Chilled Red Wine and Al Fresco Dining

Ever wonder what Italians sip under the hot Tuscan sun with their lunch of mozzarella caprese, grilled calamari and carpaccio?

It would not be a Super Tuscan, that’s for sure. But it would be made with the same grape – Sangiovese.  Sangiovese (san-jo-veh-zeh) is a red grape which translated means “Blood of Jove.” Jove was one of many important gods of the Roman Empire, by Jove.

Sangiovese is the essential, and required by law, ingredient of some of Italy’s most famous wines. Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino are 100% Sangiovese. Chianti’s main component since 1996 is 75 to 100% Sangiovese.  Carmignano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano, and Super Tuscans all use some or all Sangiovese. But these are not the types of wines for dining al fresco. Too big, too heavy and we need something fruit forward and with a chill on it.

Enter Sangiovese Rosé, one of the most food friendly wines out there. Perfect with antipasti, salads of any type, grilled oysters or salmon, barbequed ribs, hamburgers, chops, and grilled pizzas. You get the picture. There is a swarm of Sangiovese Rosés right here in Washington State that you need to explore this summer.

One that I would highly reccommend is from Kaella Wine kaellaCompany.  While touring the Woodinville Warehouse District a few months ago, I happened upon the winery.  This was my first taste of Rosé this year and boy! I was impressed. This Rosé is a red wine drinker’s  summertime best friend.

Made from 100% Sangiovese from one of the best vineyards in the state, Ciel du Cheval on Red Mountain, the grapes were processed in the usual fashion of Rosé making.

After harvesting, those tough stems are removed, in a process called destemming, and then they’re crushed, and the skins are left to macerate for 24 hours to allow the skins release their color, flavors and aromas. The next day, the juice is pressed and then fermented in stainless steel tanks. Stainless steel fermentation accentuates the fruitiness. Rosés rarely see oak.

Kaella’s Rosé has enticing aromas of strawberry, watermelon, and raspberry that are rich and full bodied with great acidity and an impressive finish. Consumed over three days with all manner of fresh crab dishes, I swear I did not notice the 14.2% until the last drop.

Maryhill, Winery of the Year in 2014, makes a wonderful Columbia Valley Rosé of Sangiovese that is bright pink in color and has this sun ripened strawberry and watermelon flavors. Crisp and clean, it also was fermented in stainless steel. Sourced from two award-winning vineyards, this Rosé is comprised of 86% Sangiovese from the Tudor Hills Vineyards and 14% Grenache from Art den Hoed Vineyards.

Barnard Griffin has been producing award-winning rose1wines for over 30 years. It was founded in 1983 by Rob Griffin and Deborah Barnard, while Griffin was still working for Hogue. Barnard Griffin Winery only recently built their own winery in the heart of Washington State’s wine country, at the confluence of the Yakima, Columbia, and Snake rivers.

Their Rosé of Sangiovese is a luscious array of strawberry, melon and cranberry notes with crisp acidity. The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition has awarded this wine Gold or better nine times. A seriously great summer quaffer.

At the Kitsap Wine Festival, celebrating its seventh year, there are a number of Washington Wineries that will be serving up rosés. This fun-in-the-sunshine event is the perfect opportunity to try before you buy.

What to sample? Well, top on my list would be Chandler Reach. Their wines have a certain Tuscan flair to them. Rich, full bodied, always smooth and very food friendly. chandler reach

Their villa is located at the top of a hill just like Tuscan Villas. And the vineyards are blessed with Tuscan-like terroir, located in an area historically considered to be among the warmest in the state. Patio Red is a light Sangiovese blend with strawberry and dark cherry aromas and flavors. It pairs nicely with deck chairs, grilled foods and great friends!

Last year, we gushed over the Forgeron 2013 Ambiance, a blend of white grapes in the Rhone way with Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, &  Marsanne. Forgeron is back again this year, serving up a versatile and food-friendly Rosé of Sangiovese. Crisp and delicious from start to finish with juicy red berry flavors.

Davenport Cellars is a boutique winery located in the warehouse district in Northeast Woodinville. Davenport Cellars also makes a Sangiovese called Rosé de Vins from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain.

Their other fabulous summertime sipper is the Orange Muscat from Lonesome Spring Ranch with a residual sugar of 3.5%. This is a perfect wine for a summer’s day, fragrant, crisp and 100% stainless fermented. Try adding sparkling water for a really refreshing al fresco wine.

Olympic Peninsula’s Harbinger Winery will be pouring their rosé, a crisp beauty from Red Mountain. Although technically a Rhone Rosé, It’s well balanced with bright berry notes and racy acidity, this ruby-colored gem is all cherry pie and sweet spices.

Many of these Washington wines can be tasted at the Kitsap Wine Festival on the waterfront, Saturday, August 8th starting at 2:00pm. Harborside Fountain Park is one of the more splendid venues Kitsap has to offer. Close to the ferry, gorgeous views and spectacular fountains. Enjoy the wines, the delectable bites and friendship; it’s a great Kitsap summer event. Tickets are for sale at Brown Paper Tickets. More info at

Washington Craft Fruit Beers

The Bremerton Summer BrewFest was a blast. washington_beer_buttonComing in waves off the ferry, driving across three major bridges to get to the Kitsap Peninsula, happy beer enthusiasts filled the boardwalk from the Turner Joy to the ferry terminal.

The 5th annual Summer BrewFest was hot in more ways than one. Shade was at a premium but this year’s festival, featuring of fruit infused beers, was just the ticket to cool things off.

There were quite a few Washington craft brewers that made a fruit infused brew. They used one or more of the following: pineapples, raspberries, apricots, blood oranges, blackberries, limes, peaches, watermelons, lemons, strawberries, or grapefruits with other refreshing, non-fruit additions such as basil, ginger, rosemary, honey, rhubarb, chili peppers, Szechuan peppers or black peppers.

Many of these ingredients were added during fermentation but another way to introduce a really refreshing note into your glass is to pour it through a Randall. A Randall is a device that is connected to the tap and filled with flavor enhancers be it fruit, hops or spices. The beer flows through the container and Voila! You have a very cool, refreshing beverage.

For instance, Silverdale’s Rainy Daze poured their session IPA with its big citrus hop notes through a Randall of citrus fruit. This refreshing brew is a session brew meaning its alcohol content is lower (4.5%) than an IPA (5.5 – 7.5%).

Fish Brewing out of Olympia served up a Randalled Peach Imperial Pilsner made with German malts, hops and peaches. (10%)  Another was Dirty Bucket out of Woodinville. Their Hefen’ Pineapple is a German weisen made with fresh pineapple and Randalled through a homemade fruit cocktail. (5%)

One of the most refreshing brews of the day was In the Shadow Brewing, a nano-brewery outside Arlington. They brewed up a blonde ale with crystal and honey malts and threw in some basil and lemon during fermentation and added local honey at the end for a touch of sweetness and perfect balance. (5% with 13 IBU) It would be a fun summer jaunt to the brewery to get your growler filled but do make an appointment.

Top Rung Brewing from Lacey poured the Raspberry Lacey Lager through a Randall of Raspberries. Very aromatic and refreshing summertime sipper at 4.5% with 24 IBU.

Other unRandalled, made-with-real-fruit brews include the ultra refreshing Boundary Bay Steady as She Gose infused with Raspberries. Gose is an old German beer style made from malted wheat, which creates a cloudy, yellow color but provides crispness. It has low hop bitterness, spice from ground coriander seeds and twang from the addition of salt.

Fremont Brewing’s Summer Mojito is a refreshing take on the classic summer cocktail, they take their Summer Ale and infuse it with lime and mint. A seriously quaffable ale. (5.2% / 45 IBU)

No-Li Brewhouse’s Brass Monkey is a very good, sweet malt ale combined with orange peel zest. This refreshing, citrusy summer seasonal has that robust citrus aroma from the cascade hops and orange peel.

Schooner Exact brewed a wheat beer called Seamstress Union Raspberry Wheat. The raspberry aromas explode from the glass and the palate is all tangy raspberries. (5% / 20 IBU)

Another perfectly refreshing summertime filtered wheat beer infused with raspberries is from Walking Man Brewing. Crafting award winning beers along the Columbia River Gorge at Stevenson, Walking Man Brewing has a 17-barrel system that produces about 1200 barrels per year. (4.8% / 28 IBU).

Saving my favorite for last, drum roll please… Pyramid’s Apridunkel. Woot! Woot! This is a stronger and darker version of their gold medal winning Apricot Ale. Made with 2-row, caramel 40, chocolate malts and flaked wheat and only enough Cascade hops to balance the sweetness of the apricots. Really, really good. (6.8% with 25 IBU).

Many of these breweries have limited distribution so a trip to the brewery may be warranted. Or try Kitsap Peninsula’s best beer store – Marina Market in Poulsbo. They have a huge and many times unique collection of Northwest brews.

More hoppy news – It was great seeing Mike Hale pour on Saturday and pass out postcards announcing Hale’s Barrel House Tavern opening this fall at 15th and Wycoff in Bremerton.

This festival is presented by the Washington Beer Commission. They hold many craft beer festivals throughout the year.  Next month:  August 15th is the Everett Craft Beer Festival and August 29th is the South Sound Craft Beer Festival. More information at


It’s the Hop Days of Summer!


Hops are important to beer the way salt is to French fries.  Hop growing is a big industry in the Pacific Northwest, one of the top hop producers of the world.

Hops are the female flowers or cones of Humulus lupulus, the hop plant. They are used for aroma, flavoring and a stability agent in beer. There are over 240 varieties of hops, some are used for bittering and preserving, and  some are used for aromatics.

Aroma hops have low alpha acids. These are generally used at the end of brewing for aroma and not extraction of the International Bittering Units (IBU). Bitter hops have higher alpha acids and more oils. These hops are used in the boiling process to extract bitterness. The longer it’s boiled the more extraction and bitterness.

India Pale Ale (IPA) is the perfect match for hot weather meals from smoked meats to grilled shrimp, corn on the cob and fruity desserts. These beers have aromas of tropical and citrus fruits and a bitterness that balances the big maltiness – for the most part.

IPAs were invented in the British Empire in the 17th Century when the Empire included India. Brewers added more hops to the barrels of beer so the beverage wouldn’t sour during the month long voyage to the troops in India.

In the Pacific Northwest, craft brewers evolved the IPA style by using more pale malts and a heavier hand when it came to adding hops to the boil. Thanks to the potent crop of locally grown hops, the West Coast style of IPA was created.

To be classified as an American IPA, the brew must have between 40 and 70 IBUs. Our obsession for even higher IBUs inspired the creation of another category of beer, the Imperial or Double IPA. These brews can have between 60 and 120 IBUs and even higher alcohol content.

The most frequently used hops for IPAs include:

Amarillo with its flowery, citrus-like aroma and medium bittering. Cascade has flowers, citrus and spice with grapefruit the noticeable fragrance. Centennial has a dual purpose – aromatics with mid to high bittering value.

And good old Chinook is a pine forest washed with spice and infused with grapefruit. The alluring aroma and a high bittering value has gained this hop full respect from craft and major brewers.

Columbus is high on the bittering scale and valued for its oil content. Mosaic is a new hybrid derived from Simcoe with earthy, grassy, herbal, citrus, cedar, tropical, spice and stone fruit notes adding to the pine-based pungency. Simcoe is a 10 year old hop variety that has a dual purpose but generally used as a bittering hop.

Our Kitsap craft brewers have made some pretty incredible and for some, award winning India Pale Ales. Here’s what’s available:

Bainbridge Island Brewing crafts small batches of Downrigger Double IPA, 8.0% ABV and Eagle Harbor IPA at 6.0%. IBUs not published.

Der Blokken Brewery in Bremerton has a delicious Hessian Session IPA that is clean, crisp, and glowing with lemon and grapefruit and clocks in at 5.2% ABV and 44.5 IBUs.

Downpour Brewing in Kingston has a Hop Llama Double IPA at 7.5% ABV and hang on – 110 IBUs.

Hales Ales, used to be in Silverdale so I’ve included them, hoping they’ll pop up in Kitsap again. Their Supergoose IPA is aggressively, dry hopped and rich in hop flavor and aroma with grapefruit dominating. 6.9% ABV   67 IBU

Kingston’s Hood Canal Brewing has their Dabob Bay IPA. The prominent hop flavor is provided by numerous hop additions during the boil and dry hopping in the kegs. ABV: 6% IBU: 63

Rainy Daze Brewing’s Silverdale Sod Slayer ISA is a session IPA, with big citrus hop notes and only 4.5%. 60 IBU

Silver City Brewery’s Saint Florian, the Patron Saint of Firefighters, is their IPA with a portion of the proceeds going to a Washington State Council of Firefighters benevolent fund. Silver City uses Washington grown Cascade and Columbus hops. ABV: 6.5% IBU: 55

Whoop Pass is their Double IPA, without a doubt the hoppiest mother of a brew they have ever created. More than 50 lbs. of Washington State Cascade and Columbus hops are infused, injected, or otherwise inflicted upon a single batch. Welcome to hop country!

Slaughter County Brewing in Port Orchard, the county seat for Kitsap, formerly known as Slaughter County, has a Rabbit Imperial IPA originally from a homebrew recipe that uses an extreme Citra hop load. The finished product is 9% ABV with over 100 IBUs.

Slippery Pig Brewing in downtown Poulsbo has a refreshing Rhubarb IPA.  At the Bremerton Brew Fest, it was randalled over rhubarb and strawberries. A Randall is a device that is connected to a tap of your favorite beer and filled with flavor enhancers, be it fruit, hops or whatever. 9.4% ABV

Award winning Sound Brewing’s Humulo Nimbus Double IPA is a “towering thunderstorm of Northwest hops against a sky of clean, dry malt.” 8.5% ABV with 72 IBU.

Poulsbo’s Valhöll Brewing Brew Bitch IPA is a classic version of the Northwest India Pale Ale. It uses some of Yakima Valley’s classic hops, and a couple of the Northwest’s newest hops: Cascade, Centennial, Zythos, and Simcoe. ABV: 6.2% IBU: 70

Here’s to a summer of BBQ and hoppy beers. Cheers!

Summer Beer, Cider and Wine Tastings

There are some exciting wine, beer and cider tastings in the next few weeks. Get your calendar out and make plans with family and friends to sip a few.

Looking for something to do this weekend? Tootle on down to the Mosquito Fleet Winery tasting room in beautiful Belfair. They’re open both Saturday and Sunday from 12-5pm. These guys make some of the best wine on the Kitsap Peninsula, having garnered 90+ points for eight of their red wines. These are truly wonderful wines you’ll be proud to introduce to your besties!  Mosquito Fleet Winery was voted Best Boutique Winery of the South Sound in 2013 and AGAIN this year!

On July 13th, the Burrata Bistro in Poulsbo will host Nathan Barker from Vinum Imports. This tour of Italian wines takes you from the Alps in the northeast, around Tuscany, to the island of Sicily. Wines will be perfectly paired with delicious bites.

Your Italian wine tour will feature Rive Della Chiesa Prosecco Extra Dry NV, Cavalchina Bianco di Custoza 2013, Colognole Chianti Rufina 2008, Musella Valpolicella Superiore 2011, Vignalta Venda 2010 and Valle dell’Acate Case Ibidini Nero D’Avola 2013.  The cost is $28 per person. Reserve your seat today by calling 360.930.8446.

Tickets are on sale for the Bremerton Brewfest, Saturday, July 18th. The 5th annual festival, produced by the Washington Beer Commission, is moving to the waterfront this year. Featuring more than 30 Washington breweries pouring more than 100 craft beers, the Bremerton Summer Brewfest is a great way to learn about craft beers while you taste and enjoy live music and local food. This year’s feature will be fruit infused beers and Kitsap Craft brewers including Rainy Daze of Silverdale. For a list of all the breweries attending and to purchase tickets:

Tickets are a bargain at $20 and includes a commemorative tasting glass & six 5 oz tastes. Additional tokens may be purchased at $2 each or three for $5. Washington Beer Lover members receive two bonus tokens when they present their member passports.

You can also pick up tickets at these fine Kitsap Peninsula establishments: 7 Seas Brewing, Gig Harbor; Downpour Brewing, Kingston; Marina Market, Poulsbo; Silver City Brewery, Bremerton and Silverdale; Slaughter County Brewing, Port Orchard; Slippery Pig, Sound Brewery, and Valhöll in Poulsbo.

The following weekend the JW Restaurant in Gig Harbor features one of my favorite Washington wineries, Obelisco. Doug Long of Obelisco Estate Wines in Woodinville will talk about his fabulous wines on Friday, July 24th with two seatings, at 5pm and 7:45 pm.

The first wine, a 2012 Obelisco Riesling, which received a Silver at the Seattle Wine Awards, will be paired with Grilled Salmon, Soy Honey Asian Slaw on Crispy Fried Wontons.

The 2011 Obelisco Estate Red Mountain Malbec will accompany the Asiago Asparagus Tomato Salad. And the rich and impressive 2012 Obelisco Estate Red Mountain Syrah should be a delight with the Filet Mignon with Wild Mushroom Ragout. I’d save a bite of that just to see how it would pair with the next wine, the 2011 Obelisco Estate Red Mountain Cabernet. A double gold winner at the Seattle Wine Awards 2014. And then see how beautifully it pairs with the Cherry Caramel Chocolate Fondant Cake. Reservations are required. $85 per person. For more info: or 253.858.3529

The Northwest Cider Association’s fifth annual Summer Cider Day, takes place Saturday, August 8th from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend.  With more than 60 ciders to try, this family friendly event showcases some of the top cideries from Washington, Oregon and Montana. For more information visit

The 7th Annual Kitsap Wine Festival tickets are now on sale. If you purchase your tickets early, you can save yourself $20 at the door. The Kitsap Wine Festival at Harborside Fountain Park is a celebration of food and wine on Bremerton’s scenic waterfront, benefiting Harrison Medical Center Foundation. It takes place on Saturday, August 8th from 2:00 pm until 5:30 pm.

The lovely venue is perfect for tasting wine, local eats and catching up with friends. Don’t miss a chance to try Washington’s Chandler Reach, Harbinger and Davenport wines.  For a list of all the wineries, visit

And finally, this headline caught my attention this week: Kennewick Man Makes Best Amateur Wine in the World! It’s a pretty amazing story that has nothing to do with the Ancient One. Mike Rinker of Kennewick, an engineer, made the best amateur wine in the world.

At WineMaker Magazine’s annual competition, Rinker recently brought home the grand champion trophy for his 2013 Red Mountain Cab.  The competition had 2,825 entries from 49 states, 6 provinces and 10 other countries. Yeah, Washington Wine Rocks!

Refreshing, Unusual Summer Whites

Technically, it’s not summer yet but it sure feels like it!  With these hot, sunny days, firing up the stove is just not in the cards. Salad or grilling are the best supper choices. Nothing to heavy, just something light and refreshing. Right?wineblog

This same tendency also applies to your wine choices. While I do prefer to open a full-bodied red wine with dinner, lately crisp, refreshing whites and rosés are chilling up in the fridge.

Here are some wines thoughts for the lighter meals during these hot summer days. There are certain characteristics to look for in a wine when the weather is hot. Lighter cuisine, cold plates and salads are not the perfect match for a heavy red. Instead, look for a wine that can be chilled to enhance its crispness. And because summer fare tends to be dressed with vinegar rather than a sauce, look for wines with medium high to high acid.

The perfect summer whites are not heavy, oaky or full-bodied. Save those wines for heartier fare. Lower alcohol wines are also better, because the heat emphasizes the alcohol.

Patio and picnic fare are more casual so no need to serve anything with complexity or age with crystal and china. Buy a few perfect summer whites that will delight family and friends whether sipped on its own or with savory food from a paper plate.

Summer meals are, for the most part, easy to prepare and quick too! Firing up the barbie is a no brainer when it comes to cooking on hot evenings. Grilling vegetables, seafood, and chicken brings a different dimension to the flavors. Salads can be tricky when pairing with wine because most of the vinegar-based salad dressings require a wine with some degree of acidity.

The Rule of Wine dictates high acid vinegars pair best with high-acid sparkling wines, crisp, dry roses or high acid white wines with no oak. Adding other components like salty olives, spicy nuts or strong cheeses helps to neutralize some of the vinegar’s acidity.

But there are other ways around this acid problem. Vinaigrettes that use the low acid sushi vinegar and or citrus juice instead of or in addition to vinegar have lower acidity and therefore are easier to match with wine. A creamy dressing made with cheese, sour cream or mayo allows a wider range of wines that may not have the high acidity or perhaps a touch of oak. The cream and oil naturally tame the oak in a wine.

There are certain unusual grape varieties and wine regions that I think of during the hot weather, like Greece, Spain and Italy. These countries have been making wine to go with summer fare for a couple hundred decades and why let all that experience go unheeded? Why not venture out into the region of unpronounceable white grapes?

Greek wines have the most underrated and unpronounceable wines on the planet. For fans of lively whites, Greek whites offer amazing quality for very reasonable prices. The Assyrtiko (ah-sir-tee-ko) grape is a minerally, bone-dry, citrus-edged white that is best with fruits of the sea. Calamari, oysters and grilled fish on a bed of greens would be perfect. Athiri (ah-thee-ree) has aromas and flavors of stone fruits like peaches and nectarines. A lovely match with a fruit salad. And the Peloponnesian white, Moscofilero (mos-ko-fi-ler-oh) with its tangerine flavors and floral nose is my pick for grilled fish or a goat cheese salad. I’ll always fondly remember the Greek wine of my youth, Roditis (ro-dee-tis). This light-bodied, pink-skinned grape produces crisp whites and rosés that use to come in squat stone bottles. A Greek salad of olives, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and feta is the way to go here.

Spain’s Albariño from Rías Baixas, is a steely, floral white that goes well with seafood, from shrimp cocktail to grilled trout. Verdejo, with the crisp minerality and citrus tang from the cold, high plains of Rueda, north of Madrid, would pair well with a crab salad or paella. The Parellada grape is crisp and citrusy; Garnacha Blanca, with its herbal qualities, are blended into the white Vina Sol of Bodegas Torres in Catalunya, outside Barcelona. This inexpensive, versatile wine pairs well with clams casino, jamon and lentil salad or gazpacho.

Cavas are sparkling wines from northeast Spain. They are a blend of lemony Macabeo (mac a bay o), Paralleda (par a yay da), and floral Xarel-lo (zar el lo) grapes. These cavas are some of the best matches with grilled vegetable and seafood salads.

The sheer volume of Italy’s wine landscape, its humongous array of native grape varieties and confusion caused by similar producer names, region names and grapes that have two or three or four names depending on the region all require a bottle of wine and a conversation to sort out.

Beyond Pinot Grigio, Italy isn’t well known for its white wines. But I’m here to tell you about a few other grape varieties such as Verdicchio (ver dee kio), Vermentino, Cortese (Cor tay say), and Falanghina (fal an gee na).

Falanghina produces nuanced, delicious wines with lemon and other spritzy citrus flavors. This is a medium-bodied wine with a fresh, clean, dry taste, good acidity and a long, floral finish. It goes well with appetizers and salads. Try it with grilled shrimp and polenta, it’s excellent.

Vermentino is grown in Sardinia, the Tuscan coast and the Ligurian coast, all areas close to the sea. So it’s ideal for seafood. Vermentino is fresh and fragrant with aromas of flowers, lemons and almonds and shines with grilled pizza pescatore.

Greco di Tufo is pale gold in color with aromas of apple and pear. It is fruity and flavorful but balanced with good acidity. This wine pairs well with grilled shrimp, red onion and zucchini skewers or chicken with capers.

Prosecco is just plain fun to drink. This light, refreshing bubbly (called frizzante in Italian) from the Veneto region is a staple at luncheons, as an aperitivo and at most celebrations. It is a real crowd pleaser with Asian noodle salad with spicy peanut sauce.

It’s looks to be a long hot summer and as you can read plenty of white wines to chill and refresh.

The Cider Renaissance

Cider, or hard cider as it is known in the US, has become the fastest growing alcoholic cider_largebeverage in the country with stunning double-digit growth. And Washington State, the major producer of apples in the United States, is at the forefront of this movement.

This is a renaissance for cider. Way before wine grapes were planted at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, apples were bearing fruit for America’s drink of choice, produced by everyday citizens as well as on the estates of our Founding Fathers. Apples were a huge staple then and cider was served throughout the day. Cider was doing just fine up until Prohibition. It never recovered. Until now.

Last month the legislature passed a law that allows the fast-growing cider industry to collect its own assessment from cideries in Washington.

So, just like the Washington wine and beer industries, the Northwest Cider Association will have funds to market and educate people about the booming cider industry. Previously, the cider industry was part of the Washington Wine Commission. The commission collected an 8 cent-per-gallon assessment to be used for marketing wine and cider.

Launched in 2010, the Northwest Cider Association has over 60 members from Washington, Oregon, Montana and British Columbia, with more than half in Washington. In the past, cider has been confusing, is it wine or beer? This piece of legislation defines it as its own.

Even so, some wineries and some breweries make a cider in addition to their regular products. Eaglemount Winery and Cidery in Port Townsend is a perfect example. They make award winning wines and ciders. Recently, they garnered a Gold Medal from the Seattle Wine Awards for their cider.

The larger beer companies, with profits suffering from loss of market share to craft brewers, have bought cideries. For instance, Boston Beer Company, a pioneer of the craft beer movement, bought Angry Orchard in 2013.  And the first major new brand in eight years for Anheuser-Busch is Johnny Appleseed Ciders launched last summer.

There is a lot of diverse styles of hard cider available. Small local producers and the big beer conglomerates approach production differently and there’s variation from region to region.

Just to give you an idea of the different styles, categories for the 2014 Pacific Northwest Cider Awards include modern dry, modern sweet, new world dry, new world sweet, old world, wild ferment, wood aged, fruit/spice/herb infused, hopped and specialty.

Cider, also called hard cider in the US, is a fermented from the juice of apples and many other fruits. In the US, there is a 50% minimum of apples in the cider compared to France where it must be made only from apples. Alcohol content also varies widely from 1.2% ABV to 8.5%. If a cider has an alcohol content greater than 10%, it is automatically classified as a wine.

Heirloom apples, of which there are many, are prized for the amount of juice and the higher acidity they have. The juice of any variety of apple can be used in cider making, but particular cultivars grown for cider making are known as cider apples.

The best way to learn more about cider is to taste it at a cider tasting. The Pacific Northwest Cider Awards is the perfect opportunity to do this at their annual cider competition and tasting event on Saturday, June 6th.

With more than 40 cideries participating and 30+ ciders on tap, this event will highlight some of the amazing ciders produced throughout the great Pacific Northwest and offers the opportunity to explore the exciting new ciders and cider makers.

Tickets are available online through Brown Paper Tickets for $20, or $25 at the door. Each ticket receives tokens for eight 5-ounce pours, with additional tokens available for purchase. For more information, visit

And if you’re already booked that weekend, Cider Summit NW Festival celebrates its 5th Anniversary Friday, June 19th and Saturday, June 20th at The Fields Neighborhood Park in Portland. This year’s event will feature over 150 ciders from producers around the world including regional favorites and international classics.

Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 (cash only) at the door and are available online from Stranger Tickets.  More info at

Time For Riesling

Riesling has been on my mind a lot lately. For two really great reasons: Hood Canal Shrimp and the pick, albeit reluctantly, for this month’s wine tasting.

Riesling is one of the all-time classics, a noble grape variety, loved by beginners and experts for its awesome aromatics, crisp acidity and versatility with all food groups.

It could also be the world’s most misunderstood and mispronounced grape variety. (It’s pronounced reece ling, by the way.) Although not the most widely planted grape in German vineyards, it is the most prized with some of the most expensive little bottles of white wine you will ever see.

Riesling is one of my favorite wines. Wine made from Riesling is unlike any other. It is generally light in alcohol, refreshingly high in fruit, natural acidity and is capable of aging for decades. Like Chenin Blanc, it does well if fermented cool and bottled early without any malolactic fermentation or oak.

Where the grape is planted determines the style of Riesling you will purchase. Riesling actually ripens early, so when planted in warmer areas, its juice can be sweet and flabby. It needs some time in cool nights to build up the acidity to balance the sweetness. 1989erIn cool climates, like Germany, the Alsace, Washington and Canada, it’s a late ripener and had time to develop flavors, aromatics and acidity.

Müller-Thurgau, the most widely grown and productive German variety and a Riesling cross, will ripen just about any place. But Riesling will only ripen fully on the most special sites, those with the most sunlight so that it stays on the vine well into fall. Riesling from the Mosel and its even cooler tributaries the Saar and Ruwer is one of the wine world’s most distinctive, least imitable wine styles: crisp, racy, refreshing as a mountain stream and with a hint of the slate that covers the best sites.

Riesling is also very successful in the Alsace region of northeast France, where 95% of the wines produced are white. Here in the Vosges Mountains, some of the best dry, steely Rieslings can age for a decade or two. Traditional cellars have huge oval vats, usually built into the cellar to store the wine. Inside these 100-year old vats, the walls are lined with a build up of tartrates so the wine never touches wood.

On the west coast, Riesling has been cultivated since the 19th century, by the early Germans, of course. The Beringers, Krugs, Schrams, Gundlachs and Bundschus were instrumental in planting acres of Riesling in California. All well and good until the 1970s when sweet wines fell out of favor and Chardonnay began to overtake Riesling in acreage.

In Washington State, Riesling has found the most suitable home outside of Germany. With 6,900 acres planted in eastern Washington, Chateau Ste. Michelle makes more Riesling than any other winery in the world. And then take into account Columbia Crest, Hogue and Covey Run also helping quench the thirst for Riesling.

A respected Mosel wine family, the Langguths, arrived in Washington in the early 1980’s with plenty of cash to build a winery. Opened in 1982, it was the largest facility in the State. In 1987, Snoqualmie Winery bought controlling interest in the winery, and installed Mike Januik as winemaker and changed the name to Saddle Mountain Winery. In 1991, Chateau Ste. Michelle bought the facility and it’s used for crush and storage.

And that brings us back to what wine for the Wine Club’s Tasting? 3 labels What could I possibly find to turn them from reluctant Riesling tasters to wow! This is really good. So a scan of the Cellar lifted my hopes. But it’s a tough decision. Will it be 1987 Gordon Brothers, 1988 French Creek Cellars, 1993 Bookwalter all bottled for Whaling Days, or the 14 year old Claar Cellars Late Harvest Riesling?

I might also take a 1983er Eitelsbacher Karthauferhofberg Burgberg Auslese or a 1989 Schmitt Sohne Rheinhessen Bornheimer Adelberg Qba just to acquaint these junior palates with the heights that Riesling can rise to.

This weekend is the perfect time to become reacquainted with Washington Rieslings. I look forward to Hood Canal Shrimp on the barbie and some old, old favorites.

Cheers to you, Kitsap.

Taste Washington Recap

Taste Washington is very much like the wine industryTasteWaWineMonth_RedPlaid_300x165 tastings put on by distributors to sell what they had in their “book.” Only this one is open to the public. It’s a great way to learn about your wine likes and dislikes. What pairs well with your favorite wines and what does not. This huge gathering of Washington winemakers – 225 – with at least three wines each was a perfect opportunity to taste, munch and learn.

In addition, there were the vineyard booths that offered tastes of many different wines from that particular vineyard or AVA. For instance, one wine area I’m the least familiar with is Lake Chelan. I spent some time in Lake Chelan and didn’t spend a dime on gas! Lake Chelan is in Cascade Valley Wine Country that also includes Leavenworth and Wenatchee. There are 43 wineries there, and the corner booth offered an array of whites on ice and as many reds.

My plan was sketched out on the ferry ride over and the list was long. I didn‘t get to even half the wines on my list, granted it was ambitious, but did get to quite a few not on the list. Mostly because of the uncrowded white station in back of the Taylor Shellfish oyster bar where hundreds of whites from all over Washington were on ice.

One of my all time favorite oyster wines is Chinook’s Sauvignon Blanc. Kay Simon and Clay Mackey have been part of the Washington wine industry since 1983. Always perfectly balanced, their 100% Sauvignon Blanc from 2013 is a blend of five different clones of this varietal.

Chelan’s Cairdeas Winery’s white Rhône blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussane, and Marsanne  dry was crisp, fragrant and a perfect contrast to the El Gaucho’s fabulous seafood chowder served up at the oyster bar. The Buty 2013 Sémillon was popular and going fast. This is a traditional Bordeaux blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle was really enjoyable with the oysters. Isabelle Elizabeth Sauvignon Blanc was another perfect match.

One Wine Inc (they actually make three) out of Chelan makes One White that’s a nice blend of Pinot Gris with a small dose of Viognier. Other Viognier’s offered, tasted and recommended are Chateau Faire la Pont, William Church 2013 and Force Majeure 2013. Chateau Faire le Pont in Wenatchee won a unanimous double gold and four golds at the North Central WA Wine Awards in 2013 for their other Rhone varietal, Mourvedre.

Another unusual white grape variety that was extracted from obscurity around 1986 is the Albariño grape. Prized for its distinctive aroma, much like Viognier or Gewurztraminer, this grape is all peaches and apricots with a wonderful crispness. It’s indigenous to Spain, specifically the Rías Baixas DO region. But if that proves too hard to find, I encourage you to look for Palencia, Coyote Canyon or Crayelle 2013 Ancient Lakes Albariño. These are really great wines from Washington.

The Kyra Chenin Blanc may have been my favorite white of the day, possibly because it was sourced from the old vineyards of Harold Pleasant and Cave B.  It has perfect balance, sweet but not too and a long lingering finish. Jemil’s Big Easy served up Jambalaya with a blackened chicken skewer – this was a spicy hot taste quenched by the cold sweetness of the Chenin.

Other delicious whites were Henry Earl (no relation, but I’ll not forget the name) Estate Riesling 2013, Gamache 2013 Riesling with 3.5% RS and the classic Long Shadows Poets Leap Riesling. The Poets Leap with Poquito’s razor clam cerviche with lime, Serrano and red onion was a perfect pairing.

Mellisoni 2013 blend of Gewürz and Riesling at 13% was sweet but the balancing acidity made it a great wine. Purple Café’s shrimp salad gourgere with a lemon cayenne aioli was the match there.  C.R. Sandridge makes a very dry and spicy Gewürz. This would be a great march with cerviche or even the spicy Asian cuisine. Eagle Creek 2013 Gewürz was sweeter and very fragrant.

One other obscure grape I found was the delightful Uplands Aligoté. I paired it with Yard House Restaurant’s seared Ahi with a soy vinaigrette. It was heaven.

I may have tried a rose or two but it was definitely red wine time at the half.  Having run out of time and space here, the marvelous reds tasted will have to be in the next edition. You can read  all about the reds on the Cheers to You blog.

18th Annual Taste Washington This Weekend

The 18th annual Taste Washington features more TasteWaWineMonth_RedPlaid_300x165than 225 Washington wineries pouring Washington grown wines and more than 65 Northwest restaurants serving – if anything like last year – delectable bites. The Grand Tasting wraps up Washington Wine Month. It is both Saturday and Sunday afternoon at Century Link Event Center.


Getting through 225 wineries, each pouring at least two of their wines is an impossible task. One must be very choosy and do a lot of spitting in order to learn about new vintages, wineries and growers. And have a well thought out plan.

The best strategy is to headimages to the Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar where there are hundreds of whites and a ton of oysters on the half shell. Tasting oysters and the many Washington whites available at the oyster bar is an excellent way to begin.

Next pop on down to the designated Vineyard Tasting Sections. This is an great way to learn about the growing end of the wine industry. The tastings here will feature growers pouring wines made from their grapes by wineries across the state, teaching you how important the vineyard’s place is in the winemaking process.

Then it’s on to the reds and delicious bites. Just to get your mouth watering, from the Purple Cafe’s Shrimp Salad Gougère, assorted artisinal cheeses from Cheeseland, Assagio’s Gnocchi with Wild Boar Ragu, Gorgonzola Meatballs from Cafe Veloce, Manhattan Seattle’s Lamb Belly Rillete, and Poquito’s Razor Clam Serviche although not with red wine. Perhaps with a rosé from Hamilton Cellars, Martinez & Martinez or Red Sky Winery.

The Alaska Airlines Chef’s Stage has local and national chefs cooking live on-site during the Grand Tasting. There’s Marco Canora of Hearth, Brodo and Fifty Paces in NYC’s East Village; Chef Peter Serrano of Muckleshoot Casino; Chef Steve Cain of El Gaucho  and Michael Kelley of Anheuser-Busch; Chef John Tesar of Knife in Dallas; Chef Gavin Stephenson of The Georgian at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel; and Josh Reynolds of Bluebird Microcreamery. It’s on the big screen too so you can catch it while tasting at nearby wineries.

Tickets and much more info is available at this link:

Celebrating Washington Wine Month

The annual celebration of Washington’s $1 billion wine industryTasteWaWineMonth_RedPlaid_300x165 and the wines that put Washington on the world wine map is going on this month.  So, what’s to celebrate you ask?  Why do so many wine aficionados flock to wine country, producing $1.06 billion in revenue?

Well, for one we rank nationally as the 2nd largest premium wine producer in the United States with over 850 wineries, many who have taken home gold, silver and bronze medals nationally and internationally.

To date, we have thirteen American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), approved by the Alcohol & Tobacco Taxes & Trade Bureau.  AVAs are distinct areas where grapes are grown not necessarily where a winery is located.

The first Washington AVA, Yakima Valley, was created in 1983, followed swiftly by Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley in 1984. I say swiftly because it would be another eleven years before a fourth was named and that was, drum roll please … Puget Sound in 1995, which includes the entire Puget Sound area from the Canadian border to just south of Olympia.

In 2001, came the powerful Red Mountain. Columbia Gorge was named three years later and Horse Heaven Hills in 2005. The Wahluke Slope where some of the oldest vineyards are planted was singled out in 2006. Other small but significant AVAs recently named are Rattlesnake Hills, 2006; Snipes Mountain and  Lake Chelan 2009; Naches Heights, 2011 and Ancient Lakes in 2012.

There are over 40 different varietals produced.  The top white varietals are Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris or Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Semillon and Chenin Blanc, the grape that made Vouvray famous.

Leading red varietals are Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Cab Franc, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Lemberger.

With over 50,000+ acres of wine grapes planted, Washington State produced almost 12.5 million cases of delicious wine in 2014 from the largest harvest so far – 227,000 tons of vinifera grapes.

This is a great time to take advantage of the many specials offered by retailer, wineries, and restaurants. And don’t forget, the culmination of Washington Wine Month is Taste Washington – happening over four days, March 26th – 29th, 2015.

This gourmet experience begins with a Red & White Party, where magnums of Washington wine will be served with an arm long list of appetizers.  An excursion to meet the producers at a new Taste Washington on the Farm and celebrate with The New Vintage Friday are a couple of other opportunities to taste the over 4,000 wines produced in Washington. Saturday and Sunday both have some interesting and Educational Seminars before the Grand Tasting. Tickets are available at

Established 1995, the Puget Sound AVA has about 69 acres planted to vinifera grapes with about 45 wineries located within the greater Puget Sound region not all produce wines from this AVA. Only about a dozen actually produce wines from grapes grown in this AVA.

The Puget Sound AVA’s climate is a cooler maritime viticulture region.  Some of the wine grape varieties grown include Pinot Noir, Madeleine Angevine, Müller Thurgau, Siegerrebe, Chasselas, Island Belle and the only Melon de Bourgogne in Washington State. This grape is also known as Muscadet and is the perfect wine to pair with oysters.

One local winery, Mosquito Fleet, located in Belfair is celebrating their Grand Release Event this weekend. On Saturday, March 14th and Sunday the 15th from noon ‘til 6:00pm, you can enjoy delicious appetizers and tastes of their newly released 2012 vintage. You can taste fruit sourced from some of the finest vineyards in eastern Washington State for their Bordeaux and Rhone blends and also a Port from the traditional Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz grapes. Hope to see you there!