Tag Archives: L’Ecole No. 41

Taste Washington Bites with Wine Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boom Noodle restaurant is named after a popular Japanese term, meaning the thing one is currently obsessed with. These guys are obsessed with Japanese cuisine and their Seared Albacore rice noodle salad is delightful. Try this with Facelli’s Columbia Valley 2012 unoaked Chardonnay or the appropriately named COR Cellars 2013 AlbaCOR Columbia George 2013 White. http://www.boomnoodle.com/v2/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winemakers, industry leaders differ on impacts of liquor privatization

Brynn writes:

In Sunday’s Kitsap Sun we ran an article about the effects of Initiative 1183 on the liquor sales industry to mark the voter-approved initiative’s one year anniversary. The story was a combined effort between myself and reporter Rachel Pritchett.

What often happens when you have two reporters working simultaneously on a story is that not everything you report or write is included in the final product. That was the case with my section of the story dealing with how Washington’s wine industry has grappled with the new law. Because only a fragment of what I wrote was included in the story, I am posting my full story below.

This blog is probably the best location for this anyway, seeing as the story is wine specific and this is a wine blog. I’m also including the photos Meegan Reid took that fell to the cutting room floor with my story.

 

Washington wine industry leaders see varying effects of 1183

While campaigning for Initiative 1183 supporters laid out reasons why the state should be removed from the liquor business. A selling point was the belief that a competitive marketplace would mean better selection and savings for consumers, while increasing business opportunities for retailers and local wineries.

But those against the initiative cautioned removal could have the opposite effect.

A year later, local winemakers and Washington wine industry leaders weigh in on the effects of 1183.

Small wineries that produce 3,000 cases or less a year that rely on wine club memberships and direct-to-consumer sales have largely been unaffected by 1183. Large wineries, like Chateau Ste. Michelle Estates that produces more than 1 million cases a year, have transitioned easily into the new market because they have experience selling in other states with a similar structure, according to industry experts.

It’s the mid-sized wineries, those producing between roughly 5,000 and 40,000 cases a year, that have been affected by the new law.

“As you get larger in production you can start to play the games that 1183 allows you to play. Whereas when you’re more in the 6,000 to 10,000 case range, that gets to be a little more difficult,” said Sean Sullivan, founder of Washington Wine Report, an online publication dedicated to Pacific Northwest wines. Sullivan is also the Pacific Northwest wine reviewer for Wine Enthusiast magazine.

Sullivan was against 1183. A month before the election he wrote an article predicting there would be less room on grocery store shelves for wine if the law passed. He also guessed it would be difficult for Washington’s small wineries to compete for that space because they wouldn’t be able to offer discounts on wholesale purchases like large wineries, including many coming in from California.

“The overall selection that consumers see in the grocery stores has definitely gone down,” Sullivan said. “Has it (1183) been catastrophic? No I don’t think so. Has it put a real squeeze on people in the retail sector? Yes.”

That’s been the experience of Bainbridge Island winemaker Hugh Remash, who owns Eagle Harbor Wine Company.

Unlike his peers on the island, Remash set up a business model focused on wholesale and not direct-to-consumer sales to drive profits. His wines are found in local restaurants, Town and Country Market and Central Market and boutique wine shops on the east side of Puget Sound.

“What happened is a poor law was changed into a bad law,” Remash said of 1183.

When 1183 passed big businesses like Total Wine and BevMo! — which offer one-stop shopping for beer, wine and spirits — moved into the state. The majority of their wine inventory comes from California, making it hard for Washington wineries to compete for shelf space because they can’t offer the same bulk discounts.

These large stores hurt small boutique shops where Remash and other winemakers sell handcrafted, artisan Washington wines.

“I have small wine shops in the Bellevue area that sell my wine, their sales are down 30 percent,” Remash said. “In one wine shop I was selling a couple cases a week, now I’m selling one every three weeks.”

Remash attributes the decline to the passage of 1183 and the fact consumers are choosing convenience over experience.

“Do you want to go to a small winery and talk to the winemaker and see what’s going on and support somebody who lives there?” Remash said. “Or do you want to be convenient?”

As Sullivan predicted, some national grocery stores like Safeway, took away shelf space from wine and replaced it with liquor, reducing the wine inventory. Smaller wineries like Eagle Harbor Wine Company had a chance to sell to stores like Safeway before 1183, but now they’re not buying.

“What they’ve done with me is, they’ve said we’re not interested anymore,” Remash said of Safeway. “The only reason the Safeway on Bainbridge has my wine is because the woman there knows me and has fought for me.”

Wholesale discounts were another bonus touted by 1183 supporters before the election. Previously Washington laws prohibited retailers from storing alcohol in warehouses. Now they can purchase larger quantities and ask for wineries to sell them at a discount.

Large wineries — like Chateau Ste. Michelle, which owns more than half of the state’s grapes — have enough inventory to take advantage of these new regulations, but the majority of Washington’s wineries are too small to be able to offer the same discounts.

Washington is the second largest wine-producing state in the nation but most of its more than 740 wineries produce 3,000 cases or less a year. As a result they and can’t offer competitive wholesale discounts because they don’t have the inventory.

“If I’d lower the prices they’d pick it up in a minute, but then I wouldn’t make any money,” Remash said. “Incidentally, I don’t make any money. I make money to run the business and I get some perks but in terms of actual putting a paycheck in my pocket, zero.”

Unlike the other wineries on Bainbridge, Remash doesn’t have a wine club where members pay to receive wine on a regular basis. He’s reconsidering that decision.

“I’m thinking about starting a wine club because I’m losing wholesale sales,” he said.

With an annual production of 2,000 cases a year, Matt Albee, winemaker and owner of Eleven Winery, is the largest wine producer in Kitsap County. Almost 95 percent of his wine is sold through his wine club and tasting room sales.

Albee hasn’t felt direct effects of 1183 like Remash, but he agrees the law isn’t as favorable as it was advertised.

“I felt like it would hurt smaller wineries because it was really written by Costco and primarily benefits other, larger players,” Albee said. “It seemed pretty clear that small wineries would suffer a little bit. Not so much the very small wineries, more the medium sized ones.”

Big stores like Costco and Total Wine are the ones who have benefited, he said.

Alphonse de Klerk, winemaker at Bainbridge’s Rolling Bay Winery, has no interest in competing for shelf space in those stores. His focus is on getting into restaurants like Seattle’s Metropolitan Grill, where his wine is offered.

“It was more of a topic before it was passed and now it’s like the wave has passed us over,” de Klerk said.

Marty Clubb, owner and managing winemaker of Walla Walla-based L’Ecole No. 41 Winery, agrees the effects of 1183 have yet to be realized. Clubb is the president of the Washington Wine Institute, a nonprofit representing wineries, growers and associations across the state by advocating on their behalf in Olympia. The institute remained neutral on 1183.

L’Ecole produces 40,000 cases annually and didn’t feel the effects of 1183 because as one of the oldest in the state it is established among consumers, restaurateurs and retailers, Clubb said.

“I think the bigger guys knew what the new world was going to look like post-1183. That’s not really true with some of Washington’s smaller brands because they sell locally,” he said. “I think it has created some challenges for Washington’s smaller brands.”

Paul Beveridge, president of the Family Wineries of Washington, another group advocating on behalf of wineries, agrees more time is needed before 1183 can be evaluated. Beveridge is the winemaker and owner of Wildridge Winery, which opened in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood in the 1980s. His group favored 1183.

“We like the pricing freedom because we can give quantity discounts to customers,” Beveridge said. “The biggest winners on 1183 are consumers and it’s only going to get better.”

One area of the law he’d like to see changed is eliminating the restriction that prohibits shop smaller than 10,000 square feet from selling liquor.

No matter a wineries size or how 1183 plays out in the years to come, industry leaders agree if winemakers continue to produce quality wine consumers will buy it.

“The good news is, if you make good wine there’s a market for that,” Clubb said.

What we’re drinking: L’ecole No. 41 Apogee

Brynn writes:

Between sips of sparkling wine on New Year’s Eve I had a chance to try a small amount of Walla Walla favorite L’ecole No. 41 Winery’s 2009 Apogee.

This red wine is sourced from Pepper Bridge Vineyard and has been a regular fixture at the winery since 1993. It’s the winemaker’s attempt at capturing the vineyard’s “distinctive and characteristic spicy bold aromas, dark fruit flavors, robust tannins and rich structure,” according to the L’ecole website.

I’ve tried a handful of wines that have been made from Pepper Bridge Vineyard lots and almost always I’ve felt the flavor was powerful — in some cases more powerful than I would regularly want to drink. That is my preference, and of course a lot depends on the winemaker and the winemaking style they choose when making the wine.

I really enjoyed the 2009 Apogee. Where other Pepper Bridge blends have left my mouth feeling astringent and harsh, this was round and warm on the finish. The wine is aged in 100 percent small French oak barrels, 50 percent of them new, with
five rackings over 22 months, according to the website.

The wien carried the weight and depth of the complex vineyard flavors, but left me wanting to refill my glass once it was empty (I didn’t though because I was waiting for the countdown to pop the cork for 2013).

L’ecole describes the wine:

This bold, sophisticated and complex wine has dark, brooding aromas of game and spice with hints of sweet tobacco and leather. Dense dark fruit is wrapped in nuances of smoke, cocoa and mint with firm tannins on a persistent finish.

 

Washington white best for mushroom risotto

A nice creamy risotto could call for two different styles of wine depending on how you decide to prepare it.

We’ve decided to prepare it two ways, allowing us to suggest two different wines that we’d serve with the dish if it were on our tables at home.

The richness of Ann Vogel’s Fresh Mushroom Risotto calls for a wine with equal richness. That’s why we’re recommending a Sémillon.

But before we get into why we would choose Sémillon, a little history. At one point it is believed that Sémillon was the most-planted grape in the world. That’s not the case anymore, and in fact some of France’s top Chateaus in Bordeaux recently joined together to create an association focused on growing quality clones because a decline in the grape’s popularity was resulting in fewer nurseries growing quality wine.

In Bordeaux it’s common to see Sémillon blended with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, in fact these are the three main grapes that make up traditional white Bordeaux blends.

The grape is also used to make some of the world’s best dessert wine, which is produced by leaving the grapes on the vine until noble rot takes over. The noble rot causes the grapes to shrivel, which dries up the moisture in the fruit and intensifies the acid and sugar levels.

In France, when Sémillon is the dominant grape being blended, it creates wine masterpieces like Château d’Yquem Sauternes.

We Washingtonians are lucky because we have wineries here that produce some stellar Sémillons, including one of Walla Walla’s oldest wineries L’Ecole No. 41.

L’Ecole actually produces two Sémillon wines, one from a series of well-known vineyards in the Columbia Valley appellation and its estate-grown Luminesce.

Both are blended with Sauvignon Blanc, but the Sémillon is 83 percent Sémillon, 17 percent Sauv Blanc, while the Luminesce is 67 percent Sémillon and 33 percent Sauv Blanc.

When the Sémillon grape dominates, the wine has a rounder mouthfeel with more floral, fruity notes.

If you decide to add some extras to the mushroom risotto — like asparagus and lemon — Sémillon is definitely the best match. L’Ecole’s Sémillon retails for around $14 and can be found at the grocery store and most wine shops.

If you prefer to make Vogel’s recipe with her suggested prawns and chili pepper additions, we have a different white wine for you.

Because of the sweetness of the shrimp, and the spiciness of the chili peppers, we suggest another wine that does exceptionally well in Washington: Riesling.

In fact, the wine does so well that last year the leading variety of wine planted in the state was Riesling, which accounted for 33,500 tons of grapes picked.

While some are hesitant to try Riesling because of a fear of sweet wines, we’re here to assure you, there’s nothing to be afraid of. We even recommend grabbing a sweeter Riesling over its dry cousins.

The sweetness of the wine balances the spiciness of the chilies — this is why Riesling is often recommended to accompany spicy Thai food.

And as we said before, the sweet notes in the wine will highlight the faint sweetness of the prawns.

Consider a Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling, also sourced from multiple vineyards in the Columbia Valley AVA, which retails for around $9.