Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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Affordable Chilean Wines with Empanadas

June 1st, 2014 by Mary Earl

Chile is that long, narrow country just to the left of Argentina. The Andes are to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west and the vineyards are planted along an 800-mile stretch of valleys in the foothills.

The northern wine regions are hot and dry compared to the cooler, wetter regions in the south. As with all the world’s vineyards, rivers play an important role. The Maipo, Rapel and Maule Rivers are the major rivers that serve as temperature moderator.

Chile is home to both wine values and the upper crusty stuff. Like California, they have a long history with Vitis Vinifera grapes. Back in the 16th century, the Conquistadors planted vineyards to “the common black grape” otherwise called Pais or in California, the Mission grape. This thin skinned grape produces a thin bodied, rustic red. It is valued for its vigorous growth and ease of cultivation. A perfect jug wine grape.

The Phylloxera epidemic in France pretty much changed the direction of Chile’s wine industry. Many French enologists and viticulturalists made a new start in Chile. Isolated by the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, Chile to this day has never been invaded by the destructive root louse known as Phylloxera

Today, Cabernet Sauvignon vines are now the most widely planted red grape with almost 95,000 acres. Sauvignon Blanc is planted to almost 33,000 acres, Chardonnay 27,000 and Merlot to 26,000 acres. The forgotten Bordeaux grape, Carmenere, is now planted to 23,500 acres.

Chile’s Central Valley is divided into four main subregions: Maipo, Rapel, Maule and Curico. The Rapel region is further divided into the Colchagua and Cachapoal Valleys.

One of my favorite Chilean wines is Viña Cono Sur Colchagua Valley Reserve Cab that sells around $12. Another to look for is Veramonte Colchagua Valley Cab also around $12 or Los Boldos with 3 different Cabernets ranging from $10 to $14.

While exploring Chilean wines, a traditional Chilean dish to pair with those wines is Empanadas de Pino. Empanadas are like samosas, calzones or pasties, a savory stew wrapped in dough. There’s just something fabulous about a flavorful package for picnics, hiking or wine tastings!

Empanadas de Pino

The dough:

4 cups of all-purpose flour

1 tbsp of baking powder

1 tsp of salt

1 cup of vegetable shortening

1 cup of warm milk

 

In a food processor, pulse flour, baking powder and salt for a few seconds to combine. Add the vegetable shortening by spoonfuls. Pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. With the blade is running, add the warm milk. Process until the dough starts to come together in a ball. Transfer to a floured surface and knead for a few seconds and form it into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in a cool place for 30 minutes while you assemble

The filling:

1 lb of ground beef

3 medium-sized yellow onions, diced

2 or more cloves of garlic, minced

2 tsp sweet paprika

2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 cup of beef broth

1 tbsp of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp of kosher salt

1 tbsp of vegetable oil

3 hard boiled eggs, sliced

15 green olives, sliced

1/3 cup raisins

Heat some oil in a large skillet and cook the onions on medium high heat, stirring until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Add the ground beef and brown. Add the beef broth and simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Sprinkle the flour over the beef and stir until thickened. Cool while you’re rolling out the dough.

Cut the dough in half and roll each half into fairly even logs. Cut six even pieces of dough in each log so you have 12. On a floured surface, roll each small ball of dough into a 6” in diameter disk. Fill the center with 2 spoonfuls of your cooled pino. Top with a slice of hard boiled egg, a few slices of olives and some raisins. Then fold in half so you have a half moon shape. Gently seal all the edges by folding the sides up and pressing gently.

Brush with an egg wash (an egg white mixed with a tablespoon of water). Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or lightly greased. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool on a rack while resisting the urge to taste for a few minutes anyway.


Dr. Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center Grand Opening

May 28th, 2014 by Mary Earl

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 info@theclorecenter.org

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,  www.theclorecenter.org


Let the Wine Touring Weekend Begin!

May 23rd, 2014 by Mary Earl

What to do this weekend? Tour a winery! North, south, east or west there are many wineries ready to welcome you and your friends with food, music and wonderful wines.

Go north to Bainbridge Island for a Memorial Weekend Charcuterie and Wine tasting. May 24 thru 26 the winemakers on Bainbridge Island serve up charcuterie (meat treats) to pair with their delightful wines.

All the wineries are open for tours and tasting from 12-5 pm. For more info or directions, visit Bainbridge Wineries

If you head south, stop by Mosquito Fleet Winery in Belfair.  On Saturday only, from noon until 5p.m., Winemaker Brian Petersen will have a special spring barrel tasting. Dr. Brian Petersen will pour tastes of upcoming vintages still aging in the barrel.

From the recently crushed 2013 vintage to other vintages still in barrel; this is a fantastic opportunity to compare wines as they develop. Taste the difference between American and French oak, light vs. heavy toast’s impact on a wine and the different yeasts used for a specific taste. The cost is $25 per person and includes a MFW wine glass and gourmet food bites. (They always have wonderful wines and delicious food.)

East of here is a plethora of wineries in charming Woodinville. Here’s a list of this weekend’s events. And a special shout out to Lou Facelli: Congratulations on 25 years!

And finallly, west of here are the eight Olympic Peninsula Wineries and two cideries. They will be open but there are no special events planned this weekend. Here’s a map and list of the places to visit.

Have a safe and happy weekend. Cheers!


Riesling with your Shrimp Catch

May 17th, 2014 by Mary Earl

shrimpGrilled Hood Canal shrimp and a chilled bottle of Riesling is just the ticket for these warm sunny days. And right on cue, a couple of emails received earlier this week highlighted the length that some aficionados go to for love of Riesling.

The first was a traveling tasting experience from Key West to New York City. Riesling enthusiast and NYC restaurateur Paul Grieco and German wine author and expert Stuart Pigott will spread the word and German Riesling with their wine bar on wheels, leading tastings for trade and media and hosting dinners along the way.

The other was a blog about the Summer of Riesling. The Summer of Riesling is a worldwide movement which encourages the consumption, discussion and enjoyment of Riesling.

Riesling is a noble grape that originated in Germany’s Rhine region. Riesling does well in cool climates. Germany has one of the world’s most northern vineyards and they’re pretty frosty to boot. Since the 15th century, they have staked their vineyards on Riesling because it can survive and thrive in cooler climates.

Extremely versatile, Riesling can be made dry, semi-sweet, sweet, dessert or sparkling. It’s rarely blended and when it does see oak, as is the case in the Alsace, the barrels are lined with centuries of tartrates that insulate the barrel.

Riesling is usually consumed young, when it’s a fruity and aromatic with aromas of green apples, peach, rose blossoms or minerals and crispness from the bracing acidity. In cool climates, the wines tend toward apple and peach notes with crisp acidity that’s balanced by the residual sugar. It develops citrus and peach notes in warmer climates. In Australia, you’ll find a lime note.

This naturally high acidity and prominent residual sugars make it a likely candidate for aging. With aging, Riesling takes on honeyed character, petrol aromas and an amber hue.

Two German wines to try are the Losen-Bockstanz 2012 Mosel Wittlicher Lay Riesling Kabinett, and the Rudi Wiest 2012 Mosel Riesling QBA. Both sell for just $11 and have the crisp acidity and mineral component that is the hallmark of German Rieslings.

Because of that broad range of acidity, flavors and sweetness or lack there of, there is, of course, a broad range of dishes that work so well with this wine. One dish that comes to mind this time of year is shrimp, Hood Canal Shrimp, sweet, succulent and slightly charred from the grill.

Here’s a favorite recipe an old chef friend made with Hood Canal shrimp. Make a marinade of grated lime peel with 1/4 cup lime juice, a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of chopped ginger. Pour over shrimp in the shells and let it stand for an hour or two. Drain into a sauce pan and simmer for about 5 minutes

Preheat grill for direct grilling on medium-high. Skewer shrimp with two skewers an inch apart so the shrimp won’t twist when you flip them. Grill 3 to 4 minutes turning over once until shells are bright and shrimp turn opaque. Line a plate with lettuce and mint leaves. Top with grilled shrimp, chopped avocado and pink grapefruit segments. Sprinkle with cooled marinade.

Even though shrimping 2014 ends this week, there is still a n opportunity to get some at the Brinnon ShrimpFest 2014 which runs Saturday, May 24th, 10 to 6 pm and Sunday, May 25th, 10 to 4pm. Gate Fee: $4/day or $6 for two-day pass.  For more information: shrimpfest@hotmail.com or check out their facebook page.


Wine Defined – Shoot Thinning

May 12th, 2014 by Mary Earl

A recent email from Perennial Vintners‘ Vineyard Manager Mike Lempriere, says “the next job in grape growing has begun – it’s time to do shoot thinning.”

Shoot thinning’s goal is to reduce the density of the leaf canopy later on.  Right now it’s easy to tell which shoots bear fruit and which grow leaves. This helps improve wine quality becauase the vine’s energy is more concentrated in the fruit bearing vines.

Shoot thinning is easy to do by hand right now, you just have to know which shoots to snap off the vine. As the weeks go by, the new shoots become stronger and woody and difficult to do by hand. If it reaches that point, a pruning shears and more labor are needed to get the job done.

If you want to learn about this task, Mike is looking for a few volunteers in the next week or two. You can schedule a time by contacting Mike via the website


Tasting Wines Blind

May 3rd, 2014 by Mary Earl

The focus of a blind wine tasting is on the aromas, flavors and colors. Rather than blindfolding everyone, which gets very messy, all the bottles are brown bagged, numbered and corks removed before presenting to the tasting party.brown bags

The Blind Wine Group hosted a tasting recently of French red wines. Participants each bring a bottle of wine and appetizers for 12. Or in this case, hor d’ouvres for 12. The wines are brown bagged by the host who also buys two of the same wine and puts them into the line up.  The object is to find the duplicate wine in the line up. We have a vote at the end to determine that and our personal favorite.
French red is a broad category. There were 5 regions represented but Bordeaux was the most popular with 4 out of the 9 wines presented.  Bordeaux is a very prolific wine region in south-west France. Anyone with an interest in wine knows this is an influential (think Meritage) and famous (Margaux, Rothschild) wine region.
I love Bordeaux, from the $10 price range to the glad-I-bought-it-when-it-was-affordable variety.  It’s a dry, medium-bodied red that can be a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Malbec. Each chateau’s vineyard is planted with the permitted varietals they’ll use.
Depending on which side of the Gironde your wine is from, it could be either left bank or right bank. Left bank (Paulliac, Ste Estephe, St. Julien, Margaux, Medoc) is Cabernet dominate and right bank (Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Cote de Castillion) is a Merlot dominated blend. This fact never makes it on the label, that’s one of those facts you have to memorize.
Cabernet and Merlot vines grow at different times and rates, which spreads the risk posed by poor weather conditions at flowering or harvest. In years when the autumn is wet, the Cabernet Sauvignon harvest suffers from rot and water-logging, but the earlier-ripening Merlot provides a back-up. When the spring is wet, the Merlot flowers poorly, leaving the Cabernet Sauvignon to take up the responsibility of providing a good harvest.
Thousands of producers ferment a vast quantity of wine each year.  Every producer is classified as a First Growth, Second Growth, and so on down to Fifth Growth. If it’s not a classified growth then it would be a Bordeaux AC which produces about 40% of the red wines of Bordeaux.  
Bordeaux prices range from truly affordable to first growth chateaux that produce some of the world’s most expensive wine. Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2010 will set you back about $800 – per bottle. And that is fairly reasonable compared to Chateau Petrus 2010 which sells for around $3,500 per bottle.
The Blind Wine Group’s Bordeaux offering were all Bordeaux AC, the affordable side of the region. Save one, a 1989 Chateau Clerc Milon from Paulliac, a Fifth Growth and property of Mouton Rothschild. Clerc Milon comprises 100 acres of vineyards around the village of  Milon in northeastern Paulliac planted to 60% Cab, 30% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and  2% Petite Verdot.
It was tasted first as is done with all older wines. The nose was gorgeous with the classic cigar box aroma opening up to leather, dried herbs, and coffee. A mineral quality added more complexity. The flavors were tight at first and then opened to wonderful concentration and balance. The vintage was an excellent one and the reason why this 24 year old wine aged so gracefully. One famous wine writer said “the difference between the Clerc Milon and the Mouton Rothschild is negligible.” Considering the price, that says a lot.
Other wines tasted were 2010 Haut-Sorillon Bordeaux Supérieur, a rich, full bodied wine with dark ruby color. I loved it. It has a wonderful nose, plummy and woodsy, with a bit of the cigar box. Although a Bordeaux AC, the vineyards are only 5 km from Saint-Emilion. This wine received a silver medal from the Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition. $10
The 2009 Chateau Moulin de Mallet also received a medal, a gold one from the 2010 Concourse de Boudreaux.  Also a Bordeaux AC, it probably comes from the right bank with its telltale blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cab. It had really nice upfront fruit which was surprising for a wine of this age, beautiful weight to the mouthfeel and a long silky finish. $11.
2010 Chateau Haut-Mouleyre Bordeaux AC was another silver medal winner this time from Concourse des Grands Vins de France. With its signature Bordeaux nose, ruby color and aromas of Provence herbs and blackberries, this wine is another everyday wine at $7.
The winner with 6 out of ten votes was the Domaine les Grands Bois 2010 Cote du Rhone Villages with a dense purple robe, grapey, cassis aromas and grapey flavors that were rich and powerful. It’s a good thing it turned up last in the line up or it would have overpowered the other wines. Expect to spend about $14.
Of the eleven tasters, only two found the match, a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre from the Cotes du Rousillon. The Tessellae Old Vines 2010 sells for around $14.
For the appetizers, the grilled lamb with garlic and basil, the strong cheeses and, of course the homemade bread were the best match.

Spring Barrel Tastings this weekend

April 25th, 2014 by Mary Earl
Alphonse de Klerk at his Rolling Bay winery on Bainbridge Island on Thursday, May 30, 2013. (MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN)

Alphonse de Klerk at his Rolling Bay winery on Bainbridge Island on Thursday, May 30, 2013. (MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN)

Bainbridge Island Wineries are open for tours  and tasting from 12-5 pm this weekend. Meet the winemakers, taste classic favorites from the barrels. Participating wineries are Amelia Wynn, Bainbridge Vineyards, Eagle Harbor, Eleven, Fletcher Bay, Perennial and Rolling Bay. The Island Tasting Room will also be open.

For more information and directions, visitbainbridgewineries.com

 


Easter Ham with Pinot Noir

April 19th, 2014 by Mary Earl

There was always a big ham on the Easter dinner table.  And for the longest time, I thought all hams came smoked, on the bone with cloves stuck into the scored top and sprinkled with brown sugar.

Until many years later, after reading a recipe somewhere, I ordered a fresh ham from the butcher without knowing what I was getting myself into. When I unwrapped it, I had serious misgivings. It had the bone, it was the right shape but it just didn’t look like ham to me.

I faithfully followed the recipe and served it with a creamed horseradish sauce and a big jug of Navalle Burgundy. Forks were flying and before long there was just a soup bone left.

Fresh ham, it turns out, is a pork roast with a big bone in it. Never brined, cured, or smoked. It’s fresh.

Today, this baked fresh ham will be served3girls with a dried cherry and leek sauce and a Pinot Noir. And I have just the wine for the match! Having recently tried a couple of wines from a winery I was not familiar with – Oak Ridge Winery  -  I can highly recommend this Lodi winery.

Lodi lies between the Sierra Nevada foothills and the San Francisco Bay where the days are quite warm and the nights are cool. The Lodi AVA was established in 1986 but grape growing in this prolific farming region has been going on since the 1850s. Many German farming families formed cooperatives and sold their grapes to outfits like Sebastiani and Bronco.

The winery, opened in 1934, was originally a cooperative for the local growers. In 2001, winegrower Rudy Maggio and his partners, Don and Rocky Reynolds, bought the winery. They produce small lots of hand-crafted wines, and like many Lodi wineries, they’re known for Zinfandel, Old Vine Zinfandel.

While over 50 grape varietals thrive in Lodi, Zinfandel shines. Old gnarly vines, some over 100 years old, sculpted by time, yield small amounts of fruit to create a fabulous wine.

While Zinfandel would be great with this dinner, the wine that I had in mind was their Pinot Noir. Pretty unusual climate for Pinot Noir but there it is. The 3 Girls Vineyard California Pinot Noir is not produced from 80% Lodi grapes to get Lodi on the label.  And it actually has 13% Zinfandel in it!

I’m happy I didn’t know that while I was enjoying this delicious bottle of wine. The latent wine snob in me might have emerged.

Oak Ridge is one of the fastest growing wineries in the U.S. and easily the one with most extraordinary tasting room. It’s made from a 75 year old redwood holding tank. The tank had a capacity of 49,429 gallons of wine or 20,610 cases of wine.

Their very affordable wines can be found at these local markets:

CostPlus World Market – Silverdale

Fred Meyer – Port Orchard

Central Market – Poulsbo

Savage Vine – Kingston


Weekly Wine Defined – Bud Break

April 14th, 2014 by Mary Earl

The start of the grape vines’ growth cycle begins in the spring with bud break. The small buds on the vine start to swell or “break” out and shoots begin to emerge from the bud.
The buds have been hanging out since the previous summer. During the winter, they turn brown and go dormant. Then when the weather turns spring-like, tiny green shoots emerge from the buds. This growth is energized from carbohydrate stored in roots and trunks. Soon the shoots sprout leaves and photosynthesis begins. Six months later, it’s harvest time.


Springtime Wine

April 10th, 2014 by Mary Earl

chivesSpring brings out the fresh herbal dishes in my kitchen. When the bright green sorrel, pungent chives, lemony lemon balm and asparagus have sprung up in the garden, it’s time for my favorite go-to vegetable wine, Sauvignon Blanc. Having oysters, goat cheese or roast chicken? Try a Sauvignon Blanc. Grilled seafood, smoked salmon, vegetarian dish? Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc is an aromatic, herbal, citrusy and refreshingly acidic. These components pair well with seafood with lemon, goat cheese and strongly flavored vegetables. It’s pungent, grassy, citrus flavors range from grass, hay, green pepper, lemons, grapefruit to gooseberries. It all depends on how and where it is grown.

The vines are more apt to concentrate on leaf and shoot growth so a stern canopy management plan is needed to achieve balance between the green and the fruity parts of the vine.

Most Sauvignon Blancs are fermented in stainless steel at low temperatures to enhance and preserve every bit of fruit and tame the acidity. The wines are best drunk young.

Two classic, high-end Sauvignon Blancs come from two appellations on the banks of the Loire River in Central France, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. These wines have a minerality that distinguishes them from counterparts on the west coast and New Zealand.

But if you’re looking for a good value, the Loire’s less famous appellations of Touraine, Menetou Salon, Reuilly and Quincy are delicious.

A white Bordeaux is a blend of crisp Sauvignon Blanc with the much fatter, less acidic Semillon. In the value conscious Entre-Deux-Mers appellation, as well as Graves, it’s blended with Semillon in varying proportions and produces a great dry wine.

Some of the world’s most famous Sauvignon Blanc is grown in New Zealand. Vines were first planted in the early 1800s, but it wasn’t until the late 1980s they burst onto the wine scene with an lavish, fruity style that put New Zealand wines firmly in the forefront. The cool maritime climate and dry gravel soil of Marlborough are perfectly suited for this grape.

Sauvignon is the name seen on Chilean labels. Planted in the cool wine region of Casablanca Valley, Sauvignon is clearly in an ideal spot in Chile. Always a wine value.

Many of our west coast vineyards are too hot for Sauvignon Blanc. In the cooler vineyards of Santa Barbara, Oakville Bench and the Mayacamas Mountains, a California style of full-bodied, slightly sweet Sauvignon, often oak aged, are produced. Some labels may say Fumé Blanc, a term coined by Robert Mondavi in the late 60s.

Washington State makes some fine, racy Sauvignon Blancs in cooler vineyards like Horse Heaven Hills and Yakima Valley with an average elevation of 1,000 feet.

Suggested taste tour of Sauvignon Blanc:

  • Babcock Vineyards, Santa Barbara
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc
  • Henri Pele Menetou Salon, Loire
  • Kim Crawford, New Zealand
  • Les Gourmets Touraine Sauvignon, Loire
  • Veramonte Vineyards, Chile

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