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When it comes to wine, trust your palate

You’ve probably read many times, as I have,  what a wine should taste like from reviews in publications or the back labels.

Descriptive phrases that may include words like full-bodied, tropical, vanilla, buttery, citrus, cherry, brambleberry, spice, cedar, cigar box, tobacco, herbaceous or award winning, 90-some points are helpful but …

Once you absorb these words, it all comes down to your palate. Do the reviews make the wine taste any better? Sometimes yes and sometimes, not so much. Tasting is the true test of a wine’s ability to please you.

Tasting wine gives you a better idea of what grapes, styles and regions you prefer. That’s why it’s important that you get your tickets for the Kitsap Wine Festival on Saturday, August 10th

Bremerton’s Harborside Fountain Park is the sunny setting for this afternoon of sipping wine with friends and family. More than 30 wineries from Washington and Oregon will be pouring tastes of over 100 pretty delightful wines. And to enhance the experience, local restaurants will be whipping up some delectable bites.

The Kitsap Wine Festival began 11 years ago and through the years has benefitted several local nonprofits. This year, it’s the Kitsap Humane Society’s pets. Their cadre’ of volunteers will ensure an extra layer of special to the event. From the welcome to the raffle baskets, golden ticket prize to the retail shop at the end.

So, get online and buy your tickets ASAP at https://kitsapwinefestival.brownpapertickets.com

General admission includes 12 tickets, food samples, and your wine glass. But wait! There’s more! The VIP Experience includes an hour earlier access, 15 drink tickets, delectable bites, 5 raffle tickets, and your wine glass.

Come celebrate with me at the Kitsap Wine Festival! Here’s a few wineries I’m excited to try or revisit.

From the Port Angeles area, Harbinger Winery is an artisan winery with an annual case production hovering around 3000.  They’re bringing their bistro wine series which includes the 2018 Albariño fermented in stainless steel for a crisp, citrusy treat.

The La Petite Fleur is an intensely aromatic Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling blend for a unique summer wine. Dynamo Red is a gold medal winning, velvety layered wine rich with berries and toasty oak.

And happily, my favorite summertime red, the 2013 Barbera which garnered a gold at the International Women’s Wine Competition. Bring on the beefsteak tomatoes!

Also from the Olympic Peninsula is Wind Rose Cellars, a boutique winery in Sequim. During the week, it’s a traditional tasting room. And on Friday and Saturday nights, it’s live music, wine by the glass and light snacks.

Other wineries attending from this area are Eaglemount Winery, Port Townsend Vineyards, Hoodsport Winery and Camaraderie Cellars.

Moving east to the Kitsap Peninsula is Long Road Winery near Belfair. Since they don’t have a tasting room yet, they share their wines at tasting events such as the Kitsap Wine Festival. The same for Seabeck Cellars, no tasting room yet but here’s your opportunity to taste their wines from grapes shipped from eastern Washington and Oregon.

The newest of the new Kitsap Peninsula wineries is Hard Hat Winery in Poulsbo. Established by three veterans last year, here’s the occasion to try their wines while waiting for the tasting room to open.

And speaking of veterans in the wine business, the Winery Alliance of Bainbridge Island will also be there pouring wines from the seven wineries on the “rock” – Amelia Wynn, Bainbridge Vineyards, Eleven, Eagle Harbor, Fletcher Bay, Perennial, Rolling Bay.

Long Cellars in eastern Washington will be pouring their 2018 Lake Chelan Pinot Gris and 2018 Dry Rosé of Pinot Gris. The 2017 Red Wine is a blend of Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet, and a 2017 Cab Franc.

From the Woodinville area be sure to stop by the Adrice Wines booth. The name Adrice is a portmanteau, (a mash-up of 2 words to make a new word) using the last names of the winemaker, Pam Adkins and co-owner Julie Bulrice. I first tasted Adrice Wines at another wine festival and was duly impressed with this craft winery transplanted from Napa Valley in 2015.

And if exploring Washington wineries is on your list, these wineries will also be there:

Davenport Cellars, Eleganté Cellars, Gouger Cellars, Mercer Estates, Michael Florentino Cellars, Monte Scarlatto Winery, Naches Heights Vineyard, Scatter Creek Winery, Silvara Cellars, Simpatico Cellars, Stina’s Cellar, Tanjuli Winery, Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyards and Vino Aquino.

Finally, and most importantly, Raptor Ridge from Newberg, Oregon. Raptor Ridge is celebrating their 25th harvest with a special on their 2015 Brut Rose for $25 on the 25th of each month!

At the Kitsap Wine Festival, they will share the – rare for the Pacific Northwest – Estate Grüner Veltliner. I first had this wine back in 2017 while visiting the Chehalem Mountain wineries. Its balanced fruit, acidity and minerality make this the most food friendly of wines.

Raptor Ridge will also be pouring the 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, a blend of two vineyards, one in the McMinnville AVA and the other in the Eola Amity AVA. Another of their wines I can highly recommend.

Visit the Kitsap Wine Festival site for the latest on who will be pouring and more importantly to buy your tickets. The Kitsap Humane Society and I thank you!

Cheers!

What to Pair with Spring Fare

With Mother’s Day, just around the corner, it’s a signal for party planning time. And not just for Mother’s Day Brunch. There are also Bridal Showers lunches, June graduation bbqs and wedding buffets to celebrate. And the best way to celebrate these special occasions is with food and sparkling wine with family and friends.

A sparkling wine is a great way to kick off a special celebration. Another great way to kick off a special day, like Mother’s Day, is with a Champagne brunch. A punch bowl of sparkling Mimosas or Champagne punch, garnished with fresh fruit is a great accompaniment to those Belgian Waffles or easy cheesy egg casserole.

Since kitchens are a natural gathering place, help making crepes filled with ricotta cheese and sweet sliced strawberries is a good group exercise with just rewards. Having a flute of bubbly sounds like the perfect morning, doesn’t it?

In our large family everyone pitched in to make the meals, especially my dad, who had worked in a bakery and was very good at making bread, coffee cakes and rolls. The first loaf with a stick of butter was always devoured before it even had a chance to cool.

Mom was never seen near the stove after all. She worked full time and she was an excellent list-maker and teacher. She did teach all her children how to make breakfast, lunch, dinner and fudge when we were just knee high to a grasshopper.

The only time she was seen near the stove was on Mother’s Day. This tradition probably stemmed from the massive effort and money to take the family out to brunch.

When they retired, my dad would still do most of the cooking. Mom just loved broccoli salad so she would make that for every special occasion. You could count on it for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and all nine of her children’s birthdays.

I would bring the sparklers for every special occasion, especially a Moscato d’Asti on Mother’s Day. This is one wine that everyone loved with its low alcohol, sweet perfumed fruitiness and balancing acidity. Traditionally produced in the northwest part of Italy, Moscato d’Asti is the Muscat grape from the Asti region. It’s not a full sparkling wine but half sparkling or what the Italians term frizzante.

This wine is now produced around the world and some are made with fruit juices such as pineapple. All are low alcohol, sweet and easy to guzzle.

Spumante is derived from the Italian word spumare which roughly translates to foam, thus a spumante is an Italian way of saying sparkling wine. A Spumante is made from Muscat, Glera, Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grape.

The region that is best known for sparkling wine is in Northeast Italy around the city of Veneto. There they have perfected a Spumante and call it Prosecco. They can be dry or sweet or even semi-dry. Prosecco is an ideal brunch wine, especially when making Bellinis.

Other bubblies to consider for the punch bowl that are the very affordable are Spanish Cavas made from a blend of Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel·lo, the traditional grape varieties.

Cava is produced for the most part in the Penedès, a wine-producing region in northeast Spain with a Denominació d’Origen (DO) designation that signifies quality. The biggest producer is Freixenet, headquartered in Sant Sadurní, Catalonia. It’s the largest producer of sparkling wine in the world. Juame Serra Cristalino and Codorniu are the other two huge sparkling wine producers in the area and also make ideal punch bowl ingredients.

The unusual names for these bottles come from ancient history. They are the kings of Babylon, Israel and Arabia, who presumably had many reasons to celebrate.

For your celebrations big and small, here is a rough guide for how much, depending on how many.

Split (1/4 bottle): 187ml or 6.5 oz.; 1 person, 1 glass

Half (1/2 bottle): 375ml or 13 oz.; 2 people, 1 glass

Fifth: 750 ml or 26.25 oz.; 4 people, 1 glass

Magnum (2 bottles): 1500ml or 52.5 oz.; 8 people, 1 glass

Jeroboam (4 bottles): 3000ml or 105 oz.; 4 people, 1 bottle

Rehoboam (6 bottles): 4500ml or 157 oz., 12 people, 2 glasses

Methuselah (8 bottles): 6000ml or 210 oz.; 18 people, 2.5 glasses

Salmanazar (12 bottles): 9000ml or a case; 12 people, 1 bottle

Balthazar (16 bottles): 12 L or a case + 3.3; 20 people, 4 glasses

Nebuchadnezzar (20 bottles): 15 L or a case + 6.6; 20 people, 1 bottle

Solomon (24 bottles): 18 L or 2 cases; The party bottle

Cheers to Mothers, congratulations to graduates and happy nuptials. Best wishes to all!

How to Read a Wine Label

Wine or beer labels are artfully designed to draw your attention with some eye catching colors or dog profiles. But if you read beyond the pretty pictures, you may learn a little about the wine or a beer in your hand.

Labels, both beer and wine, are federally required by the Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) to have detailed information regarding the contents of the bottle, such as the name and location of the producer, sulfite info, the grape or red or white or rose, volume, where and possibly when the grapes are harvested and alcohol percentage.

All this writing and what’s not there on the label tells a story about that beverage. The following may help you interpret that information.

The name of the producer and where its located is required. Location tells a story, too.  A winery may have many different labels but the town where the fermentation vats are remains the same. For instance, if it’s from Paterson, Washington, you can rest assured Washington’s founding winery, Chateau Ste Michelle, is involved; if it’s from Modesto,California,  it’s part of the Gallo empire. You may also find a California producer using grapes from Washington or Oregon.

The type or style of wine and where it’s harvested is required. In the New World, grape names, where they’re grown and possibly a vintage are on the label. In the Old World, regional names grace the label. There are a few exceptions, Alsace, Germany and Piedmont are examples of Old World wines that have grape and place names on the label.

The TTB’s rules about what grape gets to be on the label are very specific. In the U.S., if at least 75% of one varietal grape is used, (85% in Oregon), then a winery can put the grape name on the label. If less than the required amount, it will probably say Red Blend or Rose or White Wine. It could read “Meritage”, which is only a blend of specific white or red grapes used in Bordeaux, France.

Where a grape is grown is important information. Generally, the more specific the geography on the label the better the pedigree. For instance, on rare occasions, you may see American or a specific state on the label. California means it’s grown in California. American on the label is required when grapes come from two non-contiguous states, such as Washington and California.

The more geography on a label, the better the wine. Regional, AVA and vineyard names on the label pinpoint specific and sometimes exclusive areas where superior grapes have been grown. For example, Brune et Blonde Côte-Rôtie in the Rhone, Tokolon Vineyard (first planted in 1868) in Napa or Walla Walla.

The alcohol content is required. What the alcohol content will tell you if you have a sweet wine or a dry wine in your hand. That’s because during fermentation, the yeast eats up the grape sugars and belches out alcohol. The more sugars that are consumed, the more alcohol in your beverage. Dry wines range from 11.5% to about 16ish. Much depends on the grape used – some are fruiter than others. Zinfandel would be an example of a wine that could be in the 15% range and not be very dry.

Sulfites are naturally occurring in all fruit wines. If a wine contains more than 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur dioxide, TTB requires ‘contains sulfites’ on the label. If the sulfites are lower than 10 ppm, a winery is allowed to put ‘no added sulfites’ on the label.

Back labels, beyond what producers think you should be smelling and tasting, could have useful information about the wine. Some information is required and some just darned interesting.

The Chehalem Willamette Valley 3 Vineyard 2016 Pinot Gris tells you that the Pinot Gris is from three vineyards in the Willamette Valley. Check out the back label, you’ll learn the grapes were harvested beginning August 30th and ended September 19th. Residual Sugar (R.S.) 0.8% (dry wine), and acidity (pH) 3.21 (crisp).

A bottle of Greystone 2014 California Petite Sirah caught my attention when I read Greystone and Petite Sirah. Petite Sirah could easily be my favorite grape and Christian Brothers’ Greystone Winery was the first winery I ever visited.

The back label said “cellared and bottled by Greystone Cellars.” Notice they didn’t say “produced by” only bottled and cellared. My guess is the wine was fermented elsewhere and Greystone Cellars bought it, bottled and cellared it.

Greystone is this massive building in Napa built by a business man to house the Christian Brothers winery and to store wines from other wineries. When it was built in 1889, it was the largest stone winery in the world. Its cavernous tunnels held 3 million gallons of aging wine. Today, the Culinary Institute of America owns the building and the name. Pretty impressive pedigree.

Canned Oregon White Bubbles hails from Dayton, Oregon the heart of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. In this AVA are heavy weights as Ken Wright Cellars Lemelson Vineyards, Carlton Cellars, Soter Vineyards, Elk Cove Vineyards and Tendril Wine Cellars.

The label is sparse on information but the label did say “produced and canned” which I found amusing. I was really impressed with this wine that I confess I drank from the can even though I told you to pour it in a glass. Hey, what can I say, I was on a wine adventure.

Harvest is Over, Time for Celebrations

Harvest is over. Crush is complete. Punch-downs and pressings are nearly finished. The wines from the 2018 vintage are fermenting awaiting the next stage. The year’s busiest shift for a winemaker and his crew is winding down. With the intense harvest season in the rear view mirror, now’s the perfect time to celebrate!

Harvest wine tours abound this month. Each region has their own special way of celebrating. Here’s a list of regions to visit and wines to taste. Most events take place in the next few weeks, just in time for you to try something special and snag it for Thanksgiving dinner.

The Harvest Wine and Cider Tour on the Olympic Peninsula is self-guided with small batch and award winning wineries and cideries from Chimacum to Port Angeles. These small craft wineries and cideries will throw open their doors and welcome you and your friends on November 10th and 11th.

At Harbinger Winery on the far side of Port Angeles, they are serving up a palatial tour of northwest bounty with award winning wines paired with slow cooked pot roast with root vegetables, apple and chevre bites, and a wild mushroom and sausage quiche. I envision lounging on the couch sipping great wines and enjoying the repast. One of my favorites is their Barbera, a wonderful wine that is crisp and perfect with a bowl of hearty stew. Their Bolero is a blend of two prolific Spanish grapes, Tempranillo and Garnacha aged in Hungarian and American oak.

Finnriver Farm and Cidery makes all kinds of great ciders from traditional cider apples from their 50 acre Chimacum Valley farm. Last spring, I was invited to Finnriver for lunch (catered by the Port Hadlock Inn) and a property tour as part of the Taste Washington on the Farm event. I was greatly impressed with this sustainable operation with many partners. This is so worth the visit, if you’re interested in traditional cider apple varieties, lambs, geese, herb farming, restoring a salmon creek or incredibly delicious ciders. At the event and most weekends, you can taste a slice of wood fired pizza hot off the Dented Buoy oven made with local seasonal ingredients.

Nestled in the woods by Port Angeles, Camaraderie Cellars will be serving up the newly released 2015 Sangiovese and 2014 Merlot paired with the Turkey Pumpkin Chili and pheasant sausage. This Award winning winery is all about big reds made for the dinner table.

Tickets for this Tour are available at Brown Paper Tickets and will get you a free tasting at each of the wineries, a commemorative wine glass and perhaps a bottle or two to grace the Thanksgiving table?

Bainbridge Island’s annual Wine on the Rock presents a Wine & Charcuterie Weekend on November 10 and 11th, just in time for your Thanksgiving Dinner menu planning.  Bainbridge Island winemakers will be on hand babysitting fermentations, pouring or just greeting their visitors.

This is a marvelous opportunity to meet with the winemakers, from 12-5pm on both Saturday & Sunday. Tickets are valid for both days (one visit at each winery) and includes the usual event wine glass, wine tasting at each winery, charcuterie to complement the wine tasting, and a four bottle wine tote.

The transportation options are numerous, buses and ferries, Uber and Lyft and the downright cool

Note: Amelia Wynn Winery will not be open for this event. Instead, their downtown Winslow Way tasting room will be open to taste and buy their fabulous wines.

From Friday, November 9 through Sunday, November 11th, a fabulous wine tasting takes place in and around Prosser in the Yakima Valley. The Drink Prosser Wine Club Experience is a wonderful opportunity for wine club members of participating wineries to be a guest member of other participating Prosser wineries. Grab your pass from your “home winery” and enjoy member benefits throughout town. And if you’re not a participating Prosser winery club member, you can still purchase a pass and be a Prosser Winery member for a day!

In Walla Walla, you can wander in the footsteps of winemakers, eating lunch at their favorite places, taste their wines and visit their favorite watering holes. Each weekend through December 16th has amazing itineraries to follow: Holly Turner at Three Rivers Winery, Jean-Francois Pellet at Pepper Bridge and Amavi Cellars, Cody Janett at Forgeron Cellars, or Ashly Trout, philanthropist, founder and winemaker at Brook & Bull Cellars and Vital Wine. There’s more to check out, winemakers, itineraries and other fun activities at Wander Walla Walla

These itineraries are free, self-guided and pay-as-you-go experiences. When you register for free, you do get perks at the winery of the weekend. Such as waived tasting fees and 10% off a purchase of two bottles or more.

There are also many regions that traditionally host Thanksgiving in the Wine Country. More on that and what wines work best with that traditional turkey dinner next time. Cheers!

Spanish Wine Adventures

This hot, dry weather of recent weeks is not nearly as hot and dry as what a Spanish grape vine survives in.

The Spanish wine industry has more acreage under vine than any other country in the world. And yet it’s not the largest producer of wine. The reason for this is that most of the country is dry and hot. Irrigation was not permitted until recently so most of the vines planted are eight feet apart – in all directions!

Spanish grapes are very different. With over 400 native varieties, you wouldn’t find until recently, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, or Cabernet. Instead you’ll find white grapes such as Albariño, Verdejo, Viura, Palomino, Xarel-lo, Parallada and Macabeo.

Red grapes are a bit more familiar. Widely planted are Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache). Tempranillo by other names can be found in bottles of Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Toro. Garnacha is the main grape of Campo de Borja and Priorat regions, to name a few.

Indigenous grapes Cariñena, Godello, Graciano, Mencia, Loureira, and Treixadura, Monastrell and Bobal have significant plantings, and produce rosé and red wines. The main grapes for sherry production are Palomino and Pedro Ximénez or PX for short.

Much like the rest of Europe, you’ll find place names (Rioja, Campo de Borja, Ribera del Duero, Rias Baixas, Rueda) on the labels and more recently grape names, (Albariño, Garnacha, Tempranillo) too. In Spain, there are 69 major wine regions with either a Denominación de Origen (DO) classification or a Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOC) Classification.

Denominación de Origen is a governmental regulation used to designate quality wines. About two thirds of the vineyards are classified as DO. DOC is a step above the DO level. Rioja, Spain’s flagship red, was the first region permitted this designation in 1991. Twelve years later, the only other one, Priorat received its DOC.

The Blind Wine Tasters gathered recently to delve  into Spanish food and wine. Tasked with bringing a bottle of wine and tapas for ten, tasters sampled whites and reds, with the Machego cheese, Marconi almonds, Manzanilla olives and fresh made ceviche tapas. And with the most Spanish of dishes, paella, more reds were poured.

We started with Sherry. Sherry styles ranges from very dry to very sweet and there are dozens in between. It’s a fortified wine, from cooler regions due to the nearby ocean. The Barbadillo Sanlúcar de Barrameda (place name) D.O. Manzanilla (style) is a very pale, dry wine made from the white Palomino grape. Sanlúcar is on the estuary and the cool temperatures and high humidity are perfect for developing flor, an essential yeast for sherry. It provides a blanketing cap on the fermenting wine.

Around the same area but further inland is Mantilla-Morales, home of Fino Sherry. Finos are also pale and dry. The Don Benigno Fino and the Barbadillo Manzanilla are great tapas wines and a bargain to boot.

Cava is the name for Spain’s sparkling wine. 95% of Spanish cavas are produced in the Penedes. The two major producers are Cordoniu and Freixnet. There are plenty of smaller producers, one of which I can highly recommend: La Granja Cava Brut is made with 70% Xarel-lo and 30% Parellada. And it’s highly aromatic and delicious.

For the whites, we tasted an Albariño and Verdejo de Rueda. The Albariño outshone the Verdejo. In hindsight, I should have served the Verdejo first. It was on the drier side with more minerality. The Albariño was fragrant, juicy and a crowd favorite.

Marqués de Cáceres is a producer from the Rioja and Rueda regions. Their Verdejo de Rueda took some time to open up but once it did it was fragrant with floral, minerals and citrus. The grapes, like many in this hot country are picked at night when it’s cooler and spontaneous fermentation is less likely to occur in the vineyards.

The Albariño, was a Spanish grape but I kind of threw a curve ball to the blind tasters. I had tasted this wine last spring and loved it. Amelia Wynn’s 2017 Crawford Vineyard Albariño is stunning. Very fragrant, juicy and so well balanced.

Red wines from Spain may have a designation on the label that tells you how much aging the wine has received. The three most common and regulated terms are Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.

Crianzas are aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak. Reservas, 3 years with at least 1 year in oak and Gran Reservas, at least 5 years of aging with 18 months on oak and a minimum of 3 years in the bottle. These wines can be exceptional bargains if you’re looking for a wine with age.

The Cortijo Rioja Crianza 2016 is one of the best. A pre-fermentation cold soak boosts the wine’s aromas, color and flavors. After fermentation, half the wine spends three months in 3-year-old barrels and the other half in stainless steel tanks. This regiment produces a wine with softer tannins and better balance that highlights fruit and downplays the oak. The wine is redolent of red fruits and crushed herbs with smooth tannins and a wonderful juiciness.

Also from the Tempranillo grape, Tierra Aranda from the Ribera del Duero.  Harvested by hand from a rocky hillside, it’s fermented in concrete and goes through malolactic fermentation. But it’ll take a few years for this monster with hints of cherry peeking through the tannins to calm down.

The fragrant Lo Nuevo Garnacha Sorbo a Sorbo 2014 from Calatayud had flavors of raspberries and minerals. Sorbo a Sorbo translates to Sip Sip which is good advice. The finish was a bit tannic but was tamed by the paella.

The hands down favorite red of the afternoon was the San Gregorio Calatayud Garnacha. San Gregario was established in 1965 in the DO of Calatayud. Garnacha is the main grape of Calatayud with many plantings over 50 years old. Those old vines get to put “Old Vines” on their labels. Many wines are head pruned and not irrigated. This recipe for low production results in intensely flavored wines.

I’ve enjoyed this session on Spanish wines. It made me forget about the heat for a bit. Salud!

Good Canned Wines

Every Memorial Day weekend, my beer buddy, Alan, has a family get together. Moms and dads, aunts and uncles, and all manner of cousins eat, drink and catch up on the past year. They also have a themed wine tasting. One year it’s Zinfandel, the next it’s Pinot Grigio. It’s the call of that year’s Wine Wrangler.

This year, Alan asked if there were any good canned wines. Yep, this year’s theme is canned wines. And that is an interesting question. Are there any good canned wines?

I had to take a day or two to think on that. And then I recalled: Yes! I had had a canned sparkling wine some years ago. It was pretty good. In fact, it had garnered quite a few awards over the years.

It had to have been 15 or so years ago that I first Sofia Blanc de Blancs comes in an attractive pink hexagontasted Coppolas’s Sofia sparkling from a can. It came in an attractive pink hexagon box with four 187ml cans in it – and four straws. I eschewed the straw and reached for a more traditional glass flute. The effervescent Sofia Blanc de Blancs is a blend of mostly Pinot Blanc with a bit of Riesling and Muscat.

With a little online research, I found that wine in a can was a real novelty 18 years ago. And it’s remarkable how much that part of the wine industry has grown. It’s not just sparkling wines anymore, now it’s still wines that are canned. A handful of wine producers are beginning to see a profitable niche for cans in the marketplace.

According to the latest Nielsen data, in 2016 canned wine sales grew to $14.5 million, up from $6.4 million the previous year. That’s a healthy growth spurt that wineries are paying attention to.

So, what’s good out there?

1. Joe to Go

Well, my first recommendation would be Joe to Go from Oregon’s star winemaker, Joe Dobbes, who recently retired from the helm of Dobbes Family Winery and Wine by Joe. He turned over the reins to a hard-working millennial, Chief Executive Officer Gretchen Boock. She was one of Dobbes’ first hires when he opened his winery in 2002.

Dobbes began his career in Oregon some 30 years ago, beginning at Willamette Valley Vineyards and then launching his own eponymous brand some years later. Wine by Joe was later launched — in 750ml bottles — for a more affordable everyday type of wine.

The Wine by Joe brand recently entered the canned wine market with Joe to Go Rosé and Pinot Gris. With many accolades over the years, including Wine Business Monthly’s #1 Hot Small Brand of 2011, this would be my pick for the can of wine competition.

2. Underwood   

Union Wine Co., in Tualatin, Oregon, pioneered canned wine in the Northwest with its Underwood brand. It is the largest by far, producing over 4 million cans in 2017. Its mission is to produce affordable Oregon wines that are approachable and ready-to-travel anywhere.

The Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Rosé and a white blend of Riesling and Gewurztraminer dubbed Get it Girl are sold as four-packs (equal to 2 bottles) or flats (24 cans — equivalent to one case of wine). All flats automatically receive 10 percent discount when purchased online.

3. House Wine

Seattle’s Precept Wine produces canned wine – around 4.8 million cans a year. House Wine was created with the goal of bringing good affordable wine to the picnic table. With over 30 “best buy” recommendations, and varietals such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir plus a Rosé with grapes sourced around the world, this could be your everyday house wine contender.

The canned wine trend is growing. When you’re out in the garden, out on the boat, or hiking up to Lower Lena, a can may be the best way to go. Cans are better in bottle-unfriendly venues like concerts, theaters and picnics at the beach. Cans are discreet when you need to be. But I highly recommend you to forget the straw and bring a cup of some sort. It’s impossible to smell the aroma from a can. And isn’t that half of a wine’s charm?

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.

Taste Washington Musings

Taste Washington is a wonderful opportunity taste many wines and to talk with industry leaders, winemakers, cider makers, and reflect on our state’s agricultural culture.

While waiting for the doors to open, I passed the time with fellow standees, Dick Boushey and Sommelier Christopher Chan. Topics ranged from the World Vinifera Conference, to Riesling’s fate in Washington and the 1980s era Langguth Winery.

Dick Boushey had a cherry and apple orchard before planting his first vines in 1980, four years before Washington’s first American Viticultural Appellation. The vineyards, planted to Cab and Merlot, were in a cool part of the Yakima Valley, a different climate than the warmer Red Mountain to the east and Wahluke Slope to the north.

Recognized today as one of the top 10 vineyards in the state, Boushey grapes are prized by Betz Family Winery, Bunnell Family Cellar, Chateau Ste Michelle, Cairdeas Winery, Callan Cellars, Chinook Wines, DeLille Cellars, Fidelitas Wines, Forgeron Cellars, Gorman Winery, Hawkins Cellars, K vintners, McCrea Cellars, Three Rivers Winery, Ross Andrew Winery, W.T. Vintners, Willow Wine Cellars and Long Shadows. Most of these wineries were pouring at Taste Washington’s Grand Tasting.

Another Taste Washington event was an opportunity to visit small, unique farms for a tour of the operations and to enjoy a specially prepared farm to table luncheon.

Delightful wines and ciders, fresh local ingredients and a dose of down-on-the-farm adventure began in Chimacum at the crossroad of Center Road and Chimacum. You can’t miss it. Finnriver Orchard, Tasting and Cider Garden has a 10-acre orchard, a tasting room and Cider Garden right beside the fire station.

This 40-acre plot of land is protected by the Jefferson Land Trust and cared for by the Finnriver crew. Finnriver is certified salmon safe and committed to pursuing sustainable land stewardship through organic agriculture, farmland preservation, habitat restoration, and community outreach.

The original farm is a secluded 80-acre organic farm and orchard about three miles from the crossroad. Organic apples are sourced from these orchards of over 500 trees, with 20 varieties of heirloom and traditional cider apple varieties and across the state.

Other specialists cultivating this farm are The Organic Seed Alliance with a couple of greenhouses and Friends of the Trees in their second year cultivating an herb garden with over 100 species.

Chimacum Creek runs alongside the property and its stewardship group, North Olympic Salmon Coalition is also a big part of stream restoration. This former floodplain and meandering creeks have been altered into agricultural land. Chimacum Creek, much like Clear Creek before the restoration, is constrained into agricultural dikes, meaning they have lost their original meandering.

Despite the blustery day, many of us took the option of tasting Finn River ciders while touring the farm with Cameron, the orchard wizard and Andrew, the production manager.

The orchard is planted in rows according to when bud break occurs, early varieties together, followed by mid-season and then late varieties. This facilitates the honey bees which can then pollinate one area before buzzing off to the next. Other orchard allies include a flock of geese whose job is to weed up and down the rows and with the sheep, keep the grass in “putting green shape.”

In the orchard with the geese honking at the intruders and Nulla, 6-day old lamb to cuddle, we tasted the Golden Russet cider and Black Oak cider. This beautiful rose hued cider gets its color from the addition of black currants. It was aged in oak barrels for a lively, complex and colorful handcrafted cider.

After explaining the complexities of cider apple varieties, the benefits of russets and keeping an orchard, our hosts led us back to the warm Cider Garden for a repast prepared by Chef Dan Rattigan and crew of the Fireside Restaurant at the Resort at Port Ludlow.

We tasted the Finn River artisan sparkling cider with appetizers of SpringRain Farms deviled duck eggs with crispy leeks, Finnriver quinoa cakes with Chimacum Valley tomme and roasted red pepper remoulade.

We slurped a creamy foraged mushroom bisque with melted Red Dog Farm leeks and crème fraiche, accompanied by Waterbrook’s Rose of Sangiovese and Bledsoe Family’s Healy Rose, both from the 2017 vintage.

The main course was a cedar planked Neah Bay Spring King salmon on a bed of Spring Rain kale, purple broccoli and Dharma Ridge Farm Yukon golds all splashed with a roasted shallot vinaigrette.

Paired with this delicious dish was Doubleback’s Red Blend, an everyday red wine in a square shaped bottle with a flip-top – Italian style. We were also treated to Waterbrook’s 2015 Reserve Merlot, a rich wine with good structure and luscious black fruits.

Desert was downright splendid. A cider poached pear with a Mystery Bay goat cheese mousse sitting on Finnriver blueberry compote and paired with Finnriver’s Pommeau, a fortified apple wine that was better than any apple brandy I’ve ever tasted.

With all this freshness within reach, it’s no wonder that Washington has a fabulous farm-to-table dining scene. This amazing adventure illuminated people’s passions for their chosen work from the orchardist to the production manager to the winemakers, the chef and the folks who attended us with impeccable service. I raise my glass to you all. Cheers to you!

While researching this article, I ran across some very interesting facts. If you’re farming in Washington, you’re blessed with one of the most productive growing regions in the nation. In fact, Washington is #1 in the nation’s raspberry production (producing 92.3%), hops (79.2%), spearmint oil (78.7%), cherries (58.6%), apples (57.4%), pears (47.9%), grapes (37.3%), carrots (35.6%), peas (32.4%) and sweet corn (29.7%). We have the #2 spot in asparagus (28.6%), potatoes (22.7%) and onion (21.2%) production. Percentages are for 2016.

Taste Washington Today through Sunday

This annual festival celebrates its 21st year with exceptional wine and winemakers, national and local chef tastings and new adventures. Visit Seattle, Washington State Wine and hundreds of wineries, restaurants and related exhibitors from throughout Washington State will be on hand for this premier wine and food festival .

 

Taste Washington on the Farm (March 23)10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Seattle Region

Three unique lunch excursions join together local farmers, Washington State winemakers and Seattle celebrity chefs. This year’s featured chefs and locations are Chef Kyle Peterson at the Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle, Chef Tad Mitsui and Chef Zoi Antonitsas at Heyday Farm on Bainbridge Island, and Chef Dan Ratigan at Finnriver Farm & Cidery in Chimacum on the Olympic Peninsula (Finnriver SOLD OUT).

The New Vintage (March 23) 7 to 10 p.m., Fisher Pavilion (New Location)

Entering its fourth year, The New Vintage is Taste Washington’s most buzzed-about evening event. Hosted at a new location, Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center, it’s also bigger than ever before. Featuring its first-ever live performance by Los Angeles-based synth pop duo Man Made Time, the event also showcases more than 50 wineries, 10 national and regional chefs, and the highly anticipated new release rosés from 20 coveted wineries.

 

Seminars (March 24 and 25) 10:30 a.m. to noon, Four Seasons Hotel Seattle

Taste Washington seminars feature renowned national experts leading in-depth explorations of Washington State wine. This year’s seminars include Spotlight: Celilo Vineyard; A Rhone of our Own?; Single Vineyard Syrahs of Washington; Beyond the Mystique: A Look at the Science of Washington Wine; Washington vs. the World: Old World, New World, Our World; Blind Tasting Bootcamp (SOLD OUT); and Through the Hourglass: An Exploration of Rare and Aged Washington Wines (SOLD OUT).

Grand Tasting (March 24 and 25) 1 to 5:30 p.m. (Hours vary), CenturyLink Field Event Center

The 21st annual Taste Washington Grand Tasting features more than 225 Washington State wineries pouring their favorite wines and more than 65 Northwest restaurants serving specially-prepared bites throughout two days. General Admission tickets are still available. While Saturday and Sunday VIP tickets are sold out, Sunday VIP tickets are still available by purchasing our new Sunday Brunch + Sunday VIP Grand Tasting ticket bundle. Celebrity chef schedules for both the Alaska Mileage Plan Chef’s Stage and the Albert Lee Culinary Experience mobile kitchen are below.

Sunday Brunch (March 25) 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Quality Athletics

Join us before the Grand Tasting on Sunday to see what happens when music and food collide. Our three celebrities (Chef Daniel Cox, Quality Athletics; Chef Josh Henderson, Huxley Wallace Collective; and Kris Orlowski, Seattle-based singer/songwriter) will collaborate on a menu and a playlist – served up with Grey Goose Bloody Marys and St~Germain Mimosas.

 

About Taste Washington:

Taste Washington is the largest single-region wine and food event in the United States, featuring more than 225 Washington State wineries and more than 65 Pacific Northwest restaurants. The 21st annual event will be held on March 22-25, 2018 at various locations in Seattle. The 2018 Taste Washington welcoming sponsor is Alaska Mileage Plan, the premier sponsors are Albert Lee Appliance, Fire & Vine Hospitality, Seattle Met, Lexus, and Total Wine & More. Taste Washington attracts more than 6,400 wine and food enthusiasts to the Seattle area. The Washington State Wine Commission launched Taste Washington in 1998 and it is now produced by Visit Seattle. For more information, visit

 

www.tastewashington.org.

What I’ve been Drinking on my Summer Vacation

If my dining table could tell the tales about the many bottles it held this summer, it would go something like this: I’ve been holding on to these for a good reason, a virtual share with snippets of their storied past and what may pair well with them.

Knudsen Vineyards has had a long and award winning history. Lunch at RN76 hosted by the Knudsens introduced their second generation mission. Oregon wine pioneer, Cal Knudsen and family actually grew up in the Seattle area. Knudsen, a timber company exec, found his little slice of Burgundy in the Hills of Dundee. The family spent their summers planting and working their vineyards. In the early 70s, it was the largest vineyard in Willamette Valley at 30 acres.

Host second generation David Knudsen also happens to be President and CEO of Ostrom Mushroom Farms. So, naturally mushrooms permeated each course. There was a Mushroom Consommé en Croute accompanied by the 2014 and 2015 Chardonnay.

An Arctic Char Mi-Cuit (mee coo ee), which is a fun French way of saying pretty pink in the middle, was presented on a bed of mushroom ragout. Waiting on the wing were three glasses of Pinot Noir, the 2014, 2015 and the Estate Reserve 2015. My favorite was the 2014 for its maturity, complexity and accessibility. The 2015s were great also, they just needed more ageing.

In 1972, California’s Central Coast also had a pioneer planting vineyards. Raised on a South Dakota farm, Jerry Lohr found his way to Monterey County and planted over the years his 280 acres in the Arroyo Seco appellation.

Kristen Barnhisel is the white winemaker for J. Lohr Estates. Dinner with fresh fish dishes at Matt’s in the Market was a sumptuous meal. We tasted the Arroyo Seco Sauvignon Blanc, 2015 Riverstone and October Night Chardonnays and a 2014 Late Harvest White Riesling. It was a delightful time.

Williams Selyem was the original garagiste wine. Begun as a hobby in a garage in 1979, they rose to cult status after competing with 2,136 other wines to win the California State Fair’s Sweepstakes Prize for their 1987 Rochioli Vineyard Pinot Noir.

While talking about California wines, my friend Lindsey and I sat down one evening and savored the William Selyem 2001 South Coast Coastlands Vineyard Pinot Noir. This time we just wanted to highlight the matured wine so the nosh was crusty bread and Gruyere. The dark ruby red wine had a slight brick rim, a sign of maturity. Aromas of raspberries and tea leaves opened to juicy acidity and a weighty mouthfeel of raspberries. The lengthy finish was impressive.

Last year’s winecation included travels around Yakima and Red Mountain where I chose a few favorites and finally popped the corks this summer.

Powers Columbia Valley Malbec is from another wine pioneer. For over 30 years, Bill Powers has grown some of the finest wine grapes. Powers and son Greg planted their Badger Mountain Vineyard in 1982. The 80-acre estate transitioned to organic viticulture and in 1990, Badger Mountain Vineyard became Washington’s first Certified Organic vineyard.

Upon receiving the Washington Association of Grape Growers Lifetime Achievement Award, Bill Powers divulged, “I am the luckiest guy in the world because I get up, walk out the door and get to do what I love every day.”

With aromas of pomegranates, plums and a touch of minerality, this wine has depth and complexity. Flavors of anise, plum and minerality with a rich mouthfeel made this 2014 Columbia Valley Malbec a great match with the grilled ribs and corn on the cob on the deck overlooking the Canal with Alan, Vic and Linda.

In 1994, the Mike Andrews planted his first 20-acre plot of Cabernet Sauvignon grape vines in the middle of the family property on Horse Heaven Hills. The plot grew over the years, edging out wheat, watermelons, and corn. What started as a World War II bomb-testing area has now grown to over 1100 acres of vineyards which have produced more than 25 internationally awarded wines.

Another BBQ, this time with old friends Andy and Michele to share a gold medal winning wine. The Coyote Canyon Winery 2013 Tempranillo and dollop of Graciano grapes are sourced from H3. This well-balanced wine had a nose that drew you in. Leather, spice, and cherries mingled together. It was fantastic with the pulled pork sandwiches.

Visiting from Chicago, my longtime friend Ann and I had dinner at Place Pigale. It was a lovely celebration that kicked off with Treveri Blanc de Noir. This 100% Pinot Noir has hints of strawberries with crisp acidity that paired perfectly with the signature mussel appetizer.

For the main course, we were torn between the salmon special and the scallops on a bed of Belgian endive doused with orange vinaigrette. So we did the sensible thing and ordered both and shared. Both were delightful with the Gran Moraine Yamhill-Carlton 2013 Pinot Noir. Produced in the Burgundian tradition, it did take a bit of swirling to get it to open up. And when it did, it was heaven.

Ann and I also enjoyed NXNW Winery Columbia Valley Rose’ with a smoked salmon spread with a touch of Tabasco. The wine is a blend of seven varietals with a hint of sweetness that paired nicely with the little kick in the smoked salmon. NXNW Winery is part of King Estate Winery, a well-known Oregon winery. They began producing affordable Washington wines in 2005.

And finally, my first foray into canned wine! Yep, my friend Catie thought it would be a hilarious hostess gift when she came for dinner. We thought it was a decent quaff and a must for hiking in the mountains with requisite rations of salami, bread and cheese. Although there’s something a little unsettling opening a wine and it sounds more like a cold beer. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Irish Stew with Wine

Faith and begorrah, why is it that Saint Patrick’s Day is the most celebrated national festival in the world?

Did you know more than 13 million pints of Guinness guzzled on that day?  The 258 year-old brew is a favorite with corned beef and cabbage or Irish Stew.

Beer and Whiskey are more common quaffs on this day. But those industrious Irish monks were planting vineyards and making wine in the 5th century out of neccesity. They needed wine to celebrate mass.

Centuries later, skirmishes with England sent Irish wine makers off to France where you’ll find chateaux named Langoa Barton, Lawton,  Phelan Segur, Lynch Bages, and Kirwan.

In California, one famous winery’s Petite Sirah cuttings have been grafted onto rootstock up and down the state. Thank you, James Concannon.
Here on the Kitsap Peninsula, you can enjoy Irish Stew and wine at Fletcher Bay Winery on St. Patrick’s Day from