Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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Taste Washington Today

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

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

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

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

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

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.

 


Riesling for Harvey’s Recipes

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Mary writes:

Riesling was one of the first vinifera varieties planted in Washington, dating back to late 1880s. Much later, in the early 1970s, there were more acres planted to Riesling than there were Merlot.

Probably because Riesling is the most versatile, complex and food-friendly of all the noble grapes. And because back then, many, many people preferred a sweeter wine. In the next two decades, winemakers started making some Rieslings drier because of the demands of the market.  We can safely say that no other varietal has been crafted to express so many different styles from bone dry to ice wines and everything in between.

Rieslings have very floral aromas, a crisp, vibrant character with peach, citrus and apple flavors that morph into apricot as they age. When noble rot or botrytis attaches itself to the skins, the resulting wine is a concentration of sugars and flavors to produce a wine of incomparable intensity.

With Ann Vogel’s Harvey’s Butter Rum Batter recipes, the versatility of Riesling was the key that unlocked the synergy door. Riesling has just the right amount of sweetness and acidity to pair with apples, pork, pineapple, ham, red pepper flakes and cheesecake.

Riesling is all over the place when it comes to residual sugar (RS). It can have a ton of RS, making it a late harvest or ice wine. Or it can have as little as a Chardonnay – around .5% – and a crisp acidity for food friendliness.

Germany has been making some stunning Rieslings for a few centuries and it’s to Riesling what Bordeaux is to Cabernet and Merlot – the bench mark. That’s why it’s so cool when German winemakers come to Washington to make wine with Washington grapes.

Washington has 6,320 acres planted to Riesling. The most expensive is the Long Shadows Poet’s Leap Ice Wine at $85 for a half (375ml.) bottle. It’s made by one of my favorite German winemakers, Armin Diehl. This being a very special and labor intensive wine, it’s to be expected.

Other Washington Rieslings are as little as $3 for a 750 ml and continue up to around $20. These more expensive wines tend to have more work put into them and are generally drier.

There are three major Riesling producers in Washington State. Hogue, Ch. Ste. Michelle and Pacific Rim. All three have received numerous medals from around the world for their Rieslings.

For the Harvey’s Pork Chops with Apple Compote, try the Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling. This wine is a blend of grapes from all around the Columbia Valley made in an off-dry style at 11% alcohol and 2.2% RS. $10.

Pacific Rim’s Columbia Valley Riesling is crisp and slightly sweeter, a lovely wine with fiery red pepper flakes and juicy sweet pineapple in the Harvey’s Glazed Ham with Pineapple Chutney. Another blend of grapes from around Columbia Valley made in an off-dry style at 11.5% alcohol and 3.1% RS.

Cheesecake was made to be paired with Riesling. That being said we’ll move to a Riesling from another longtime giant in the Washington wine industry, Hogue. Their Late Harvest Columbia Valley Riesling was picked mid-October through the first part of November. It has 11% alcohol and 5.4% RS and at $10 a bottle is a total bargain.


Making a Splash with Syrah

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Mary writes:

Columbia Crest Syrah

Some time during the Merlot craze of the 90s, David Lake had a few acres of Syrah planted in Washington State. Lake, the winemaker at Columbia Winery, Master of Wine and firm believer in terrior, had a vision of what Syrah could become in Eastern Washington. In 1990, there were a mere 15 acres planted to Syrah; today, there are 3,103 acres of Syrah in the ground.

Washington’s Syrah are luscious and ready to drink upon release unlike Old World Syrah that typically require a few years’ aging.

While dining with a friend recently, a bottle of Columbia Crest Syrah was opened to pair with the grilled flank steak with Chimichurri sauce.

This gorgeous wine was flawless from start to finish. Elegant aromas of smoke, cinnamon, blackerrries and cedar, followed by flavors of pepper, blackberries and currants. It’s a big wine, though the tannins are silky and smooth.

Columbia Crest Winery, not to be confused with Columbia Winery that first planted Syrah, was established in 1983. They are part of Stimson Lane that includes Chateau Ste. Michelle.

The winery is located in the Horse Heaven Hills. And it is huge. It was described when I toured it in 1986 as being as large as four football fields and could store 27,000 59 gallon barrels.

Over the years, Columbia Crest Winery has been named Winery of the Year by numerous wine trade magazines. And now by this blog! At $12.00, it’s a lot of wine for the money.


Do you have your Kitsap Wine Festival tickets yet?

Friday, August 9th, 2013

It’s August and you know what that means, it’s Kitsap Wine Festival time.

This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 17 starting at 2 p.m. at the Harborside Fountain Park next to the Bremerton ferry terminal.

There looks to be a good line up of wineries that will be pouring from different tables set up around the fountains, and according to the event’s website there will be even more food offerings this year.

Here’s just a few of the wineries we’re looking forward to tasting:

  • Camaraderie Cellars
  • Convergence Zone Cellars
  • Davenport Cellars (their 2009 Snowflake from Bacchus Vineyard was one of our favorites from the 2010 festival)
  • Dubindil Winery (we liked their 2008 Syrah poured at the 2011 festival)
  • Knipprath Cellars (their website says they specialize in Northwest grown Portuguese and Spanish grapes, with a focus on Port wines. Sounds intriguing.)
  • Maryhill Winery (they always have a strong showing at the festival, especially their crisp white wines, perfect for a hot day)
  • Mosquito Fleet Winery (If you haven’t visited this Belfair winery yet, now’s your chance to try their wines. Make this one of your first stops of the day, you don’t want to miss what they’re pouring.)
  • Stottle Winery (based in Lacey they have tasting rooms in West Seattle and Hoodsport)

It looks like this year’s line up of wineries is a little smaller than years past — 25 compared to last year’s 30-plus — which means you’ll be able to visit more tables and try more wine. (We were disappointed to see some of our favorites from year’s past: Chinook Wines, McCrea Cellars and Kiona Vineyards and Winery, won’t be there this year).

For beer lovers Hale’s Ales and Silver City Brewery will be pouring their brews and Finn River Farm Cidery out of Chimacum will be pouring its hard ciders.

Tickets are $50 and can be purchased from this site.

We love this festival because, well let’s face it, it’s the only wine tasting festival in Kitsap (that we know of). We also enjoy it because of the scenery — love the proximity to the water and the ferry — and because it’s close to home. Another bonus? If you like what you’re tasting you have the chance to buy the wine, which isn’t usually the case at tasting events like these.

For more about the festival, which serves as a fundraiser for the Harrison Medical Center Foundation, visit the event website at www.kitsapwinefestival.com.


What we’re drinking: San Juan Vineyards

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Brynn writes:

As I mentioned in our maple glazed pork tenderloin and Kiona Vineyards piece, my in-laws were in town earlier this month.

For part of their visit we went up to Orcas Island. While there we hopped over to San Juan Island to check out the sights. Part of our itinerary included a stop at San Juan Vineyards. Jeff and I visited the winery four years ago when we stayed on nearby Brown Island, so we were looking forward to enjoying a glass of wine in the sun on the winery’s patio with his parents.

Unfortunately, the woman manning the tasting bar wasn’t very inviting, so we left after just one sip of wine. I’m going to give the lady the benefit of the doubt — I’m hoping she was having a bad day and isn’t normally that rude, otherwise the winery needs to reconsider who they have greeting the public.

I was disappointed we didn’t get a chance to take in the beauty of the winery while enjoying the wine, but we salvaged our visit by stopping into the winery’s tasting room along the main street in Friday Harbor. The woman manning the tasting bar there was friendly and gave a healthy pour, something I’ll never complain about.

I was strategic in my tasting. I knew I wanted to try one of the wines grown on the island and one sourced from Eastern Washington vineyards. At the winery I tried the Madeleine Angevine, grown on site. This grape is from the Loire Valley of France, and does well in our state — specifically the cool climate of the Puget Sound region. It’s a great wine to have with raw (or grilled) oysters. I liked the wine, but I think it’s one you need to have a few times to fully appreciate. It’s a dry white wine and I prefer to have it with food.

The other wine I had a the winery was the Cab Franc, which comes from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA in Eastern Washington. I prefer cab franc to Cabernet Sauvignon because it’s lighter. In this instance it had currant and tobacco leaf flavors.

When we went to the tasting room in Friday Harbor my father-in-law ended up buying a bottle of Riesling. We drank that once we got back home. We paired it with Chinese food, which the winery recommended. The Riesling was not too sweet, but not bone dry. It was filled with floral and citrus notes and I noticed honeysuckle. It was balanced and did well with the spiciness of the Chinese dishes.


Memorial Day wine tastings of award-winning wines

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Brynn writes:

From Bainbridge to Belfair, a number of Kitsap’s wineries are open this weekend for people to taste some great wine and enjoy good company.

Here’s an added bonus, a number of the Bainbridge Island wineries and Belfair’s Mosquito Fleet Winery were recently recognized by the Seattle Wine Awards.

The Bainbridge wineries will be open all weekend, some even on Monday, from noon to 5 p.m. For more information or to see a map of where they are located visit bainbridgewineries.com.

Mosquito Fleet Winery in Belfair will be open Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. (and will continue to be open Saturdays from now until September). Sunday the winery will be open for its annual Spring Barrel Tasting event from noon to 4 p.m. Five wines will be offered and several barrels of the 2011 wines will be tapped. Winemaker Brian Petersen will be there to talk about changes from barrel to barrel and vineyard to vineyard. Pizza, cheeses and chocolates will also be served.

To attend the Sunday tasting, reserve your spot through the winery’s website, www.mosquitofleetwinery.com, or by calling the winemaker at 360-710 0855.

Here’s a list of the local 2013 Seattle Wine Award winners:

Amelia Wynn
  • Gold: Viognier; Columbia Valley Cuvée; Red Mountain Sangiovese
  • Silver: Rose

Eagle Harbor Wine Co.

  • Gold: Raptor

Eleven

  • Double Gold: Sweet Sarah dessert wine; Malbec
  • Gold: Viognier; La Ronde
  • Silver: Angelica dessert wine

Mosquito Fleet Winery (Belfair)

  • Double Gold: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Gold: Cabernet Franc; Petit Verdot
  • Bronze: Griffersen Reserve (port); Meritage;

Perennial Vintners

  • Bronze: Frambelle Raspberry
Rolling Bay Winery
  • Double Gold:Cabernet Sauvignon

St. Patrick’s Day wine pairing for potato ‘Pot o’ Gold’ soup

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Yes we know that green beer will likely be the alcoholic beverage of choice for many of you out there celebrating the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday Sunday.

And while we might have recommended this in the past, we’re raising the bar this year, offering instead an Irish-born winemaker’s wine for this week’s pairing.

We’ve recommended this winemaker’s wines before, but sometimes a good wine bears repeating.

For Ann Vogel’s Pot o’ Gold soup, Ireland-born David O’Reilly’s 2012 Crawford-Beck Vineyard Pinot Gris would offer you a chance to drink a glass o’ gold instead of fizzy, green beer.

The wine is aromatic with hints of honey, lychee and banana, according to its tasting notes. Fruits like grapefruit and pineapple are balanced with acidity and a clean finish. The wine was fermented in stainless steel, keeping a crispness in the wine.

O’Reilly has been making great wine for a number of decades from his winery Owen Roe, located in Dundee, Ore. He has an uncanny ability to find a magnificent source for grapes — he rehabilitated a 75-year-old Zinfandel vineyard 15 years ago.

Many of his fabulous red wines produced under the Oregon-based Owen Roe label are made from grapes sourced from the Yakima Valley. He recently purchased an old dairy farm in the Sunnyside area of Washington. In addition to 280 acres of the Outlook Vineyard, O’Reilly has a 50-acre vineyard in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA. This is great news for the Washington wine industry.


Try this low alcohol sparkler for Mother’s Day brunch

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate and what better way to toast the mother in your life than with a glass of bubbly?

If you’re planning to do a brunch this year for your celebration we’ve got a great recommendation that isn’t your run of the mill bubbly, and it’s made locally.

Ann Vogel’s Mother’s Day recipes for yogurt parfaits and apple Dutch babies calls for a partner in wine with lots of fruit flavor to echo the fruit in the dish; the bubbles will contrast the creamy yogurt.

This is where the Olympic Peninsula’s Finnriver Farm and Cidery enters the picture.

An artisan cidery and organic farm located in the Chimacum Valley, Finnriver produces its ciders from heirloom apples and berries grown at the farm. They also glean apples from old homesteads in the valley and from a family farm in Eastern Washington.

Cider has a long history — it was the drink of choice for the colonists. Cheap and easy to make, it was consumed for any event imaginable — weddings, funerals, Mother’s Day, baptisms, barn and church raisings and even breakfast.

Ciders can and do vary in style from a drier, more traditional style from Normandy and England, to the sweeter sparkling blends made with berries in Washington.

Finnriver’s award-winning ciders are handcrafted from the orchards to the bottle. They like to experiment with small-batches fruit blends to see what Mother Nature has offered them at harvest.

The sumptuous sparkling hard ciders are made with apples, pears and berries. Perfect for this Mother’s Day menu.

A few suggestions include:

The Artisan Sparkling Cider. Fermented using the traditional, labor-intensive méthode champenoise this wine is perfectly balanced, crisp with distinct apple aromas and flavors. The bubbles are small and make a bright, champagne-style cider.

The Sparkling Pear Cider is made from heirloom apples, blended with sweet pear. A soft sprightly sparkle accompanies the definite pear aromas and semi-sweet pear flavors of this cider.

The Sparkling Black Currant Cider is lighter is body and has a pretty blush color. It’s a blend of sweet heirloom apples and tart black currant. This one is also semi-sweet.

Finnriver is located at 62 Barn Swallow Road in Chimacum. A trip to their tasting room gives you a chance to sample their wines — and decide which you might want to serve mom this Mother’s Day.


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