Category Archives: Red Wine

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!

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!

Seeking out Italian Wines and Cuisine

Chicagoland is, in my opinion, a great place for Italian cuisine. And, of course, Italian wine. I enjoyed some wonderful wines on a recent trip, most from the Old World because that’s what I seek out when in the Midwest. Old World wine and Italian beef sandwiches.

A visit with one of my favorite brothers, always involves Italian wines. He dutifully had several bottles of wine waiting when I arrived. We popped the cork on his newest find, Zucardi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. He loves this full-bodied wine but is dismissive of the little piece of vine attached to the bottles neck. A marketing ploy, he says.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo comes from the Abruzzi hills above the Adriatic coast. It’s made from the Montepulciano grape from the wine region located along the calf of the boot of Italy.

You may have heard of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – no relation to Montepulciano the grape – but rather a Sangiovese based wine from vineyards surrounding the town of Montepulciano in Tuscany. Rule of thumb for Italian wines is di, del, or della in between two words on the label means “grape” from “region.”

The Abruzzi region, one of the most widely exported of all Italian wines, is dominated by giant cooperatives that pump out decent every day jug wine with black cherry flavors, soft tannins and made to be consumed that night.

But a few more serious producers are making some mighty fine wine. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was first classified as Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) in 1968. This DOC is permitted to blend up to 15 per cent Sangiovese with the Montepulciano grape. Wines aged for more than two years are permitted to add Riserva to their labels.

I loved the Zucardi too and found another old favorite from the same region – Barone Cornacchia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, to see what he thought of another producer of the Montepulciano grape.

Montepulciano’s are full-bodied with good balance which makes them really good food wine. We enjoyed ours with fresh picked tomatoes and cheese, while dining al fresco on the patio.

For our family dinner of roast chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, and carrots, he cracked out a Produttori del Barbaresco. This special wine is from the Piedmonte in northwestern Italy. It’s the little sister of Barolo, a big wine with big tannins and a big personality. Ageing for years is a must, sometimes ten or twenty years depending on vintage.

Both Barbaresco and Barolo are made from the same grape, Nebbiolo. Just different areas near the city of Alba. Barbaresco vineyards are northwest of the city and at lower elevations than their big Barolo brother’s southwest vineyards. One other difference is Barbaresco enjoys a more sheltered position, lying further away from weather systems coming off the Atlantic.

Produttori del Barbaresco, founded in 1958, is actually a cooperative of producers around the town of Barbaresco and managed by Aldo Vacca, former assistant to Angelo Gaja of Barolo fame. Produttori sources fruit from 50 member-growers farming 250 acres of premium Nebbiolo vineyards in the commune of Barbaresco.

Fermented in stainless steel tanks, this wine spends 30 days on the skin with pumping over 2 to 3 times a day. This gives the wine a beautiful dark, rich color. It’s then aged 24 months in big barrels of neutral Slovian oak called grandi botti.

After 30 months, it’s bottled and then about 260,000 bottles are distributed worldwide. So, there’s plenty of this classic, best value Barbaresco to enjoy with lamb chops or roast chicken with chanterelles.

The Veneto area in the northeast also produces classic wines. The unique wines of Valpolicella are made with a blend of Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella grapes and 5 different styles. Basic Valpolicella is a lighter table type wine, Classico is from the original Valpolicella zone, Superiore is aged at least a year, and Ripasso is made with partially dried grapes left over from the Amarone or Recioto fermentation. Reciotos and Amarones are made from dried grapes and downright magnificent.

Valpolicella was awarded DOC status in 1968. Amarone and Recioto received Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status in 2009.

I enjoyed a couple of unusual bottles of Valpolicella while visiting. Both were labeled Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT), one of four Italian wine classifications. IGT signifies the wine is typical of that geographical region but doesn’t qualify for the DOC or DOCG’s stricter requirements. Maybe the vines weren’t old enough, the alcohol content is not in the range for that particular style, or maybe some of the grapes came from outside that designated region. Any of these reasons would keep the wines from being DOC or DOCG.

One such IGT was made by Natale Verga Antale Veneto. This full-bodied, elegant wine had intense color from the slight drying of the grapes. The blend is mostly Corvina with a little Merlot, hence IGT status since Merlot is not an allowed grape in this DOC or DOCG. This would be my go to wine for my favorite Italian beef and hot giardiniera – Paul’s in Westchester, Illinois.

Another new to me IGT wine was Cecilia Beretta {FREEDA} Rosé. It’s a blend of Corvina, Cabernet and Carménère grapes from the southern area of Lake Garda. After being harvested by hand, the grapes are pressed together with a short maceration to achieve the pale pink color. Each grape adds its own character to the wine – cherries and raspberries from Corvina, green peppercorn from the Cabernet and minerality and body from the Carménère. A must for the next time you have lobster risotto.

Cin Cin!

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!

Washington Wine is Fun

Wine is Fun. That’s what Eleven Winery’s winemaker/owner Matt Albee believes. And it certainly was fun one sunny Saturday during Wine on the Rock. There were even some bicyclists pedaling from winery to winery.

All of the Bainbridge Island wineries were open and pairing their wines with chocolate. But not just any chocolate. These were local chocolatiers making some incredibly good candies. Bon Bon, Pink Peony, L’Atelier, Powell and Jones, some wineries had chocolates made with their wines and one winery served up a homemade chocolate éclair.

The Eleven Winery folks were pouring their gold medal winning Syrah from Elephant Mountain Vineyard with a Bon Bon dark chocolate fudge made with the wine.  That was the best fudge I’ve ever tasted. Another sweet match was the Sweet Sarah port-style wine also made with Syrah. It was served in a festive chocolate cup.

Fletcher Bay’s new digs in the Coppertop Loop business park had Powell and Jones Chocolates, a relative newcomer to Bainbridge. Their truffles were beautifully crafted and delicious.

They paired well with the heavenly scented 2015 Walla Wallla Cab from Oidos Vineyard. An interesting trend for a few BI wineries is the use of French, Hungarian and Virginian oak before blending the final product. It seems to be the right thing to do for this wine. A very, very good wine.

Fletcher Bay also poured their Yakima cherry wine that was not too sweet and not too dry. And yes, the wine naturally went well with the dark chocolate.

Eagle Harbor’s owner Emily Parsons’ passion is Bordeaux. The 2014 Founders Merlot from a vineyard in Walla Walla had a beautiful nose and great balance. While the 2014 Cab also had a gorgeous nose, it leaned toward the mineral and cedar side of the aromas wheel.

Consultant Hugh Remash was on hand to pour the 2013 Raptor, a blend of equal parts Cab Franc, Cab and Merlot with a drop of Petite Verdot. It received top honors in Seattle for best Bordeaux style blend in 2017. It’s well polished with a long finish.

It was great fun comparing it to the 2014 Raptor, a blend of Merlot, Cab and Cab Franc. I preferred the 2013 but I’m pretty sure next year I’ll be saying that I preferred the 2014 to the 2015. These big wines age gracefully.

The wines were matched with chocolatier L’Atelier whose shop is set up across the parking lot from Eagle Harbor. You need to go there. This is the ultimate in eye and eatin’ candy, everything was so beautiful. They also make pastries, so having had plenty of chocolate, we decided to share a buckwheat pastry. Next time, it’ll be a Belgian cheese waffle.

Amelia Wynn’s Crawford Vineyard Yakima Valley Orange Muscat sports a bright citrusy label. It was awarded 2017 Seattle Wine Awards Best of Class and #2 of the Top 50 White Wines! The wine is dry yet fruity and the perfect match with the chocolate éclair.

Their 2014 Duovin Merlot was from the Dwelley Vineyard in Walla Walla. It had a wonderful nose and rich flavors with a long finish. It seems the folks in San Francisco agree, they awarded a gold medal to this wine.

The 2016 Den Hoed Vineyard Tempranillo was another three star wine for me with its cherry nose and flavors with light herbs. Nicely balanced with a long finish. This one took a double gold in 2018 San Francisco.

The 2014 Sangiovese from Red Mountain’s Kiona Vineyard also took home gold at the 2018 San Francisco competition. I had another éclair, that gets a gold in my book.

Rolling Bay has new location out in the country near Bay Hay and Feed. Their 2015 Malbec earned a star in my book and the 2015 Uplands Vineyard Cab Franc won a silver in San Francisco. My favorite was the Cuvee Aldaro a blend of 78% Cab, 12% Cab Franc and 10% Merlot.

Pink Peony on Bainbridge Island made the dark chocolate bites. Caramel salted, cherry and one spicy one. Loved these chocolates. They can be purchased at Bon  Bon Chocolates.

Bainbridge Vineyards served up a lovely handcrafted chocolate made with and accompanied by their Raspberry wine.

We were the last ones in the door at Perennial Vintners. We were delightfully surprised by the Siegerrebe, a highly aromatic grape that is a cross between Madeleine Angevine and Gewurztraminer. This dry white table wine would pair perfectly with fish or a light chicken dish. But not bad with the cheesecake either.

Next month is Washington wine month culminating in the largest single region grand tasting otherwise known as Taste Washington. I highly recommend this extensive tasting to build your knowledge of some of the over 850 Washington wineries.

For more info on the 225 wineries pouring and the 65+ restaurants dishing up delectable bites, go to TasteWashington.org

Cheers!

 

Red Wine and Chocolate Events

There are many opportunities in the next couple of months to taste and learn. February has a plethora of Red Wine and Chocolate events around the state. These tastings lead into March designated as Washington Wine Month and culminating in the grandest grand tasting of Washington wines in the nation.

But first, one of my favorite listen, taste and learn events is the Belgian Beer Fest organized by the Washington Beer Commission. The 9th Annual Festival will take place this year at the Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion where there will be over 100 Belgian Beer styles crafted by Washington breweries.

Belgian beers are unique in the beer world. This amazing beer region has a myriad of styles including Saisons, Wits, Lambics, Dubbels, Tripels and Abbeys. Many are made with wild yeast, fresh fruit and aged hops. Traditional brewing methods blending new with aged and aging in neutral oak for a couple of years.

Way before bourbon barrel aged stouts, Oud Bruins (old brown) were aged and blended old with new. They tend, in my opinion to be more wine like than beer like. For years, I could convert a wine only aficionado or at least have them concede that a Belgian Lambic was almost as good as a sparkling wine.

This is truly a new adventure for IPA fans but you could still sport the standard beer fest accessory – a pretzel necklace. The event is Saturday, January 27th, at the Fisher Pavilion in the Seattle Center. There are two sessions, the first from 12-4pm and the second from 5:30-9:30 pm. Tickets are $37 in advance or $45 at the door. But you take your chances at the door where limited tickets are available. The later session always sells out.

Admission includes a tasting glass and 10 tasting tokens. Each taste is 4 oz. so a tasting companion is a good idea. As of this weekend, there are 4 food trucks and about 40 breweries for your tasting pleasure. You can check out who’s bringing what here: https://washingtonbeer.com/festivals/belgianfest.php

Next on the fun and exciting things to do calendar is Wine on the Rock. Wine on the Rock is a two-day wine and chocolate affair held at each of the seven Bainbridge wineries.

This year, Amelia Wynn, Bainbridge Vineyards, Eagle Harbor Wine, Eleven Winery, Fletcher Bay Winery, Perennial Winery and Rolling Bay Winery will pour their wines and serve up tasty tidbits of chocolate, February 10 and 11, from noon until 5p.

Tickets are good for both days for one visit per winery if you wanted to check all seven out and includes a commemorative wine glass and a wine tote to take your treasures home with you. Purchase your tickets here: https://www.bainbridgewineries.com/special-events

And if you want to venture a little further afield, there is a Red Wine, Cider & Chocolate tour on the Olympic Peninsula February 10th and 11th, and 17th and 18th from 11:00am to 5:00pm. Tickets include wine glass, wine tasting and chocolate samples at all nine OPW Wineries & Cideries. Online tickets are $40 and remaining tickets will be sold for $45 at participating wineries, on a first come basis. A $10 wine tasting fee will be charged at each winery for non-ticketed visitors.

Beginning in Port Angeles, you’ll find award winning wines at Camaraderie, located at 334 Benson Road and check out one of my favorite Washington wineries, Harbinger on the west side of Port Angeles. They serve up award winning wines, local beers on tap, and handmade chocolates every day.

Founded in 1979, Olympic Cellars was Washington’s 15th bonded winery. It was founded by Gene Neuharth who planted an experimental vineyard next to his winery in Sequim. The vineyard and winery were later relocated to Port Angeles in a 100+ historic barn.

Their Dungeness Series is a nod to Neuharth and the winery’s first name. They also produce Working Girl wines, a nod to the three women who work hard at this award winning winery.

Around Port Townsend, FairWinds Winery will be pouring tastes of Lemberger and other hearty reds. They are the only winery in the state that I know of that produces a little known white grape called Aligote’, a native of Burgundy. Other rare finds are the Fireweed Mead and the Port O’Call, a wine made for chocolate.

Eaglemount Wine and Cider has moved to Port Townsend at 1893 South Jacob Miller Road. The new digs have plenty of room for dinners, dances and receptions and a guest house.

In 2006, Eaglemount started making ciders from over 30 varieties of heirloom apples on their 1883 homestead orchard. Grapes for their red wines are sourced from eastern Washington and processed at the winery. Their red wines and hard ciders have won double gold, gold, silver and bronze medal at numerous competitions.

The main focus at Wind Rose Cellars is Italian varieties, primarily Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Primitivo, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese and Orange Muscat. Orange Muscat is definitely a chocolate match even if it’s not red.

The oldest AVA in Washington state also has the oldest running Red Wine and Chocolate event. The weekend of February 17th and 18th over 40 wineries in the Yakima Valley AVA will be pouring tastes of fine wines and nibbling on decadent chocolates from 10:00am until 5:00pm.

Wineries from Yakima, Zillah, Prosser and Red Mountain will be offering a weekend of divine decadence with the Premier Pass, which gives you a variety of specialty food pairings, library tastings, and tours not available to the general public. Premier Passes are available for $35 at the door at select wineries during the event weekend. For more information, www.wineyakimavalley2@msn.com

And finally, Taste Washington is the most decadent of wine events. Exclusive pours from world-class vintners, gourmet bites from great restaurants and private food and farm tours are events you don’t want to miss.

It’s impossible to sample everything at the Grand Tasting, I know, I’ve made valiant efforts. Thank goodness there are two days to enjoy the very best Washington State has to offer. More info: http://tastewashington.org/wineries-2018/

Beer & Wine can be part of Health Resolutions

In the new year, we sometimes make resolutions. We’ve all done it at one time or another — deciding to get fit, diet or enjoy life to the fullest. It’s a tradition that dates back to the Babylonians who made promises to their gods they would return borrowed objects and repay their debts.

Other religious traditions required one to reflect upon one’s wrongdoings over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness. The concept of resolutions, regardless of what religion, is to act upon self-improvement.

After the indulgences of the holidays, it’s time to be a bit more disciplined. Practicing a regimen with foods that contain the right amount of nutrients, antioxidants and fiber can be delicious — especially when it involves a healthy glass of red wine or beer.

Red wine may have a significant effect on cholesterol levels (“may” because studies have shown good results but …) On top of lowering bad cholesterol, polyphenols, which are the antioxidants in red wine, can help keep blood vessels flexible and reduce plaque forming in your arteries.

Antioxidants are believed to fight infection and protect cells against the effects of free radicals, which may play role in diseases. The skin of red grapes is a rich source of a polyphenol called resveratrol, which may (there’s that word again) help regulate blood sugar and systolic blood pressure. Resveratrol may also be the key to keeping your memory sharp.

The hops, yeast, and grains in beer contribute to health with a small amount of B vitamins, potassium (strong bones and teeth), phosphorus and folate. Beer also is one of a few significant dietary sources of silicon, which research shows may help prevent osteoporosis. That silicon in your pint is an essential mineral for bones.

Another study that I’ve been hearing about for a few years is that beer can keep bacteria from forming and growing on your teeth and gums. Biofilm (gelatinous masses of microorganisms capable of attaching to virtually any surface) promote tooth decay and gum disease. Never fear, just have beer!  Beer is at its best blocking interaction between bacteria, slowing its growth. My kind of mouthwash.

Hops also have anti-inflammatory properties. Being an essential ingredient in most beers, hops have been found to interfere with inflammation. Forget the ibuprofen, pop me an IPA.

Living in the great Northwest where beer, wine and salmon are readily available, gives us our first nutritious meal. Steamed salmon with ginger and scallions. There are lots of Omega 3s in the salmon, powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in the ginger, and scallions have calcium, iron and vitamin A, C and K.

To accompany this delicious dish, I recommend an Alsatian Gewurztraminer, which is fragrant, dry and full-bodied. Another wonderful pairing would be Harbinger’s La Petite Fleur another aromatic wine that is a blend of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling. It’s the perfect match for seafood. For a beer pairing, go with the Pyramid Apricot Wheat. It’s fruity and crisp in all the right places.

“Buckwheat is sweet, relaxes the nerves, eases irritability and helps clear out the stomach,” a 1697 Japanese nutritional text reportedly proclaimed. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat, which contains rutin (a compound that lowers cholesterol) and thiamine, an enzyme used by the body to metabolize food for energy and to maintain proper heart and nerve function. Another nutrient in soba, choline, is good for the liver, which may be why this soup is good for you after a night out on the town.

Soba noodle soup with mushrooms, onions and chicken would warm you up on a cold winter’s night. If you top it with diced serranos, a bottle of Sound Brewery’s Dubbel would pair nicely. Or you could skip the serranos and open a bottle of Ponzi Classico Pinot Noir because mushrooms and Pinot Noir are a classic pairing.

Heart-healthy, lentils contain protein, B vitamins and soluble fiber and much like mushrooms, they attract the flavors and aromas of the spices in the pot. Cumin and ginger aid digestion, and turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. And don’t skimp on the garlic! It’ll keep the vampires away.

Even though its strong aromas can last a while, garlic has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Its disease fighting instinct comes from its sulfur compounds, which act as antioxidants, providing many of its cardiovascular benefits. Garlic acts as a blood thinner, reducing the formation of blood clots and your risk of heart attack or stroke.

Another hearty and healthy winter soup is made from lentils, spinach and garlic. Please pass the Syrah. Lentils are healthy and budget-friendly with loads of protein and plenty of dietary fiber, iron and high in folate, a nutrient that supports reproductive health, the cardiovascular system and the brain.

Add spinach to your soup to protect your eyes from macular degeneration. With its high concentration of vitamin K, spinach can help maintain bone density. The green stuff is also a source of potassium and magnesium as well as folate, all of which can keep blood pressure low.

For snacking or a sweet treat, blueberries have — like red wine — anthocyanins that protect you from heart disease, age-related blindness and memory loss. And they are delicious with dark chocolate. Without the sugar, dark chocolate is an extremely healthy snack packed with the same antioxidants that are also found in red wine.

From disease-fighting antioxidants to heart-healthy fats, these delicious and nutritious dishes, beverage suggestions and the health benefits are here to help you improve.

The best part is drinking a bottle of wine or beer tends to be a group activity, which makes everyone happy and that has its own amazing health benefits. So, cheers to the new you.

After Thanksgiving Traditions

Fresh air with a walk in the woods is a great way to spend the day after Thanksgiving. We headed west. A couple of uphill hikes and another along the Elwha Dike Trail, watching the river rush to the strait,  built up a powerful thirst. Good thing Washington State has an incredibly good winery in the neighborhood.

Just west of Port Angeles is an artisan winery making award winning wines from eastern Washington State grapes. With engaging staff and dressed for the holidays, Harbinger Winery’s tasting room is warm and welcoming.

For $5 you can stand at the bar or lounge around a table to enjoy the six wines on the tasting menu. For those of a different persuasion, Harbinger has Washington ciders and beers on tap, too. With homemade fudge on the shelf and cheese in the fridge, they have all the essentials covered.

Handcrafted, food-friendly Washington State wines are the mission at Harbinger Winery. They focus on varietals that are rarely seen on a supermarket shelf, as well as traditional favorites. As owner/vintner Sara Gagnon promises, “…we strive to keep your cellar varied, your palate delighted and your state of mind pleasantly surprised.”

From Two Coyote Vineyard in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA, their 2015 Viognier is fermented in stainless steel. It’s crisp and floral perfect for creamed fish or chicken dishes. I remember tasting this at the Kitsap Wine Festival this past summer. It was a hot day, the wine was perfectly balanced. It was heaven with the seafood bite from Anthony’s.

Another perfect shellfish or crustacean wine is Harbinger’s La Petite Fleur Washington White which is a blend of Chardonnay (43%), Pinot Gris (37%) and Riesling (20%). Again, 100% stainless steel fermentation which gives this wine wonderful white fruit flavors balanced with bright acidity. That acidity would also be a good foil to the drawn butter you’re dipping a freshly caught Dungeness crab in. This wine has won quite a few medals in previous years.

Another multiple medal winner is the 2010 El Jefé a Rhone style blend of 62% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre, 13% Grenache. Rich with a touch of licorice, this guy is polished with age with a plummy, earthy way of expressing itself. A leg of lamb or even a warm bowl of lentil soup would have the angels singing.

Barbera is an indigenous grape from the northwest – of Italy that is. This Barbera is from Columbia Valley’s renowned Sagemoor Vineyards, one of the state’s oldest. It’s a medium bodied, high acid wine with lots of concentrated red fruit flavors. It’s a natural with tomatoes, whether fresh dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and Parmesan cheese or marinara. This is an award winning Washington State Barbera, a concentrated mouthful of crushed berries, and plums.  

The 2011 Sangiovese is from one of Washington’s highest vineyards in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA – Elephant Mountain.  In Italy, this is the grape of Tuscany and regions such as Chianti and Montalcino.  This wine is amazing not only because exhibits great acidity for a six year old wine but it has bright red fruit flavors and an earthy note with a long finish. It’s showing its maturity, throwing sediment.

Cranberry Bliss is their festive wine made for that turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce. With bright fruit, and the buttery flavors of barrel-fermented Chardonnay and a douse of Syrah, this wine is delightful with picnic fare – cheese, crackers, a little smoked turkey and some dried cranberries.

From Graysmarsh Farms in the Dungeness Valley is their source for the Blackberry Bliss. Because they use over 2½ pounds of blackberries to make one bottle, there is a mountain of blackberry goodness in that bottle. On the dryer side at 13% alcohol, it has the right amount of acidity and sweetness to be a refreshing quaff.

The tasting room is open from 11:00 until 6:00 Monday thru Saturday, Sunday from 11:00 until 5:00p. As a result of limited production, Harbinger wines are exclusive to Northwest Washington but their wines can be shipped. Call 360.452.4262 to place your order or do the virtual visit. But I would highly recommend a walk in the woods or the beach and then their warm and welcoming tasting room.

Guidelines and Suggestions for your Thanksgiving Wines

Thanksgiving is my favorite feast. You don’t have to send cards or give gifts. You’re not expected in church, synagogue or mosque. You get to play chef, then dine, drink and be merry.

Turkeys, sides, pies and wines are the focus of this family and friend feast that marks the start of the high holiday season. You eat a little too much, celebrate a little too much. Afterwards, it’s acceptable to stretch out for a nap, occasionally check the score.  And, if all goes well, your team wins; there are lots of leftovers and much to be thankful for.

This year there are only 39 days in the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. So be smart, look for wine deals. Buy a case of wine, typically 12 bottles that will save you 10-15 percent off of your case of wine.

Pairing the proper wines is pretty easy. With the traditional table fare of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, roasted root vegetables, sweet potato soufflé, cranberries and stuffed onions, there are myriad of flavors. Go for food-friendly wines. These would be not too oaky, sweet, alcoholic or tannic.

Almost any well balanced wine will complement or contrast with at least most of the meal if you use these simple guidelines:

  1. Generous fruit. Not necessarily sweetness but fruity with balancing acidity with both reds and whites are the key to pairing with most of these dishes.
  2. Modest tannins. Many young red wines have that drying feeling that’s a product of their thick skins and long stays in oak barrels. Some dishes can turn this kind of wine into an unpleasant, astringent tartness.
  3. Welcome guests with something bubbly — sparkling wine, cava or prosecco. It sets the celebratory mood. Bubblies can be crisp, cleansing and slightly sweet for the gathering of guests, a perfect start to the holiday season.
  4. While the turkey is resting, pop the rest of the corks and have the guests take a seat. Let the passing begin. Anyone who prefers fruity sweetness will navigate to a Riesling or Gewurztraminer. For reds, think about the perennial favorite Beaujolais or a fruity, dense Spanish Grenache or California Zinfandel; and others will navigate to the red blends.

Riesling or Gewurztraminer

Both are highly aromatic whites. Riesling greets the big flavors on the table with gobs of fruit and crisp acidity. Gewurz also has loads of juicy fruit with a touch of spice. And both varieties can be fermented to be sweet or dry with the ability to pair up with the turkey, sweet potatoes to the sausage dressing.

Spokane’s Latah Creek Riesling has a medium-sweet appley flavor with a crisp finish, or the best bang for the buck — Riesling from Chateau Ste. Michelle, the superbly crafted Columbia Crest Two Vines — is more on the stone fruit end of the spectrum with balancing acidity, all under $11. Gewürztraminer is becoming a rare commodity. As a result, many are more than modestly priced.

Beaujolais

The third Thursday of November is the official release day for Beaujolais Nouveau. This red wine is the ultimate refreshing Turkey Day wine. It can be served slightly chilled and actually does go well because it’s fruity with low tannins. It’s made from the Gamay grape, harvested in September, and graces your holiday table two months later. Because of the carbonic maceration method of fermentation, this wine is without tannins, full of fruity flavors and red, a perfect beginner red.

Wine aficionados may prefer a Cru Beaujolais with a little more stuffing to it. And you’d get that from a Beaujolais Village, whether Morgon, Fleurie or Brouilly. Classic producers like Lapierre and Duboeuf are lighter-bodied but have brambly red and black fruit character with baking spices and a smooth silkiness.

Grenache

Cherries and spice are often found in Grenache with an acidity level that balances the weight of most Thanksgiving dinners. GSM blends — Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre — have dark plummy, blueberry layers that links with the earthy root vegetables and savory stuffing.

The Spanish and Australians have a wonderful selection to choose from, most in the $10 range – before your six bottle discount. For Spanish, anything imported by Jorge Ordonez is worth every penny. Tres Picos Borsao Garnacha is an award-winning wine and a particular favorite of mine. Garnacha de Fuego Old Vine, Torres Sangre de Toro, Vina Borgia Campo de Borja are all under $10 and delicious.

Zinfandel

Jammy black fruits laced with spices make Zin a juicy red for Thanksgiving as long as the alcohol level is moderate. Some Zinfandel could be as high as 16 percent, which accentuates the hot effect. Bogle, Ravenswood, Cline and Fetzer have been around for the longest time and are modestly priced because they own their vineyards. Old vine Zins that aren’t aged in oak are great wines at great prices.

Red blends

On the other side of the planet, the Australians are the fourth largest exporter of wines with quite a number of fruit forward Shiraz blends that would please the party palates. Look for reasonably priced Lindemans, Jacob’s Creek or Penfolds.

Other reds that would make a terrific holiday wine are a blend from the Delicato family, Hand Craft. Reminiscent of the Italian immigrant practice of field blending, this Zinfandel Merlot is juicy, packed with ripe black fruits and delicioso.

Woodbridge Red Blend is composed of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Syrah that’s rich with jammy blackberry and baking spices. Totally affordable and quaffable.

My annual advice remains the same: buy wines you like at prices you can afford, open a wide assortment of wines and raise a glass with your family and friends with each and every wine.

Cheers and a very Happy Thanksgiving.