Category Archives: Bainbridge Island Wines

Tasting Washington White Wines

So, how was Taste Washington this year?  In a word – Grand.  TasteWaWineMonth_RedPlaid_NoDate_LogoThere were so many wines to taste and bites to match.  To be organized, a plan was made but like a dog after a squirrel,  I  gave chase to the bottle at the next table and the one next to that and the one next to that…

The plan was to taste Chenin Blancs the first hour and then on to the more unusual red varietals, like Carmenere, Tempranillo, Mourvedre, Petite Verdot, Barbera, Dolcetto, or Nebbiolo.

Chenin Blanc is probably the world’s most versatile grape variety. It’s capable of producing some of the longest lived sweet wines and with its naturally high acidity, it’s easily the most balanced of wines. This high acidity is also quite useful for a range of sparkling Chenin Blancs.

I thought exploring wineries I hadn’t even heard of would be more educational than visiting the usual suspects. After all, there are over 900 Washington wineries today.

Chenin Blanc was first planted in Washington in 1948 from UC Davis stock. My love affair with Chenin Blanc began when Pontin del Roza released their second vintage in 1985.

The story of how Scott Pontin’s high school FFA project culminated into a successful estate winery is amazing. Here’s a kid making wine and not even old enough to walk into a bar.

However, his family have been farming the Roza since 1954. They began as turkey farmers, and then planted concord grapes and sold the juice to Yakima Valley Grape Producers. The family also farmed wheat, mint, potatoes and sugar beets and apples.

Pontin del Roza roughly translates to mean Pontin from the Roza. This  pioneering family came to the Yakima Valley and planted the terraced vineyards just as their Italian ancestors had done for centuries.

The 2014 Chenin Blanc has 13.6 % alcohol and residual sugar of 2.8% with aromas of lemon zest and melon leading into peach and pineapple flavors that paired wonderfully with Salty’s on Alki’s lobster gyoza with red curry.

Ancestry Cellars in Woodinville was offering up their Le Cortege 2014 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc.  The wine is a refreshing lemon, juicy green apple and honey flavors with aromas of honey and white flowers. It has great weight for an off dry style and has  a fair amount of acidity. The grapes are sourced from the 30 year old vines at Bella Terra Vineyard. It was fermented in stainless steel for a crisp, fresh wine with a residual sugar of  1.67%, and alcohol at 13.3%.  Awarded a Double Gold at the Seattle Wine Awards.

On a hillside overlooking the Wenatchee River Valley, Silvara Vineyards is Leavenworth’s newest winery. They recently garnered a Gold Medal at the Washington Wine Awards for their Chenin Blanc.  It has the sweetness of melon, apricots and honey with a hint of effervescence. Very impressive for this young winery. The drawback is no distributor.  To get a bottle of this wonderful wine, call 509-548-1000 or email info@silvarawine.com  It’s worth it!

At this point, the plan began to unravel. Blame it on the freshly shucked oysters. Had to have some of the Chinook 2014 Sauvignon Blanc and Palencia’s Albarino, two of my all time favorite wines.

My nose led me to Urbane Restaurant’s smoked salmon cake, with Savage Grace next door.  Their Riesling vineyards on Underwood Mountain are on a steep hillside high above the Columbia River Gorge. The climate is a natural for Riesling. Flavors of tangerine and lime with wet stone combine to make this delicious Riesling that paired well with the smoked salmon cake.

Convergence Zone Cellars is a family-owned winery in Woodinville.  The grapes are sourced from some of the best vineyards in the Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain and Columbia Valley AVAs. Their Dewpoint is an off-dry Riesling with aromas of lemon zest, lime and peach. It has bright peach, green apple, and lemon flavors. The juicy fruit and crisp acidity is balanced, and paired perfectly with the Kalaloch Lodge’s Dungeness crab with jalapeno aioli crostini.

We’re big fans of Treveri Cellars, a family owned sparkling wine house that produces some of the best Washington sparklers. They producing a bevy of sparkling wines, including Syrah, Riesling and Mueller-Thurgau.  We tasted the Blanc de Noirs made with 100% Pinot Noir which had a hint of strawberries and brioche with crisp acidity with a creamy finish. It was en tirage which is French for fermenting in the bottle, for 23.5 months. Swiftwater Cellar’s duck comfit with Asian plum sauce was just the ticket to pair with this bubbly.

And then there are the red wines but we’ve run out of room.

And just a reminder that the Yakima Spring Barrel Tasting is next weekend. You can sample a new vintage straight from the barrel, enjoy cooking demonstrations, winemaker dinners, vineyard tours and other educational experiences. This is a great opportunity to delve into some of the wineries and vineyards in Washington’s oldest AVA on April 23rd and 24th .

And right here on the Kitsap Peninsula, Bainbridge Island wineries have scheduled a special event for April 23 and 24. You’ll taste locally made cheeses with locally made wine. More info at www.bainbridgewineries.com/winerytours

The following weekend, April 29 through May 1st is the Gorge Wine Experience  This three day series of events is for wine enthusiasts to learn about Gorge wine and meet the winemakers. There are over 20 wineries with activities throughout the Gorge.

Roll out the Barrel Aged Beer

While browsing the Washington State Visitors’ Guide recently, an amusing thought occurred to me. We all know where wine country is but where is beer country?

In this visitor’s guide, fun trips for visiting family and friends included boom towns, bike trails, fairways, volcanoes, heli-skiing, islands, rain forests and wine country but nothing about beer country.

So I did an online search for beer country. Nada. No where. Another search for hop country was darned fascinating. There is no such thing as hop country but there is Hick Hop Country which is a concept pertinent to beer in unique ways.

When you think about Wine Country, you envision vineyards, barrel rooms and tasting bars. You know this is where they grow great grapes, ferment and age fabulous wines. Federal Law actually requires the wine labels to inform you where the grapes are from be it Barossa Valley, Burgundy or Bainbridge Island. And this helps you understand the importance of wine regions where the wine grapes are grown to the wine’s quality.

But most beer labels are woefully sparse on the origins of the grains and hops and how they’re treated in the fermentation process that will affect the final product. It doesn’t make sense that where grain and hops are grown doesn’t contribute to the quality of the brew, especially when you consider how much hops and grain are grown in Washington State.

Washington State produces 77% of the United States’ hop harvest. Washington hop growers raise both aroma and alpha variety hops. The majority of the hops produced in Washington are alpha and super alpha varieties. Alpha hops are designer hops, used as a bittering agent in your IPAs and other brews.

Traditional aroma varieties, Willamette, Cascade, and Mt. Hood have been grown in eastern Washington – aka Wine Country – for generations. The economic impact of the Washington beer industry contributes greatly to our state’s economic vitality. Revenue generated was in excess of $6 billion in 2014.

While many of us are proud of the wonderful award winning beers produced here in the Kitsap Peninsula, we are clearly behind in per capita consumption. In 2012, the United States drank 77.1 liters per person, with some doing more and others clearly not doing their part.

We rank 14th in per capita beer consumption behind the likes of Finland, Panama, Slovenia, Venezuela and other more obvious stein sloshing nations like the Czech Republic, Poland, Ireland and Germany. Astonishingly, IPA’s namesake, India, drinks 2 liters per capita which is the equivalent of 5.6 six packs.

Wine on the other hand, is an equally intriguing story. Not surprisingly, the majority of the highest ranking wine consumption countries are in Europe. Surprisingly, it’s the country of Vatican City that utterly dominates every other country, with 73.38 liters per capita in 2012. That is amazing considering there are only about 800 Roman Catholic adults in this country. France clocks in at 44.12 liters per capita. And Italy? 37.54 liters per capita.

Even Canada (11.70L) quaffed more wine than the United States, at a mere 10.33 liters per capita. The take away from this news is we, as a country need to give more beer and/or wine gifts.

We can start with our Christmas lists. Cross off sweaters and such and give a thoughtful gift of Eleven late harvest Viognier, Rolling Bay Syrah or Amelia Wynn Merlot.

On the beer side, I would highly recommend a barrel aged beer. Barrel aged beer is more complex, richer and concentrated. For thousands of years, beer was not only aged but brewed and transported in wood. Today, they’re boiled in copper kettles, fermented in stainless steel and for the most part, then bottled. But several years ago, the bourbon barrel made its grand entrance into the brewing world.

The law dictates that bourbon makers can only use a barrel once. After that first use, the expensive barrels are re-purposed. Bourbon barrels are sent around the world to age Scotch, Irish Whiskey, Sherry, and most recently, big beers.

Bourbon barrels aren’t the only containers brewers are using, either. Those creative folks also use sherry, wine, tequila, and rum barrels. At a recent barrel aged beer tasting, I tasted beer aged in bourbon, brandy, sherry, tequila, Viognier, Muscat, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay barrels. One beer was even made with grains, Grenache Blanc and Chardonnay grapes and fermented with both lager and champagne yeast.

deschutesHere are a few barrel aged beers that would make great stocking stuffers:

Deschutes The Abyss is imperial stout, partly aged in Bourbon, Pinot Noir, and new oak barrels.  Almanac’s Barrel Noir is a stout aged in tequila barrels. And Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper is a quintessential bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, full of chocolate covered caramel flavors

Firestone Walker’s Anniversary Ales are always a blend of bourbon and brandy barrel aged beers. Most years the blend can be from as many as eight separate barrels of their Parabola, Stickee Monkee, Bravo and/or Velvet Merkin. The result is a masterful blended beer that is highly sought after and prized.  The perfect gift.

Scaldis Prestige NuitsScaldis Prestige de Nuits is a Belgian strong ale that’s aged in Burgundy barrels from Hospices de Nuits Saint Georges. This prestigious French Burgundy barrel caught my attention. The beer takes almost a year to produce and is fermented a total of three times. Once in tank, then in the wine cask, and finally in the bottle. And it’s a third of the price of a bottle of Hospices de Nuits Saint Georges.

Cheers!

Wining and Dining this Weekend

This weekend head on down to the 25th Annual Blackberry Festivalbbfest_logo held on the Louis Mentor Boardwalk on Saturday, August 30th through Monday, September 1, 2014. The festival opens at 10:00 a.m. each day with lively music, lots of food vendors and fun for the whole family.

The festival’s blackberry wine is also available. It’s made, as in past years, by Pasek Cellars of Mount Vernon Washington. A perfectly balanced wine, not too sweet and not too dry, it’s just right.

The Bainbridge Island Winery Alliance wineries are open for tours and tasting this weekend from 12:00 – 5:00 p.m. It’s billed as a pre-harvest party even though Mother Nature brought on an early harvest this year. These cozy wineries offer the opportunity to meet and talk with the winemakers, taste their wines, some offer music to enjoy their wines amid lush surroundings.

Yes, the 2014 harvest has begun! And that means Catch the Crush is not far away. The smells, colors and hustle and bustle make this one of the more exciting times of the year to visit Yakima Valley.

You can celebrate the harvest with the Yakima Valley wineries at the annual Catch the Crush event, October 11th and 12th. Each winery offers its own celebratory events, including grape stomps, harvest and crush activities, tours, free-run juice, hors d’oeuvres, live music and wine tasting, of course.

Eleven at Eleven

It’s a special weekend for Eleven Winery, they turn 11 and there are several ways to help them celebrate!

The garagiste and volunteers during crush.

Matt Albee, a true garagiste,  first started the Bainbridge Island winery in 2003 in the garage. This humble beginning has blossomed into the same garage winery but with lots more equipment, and two tasting rooms, one on Bainbridge and one in Poulsbo.

This weekend’s celebrations include  a special 11th Anniversary commemorative wine glass for $5, bottle discounts on their 2011 vintage wines, and reserve tastings for $11.

This is also your last chance to visit the Poulsbo Tasting Room during the Great Poulsbo Sidewalk Sale on August 29th and 30th. After several years in Poulsbo, Albee has decided to refocus efforts on the winery location. There will be huge discounts on wine merchandise but not the wine.

With this closing, the winery hours and events will be expanded. The winery is located off 305 at 7671 NE Day Road. The winery tasting room will be open every Saturday and Sunday from 12-5 p.m. and other fun wine occasions for club members.

You can also order off their website but it won’t be near as much fun as being there!

Dr. Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center Grand Opening

The Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center honors the Washington wine industry pioneers beginning with Dr. Walter Clore. Dr. Clore began his research work in 1937, studying vinifera grapes and their potential in Washington. His research, a cornerstone of the industry’s development, earned him official recognition from the Washington State Legislature as the Father of the Washington Wine Industry.

The Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center is celebrating its Grand Opening on Friday, May 30, 2014 at 1pm. This event will have a special toast with Columbia Crest 2010 Walter Clore Private Reserve. To RSVP for the Grand Opening, please call 509-786-1000 or info@theclorecenter.org

The Tasting Room will showcase a rotating featured AVA of Washington wines, agricultural themed exhibits, and wine and culinary program anchored by a chef’s demonstration kitchen. Entry to the exhibits is free.

Chosen by lottery, the featured AVA for June is the Puget Sound Region. The Puget Sound AVA was established in 1995. There are 178 acres planted to 61% red and 39% white vinifera and hybrid grapes.

June’s featured wines from grapes grown in the Puget Sound AVA:

Bainbridge Island: Mueller Thurgau and Pinot Noir

Comforts of Whidbey Island: Sweet Donna Blend, High Tide

Hoodsport: Island Belle

Lopez Island: Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine

Maury Island: Pinot Noir

Perennial Vintners: Isletage and Raspberry Dessert Wine

Spoiled Dog: Rosé of Pinot Noir

Vashon Winery: Isletage, Pinot Noir

There are several student wines also available for tasting, the WSU Red Blend and Riesling; and the YVCC 2013 Study Skills Chardonnay, 2011 Dean’s List Lemberger, and NV Campus Blend Red

Visitors can enjoy a variety of wines for a tasting fee of $5.00. For more information,  www.theclorecenter.org

Let the Wine Touring Weekend Begin!

What to do this weekend? Tour a winery! North, south, east or west there are many wineries ready to welcome you and your friends with food, music and wonderful wines.

Go north to Bainbridge Island for a Memorial Weekend Charcuterie and Wine tasting. May 24 thru 26 the winemakers on Bainbridge Island serve up charcuterie (meat treats) to pair with their delightful wines.

All the wineries are open for tours and tasting from 12-5 pm. For more info or directions, visit Bainbridge Wineries

If you head south, stop by Mosquito Fleet Winery in Belfair.  On Saturday only, from noon until 5p.m., Winemaker Brian Petersen will have a special spring barrel tasting. Dr. Brian Petersen will pour tastes of upcoming vintages still aging in the barrel.

From the recently crushed 2013 vintage to other vintages still in barrel; this is a fantastic opportunity to compare wines as they develop. Taste the difference between American and French oak, light vs. heavy toast’s impact on a wine and the different yeasts used for a specific taste. The cost is $25 per person and includes a MFW wine glass and gourmet food bites. (They always have wonderful wines and delicious food.)

East of here is a plethora of wineries in charming Woodinville. Here’s a list of this weekend’s events. And a special shout out to Lou Facelli: Congratulations on 25 years!

And finallly, west of here are the eight Olympic Peninsula Wineries and two cideries. They will be open but there are no special events planned this weekend. Here’s a map and list of the places to visit.

Have a safe and happy weekend. Cheers!

Wine Defined – Shoot Thinning

A recent email from Perennial Vintners‘ Vineyard Manager Mike Lempriere, says “the next job in grape growing has begun – it’s time to do shoot thinning.”

Shoot thinning’s goal is to reduce the density of the leaf canopy later on.  Right now it’s easy to tell which shoots bear fruit and which grow leaves. This helps improve wine quality becauase the vine’s energy is more concentrated in the fruit bearing vines.

Shoot thinning is easy to do by hand right now, you just have to know which shoots to snap off the vine. As the weeks go by, the new shoots become stronger and woody and difficult to do by hand. If it reaches that point, a pruning shears and more labor are needed to get the job done.

If you want to learn about this task, Mike is looking for a few volunteers in the next week or two. You can schedule a time by contacting Mike via the website

Spring Barrel Tastings this weekend

Alphonse de Klerk at his Rolling Bay winery on Bainbridge Island on Thursday, May 30, 2013. (MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN)
Alphonse de Klerk at his Rolling Bay winery on Bainbridge Island on Thursday, May 30, 2013. (MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN)

Bainbridge Island Wineries are open for tours  and tasting from 12-5 pm this weekend. Meet the winemakers, taste classic favorites from the barrels. Participating wineries are Amelia Wynn, Bainbridge Vineyards, Eagle Harbor, Eleven, Fletcher Bay, Perennial and Rolling Bay. The Island Tasting Room will also be open.

For more information and directions, visitbainbridgewineries.com

 

It’s a Wine and Chocolate Weekend – Yum!

All of the Bainbridge Island Wineries will be open this weekend. They will be serving up special chocolates and wine at each of the wineries. Here’s the lineup and a link to the website for directions and hours.

  • Eagle Harbor Winery: delectable chocolate truffles by Pink Peony: Double Dark Chocolate and Dark Chocolate with Chiles
  • Eleven: Assorted amazing chocolates from Bissinger Chocolatier: chocolate covered wine grapes with blue cheese, salted caramels with Merlot, with Pear and Balsamic Vinegar, and with Bacon, as well as our wonderful port served in chocolate thimbles.
  • Fletcher Bay Winery: delicious locally-made fudge from Bon Bon!
  • Perennial Vintners: luscious handmade truffles from Yukon Jackson incorporating our Frambelle raspberry dessert wine.  Chocolatier Keith Jackson will be on hand on Saturday to serve you and talk chocolate.
  • Rolling Bay Winery: delicious, innovative chocolates by the dozen from Seattle favorite Theo Chocolates.

Harvest 2013: Reports from the field the last haul

Vines

Paul Bianchi, winemaker of Amelia Wynn Winery on Bainbridge, has done a stellar job of sending me videos, photos and other little tidbits from the road as he brings in his 2013 harvest. I however have been not so stellar about posting them as they come in. (Sorry Paul!)

Here’s a collection of what he’s sent over the last couple of weeks to give some flavor of how busy life has been for our local winemakers.

CSCaveBGrapesCabernet Sauvignon grapes from Cave B Vineyards.

HaulinggrapesGetting ready to head home

BianchisangioSorting Sangiovese

LasttripThe last haul