Tag Archives: Two Mountain Winery

What’s your Game Plan for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving celebrations differ from one home to the next. turkeyStill there are certain flavors, traditions and approaches connected with our most food focused holiday that strikes a chord in all of us.

Whether you go with the traditional turkey with sage and onion stuffing, giblet gravy, candied yams, and cranberry sauce; put a cultural twist on it, with a chipotle rubbed bird, red chili gravy and cornbread chorizo stuffing; or go the vegan route with a mound of riced potatoes shaped like a bird and glazed with browned butter with all those wonderful vegetable side dishes, Thanksgiving is a dinner you can sink your teeth into. But what to drink with it has been debated for many decades.

Every Turkey Day, the family sommelier faces the perplexing question: do I go with something sweet that can stand up to candied yams and tart cranberry sauce and keep Mom happy? Or go with Beaujolais Nouveau because it’s available now, red and fruity? Decisions, decisions.

Thanksgiving wines shouldn’t be intimidating. This is not the time to pull out that bottle you’ve been cellaring for a while. Serve something familiar, homey and delicious enough for those neophytes to be satisfied and thoughtful enough for wine lovers to appreciate.

Pairing wine with roasted, brined or deep fried turkey is a piece of cake but short of a dessert wine, nothing is sweet enough to do battle with yams blanketed with toasted marshmallows.

Dry, high alcohol wines will perish with all that sugar and salt. And white wines need a decent amount of acidity to cleanse your palate. Uncomplicated, fruity wines with a little residual sugar are the best recourse for matching with these courses.

Some of the better partners for Thanksgiving dinner, in my opinion, are Alsatian whites, German Rieslings, Grenache blends from France or Spain and Tempranillo from Spain or the West Coast. Pinot Noir, contrary to some opinions, has never worked for me with all those strong flavors dished up at Thanksgiving- unless, of course, it’s in the bubbly.

Balance is the key for the perfect pairing. For a white, think Riesling or one of those soft, slightly sweet Pinot Gris. For reds, fruity and friendly, low alcohol Zinfandels, Tempranillo or even Carmenere would work well.

sparkling glassEvery holiday dinner should begin with something celebratory and good. At my table, nothing says celebrate better than a bottle of bubbly. The pop of the cork signals the start of the celebration. And it’s off to the races from there.

Given the tradition of the day, here are some American bubblies with good acidity and a core of fruit to consider:  Chateau Ste. Michelle’s extra dry which is actually slightly sweeter in style than a brut despite its description; Oregon’s Argyle brut or Washington’s Treveri Cellars would grace any table. Treveri produces several Columbia Valley sparkling wines you should try. Three that would be perfect for this occasion would be their sparkling Riesling, Gewurztraminer or Syrah. You will be impressed! These sparklers range in price from $10.49 to $23.

white wine glassWhite wines to serve, could be California’s Oak Grove Pinot Grigio which is soft, fruity with crisp citrus flavors. Or Wine by Joe Pinot Gris from Oregon that has wonderful flavors of citrus, pear, and green apple with refreshing acidity. Both are under $10, so stock up for the holidays.

But Riesling is really the best white to serve.  And Washington makes second best – after Germany, of course.

Pacific Rim Riesling from Columbia Valley is a delicious off dry, richly fruity wine packed with peach, apricot flavors with a hint of wet stone. Milbrandt Riesling scored high with its fresh, lively stone fruit flavors and juicy acidity. These guys have been growing from in the Columbia Valley for generations. Latah Creek Columbia Valley Riesling is filled with flavors of green apple, ripe pear and spice with a crisp finish.

Jones of Washington Columbia Valley Riesling is an orange blossom special touched with pineapple and fresh picked apples. He also makes an estate Pinot Gris from the Ancient Lakes AVA that would perk a lot of  interest at the table.

Two Mountain Winery Rattlesnake Hills Riesling is another crisp refreshing wine with a nice balance of pear, citrus, and minerals on the palate.

red wine glassRed wines are trickier than white but if you make sure the alcohol is around 13% or less and there is a modicum of fruit, your chosen one will be a hit.  With that in mind here are a few grape suggestions: Lemberger, Tempranillo and Baco Noir.

Lemberger, a dark-skinned grape from Austria, is typically fruity with ripe plum and black cherry and a hint of pepper. It does well in colder climates where it goes by a more mellifluous name of Blaufränkisch.

Look for Kiona Vineyards and Winery on Red Mountain, the largest grower of Lemberger in the United States. Others include Alexandria Nicole Cellars, FairWinds Winery, Kana Winery Olympic Cellars, and Whidbey Island Winery. Priced between $10 and $22.

I had hoped to recommend another grape of Spanish origin from Washington and California that would be fabulous with dinner, but they all went past the affordable for a big dinner party price. So I’m taking you to Spain for delicious, affordable and the perfect reds for Thanksgiving.

The best made and priced would be the Campo de Borja Borsao Red  from La Mancha, Spain. With its intense, smoky, black cherry and spicy flavors, this wine is a blend of mostly Grenache and a dollop of Tempranillo this wine is a deep ruby/purple color.

From Valencia, the El Prado Red is another blend this time Tempranillo and Cabernet. It’s a medium bodied with raspberry and current flavors. And from Rioja, with 100% Tempranillo is the Cune Rioja Crianza. The toasty, cherry flavors are smooth and satisfying.

Also from Spain but made in Prosser is the Red Diamond Temperamental. Red Diamond sources grapes from the best locations around the world. This Spanish blend offers flavors of berries and plum has a silky smooth finish.

Garnacha de Fuego Old Vines from Calatayud is another intensely flavored wine that emphasizes fruit. Mostly black cherry but there are plum and raspberry with smooth tannins and a long finish.

The best thing about these wines is the price – all under $10 and most around $7. So, stock up on these affordable wines, because there are more holiday dinners in your immediate future.

Have a warm and happy Thanksgiving.

What we’re drinking: Two Mountain Hidden Horse Red Blend VIII

Brynn writes:

At the first Taste Washington event we went to a couple years ago, Mary and I stopped at the Two Mountain Winery table.

Mary knew one of the brothers who founded the winery from her days at the wine shop, so we had a great time chatting with him about the winery and upcoming releases.

My editor had also brought the winery to my attention, telling me she really enjoyed the Riesling Two Mountain produces. So when I was at the grocery store the other day and saw a Two Mountain red blend, I decided it was time to give them a try.

hidden horse

The blend is the winery’s Hidden Horse Red Table Wine VIII, which is a Bordeaux blend. The bottle doesn’t give a breakdown of the grapes used, but the finish sang of Cabernet Sauvignon, leaving me to believe that was the dominate grape varietal.

The winery has its previous blend, the Hidden Horse VII, on its site. Here’s what they say about that wine:

A red blend for the ages. This is a great red for almost anytime. Thirty-nine percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 37 percent Merlot, 15 percent Cabernet Franc, 6 percent Syrah, and 3 percent Malbec has created a great combination of elegance, structure, approachability. With wafts of boysenberry, blackberry, and a hint of white pepper then working into a mouth containing dark rich plum, over ripe bramble berries, sweet spice, and rich tobacco leaves. What a gem!

I’m guessing the break down of grape percentages is relatively similar, although maybe no Syrah in the Hidden Horse VIII blend — I didn’t catch any of the jammy notes that could come with Syrah. This was a great every day red wine and paired well with the potato soup I made from a combination of russet and Yukon gold potatoes and roasted cauliflower florets.

The wine retails between $15 and $20. I think we bought it closer to the $15 mark.

The story behind Belfair’s Mosquito Fleet Winery

Brynn writes:

Mosquito Fleet Winery came to life three years ago in a Belfair warehouse. That’s when the first shipment of grapes made its way from various Eastern Washington vineyards across the Cascade Mountain range and into the industrial space where the winery’s four owners and numerous volunteers anxiously waited to partake in the winery’s inaugural crush.

A lot has changed since that first crush party. Most noticeable is the transformation of the warehouse, which doubling as the winery, opened to the public for the first time last week for an inaugural release party.

What once housed crushing equipment, including a destemmer and fermentation containers, is now lined with twinkling white lights, fishing nets and other nautical décor, stacked oak barrels filled with wine and photos of the winery’s first days. Winemaker Brian Petersen credits his wife Jacquie and business partner and close friend Jacy Griffin for the transformation. Griffin’s husband Scott is the fourth owner of the winery.

“They had a vision for how it could be and they hit it out of the park,” Petersen said of the décor selections and attention to detail — like Reidel stemware and specialized decanters used to bring out the wine’s flavors before it was poured for guests.

Another, less obvious transformation, is the amount of wine stored in the barrels. At its inception in 2009, the Petersens and Griffins purchased enough grapes to produce 200 cases. That’s on par with most small-scale wineries opening these days with a focus on quality handcrafted wine over quantity.

But where the winery diverges from the norm is its growth between its 2009 vintage and its 2010 vintage. Instead of making a gradual increase in production over time as wine sales grew — the most common path taken — Mosquito Fleet’s production jumped from 200 cases in its first year to 1,000 cases for its 2010 harvest. The winery replicated that number with its 2011 harvest.

“We typically aren’t known for our patience,” Petersen said. “It’s go big or go home.”

Brian Petersen and Jacy Griffin offer barrel samples of the Touriga Nacional Port

If he isn’t already, Petersen should be known for his persistence. A chiropractor by day, Petersen set out on a mission to not only learn what he needed to create top-notch wines — attending a series of winemaking classes at UC Davis and picking the brains of some of the state’s most respected winemakers — but he also became determined to get his hands on grapes from some of the state’s most well-known vineyards.

When others may have turned away after being told there was no fruit available, Petersen didn’t let up until he got what he wanted.

Mosquito Fleet sources grapes from Elephant Mountain and Copeland Vineyard, located in the Rattlesnake Hills appellation in Yakima, and Double Canyon Vineyard located in the Horse Heaven Hills appellation. Double Canyon is adjacent to Champoux Vineyards, one of the state’s most highly regarded vineyards known for consistently producing some of the state’s best cabernet sauvignon. While it doesn’t carry the Champoux name, the grapes Mosquito Fleet receives share the terroir that sets Champoux’s vines above the rest, Petersen said.

The winery added fruit from Kiona Vineyards in the Red Mountain appellation for its most recent vintages.

But the vineyard Petersen is probably most excited about is his block within Pepper Bridge Vineyards, which is known for producing some of the most sought after fruit not only in the state, but also the Northwest. The winery’s cabernet sauvignon is 100 percent sourced from Pepper Bridge and after one sip the similarities are evident. Like Pepper Bridge’s cab, Mosquito Fleet’s cab is a deep purple color with tight tannins evident on the finish.

Considering it’s the winery’s first release — along with a Meritage Blend that is Petersen’s take on a left-bank Bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot — it’s evident the “go big or go home” motto has worked in the favor of the Petersens and Griffins who have maintained all along that they want to be known for producing quality wines.

In 2010 Mosquito Fleet will again release a cab and Meritage Blend, but it will also add cabernet franc, petit verdot and a syrah, mourvedre, cab blend to its line up. The winery will also release limited quantities of its Touriga Nacional Port 2010, which is a blend of 18 percent Tinta Roriz and 82 percent Touriga Nacional — considered to be Portugal’s finest red wine grape.

Mosquito Fleet’s owners have done a good job of marketing their product. A private inaugural release party drew close to 200 people last week and the winery saw around 250 people come through its doors on Saturday, the one and only day it opened to the public.

“The fact that we were able to pull 450 people through our doors for the first time we opened our winery was amazing,” Petersen said. “The feedback we got was tremendous.”

The strong response solidifies efforts to market Mosquito Fleet Winery as a community winery, Petersen said.

While he wondered whether they would sell out of the 2009 vintage after the initial opening, there are still some wines left. But because of the limited supply, the winery won’t open again to the public, at least not until 2013 when it’s time for the release of the 2010 vintage. Instead wines can be purchased at the winery’s website, or in the near future at an area wine shop. They’re also in the process of working with local wine shops and restaurants to feature the wines.

Mosquito Fleet Winery’s 2009 Releases

Meritage Blend:

  • 63 percent cabernet sauvignon
  • 32 percent merlot
  • 3 percent cabernet franc
  • 2 percent petit verdot

Vineyards: Double Canyon Vineyard, Le Vignes de Marcoux, Elephant Mountain
Elevage: Aged 22 months on new oak, 83 percent French, 17 percent American
Cases: 89

Cabernet Sauvignon:

  • 100 percent cabernet sauvignon

Vineyard: Pepper Bridge Vineyard, Walla Walla
Elevage: Aged 22 months on new oak, 87 percent French, 3 percent American
Cases: 118

Touriga Nacional Port 2010:

  • 82 percent Touriga Nacional
  • 18 percent Tinta Roriz

Vineyard: Two Mountain Winery’s estate Copeland Vineyard and Elephant Mountain
Elevage: Aged 24 months on French oak; expected bottling November 2012
Cases: 72 demi cases (selling in advance of release)

Our favorite wines of 2011

It’s that time of year, when we look back on all that we tasted and reflect on the great flavors that crossed our palates over the last 12 months.

It’s also a time when we get excited about what to taste in 2012.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, here’s a look at some of our favorites that we tasted in 2011. (Note this is only a highlight, and not a comprehensive list; also note the list is not in any preferential order).

Brynn and Mary’s memorable wines from 2011:

Bogle Petite Sirah 2008: This came as a recommendation from Consumer Reports as a best value buys and it lived up to the review. Winemaker notes include the following description:

Full-bodied on the entry, aromas of black plum jam and toasty oak set the stage for what is to come. Vibrant boysenberries and luscious fruit are framed by serious tannins, while wisps of leather and vanilla seduce just enough. A final touch of acidity finishes the wine with a precisely balanced mouth feel.


Novelty Hill Royal Slope Red: This is a wine Brynn first tried at a friend’s house and instantly fell in love with. It’s by longtime, and well-known Washington winemaker Mike Januik. Here’s what he has to say about the wine:

Generous and round offering delicious, red ripe plum, blueberry and currant aromas and flavors, with a lip-smacking, spicy finish.


Two Mountain Winery Vinho Vermelho: Produced by brothers Matthew and Patrick Rawn, we tasted selections from this Rattlesnake Hills winery at the Taste Washington event last spring. Shortly afterwards, Mary had some of the winery’s Port, or Vinho Vermelho, which was aged in American oak for more than two years. The winemaker’s notes on this wine include the following description:

Inviting flavors of candied citrus, chocolate, dark fruits and deep smoke.


Castle Rock Pinot Noir: This is a favorite go-to winery out of California; however, the grapes are sourced up and down the West Coast including Washington State. We recommended it twice this year for recipes that were mushroom-focused. It’s a versatile wine that is also friendly on the pocketbook.


Cline Cellars Cashmere: This is a wine we both got to try when we attended the Rhone Rangers tasting event over in Seattle at the Bell Harbor Conference Center. Cline Cellars is one of the oldest wineries out of Sonoma, which means they have some of the oldest vines in the area. Here’s what we had to say about the winery’s Cashmere blend:

The 2010 Cline Cashmere California is a luscious blend of Cote du Rhone grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. It has earthy undertones and flavors of raspberries, cherries and chocolate, with a hint of plum. The finish is long and lingering.


Long Shadows Winery Pedestal Merlot: This is another wine we tried while at the Taste Washington event in March. It made our “Top Sips” list and was Mary’s all time favorite wine from the day. Here’s the winery’s summation of the wine:

Wonderful intensity of fruit, with a vivid array of black currant, cocoa, violet and smoky aromas that lead to a full-bodied mid-palate marked by ripe blackberry flavors. Rich and complex, yet pure and focused, with supple tannins that provide a silky and prolonged finish.


Sparkman Cellars Ruby Leigh: Another wine that made our “Top Sips” list from the Taste Washington event. This Washington take on a Right Bank Bordeaux blend was both our favorites. Here’s the winemaker’s take on the wine, named after his youngest daughter:

Ruby Leigh is rambunctious elegance. The nose is all violets, sweet vanilla, smoke, candied roses, mint, chocolate and cassis. On the palate black cherry, mocha, spice and a pinch of tobacco lead to a toasty oak and cigar box finish. Soft, fine tannins support a seductive mouthfeel and silky texture.


Commanderie de la Bargemone: Ah, just thinking about this wine brings us back to the hot August day (yes, we did have at least one or two of those this year) when we enjoyed chilled sips of the Provincial-style Rose. Incidentally, this is the last wine Brynn documented in her “little black journal of wine” and is the last wine she had a full glass of since late August (any guesses why?) Here’s a hint: She’s got three more months before she can return to drinking wine, albeit at a somewhat reduced volume and frequency. What a great wine to have as a last hurrah before a nine month “vacation” from wine, if you will. Here’s the winemaker’s thoughts:

Offering classic aromas of wild strawberries and red currants, with a light floral character and a crisp, bone-dry palate, this is a rose of reference, to be enjoyed year-round on its own or with a wide range of lighter fare and Provence-inspired cuisine. 


Fâmega Vinho Verde: This is another wine we used in our regular recipe recommendations to go with an Israeli Couscous. This wine from the DOC region of Northwest Portugal has citrus, bright apple and fresh pear flavors that’s pleasant, mellow and with flowery aromas. In finishes with delicious notes of mineral and citrus peel. It’s also quite affordable — $8 at the grocery store.


Januik 2006 Columbia Valley Cabernet: This is a bottle Mary pulled from the cellar especially for 2011 — the year she celebrated a milestone birthday. (She finally turned 21, he he). Here’s what made it so good:

The 2006 Januik Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was awarded 92 points by the Wine Spectator — the finish just doesn’t quit, best after 2012 — and 90 points from Stephen Tanker. Januik blended 7 percent Merlot and 2 percent Cabernet Franc with the Cab and aged it primarily in new French oak barrels for 20 months. The ruby hued, medium-bodied wine had lots of currant, blackberry and black cherry fruit on the nose and palate with a hint of licorice spice. Smooth as velvet with a mouth-watering finish.


Rulo Chardonnay: This is another wine Mary enjoyed for her milestone 21st birthday celebration. This Birch Creek Vineyard Chardonnay has nicely integrated oak, vanilla spice and yummy lemon custard flavors, all that and wrapped up in a full-bodied, balanced wine with a long, lingering finish. And while in Walla Walla tasting this wine, Mary also learned it might soon be making an appearance on the shelves of Trader Joe’s, so keep your eyes peeled.


Hedges Family Estates CMS Red: What a wonderful wine to end our list with. This has become a go-to wine for Brynn to bring to parties, it’s affordable and tastes like it cost a lot more than the sticker price. It’s also a good red wine for those with a discerning palate, or those who just like to drink. And a quick reminder, the CMS stands for Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. Here’s Brynn’s take on the wine:

The wine has fruity hints of the Syrah upfront that are balanced by the minerality of the Merlot and the weight of the Cab.


Thanks for your comments and reading us this last year, we hope you stick around for 2012 when we’re sure to have more wine recommendations, reviews and raves about what’s happening in this ever-evolving world of wine. And, if you have a favorite wine from the year that you want to share, we’d love to hear from you.


Brynn and Mary

What we’re drinking: Two Mountain Winery Vinho Vermelho

Mary writes:

This Washington winery is a nine-year-old family-owned operation nestled in the Rattlesnake Hills of the Yakima Valley.  Two brothers, Matthew and Patrick Rawn, own and operate the winery and estate vineyard.

Two Mountain Winery produces Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah, Lemberger, Cabernet Sauvignon and Touriga Nacional. (Actually, this blog should be titled: “What we wish we could have more of!”)

The Vinho Vermelho (Portuguese for red wine) is made from one of the six grapes that are native to, and allowed in, Portuguese Porto. Winemaker Matt Rawn aged the wine in American oak for more than two years.

Most American wineries make port from grapes such as Cabernet, Syrah and Zinfandel. In the U.S., very little acreage is planted to the noble Touriga Nacional grape.

Their website says it best:

Inviting flavors of candied citrus, chocolate, dark fruits and deep smoke.

The “deep” is a term hard to wrap the brain around, especially when describing smoke. The Two Mountain Winery 2005 Yakima Valley Vinho Vermelho is listed at $47.