It’s a Beer … It’s a Wine … It’s Barleywine!

The name Barleywine was given to this style of beer because its alcohol was more in the range of wine than that of a beer.
varleywine shot
Verticals of Barleywine

Barleywine had been around in one incarnation or another for a couple of centuries. The term barleywine was first used in the late 1800s. A couple of centuries later, barleywine production is a blend of modern brewing techniques and old traditions.

This style goes back to the days of parti-gyle brewing where, the first run of this brewing method were, of course, the bigger and more flavorful. Parti-Gyle brewing is the technique of making more than one batch of beer from a single mash. These big, complex ales were highly prized and reserved for special occasions and people, similar to an aged port.
Barleywine essentially a very strong beer, top fermented with lots of malt. Hop character is generally mild and bitterness from the hops is often low compared to the high gravity. The beer is complex, with a sweet malt character, often with hints of dried fruits, treacle, toffee and a pleasant sherry-like flavor after some cellaring.
Yes, cellaring a beer. There’s a modern day concept. Beer does age and like wine the ones with higher sugar and tannin content tend to age more gracefully. One of the first verticals I experienced was a mid 80s barleywine that had been in the cellar for 10 years. It opened a whole new world.
And I’ll bet you’re wondering, like I did back then, how can that be? It’s because there is a ton of malt sugars, tannins from the hops and higher alcohol, all excellent preservatives on their own.
Brewers measure the different components of their brews in IBUs, O.G. and F.G. IBUs are international bittering units. This component comes from the hops and in a barleywine could be anywhere from 30 to 120 IBUs.
There are two ways hops are introduced into a brew. One is to put it in with the boil and the other is to dry hop which is to put it in later when it would impart more aroma than bitter flavor. Hops are used to balance the sweet malt sugars.
How sweet are the malt sugars? That would be a measurement known as Original Gravity or O.G. This tells a brewer how heavy the malt sugars in his mash are. For a barley wine, the O.G. will be anywhere between 1.080 and 1.120 or more.
The rich flavor and deep color of a barleywine comes from the amount of grain that’s jam-packed into the brew and the length of time for the boil which caramelizes the sugars, concentrating the color and the flavor. There are many kinds of malt light, dark, black, blonde, toasted. If a lot of malts are used, and many different types, you will have a fairly complex beer.
A barley wine typically reaches an alcohol strength of 9 to 13% by volume and is brewed from specific gravities as high as 1.130. The Final Gravity (FG) is the specific gravity measured at the completion of fermentation and is usually between 1.018 and 1.030 for a barleywine.
So much is packed into barley wine that it usually takes a few years to mellow out to its best. Many barleywines are vintage dated, much like a vintage wine. Like port, barley wine has huge amounts of alcohol, sugars, and a fair amount of balancing bitterness. It takes time for these components to mellow into the full, complex drink that this style is known for.
Barleywine is also an excellent example of the style difference between the American and British versions. British barleywines are very malty and a light touch of hops for balance. Until the introduction of an amber-colored barley wine under the name Gold Label by the Sheffield brewery Tennant’s in 1951, British barley wines were always dark in color.
American versions are just as big in malt flavor with colors usually ranging from amber to light brown, but there is also a tendency to higher IBUs, giving the beer a very bitter hoppiness, especially when young. This will change with time in the cellar.
Barleywine was first made in the United States in 1976 by Anchor Brewing Company.  Its Old Foghorn Barleywine was one word as opposed to the British two word barley wine. It was a marketing decision; the word wine on a beer label was a way around the regulators. Old Foghorn was bottled in nips, a 4 oz bottle.
Barleywine names are as rich as the beers. Here are some examples with their ABV that is definitely as high as wine:
Anchor Brewing Company Old Foghorn 10
Arcadia Brewing Company Cereal Killer Barleywine 12
Deschutes Brewery Mirror Mirror 11
Dry Dock Brewing Bligh’s Barleywine Ale   10
Firestone Walker Brewing Sucaba     12.5
Flying Dog Brewery Horn Dog Barley Wine Style Ale 10.2
Goose Island Beer Bourbon County Barleywine 12.1
Heavy Seas Beer Below Decks Barley Wine   10
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale 11.5, Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask) 11.5, Harvest Ale (Port Cask) 11.5, Harvest Ale (Sherry Cask) 11.5
Left Hand Brewing Oak Aged Widdershins  10.7
Midnight Sun Brewing Arctic Devil Barley Wine    13.2
Old Dominion Brewing Dominion Millennium Ale 10.5
Pelican Pub & Brewery Mother of All Storms          14
Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project Our Finest Regards         12.1
Ridgeway Brewing Criminally Bad Elf         10.5
Shipyard Brewing Shipyard Double Old Thumper Ale         11.2
The Bruery Smooth Criminal 15
Weyerbacher Brewing Insanity 11.1 and Blithering Idiot     11.1
These beers are made in small batches and best after a few years of aging. Tuck a few into the cellar for a few years and you’ll have a real treat. Beer unlike wine should be cellared upright as they usually don’t have a cork to keep damp.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! While many will enjoy a special bottle and splendid dinner to ring in the New Year, the pop of a cork and all those delicious tiny bubbles will be part of the celebration too. bubbly

Champagne is an enigma, a white wine made from primarily red grapes. The actual invention of champagne is often attributed to a Benedictine Monk by the name of Dom Pérignon. Which is not exactly accurate, he didn’t invent Champagne, he refined it. Among his many refinements was the perfect stopper for the wine previously known as “devil’s brew” since it kept exploding and sending the rags flying.  You see, before the cork and bale, the monks used rags to stopper the wine, hence the flying rags.

As in most regions in France, the Champagne region was first planted to the vine by the Romans. Later the monks took over the vineyards, the winemaking and nursing the community with wine – a healthier option than water at the time.  Wine and beer for that matter, were drunk by everyone, kings and commoners.

Champagne’s glamorous lifestyle began back in 1429. That’s when the first French king was crowned in Rheims Cathedral. Of course, Champagne was served as part of festivities and for every coronation thereafter. Other rulers saw the stars, Czar Nicholas ordered his Roederer Cristal by the boatload and we all know that Napoleon would arrive at Moet y Chandon for a tipple of Dom Pérignon before riding off to his next military campaign.

Today, there are 86,500 acres of vineyards producing 200 million bottles of Champagne every year. The increased demand for Champagne, combined with the meticulous process of production, from véraison to aging in vast cellars, has resulted in Champagne as a symbol of prestige and celebration all over the world.

It’s the attention to detail that makes Champagne one of the world’s most sought after beverages. That and the soil, the grapes, the climate and the labor intensive winemaking that make this wine so fine.

The method of making Champagne or Méthode Champenoise is complicated and long. And starts with the usual alcoholic fermentation. The wine then undergoes a second fermentation inside the bottle. Making the wine sparkling is the primary reason for this but along the way aromatics develop in concert with those tiny bubbles.

By law, the harvested grapes must have enough sugar to produce 10 to 11 percent alcohol. Champagne is the only region that does not permit mechanical harvesting. Every single grape is picked by hand. Thousands of hands from all over France descend upon Champagne at harvest time. Picking starts at dawn and avoids the excessive sun at midday to avoid spontaneous fermentation.

Then the grapes are brought to the press room which is usually very close to the vineyards. This first pressing is, of course, the best. It’s the cleanest with no color or tannins from the skin or seeds. The statutory level for the first press is 8,800 pounds of grapes, with a maximum 670 gallons collected. A second compression is allowed and provides 130 gallons.

Fermentation vats are predominantly stainless steel with a few oak barrels of various sizes scattered here and there around the region. When the wine has finished the first fermentation, sometime in March or April, the assemblage begins. This is the winemaker’s most challenging task, tasting the blends of the different wines from different vats to find the ones that will make up that final house blend.

To the final blend, a liqueur de tirage is added. The tirage is a blend of carefully constructed wine, sugar and yeast. This is the stuff that will ensure those tiny bubbles. Once the tirage is added, the bottle is capped, and taken to the cellar and placed in pupitres which are wooden racks with holes in them. The bottles are placed at an angle so the top is down and the punt end is up.

Champagne-RemuerA remuer rotates every bottle with a quick one quarter turn at least four times a day to shake the spent yeast down into the neck of the bottle. Remuers are being replaced by machines in the larger cellars but the technique is important to the making of Champagne. This goes on for about 18 months.

The last major step is disgorgement and corking the bottle. To disgorge the dead yeast cells in the bottle, the top of the bottle neck is frozen and the bottle cap removed.  All the pressure that has built up sends the plug of spent yeast cells flying.

The next step, the wine has its final dosage, another sugar and wine solution, and then it is corked. The bale holds the cork in place. The label goes on, it’s boxed up and distributed throughout the world to celebrate births, weddings, birthdays, Mother’s Day, promotions, ship launches, the Seahawks repeating, and ringing in every New Year.

As you’ve read, Champagne is complex and celebratory.  Many books have been written about its deliciousness. My favorite is by Don & Petie Kaldstrup, Champagne, How the world’s most glamorous wine triumphed over war and hard times. It’s highly entertaining and solves the mystery of why there are so many Champagne houses with German and Dutch surnames.

Cheers to you! May your New Year be bright and bubbly!

Wine Tastings this Weekend

There are two wine tasting this weekend on the Kitsap Peninsula.  The Port Gamble General Store is having a wine tasting this Saturday Unknown-1from 4 – 6pm with one of my favorite importers – Small Vineyard Imports. You can taste two whites and three reds and listen to these very knowledgeable guys talk about their wines.  The General Store is also having a holiday sale starting Saturday with 30% off holiday ornaments and other decor.

Eleven Winery is having a 1 day sale on their Angelica today. This port-like wine will be $11 today only.  Great with strong blue-veined cheeses. And on Sunday, from 1 – 5 pm, there’ll be wine and music at the winery, 7671 NE Day Road, Bainbridge Island.

The Wines Created by Popes

Once upon a time, Mary had a little lamb. This has stuck with me through the years. Much like my favorite Gary Larson cartoon that has the bespectacled shepherdess sitting down to dinner with the drapes closed, her shepherd’s crook propped in the corner and the caption, “Mary had a little lamb, carrots and potatoes.”

One of my top ten matches of all time would be that very dinner with a ch ndpChateauneuf du Pape. Châteauneuf du Pape’s wide array of aromas and flavors could include herbes de Provence, spice box, tobacco, raspberries, olives, blackcurrant, licorice, thyme, plum, coffee, cinnamon, blueberries, lavender, and black cherry. As you can read, there is a lot going on in a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape and here’s why….

With more than 8,000 acres, Châteauneuf du Pape is the largest appellation in the Rhône Valley. This region makes two wines, a red which produces the bulk of the appellation’s production and a white. Eight red grapes are allowed and five whites.

Châteauneuf du Pape AOC permits thirteen different grapes in red wine but the blend must be predominantly Grenache. The other reds permitted are Syrah, Mourvèdre with minute quantities of Cinsault, Muscardin, Counoise, Vaccarèse and Terret Noir. The permitted white varietals include Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, Clarette, Bourboulenc and Roussanne. Chateau Beaucastel is the only one that includes all thirteen, both red and white, in its red wine.

Châteauneuf du Pape is located in southern France, in the southern half of the Rhône, on a hot, alluvial plain that’s covered with round stones. Sitting on the surface of the soil, the stones’ duty is to insulate the vines from both the cold and the heat, and provide drainage for the roots.

The area of the Rhône is in the path of the fierce, cold wind known as Le Mistral. This wind keeps things cool and also stresses the vines in a different way than the hot rocks.

Because of this wind, it’s not unusual to see mature vines untrellissed and low growing. Because of the abundant sunshine and frequent Le Mistral, the use of herbicides or pesticides in the vineyards isn’t needed. The wines benefit from this. They are clean with flavors rarely touched by new oak.

Châteauneuf du Pape takes its name, translated new castle of the pope, from the relocation of the papal court in the 14th century. French Pope Clement V arrived in 1309 and ordered more vines be planted to have more wine on hand for the visitors to court. His successor John XXII is the man who really developed the papal vineyards around Châteauneuf du Pape.

These wines were relatively light in style and unremarkable. After the court moved back to Italy, the bulk of the production was shipped north to cooperatives to be combined into indifferent blends that were sold in bulk.

Modern day Châteauneuf du Pape has its roots in the 1923 precursor appellation system created by Baron Le Roy, proprietor of the renowned Chateau Fortia. Forty years later with the establishment of the AOC, there were only a few making top quality wines.

These would be Chateau de Beaucastel, Clos du Mont-Olivet, Clos des Papes, Mont Redon, Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, and Rayas. Today, there are over 60 estates producing wines that are as good as, if not better than these six top chateaux.

Many of these wines are made by a new generation of winemakers and are near term drinkers – generally to be consumed within five to seven years of the vintage, although a handful can age far longer. The finest are concentrated enough to evolve for 15 to 25 years.

The most celebrated cru of the region is Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. The Brunier family has been part of the plateau known as “La Crau” for over a hundred years. They began in 1898 with Hippolyte Brunier. His small vineyard was at one of the highest points near town on a stony plateau called “La Crau”. The elevation was the perfect place to construct in the late 18th century to transmit telegraph messages between Marseilles and Paris.

This was unfriendly terrain where only the toughest vigneron planted, although the legendary mistral wind prevented rot. Hippolyte gradually increased his vineyard holdings.

Over the years, the Brunier family weathered many storms including phylloxera. Hippolyte’s grandson, Henri, replanted the vineyards, constructed a new winery designed to better control temperature during fermentation, and launched the Chateau’s first bottling with the Vieux Télégraphe label.

The wines are classic, displaying rustic strength, earthiness, and tremendous longevity. The old vines of La Crau are all used for the final assemblage. The grapes from the newer vines (all over twenty years old) are used for the wines of Télégramme.

Châteauneuf du Pape is a remarkably food-friendly with all kinds of dishes, partly because it suits so much of today’s style of cooking – grilled red meats (like lamb) – with herbs and olive oil. And because of the lack of new oak in many of these wines, they can be enjoyed alongside lighter dishes such as grilled fish and poultry.

Châteauneuf du Pape would make a wonderful gift this holiday season. Chateau la Nerthe and Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, will be on my wish list.

What’s your Game Plan for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving celebrations differ from one home to the next. turkeyStill there are certain flavors, traditions and approaches connected with our most food focused holiday that strikes a chord in all of us.

Whether you go with the traditional turkey with sage and onion stuffing, giblet gravy, candied yams, and cranberry sauce; put a cultural twist on it, with a chipotle rubbed bird, red chili gravy and cornbread chorizo stuffing; or go the vegan route with a mound of riced potatoes shaped like a bird and glazed with browned butter with all those wonderful vegetable side dishes, Thanksgiving is a dinner you can sink your teeth into. But what to drink with it has been debated for many decades.

Every Turkey Day, the family sommelier faces the perplexing question: do I go with something sweet that can stand up to candied yams and tart cranberry sauce and keep Mom happy? Or go with Beaujolais Nouveau because it’s available now, red and fruity? Decisions, decisions.

Thanksgiving wines shouldn’t be intimidating. This is not the time to pull out that bottle you’ve been cellaring for a while. Serve something familiar, homey and delicious enough for those neophytes to be satisfied and thoughtful enough for wine lovers to appreciate.

Pairing wine with roasted, brined or deep fried turkey is a piece of cake but short of a dessert wine, nothing is sweet enough to do battle with yams blanketed with toasted marshmallows.

Dry, high alcohol wines will perish with all that sugar and salt. And white wines need a decent amount of acidity to cleanse your palate. Uncomplicated, fruity wines with a little residual sugar are the best recourse for matching with these courses.

Some of the better partners for Thanksgiving dinner, in my opinion, are Alsatian whites, German Rieslings, Grenache blends from France or Spain and Tempranillo from Spain or the West Coast. Pinot Noir, contrary to some opinions, has never worked for me with all those strong flavors dished up at Thanksgiving- unless, of course, it’s in the bubbly.

Balance is the key for the perfect pairing. For a white, think Riesling or one of those soft, slightly sweet Pinot Gris. For reds, fruity and friendly, low alcohol Zinfandels, Tempranillo or even Carmenere would work well.

sparkling glassEvery holiday dinner should begin with something celebratory and good. At my table, nothing says celebrate better than a bottle of bubbly. The pop of the cork signals the start of the celebration. And it’s off to the races from there.

Given the tradition of the day, here are some American bubblies with good acidity and a core of fruit to consider:  Chateau Ste. Michelle’s extra dry which is actually slightly sweeter in style than a brut despite its description; Oregon’s Argyle brut or Washington’s Treveri Cellars would grace any table. Treveri produces several Columbia Valley sparkling wines you should try. Three that would be perfect for this occasion would be their sparkling Riesling, Gewurztraminer or Syrah. You will be impressed! These sparklers range in price from $10.49 to $23.

white wine glassWhite wines to serve, could be California’s Oak Grove Pinot Grigio which is soft, fruity with crisp citrus flavors. Or Wine by Joe Pinot Gris from Oregon that has wonderful flavors of citrus, pear, and green apple with refreshing acidity. Both are under $10, so stock up for the holidays.

But Riesling is really the best white to serve.  And Washington makes second best – after Germany, of course.

Pacific Rim Riesling from Columbia Valley is a delicious off dry, richly fruity wine packed with peach, apricot flavors with a hint of wet stone. Milbrandt Riesling scored high with its fresh, lively stone fruit flavors and juicy acidity. These guys have been growing from in the Columbia Valley for generations. Latah Creek Columbia Valley Riesling is filled with flavors of green apple, ripe pear and spice with a crisp finish.

Jones of Washington Columbia Valley Riesling is an orange blossom special touched with pineapple and fresh picked apples. He also makes an estate Pinot Gris from the Ancient Lakes AVA that would perk a lot of  interest at the table.

Two Mountain Winery Rattlesnake Hills Riesling is another crisp refreshing wine with a nice balance of pear, citrus, and minerals on the palate.

red wine glassRed wines are trickier than white but if you make sure the alcohol is around 13% or less and there is a modicum of fruit, your chosen one will be a hit.  With that in mind here are a few grape suggestions: Lemberger, Tempranillo and Baco Noir.

Lemberger, a dark-skinned grape from Austria, is typically fruity with ripe plum and black cherry and a hint of pepper. It does well in colder climates where it goes by a more mellifluous name of Blaufränkisch.

Look for Kiona Vineyards and Winery on Red Mountain, the largest grower of Lemberger in the United States. Others include Alexandria Nicole Cellars, FairWinds Winery, Kana Winery Olympic Cellars, and Whidbey Island Winery. Priced between $10 and $22.

I had hoped to recommend another grape of Spanish origin from Washington and California that would be fabulous with dinner, but they all went past the affordable for a big dinner party price. So I’m taking you to Spain for delicious, affordable and the perfect reds for Thanksgiving.

The best made and priced would be the Campo de Borja Borsao Red  from La Mancha, Spain. With its intense, smoky, black cherry and spicy flavors, this wine is a blend of mostly Grenache and a dollop of Tempranillo this wine is a deep ruby/purple color.

From Valencia, the El Prado Red is another blend this time Tempranillo and Cabernet. It’s a medium bodied with raspberry and current flavors. And from Rioja, with 100% Tempranillo is the Cune Rioja Crianza. The toasty, cherry flavors are smooth and satisfying.

Also from Spain but made in Prosser is the Red Diamond Temperamental. Red Diamond sources grapes from the best locations around the world. This Spanish blend offers flavors of berries and plum has a silky smooth finish.

Garnacha de Fuego Old Vines from Calatayud is another intensely flavored wine that emphasizes fruit. Mostly black cherry but there are plum and raspberry with smooth tannins and a long finish.

The best thing about these wines is the price – all under $10 and most around $7. So, stock up on these affordable wines, because there are more holiday dinners in your immediate future.

Have a warm and happy Thanksgiving.

How Vintage Affects Your Wine

Will it be a fresh, easy-drinking vintage or one that needs a bit of cellaring? And just what the heck makes it easy drinking or a wait-a-while wine? Are the sugar, acidity and tannins balanced and therefore ready to pick? Or do the grapes need more sunshine to ripen?

In the vineyard, it’s Mother Nature who determines these things, from bud break in the spring through warm summers without rain or hail to harvest in a dry or wet fall.

Vintages from warm years, such as this latest one, tend to have more sugars, lush fruit and with careful tannin management are drinkable in the near term. Cooler years produce wines with thicker skins and higher acidity, more in need of cellar time.

Many are touting the 2014s will go down in the harvest history books as one of the earliest vintages, one of the biggest and one of the best, primarily for the West Coast. Everything was high: temperatures, crop size, sugars and potential alcohol. Other areas, particularly in Europe, were not so fortunate in Mother Nature’s grand harvest scheme.

For most of the northern hemisphere, harvest typically starts around the end of August and wraps up around the first of November, with a few exceptions for those gambling on a late harvest or ice wine. The southern hemisphere, however, is just the opposite: it’s experiencing bud break while the northern half is harvesting.

Washington’s wine grape harvest was off to an early August start this year. The hot summer of 2014, valuable to vineyard managers, produced grapes, free from mildew, ripe and at perfect picking peaks one after another. Wineries scrambled for fermentation tank space. A record harvest of around 230,000 tons is projected, which exceeds 2013’s record of 215,000 tons.

The 2014 Oregon wine grape harvest was pretty perfect, with a warm summer and no summer squalls to water down the thin-skinned Pinot Noir grapes. For the state’s 905 vineyards, this was the warmest growing season on record. The consistent warm temperatures allowed growers to harvest grapes at peak condition rather than rushing around to beat cold weather or rain. As a result, Oregon wineries are harvesting big yields and very good quality grapes.

And in California, a mild winter and spring caused early bud break, and for California, the earliest harvest in recent memory. Sparkling wine producers harvested in July! The sparkling wine producers typically harvest earlier for the higher acidity levels.

Despite drought conditions and an earthquake in August, California’s harvest was estimated at 3.9 million tons. Last year’s crop was 4.24 million tons and 2012 was 4.02 million tons, a bountiful, great drinking vintage right now. The smallest California harvest in the last decade was 2004, at 2.77 million tons.

In Europe, harvests varied significantly by country, with France doing better than last year and Italy facing difficult weather conditions during most of the growing season.

And speaking of drought, Bordeaux and Burgundy haven’t seen a 90-point vintage on the charts for three years. In Burgundy, a warm spring had the growing season off to a good start, but a ruthless hailstorm at the end of June brought the yields down significantly. For the most part, the 2014 vintage appears to have been saved by an Indian summer.

The Rhône region with a cool summer and heavy rainfall during harvest caused slow ripening and the need for meticulous sorting. It’ll be short and perhaps not so sweet.

Further south, Italy saw a lot of wet weather, which will translate to very small quantities on the shelves in two or four year’s time, except for an exceptional year for Sicily.

The Port region of Douro was also hit by rains, which caused soil erosion in many parts of this steep valley and producers facing a challenging harvest.

While Spain as a whole is expected to return to average after last year’s record high. Only Rioja is looking at a bumper harvest.

Germany also saw periods of heavy rain, however the harvest is expected to rise by 16 percent. Let’s hope for an early freeze and much botrytis.

So it looks like enjoying California and Washington wines from 2012 and 2013 vintages is the prudent course to take now while waiting for the West Coast 2014s.

Garlic, Vinegar and a Whole Lotta Black Pepper

Pairing Filipino cuisine with a beverage that is heavily influenced by the Spanish who brought tomatoes, sausages, peanuts and wine; and the Chinese with their fish paste, soy sauce, rice, noodles and spring rolls is a bit of a challenge.

Many dishes are made with tart tropical fruits, pickled in vinegar, steeped in garlic and soy sauce. And let’s not forget the salted dried fish. Ingredients that are not exactly easy to pair with say a Northwest Syrah or Chardonnay, right?

The quintessential Filipino signature dish is Adobo. It has plenty of garlic, black pepper, vinegar and soy sauce. The former two are fairly easy to pair with most wines. The latter two are trickier, especially the soy sauce.

With this classic dish, the basic rule to remember is no tannins and lots of fruit for contrast to the tart, salty flavors of the Adobo. Here is what comes to mind.

Filipino tradition dictates a San Miguel or a sweet, cold fruit drink sometimes made with vinegar. These are quite popular in this tropical climate. The popular Lambanog is an alcoholic beverage described as coconut wine distilled from the sap of the unopened coconut flower.

Drinks from tropical fruits, mangoes, bananas, limes, coconuts and oranges would also be refreshing. Spanish Sangria is a popular drink. It’s a red wine made with a dollop of simple syrup and lots of fresh tropical fruit floating on top for a thirst quenching drink to pair with the vinegary, salty, spicy Adobo.

Here in the northwest, there are many beautiful fruit forward wines. Let’s explore some of the more exotic wines available here.

First though, my go to book on pairing, What to Drink with What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, suggests that the best wine with a soy-sauced dish is Gewürztraminer followed by fruity wines and then sparkling wines.

The Kitsap Wine Festival introduced me to a few new wineries that make beautiful Gewürztraminers. First was Naches Heights Vineyards. This Gewürztraminer with its lovely fragrance of lychee fruit and apricot, tangerine and green apple flavors has an off dry style that makes this a superb match with both the Adobo and Lumpia.

Masquerade Wines 2011 Columbia Valley Gewürztraminer has that typical floral, spicy Gewürztraminer fragrance and tropical fruit flavors in a slightly sweeter rendition of the grape, a nice contrast to the pepper and soy sauce.

For red wine, I highly recommend the Baco Noir grape. This is a hybrid that is prevalent in both Michigan and British Columbia. Being half American and half vinifera grape, it can survive those blustery cold climates. Stina’s Cellars in Lakewood Washington has a 2010 Baco Noir that is all blueberry, plum and pepper with a smooth and supple mouth-feel. Highly recommended.

Two Mountain Winery doesn’t make a Baco Noir but does make a wine with similar smooth and supple characteristics. Lemberger is a relatively obscure European vinifera grape known as Blaufränkisch, the blue French grape. Their Lemberger from Rattlesnake Hills with flavors of boysenberry, fig and white pepper would be another perfect wine with the Adobo if only it were available! Be on the lookout for their soon to be released 2012.

Kiona was the first winery in the United States to produce Lemberger way back in 1980. Their Lemberger is a consistent award-winner. It’s bright black fruit and pepper flavors and smooth medium-bodied texture would pair very well with the Adobo.

But enough about wine, let’s talk about beer. As you well know, there are many, many beer styles and with this vinegary, black pepper, soy sauced dish, the same guiding principle: No over the top bitterness.

With beer, bitterness comes from compounds in the hops. International Bittering Units scale (IBUs) measures how much bitterness is absorbed during brewing. And, of course, the hundreds of different hops have differing levels of bitterness.

For local beers, try SilverCity’s Clear Creek Pale Ale. It’s a blend of three lightly toasted malts that add a mild caramel character to the flavors. This beer has mild Centennial and Amarillo hops and then a bit of time in the conditioning tank so it is mild and refreshing.

Poulsbo’s Sound Brewery’s Koperen Ketel Belgian Style Pale Ale has 18 IBUs, relatively low on the IBU scale. For instance their Reluctant IPA is an American Style IPA at 52 IBUs. This copper colored ale has an herbal, fruity aroma and a clean dry finish.

And then there is the idiosyncratic Slippery Pig Brewery also in Poulsbo. Their Curly Tail Stinging Nettle Pale is flavored with Cascade hops and Stinging Nettles so the resulting IBUs are quite low. I think it would be a great match for the Adobo.

 

 

OysterFest Celebrates 33 Years

Here’s an opportunity to find the best wine or beer to pair with oysters. Oysters, made your favorite way, a couple dozen Washington Wineries and a boatload of microbreweries await you in Shelton this weekend at the Port of Shelton Fairgrounds.

It’s the 33rd annual OysterFest hosted by the Shelton Skookum Rotary Club Foundation. OysterFest, home to the West Coast Oyster Shucking Championships, draws thousands for Washington State’s official seafood festival. This culinary adventure supports local non-profit service clubs and organizations, as well as funding scholarships and local community improvement projects.

The festival features wineries, breweries, music, hands-on water quality exhibits, a cook-off and a giant food pavilion with nearly 100 unique items on the menu. Oysters are barbequed, on the half shell, in stew, frittered, sandwiched and more. You’re sure to find a favorite or two.

The Festival is today from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. And Sunday from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm. Tickets are ten bucks for adults, five for the kiddies. The main Fairgrounds parking lot will fill up and close any time from 11:00 am Saturday until 2:00 pm Saturday. But no worries, there are four other lots with shuttle service to the fairgrounds.

The Wineries:

Chandler Reach Vineyards
Convergence Zone Cellars
Ginkgo Forest Winery
Hoodsport Winery
Horizon’s Edge Winery
Hyatt Vineyards
Madsen Family Cellars
Maison de Padgett Winery
Marchetti Wines
Mosquito Fleet Winery
Northwest Mountain Winery
Olympic Cellars
Scatter Creek Winery
Stina’s Cellars
Stottle Winery
Tanjuli Winery
Walter Dacon Wines
Westport Winery
Wilridge Winery

The Breweries:
Alaskan Brewery
American Brewery
Blue Moon
Deschutes Brewery
Elysian
Firestone Brewery
Full Sail Brewery
Goose Island Brewery
Kona Brewery
Langunitas Brewery
Mack & Jack Brewery
Narrows Brewery
New Belgium Brewery
Ninkasi Brewery
Red Hook Brewery
Samuel Adams Brewery
Seattle Cider
Shock Top
Square Mile
Stella
Ten Barrel Brewery
Widmer Brewery

Fragrant Stews, Fragrant Wines

Pumpkin is one of the quintessential flavors of fall. It has made its way into many sweet and savory dishes. When in season, the versatile pumpkin turns up in pies, tarts, cakes, muffins, cheese cake and ice cream. Or you could make an unusual supper of soup, stews, ravioli, or lasagna. It’s great pureed or mashed with other root vegetables and can stand up to really fragrant strong herbs like sage.

You can boil it, roast it, bake it, and braise it. You can even ferment it.  Pumpkin beer isn’t a modern day invention. It was used in making beer during the early colonial period because it was more available than malt or barley. The native pumpkin has plenty of fermentable sugars.

There is a pumpkin wine. Three Lakes Winery in Wisconsin makes it. I haven’t tried it but do highly recommend the following pumpkin stew recipes with vinifera grapes that I’m more familiar with.

This wonderful vegetarian stew pairs well with Viognier. At the Harborside Wine Festival this summer, the Chandler Reach 2012 Viognier was one of my favorite finds. Thanks to its aromatic intensity and hint of sweetness, it pairs nicely with this curried pumpkin stew.

Viognier comes from the tiny appellation of Condrieu in the northern Rhone. This temperamental grape is highly sensitive to mildew and low yielding. Well timed harvesting is also a challenge, you don’t want to pick it too early or too late or you will miss out on the beautiful aromas and full flavors.

Curried Pumpkin Stew

3 tablespoons vegetable oil  curried soup
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tomatoes, chopped
2/3 cup water
1 pound pumpkin, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 potato, chopped
1 green banana, chopped

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and black pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir until thick.

Add the water, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the flavors. Add the pumpkin, carrot, potato, and green banana. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring a couple of times, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Another warm fragrant stew made with a lot of spice is inspired with south of the border flavors. For this hearty stew I would suggest a red grape called Tempranillo. It’s a vinifera grape that originated in the Rioja region of sunny Spain. The Ramon Bilbao Rioja Crianza is a full bodied blackberry and cherry flavored Tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain. All those luscious fruit flavors and smoky nuance really works well with this dish.

Also from Spain is the Red Diamond Temperamental. Red Diamond is a Washington winery located in Patterson that sources grapes from around the world. They’re good at showcasing the distinct personalities of varietals from their place of origin. This wine has aromas of blackberries and hints of cherry; it’s approachable, easy to drink, and a wonderful companion to this spicy south of the border pumpkin stew.

3 – 6 chipotle chilies, canned or dried  pumpkin stew
3 garlic cloves
5 medium tomatillos, halved
5 roasted plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound lean, boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups sliced Swiss chard
1 tsp salt
4 cups peeled, seeded, fresh pumpkin, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

If using dried chilies, preheat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add chilies and toast, turning frequently until very aromatic, about 30 seconds. Transfer chilies to a small bowl and cover with hot water and rehydrate for about 30 minutes. Toss the garlic and tomatillos in the pan and turn occasionally, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor or blender. Add drained chilies to the tomatillos and puree.

For the tomatoes, broil on a baking sheet until blackened on one side, about 6 minutes. Turn tomatoes over and do the other side, for another 6 minutes. When cool, peel and roughly chop and put in a bowl with the juices.

Heat the oil in the frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the pork and onions. Cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits about 10 minutes. Add reserved salsa, tomatoes, and 3 to 4 tablespoons water; stir to combine. Add Swiss chard and season with salt.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a large baking dish and spread the pumpkin chunks evenly in the dish. Pour the pork and roasted vegetables over it. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes until the pumpkin is soft.

Remove the foil and raise the temperature to 400 degrees. Continue baking until sauce has reduced slightly and top becomes crusty, about 15 minutes.

Washington Wine Harvest 2014

Washington wine makers are up to their ears in grapes right now.  grapes in a tubWith all those hot summer days we had, some vineyard sites and grape varieties are running ahead of the usual schedule.  Many Washington vineyards began harvesting at the end of August in what is expected to be yet another record-breaking wine grape harvest,

Crop estimates put this year’s wine grapes at more than 230,000 tons, according to the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers. Last year, Washington farmers picked 210,000 tons of wine grapes. In 2012, the harvest was 188,000 tons.

What’s turning into the second bumper crop in a row has led to flurries of activities in Washington’s wineries. It’s a logistical scramble for many of the state’s wineries; handling all of this bounty takes preparation.

The reason for this is there are only so many wine holding vessels that can fit into the state’s smaller wineries. In those wineries are the barrels, tanks, fermenters and all the other accoutrements for the winemaker. In order to make room for the harvest, everything is shifted into the next phase. Barrels are emptied into bottles, tanks into barrels and fermenters into tanks.

Once that is accomplished, wineries have room for the next gondola of grapes being harvested and tons of tubs ready for delivery.

Most vineyards are machine harvested. Sturdier red grapes and Riesling tend to work better with machine harvest because the clusters hold together. It takes a crew of two to three people an hour to pick an acre with a harvester. White grapes are usually harvested late at night or early in the mornings when it is still cool and the more resilient red grapes during the day.

Some winemakers prefer hand-picked grapes which is more costly. Using a knife to cut the stem of each cluster, it would take 12 to 18 pickers to harvest an acre of grapes in that hour. But the bulk of Washington’s wine crop is picked by machine because of a shortage of pickers.

As the weather cools, grapes mature more slowly, giving them more “hang time,” this allows winemakers to make room in the fermenters. This works well as long as it doesn’t rain. Depending on when the rains come, harvesting and fermenting will likely continue through the end of October.

You can Catch the Crush in Yakima Valley on October 11th and 12th.  This well-known event celebrates the harvest with wine tastings and releases, grape stomps, crush activities, tours, hors d’oeuvres and live music. Forty-two wineries are each holding harvest parties during the weekend. Premier passes are available online for $30. wineyakimavalley.org

When you go to wine country this time of year, here’s a primer so you understand what the heck they’re talking about.

Crush – a whirlwind season of activity in the wineries at harvest time.

Barrel – made of oak and holds 60 – 100 gallons

Bottle shock – after bottling, the dumb condition of the wine from the filtering and bottling machines.

Botrytis Cinerea – beneficial mold that forms on the skins of ripe grapes that eventually concentrates sugars and flavors.

Brix – a measurement of the sugars; winemakers measure at harvest to determine maturity.

Cap – the “crust” that forms on the top of the fermenting wine.

Cuvaison – juice and skins are fermented longer for color and additional tannins.

Cuvee – a blend of different grapes or different harvests or different vineyards.

Estate Grown – must be within 50 miles of the winery.

Fermenter – great big plastic tubs that hold a lot of crushed grapes that ferment away.

Fining – filters stuff out of the wine before bottling.

Must – freshly pressed juice that has skins, seeds, and stems.

Ph – the acids in a wine. In the life of a grape, it’s very high at the start and lowers as the sugars grow.

Press – a wooden barrel shaped vat with a funnel like bottom where the must is pressed and the juice is then pumped into the fermenters.

Punch down – During fermentation, winemakers will punch down the cap twice a day to give the wine more color and flavor

Sur –lie – Tricky practice of leaving the spent yeast cells in the fermenter. Gives the wine another dimension.

Topping – Oak barrels allow a wine to evaporate, concentrating the flavors. Air, however, is detrimental to wine so barrels are topped up to eliminate the air in a barrel.

Verjus – high acid wine made from unripe grapes, usually used in cooking.

Wine thief – a long tube used to extract wine from the barrels.