Category Archives: Washington Wines

The Hotter, the Sweeter

If you’re wondering what pairs well with curry, you’re not alone. There are more opinions on the subject than there are curries and the range is “just go with a beer” to any off dry wine you like.

The crux of the quandary is the amount of heat from the chilies and the alcohol. I read somewhere that chili heat and warmth of alcohol hit the same receptors on your palate, so when you have a lot of heat and high alcohol, the burning sensation is intensified.

Pairing wine with curry is tricky and it gets trickier the hotter the curry is. Some like their curry hot, some do not. It’s a lot like wine in that respect; it’s only a good if you like it.

Are you fond of the rush from Ghost Peppers, which clock in at 460,000 Scoville Heat Units? If so, fire away with a fruity 16% California Zinfandel or a beer. (For reference, the jalapeño rates from 2,500 –10,000 SHU depending on where and how it’s grown.)

But if you’re more likely to be in the 10,000 SHU, the pairing should be a low alcohol wine ranging around 10 to 12.5% alcohol with a lot of up front fruit.

In my experience, what pairs well with curry is a refreshing contrast to the heat of the food. Take a bite of curried chicken and put out the flames with something cold and sweet. The sugar or fruity sweetness and cold supplies that contrast. It can be actual unfermented sugars or residual sugars or it may be just a ripe fruity red with low alcohol.

Chenin Blanc is one of the world’s most underrated and versatile varietals. Chenin Blanc is the grape that made France’s Loire Valley Vouvray famous. And they can be sweet, dry, dessert, sparkling in so many delicious ways.

 

But Chenin Blanc suffers from an image problem, so I’m here to convince you to try one with the chicken or pork curry recipes submitted by Ann Vogel. The high acidity, low alcohol and fruity character would compliment either of these curry recipes.

Chenin Blanc is a vigorous vine and has a tendency to bud early and ripen late. These attributes have made it the workhorse in California’s Central Valley where it is blended with Columbard and Thompson Seedless and sold in jugs – with handles on them.

But grown under the conditions of  the cool Loire Valley, with its chalky soils, it can produce a wider range of styles, from bone dry to real sweet and even sparkling. Chenin Blanc can vary from thin with high acidity (where it is over cropped) to minerally and crisp, with intense fruit and the ability to age gracefully.

The aromas and flavors of Chenin can be citrus, floral and sometimes tropical. Older vineyards have wonderful floral aromatics, body and minerality that make the grape so delicious.

Here are a few Chenin Blancs, highly recommended and most are from vineyards over 30 years old.

Pontin del Roza 2012 Yakima Valley Chenin Blanc is, I must say, one of my all time favorites. I sold gallons of this in my day. The Pontin family has been farming along the Roza Canal in the Yakima Valley for over 40 years. In the 1980s, they began planting vineyards. This little sweetie, at 2.8% residual sugar, is all pears, melon and lemon zest aromas with wonderful peachy, flavors and a crisp clean finish.

L’Ecole No. 41 2012 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc is sold out but the 2013 will be released this spring. Be ready! This is sourced from one of the older vineyards in Washington. This wine has that enticing pear, peach and nectarine aromas with floral hints and fresh tropical flavors balanced by a crisp, citrusy finish. $14

Kiona Columbia Valley 2013 Chenin Blanc is another Old Vine Wine that is made in a crisp, clean style with peach and apricot flavors and mouthwatering acidity that balances the sweetness. The finish has a lovely mineral quality. $15

Hestia Cellars 2011 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc is a delightful wine that offers an enticing nose of pear, peach, and honeysuckle with a hint of minerals. The fruit is intense with that wonderful ripe fruit, wet stone and slightly honeyed yet dry finish. Around $16

Cedergreen 2011 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc this dry wine, 13.8%, is sourced from 32 year old vines off Snipes Road. It may be tough to find since there were only 70 cases made. But they’ll release the next vintage this spring. I love this wine for its minerality, pear and melon flavors and creaminess. $17

McKinley Springs 2009 Horse Heaven Hills Chenin Blanc is also made in a dry style that reminds me of the spring trip in the Loire Valley. Heaven! Also from a vineyard planted in 1981, the aromas of pear, peach, honeysuckle and orange blossoms are wonderful. The ripe fruit flavors are apple and citrus with a lovely touch of minerality, spice and dry finish. A bargain at $14.

Alas, Chenin Blanc will never be popular like Chardonnay but for wine lovers and the adventuresome, it’s worth seeking out. It could surely use your support.

What to Drink – Saviah The Jack

Saviah Cellars was founded in Walla Walla in 2000. The first year was small, only 300 cases but it’s grown – alot. And the wine in most demand is The Jack.savuah 941

This wine has pedigree. Grapes are sourced from some of Washington State’s best vineyards – Pepper Bridge, Elephant Mountain, McClellan Estate, Stillwater Creek, Frenchmen Hills Vineyard, Seven Hills, Weinbau, and Conner Lee.

Fermented in open top tanks so it could be punched down twice a day, this brilliant red wine is a blend of 86% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc. The aromas of black cherries, plum and vanilla greet you and then the flavors offer up the black cherries and plums that are juicy and sweet. The flavors are balanced by perfect acidity, a kiss of tannins and nice, smooth finish. All that flavor is worth the $14.

What We’re Drinking – Milbrandt Vineyards Clifton Hill Vineyard The Estates 2010

Not too long ago, an old friend stopped by with a bottle of wine in hand. That put a smile on my face. And I was delighted to visit and taste this winery’s Syrah.

I recalled that brothers Jerry and Butch Milbrandt were farmers first, the same as many wineries in Eastern Washington, having worked their family’s Columbia Valley farm for 50 some years growing row crops and orchards. Then in 1996, a couple of big wineries recruited the Millbrandts to grow grapes. They began planting vineyards in 1997.

Today, Milbrandt Vineyards has more than 2,300 acres of grapevines; most of their estate vineyards are located in two AVAs in the Columbia Valley, Wahluke Slope AVA and Ancient Lakes AVA.

The high quality of their fruit became so well known and in such demand, the Milbrandts were selling tons of their grapes to many Washington wineries. That was the impetus for building a custom crush facility in 2005. And then in 2007, they launched their own  wines.

The 29 acre Clifton Hill Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope AVA near Mattawa was planted to Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah in 1999. Now a fully mature vineyard, it produces an intense purple-black colored Syrah with a ton of black fruit flavors sprinkled with a hint of herbs and great balanced acidity. This is a big wine with surprising finesse. Expressive and classy, it has a wonderful long smooth finish.

Distributed in Washington by Unique Distributing and sells for around $23.

 

Riesling for Harvey’s Recipes

Mary writes:

Riesling was one of the first vinifera varieties planted in Washington, dating back to late 1880s. Much later, in the early 1970s, there were more acres planted to Riesling than there were Merlot.

Probably because Riesling is the most versatile, complex and food-friendly of all the noble grapes. And because back then, many, many people preferred a sweeter wine. In the next two decades, winemakers started making some Rieslings drier because of the demands of the market.  We can safely say that no other varietal has been crafted to express so many different styles from bone dry to ice wines and everything in between.

Rieslings have very floral aromas, a crisp, vibrant character with peach, citrus and apple flavors that morph into apricot as they age. When noble rot or botrytis attaches itself to the skins, the resulting wine is a concentration of sugars and flavors to produce a wine of incomparable intensity.

With Ann Vogel’s Harvey’s Butter Rum Batter recipes, the versatility of Riesling was the key that unlocked the synergy door. Riesling has just the right amount of sweetness and acidity to pair with apples, pork, pineapple, ham, red pepper flakes and cheesecake.

Riesling is all over the place when it comes to residual sugar (RS). It can have a ton of RS, making it a late harvest or ice wine. Or it can have as little as a Chardonnay – around .5% – and a crisp acidity for food friendliness.

Germany has been making some stunning Rieslings for a few centuries and it’s to Riesling what Bordeaux is to Cabernet and Merlot – the bench mark. That’s why it’s so cool when German winemakers come to Washington to make wine with Washington grapes.

Washington has 6,320 acres planted to Riesling. The most expensive is the Long Shadows Poet’s Leap Ice Wine at $85 for a half (375ml.) bottle. It’s made by one of my favorite German winemakers, Armin Diehl. This being a very special and labor intensive wine, it’s to be expected.

Other Washington Rieslings are as little as $3 for a 750 ml and continue up to around $20. These more expensive wines tend to have more work put into them and are generally drier.

There are three major Riesling producers in Washington State. Hogue, Ch. Ste. Michelle and Pacific Rim. All three have received numerous medals from around the world for their Rieslings.

For the Harvey’s Pork Chops with Apple Compote, try the Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling. This wine is a blend of grapes from all around the Columbia Valley made in an off-dry style at 11% alcohol and 2.2% RS. $10.

Pacific Rim’s Columbia Valley Riesling is crisp and slightly sweeter, a lovely wine with fiery red pepper flakes and juicy sweet pineapple in the Harvey’s Glazed Ham with Pineapple Chutney. Another blend of grapes from around Columbia Valley made in an off-dry style at 11.5% alcohol and 3.1% RS.

Cheesecake was made to be paired with Riesling. That being said we’ll move to a Riesling from another longtime giant in the Washington wine industry, Hogue. Their Late Harvest Columbia Valley Riesling was picked mid-October through the first part of November. It has 11% alcohol and 5.4% RS and at $10 a bottle is a total bargain.

Making a Splash with Syrah

Mary writes:

Columbia Crest Syrah

Some time during the Merlot craze of the 90s, David Lake had a few acres of Syrah planted in Washington State. Lake, the winemaker at Columbia Winery, Master of Wine and firm believer in terrior, had a vision of what Syrah could become in Eastern Washington. In 1990, there were a mere 15 acres planted to Syrah; today, there are 3,103 acres of Syrah in the ground.

Washington’s Syrah are luscious and ready to drink upon release unlike Old World Syrah that typically require a few years’ aging.

While dining with a friend recently, a bottle of Columbia Crest Syrah was opened to pair with the grilled flank steak with Chimichurri sauce.

This gorgeous wine was flawless from start to finish. Elegant aromas of smoke, cinnamon, blackerrries and cedar, followed by flavors of pepper, blackberries and currants. It’s a big wine, though the tannins are silky and smooth.

Columbia Crest Winery, not to be confused with Columbia Winery that first planted Syrah, was established in 1983. They are part of Stimson Lane that includes Chateau Ste. Michelle.

The winery is located in the Horse Heaven Hills. And it is huge. It was described when I toured it in 1986 as being as large as four football fields and could store 27,000 59 gallon barrels.

Over the years, Columbia Crest Winery has been named Winery of the Year by numerous wine trade magazines. And now by this blog! At $12.00, it’s a lot of wine for the money.

Wine pair: Roasted pork tenderloin and full-bodied chardonnay

It’s hard to believe that it was only three years ago that Cheers to You came to life online with a simple blog post explaining what we hoped to accomplish with our pairing — a budding wine enthusiast looking to learn more and a seasoned wine aficionado looking to share her knowledge.

Since our first blog post on Aug. 3, 2010 we have expanded our weekly wine talks to include regular posts about wines we’re drinking, definitions of wine terms, and of course this beloved wine pairing column that has found a home in the Kitsap Life section twice a month.

Fortunately for you dear reader this column will continue to appear in print the first and third Sundays of the month, but after today’s column there will be one less face smiling back at you when you pick up the paper. Brynn’s last day with the Kitsap Sun, and Cheers to You, was Oct. 29. She left Kitsap for a new gig a little farther south in Tacoma.

To commemorate her departure and all the fun we’ve had since starting Cheers to You, we are recommending a wine for this week’s pairing that is a little more expensive than we normally would suggest. But don’t worry, we have your interests at heart, so we’re also going to recommend a second, more affordable wine.

Because this is Brynn’s last Cheers to You wine pairing, we felt it only appropriate that we recommend her favorite wine variety to match Ann Vogel’s recipe for roasted pork tenderloin with apples and onions: chardonnay.

Not only are we suggesting a chardonnay, we’re suggesting a creamy, oak-infused chardonnay from California’s prestigious Napa Valley.

A couple of years ago Mary gave Brynn a bottle of her coveted Shafer Chardonnay, sourced from a single vineyard at the northern tip of San Francisco Bay in the Carneros region. We pulled the cork on the bottle this summer and sat back to enjoy its exotic fruit flavors of kiwi, pineapple, lime, papaya, apricot and citrus zest.

As we sipped we discussed the complexity of this wine. It is layered with the crispness of citrus fruits, but balanced almost perfectly with caramelized notes and a crème brûlée finish that lingers. The winery uses wild yeast for its fermentation and does not put the wine through malolactic fermentation. While the wine is full bodied and creamy, these rich notes don’t slap you in the face like some over-oaked California chardonnays.

At $50 this wine is likely not going to make it to many people’s dinner table, but if you have something to celebrate and feel like splurging, keep it on your list.

Sticking with chardonnay, but offering a much more budget-conscious bottle, we also think Waterbrook has a beautiful chardonnay that would pair just as well with the roasted pork tenderloin.

This Walla Walla winery’s 2011 chardonnay has fragrant pineapple and mango aromas with buttery notes. Dried apricots and apple give this wine a full mouthfeel with lingering toast notes on the finish. At $12 (and likely less if you find it on sale at the grocery store) this wine is a great addition to your fall table.

Winemakers dinner at Alderbrook Resort and Spa

Looking to splurge in November? Here’s the details for an upcoming event in Union at the Alderbrook Resort and Spa that highlights Dusted Valley Winery, named the 2013 Winery of the Year by Wine and Spirits Magazine.

The release sent by the resort has all the details:

Indulge in a unique culinary experience at Alderbrook Resort & Spa. On Saturday, November 16, guests are invited to an elegant dinner featuring varietals from Dusted Valley Winery, paired alongside exquisite dishes prepared with locally-sourced food from Alderbrook’s Executive Chef, Lucas Sautter.

Dusted Valley Winery, a locally owned and operated winery based out of the Walla Walla Valley helps set the stage for this festive, harvest meal. Dusted Valley’s winemaker will be onsite throughout the evening to answer any questions regarding the winery’s award-winning wines. Located alongside the breathtaking shores of Hood Canal, guests will dine on six courses prepared by Alderbrook’s renowned Chef Lucas Sautter, served with a red or white wine blend to complement its specific flavors.

Reservations can be made by calling (360) 898-5500. Want to stay the night and experience more of Alderbrook? Enjoy the full-service spa, get in a round on the 18-hole PGA-class golf course or come back for seconds at The Restaurant at Alderbrook. Room rates start at $179. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

What: Wine Maker’s Dinner with Dusted Valley Winery
Where: Alderbrook Resort & Spa, 10 E Alderbrook Drive, Union, WA 98592
Date: Saturday, November 16, 2013
Time: Social begins at 6:30 p.m., dinner begins at 7 p.m.
Cost: $109 per person
Reservations: (360) 898-5500

What we’re drinking: Woodinville wines

Brynn writes:

On Sunday in the Kitsap Life section our getaways feature this month is going to be on Woodinville, written by your’s truly.

It’s fitting that my last Kitsap Life story would be on Western Washington’s wine country. (Yes, you read that correctly, my last story. My last day at the Sun will be Oct. 29.)

This post isn’t about my departure, it’s about all the great wineries you can experience with a short jaunt across the water (Puget Sound and Lake Washington) by exploring Woodinville.

I remember when Woodinville was known as the home to Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Winery and Red Hook Brewery. Now it’s home to more than 80 wineries and a number of great restaurants. It really does make a great day trip from Seattle, and it’s a heck of a lot easier to get to Woodinville to go wine tasting than it is to drive across the mountains to Eastern Washington.

A month or so ago my husband and I found ourselves with a rare day off together and a babysitter eager to watch the kid (thanks grandma!) so we decided we’d take advantage of our good fortune and do a little wine tasting. With 80+ wineries to choose from it was a little daunting to figure out where we were going to go, but I just hopped online and started looking at the different wineries listed under the Woodinville Wine Country website. (Also look at the Warehouse District winery website when planning your trip because there are some great wineries in that area too.) Within an hour I had our Woodinville wine tour mapped out.

Here’s the list I created:

  • Airfield Estates
  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  • Dusted Valley
  • J.Bookwalter
  • Otis Kenyon
  • Ross Andrew Winery

I didn’t expect us to make it to every winery, but I wanted a couple “fall backs” in case we went somewhere and it was busy. (Or if we really did make it through our top picks quickly, we’d have somewhere to go.) We ended up visiting (in this order): Ross Andrew, J.Bookwalter, Alexandria Nicole, Airfield Estates.

By the last winery we were maxed out and ready to head across the street to Purple Cafe and Wine Bar, where we had an excellent dinner.

If you’re planning a trip to Woodinville, do your homework before you go so you have a rough idea of what you want to see, but also know that once you get there there are so many wineries you can easily change your mind and pop into any storefront and likely have a great experience.

Of the wineries we visited, Alexandria Nicole is one not to be missed. The atmosphere is great and so are the people pouring wines. Plus their wines (in my opinion) are fantastic. We loved their 2012 Shepherd’s Mark, a blend of 65 percent Roussanne, 20 percent Marsanne and 15 percent Viognier. This wine won a gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and a double gold at the 2013 Seattle Wine Awards. This wine has notes of pineapple, pear, citrus and peach and the floral characteristics of Viognier come through on the nose. ($24)

The 2010 a Squared Cabernet Sauvignon was also good with its dark fruit flavors and hints of vanilla on the finish. This is a great fall/winter wine and would pair well with heavier meals like roasts and lamb. The blend is 86 percent cab, 6 percent cab franc, 6 percent malbec and 2 percent petit verdot. ($24)

I also loved J.Bookwalter’s Chardonnay, which had just the right balance of weight from its fermentation in barrels and stainless steel. The wine had aromas of pear and honeydew with a slightly nutty hint on the finish. This was a creamy wine that I am kicking myself for not purchasing while we were there.

I was excited to try Ross Andrew because I had not heard of this winery before, which is hard to believe because the winemaker has been in the business for a long time and studied under one of the best in the industry, Master of Wine Bob Betz. The tasting room was recently remodeled and is done in a minimalist, modern style. It’s in the same building complex as Pepper Bridge/Amavi Cellars, Mark Ryan and J.Bookwalter, and right across the parking lot from Alexandria Nicole. If you plan on heading to Woodinville you could spend your afternoon just cruising between these wineries without even having to move your car.

We enjoyed the 2011 Meadow White Wine (so much so we bought a bottle) and the 2012 Meadow Rose (again we bought a bottle). The Rose is the first Washington Rose I’ve tried that reminds me of the Provincial style Roses I drank while in France. It’s dry with a crisp finish. The white wine would be a perfect pair with crab, scallops or white fish. Both wines were $16.

If you’re thinking about planning a trip to Woodinville, check out my story in Sunday’s paper (or online). Now’s a good time to head over there because they’ve finished the craziness of crush and the craziness of the holidays hasn’t picked up yet.

What we’re drinking: Dubindil Winery

Mary writes:

Dubindil Winery, a small winery in Snohomish, recently pulled down three medals at the Seattle Wine Awards. A double gold for the 2010 Columbia Valley Syrah, a gold for the Rowan Red and a bronze for the 2010 Cabernet.

A Double Gold award is very prestigious. This award is The Best of The Best.

And fortunately for us, we were able to taste the Rowan Red and the Double Gold Syrah at the Kitsap Wine Festival.

Owners Lisa and David Henrickson started as home winemakers and volunteers for other wineries for a number of years before taking the big leap into the commercial production in 2010.

Imagine three years later hitting a double gold for one of your first commercially made wines. Pretty darn impressive.

The winery name is a combination of nicknames their kids gave each other — Dubin and Dil. Rowan Red is their proprietary name for their red blend even though this year’s is just Cabernet. Now you too know the code names.

The 2010 Yakima Valley Rowan Red is 100 percent Cabernet aged in French oak for 21 months. The bright berry with hints of herbs, pepper and currants are nicely balanced with smooth tannins and good acidity.  Only 97 cases made. $18/bottle from the winery.

The 2010 Columbia Valley Syrah, the double gold winner, is 100 percent Syrah. It comes from several vineyards which is why you won’t find a vineyard name on the label. This multi-faceted Syrah has a bouquet of violets, blueberries, mocha, and licorice.

It’s a mouthful of blueberries, mocha and licorice. With smooth tannins and great balance. Sold out at the winery but you may be able to find it at specialty stores.

Airfield Estates riesling with spiced pumpkin soup makes hearty harvest meal

As we see the sun set earlier and the leaves start to change, we find ourselves subconsciously moving away from recommending crisp white wines for fall recipe pairings because, let’s be honest, they really are the best to sip on a hot summer day.

But for Ann Vogel’s spiced pumpkin soup, we’re making the conscious decision to hang on to our summer just a little longer and recommend Airfield Estates 2011 Riesling to drink with this fall soup.

Located in Prosser, Wash. this family-run winery chose its name to recognize the World War II air base that once resided on the farm. The riesling vines that produce the grapes for this wine are some of the oldest on the farm, planted in 1979.

You might wonder why we would recommend a light-bodied wine for this thick soup. The answer is riesling is a great pairing for foods with weight and a little heat. The pear and citrus fruit flavors in this wine add a feeling of fall harvest to this dish. Heat up a loaf of crusty French bread and you have yourself a hearty lunch.

Airfield’s riesling isn’t overly dry, so you’ll pick up notes of sweetness but the natural acidity balances that out, leaving your mouth with a slight pucker on the finish.

It’s a beautiful pale yellow and the bottle has a slight hint of frizzante, leaving the fruit flavors dancing on the tip of your tongue.

This wine also pairs nicely with shellfish or lighter poultry and pork dishes, so consider adding the pumpkin soup as an accompaniment to be enjoyed before a main meal and serve the riesling for both courses.

Another bonus about Airfield Estates? The wine is easy to find. The 2011 riesling retails around $15.