Category Archives: Tastings

Still Learning about Wines

The 6th Annual Washington Wine Awards was held last week. About 40 wineries were pouring with some wonderful bites presented by local restaurants. It was a heavenly event.

So what did I learn? Well, grab a glass of wine and pull up a chair as I tell you about some of my favorites that evening.

A new find was the Ashren 2016 Columbia Valley and 2014 Celilo Vineyard Chard. Winemaker Chris Gorman sources his grapes from some of the best vineyards – Conner Lee, Boushey and Celilo. While rather high at 14.4% alcohol, you couldn’t taste it, it was so well balanced. Both spent 9 months in neutral oak also contributing to the fullness and balance.

Airfield Estates on Merlot Drive in Prosser poured their 2015 Yakima Chard. This wine was so easy to sip with 70% fermented in stainless and only 30% aged in neutral oak. Crisp, medium bodied with pear and apple aromas and flavors. It’s a summertime wine.

Next I beat feet to Cadence but with several bodies blocking my way, I waited my turn at Canvasback next door, one of the newest wineries on Red Mountain. What makes this such a storied wine is its California roots.

Owned by Duckhorn of Merlot, Cab and Sauvignon Blanc fame, they’re making wine from the Obelisco and Quintana vineyard grapes while waiting for their vines to reach maturity (seven years old). Winemaker Brian Roudin apprenticed at Cadaretta in Walla Walla. You need a bottle of this.

Cadence was pouring the 2013 Red Mountain Bel Canto, a blend of 75 Cab Franc and 25 Merlot which is the inverse of some great Pomerols with their 75 Merlot and 25 Cab Franc. The breadth and depth of aromas and palate was amazing.

Sparkman Cellars Wilderness 2014 Syrah was being poured. It went very nicely with the Tulalip Casino’s Pork Belly sushi. I was also drawn to their wonderful 2015 Kindred, a Bordeaux blend. He makes great wines – really.

I thoroughly enjoyed Purple Star Winery’s 2013 Cab, a blend of 90% Cab with the remainder Merlot and Petite Verdot. And Dusted Valley’s 2013 Cab, a blend of predominantly Cab, with Petite Verdot and Cab Franc from Dionysus Vineyard is another wine that garnered 3 stars from my pen, along with Long Shadows Chester Kidder’s 2014 Red Blend.

Newsprint Winery’s 2014 Red Blend is another not-to-be-missed BBQ wines. And finally, in a garage in Woodinville is Kevin White Winery, near and dear to me. His 2015 Yakima Red and 2014 DuBrul Red well worth seeking out, if you can find them. Truly.

OK, last one, Treveri Cellars Blanc de Noir was absolutely perfect as always but with the Tulalip Casino’s Butter Poached Prawns with Dungeness Crab, Ginger Lime Vinaigrette and Wasabi Tobiko, we’re talking heavenly. Both those guys really nailed it.

The Kitsap Wine Festival at Harborside Fountain Park is next Saturday. This revelry of wine, set on Bremerton’s scenic and sunny waterfront, is one of the best on the Kitsap Peninsula.

The 9th annual festival begins at from 2 and ends at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $65 from Brown Paper Tickets which includes a Kitsap Wine Festival commemorative wine glass and 15 scripts.

Kitsap Peninsula’s Winery Alliance of Bainbridge Island will be there also. The Winery Alliance includes Amelia Wynn, Bainbridge Vineyards, Eagle Harbor, Eleven Winery, Fletcher Bay, Perennial Vintners, and Rolling Bay Winery.

What the individual wineries are pouring that day remains to be seen but here are my picks with fingers crossed that they’ll pour what I want to taste:

Harbinger Winery is an artisan Olympic Peninsula winery focused on making fabulously drinkable wines with varietals that aren’t mainstream. Sara Gagnon, owner and winemaker, has made great wines and I hope to taste her Dynamo Red Table Wine, a gold medal winning wine made from mostly Syrah, with a dollop of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Grenache.

I first met Davenport Cellars owners Jeff and Sheila Jirka at a Kitsap Wine Festival a few years ago. Located in the warehouse district of Woodinville, they source their grapes like most from eastern Washington. Their Continuity is a Bordeaux blend of 71% Cab, with the remainder being Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Fruit sources include Walla Walla’s Pepper Bridge and Les Collines, Sheridan Vineyard in Rattlesnake Hills, and Kiona on Red Mountain.

Also new to me from Woodinville, is Long Cellars, a boutique winery whose primary mission is to produce fine Bordeaux styled wines from vineyards located in the Yakima Valley AVA, the oldest AVA in Washington.

Eleganté Cellars is another winery that’s been around since 2007. They also make wine from Les Collines which is in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, in the Walla Walla AVA. Their Gewürztraminer grapes come from 35 year old vines from Celilo Vineyards.

Stina’s Cellars in Lakewood caught my attention after having won a bottle of Ice Wine at auction last winter. They have won a number of awards for their 2013 Wahluke Slope Tempranillo and a gold medal at the Capital Wine & Food Festival for their 2012 Yakima Valley Malbec.

Finally, many Oregon wineries will be in the direct path of the total solar eclipse on August 21st. Viewing totality among the grape vines in the Willamette Valley could be just the kind of celebration you haven’t experienced on a Monday morning.

Willamette Valley Vineyards’ sold out event offers parking, eclipse viewing eye-glasses, wine tasting, educational presentations, a commemorative Solar Eclipse Pinot Noir and live music for $100. For ticket holders arriving ahead of the traffic, gates open at 0400!

Getting a Wine Education

The wine bug bit me early on, if you consider a jug of Inglenook’s Navalle Burgundy wine. But, hey, you have to start somewhere.

This wine, in a convenient jug with a handle, was good for a week to 10 days. I had a glass of wine or two with dinner. A librarian job in the Loop and a studio apartment on the Northside dictated how much could be spent on wine. Inglenook was a decent quaff for the budget.

Not too long after that was my inaugural trip to Napa Valley. The historic Greystone Abbey home to the Christian Brothers, was the first of many tasting rooms visited and I fell in love with their Grey Riesling. My palette has changed over time with  many bottles consumed. Wine with family and friends – that’s the best of times.

Fast forward some years and I found myself the owner of a wine shop with many opportunities to learn, absorb and taste. The best way to learn about wine is to taste with other wine lovers, beginners and experts alike. And read. And taste some more. The more you taste and read, the more you learn and come to appreciate this tasty beveridge.

Wine festivals, tastings and conferences can give you a broader palette. One remarkable place to learn about Washington wines is the Walter Clore Center in Yakima. The center offers in-depth, Washington wine coverage with a focus on a different AVA each month.

They also offer special tastings such as a blind tasting of the Grüner Veltliner that demonstrates how differences in climate, vineyard practices, soil type and winemaking style can affect the way varietals express themselves.

On July 22 and July 29, the tasting theme is  Washington versus Spain. This comparative tasting covers classic varietals produced in Spain up against the same varietals grown and produced in Washington.

And on Sunday, July 30 at 2 p.m., you can enjoy 4 sparkling red wines, expertly paired with 4 small bites. They may be pushing some boundaries here, but then who here has had red wine with bubbles?  For more info, theclorecenter.org

The inaugural SOMM Summit held last week in Seattle was an around-the-world-in-80-wines tasting. This deliciously serious international wine and spirits educational conference at South Seattle Community College was a wonderful gathering of sommeliers, Masters of Wine, stewards and other wine geeks. We listened, tasted, talked and learned more about the world of wine and spirits.

Dr. Kevin Pogue, Professor of Geology at Whitman College, took us through the cataclysmic, historic journey that shaped Washington State’s soils. Following this, Tim Donahue, Director of Winemaking at College Cellars talked about the winemaker’s influence with lots of emphasis on anthocyanins, catchins, pH and other scientific mumbo jumbo, which he explained using Legos. Yep, it actually worked — for me anyway.

We took a trip through the sparkling wines of South Africa, indulged in a Quilceda Creek Retrospective, sipped Napa Valley wines from the valley floor and above, tasted eight decades of Port, a vertical of Seven Hills, and the exotic Xinomavro grape of Greece.

Closer to home, eight wonderful Washington Syrahs stained our teeth purple and eight crisp whites from British Columbia turned the teeth white again. There were eight decades of Kopke Colheita Portos, three centuries of Remy Martin and the debut of Bodegas Lustau’s Sherry Ambassador Certification course. This was an amazing forum to learn in depth details.

Oregon’s ¡Salud! is patterned after the most famous wine auction in the world, Hospices de Beaune. ¡Salud! is dedicated to providing healthcare services to Oregon vineyard workers and their families for the past 25 years. This is made possible by two major fundraisers.

The Pinot Noir Auction on November 10th and 11th is your only opportunity to access Oregon’s most exclusive Pinot Noir cuvées. It begins with a tasting and Big Board Auction at Ponzi Vineyards and concludes the next day at Domaine Serene with a Black Tie Optional Gala dinner.

They also have Summertime ¡Salud! which showcases great wines and gourmet cuisine on July 27th. Presented by Dukes Family Vineyards and hosted by Stoller Family Estate, you can mingle with winemakers while tasting wine and  sampling hors d’oeuvres, and then enjoy an upscale, family-style, alfresco dinner with some of Oregon’s best wines poured from impressive magnum bottles straight to your glass.

The  Kitsap Wine Festival on the Bremerton’s scenic waterfront is always a great way to celebrate food, wine, sunshine and blue skies. Sip wine and savor local restaurants’ culinary skills at this lovely maritime location.

Many Washington wineries and a sprinkling of other areas’ wines are available for tasting and purchasing. The ninth annual Kitsap Wine Festival will be Saturday, August 12 at Harborside Fountain Park.

Tickets start at $50, https://www.kitsapwinefestival.com.

Cheers to our next opportunity to learn more and enjoy more!

Small, artisan winemakers at Taste Washington

Washington has a legion of wineries producing great wine from the approximately 50,000 acres planted to vitis vinifera. Only 20 of these wineries make more than 40,000 cases annually. Small, family producers make up the vast majority of the 900+ wineries.

Considering all the wines at Taste Washington’s Grand Tasting, what were the standouts for me? The three that immediately come to mind: Caideas, Cadence and Terra Blanca. All small artisan wineries.

Cairdeas Winery began making wine from eastern Washington grapes in South Seattle. The family-owned artisan operation then moved to the Lake Chelan AVA, a less hectic environment to raise a family and produce great wine. Charlie and Lacey Lybecker named their winery Cairdeas, which is Irish for friendship and a nod to their Irish heritage. I would like to be their new best friend. You may want to be also.

Their wines are Nellie Mae 2014 Columbia Valley White Rhone (named for his grandmother), Tri Red Yakima Valley 2014 Rhone Blend, and (being Irish and wine lover, I love this) the 2014 Caislen an Papa Meek Vineyard Red Rhone from the Yakima Valley. Caislen an Papa is Irish and, roughly translated, means the same as Chateauneuf du Pape. Chateauneuf du Pape is French for new home of the pope.

History tells us there was this long line of Italian only popes and then in the 13th century, a pope was elected that was not Italian but French! He had this brilliant idea of moving the papal palace to Avignon, the heart of the southern Rhône region. There, a red wine was blended using up to13 different grape varieties, both red and white.

Anyway, back to this Irish take on a red Rhône-like wine with an Irish name that so intrigued me. It’s a blend of 44 percent Grenache, 22 percent Mourvedre, 14 percent Syrah, 13 percent Cinsault and 7 percent Counoise. OK, so not the 13 allowed varieties, but when was the last time you saw Cinsault and Counoise in a Washington wine? Definitely a wine to seek out.

Nellie Mae is a white Rhone blend of 70 percent Viognier and Roussanne with 14 percent alcohol. The nose is fragrant, the flavors are balanced and the finish is long. The 2014 Tri was a blend of Yakima Syrah (64 percent) Mourvedre and Grenache with all kinds of raspberry and earthiness in the nose and on the palate. It was gorgeous.

Next was Cadence Winery and the charming Ben Smith. I love their Red Mountain sourced wines. All of these wines will draw you in, as they drew me in, by their fragrant aromas.

The Cadence Coda made by Smith is a Bordeaux blend-like wine of Cab Franc (46 percent), Merlot (28 percent), Cab (17 percent) and Petite Verdot (9 percent) from the Taptiel and Ciel du Cheval Vineyards on Red Mountain. This full-bodied blend redolent of black fruits and earth is especially nice right now but could use a year of aging to marry the flavors.

The 2014 Camerata is a Bordeaux blend from Smith’s own Cara Mia vineyard on Red Mountain. It’s composed of Cab (40 percent), Merlot (34 percent), Cab Franc (15 percent), and Petite Verdot (2 percent).

Winemaker Smith made me feel very special when he pulled out a Bel Canto from 2002. The grapes came from Taptiel Vineyard and were a blend of 49 percent Cabernet, 34 percent Merlot, 15 percent Cab Franc, and 2 percent Petite Verdot. The wine was beautiful.

In 1992, Keith and ReNae Pilgrim purchased of 300 acres on an arid, treeless slope called Red Mountain.  They  journeyed from California to Washington to build Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyards into one of the most magnificent estates on the mountain and perhaps the whole state.

The winery houses a restaurant and a separate banquet room with view of the estate well-manicured grounds. The gigantic underground cellar keeps the barrels and bottles cool.

At the Taste of Washington, they were pouring the 2013 Estate vineyard ONYX, a Bordeaux blend; the 2013 Signature Series Block B Syrah, also from the estate vineyards; and the Signature Series Estate Vineyards 2012 Titan Red.

The 2013 Signature Series Block B Syrah was gorgeous. Rich and polished, it had black raspberry white pepper and smoky herbs. The complexity of it! Another rich and polished wine is the ONYX, which always lives up to high standards. This dense red has flavors of black cherry, plum and aromatic spices neatly framed by silky tannins that will age beautifully for a few years.

Looking through my notes, I saw a couple more you must check out because they are outstanding, too. New Red Mountain arrival Canvasback is a property of California’s Duckhorn Winery. This 2014 Cab is from Ciel du Cheval Vineyards while they wait for their 20 acres of estate vineyards, planted in 2011, to come to maturity. This wine is a blend of 87 percent Cab, 9 percent Merlot, and a dollop of Cab Franc and Malbec. Get some of this beautiful wine.

At Bartholomew Winery, a Seattle urban winery on Airport Way South, you can taste the unexpected. These unusual wines are made from some rare grape varieties in this state. Their  wines  — Carménère Rosé and Konnowac Vineyard Tannat — are sourced from the Rattlesnake Hills AVA. They also produce a Horse Heaven Hills Primitivo.

Carménère is rarely seen in Bordeaux, where it was born. It’s more likely to be found in Chile where for years, it was mistaken for Merlot.  Tannat is a thick-skinned varietal most famous as the principal grape in a Madiran and now coming into its own again in South America’s Uruguay.  All these wines are deftly made by owner and winemaker Bart Fawbush.

There are more, so many more small, artisan wineries to discover in our state. Cheers to the continued adventure!

Mary Earl has been educating Kitsap wine lovers for a couple of decades, is a longtime member of the West Sound Brew Club and can pair a beer or wine dinner in a flash. She volunteers for the Clear Creek Trail, is a member of the Central Kitsap Community Council and a longtime supporter of Silverdale

My Taste Washington Grand Tasting Picks

Taste Washington is an annual (20 years now!) gathering in Seattle of Washington wineries and restaurants to celebrate wine and food.

Winemakers from all over the world have established vineyards and wineries bringing the total wineries in the state to over 900. The wines they ferment reflect the characteristics of the prized vineyards, some planted over 30 years ago. Taste Washington provides a unique opportunity to taste old favorites and experience the over 100 new one from the past two years.

While planning this year’s list, I was taken by the number of wineries that were small, totally focused and passionate about Washington.

And also struck by the number of winemakers coming from all parts of the wine world.  Drawn by the great fruit, terroir, and potential that these vineyards have. Here are some wineries, most new, that have intrigued me with their offerings and a few that I want to become reacquainted with. I hope I can make it to at least half in the short time there.

Andrew Will and Arbor Crest both old favorites who have been here for quite a while and have great vineyard resources.  AniChe, Archeus, Armstrong, Array, Auclair, Avennia, Baier, Barons, Barrage, Barrel Springs, Bartholomew, Bergdorf, Bontzu, Brady, Burnt Bridge, Bronco, broVo, and Buried Cane are very new to me.

Callan Cellars is a new micro-boutique winery in Woodinville. California’s Duckhorn Winery is synonymous to Merlot magic. They recently bought part of Red Mountain and are producing a Washington wine called Canvasback. Excited to try this one.

Cedar River Cellars is Renton’s own award winning winery with grapes from Burgess Vineyards. Along the Columbia River, Cascade Cliffs  make the best Washington State Barbera.  Co Dinn, Col Solare, a collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Italy’s Antinori, Walla Walla’s College Cellars, Leavenworth’s Eagle Creek Winery and Eight Bells, a small, 2000 case, urban winery in North Seattle are all worth a sip or two. Wineries are popping up everywhere!

For a Song Winery’s Ancient Lakes Chard is intriguing for the terroir. And Yakima’s JB Neufeld produces award winning wines from the DuBrul and Artz vineyards. Karma is making true Méthode Champenoise and Woodinville’s Kevin White produces some amazing Rhone wines. Kitze has an Italian grape variety, Nebbiolo.

Latta Wines has a Roussanne and Grenache made by Sommelier-owner Andrew Latta who spent a few years working at a notable Washington winery. The Grenache, aged for 22 months, is sourced from the Upland Vineyard in the Snipes Mountain AVA. This area was first planted in 1917 by Washington State wine pioneer William B. Bridgman.

Lobo Hills is a small production winery in Seattle . Tony and Diane Dollar will pour their Chenin Blanc and Petite Verdot.

Long Shadows produces a number of wines from Washington grapes. What is unique about this winery is they have renowned winemakers from Germany. Australia, France, California and Italy make the wine.

Memaloose’s  Grace Vineyard Semillon and Dolcetto are just two of the over 20 grape varieties sourced from the five organic estate vineyards on both the Washington and Oregon banks of the Columbia River – in the Columbia Gorge Appellation.

Monte Scarlatto Estate Winery and Vineyards is one of the newest places on Red Mountain. Varietals include Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carménère, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Syrah.

Tiny Mount Si Winery in Snoqualmie makes a Syrah, Cab and Merlot from Wahluke Slope grapes.

When Jerry Riener started the Guardian Winery, he told his friends that he planned to bottle age his red wines at least 12 months before release. They took that comment lightly. Riener has found being patient is a pain, but it sure does create some delicious wines.

Nine Hats is a must, Palouse, Pearl & Stone I vaguely recall and Piccola, Pomum Dondera, Reasons Wine (love the name), Reynvaan, Robert Karl and Rocky Pond’s Lake Chelan Viognier are calling my name.

Sagemoor was planted in 1968. Back then it was all experimental. Nobody knew for sure which grape varietals would grow. Today, over 40 years and 1,100 acres later, Sagemoor has five full-production vineyards supplying grapes to northwest wineries both big and boutique. Those five vineyards are Sagemoor, Bacchus, Dionysus, Weinbau, and Gamache.  Their website is full of wonderful vineyard info.

Secret Squirrel, Snoqualmie’s Sigillo SnoValley White is a blend of Pinot Gris, Chenin and Gewurz, which makes me think of dry white Alsatian blends.  Silvara is a small production winery in Leavenworth with an award winning Malbec.

Seven Falls Wahluke Slope Red, Cab and Chard is on the list because its new and the Wahluke has some great vineyards. Skyfall is new and notable for its under $20 wines, Sol Stone’s Wahluke Slope Weinbau Grenache, Somme des Partues Winery, Sonoris Winery all made the list. As well as South Seattle’s small Structure Winery that uses Wallula Slope, Upland, Destiny Ridge, and Stillwater fruit all great grape places.

Tertulia Cellars produces a Carménère and Tempranillo, these grapes migrated from South America and Spain. Three of Cups Winery has an intriguing Heart of the Hill Petite Sirah, another traveling grape this time from California. Truth Teller has an Elephant Mountain Viognier, Tunnel Hill Winery has a Lake Chelan Pinot Noir, and Two Vintners Boushey Vineyards Grenache Blanc are some of the most unusual wines there.

It is an ambitious plan but I’m willing to swirl, sniff, sip and spit for the experience. Hope to see you there!

Discover the Endless Ways to Taste Washington

Washington is overflowing with incredible wine! You and your best friends can explore each AVA’s wineries, taste culinary treats from great restaurants and meet some hardworking winemakers and farmers – all during Taste Washington’s 20th Anniversary, March 23-26.

For a complete Taste Washington experience, you’ll need four full days to try everything this region has to offer – a mini wine vacation! Tickets are on sale now.  http://tastewashington.org

For reduced ticket prices to the Grand Tasting, volunteer to set up or clean up. Details here:  http://tastewashington.org/volunteers-2017/

 

 

 

The Savvy Taster’s Guide

You can have loads of fun and more importantly, learn a lotwalter clore tasting room at the many tasting events available year round. The more you know, the better choices you’ll make and more fun you’ll have!

Venues for tasting events vary from outdoor promenades to top of the town restaurants. They can be private tasting room intimate or ballroom standing room only.  The choice is yours.

The 6th annual Summer BrewFest on the Bremerton Boardwalk is a fabulous venue. It’s a two day festival this year, July 15 and 16. Tickets are available from the Washington Beer Commission. You will want to be there soaking up the sun, refreshing yourself with a craft brew or two.

The 8th annual Kitsap Wine Festival in August at the Harborside Fountain Park is another gorgeous venue with wonderful Washington wines, cool fountains, sunshine and boats sailing past. Tickets are now available for this event at Kitsap Wine Festival dot com.

One of the many places for a spectacular view while tasting is the top of the Columbia Tower where the women’s restroom was an experience that even the men were dragged in to see. That practice was halted but the view and artwork are still stunning.

My most stunning venue this year, was at the toph3 tres cruces of Horse Heaven Hills, tasting Coyote Canyon Vineyards’ wines with Mike Andrews. The red and white checkered tablecloth was anchored with horse shoes and the mighty Columbia River was in the distance. Wines from these vineyards have garnered many medals and are well worth the search.

Call me Ms. Manners but whether it’s a beer, wine, or even a spirits tasting event, here are a few tips that will ensure everyone’s tasting experience is enlightening and enjoyable.

  1. Let the Only Fragrance be from the Glass.

Aroma is half the pleasure of tasting. It’s the reason all those wine geeks have mastered the art of swirling in order to release the esters and smell the bouquet. If it smells delicious, it’s probably going to taste delicious.

It’s downright annoying when all you can smell is the person next to you. Instead of inhaling the wine’s beautiful fruits or the subtle hop nuances, all you can smell is Eau de Stinkum.

Leave the perfume, cologne, after shave, or scented body lotion in the bottle. Save it for another special occasion. Same for smoking or vaping – anything. Don’t do it before or during a tasting. It messes with everyone’s ability to smell the bouquet.

  1. It’s Perfectly Acceptable to Spit.spit buckets

After swirling, you taste. But if you swallow everything, by the eighth taste your palate is shot. So, if you really want to learn and take advantage of the opportunity, spit. Save the swallowing for the really good ones that have a long finish.

You can actually tell if the wine or beer is of excellent swallowing quality as you roll it around in your mouth, taking in a little air to appreciate all the complexities or lack thereof. You get the essence of it when you hold it in your mouth for ten to fifteen seconds. And then choose to spit or swallow.

All events have spit buckets or if it’s outside, plants that need watering. Spit buckets have evolved over the years. No more ugly splash back when a funnel like contraption tops off the spit bucket. Or you can use a plastic cup as a personal spit bucket. Either way, it’s perfectly acceptable practice.

You can and should dump any remainders in your glass into the spit bucket. It may be difficult after paying all that good money to taste, but remember, you’re on a reconnaissance mission. You’re looking for that perfect brew or wine to grace your table. Finding the region you prefer, or the perfect balance of the hops and malt, that’s your mission, should you accept it.

  1. Ask Questions.

You’re on a mission to learn, right? Reading is the best way but there isn’t enough time at an event and taste too. Asking questions of the people pouring gets you the facts faster. These folks could be the actual brewmaster or winemaker and they’re here to talk about what they love to do. So ask and they will expound away. Take advantage of all that knowledge and make it your goal to learn one fact about each wine or beer you really liked.

  1. You’re Not the Only One There.

For some unfathomable reason, some people park themselves in front of a table while tasting, ignoring the fact there are other tasters waiting behind them. Don’t do that. Ask your question while your beveridge is being poured. What’s in the blend? What are those very aromatic hops I smell? How many times is it distilled?

Then step back to swirl, sniff, sip and spit.

  1. Remember the Ones You Love.

Events usually have tasting sheets listing the brewery or the winery and what they are offering. Take notes of the ones you really liked and find out where you can get them. Ask who distributes them and where they are available in your area. Sometimes you can purchase that day but always find out where you can get your favorites after the event is history.

For imported products, there is always an importer listed on the back label. Make a note of that also. It’s easier to track it down afterwards.

If note taking is not your forte, take a picture of the label with that fancy phone of yours.

  1. Get a Ride.

Be responsible. Arrange for transportation before you start to sip. There’s a lot to take in at these big, sometimes overwhelming events and while you’ve been spitting and pouring out leftovers, be responsible and take a ferry, bus, cab or designated driver.

The beauty of these tasting events is meeting interesting people and learning about great wines or beers. Be safe because the next tasting is this weekend and you need to be there.

Tasting Washington White Wines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wine Tastings this Weekend

There are two wine tasting this weekend on the Kitsap Peninsula.  The Port Gamble General Store is having a wine tasting this Saturday Unknown-1from 4 – 6pm with one of my favorite importers – Small Vineyard Imports. You can taste two whites and three reds and listen to these very knowledgeable guys talk about their wines.  The General Store is also having a holiday sale starting Saturday with 30% off holiday ornaments and other decor.

Eleven Winery is having a 1 day sale on their Angelica today. This port-like wine will be $11 today only.  Great with strong blue-veined cheeses. And on Sunday, from 1 – 5 pm, there’ll be wine and music at the winery, 7671 NE Day Road, Bainbridge Island.

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.