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Refreshing, Unusual Summer Whites

Technically, it’s not summer yet but it sure feels like it!  With these hot, sunny days, firing up the stove is just not in the cards. Salad or grilling are the best supper choices. Nothing to heavy, just something light and refreshing. Right?wineblog

This same tendency also applies to your wine choices. While I do prefer to open a full-bodied red wine with dinner, lately crisp, refreshing whites and rosés are chilling up in the fridge.

Here are some wines thoughts for the lighter meals during these hot summer days. There are certain characteristics to look for in a wine when the weather is hot. Lighter cuisine, cold plates and salads are not the perfect match for a heavy red. Instead, look for a wine that can be chilled to enhance its crispness. And because summer fare tends to be dressed with vinegar rather than a sauce, look for wines with medium high to high acid.

The perfect summer whites are not heavy, oaky or full-bodied. Save those wines for heartier fare. Lower alcohol wines are also better, because the heat emphasizes the alcohol.

Patio and picnic fare are more casual so no need to serve anything with complexity or age with crystal and china. Buy a few perfect summer whites that will delight family and friends whether sipped on its own or with savory food from a paper plate.

Summer meals are, for the most part, easy to prepare and quick too! Firing up the barbie is a no brainer when it comes to cooking on hot evenings. Grilling vegetables, seafood, and chicken brings a different dimension to the flavors. Salads can be tricky when pairing with wine because most of the vinegar-based salad dressings require a wine with some degree of acidity.

The Rule of Wine dictates high acid vinegars pair best with high-acid sparkling wines, crisp, dry roses or high acid white wines with no oak. Adding other components like salty olives, spicy nuts or strong cheeses helps to neutralize some of the vinegar’s acidity.

But there are other ways around this acid problem. Vinaigrettes that use the low acid sushi vinegar and or citrus juice instead of or in addition to vinegar have lower acidity and therefore are easier to match with wine. A creamy dressing made with cheese, sour cream or mayo allows a wider range of wines that may not have the high acidity or perhaps a touch of oak. The cream and oil naturally tame the oak in a wine.

There are certain unusual grape varieties and wine regions that I think of during the hot weather, like Greece, Spain and Italy. These countries have been making wine to go with summer fare for a couple hundred decades and why let all that experience go unheeded? Why not venture out into the region of unpronounceable white grapes?

Greek wines have the most underrated and unpronounceable wines on the planet. For fans of lively whites, Greek whites offer amazing quality for very reasonable prices. The Assyrtiko (ah-sir-tee-ko) grape is a minerally, bone-dry, citrus-edged white that is best with fruits of the sea. Calamari, oysters and grilled fish on a bed of greens would be perfect. Athiri (ah-thee-ree) has aromas and flavors of stone fruits like peaches and nectarines. A lovely match with a fruit salad. And the Peloponnesian white, Moscofilero (mos-ko-fi-ler-oh) with its tangerine flavors and floral nose is my pick for grilled fish or a goat cheese salad. I’ll always fondly remember the Greek wine of my youth, Roditis (ro-dee-tis). This light-bodied, pink-skinned grape produces crisp whites and rosés that use to come in squat stone bottles. A Greek salad of olives, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and feta is the way to go here.

Spain’s Albariño from Rías Baixas, is a steely, floral white that goes well with seafood, from shrimp cocktail to grilled trout. Verdejo, with the crisp minerality and citrus tang from the cold, high plains of Rueda, north of Madrid, would pair well with a crab salad or paella. The Parellada grape is crisp and citrusy; Garnacha Blanca, with its herbal qualities, are blended into the white Vina Sol of Bodegas Torres in Catalunya, outside Barcelona. This inexpensive, versatile wine pairs well with clams casino, jamon and lentil salad or gazpacho.

Cavas are sparkling wines from northeast Spain. They are a blend of lemony Macabeo (mac a bay o), Paralleda (par a yay da), and floral Xarel-lo (zar el lo) grapes. These cavas are some of the best matches with grilled vegetable and seafood salads.

The sheer volume of Italy’s wine landscape, its humongous array of native grape varieties and confusion caused by similar producer names, region names and grapes that have two or three or four names depending on the region all require a bottle of wine and a conversation to sort out.

Beyond Pinot Grigio, Italy isn’t well known for its white wines. But I’m here to tell you about a few other grape varieties such as Verdicchio (ver dee kio), Vermentino, Cortese (Cor tay say), and Falanghina (fal an gee na).

Falanghina produces nuanced, delicious wines with lemon and other spritzy citrus flavors. This is a medium-bodied wine with a fresh, clean, dry taste, good acidity and a long, floral finish. It goes well with appetizers and salads. Try it with grilled shrimp and polenta, it’s excellent.

Vermentino is grown in Sardinia, the Tuscan coast and the Ligurian coast, all areas close to the sea. So it’s ideal for seafood. Vermentino is fresh and fragrant with aromas of flowers, lemons and almonds and shines with grilled pizza pescatore.

Greco di Tufo is pale gold in color with aromas of apple and pear. It is fruity and flavorful but balanced with good acidity. This wine pairs well with grilled shrimp, red onion and zucchini skewers or chicken with capers.

Prosecco is just plain fun to drink. This light, refreshing bubbly (called frizzante in Italian) from the Veneto region is a staple at luncheons, as an aperitivo and at most celebrations. It is a real crowd pleaser with Asian noodle salad with spicy peanut sauce.

It’s looks to be a long hot summer and as you can read plenty of white wines to chill and refresh.

The Cider Renaissance

Cider, or hard cider as it is known in the US, has become the fastest growing alcoholic cider_largebeverage in the country with stunning double-digit growth. And Washington State, the major producer of apples in the United States, is at the forefront of this movement.

This is a renaissance for cider. Way before wine grapes were planted at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, apples were bearing fruit for America’s drink of choice, produced by everyday citizens as well as on the estates of our Founding Fathers. Apples were a huge staple then and cider was served throughout the day. Cider was doing just fine up until Prohibition. It never recovered. Until now.

Last month the legislature passed a law that allows the fast-growing cider industry to collect its own assessment from cideries in Washington.

So, just like the Washington wine and beer industries, the Northwest Cider Association will have funds to market and educate people about the booming cider industry. Previously, the cider industry was part of the Washington Wine Commission. The commission collected an 8 cent-per-gallon assessment to be used for marketing wine and cider.

Launched in 2010, the Northwest Cider Association has over 60 members from Washington, Oregon, Montana and British Columbia, with more than half in Washington. In the past, cider has been confusing, is it wine or beer? This piece of legislation defines it as its own.

Even so, some wineries and some breweries make a cider in addition to their regular products. Eaglemount Winery and Cidery in Port Townsend is a perfect example. They make award winning wines and ciders. Recently, they garnered a Gold Medal from the Seattle Wine Awards for their cider.

The larger beer companies, with profits suffering from loss of market share to craft brewers, have bought cideries. For instance, Boston Beer Company, a pioneer of the craft beer movement, bought Angry Orchard in 2013.  And the first major new brand in eight years for Anheuser-Busch is Johnny Appleseed Ciders launched last summer.

There is a lot of diverse styles of hard cider available. Small local producers and the big beer conglomerates approach production differently and there’s variation from region to region.

Just to give you an idea of the different styles, categories for the 2014 Pacific Northwest Cider Awards include modern dry, modern sweet, new world dry, new world sweet, old world, wild ferment, wood aged, fruit/spice/herb infused, hopped and specialty.

Cider, also called hard cider in the US, is a fermented from the juice of apples and many other fruits. In the US, there is a 50% minimum of apples in the cider compared to France where it must be made only from apples. Alcohol content also varies widely from 1.2% ABV to 8.5%. If a cider has an alcohol content greater than 10%, it is automatically classified as a wine.

Heirloom apples, of which there are many, are prized for the amount of juice and the higher acidity they have. The juice of any variety of apple can be used in cider making, but particular cultivars grown for cider making are known as cider apples.

The best way to learn more about cider is to taste it at a cider tasting. The Pacific Northwest Cider Awards is the perfect opportunity to do this at their annual cider competition and tasting event on Saturday, June 6th.

With more than 40 cideries participating and 30+ ciders on tap, this event will highlight some of the amazing ciders produced throughout the great Pacific Northwest and offers the opportunity to explore the exciting new ciders and cider makers.

Tickets are available online through Brown Paper Tickets for $20, or $25 at the door. Each ticket receives tokens for eight 5-ounce pours, with additional tokens available for purchase. For more information, visit www.pnwca.com.

And if you’re already booked that weekend, Cider Summit NW Festival celebrates its 5th Anniversary Friday, June 19th and Saturday, June 20th at The Fields Neighborhood Park in Portland. This year’s event will feature over 150 ciders from producers around the world including regional favorites and international classics.

Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 (cash only) at the door and are available online from Stranger Tickets.  More info at NorthwestCiderAssociation.com

Taste Washington Recap

Taste Washington is very much like the wine industryTasteWaWineMonth_RedPlaid_300x165 tastings put on by distributors to sell what they had in their “book.” Only this one is open to the public. It’s a great way to learn about your wine likes and dislikes. What pairs well with your favorite wines and what does not. This huge gathering of Washington winemakers – 225 – with at least three wines each was a perfect opportunity to taste, munch and learn.

In addition, there were the vineyard booths that offered tastes of many different wines from that particular vineyard or AVA. For instance, one wine area I’m the least familiar with is Lake Chelan. I spent some time in Lake Chelan and didn’t spend a dime on gas! Lake Chelan is in Cascade Valley Wine Country that also includes Leavenworth and Wenatchee. There are 43 wineries there, and the corner booth offered an array of whites on ice and as many reds.

My plan was sketched out on the ferry ride over and the list was long. I didn‘t get to even half the wines on my list, granted it was ambitious, but did get to quite a few not on the list. Mostly because of the uncrowded white station in back of the Taylor Shellfish oyster bar where hundreds of whites from all over Washington were on ice.

One of my all time favorite oyster wines is Chinook’s Sauvignon Blanc. Kay Simon and Clay Mackey have been part of the Washington wine industry since 1983. Always perfectly balanced, their 100% Sauvignon Blanc from 2013 is a blend of five different clones of this varietal.

Chelan’s Cairdeas Winery’s white Rhône blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussane, and Marsanne  dry was crisp, fragrant and a perfect contrast to the El Gaucho’s fabulous seafood chowder served up at the oyster bar. The Buty 2013 Sémillon was popular and going fast. This is a traditional Bordeaux blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle was really enjoyable with the oysters. Isabelle Elizabeth Sauvignon Blanc was another perfect match.

One Wine Inc (they actually make three) out of Chelan makes One White that’s a nice blend of Pinot Gris with a small dose of Viognier. Other Viognier’s offered, tasted and recommended are Chateau Faire la Pont, William Church 2013 and Force Majeure 2013. Chateau Faire le Pont in Wenatchee won a unanimous double gold and four golds at the North Central WA Wine Awards in 2013 for their other Rhone varietal, Mourvedre.

Another unusual white grape variety that was extracted from obscurity around 1986 is the Albariño grape. Prized for its distinctive aroma, much like Viognier or Gewurztraminer, this grape is all peaches and apricots with a wonderful crispness. It’s indigenous to Spain, specifically the Rías Baixas DO region. But if that proves too hard to find, I encourage you to look for Palencia, Coyote Canyon or Crayelle 2013 Ancient Lakes Albariño. These are really great wines from Washington.

The Kyra Chenin Blanc may have been my favorite white of the day, possibly because it was sourced from the old vineyards of Harold Pleasant and Cave B.  It has perfect balance, sweet but not too and a long lingering finish. Jemil’s Big Easy served up Jambalaya with a blackened chicken skewer – this was a spicy hot taste quenched by the cold sweetness of the Chenin.

Other delicious whites were Henry Earl (no relation, but I’ll not forget the name) Estate Riesling 2013, Gamache 2013 Riesling with 3.5% RS and the classic Long Shadows Poets Leap Riesling. The Poets Leap with Poquito’s razor clam cerviche with lime, Serrano and red onion was a perfect pairing.

Mellisoni 2013 blend of Gewürz and Riesling at 13% was sweet but the balancing acidity made it a great wine. Purple Café’s shrimp salad gourgere with a lemon cayenne aioli was the match there.  C.R. Sandridge makes a very dry and spicy Gewürz. This would be a great march with cerviche or even the spicy Asian cuisine. Eagle Creek 2013 Gewürz was sweeter and very fragrant.

One other obscure grape I found was the delightful Uplands Aligoté. I paired it with Yard House Restaurant’s seared Ahi with a soy vinaigrette. It was heaven.

I may have tried a rose or two but it was definitely red wine time at the half.  Having run out of time and space here, the marvelous reds tasted will have to be in the next edition. You can read  all about the reds on the Cheers to You blog.

18th Annual Taste Washington This Weekend

The 18th annual Taste Washington features more TasteWaWineMonth_RedPlaid_300x165than 225 Washington wineries pouring Washington grown wines and more than 65 Northwest restaurants serving – if anything like last year – delectable bites. The Grand Tasting wraps up Washington Wine Month. It is both Saturday and Sunday afternoon at Century Link Event Center.

 

Getting through 225 wineries, each pouring at least two of their wines is an impossible task. One must be very choosy and do a lot of spitting in order to learn about new vintages, wineries and growers. And have a well thought out plan.

The best strategy is to headimages to the Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar where there are hundreds of whites and a ton of oysters on the half shell. Tasting oysters and the many Washington whites available at the oyster bar is an excellent way to begin.

Next pop on down to the designated Vineyard Tasting Sections. This is an great way to learn about the growing end of the wine industry. The tastings here will feature growers pouring wines made from their grapes by wineries across the state, teaching you how important the vineyard’s place is in the winemaking process.

Then it’s on to the reds and delicious bites. Just to get your mouth watering, from the Purple Cafe’s Shrimp Salad Gougère, assorted artisinal cheeses from Cheeseland, Assagio’s Gnocchi with Wild Boar Ragu, Gorgonzola Meatballs from Cafe Veloce, Manhattan Seattle’s Lamb Belly Rillete, and Poquito’s Razor Clam Serviche although not with red wine. Perhaps with a rosé from Hamilton Cellars, Martinez & Martinez or Red Sky Winery.

The Alaska Airlines Chef’s Stage has local and national chefs cooking live on-site during the Grand Tasting. There’s Marco Canora of Hearth, Brodo and Fifty Paces in NYC’s East Village; Chef Peter Serrano of Muckleshoot Casino; Chef Steve Cain of El Gaucho  and Michael Kelley of Anheuser-Busch; Chef John Tesar of Knife in Dallas; Chef Gavin Stephenson of The Georgian at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel; and Josh Reynolds of Bluebird Microcreamery. It’s on the big screen too so you can catch it while tasting at nearby wineries.

Tickets and much more info is available at this link: http://tastewashington.org/2015-program/

Celebrating Washington Wine Month

The annual celebration of Washington’s $1 billion wine industryTasteWaWineMonth_RedPlaid_300x165 and the wines that put Washington on the world wine map is going on this month.  So, what’s to celebrate you ask?  Why do so many wine aficionados flock to wine country, producing $1.06 billion in revenue?

Well, for one we rank nationally as the 2nd largest premium wine producer in the United States with over 850 wineries, many who have taken home gold, silver and bronze medals nationally and internationally.

To date, we have thirteen American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), approved by the Alcohol & Tobacco Taxes & Trade Bureau.  AVAs are distinct areas where grapes are grown not necessarily where a winery is located.

The first Washington AVA, Yakima Valley, was created in 1983, followed swiftly by Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley in 1984. I say swiftly because it would be another eleven years before a fourth was named and that was, drum roll please … Puget Sound in 1995, which includes the entire Puget Sound area from the Canadian border to just south of Olympia.

In 2001, came the powerful Red Mountain. Columbia Gorge was named three years later and Horse Heaven Hills in 2005. The Wahluke Slope where some of the oldest vineyards are planted was singled out in 2006. Other small but significant AVAs recently named are Rattlesnake Hills, 2006; Snipes Mountain and  Lake Chelan 2009; Naches Heights, 2011 and Ancient Lakes in 2012.

There are over 40 different varietals produced.  The top white varietals are Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris or Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Semillon and Chenin Blanc, the grape that made Vouvray famous.

Leading red varietals are Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Cab Franc, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Lemberger.

With over 50,000+ acres of wine grapes planted, Washington State produced almost 12.5 million cases of delicious wine in 2014 from the largest harvest so far – 227,000 tons of vinifera grapes.

This is a great time to take advantage of the many specials offered by retailer, wineries, and restaurants. And don’t forget, the culmination of Washington Wine Month is Taste Washington – happening over four days, March 26th – 29th, 2015.

This gourmet experience begins with a Red & White Party, where magnums of Washington wine will be served with an arm long list of appetizers.  An excursion to meet the producers at a new Taste Washington on the Farm and celebrate with The New Vintage Friday are a couple of other opportunities to taste the over 4,000 wines produced in Washington. Saturday and Sunday both have some interesting and Educational Seminars before the Grand Tasting. Tickets are available at tastewashington.org

Established 1995, the Puget Sound AVA has about 69 acres planted to vinifera grapes with about 45 wineries located within the greater Puget Sound region not all produce wines from this AVA. Only about a dozen actually produce wines from grapes grown in this AVA.

The Puget Sound AVA’s climate is a cooler maritime viticulture region.  Some of the wine grape varieties grown include Pinot Noir, Madeleine Angevine, Müller Thurgau, Siegerrebe, Chasselas, Island Belle and the only Melon de Bourgogne in Washington State. This grape is also known as Muscadet and is the perfect wine to pair with oysters.

One local winery, Mosquito Fleet, located in Belfair is celebrating their Grand Release Event this weekend. On Saturday, March 14th and Sunday the 15th from noon ‘til 6:00pm, you can enjoy delicious appetizers and tastes of their newly released 2012 vintage. You can taste fruit sourced from some of the finest vineyards in eastern Washington State for their Bordeaux and Rhone blends and also a Port from the traditional Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz grapes. Hope to see you there!

It’s a Red Wine & Chocolate Weekend!

This sweet weekend is a favorite of many Washington State Wineries – Valentine’s Day and a long weekend. And it’s a great weekend for the many Chocolatiers too!

Everyone knows red wine and chocolate are good for you. Dark choc heartchocolate contains healthy fats, mostly monounsaturated and saturated fat, with very little polyunsaturated fat. Dark chocolate also contains lots of polyphenols. When it comes to polyphenol antioxidants, cacao is up there with pomegranates, cranberries, blueberries and red wine. It’s a healthy weekend too!

On the Kitsap Peninsula, wineries on Bainbridge are open for touring this weekend. They have partnered with some of the region’s premier chocolatiers to offer you delectable tastes of chocolate to go with their wines. Regular tasting fees apply but there are no additional fees for chocolate tasting.

At Amelia Wynn try mini chocolate éclairs with their fabulous wines. Locally-made chocolate truffles infused with raspberry wine plus other savory bites will be featured at Bainbridge Vineyards. Eleven Winery has chocolate wine fudge from local maker Bon Bon, chocolate-covered wine grapes, and special samples from Chuao. Chocolatier Keith Jackson will be at Perennial Vintners passing out chocolates from Yukon Jackson’s Chocolates. Rolling Bay Winery will pair their reds with Fremont’s Theo Chocolate.

Yakima Valley is inviting wine and chocolate enthusiasts to its annual Red Wine & Chocolate event this weekend. As the oldest wine region in Washington State, wineries from Yakima, Zillah, Prosser and Red Mountain will be offering a weekend of divine decadence. Premier Pass holders experience a variety of specialty pairings, library tastings, and tours not available to the public. Here are a few that sounded absolutely wonderful:

Antolin Winery will have chocolate cups and wine to taste from and eat. An idea that Reidel has thought of yet!

Gilbert Cellars: Local patisserie Crème will be preparing three special wine-inspired chocolate temptations to pair with three of our favorite reds.

Horizon’s Edge Winery will be releasing a new Devil’s Canyon red blend and finally, after many of you have been patiently waiting for, our new Raspberry Riesling.

 

Kana Winery will be featuring decadent delights paired with our award winning red wines.

Knight Hill Winery: We are offering mole and small Tamales in the Tasting Room with Tamales to purchase and take away!

Lookout Point Winery will have a Chocolate Fountain with fresh fruits as well as handmade Truffles, Mini Macaroons, and savory Pear & Brie Tartlets. Our weekend flight includes five of our award winning vintages that include three Malbecs, a Grenache, and our Tableau blend.

Maison de Padgett Winery has their traditional chocolate fountain to enjoy. A newly released Unzipped Sangiovese and limited McHargue Malbec Port are on tap.

Paradisos del Sol Winery is offering a nine-course winemaker’s dinner for 2015 Red Wine & Chocolate. Nothing elaborate, just nine tiny bites of food — five include chocolate, four savory, two sweet — to pair with nine wines. Sip, Bite, Sip, Sip!

Portteus Winery will featuring Chef Greg Masset’s famous fudge brownies alongside an extensive lineup of knockout reds such as Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Zinfandel. YUM!

Reflection Vineyards will showcase the 2012 release of Reserve Cabernet as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and Melange, and a Bordeaux blend. To pair with the wines, Allison’s famous Kahlua Espresso Brownies.

Severino Cellars family recipe of Dark Chocolate Fudge will be available for sampling with the newly released 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red and 2010 Merlot.

Tanjuli Winery’s 2013 Estate Orange Muscat will compliment the array of domestic and imported chocolate treats. Don’t miss this rare treat.

Treveri Sparkling Cellars will have some beautifully handcrafted truffles to taste with their wide array of sparkling wines.

Two Mountain Winery: Don’t miss this hot spot! Be the first to taste the limited production 2011 Touriga National Port paired with Port infused brownies!

Wineglass Cellars has a Decadent Double Dark Chocolate Brownie made by Imogene’s of Yakima which will pair deliciously with the 2004 Port.

You can also go west for a Red Wine and Chocolate Tour of the Olympic Peninsula wineries and cideries. They will pair new releases and decadent chocolate delights. Enjoy a tour through the scenic towns of Chimacum, Nordland, Port Townsend, Sequim and Port Angeles where nine artisan wineries including Camaraderie Cellars, Eaglemount Wine & Cider, FairWinds Winery, Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Harbinger Winery, Lullaby Winery, Marrowstone Vineyards, Olympic Cellars, and Wind Rose Cellars will welcome you.

Your ticket gets you a special commemorative wine glass, complimentary wine tasting and chocolate samples at nine OPW Wineries. Tickets are available online. Any remaining tickets will be sold for $30 at participating wineries during the Red Wine and Chocolate Tour. Visit www.olympicpeninsulawineries.org for further information.

Next month is the Taste Washington, the nation’s largest single-region wine and food event. Taste Washington brings together over 225 wineries, 70 restaurants and 60 culinary exhibitors from across the region for the ultimate four-day experience.

Taste Washington will celebrate its 18th year, March 26-29, 2015. Mark your calendar!

Valentine’s Dinner – Beer or Wine?

A white-clothed table set with gleaming china and the crystal shining in the candle light; all that’s left is to cue some romantic music and cook up something wonderful.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, what better way to show your sweetie your love and appreciation than a multicourse meal with thoughtful pairings? Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year; so if you haven’t already made those reservations, this could be the answer.

A romantic repast should always start with the sound of a cork popping on a bottle of bubbly. Pour two flutes, make a toast and let the fun begin.

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with chocolate? One memorable Valentine’s Day, we hosted a wonderful chococentric dinner.  Each course had some chocolate somewhere in the recipe. Each course was paired with beer, but what we have below is my thoughts for a wine match. And so here you have it: a he-said-she-said kind of romantic dinner.boillet

THE APPETIZER COURSE
Ancho-spiced Cocoa Meatballs
Chocolate Malt Pretzels with Apricot Mustard
Beer: Sam Adams Chocolate Bock and Lindeman’s Kriek
Wine: from Ste. Michelle Sparkling Rosé Brut and from France, Bouilloit Cremant Rosé.

Both wines are non-vintage and both are fermented in the traditional manner, both are made with red grapes — Pinot Noir — and one has 7% of Pinot Noir’s obscure cousin Pinot Meunier. The latter grape is rarely seen outside of France. All the best houses in Champagne make their top rosés this way. Both are sophisticated sparkling rosés, with essences of berries in the nose and on the palate. Both are dry and full bodied and under $15.

THE FISH COURSE
Lobster, Shrimp & White Chocolate Ravioli
Beer: Hair of the Dog Cherry Adam From The Wood
Wine: That was a nice pairing, however, an Argyle Brut Rosé would cream the opposition.

THE MEAT COURSE
Flank Steak with a Chocolate Coffee Butter Sauce
Beer: Kona Pipeline Porter – This was a great match, really aligned well. and the thick rich body was a perfect pair with the steak.
Wine:  However, a Washington Syrah say, from Sparkman Cellars, would be spectacular match to this easy, unusual and delicious course. Sparkman Cellars 2012 Ruckus Syrah is loaded with the delicious Red Mountain Syrah that is co-fermented in the traditional manner of Rhone with a bit of Viognier. The flavors of white pepper, dark chocolate, Chinese five spice, and black fruits would align beautifully with this dish.

THE SALAD COURSE
Pear Salad with Vanilla Vinaigrette & Chocolate Nibs and Rodenbach Grand Cru Dressingroden
Beer: Rodenbach Grand Cru is a blend of 1/3 young beer and 2/3 aged 2 years in large oak vats. The oak matured beer contributes to its complexity and intensity. The finish is worthy of a great wine.
Wine: Even staying with the beer salad dressing on the salad, another Crémant, this time from the Alsace, would be my choice. Trimbach Pinot Blanc would be perfect with this dish. Maison Trimbach began in 1626 when Jean Trimbach settled in Riquewihr, France, and established the family wine trade. He was appointed Gourmet of Hunawihr, a prestigious position designed to protect the quality of wine exports. 98% of Alsatian wines are white. This one is a gorgeous pale gold, elegant with minerals, white flowers and citrus flavors and aromas.

THE DESSERT COURSE
Chocolate Torte drizzled with Sam Adams Triple Bock Reduction
Beer: Samichlaus, which means “Santa Claus” in Swiss German, is brewed on December 6th. This beer was once the world’s strongest beer and aging it enhanced its complexities.
Wine: Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui is another unusual grape with intense raspberry aromas and flavors and low alcohol. A unique red semi-sparkling wine with aromatics of rose petals and raspberries, Rosa Regale is one vivacious and festive wine. Few wines truly pair this well with chocolate. The Brachetto d’Acqui (bra ketto da kee) is a red Italian grape that is classified as a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (controlled designation of origin guaranteed). It is produced in the Piedmont wine region near the province of Asti. Try it, you’ll love it!

Wishing you the happiest Valentine’s Day. The recipes for any or all of these dishes can be had by simply emailing your desires to Cheerstoyoukitsap@gmail.com.

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.

Washington Wine Harvest 2014

Washington wine makers are up to their ears in grapes right now.  grapes in a tubWith all those hot summer days we had, some vineyard sites and grape varieties are running ahead of the usual schedule.  Many Washington vineyards began harvesting at the end of August in what is expected to be yet another record-breaking wine grape harvest,

Crop estimates put this year’s wine grapes at more than 230,000 tons, according to the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers. Last year, Washington farmers picked 210,000 tons of wine grapes. In 2012, the harvest was 188,000 tons.

What’s turning into the second bumper crop in a row has led to flurries of activities in Washington’s wineries. It’s a logistical scramble for many of the state’s wineries; handling all of this bounty takes preparation.

The reason for this is there are only so many wine holding vessels that can fit into the state’s smaller wineries. In those wineries are the barrels, tanks, fermenters and all the other accoutrements for the winemaker. In order to make room for the harvest, everything is shifted into the next phase. Barrels are emptied into bottles, tanks into barrels and fermenters into tanks.

Once that is accomplished, wineries have room for the next gondola of grapes being harvested and tons of tubs ready for delivery.

Most vineyards are machine harvested. Sturdier red grapes and Riesling tend to work better with machine harvest because the clusters hold together. It takes a crew of two to three people an hour to pick an acre with a harvester. White grapes are usually harvested late at night or early in the mornings when it is still cool and the more resilient red grapes during the day.

Some winemakers prefer hand-picked grapes which is more costly. Using a knife to cut the stem of each cluster, it would take 12 to 18 pickers to harvest an acre of grapes in that hour. But the bulk of Washington’s wine crop is picked by machine because of a shortage of pickers.

As the weather cools, grapes mature more slowly, giving them more “hang time,” this allows winemakers to make room in the fermenters. This works well as long as it doesn’t rain. Depending on when the rains come, harvesting and fermenting will likely continue through the end of October.

You can Catch the Crush in Yakima Valley on October 11th and 12th.  This well-known event celebrates the harvest with wine tastings and releases, grape stomps, crush activities, tours, hors d’oeuvres and live music. Forty-two wineries are each holding harvest parties during the weekend. Premier passes are available online for $30. wineyakimavalley.org

When you go to wine country this time of year, here’s a primer so you understand what the heck they’re talking about.

Crush – a whirlwind season of activity in the wineries at harvest time.

Barrel – made of oak and holds 60 – 100 gallons

Bottle shock – after bottling, the dumb condition of the wine from the filtering and bottling machines.

Botrytis Cinerea – beneficial mold that forms on the skins of ripe grapes that eventually concentrates sugars and flavors.

Brix – a measurement of the sugars; winemakers measure at harvest to determine maturity.

Cap – the “crust” that forms on the top of the fermenting wine.

Cuvaison – juice and skins are fermented longer for color and additional tannins.

Cuvee – a blend of different grapes or different harvests or different vineyards.

Estate Grown – must be within 50 miles of the winery.

Fermenter – great big plastic tubs that hold a lot of crushed grapes that ferment away.

Fining – filters stuff out of the wine before bottling.

Must – freshly pressed juice that has skins, seeds, and stems.

Ph – the acids in a wine. In the life of a grape, it’s very high at the start and lowers as the sugars grow.

Press – a wooden barrel shaped vat with a funnel like bottom where the must is pressed and the juice is then pumped into the fermenters.

Punch down – During fermentation, winemakers will punch down the cap twice a day to give the wine more color and flavor

Sur –lie – Tricky practice of leaving the spent yeast cells in the fermenter. Gives the wine another dimension.

Topping – Oak barrels allow a wine to evaporate, concentrating the flavors. Air, however, is detrimental to wine so barrels are topped up to eliminate the air in a barrel.

Verjus – high acid wine made from unripe grapes, usually used in cooking.

Wine thief – a long tube used to extract wine from the barrels.

Kitsap Wine Festival is Tomorrow

Tickets are still available for the sixth annual Kitsap Wine Festival at Harborside Fountain Park.  This is a great afternoon event with plenty of sunshine, breezes off the water and catching up with friends. Proceeds go to the Harrison Hospital Foundation. You can purchase online at brownpapertickets.com

This year’s wineries are Chandler Reach, Convergent Zone, Davenport, Elegante, Kana, Laurelhurst, Long Road, Madsen, Maryhill, Mosquito Fleet  NVH, Page Cellars, Stina’s Cellar, Stottle, Terra Blanca, and Waterbrook.

The place to go for the seafood bites is the popular Summer Sipper Bar where guests can sample Rieslings, rosés and sparkling wines side-by-side from many of the participating wineries.

My favorite past time at events like this is to find the perfect wine for the delicious savories served up by Anthony’s, Bay Street Bistro, Boatshed, Bremerton Bar and Grill, CJ’s Evergreen Catering, Gold Mountain, Kitsap Conference Center, Minder Meats and Toro Lounge.

So slather on the sunscreen and pop on down to the Harborside Fountain Park tomorrow at 2:00p.m. Hope to see you there!