Cheers To You

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Taste Washington Today

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

tastewa

 

 

 

 

Taste Washington is today at the Centurylink Event Center from 2:00pm. until 5:00pm. This is your big chance for the whirlwind tour of some of Washington’s 780+ wineries big and small, old and new.

Taste Washington is the nation’s largest single-region wine and food event. It features 225 winery booths and over 50 restaurant booths with delicious little bites interspersed among the wineries.

In addition to the 225 wineries serving up at least three wines, there are regional sections where you can taste several wineries offerings from a specific area such as Woodinville, Yakima Valley’s Rattlesnake Hills, Prosser, etc. For the most part, these are smaller wineries that don’t have a booth like Cascade Cliffs and Efeste.

And there is Taste the Vineyards. This area is organized by vineyard so you can compare and contrast the several different wines produced from one vineyard source. That is a real learning experience.

The Oyster Bar is the place to go first with a full array of whites and pinks and Oysters! There’s a big line for the oysters but quick and personal service for the wines. Cote de Ciel’s Viognier was stunning. As was the Airfield Estate unoaked Chard and Arch Terrace Cherry Hill dry Riesling.

Stop by Gorman Winery and Ask Chris why his delicious Pixie Syrah is 15% alcohol. I guarantee his answer will astound you.

And stop by Palencia Winery for an amazing Albariño. Victor Palencia is the wine maker for Jones of Washington and is working two wineries, theirs and his.

Kyra Winery has a dry Chenin (think Vouvray) that is 1.5% RS from 30 year old vines. V.G. They also make a very nice Dolcetto.

Cheers!


What to Drink – La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

La Crema 2012 Monterey Pinot Noir

La Crema Winery is really into cool. They have some of the coolest vineyards, Russian River, Carneros, Monterey, Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley. All perfect places to grow those Burundian grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

They believe the wine is in the details. When grown in the vineyardscool climate vineyards, fruit develops wonderful aromatics and lush flavors with a crisp, firm structure.

The Monterey appellation begins just north of the Monterey Bay and extends south to Paso Robles. This 90-mile-long valley is cooled by ocean winds. The cool climate, abundant sun, strong winds and low rainfall lower the yield, and provide extended hang time which makes for a concentrated flavors and aromas. Also ideal conditions for cultivating the bright acidity that’s the hallmark of a proper Pinot Noir.

The 2012 vintage was a good one. The fruit ripened slowly, with good concentration and fruit character that can only come from extended hang time.

It’s both savory and sweet, showcasing aromas and flavors of pomegranate and blackberry. Framed by sweet herbs and bright acidity, it’s juicy with smooth tannins, a perfect food wine.

This is the wine when everyone is ordering a different entrée which may explain why it was voted Most Popular in a national restaurant poll.

La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir sells for under $20.


What to Drink – Idilico Albariño

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

What a lovely start to the New Year! A friend dropped in for the annual open house and left without his hat. A few days later, I dropped by his house and reunited the hat and the head.

But the best part was I dropped by at dinnertime. They invited me in for a glass of wine.  And a little week night supper of fried rice to boot.

But back to the wine… It was a Washington winery that I had never heard of and a grape they had never heard of – Idilico and Albariño respectively. Both were quite a surprise to me. I had no idea Washington was growing Albariño.

Winemaker Javier Alfonso, a native of Spain, believes eastern Washington is much like the wine regions of Spain with dry, desert-like climate with hot days and chilly nights. He figures the climate in eastern Washington is very similar to the climate in northwestern Spain’s Rias Baixas wine region where Albariño originates.

Washington’s Idilico Winery is really into Spanish varietals. What other Spanish grapes do they produce you ask? Well, there’s Tempranillo, a juicy and luscious Garnacha (Grenache), Monastrell (Mourvèdre), Graciano and the rare but stunning Albariño

Finicky Albariño is a quality varietal but it’s low yielding. And its skins are thick so the pulp to skin ration is very different from other white grapes.

This Albariño is from a 6 acre planting of in a cooler area of the Yakima Valley north of Prosser. The wine was fermented and aged sur lie in stainless steel for three months.

The wine has the full spectrum of floral, almond and white peach aromas with the stone fruit flavors of apricots, peaches with a bit of citrus to make it really bright. Albariño has bracing acidity from those cool nights and should be consumed in its youth as it rarely ages.

As you might imagine, production of these varietals in Washington is still very small. Their website charmingly explains, “We would like to apologize in advance if finding our wines proves to be difficult. In an attempt to help you locate the wines we will start giving updates via our Facebook Page which you can access below. Happy hunting!

Your fail safe option is to contact your favorite wine shop and ask them to order any available Idilico wines for you. Don’t be intimidated, this is done by good wine retailers all the time. Just let them know which distributor carries the wine in your area.”

Elliott Bay Distributing distributes their wines in our area and the cost about $15. Enjoy!


What We’re Drinking – Argentinian Malbec

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

llama_malbec_brand_smLong ago, my Aussie friend, Justine shared her wine buying philosophy – never buy a wine with an animal on the label. Ever.

I took her seriously because when we had this discussion, we were sipping Veuve Clicquot. (Just so you know, Justine, I did not buy this wine, but I did enjoy the heck out of it despite the animal on the label.)

Llama is the name and the animal on the label of Belasco de Baquedano Winery’s Malbec.  Nestled in the foothills of the Andes, this dark colored wine is from 100 year old vines. Its extracted color stained my glass, and that’s impressive. The intriguing aromas of black cherries and minerals had intense juicy cherry and blackberry flavors set off to perfection by the balancing acidity with a lush, smooth texture and hint of licorice on the finish.

Practically all of the world’s Malbec is grown in Argentina. Successful Argentine growers know this French varietal produces inexpensive, delicious Malbecs from the higher elevation vineyards.

Malbec used to be the favored Bordeaux blending grape but not so much anymore. France has less than 15,000 acres now with the bulk of those vineyards in the Sud Ouest – a ways from its roots in Bordeaux. Higher elevation than Bordeaux but nothing compared to Argentina’s high elevations.

There is also a smattering of Malbec in Washington and California but if you total up the world’s Malbec vineyards, Argentina dominates. Malbec just plain loves the climate Mother Nature bestows on the Mendoza Valley. But Mendoza is vast, and that means different climates in the huge area can produce different flavors and aromas to the same grape variety. Some may have the dark fruit notes while a hundred miles away, more minerals and subdued fruit just like its cousin in Bordeaux.

This fine wine sells for around $10 and worth every penny.


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

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

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.

 


Weekly Wine Defined – Ice Wine

Monday, December 9th, 2013

There is one good thing about this frigid weather we’re experiencing, the conditions are right for ice wines. These wines are a type of late-harvest wine that are made from grapes left on the vine far beyond the typical harvesting season. These grapes actually freeze before they are picked.
Because the water in the grapes freezes and when pressed, the water crystals remain in the press. The results are highly concentrated flavors, rich colors and increased sugars. Ice wines almost always come in small (375 ml.) bottles and the price tag reflects the rarity of such wines.

 


What we’re drinking: Woodinville wines

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

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: Trader Joe’s 2010 Russian River Valley Grand Reserve Pinot Noir

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Mary writes:

Pinot Noir is the red grape responsible for red burgundy, the most capricious of all the vinifera vines.

So the Blind Wine group decided to get familiar with this grape that is the most difficult to grow and ferment. Part of the reason for the variation in Pinot Noir lies in its genetic makeup and its propensity to mutate. There are more clones of Pinot Noir than any other varietal.

The Russian River Valley has the perfect climate for this finicky grape.  Trader Joe’s 2010 Russian River Valley Grand Reserve Pinot Noir was one of the stars of the seven wines in our blind tasting.

But 2010 wasn’t an easy year in the Russian River Valley. The young grapes had a wet and chilly spring. Late spring rains prompted growers to pull leaves to open up the canopies and expose the fruit to drying breezes and sunlight. The summer saw plenty of fog and wet weather further slowing grape maturity. Thankfully, an August heat spike promoted development so the grapes were able to reach full maturity in September. This cool spring and summer resulted in balanced flavors and smooth tannins.

Despite the harrowing growing season, this wine had a wonderful sweet black cherry nose with hints of spice; big up front cherry, raspberry flavors with smooth tannins and a spicy, smooth finish. Under $15!


What we’re drinking: Dubindil Winery

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

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.


What we’re drinking: Knipprath Cellars

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Brynn writes:

Based in Spokane, the only chance we were going to get to try this winery’s wines was at a local tasting. Lucky for us they were at the Kitsap Wine Festival in August.

This was probably one of the most interesting wineries at the wine festival, largely because the wines produced aren’t everyday wines.

Knipprath focuses on Portuguese and Spanish grape varietals grown in the Northwest. The winery also has a heavy focus on Port wines and different flavor variations of Port.

Some of the Ports poured at the wine festival by winemaker Henning Knipprath were: NV Spanish Nudge Coffee Port, NV Au Chocolate Cabernet Port and my favorite of the three, NV Lagrima White Port.

Knipprath also poured a 2010 La Bodega Del Norte Touriga Nacional Red, which is a red wine made from Portuguese grapes traditionally used for Port.

The Lagrima White Port had a nutty finish similar to what you would find in sherry, but it was rounded out with a balanced sweetness of a dessert wine.

The grapes that make up the white port are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Albariño, a white grape with Portuguese origins that is also grown in Spain.

The wine is aged in neutral oak casks for 30 months, which helps give it that nutty finish.

I’m not a huge fan of wine that’s been infused with chocolate flavors, but the Au Chocolate Port had a strong chocolate nose and subtle finish. Knipprath uses cocoa beans to infuse the chocolate flavors in the Cabernet Sauvignon he uses to make this Port-style wine.

For you coffee lovers out there, the Spanish Nudge Coffee Port had a nice combination of Syrah and dark roast coffee. Knipprath infused the wine with cinnamon sticks, giving it a cinnamon nose. This was another interesting combination that had a lot of people coming back for second tastings. (A certain someone who also writes this wine blog, but who asked to remain anonymous — hint her name rhymes with “Berry” — also enjoyed this wine and its complexity.)

Learn more about Knipprath and how to get the wines at the website: knipprath-cellars.com.


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