Category Archives: Washington Wines

Fifty Shades of Beige on a Red Mountain

Some names for eastern Washington vineyards, AVAs and mountains are derived from Red Mountainanimals — such as Ciel du Cheval (French for horse heaven), Horse Heaven Hills, Badger Mountain and Rattlesnake Hills. Native American names like Yakima, Naches, Tapteil, and Wahluke are also found on the vineyards and AVAs. Some vineyards are named for early wine pioneers like Mercer, Sagemoor, Weinbau, Dionysus and Bacchus.

So how the heck did Red Mountain get its name? Year-round, there are at least 50 shades of beige on the mountains in and around Columbia Valley.

But then I’ve never been there in April, when the spring cheatgrass turns the mountain dark red — except for the green patches under vine.

The Red Mountain AVA is the smallest AVA at 4,040 acres with just over half planted to Cabernet, Merlot, Sangiovese, Cab Franc, Syrah, Carménère and the newest darling, Malbec.

There is still a smattering of white grapes, most notably Kiona’s old vine Chenin Blanc, with some Semillon, Marsanne, Viognier and Chardonnay. Cooler climate grapes are planted in the nooks and crevices of the hills where shade provides relief from the sun for part of the day.

All that sunshine makes Red Mountain the hottest AVA in Washington State; both in heat units and because some of the 52 vineyards have contributed beautiful bunches of grapes to internationally acclaimed wines.

What makes this AVA so hot, hot, hot? The climate. The soil composition. The great viticulturists formerly known as farmers.

Being hot and windy is an asset, creating an unfriendly environment for mold and mildew. The soil is high in calcium carbonate and low in pH, which along with its granular consistency, promotes well-established root systems.

The predominant soil types are windblown and include the Warden, Hezel and Scootenay. These types of soils are a combination of sand, silt and loam — a proper mix for exceptional vitis vinifera.

And who’s making those internationally acclaimed wines, you may well ask?

Well, it all began in the mid-70s, when some of us were still kiona lem 1987sporting bell bottoms and dancing to the Bee Gees. Kiona’s John Williams and Jim Holmes planted the first vines on the south side of Sunset Road. Fortunately, some of those same vines are still in production.

Later, Blackwood Canyon, Hedges Cellars, Oakwood Cellars, Seth Ryan, and Terra Bianca began planting. At the time, Red Mountain was in the Yakima Valley AVA, which is in the really big Columbia Valley AVA. Being defined by something that huge didn’t quite give Red Mountain its due. The long crusade for a Red Mountain AVA began and was finally granted in 2001.

Today, a row of Red Mountain grapes from Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, Kiona, Blackwood Canyon, Obelisco, or Tapteil Vineyards is in high demand. There are even wineries that produce wine from Red Mountain fruit in their Walla Walla wineries.

Knowing a good thing when they saw it, California’s Duckhorn, Chateau Ste Michelle and Tuscan giant Antinori invested tidy sums to purchase land, plant vineyards and build wineries.

The Vancouver Canucks owners decided to make their first spectacular foray into the wine industry a couple of years back when they bought a chunk of parcels (518 acres with water rights) for $8.3 million.

Red Mountain’s Bordeaux varietals are rich, colorful, powerful and known for incredible balance with intense black fruit flavors, minerality and good structure. The widely planted Cabernet clone #8 produces a wine similar to Bordeaux with concentrated fruit, fine-grained tannins and a lovely mineral quality.

Malbec, Merlot, Syrah and Carménère are also red hot commodities on Red Mountain. Carménère and Malbec have fallen out of favor in Bordeaux but are lighting up the scoreboard when grown on Red Mountain.cooper wines

Cooper Wine Company has 41 acres on the corner of Sunset and Hwy 224. Eight of those acres are planted to Carménère and they have produced a wine called Vinizio that includes all six of the Bordeaux grapes. Neil Cooper explained the chocolate aromas and flavors come from the calcium carbonate in the soil of the Scootney Flats.

Frichette Winery is the newest boutique winery on the mountain. The owners, Greg and frichetteShea Frichette, changed careers and relocated to Red Mountain to be closer to family.  As with most Red Mountain wineries, its portfolio is chalk full of Cabernet, Merlot and a Malbec that stains your glass purple, with blackberry pie aromas and flavors of blackberry and cocoa with a touch of minerality.

Fidelitas has a great deck to sit, sip wine and watch the vineyards grow. Owner winemaker fedelitasCharlie Hoppes, a much-sought-after consulting winemaker, just completed his 28th vintage of Washington wines. His 12 acres are planted to Bordeaux varietals. The 2013 Malbec is another with very dense color, aromatic with black fruits and spice. It’s a wonderful medium-bodied wine to enjoy on the deck with a wedge of aged Gouda and some crusty bread.

Hamilton Cellars is another boutique winery halfway up Sunset Road. hamilton cellarsStacy and Russ Hamilton have 10 acres, with 9 ½ planted three years ago under the supervision of veteran Dick Boushey. They also have veteran Charlie Hoppes as their winemaker. Their 2012 Red Mountain Malbec is from the Scootney Vineyards while waiting for their vines to mature. This Malbec has cocoa and black cherry flavors; a dense, glass-staining color and soft tannins.

Premium land, ideal growing conditions, talented farmers and skilled management are qualities that make Red Mountain fruit highly prized by the likes of Quilceda Creek (the highly awarded Washington winery that sources Red Mountain). Upchurch Cab,  Andrew Will and Long Shadows Pedestal have also scored high 90s using Red Mountain fruit.

Another rare and outstanding wine, Kiona Estate 2014 Chenin Blanc Ice Wine, scored 93 points from an AVA not known for whites.

For more information for your next wine country get-a-way, Visit Tri-Cities ( can handle your needs.  red mountin trails N4867And for a designated driver, let me recommend something slow, easy and lots of fun: Red Mountain Trails for a horse-drawn wagon ride through the vineyards to the next tasting room. Treat yourself; it’s really a unique way to go.

Red Mountain Wine and Jazz Festival

The 2nd Annual Wine & Jazz Festival livens up the riverfront campus of WSU Tri-Cities  on Saturday, June 25, 2016 beginning at 6:00p.m.   Auction of Washington Wines is partnering with Washington State University Tri-Cities to present the Wine & Jazz Festival featuring live entertainment, heavy appetizers and tastings from 25 Washington wineries. Proceeds support the WSU Viticulture & Enology Program. Here’s the skinny.

Wine & Jazz Lover – $85.00
All-inclusive wine and food tasting throughout the evening.

Jazz Lover
– $25.00
Concert only pricing with one glass of wine, tickets for additional wine and food available for purchase.

Wine & Jazz Weekend Package, June 24-25 – $900.00
Two seats at your choice of Vineyard Dinners, two VIP tickets to the Wine & Jazz Festival, brunch for two at Bookwalter Winery on Sunday, June 26, and accommodations at Springhill Suites by Marriott on Friday and Saturday night.

Cougar Brunch at Bookwalter WineryJune 26, 10am-3pm
Featuring sparkling wines made in the WSU Blended Learning  Program.

Follow this link for a listing of wineries and ticket purchase:

Horse Heaven Hills is Vineyard Heaven

Certain factors in viticulture produce intensely flavored grapes with balanced sugars and acids.  And that can only happen in the vineyard.

Washington’s average sixteen hours per day of summer sunlight, cool nights, hills and slopes, rainfall or lack  there of and alluvial soils produce some of the best growing conditions for vinifera grapes.

Each micro-climate, as if there could be micro in eastern Washington, has its own geology, soil, temperature fluctuations, water source and sunlight intensity. That’s what makes each American Viticultural Area (AVA) unique.

There are fourteen Washington State AVAs, defined by the United States Treasury Department’s Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau.

The first to be recognized was Yakima Valley in 1983. In 1984, Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley joined the Club. Eleven years later, our very own unique Puget Sound joined the ranks.

The turn of the century brought Red Mountain into the fold, followed by Columbia Gorge (2004), Horse Heaven Hills (2005), Rattlesnake Hills and Wahluke Slope in 2006 and Snipes Mountain in 2009. Naches Heights and Ancient Lakes were added in 2011 and 2012 respectively. This year Lewis Clark Valley was added to the state’s AVAs – the first shared with Idaho.

Grapes were first planted in the Horse Heaven Hills by Don & Linda Mercer in 1972. Horse Heaven Hills or H3 as some refer to it, is around 570,000 acres of which about 10,130 acres are planted to grapes. Today, it represents 25% of Washington’s total grape production.

H3 rises up from 300 feet at the Columbia River to about 1,800 feet on the border of the Yakima Valley AVA. The AVA’s steep south facing slopes are perfect vineyard locations. vines along the columbia

The well-drained, sandy soils and dry, windy conditions of the Horse Heaven Hills have stressed the vineyards just enough to produce those sought after  intensely flavored grapes.

Older, established vineyards also have a reputation for  intensely flavored grapes. In the Horse Heaven Hills AVA look for Alder Ridge, Andrews Horse Heaven Vineyard, Canoe Ridge, Champoux, Columbia Crest, Destiny Ridge, McKinley Springs, Mercer Canyon and Wallula Gap Vineyards.

Destiny Ridge, just 800 feet up from the Columbia River, is a pretty breezy place for grape vines; the winds that blow are what makes this part of the Horse Heaven Hills appellation distinct.  The best part of the constant wind is the inhospitable habitat for vineyard disease and pests. And much like the mistral winds of southern France, the vines are stressed and would dry out were it not for drip irrigation.

Destiny Ridge Vineyard also benefits from its close proximity to the Columbia River.Mighty columbia  It’s rare to find temperature extremes close to a big body of water. Thanks to the modifying effects of the mighty Columbia rolling on (Woody Guthrie’s immortal words) and the land sloping toward the river which pushes cold air away from the vineyards. Further north away from the water, vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills have had killing frosts.

Overlooking the mighty Columbia River, is Alexandria Nicole Cellars.anc anova  Owners Jarrod and Ali Boyle planted the first vines at Destiny Ridge in 1998 while Jarrod was working with Dr. Wade Wolfe at Hogue Cellars. The plan was to use the fruit from their Destiny Ridge Vineyard to produce small case lots for other wineries. And that worked for about six years until the vines came into full production with such fruit intensity, the seeds of another new winery were planted.

Alexandria Nicole Cellars’ (ANC ) first vintage from the 367-acre estate was in 2004.  Ten years later, the 2014 Shepherds Mark, their signature white, is a blend of 60% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne, and 20% Viognier. And it’s a medal winning wine with a Double Gold, three golds, Best of Class, 93 points and a Silver. This lovely wine is crisp with fresh floral notes and a rich mouthfeel of juicy  Asian pear, citrus and crisp apple.

Why Shepherds Mark? Well, in the early 1900’s, sheepherders left their mark on the Horse Heaven Hills in the form of rock monuments.  These monuments – some still stand along the ridge line of Destiny Ridge Estate Vineyard – were used for identification, way-finding, recreational pastime, artistic expression, or to simply leave one’s mark on the world.

Other ANC wines currently available are the medal winning 2012 Gravity Merlot which also received a Double Gold from the Seattle Wine Awards and 92 points from two industry magazines. The blend of  92% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, and 2% Carmenere was aged 22 months in new and 1 year-old French oak barrels.

The 2013 Jet Black Syrah is another medal winning wine with three golds, Best of Class, 92 points and a Best Buy. This 100% Syrah from blocks 1, 15, 17 and 43 was whole berry fermented and then aged in new and 1 year-old French oak barrels. Prepared to be awed!

If you would like to tour and taste the the wines and wineries of Horse Heaven Hills, mark your calendars for Saturday, July 16, 2016 to experience the Horse Heaven Hills Trail Drive. You’ll meet the growers and vintners behind some of Washington’s most highly rated wines.

During this is a self guided tour, you’ll visit with grape growers and winemakers, enjoy beautiful vistas and sample some excellent wines. There will be music and wine tasting at the BBQ at Crow Butte Park. This annual fundraiser raises money for scholarships in viticulture and oenology.

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  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

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.

How Vintage Affects Your Wine

Will it be a fresh, easy-drinking vintage or one that needs a bit of cellaring? And just what the heck makes it easy drinking or a wait-a-while wine? Are the sugar, acidity and tannins balanced and therefore ready to pick? Or do the grapes need more sunshine to ripen?

In the vineyard, it’s Mother Nature who determines these things, from bud break in the spring through warm summers without rain or hail to harvest in a dry or wet fall.

Vintages from warm years, such as this latest one, tend to have more sugars, lush fruit and with careful tannin management are drinkable in the near term. Cooler years produce wines with thicker skins and higher acidity, more in need of cellar time.

Many are touting the 2014s will go down in the harvest history books as one of the earliest vintages, one of the biggest and one of the best, primarily for the West Coast. Everything was high: temperatures, crop size, sugars and potential alcohol. Other areas, particularly in Europe, were not so fortunate in Mother Nature’s grand harvest scheme.

For most of the northern hemisphere, harvest typically starts around the end of August and wraps up around the first of November, with a few exceptions for those gambling on a late harvest or ice wine. The southern hemisphere, however, is just the opposite: it’s experiencing bud break while the northern half is harvesting.

Washington’s wine grape harvest was off to an early August start this year. The hot summer of 2014, valuable to vineyard managers, produced grapes, free from mildew, ripe and at perfect picking peaks one after another. Wineries scrambled for fermentation tank space. A record harvest of around 230,000 tons is projected, which exceeds 2013’s record of 215,000 tons.

The 2014 Oregon wine grape harvest was pretty perfect, with a warm summer and no summer squalls to water down the thin-skinned Pinot Noir grapes. For the state’s 905 vineyards, this was the warmest growing season on record. The consistent warm temperatures allowed growers to harvest grapes at peak condition rather than rushing around to beat cold weather or rain. As a result, Oregon wineries are harvesting big yields and very good quality grapes.

And in California, a mild winter and spring caused early bud break, and for California, the earliest harvest in recent memory. Sparkling wine producers harvested in July! The sparkling wine producers typically harvest earlier for the higher acidity levels.

Despite drought conditions and an earthquake in August, California’s harvest was estimated at 3.9 million tons. Last year’s crop was 4.24 million tons and 2012 was 4.02 million tons, a bountiful, great drinking vintage right now. The smallest California harvest in the last decade was 2004, at 2.77 million tons.

In Europe, harvests varied significantly by country, with France doing better than last year and Italy facing difficult weather conditions during most of the growing season.

And speaking of drought, Bordeaux and Burgundy haven’t seen a 90-point vintage on the charts for three years. In Burgundy, a warm spring had the growing season off to a good start, but a ruthless hailstorm at the end of June brought the yields down significantly. For the most part, the 2014 vintage appears to have been saved by an Indian summer.

The Rhône region with a cool summer and heavy rainfall during harvest caused slow ripening and the need for meticulous sorting. It’ll be short and perhaps not so sweet.

Further south, Italy saw a lot of wet weather, which will translate to very small quantities on the shelves in two or four year’s time, except for an exceptional year for Sicily.

The Port region of Douro was also hit by rains, which caused soil erosion in many parts of this steep valley and producers facing a challenging harvest.

While Spain as a whole is expected to return to average after last year’s record high. Only Rioja is looking at a bumper harvest.

Germany also saw periods of heavy rain, however the harvest is expected to rise by 16 percent. Let’s hope for an early freeze and much botrytis.

So it looks like enjoying California and Washington wines from 2012 and 2013 vintages is the prudent course to take now while waiting for the West Coast 2014s.

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
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
Ten Barrel Brewery
Widmer Brewery

Fragrant Stews, Fragrant Wines

Pumpkin is one of the quintessential flavors of fall. It has made its way into many sweet and savory dishes. When in season, the versatile pumpkin turns up in pies, tarts, cakes, muffins, cheese cake and ice cream. Or you could make an unusual supper of soup, stews, ravioli, or lasagna. It’s great pureed or mashed with other root vegetables and can stand up to really fragrant strong herbs like sage.

You can boil it, roast it, bake it, and braise it. You can even ferment it.  Pumpkin beer isn’t a modern day invention. It was used in making beer during the early colonial period because it was more available than malt or barley. The native pumpkin has plenty of fermentable sugars.

There is a pumpkin wine. Three Lakes Winery in Wisconsin makes it. I haven’t tried it but do highly recommend the following pumpkin stew recipes with vinifera grapes that I’m more familiar with.

This wonderful vegetarian stew pairs well with Viognier. At the Harborside Wine Festival this summer, the Chandler Reach 2012 Viognier was one of my favorite finds. Thanks to its aromatic intensity and hint of sweetness, it pairs nicely with this curried pumpkin stew.

Viognier comes from the tiny appellation of Condrieu in the northern Rhone. This temperamental grape is highly sensitive to mildew and low yielding. Well timed harvesting is also a challenge, you don’t want to pick it too early or too late or you will miss out on the beautiful aromas and full flavors.

Curried Pumpkin Stew

3 tablespoons vegetable oil  curried soup
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tomatoes, chopped
2/3 cup water
1 pound pumpkin, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 potato, chopped
1 green banana, chopped

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and black pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir until thick.

Add the water, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the flavors. Add the pumpkin, carrot, potato, and green banana. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring a couple of times, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Another warm fragrant stew made with a lot of spice is inspired with south of the border flavors. For this hearty stew I would suggest a red grape called Tempranillo. It’s a vinifera grape that originated in the Rioja region of sunny Spain. The Ramon Bilbao Rioja Crianza is a full bodied blackberry and cherry flavored Tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain. All those luscious fruit flavors and smoky nuance really works well with this dish.

Also from Spain is the Red Diamond Temperamental. Red Diamond is a Washington winery located in Patterson that sources grapes from around the world. They’re good at showcasing the distinct personalities of varietals from their place of origin. This wine has aromas of blackberries and hints of cherry; it’s approachable, easy to drink, and a wonderful companion to this spicy south of the border pumpkin stew.

3 – 6 chipotle chilies, canned or dried  pumpkin stew
3 garlic cloves
5 medium tomatillos, halved
5 roasted plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound lean, boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups sliced Swiss chard
1 tsp salt
4 cups peeled, seeded, fresh pumpkin, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

If using dried chilies, preheat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add chilies and toast, turning frequently until very aromatic, about 30 seconds. Transfer chilies to a small bowl and cover with hot water and rehydrate for about 30 minutes. Toss the garlic and tomatillos in the pan and turn occasionally, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor or blender. Add drained chilies to the tomatillos and puree.

For the tomatoes, broil on a baking sheet until blackened on one side, about 6 minutes. Turn tomatoes over and do the other side, for another 6 minutes. When cool, peel and roughly chop and put in a bowl with the juices.

Heat the oil in the frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the pork and onions. Cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits about 10 minutes. Add reserved salsa, tomatoes, and 3 to 4 tablespoons water; stir to combine. Add Swiss chard and season with salt.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a large baking dish and spread the pumpkin chunks evenly in the dish. Pour the pork and roasted vegetables over it. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes until the pumpkin is soft.

Remove the foil and raise the temperature to 400 degrees. Continue baking until sauce has reduced slightly and top becomes crusty, about 15 minutes.

Whaling Days does Wild Meadows

While kicking around Whaling Days last weekend, listening to the music, catching up with some long lost friends, I was treated to a new Washington Winery. Well, new to me anyway.

Wild Meadows Winery is part of the Precept Wine portfolio. Precept Wine is the largest privately owned wine company in the Northwest. Founded in 2003, Precept now owns 4,270 acres of vineyards, seven wineries and 37 labels in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  red beauty

Last year, they produced 950,000 cases of wine including Waterbrook, Pendulum, St. Chapelle, Washington Hills, Sawtooth, Red Knot and Alder Ridge.

Precept allows its wine makers free rein when it comes to making wine. The Wild Meadow Winery winemaker, Hal Landvoigt, is also Precept Wine’s director of winemaking. This means he enjoys the freedom of choosing the best lots for Wild Meadow as well as House Wines, Washington Hills, Primarius, Battle Creek and Windy Bay. These wines are also attractively priced, usually under $12.

Landvoigt was the mastermind behind the chocolate flavored red wine, Chocolate Shop, another Precept Wine brand.

Wild Meadows makes a Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Syrah and Malbec. The juice is usually sourced from Columbia Valley since this is where the bulk of their vineyards are located.

The white wine served was the 2012 Columbia Valley Chardonnay which sells for around $11. Aromas of apple, pear, and citrus follow thru on the palate. Served chilled, the flavors of apple and pear with a bright citrus note still come through.

The red was called Red Beauty. It’s a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 15% Syrah, and 3% Cabernet Franc. The deep garnet color was a promise of good flavors and aromas in the glass with berries, plums, cherries and big body with smooth tannins and a silky finish. Try them! You’ll like them!

Dr. Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center Grand Opening

The Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center honors the Washington wine industry pioneers beginning with Dr. Walter Clore. Dr. Clore began his research work in 1937, studying vinifera grapes and their potential in Washington. His research, a cornerstone of the industry’s development, earned him official recognition from the Washington State Legislature as the Father of the Washington Wine Industry.

The Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center is celebrating its Grand Opening on Friday, May 30, 2014 at 1pm. This event will have a special toast with Columbia Crest 2010 Walter Clore Private Reserve. To RSVP for the Grand Opening, please call 509-786-1000 or

The Tasting Room will showcase a rotating featured AVA of Washington wines, agricultural themed exhibits, and wine and culinary program anchored by a chef’s demonstration kitchen. Entry to the exhibits is free.

Chosen by lottery, the featured AVA for June is the Puget Sound Region. The Puget Sound AVA was established in 1995. There are 178 acres planted to 61% red and 39% white vinifera and hybrid grapes.

June’s featured wines from grapes grown in the Puget Sound AVA:

Bainbridge Island: Mueller Thurgau and Pinot Noir

Comforts of Whidbey Island: Sweet Donna Blend, High Tide

Hoodsport: Island Belle

Lopez Island: Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine

Maury Island: Pinot Noir

Perennial Vintners: Isletage and Raspberry Dessert Wine

Spoiled Dog: Rosé of Pinot Noir

Vashon Winery: Isletage, Pinot Noir

There are several student wines also available for tasting, the WSU Red Blend and Riesling; and the YVCC 2013 Study Skills Chardonnay, 2011 Dean’s List Lemberger, and NV Campus Blend Red

Visitors can enjoy a variety of wines for a tasting fee of $5.00. For more information,

Taste Washington Bites with Wine Review

tastewaThe 17th annual Taste Washington featured dozens of restaurants. Each of those restaurants came up with a Pacific Northwest inspired bite that had their own signature. It was an inspiring array of dishes that you could put together for your next wine tasting.  From savory desserts (olive oil ice cream) to oysters on the half shell, scallops and salmon, with pork bellies, steak, lamb and cauliflower, beets, sweet potatoes, arugula, Taste Washington left no culinary stone unturned.

This tastings tapas-styled food bite was absolutely necessary when you are walking around with a wine glass, small food tray with the wine glass holder, program, pen, and, in some cases, a spit cup. That’s a lot of stuff to juggle with just two hands.

Following is the short list of the bites that inspired me and a Washington wine that I did or would pair with the little dish.

Andaluca‘s Cauliflower soup with lardons and pickled beets is an inspired dish. For the match, go with a Sauvignon Blanc from Yakima’s Chinook Winery or Novelty Hill’s Stillwater Creek.

Anthony’s Pier 66 served up pan seared scallops with bacon jam and bib lettuce on a toasted bruschetta. This is the one for Chinook’s 2012 Chardonnay or Challenger Ridge Winery’s 2011 Columbia Valley dry Riesling.

AQUA by El Gaucho was shucking Taylor Shellfish oysters faster than a speeding bullet but still could not keep up with demand. I love oysters with Champagne but my second choice would be a Sauvignon Blanc. Try the White Bordeaux blend from L’Ecole No. 41 Walla Walla 2012 or Cave B 2012 Ancient Lakes White Bordeaux blend.

Barking Frog’s Sweet potato and lamb chorizo croquette red pepper rouille begs for  a Syrah or a Sirah! One of my favs, Gordon Winery Pixie Syrah or the Laurelhurst Cellars 2009 Horse Heaven Hills El Humidor Petite Sirah.

Boom Noodle restaurant is named after a popular Japanese term, meaning the thing one is currently obsessed with. These guys are obsessed with Japanese cuisine and their Seared Albacore rice noodle salad is delightful. Try this with Facelli’s Columbia Valley 2012 unoaked Chardonnay or the appropriately named COR Cellars 2013 AlbaCOR Columbia George 2013 White.

Cheeseland Inc. Now we’re talking! Wine and Cheese have a natural affinity to each other. I really loved the Honeybee goat cheese, and Ewephoria sheep milk cheese. Long Shadows Vintners Columbia Valley 2010 Chester Kidder Red Blend or Mark Ryan’s 2011 Red Mountain Dead Horse Cab, despite the name is delicious.

Evolve Chocolate Truffles  This was a lovely treat in two ways, it was a passed hors d’ouvres and it was delicious.  “The Colombian” is a rich chocolate coffee flavored truffle that paired nicely with the Three Rivers 2009 Walla Walla Cab.

Far-Eats  Love the Name! This is an Indian restaurant with a wine list with over 50 Washington wines on the list. The bite served was Chana Chaat – Chana is Indian for garbanzo beans. These beans were dressed with green chili, onion and tomatoes and sprinkled with cumin seeds, red chili powder, lime juice and coriander leaves. Easy, nutritious and delicious! The Kana Winery 2011 Horse Heaven Hills Old Vines Lemberger has the depth and fruit and Kyra Wines 2011 Wahluke Slope Dolcetto would be another great match for this dish.

Kalaloch Lodge  Smoked salmon artichoke dip and rosemary crisp, loved the way this was served, the dip was on one part of the cracker, and the empty side hung over the side of an elevated tray. Easy to grab and delicious to snack on. W.T. Vintners 2013 Columbia Gorge Grüner Veltliner, an Austrian grape with the right amount of acidity is just the ticket. Or try Whidbey Island Vineyard and Winery 2013 Yakima Valley Sangiovese Rosato.

La Panzanella  Founded in 1990, La Panzanella, known for its hearty peasant bread and homey cafe, quickly grew into one of the most popular bakeries in Seattle’s Capital Hill area. They offered their original and rosemary croccantini crackers with a truffle-infused cheese. Ginkgo Forest Winery 2010 Wahluke Slope Barbera, or staying with the Italian grapes, Leone Italian Cellars 2009 Walla Walla Dolcetto or 2009 Wahluke Slope Nebbiolo.

Margaux  This French themed restaurant is in the Warwick Seattle Hotel. Chef Chris Zarkades, attended South Seattle Community College’s nationally renowned and accredited culinary program to learn the craft. His red wine poached figs with Roquefort cheese crostinis demand a Bordeaux styled wine like for a big bodied red with some maturity, Brian Carter Cellars 2008 Le Coursier Columbia Valley Red Bordeaux Blend.

Paella Seattle Dished up the classic paella recipes of Valencia, Spain, which means chicken, pork and Bomba rice with green and red peppers, onions, garlic, green beans, sweet peas and artichoke hearts. Gotta go with the Tempranillo grape here. Michael Florentino Cellars, Naches Heights Vineyard, Camaraderie Cellars, Cave B Estate Winery, Fall Line Winery, Kana Winery or Stottle Winery all do a rendition of Rioja, the Spanish classic red with paella.

Palisade Waterfront Restaurant  Assorted cured and smoked tartares – cured salmon with Meyer lemon crème fraiche, caper, dill, and a ‘everything bagel crumble, apple wood smoked scallops with pineapple, Fresno chili and micro cilantro, Hamachi apple with ginger, jalapeño, Ahi tuna sesame with tamarind, soy and green onion, and mesquite grilled avocado smoked chili salt, minis sweet pepper, and cilantro. My favorite wine of the day: Kyra Wines 2013 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc with any one of these wonderful tastes.

SkyCity at the Needle   Stinging nettle soup with crispy razor clams was delightful with JM Winery’s 2013 Red Mountain Sauvignon Blanc and another match would be Davenport’s 2012 Columbia Valley White Bordeaux blend.

Tablas Woodstone Taverna is part of a family of Mediterranean restaurants, Is located in Mill Creek. Their gazpacho is best paired with the Cote de Ciel 2012 Red Mountain Viognier.

Trace Seattle Restaurant and Bar offers a dining experience led by Executive Chef Steven Ariel, who sports a menu filled with contemporary, inventive dishes with a 10-seat sushi bar.  Highlighting their inventiveness was the smoked baby octopus veggie was a bit on the spicy side and there for a perfect pair with Hogue’s Columbia Valley 2011 Gewürztraminer.

The Washington State Wine Commission launched Taste Washington in 1998 and is now produced by Visit Seattle. For more information, visit