Category Archives: Northwest Wines

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.

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

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.

Whaling Days does Wild Meadows

While kicking around Whaling Days last weekend, listening to the music, catching up with some long lost friends, I was treated to a new Washington Winery. Well, new to me anyway.

Wild Meadows Winery is part of the Precept Wine portfolio. Precept Wine is the largest privately owned wine company in the Northwest. Founded in 2003, Precept now owns 4,270 acres of vineyards, seven wineries and 37 labels in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  red beauty

Last year, they produced 950,000 cases of wine including Waterbrook, Pendulum, St. Chapelle, Washington Hills, Sawtooth, Red Knot and Alder Ridge.

Precept allows its wine makers free rein when it comes to making wine. The Wild Meadow Winery winemaker, Hal Landvoigt, is also Precept Wine’s director of winemaking. This means he enjoys the freedom of choosing the best lots for Wild Meadow as well as House Wines, Washington Hills, Primarius, Battle Creek and Windy Bay. These wines are also attractively priced, usually under $12.

Landvoigt was the mastermind behind the chocolate flavored red wine, Chocolate Shop, another Precept Wine brand.

Wild Meadows makes a Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Syrah and Malbec. The juice is usually sourced from Columbia Valley since this is where the bulk of their vineyards are located.

The white wine served was the 2012 Columbia Valley Chardonnay which sells for around $11. Aromas of apple, pear, and citrus follow thru on the palate. Served chilled, the flavors of apple and pear with a bright citrus note still come through.

The red was called Red Beauty. It’s a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 15% Syrah, and 3% Cabernet Franc. The deep garnet color was a promise of good flavors and aromas in the glass with berries, plums, cherries and big body with smooth tannins and a silky finish. Try them! You’ll like them!

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!

Taste Washington Today

tastewa

 

 

 

 

Taste Washington is today at the Centurylink Event Center from 2:00pm. until 5:00pm. This is your big chance for the whirlwind tour of some of Washington’s 780+ wineries big and small, old and new.

Taste Washington is the nation’s largest single-region wine and food event. It features 225 winery booths and over 50 restaurant booths with delicious little bites interspersed among the wineries.

In addition to the 225 wineries serving up at least three wines, there are regional sections where you can taste several wineries offerings from a specific area such as Woodinville, Yakima Valley’s Rattlesnake Hills, Prosser, etc. For the most part, these are smaller wineries that don’t have a booth like Cascade Cliffs and Efeste.

And there is Taste the Vineyards. This area is organized by vineyard so you can compare and contrast the several different wines produced from one vineyard source. That is a real learning experience.

The Oyster Bar is the place to go first with a full array of whites and pinks and Oysters! There’s a big line for the oysters but quick and personal service for the wines. Cote de Ciel’s Viognier was stunning. As was the Airfield Estate unoaked Chard and Arch Terrace Cherry Hill dry Riesling.

Stop by Gorman Winery and Ask Chris why his delicious Pixie Syrah is 15% alcohol. I guarantee his answer will astound you.

And stop by Palencia Winery for an amazing Albariño. Victor Palencia is the wine maker for Jones of Washington and is working two wineries, theirs and his.

Kyra Winery has a dry Chenin (think Vouvray) that is 1.5% RS from 30 year old vines. V.G. They also make a very nice Dolcetto.

Cheers!

What to Drink – Saviah The Jack

Saviah Cellars was founded in Walla Walla in 2000. The first year was small, only 300 cases but it’s grown – alot. And the wine in most demand is The Jack.savuah 941

This wine has pedigree. Grapes are sourced from some of Washington State’s best vineyards – Pepper Bridge, Elephant Mountain, McClellan Estate, Stillwater Creek, Frenchmen Hills Vineyard, Seven Hills, Weinbau, and Conner Lee.

Fermented in open top tanks so it could be punched down twice a day, this brilliant red wine is a blend of 86% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc. The aromas of black cherries, plum and vanilla greet you and then the flavors offer up the black cherries and plums that are juicy and sweet. The flavors are balanced by perfect acidity, a kiss of tannins and nice, smooth finish. All that flavor is worth the $14.

What We’re Drinking – Milbrandt Vineyards Clifton Hill Vineyard The Estates 2010

Not too long ago, an old friend stopped by with a bottle of wine in hand. That put a smile on my face. And I was delighted to visit and taste this winery’s Syrah.

I recalled that brothers Jerry and Butch Milbrandt were farmers first, the same as many wineries in Eastern Washington, having worked their family’s Columbia Valley farm for 50 some years growing row crops and orchards. Then in 1996, a couple of big wineries recruited the Millbrandts to grow grapes. They began planting vineyards in 1997.

Today, Milbrandt Vineyards has more than 2,300 acres of grapevines; most of their estate vineyards are located in two AVAs in the Columbia Valley, Wahluke Slope AVA and Ancient Lakes AVA.

The high quality of their fruit became so well known and in such demand, the Milbrandts were selling tons of their grapes to many Washington wineries. That was the impetus for building a custom crush facility in 2005. And then in 2007, they launched their own  wines.

The 29 acre Clifton Hill Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope AVA near Mattawa was planted to Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah in 1999. Now a fully mature vineyard, it produces an intense purple-black colored Syrah with a ton of black fruit flavors sprinkled with a hint of herbs and great balanced acidity. This is a big wine with surprising finesse. Expressive and classy, it has a wonderful long smooth finish.

Distributed in Washington by Unique Distributing and sells for around $23.