Category Archives: Northwest Wines

It’s a very good time to taste wine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrate Washington Wine Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Red Wine and Chocolate Season!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We wish you many wonderful wine adventures.

Many Ways to Taste Washington Wines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What makes a Great Vintage?

How do you know if it’s a great vintage? While the viticulturalist is trained to know when to prune, how to manage leaf canopy and control pests and disease, for the most part, it’s the weather during the growing season that makes all the difference between good and great.

The 2019 Washington crush began the third week of August. Treveri Cellars always crosses the finish line first. And the reason for that is sparkling wines are harvested at a lower brix level (18–23°).  

In wine country, grapes are warmed by the sunshine which brings up the grape sugars and cooled at night which promotes that balancing acidity. In any vintage, a brix reading (usually around 24 brix) will signal the time to harvest grapes intended for still wines.

Brix is used to measure the sugar in grapes, the more sugar, the riper the grapes. When harvesting grapes early, the must will have less sugar and more acidity – ideal conditions for sparkling wines.

A higher brix level can be achieved by many days of hot weather, long hang time or drying the grapes. Hot weather raises the sugar levels; cool weather takes longer to reach maturity.

By comparison, the 2015 harvest – a very hot year – began August 6th.  In 2010, – a very cool year – white grapes weren’t harvested until September and no red wine grapes until October!

The 2019 grape harvesting is in full swing right now. And it’s shaping up to be a very good year. Not too hot and not too cool. I know because I’m a certified sorter, a very important and well-paid position. 

Sorters pull leaves, bugs and dried grapes out before the grapes are put into the destemmer where the grapes are separated from the stems. A destemmer is a big stainless steel tub with a big screw that pushes the grapes one way and the stems the other way. The big colander type basket at the bottom funnels the grapes and juice into one bin. The woody stems are pushed into another bin.

While sorting grapes for two wineries this past week, I tasted the grapes. One winery had Red Mountain Merlot and the other Horse Heaven Hills Merlot. And I can tell you from that tasting, Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills Merlot grapes tasted unique to their terroirs.

While sorting grapes, the winemaker does the scientific stuff by taking a reading of the juice to determine the brix (the sugar in the juice which will tell the winemaker what the final alcohol content may be), stabilizing the must (SO2 preserves the fruit color and kills the wild yeasts) and other winemaking techniques they may have picked up along the way.

In addition to adding SO2, Ben Smith of Cadence Winery pumped the juice out of one fermenting bin back into the same bin. This was to “stir” the juice so the SO2 was evenly distributed.

At Mosquito Fleet Winery, winemaker Brian Peterson added a 25-pound bag of oven toast oak chips to the three fermenting bins. This helps set the color and promote polyphenols. He also added a bag of dry ice to the fermenting bins – an effective way to cold soak when you don’t have refrigerated storage.

The bin mover sets the pace when a winery has tons of grapes to process. Using a pallet jack or forklift, the bins are moved around where needed – grapes to the destemmer, full fermenters to the side for a 24-hour cold soak, empty fermenters to catch the next ton of grape juice from and the bins of stems to the compost pile.

As I mentioned, certified sorters are well-paid. This year I earned two bottles of wine, a private barrel tasting, 22 gallons of saignée juice and free lunch. 

Saignée is a French term which translates “to bleed.” It’s a winemaking techniques that “bleeds” or removes juice and a few grapes from a fermenter.  Since there is a higher proportion of skins to juice, a richer more concentrated wine is the desired result of this technique. And the lightly-colored juice that is bled out will produce a rosé for next summer’s drinking pleasure.

A long time ago, I had the opportunity to taste a Carmenet Cabernet from the same vineyard, fermented in the same tank and aged in the same French oak. The only difference was the coopers used. I was stunned at the difference of what should have been a more similar than different wine. Lesson learned.

The private barrel tasting at Mosquito Fleet Winery was another educational lesson in French oak. We tasted three 2018 Cabernets aging in oak barrels. Two were the same grape, harvest, and fermentation aging in French oak barrel from different coopers, Taransaud and Bootes. The difference was very striking. The Bootes was a much bigger wine and the Taransaud was smooth and more fruit forward.

Tasting young red wine before it has been bottled is instructive but these young wines with their high acidity and tannin only hint at their true greatness after they have been in bottle for a few years. The key ingredient in my opinion, is to pay attention to the fruit. Is there enough fruit component to vault the young wine to an attractive maturity? For these two fraternal wines, the answer is a hearty Yes!

Up and down the west coast, you can look forward to the promise of a very good 2019 vintage. Cheers!

When it comes to wine, trust your palate

You’ve probably read many times, as I have,  what a wine should taste like from reviews in publications or the back labels.

Descriptive phrases that may include words like full-bodied, tropical, vanilla, buttery, citrus, cherry, brambleberry, spice, cedar, cigar box, tobacco, herbaceous or award winning, 90-some points are helpful but …

Once you absorb these words, it all comes down to your palate. Do the reviews make the wine taste any better? Sometimes yes and sometimes, not so much. Tasting is the true test of a wine’s ability to please you.

Tasting wine gives you a better idea of what grapes, styles and regions you prefer. That’s why it’s important that you get your tickets for the Kitsap Wine Festival on Saturday, August 10th

Bremerton’s Harborside Fountain Park is the sunny setting for this afternoon of sipping wine with friends and family. More than 30 wineries from Washington and Oregon will be pouring tastes of over 100 pretty delightful wines. And to enhance the experience, local restaurants will be whipping up some delectable bites.

The Kitsap Wine Festival began 11 years ago and through the years has benefitted several local nonprofits. This year, it’s the Kitsap Humane Society’s pets. Their cadre’ of volunteers will ensure an extra layer of special to the event. From the welcome to the raffle baskets, golden ticket prize to the retail shop at the end.

So, get online and buy your tickets ASAP at https://kitsapwinefestival.brownpapertickets.com

General admission includes 12 tickets, food samples, and your wine glass. But wait! There’s more! The VIP Experience includes an hour earlier access, 15 drink tickets, delectable bites, 5 raffle tickets, and your wine glass.

Come celebrate with me at the Kitsap Wine Festival! Here’s a few wineries I’m excited to try or revisit.

From the Port Angeles area, Harbinger Winery is an artisan winery with an annual case production hovering around 3000.  They’re bringing their bistro wine series which includes the 2018 Albariño fermented in stainless steel for a crisp, citrusy treat.

The La Petite Fleur is an intensely aromatic Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling blend for a unique summer wine. Dynamo Red is a gold medal winning, velvety layered wine rich with berries and toasty oak.

And happily, my favorite summertime red, the 2013 Barbera which garnered a gold at the International Women’s Wine Competition. Bring on the beefsteak tomatoes!

Also from the Olympic Peninsula is Wind Rose Cellars, a boutique winery in Sequim. During the week, it’s a traditional tasting room. And on Friday and Saturday nights, it’s live music, wine by the glass and light snacks.

Other wineries attending from this area are Eaglemount Winery, Port Townsend Vineyards, Hoodsport Winery and Camaraderie Cellars.

Moving east to the Kitsap Peninsula is Long Road Winery near Belfair. Since they don’t have a tasting room yet, they share their wines at tasting events such as the Kitsap Wine Festival. The same for Seabeck Cellars, no tasting room yet but here’s your opportunity to taste their wines from grapes shipped from eastern Washington and Oregon.

The newest of the new Kitsap Peninsula wineries is Hard Hat Winery in Poulsbo. Established by three veterans last year, here’s the occasion to try their wines while waiting for the tasting room to open.

And speaking of veterans in the wine business, the Winery Alliance of Bainbridge Island will also be there pouring wines from the seven wineries on the “rock” – Amelia Wynn, Bainbridge Vineyards, Eleven, Eagle Harbor, Fletcher Bay, Perennial, Rolling Bay.

Long Cellars in eastern Washington will be pouring their 2018 Lake Chelan Pinot Gris and 2018 Dry Rosé of Pinot Gris. The 2017 Red Wine is a blend of Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet, and a 2017 Cab Franc.

From the Woodinville area be sure to stop by the Adrice Wines booth. The name Adrice is a portmanteau, (a mash-up of 2 words to make a new word) using the last names of the winemaker, Pam Adkins and co-owner Julie Bulrice. I first tasted Adrice Wines at another wine festival and was duly impressed with this craft winery transplanted from Napa Valley in 2015.

And if exploring Washington wineries is on your list, these wineries will also be there:

Davenport Cellars, Eleganté Cellars, Gouger Cellars, Mercer Estates, Michael Florentino Cellars, Monte Scarlatto Winery, Naches Heights Vineyard, Scatter Creek Winery, Silvara Cellars, Simpatico Cellars, Stina’s Cellar, Tanjuli Winery, Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyards and Vino Aquino.

Finally, and most importantly, Raptor Ridge from Newberg, Oregon. Raptor Ridge is celebrating their 25th harvest with a special on their 2015 Brut Rose for $25 on the 25th of each month!

At the Kitsap Wine Festival, they will share the – rare for the Pacific Northwest – Estate Grüner Veltliner. I first had this wine back in 2017 while visiting the Chehalem Mountain wineries. Its balanced fruit, acidity and minerality make this the most food friendly of wines.

Raptor Ridge will also be pouring the 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, a blend of two vineyards, one in the McMinnville AVA and the other in the Eola Amity AVA. Another of their wines I can highly recommend.

Visit the Kitsap Wine Festival site for the latest on who will be pouring and more importantly to buy your tickets. The Kitsap Humane Society and I thank you!

Cheers!

Water and Wine: Exploring Lake Chelan’s bounty

There’s a colorful collection of brochures, maps and business cards piled on the desk reminding me of a brief but fantastic visit to Lake Chelan Wine Country.

The sunshine, miles of blue water views and surrounding green hillsides sprinkled with vineyards and wineries painted a pleasant setting to explore.

There were stories from winemakers and tasting room staff who shared their passion. Here are my top 5 stories about the Lake Chelan’s water and wine industries.

Story One: The brief history of the Lake Chelan wine industry.

In the years leading up to my momentous wine-cation, Lake Chelan was all apples and tourism. The hills encircling the popular 50-mile long lake was once primarily apple orchards, but now many trees have been replanted to vineyards.

The first commercial vineyards were planted in 1998. From the first bonded winery in 2001, it only took eight years for Lake Chelan to become Washington’s 11th American Viticultural Area (AVA).

Today, there are over 30 wineries and tasting rooms nestled among the 31 hillside vineyards. Almost 300 acres of vineyards are planted to a wide range of grapes – Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Clairette Blanche, Counoise, Gewürztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, Picardan, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Roussanne, Syrah, Tempranillo and Viognier.

Story Two: Bringing Rhône to Lake Chelan

Cairdeas (Car dis) Winery is the passion of the dynamic duo of Lacey and Charlie Lybecker. At a Taste Washington event a few years ago, they introduced me to their Rhône-styled wines with Gaelic names such as Caislean an Papa. Given my Irish heritage and love of Rhone, this is high on my favorite Washington wineries list.

How this family winery evolved from beer to Sauvignon Blanc to their Lake Chelan winery fermenting unusual- for Washington –  grapes is a remarkable story.

While living and working in west Seattle, Lacey would bring home a bottles of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. They would compare the different producers and learned what a difference there could be in wines even from the same area.

After years of research, their passion for Rhône wines mushroomed. They were the first Washington winery to plant Picardan, a little known white grape from southern Rhône.

Traditionally, those AOC wines such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape can be blended with up to 13 red and white varietals. Following that tradition, Clairette blanche and Syrah vines were planted in the former apple orchard surrounding their winery.

Cuttings for these little known vines came from California’s Tablas Creek Winery, a partnership between Chateau de Beaucastel’s Perrin Brothers and Haas family of Vineyard Brands. In 1989, Tablas Creek began importing vine cuttings and building a grapevine nursery in Paso Robles.

And now Cairdeas Winery has a little bit of Washington Châteauneuf-du-Pape or in Gaelic, Caislean an Papa for you to enjoy.

Story Three: Diversifying – Apples and Grapes

Fielding Hills Winery was established in 2000. Owners Mike and Karen Wade began as many wine pioneers began, in the apple and cherry business.

In 1998, in need of more grapes for their growing winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle offered apple growers a contract to plant grape vines where apple orchards stood. The Wades transplanted 10 acres near Mattawa as a trial venture.

Merlot and Cab were first, later Syrah, Cab Franc and Malbec were planted. The Wade’s Riverbend Vineyard, not far from Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Indian Wells Vineyard, now totals 23 acres of coveted grapes.

Grapes were first sold to other producers but eventually the wine bug bit. In 2016, after making Fielding Hills wines for 16 years, the Wades opened their first tasting room overlooking Lake Chelan.

Fielding Hills Winery’s production is small at 2400 cases. The predominantly rich, red Wahluke Slope wines are award winning blends from the Riverbend Vineyard planted 22 years ago.

For warmer summer months, an amazing Riverbend Rose made from 100% Cabernet Franc was added to the all red lineup. The first year it was made, it sold out in two days.

More Rosé and white wines, Chenin Blanc, Roussanne and Chardonnay are being made with the help of Tyler Armour.

The Wade’s Concentric Wine Project label is based on the idea of “Serious experiments. Fun wines.” Armour is winemaker alongside owner and winemaker Mike Wade.

The Pinot Gris Pétillant Naturel is refreshingly crisp. It’s the one to grab and enjoy while taking in the panoramic view. The wine is bottled before primary fermentation is finished, creating a natural, lightly sparkling wine.

Their other unusual but perfect summer wine is a red made from Gamay Noir. That’s the grape that Gamay Beaujolais is made from. This lighter bodied red is wonderful slightly chilled.

Story Four: New World wines from Old World tutelage

C R Sandidge’s winemaker, Ray Sandidge has much to brag about. He’s a charming storyteller and a great winemaker. Growing up in a military background, he has traveled the world.

The tales he tells of wandering around Japan as a very young child and his remarkable opportunity to make wine for an old established winery in Germany are entertaining and insightful.

This shaped his winemaking to some degree. His Sabrina White is co-fermented with 67% Riesling and 23% Gewurztraminer. The creation is dry, aromatic and perfect for a summer day. The Rosé of Syrah, another dry, crisp wine that is the palest of pink evokes the distinguished wines of Provence.

His rich, aromatic reds include Caris, a blend of Malbec, Merlot and Cab Franc; Whistle Punk Red is Syrah with a dollop of Malbec and Petite Syrah; and Tri*Umph – as in three Bordeaux grapes – is Malbec, Cab and Merlot.

Save room for dessert! The No. 18 Devil’s Smoke Stack Port, predominantly Petite Sirah with a splash of Syrah is a blend of 5 vintages.

Story Five: A vacation wonderland

Lake Chelan is a tourist’s paradise. Water sports, winter sports, hiking and biking trails, wineries, breweries and cideries abound.

The population of about 4,000 residents grows to over 25,000. Where to put all those vacationers? Hotels, motels, lodges and vacation rentals, that’s where.

In fact, Chelan County ranks an astounding 4th out of 39 Washington counties in lodging tax collected. Many knew what I finally appreciated, Lake Chelan is indeed paradise.

Vintage Lake Chelan

Chelan is a Salish word meaning “deep water.” And it’s no wonder, Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in the United States. It has long had an excellent reputation for fishing and other water related activities. Today, Lake Chelan also has an excellent reputation for wine.

The first grape vines were planted along the shores of Lake Chelan in 1891. But it wasn’t until almost 100 years later, that Bob Christopher and Steve Kludt planted a vineyard that was the beginning of something big.

In the years leading up to that momentous occasion, Lake Chelan had been a successful orchard region but when the apple market collapsed in the 1990s, orchards in eastern Washington were taken out and grape vines went in.

By 2001, Lake Chelan Winery had become the first bonded winery in the area. It would only be eight years later when Lake Chelan became Washington’s 11th American Viticultural Area (AVA).

Granted by the federal government, an AVA is an appellation of indicating an area with distinguishing climate, soil and physical features that makes it unique. The Lake Chelan AVA encompasses the southernmost and easternmost areas of the lake and the surrounding lands that are at or below 2,000 feet in elevation.

Lake Chelan’s soil is a coarse, sandy sediment with significant amounts of quartz and mica that lend a certain minerality to the wines. The AVA is also notable for the significant “lake effect” that fosters mild temperatures resulting in a longer growing season.

In the ensuing decade, more pioneers followed Christopher and Kludt’s lead and more vineyards were planted and wineries bonded.  Paul Benson of Benson Vineyards, Mary and Bob Broderick opened Chelan Estate, Denny Evans started Tunnel Hill Winery, Bob Jankelson introduced Tsillan (pronounced Chelan) Cellars, Larry Lehmbecker launched Vin du Lac, Lynn and Henry Munneke introduced Chelan Ridge Winery, Dean and Heather Neff instigated Nefarious Cellars, Katy and Milum Perry began Tildio Winery, Ray Sandidge unveiled C. R. Sandidge  and Don and Judy Phelps unveiled Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards.

In 2015, vineyards had grown to 140 acres with 15 bonded wineries and a Wine Grape Growers Association. In 2018, the Lake Chelan AVA had over 30 wineries with about 300 acres planted to Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Clairette Blanche, Counoise, Gewürztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Syrah, and Viognier.

On June 7th and 8th, Lake Chelan celebrates 10 years as an official American Viticulture Area (AVA). The Lake Chelan Wine Valley and members of the Lake Chelan community invite you to join the festivities dubbed “Vintage Lake Chelan.”

At Vintage Lake Chelan, you’ll have the opportunity to taste delectable wines at the welcome reception, two seminars and a grand tasting at Larc Hill Vineyard Ranch on the South Shore.

The inaugural Vintage Lake Chelan will kick off with a welcome reception on Friday, June 7 from 6-8 p.m. at the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center. This is a great  opportunity to earn about this exciting AVA while tasting a selection of wines and bubblies, and talking with the wine industry folks.

The next day, Vintage Lake Chelan features two tasting seminars, led by representatives of the Walter Clore Center, and a grand tasting event.

“The Pioneers of the Lake Chelan AVA” will delve into those visionaries of the Lake Chelan AVA. Panelists include Alan Busacca, the geologist that studied the region and filed the official petition for the Lake Chelan AVA, Steve Kludt of Lake Chelan Winery, Bob Broderick of Chelan Estate Winery, Judy Phelps of Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards, Heather Neff of Nefarious Cellars, and Larry Lehmbecker of Vin du Lac Winery.

“Lake Chelan AVA – A Balancing Act from North to South” is a deep dive into the most extensively planted varietals on both the north and south shores, including Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.

Panelists and their wines include Rocky Pond Winery’s Shane Collins and his 2017 Riesling; Jason Morin with Ancestry Cellars 2016 Reunion Dry Lake Vineyard Chardonnay; a 2016 Estate Pinot Noir presented by Michelle Fanton of Tunnel Hill Winery; a 2016 Whole Cluster Pinot Noir offered by winemaker Oscar Castillo of Lake Chelan Winery; Dean Neff of Nefarious Cellars will pour his Defiance Vineyard Syrah, and founder/winemaker Angela Jacobs of WineGirl Wines will pour her Tildio Vineyards Syrah.

A grand tasting with 20+ wineries culminates that evening with delectable bites and delicious wines of the Lake Chelan Wine Valley. You can see the full lineup at http://lakechelanwinevalley.com/vintage-lake-chelan

A couple of highlights – CR Sandidge’s 2018 Sabrina is a white blend made by co-fermenting Gewurztraminer and Riesling.

Early on this Washington winemaker also worked at Weingut Georg Breuer in Germany. While there, Sandidge helped produce the highly acclaimed 1989 Georg Breuer Berg Rottland Trockenbeerenauslese. Winemaker Ray Sandidge has produced highly rated wines both red and white that have earned many awards in many competitions up and down the west coast.

Also high on my favorite Washington wineries is Cairdeas (say ‘Cardis’), an ancient Gaelic word meaning friendship, goodwill or alliance. West Seattle transplants Charlie and Lacey Lybecker believe good wine should be shared with friends, goodwill spread at every opportunity, and the alliances created have brought their flair for Rhone-styled wines to Lake Chelan.

The Lybecker’s dedication to Rhône Valley varietals is evident in their estate vineyard, planted to Syrah and two unusual white varietals: Clairette Blanche and Picardan. Both are widely planted in the renowned Châteauneuf-du- Pape appellation of France.

Tickets for single-day and weekend passes range from $45 to $275, and can be purchased online. For more information and details on Vintage Lake Chelan, check it out at www.vintagelakechelan.com

 

Chenin Blanc an underrated grape that offers so much

I tasted some amazing bottles of wine recently. The depth, complexity and sheer loveliness was so great that it needs to be shared with you.

It may come as a surprise that it was not a Chardonnay, Cabernet or Syrah. Indeed, it wasn’t even from Washington or California. It was from the icon of vinifera grapes, France.

The French make a white Burgundy that every Chardonnay producer wants to hold a candle to. Same with Cabernet. Who can beat a first growth Bordeaux or even a super-second?  Have you ever tried a red wine from northern Rhone? Where Syrah is co-fermented with Viognier? All perfection.

But here is another grape you must taste. It’s a grape that was once held in high esteem, but because Chardonnay, Cabernet and Syrah fetch more profit, this grape’s popularity has waned. This is my shot at convincing you to try a bottle of Chenin Blanc. Or Vouvray. Or Montlouis. Or Bonnezeaux. All from the delightful, versatile Chenin Blanc grape.

The Loire Valley, west of Paris, stretches 630 miles from the Atlantic through the center of France. Dubbed the “Garden of France,” its well-groomed gardens are bountiful, castles and chateaux magnificent, and its vineyards produce great whites.

Indigenous to this region, Chenin Blanc is produced in the center of the Loire Valley with Muscadet to the west and Sauvignon Blanc to the east. Chenin Blanc comes in a wide range of styles from a lush sweetie (Quarts de Chaume) to bone dry (Savennières). Its wonderful sparkling wines are labeled Mousseaux or Cremant.

The climate, soil and topography give the wines a minerality and acidity that balances the concentrated flavors pear, peach, lemongrass and honey flavors. Its greatest asset is its acidity, which is ever present even under warm growing conditions like that in eastern Washington. That balancing acidity also makes these wines age-worthy and food worthy.

Aged Chenin Blancs unveil complex aromatics, body and minerality that make these wines so distinguished. Have you ever had a 9-year old bone-dry Chenin Blanc that was the best white wine you’ve ever tasted?

If not, you may want to try a Domaine des Baumard 2010 Clos du Paillon Savennières. It was sublime. The best wine at the gathering. Everyone was blown away by this amazing, old Chenin Blanc. It paired particularly well with the Thai mussels in coconut milk.

The other outstanding Chenin Blanc we tasted was the Domaine des Baumard 2009 Quarts de Chaume. A luscious, honeyed wine with remarkable acidity for a 10-year old sweet white wine. The 375ml bottle yielded about an ounce and a half in each glass. Enough to enjoy the concentrated aromas for some time before indulging in the taste that lingered forever. A slab of pate is the quintessential accompaniment.

Many years ago, domestic Chenin Blanc was a well-received jug wine with few exceptions. One that stood out was Chappellet Vineyard’s old vine Chenin Blanc. High up on Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley, the original vines were producing when Donn and Molly Pritchard purchased the property back in the 1960s.

In the 1980s, Washington was white wine country. Specifically, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Chenin Blanc. Two wineries that excelled in Chenin Blanc were Kiona Vineyards and Bookwalter Winery.

If you wander to Red Mountain’s Kiona Vineyard, their old vine Chenin Blanc is a must. In this AVA, well-known for its powerful reds, this pioneering family planted Chenin Blanc in 1976 and then another block in 1983. If the conditions were right, the result was a heavenly ice wine.

But with warmer and warmer winters, ice wine conditions are becoming few and far between. Kiona rolled with the change in climate. Their newest edition is Fortunate Sun, a dessert wine much like a Vin Santo. By pruning the leaf canopy late in the season, the autumn sun works its magic to raisin the grapes. Thus concentrating flavors, aromas and sweetness.

Not too far away in Richland, Bookwalter Winery has a drier version of an old vine Chenin from Yakima Valley’s Willard Vineyard, planted in 1980. Bookwalter hand harvests and whole cluster presses then ferments at cold temps with 60% in concrete egg for 4 months and the remainder in stainless steel. Delightfully delicious.

Other dry and off dry, crisp, aromatic, full-flavored Washington versions that compare favorably to those produced in the Loire Valley:

Lobo Hills Roth Rock Chenin Blanc

McKinley Springs Horse Heaven Hills Chenin

L’Ecole No. 41 Yakima Valley Chenin Blanc

Cedergreen Willard Vineyards Chenin Blanc

This delightful yet highly underrated grape offers so much. So much complexity, flavors and aromas. And its wine pairs so well with a wide range of foods from appetizer to dessert throughout each season, won’t you try some today?

Cheers!

The State of Washington Wines 2019

I had a marvelous time at the Taste Washington Grand Tastings. Imagine two days of 235+ possibilities.

And I was amused with this year’s theme, Must. Taste. Everything. Not possible in the 4 or 5 hours each of the two days. Just not possible but I gave it the old college try.

Saturday, was very crowded but I managed to taste almost 40 wines. Sunday, was more laid back and I was able to taste – and spit – almost 54 wines. The plan was to taste the top tier, I.e. expensive, wines and then go on to reds. Sunday was to be dedicated to whites. I was semi-successful with the plan but did get distracted by winemakers, wine and friends. Here are my impressions to help guide your future wine purchases.

Best wine overall: Barnard Griffin Centurion 2016 Sagemoor Vineyards. So well knit, as close to as perfect a wine as you can sip. One barrel made. Thanks for sharing. $150.

Second place: Cadence Spring Valley Vineyards 1998 Red, an amazing 21-year-old. Youthful in appearance, wonderful aromas and very delightful to experience. Thanks for sharing. n/a

Third place: Cascade Cliffs Blood Red Columbia Valley 2017 Barbera, Bob Lorkowski has been making this wine for 20 years and it shows. Layered, juicy, rich, you need to try this wine. It’s amazing. $85.

And in no particular order, I would highly recommend to you:

Laurelhurst 2014 Walla Walla Petite Verdot – WOW! a dense, rich wine with so many anthocyanins it strains your glass. Relocated in the Georgetown district of Seattle, many small lot fermentations of great wines are made by the dedicated winemaking team of Greg Smallwood and Dave Halbgewachs. $36.

On the Kitsap Peninsula, Bainbridge Island’s Eagle Harbor 2015 Old Vine Cabernet from Kiona Vineyards on Red Mountain. This award winning winery produced this polished wine from Red Mountain’s first vineyard. $60.

Karma Vineyards, overlooking Lake Chelan, produced two fabulous méthode champenoise sparkling wines. The finely bubbled 2014 Estate Pink Pinot Noir and the 2013 Brut Chardonnay with hints of apple and bread dough. $50 and $70.

Avennia 2016 Justine Red Rhone is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre that will be a great addition to any cellar. The first graduate of Walla Walla Community College’s Enology and Viticulture program, Chris Peterson was awarded a Winemaker of the Year in 2017. Excellent choice. $40.

A custom crush, custom bottling and canning facility intrigued me. Finding myself in front of Cascadian Outfitters booth, I decided to find out what Goose Ridge was all about and have a sip of Cascadian Outfitters can o’ red while sorting out their relationship.

I have enjoyed many bottles of one of Goose Ridge’s five wine labels, Tall Sage. What drew me to that wine was the back label. “Arvid Monson developed his first vineyard on the advice of Dr. Walter Clore, known as the father of Washington’s wine industry: ‘Find a tall sage and you have a place that will sustain superior grape vines.’ A tall sage is one that develops deep tap roots … This release is our tribute to a man of great stature, the founder of Goose Ridge Estate Vineyards.”

Cascadian Outfitters #Adventureinacan comes in three flavors, Chardonnay, rose, and red blend. Estate wine in a can for kayaking, backpacking or biking to the next winery. A six pack is $30.

Their remarkable 2,200-acre estate vineyard is located on a gentle slope adjacent to the Red Mountain AVA. Their five labels are Goose Ridge Estate, g3, Stonecap, Tall Sage and Cascadian Outfitters.  All come from this vineyard and Goose Ridge also sells grapes to other wineries.

Goose Ridge Estate 2015 Syrah is beautiful, everything you expect in a Syrah. The long, smooth finish comes from 22 months in French and American barrels, some new but most neutral. $38.

Kerloo 2014 Upland Vineyards on Snipes Mountain Grenache is all Grenache whole-cluster fermented and concrete aged. This old Snipes Mountain AVA vineyard dates back to the early 1900’s and is extremely warm and rocky. Pump-overs and punch-downs during fermentation extract color and texture for a beautifully balanced wine with great aromatics. A stunning wine for $40.

In the spring of 1997, Chandler Reach owners Len and Lenita Parris, traveled to Tuscany and stayed in a beautiful villa. Inspired, they created a little slice of Tuscany in Yakima. Their signature red, Monte Regalo Estate 2015 Red Bordeaux is a brilliant blend from the winemaker’s block of Cab, Merlot and Cab Franc. $30.

The Parris Estate Reserve 2015 Yakima Cab Franc is fermented in small, open top fermenters and then cellared for 24 months in new and neutral French oak.  Usually a right-bank blending grape, this standalone version is outstanding. $46.

Many great wineries start in a garage. Associated Vintners, now known as Columbia Winery,  is one fine example of an early Seattle garage winery consisting of a group of University of Washington faculty members.

Ducleaux Cellars started out in their Kent garage. Today, this small family winery is making great wines from an estate vineyard and winery now located in The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, a sub-AVA of Walla Walla.

Ducleaux Cellars’ Chief Tasting Officer, Toby Turlay, was pouring their 2016 Ducleaux Cellars Anarchy. Mostly Syrah with a splash of Mourvedre, this wonderfully balanced wine from the Ancient Lakes AVA is highly aromatic and tasty! $29.

Brook & Bull Cellars is Ashley Trout’s latest venture. A talented winemaker who has produced wine in both Walla Walla Valley and Argentina. The first time I had her wines, it was the Torrontes grape from Agentina where she would work the March harvest.

Brook and Bull Cellars 2016 Columbia Valley Petite Verdot is exquisite. Another Bordeaux grape that is usually blended, this big, rich wine is stuffed with layers of flavors that make you want another taste and then another. $38.

There’s more but not today. In the meantime, save the date for the next Taste Washington, March 2020. Cheers!