version of the Northwest India Pale Ale. It uses some of Yakima Valley’s classic hops, and a couple of the Northwest’s newest hops: Cascade, Centennial, Zythos, and Simcoe. ABV: 6.2% IBU: 70

Here’s to a summer of BBQ and hoppy beers. Cheers!

Summer Beer, Cider and Wine Tastings

There are some exciting wine, beer and cider tastings in the next few weeks. Get your calendar out and make plans with family and friends to sip a few.

Looking for something to do this weekend? Tootle on down to the Mosquito Fleet Winery tasting room in beautiful Belfair. They’re open both Saturday and Sunday from 12-5pm. These guys make some of the best wine on the Kitsap Peninsula, having garnered 90+ points for eight of their red wines. These are truly wonderful wines you’ll be proud to introduce to your besties!  Mosquito Fleet Winery was voted Best Boutique Winery of the South Sound in 2013 and AGAIN this year!

On July 13th, the Burrata Bistro in Poulsbo will host Nathan Barker from Vinum Imports. This tour of Italian wines takes you from the Alps in the northeast, around Tuscany, to the island of Sicily. Wines will be perfectly paired with delicious bites.

Your Italian wine tour will feature Rive Della Chiesa Prosecco Extra Dry NV, Cavalchina Bianco di Custoza 2013, Colognole Chianti Rufina 2008, Musella Valpolicella Superiore 2011, Vignalta Venda 2010 and Valle dell’Acate Case Ibidini Nero D’Avola 2013.  The cost is $28 per person. Reserve your seat today by calling 360.930.8446.

Tickets are on sale for the Bremerton Brewfest, Saturday, July 18th. The 5th annual festival, produced by the Washington Beer Commission, is moving to the waterfront this year. Featuring more than 30 Washington breweries pouring more than 100 craft beers, the Bremerton Summer Brewfest is a great way to learn about craft beers while you taste and enjoy live music and local food. This year’s feature will be fruit infused beers and Kitsap Craft brewers including Rainy Daze of Silverdale. For a list of all the breweries attending and to purchase tickets: http://washingtonbeer.com/festivals/bremerton-summer-brewfest.php

Tickets are a bargain at $20 and includes a commemorative tasting glass & six 5 oz tastes. Additional tokens may be purchased at $2 each or three for $5. Washington Beer Lover members receive two bonus tokens when they present their member passports.

You can also pick up tickets at these fine Kitsap Peninsula establishments: 7 Seas Brewing, Gig Harbor; Downpour Brewing, Kingston; Marina Market, Poulsbo; Silver City Brewery, Bremerton and Silverdale; Slaughter County Brewing, Port Orchard; Slippery Pig, Sound Brewery, and Valhöll in Poulsbo.

The following weekend the JW Restaurant in Gig Harbor features one of my favorite Washington wineries, Obelisco. Doug Long of Obelisco Estate Wines in Woodinville will talk about his fabulous wines on Friday, July 24th with two seatings, at 5pm and 7:45 pm.

The first wine, a 2012 Obelisco Riesling, which received a Silver at the Seattle Wine Awards, will be paired with Grilled Salmon, Soy Honey Asian Slaw on Crispy Fried Wontons.

The 2011 Obelisco Estate Red Mountain Malbec will accompany the Asiago Asparagus Tomato Salad. And the rich and impressive 2012 Obelisco Estate Red Mountain Syrah should be a delight with the Filet Mignon with Wild Mushroom Ragout. I’d save a bite of that just to see how it would pair with the next wine, the 2011 Obelisco Estate Red Mountain Cabernet. A double gold winner at the Seattle Wine Awards 2014. And then see how beautifully it pairs with the Cherry Caramel Chocolate Fondant Cake. Reservations are required. $85 per person. For more info: www.jwgigharbor.com or 253.858.3529

The Northwest Cider Association’s fifth annual Summer Cider Day, takes place Saturday, August 8th from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend.  With more than 60 ciders to try, this family friendly event showcases some of the top cideries from Washington, Oregon and Montana. For more information visit www.nwcider.com

The 7th Annual Kitsap Wine Festival tickets are now on sale. If you purchase your tickets early, you can save yourself $20 at the door. The Kitsap Wine Festival at Harborside Fountain Park is a celebration of food and wine on Bremerton’s scenic waterfront, benefiting Harrison Medical Center Foundation. It takes place on Saturday, August 8th from 2:00 pm until 5:30 pm.

The lovely venue is perfect for tasting wine, local eats and catching up with friends. Don’t miss a chance to try Washington’s Chandler Reach, Harbinger and Davenport wines.  For a list of all the wineries, visit KitsapWineFestival.com

And finally, this headline caught my attention this week: Kennewick Man Makes Best Amateur Wine in the World! It’s a pretty amazing story that has nothing to do with the Ancient One. Mike Rinker of Kennewick, an engineer, made the best amateur wine in the world.

At WineMaker Magazine’s annual competition, Rinker recently brought home the grand champion trophy for his 2013 Red Mountain Cab.  The competition had 2,825 entries from 49 states, 6 provinces and 10 other countries. Yeah, Washington Wine Rocks!

Refreshing, Unusual Summer Whites

Technically, it’s not summer yet but it sure feels like it!  With these hot, sunny days, firing up the stove is just not in the cards. Salad or grilling are the best supper choices. Nothing to heavy, just something light and refreshing. Right?wineblog

This same tendency also applies to your wine choices. While I do prefer to open a full-bodied red wine with dinner, lately crisp, refreshing whites and rosés are chilling up in the fridge.

Here are some wines thoughts for the lighter meals during these hot summer days. There are certain characteristics to look for in a wine when the weather is hot. Lighter cuisine, cold plates and salads are not the perfect match for a heavy red. Instead, look for a wine that can be chilled to enhance its crispness. And because summer fare tends to be dressed with vinegar rather than a sauce, look for wines with medium high to high acid.

The perfect summer whites are not heavy, oaky or full-bodied. Save those wines for heartier fare. Lower alcohol wines are also better, because the heat emphasizes the alcohol.

Patio and picnic fare are more casual so no need to serve anything with complexity or age with crystal and china. Buy a few perfect summer whites that will delight family and friends whether sipped on its own or with savory food from a paper plate.

Summer meals are, for the most part, easy to prepare and quick too! Firing up the barbie is a no brainer when it comes to cooking on hot evenings. Grilling vegetables, seafood, and chicken brings a different dimension to the flavors. Salads can be tricky when pairing with wine because most of the vinegar-based salad dressings require a wine with some degree of acidity.

The Rule of Wine dictates high acid vinegars pair best with high-acid sparkling wines, crisp, dry roses or high acid white wines with no oak. Adding other components like salty olives, spicy nuts or strong cheeses helps to neutralize some of the vinegar’s acidity.

But there are other ways around this acid problem. Vinaigrettes that use the low acid sushi vinegar and or citrus juice instead of or in addition to vinegar have lower acidity and therefore are easier to match with wine. A creamy dressing made with cheese, sour cream or mayo allows a wider range of wines that may not have the high acidity or perhaps a touch of oak. The cream and oil naturally tame the oak in a wine.

There are certain unusual grape varieties and wine regions that I think of during the hot weather, like Greece, Spain and Italy. These countries have been making wine to go with summer fare for a couple hundred decades and why let all that experience go unheeded? Why not venture out into the region of unpronounceable white grapes?

Greek wines have the most underrated and unpronounceable wines on the planet. For fans of lively whites, Greek whites offer amazing quality for very reasonable prices. The Assyrtiko (ah-sir-tee-ko) grape is a minerally, bone-dry, citrus-edged white that is best with fruits of the sea. Calamari, oysters and grilled fish on a bed of greens would be perfect. Athiri (ah-thee-ree) has aromas and flavors of stone fruits like peaches and nectarines. A lovely match with a fruit salad. And the Peloponnesian white, Moscofilero (mos-ko-fi-ler-oh) with its tangerine flavors and floral nose is my pick for grilled fish or a goat cheese salad. I’ll always fondly remember the Greek wine of my youth, Roditis (ro-dee-tis). This light-bodied, pink-skinned grape produces crisp whites and rosés that use to come in squat stone bottles. A Greek salad of olives, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and feta is the way to go here.

Spain’s Albariño from Rías Baixas, is a steely, floral white that goes well with seafood, from shrimp cocktail to grilled trout. Verdejo, with the crisp minerality and citrus tang from the cold, high plains of Rueda, north of Madrid, would pair well with a crab salad or paella. The Parellada grape is crisp and citrusy; Garnacha Blanca, with its herbal qualities, are blended into the white Vina Sol of Bodegas Torres in Catalunya, outside Barcelona. This inexpensive, versatile wine pairs well with clams casino, jamon and lentil salad or gazpacho.

Cavas are sparkling wines from northeast Spain. They are a blend of lemony Macabeo (mac a bay o), Paralleda (par a yay da), and floral Xarel-lo (zar el lo) grapes. These cavas are some of the best matches with grilled vegetable and seafood salads.

The sheer volume of Italy’s wine landscape, its humongous array of native grape varieties and confusion caused by similar producer names, region names and grapes that have two or three or four names depending on the region all require a bottle of wine and a conversation to sort out.

Beyond Pinot Grigio, Italy isn’t well known for its white wines. But I’m here to tell you about a few other grape varieties such as Verdicchio (ver dee kio), Vermentino, Cortese (Cor tay say), and Falanghina (fal an gee na).

Falanghina produces nuanced, delicious wines with lemon and other spritzy citrus flavors. This is a medium-bodied wine with a fresh, clean, dry taste, good acidity and a long, floral finish. It goes well with appetizers and salads. Try it with grilled shrimp and polenta, it’s excellent.

Vermentino is grown in Sardinia, the Tuscan coast and the Ligurian coast, all areas close to the sea. So it’s ideal for seafood. Vermentino is fresh and fragrant with aromas of flowers, lemons and almonds and shines with grilled pizza pescatore.

Greco di Tufo is pale gold in color with aromas of apple and pear. It is fruity and flavorful but balanced with good acidity. This wine pairs well with grilled shrimp, red onion and zucchini skewers or chicken with capers.

Prosecco is just plain fun to drink. This light, refreshing bubbly (called frizzante in Italian) from the Veneto region is a staple at luncheons, as an aperitivo and at most celebrations. It is a real crowd pleaser with Asian noodle salad with spicy peanut sauce.

It’s looks to be a long hot summer and as you can read plenty of white wines to chill and refresh.