Rhone for Fall Cuisine

Every fall, the grape harvest happens. Around the world vineyards come alive with winemakers racing to and through vineyards, testing for ripeness, watching the weather, scheduling picking, sorting and destemming tons of grapes, assessing the juice, fermenting and punching down grapes to deliver the elixir we crave.

With the cooler weather, we slip on a sweater and begin to move away from those chilled wines of summer to something warmer, more full-bodied that match the heartier fall dishes. Squashes find their way into soups, frittatas and stews. Mushrooms pop up in stews, in risotto, Beef Bourguignon and on top of steak. Apples and pears adorn salads, cheeses and meat dishes. This makes my mouth water and my hand reach for a Rhone.

Rhone varietals would be a good go-to for fuller bodied but not too full-bodied fall wine. Grapes such as Syrah, Viognier Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Roussanne are indigenous to this French region. There are a bunch more indigenous varieties – a few you may have heard of, some are little known and are allowed in this appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) – Picardan, Picpoul, Carignan, Clairette Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Cinsault, Marselan and let’s not forget Muscat a Petites Grains!

The Rhone region is divided in half, both with a different set of rules on how to make wine with the same grapes. Northern AOC red wines are Syrah only and typically co-fermented with the light touch of Viognier to bring up the aromatics and to soften the hard edges of Syrah.

Southern Rhone is the Heinz 57 of the wine world. A wine from the Chateauneuf du Pape AOC can be a blend of up to 13 grape varieties! A Cotes du Rhone is typically a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. This is a large area so the wines — both red and white — can be easily found and enjoyed.

Rhone grapes can be found in vineyards around the world. Eastern Washington, Australia, and California all make Rhone-style wines. In fact, Chelan’s Cairdeas Winery has vines from Southern Rhone by way of California.

Other regions of the world may label their Rhone-style wines with the grape name (must be at least 75%) or give it a proprietary name such as GSM, for Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre.

Cairdeas Winery produces traditional blends as well as unique blends, both styles inspired by the Rhone region and grapes. Its delightful wine “Northern White” is a blend of 60% Marsanne and 40% Roussanne. This Rhone-style wine is a perfect dry white for a steaming bowl of mushroom risotto.

Another is the Caisléan an Papa – an Irish way of saying Chateauneuf du Pape. This red blend is made up of 37% Grenache, 26% Mourvèdre, 16% Syrah, 11% Counoise, and 10% Cinsault for a delicious, almost traditional, highly rated wine.

The Guigal family, one of the largest producers in the Rhone Valley, specializes in white Rhone varieties. Most Rhone wines produced are primarily red; white wine production is nominal. In contrast, Guigal’s production of white wine is large, at least a quarter of wines produced.

Its Cotes du Rhone Blanc is a blend of many white grapes: Bourboulenc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. It’s a fragrant full-bodied white, and a very good value.

Famille Perrin has, for centuries, made an exquisite Chateauneuf du Pape. Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah, Muscardin, Vaccarese, Counoise and Picpoul from Château de Beaucastel’s vineyards are fermented separately and later blended before aging in foudres (big oak barrels) and bottle.

Another classic Rhone-style wine is made with the legendary Australian Shiraz grape. Shiraz is Australian for Syrah, the legendary grape of Northern Rhone. Australia is also home to some of the world’s oldest Syrah vineyards.

Shiraz vineyards planted in the mid-1800s produce tiny crops of intensely concentrated grapes from ungrafted, pre-phylloxera vines. Penfolds has been making Rhone-style wines since 1844. Its Bin 138 is the traditional southern Rhone blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mataro (Mourvedre). This classic GSM from Barossa Valley includes grapes from some vines that are over 100 years old. 

And if you ever get a chance, there is an award-winning, classic wine made by Penfolds since 1951. Grange (called Grange Hermitage until the 1989 vintage) is made with Shiraz and a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. The term “Hermitage” was dropped from the label since the European Union won’t allow the name of a French wine appellation on a wine that is not from that appellation.

Marsanne, a Rhone white grape, is more likely to be found in Australia than even its native Rhone. Tahbilk Winery, in Central Victoria, has the largest vineyard site of Marsanne in the world. Its Marsanne is fermented in stainless for a crisp, dry white. Like many classic whites, with age it transforms into a full-bodied, aromatic wine. Perfect with a curried pumpkin soup. (Couldn’t go without mentioning the ubiquitous fall vegetable).

Cheers, Mate!

Seeking out Italian Wines and Cuisine

Chicagoland is, in my opinion, a great place for Italian cuisine. And, of course, Italian wine. I enjoyed some wonderful wines on a recent trip, most from the Old World because that’s what I seek out when in the Midwest. Old World wine and Italian beef sandwiches.

A visit with one of my favorite brothers, always involves Italian wines. He dutifully had several bottles of wine waiting when I arrived. We popped the cork on his newest find, Zucardi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. He loves this full-bodied wine but is dismissive of the little piece of vine attached to the bottles neck. A marketing ploy, he says.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo comes from the Abruzzi hills above the Adriatic coast. It’s made from the Montepulciano grape from the wine region located along the calf of the boot of Italy.

You may have heard of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – no relation to Montepulciano the grape – but rather a Sangiovese based wine from vineyards surrounding the town of Montepulciano in Tuscany. Rule of thumb for Italian wines is di, del, or della in between two words on the label means “grape” from “region.”

The Abruzzi region, one of the most widely exported of all Italian wines, is dominated by giant cooperatives that pump out decent every day jug wine with black cherry flavors, soft tannins and made to be consumed that night.

But a few more serious producers are making some mighty fine wine. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was first classified as Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) in 1968. This DOC is permitted to blend up to 15 per cent Sangiovese with the Montepulciano grape. Wines aged for more than two years are permitted to add Riserva to their labels.

I loved the Zucardi too and found another old favorite from the same region – Barone Cornacchia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, to see what he thought of another producer of the Montepulciano grape.

Montepulciano’s are full-bodied with good balance which makes them really good food wine. We enjoyed ours with fresh picked tomatoes and cheese, while dining al fresco on the patio.

For our family dinner of roast chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, and carrots, he cracked out a Produttori del Barbaresco. This special wine is from the Piedmonte in northwestern Italy. It’s the little sister of Barolo, a big wine with big tannins and a big personality. Ageing for years is a must, sometimes ten or twenty years depending on vintage.

Both Barbaresco and Barolo are made from the same grape, Nebbiolo. Just different areas near the city of Alba. Barbaresco vineyards are northwest of the city and at lower elevations than their big Barolo brother’s southwest vineyards. One other difference is Barbaresco enjoys a more sheltered position, lying further away from weather systems coming off the Atlantic.

Produttori del Barbaresco, founded in 1958, is actually a cooperative of producers around the town of Barbaresco and managed by Aldo Vacca, former assistant to Angelo Gaja of Barolo fame. Produttori sources fruit from 50 member-growers farming 250 acres of premium Nebbiolo vineyards in the commune of Barbaresco.

Fermented in stainless steel tanks, this wine spends 30 days on the skin with pumping over 2 to 3 times a day. This gives the wine a beautiful dark, rich color. It’s then aged 24 months in big barrels of neutral Slovian oak called grandi botti.

After 30 months, it’s bottled and then about 260,000 bottles are distributed worldwide. So, there’s plenty of this classic, best value Barbaresco to enjoy with lamb chops or roast chicken with chanterelles.

The Veneto area in the northeast also produces classic wines. The unique wines of Valpolicella are made with a blend of Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella grapes and 5 different styles. Basic Valpolicella is a lighter table type wine, Classico is from the original Valpolicella zone, Superiore is aged at least a year, and Ripasso is made with partially dried grapes left over from the Amarone or Recioto fermentation. Reciotos and Amarones are made from dried grapes and downright magnificent.

Valpolicella was awarded DOC status in 1968. Amarone and Recioto received Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status in 2009.

I enjoyed a couple of unusual bottles of Valpolicella while visiting. Both were labeled Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT), one of four Italian wine classifications. IGT signifies the wine is typical of that geographical region but doesn’t qualify for the DOC or DOCG’s stricter requirements. Maybe the vines weren’t old enough, the alcohol content is not in the range for that particular style, or maybe some of the grapes came from outside that designated region. Any of these reasons would keep the wines from being DOC or DOCG.

One such IGT was made by Natale Verga Antale Veneto. This full-bodied, elegant wine had intense color from the slight drying of the grapes. The blend is mostly Corvina with a little Merlot, hence IGT status since Merlot is not an allowed grape in this DOC or DOCG. This would be my go to wine for my favorite Italian beef and hot giardiniera – Paul’s in Westchester, Illinois.

Another new to me IGT wine was Cecilia Beretta {FREEDA} Rosé. It’s a blend of Corvina, Cabernet and Carménère grapes from the southern area of Lake Garda. After being harvested by hand, the grapes are pressed together with a short maceration to achieve the pale pink color. Each grape adds its own character to the wine – cherries and raspberries from Corvina, green peppercorn from the Cabernet and minerality and body from the Carménère. A must for the next time you have lobster risotto.

Cin Cin!

What makes a Great Vintage?

How do you know if it’s a great vintage? While the viticulturalist is trained to know when to prune, how to manage leaf canopy and control pests and disease, for the most part, it’s the weather during the growing season that makes all the difference between good and great.

The 2019 Washington crush began the third week of August. Treveri Cellars always crosses the finish line first. And the reason for that is sparkling wines are harvested at a lower brix level (18–23°).  

In wine country, grapes are warmed by the sunshine which brings up the grape sugars and cooled at night which promotes that balancing acidity. In any vintage, a brix reading (usually around 24 brix) will signal the time to harvest grapes intended for still wines.

Brix is used to measure the sugar in grapes, the more sugar, the riper the grapes. When harvesting grapes early, the must will have less sugar and more acidity – ideal conditions for sparkling wines.

A higher brix level can be achieved by many days of hot weather, long hang time or drying the grapes. Hot weather raises the sugar levels; cool weather takes longer to reach maturity.

By comparison, the 2015 harvest – a very hot year – began August 6th.  In 2010, – a very cool year – white grapes weren’t harvested until September and no red wine grapes until October!

The 2019 grape harvesting is in full swing right now. And it’s shaping up to be a very good year. Not too hot and not too cool. I know because I’m a certified sorter, a very important and well-paid position. 

Sorters pull leaves, bugs and dried grapes out before the grapes are put into the destemmer where the grapes are separated from the stems. A destemmer is a big stainless steel tub with a big screw that pushes the grapes one way and the stems the other way. The big colander type basket at the bottom funnels the grapes and juice into one bin. The woody stems are pushed into another bin.

While sorting grapes for two wineries this past week, I tasted the grapes. One winery had Red Mountain Merlot and the other Horse Heaven Hills Merlot. And I can tell you from that tasting, Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills Merlot grapes tasted unique to their terroirs.

While sorting grapes, the winemaker does the scientific stuff by taking a reading of the juice to determine the brix (the sugar in the juice which will tell the winemaker what the final alcohol content may be), stabilizing the must (SO2 preserves the fruit color and kills the wild yeasts) and other winemaking techniques they may have picked up along the way.

In addition to adding SO2, Ben Smith of Cadence Winery pumped the juice out of one fermenting bin back into the same bin. This was to “stir” the juice so the SO2 was evenly distributed.

At Mosquito Fleet Winery, winemaker Brian Peterson added a 25-pound bag of oven toast oak chips to the three fermenting bins. This helps set the color and promote polyphenols. He also added a bag of dry ice to the fermenting bins – an effective way to cold soak when you don’t have refrigerated storage.

The bin mover sets the pace when a winery has tons of grapes to process. Using a pallet jack or forklift, the bins are moved around where needed – grapes to the destemmer, full fermenters to the side for a 24-hour cold soak, empty fermenters to catch the next ton of grape juice from and the bins of stems to the compost pile.

As I mentioned, certified sorters are well-paid. This year I earned two bottles of wine, a private barrel tasting, 22 gallons of saignée juice and free lunch. 

Saignée is a French term which translates “to bleed.” It’s a winemaking techniques that “bleeds” or removes juice and a few grapes from a fermenter.  Since there is a higher proportion of skins to juice, a richer more concentrated wine is the desired result of this technique. And the lightly-colored juice that is bled out will produce a rosé for next summer’s drinking pleasure.

A long time ago, I had the opportunity to taste a Carmenet Cabernet from the same vineyard, fermented in the same tank and aged in the same French oak. The only difference was the coopers used. I was stunned at the difference of what should have been a more similar than different wine. Lesson learned.

The private barrel tasting at Mosquito Fleet Winery was another educational lesson in French oak. We tasted three 2018 Cabernets aging in oak barrels. Two were the same grape, harvest, and fermentation aging in French oak barrel from different coopers, Taransaud and Bootes. The difference was very striking. The Bootes was a much bigger wine and the Taransaud was smooth and more fruit forward.

Tasting young red wine before it has been bottled is instructive but these young wines with their high acidity and tannin only hint at their true greatness after they have been in bottle for a few years. The key ingredient in my opinion, is to pay attention to the fruit. Is there enough fruit component to vault the young wine to an attractive maturity? For these two fraternal wines, the answer is a hearty Yes!

Up and down the west coast, you can look forward to the promise of a very good 2019 vintage. Cheers!

Early Inland Empire Wineries

In 1980, sixteen wineries in Washington state produced almost a million gallons of wine. Today, approximately 970 wineries produce over 180 million gallons of wine.

Washington was just emerging as a wine region and 1982 was a very good year for wine. Twelve wineries opened their doors and joined a handful of wineries in the state. That was the year, Bainbridge Island Vineyards and Winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Barnard Griffen, Covey Run Vintners and Snoqualmie Winery opened. As did two Spokane wineries, Arbor Crest Wine Cellars and Latah Creek Winery.

My first peek at Spokane was in 1974 at the World’s Fair. I recall exhibits about logging and loggers in cork boots but no corks in bottles. Some years later, I made a run to Spokane to pick up a palette of Whaling Days wine. Latah Creek Winery, Arbor Crest Wine Cellars and Worden’s Washington Winery (the first custom label program where you could “Make the wine you serve your own!”) were producing enough wine to put private labels on.

A recent visit to the Inland Empire, reminded me of those early days in the Washington wine industry and the people who toiled to figure out where to plant which varieties and who could actually make the wine the growers were growing.

Opening a winery is challenging enough but back then many of the wheat and apple farmers were just beginning to plant wine grapes under the direction of Dr. Walter Clore, the father of Washington wine industry.

First, it was Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Muscat. Then the buttery Chardonnays were followed by the Merlot craze of the 1990s, fueled by 60 Minutes’  French Paradox. By then, Washington was well established in the number two spot of the U.S. wine industry.

But it took those early pioneers forging ahead and making the Washington wine industry what it is today. Early pioneers like Bill Preston, Bill Powers, Mike Wallace, and John Williams, all started out as farmers and early on decided to plant wine grapes. Thank goodness! They are the reason we have what we have today. Many are honored on the Legends of Washington Wine Hall of Fame.

In California, a flurry of winemakers started moving north to a new wine paradise. Latah Creek’s winemaker, Mike Conway had spent some time learning how to make wine in big California wineries.

The 1980 move from large California wineries to an emerging wine region was spurred by job offer. By the fall of 1980, Conway had fermented 69 tons of grapes into Worden’s Winery wine. The wine produced was in a style that was predominantly white, fruity, and sweet.

A joint venture with grape grower Hogue Cellars for the 1982 harvest, had Conway making wine for both the Hogue Cellars and Latah Creek. That first Latah Creek harvest was 7,000 gallons. For the next two years, Conway made wine for both wineries before concentrating solely on his Latah Creek Winery.

This small family winery – a rarity anymore – still produces Riesling and Maywine (gold) in addition to their perennially popular Huckleberry d’Latah (gold), a Riesling made with huckleberry concentrate. Roughly 60 percent of Latah Creek’s production are their most popular wines: Pinot Gris (double gold), Riesling (double gold), and Huckleberry d’Latah.

Introduced in 2010, their Monarch Reserve Reds Series is a small-lot, reserve red program. Those wines and other reds account for 15 percent of their production. Included are a Sangria made with natural fruit juices, a Wahluke Slope Barbera, their well-awarded Merlot, a Horse Heaven Hills Zinfandel, a Wahluke Slope Tempranillo and a Horse Heaven Hills Reserve Cabernet.

The remaining 25 percent includes a selection of dry and sweet white wines – a gold medal winning Chardonnay from Ancient Lakes AVA, a dry Chenin Blanc, a Rose’s of Malbec and an Orange Muscat with a bit of effervescence.

The first Washington father-daughter wine team began in 2005 when Natalie Conway-Barnes began making wine. One of her first projects was a red dessert wine named Natalie’s Nectar.

Like many of the oldest wineries that don’t grow grapes, they have well-established and long term contracts with the best vineyards in the state. Today, Latah Creek’s production is around 15,000 cases annually.

This charming small winery is getting a facelift. And on Saturday and Sunday, September 28 and 29 they will be celebrating their Grand Re-Opening. This would be a good time to taste their wines.

Not too far from Latah Creek Winery, is another well-regarded Washington wine pioneering family. In the early 1980s, Harold and Marcia Mielke also moved up from California to begin a new wine adventure in Spokane Valley. The state’s 29th winery, Arbor Crest Wine Cellars overlooks the Spokane River in a beautiful place called the Cliff House, on the national historic landmark.

Another family winery, this one is also run by the next generation. The Mielke’s daughter, Kristina Mielke van Löben Sels, spent some time working in a Sonoma winery for several years before becoming the head winemaker at Arbor Crest.

Her husband, Jim van Löben Sels, is Arbor Crest’s general manager and viticulturalist. Grapes are sourced from some of Washington’s well-established and respected vineyards and include Sagemoor, Dionysus, Bacchus, Conner Lee, Stillwater Creek and Klipsun Vineyards.

A recently shared bottle of their Bacchus Vineyard (unoaked) Chardonnay reminded me of how much I admire these well-made wines. And having a seasoned winemaker who spent some time making wine at Sonoma’s Ferrari-Carano, it’s no wonder.

Their Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay is made in a full-bodied style and sees French oak, Riesling from Dionysus Vineyard and the Bacchus Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc round out the white wines.

Reds include a Conner Lee Cabernet Franc, a Cabernet Sauvignon from 5 fabulous vineyards, the Cliff House Red Table Wine, Dionysus, a Bordeaux blend, Merlot from original, ungrafted rootstock, Wahluke Slope Sangiovese, and Syrah from Stillwater Creek Vineyard.

Spokane now has a Cork District with at least 22 tasting rooms scattered around the very pedestrian friendly downtown area. Some are local, some are not. But it makes for a great weekend getaway to explore the wines of Washington.

Cheers!

When it comes to wine, trust your palate

You’ve probably read many times, as I have,  what a wine should taste like from reviews in publications or the back labels.

Descriptive phrases that may include words like full-bodied, tropical, vanilla, buttery, citrus, cherry, brambleberry, spice, cedar, cigar box, tobacco, herbaceous or award winning, 90-some points are helpful but …

Once you absorb these words, it all comes down to your palate. Do the reviews make the wine taste any better? Sometimes yes and sometimes, not so much. Tasting is the true test of a wine’s ability to please you.

Tasting wine gives you a better idea of what grapes, styles and regions you prefer. That’s why it’s important that you get your tickets for the Kitsap Wine Festival on Saturday, August 10th

Bremerton’s Harborside Fountain Park is the sunny setting for this afternoon of sipping wine with friends and family. More than 30 wineries from Washington and Oregon will be pouring tastes of over 100 pretty delightful wines. And to enhance the experience, local restaurants will be whipping up some delectable bites.

The Kitsap Wine Festival began 11 years ago and through the years has benefitted several local nonprofits. This year, it’s the Kitsap Humane Society’s pets. Their cadre’ of volunteers will ensure an extra layer of special to the event. From the welcome to the raffle baskets, golden ticket prize to the retail shop at the end.

So, get online and buy your tickets ASAP at https://kitsapwinefestival.brownpapertickets.com

General admission includes 12 tickets, food samples, and your wine glass. But wait! There’s more! The VIP Experience includes an hour earlier access, 15 drink tickets, delectable bites, 5 raffle tickets, and your wine glass.

Come celebrate with me at the Kitsap Wine Festival! Here’s a few wineries I’m excited to try or revisit.

From the Port Angeles area, Harbinger Winery is an artisan winery with an annual case production hovering around 3000.  They’re bringing their bistro wine series which includes the 2018 Albariño fermented in stainless steel for a crisp, citrusy treat.

The La Petite Fleur is an intensely aromatic Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling blend for a unique summer wine. Dynamo Red is a gold medal winning, velvety layered wine rich with berries and toasty oak.

And happily, my favorite summertime red, the 2013 Barbera which garnered a gold at the International Women’s Wine Competition. Bring on the beefsteak tomatoes!

Also from the Olympic Peninsula is Wind Rose Cellars, a boutique winery in Sequim. During the week, it’s a traditional tasting room. And on Friday and Saturday nights, it’s live music, wine by the glass and light snacks.

Other wineries attending from this area are Eaglemount Winery, Port Townsend Vineyards, Hoodsport Winery and Camaraderie Cellars.

Moving east to the Kitsap Peninsula is Long Road Winery near Belfair. Since they don’t have a tasting room yet, they share their wines at tasting events such as the Kitsap Wine Festival. The same for Seabeck Cellars, no tasting room yet but here’s your opportunity to taste their wines from grapes shipped from eastern Washington and Oregon.

The newest of the new Kitsap Peninsula wineries is Hard Hat Winery in Poulsbo. Established by three veterans last year, here’s the occasion to try their wines while waiting for the tasting room to open.

And speaking of veterans in the wine business, the Winery Alliance of Bainbridge Island will also be there pouring wines from the seven wineries on the “rock” – Amelia Wynn, Bainbridge Vineyards, Eleven, Eagle Harbor, Fletcher Bay, Perennial, Rolling Bay.

Long Cellars in eastern Washington will be pouring their 2018 Lake Chelan Pinot Gris and 2018 Dry Rosé of Pinot Gris. The 2017 Red Wine is a blend of Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet, and a 2017 Cab Franc.

From the Woodinville area be sure to stop by the Adrice Wines booth. The name Adrice is a portmanteau, (a mash-up of 2 words to make a new word) using the last names of the winemaker, Pam Adkins and co-owner Julie Bulrice. I first tasted Adrice Wines at another wine festival and was duly impressed with this craft winery transplanted from Napa Valley in 2015.

And if exploring Washington wineries is on your list, these wineries will also be there:

Davenport Cellars, Eleganté Cellars, Gouger Cellars, Mercer Estates, Michael Florentino Cellars, Monte Scarlatto Winery, Naches Heights Vineyard, Scatter Creek Winery, Silvara Cellars, Simpatico Cellars, Stina’s Cellar, Tanjuli Winery, Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyards and Vino Aquino.

Finally, and most importantly, Raptor Ridge from Newberg, Oregon. Raptor Ridge is celebrating their 25th harvest with a special on their 2015 Brut Rose for $25 on the 25th of each month!

At the Kitsap Wine Festival, they will share the – rare for the Pacific Northwest – Estate Grüner Veltliner. I first had this wine back in 2017 while visiting the Chehalem Mountain wineries. Its balanced fruit, acidity and minerality make this the most food friendly of wines.

Raptor Ridge will also be pouring the 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, a blend of two vineyards, one in the McMinnville AVA and the other in the Eola Amity AVA. Another of their wines I can highly recommend.

Visit the Kitsap Wine Festival site for the latest on who will be pouring and more importantly to buy your tickets. The Kitsap Humane Society and I thank you!

Cheers!

Water and Wine: Exploring Lake Chelan’s bounty

There’s a colorful collection of brochures, maps and business cards piled on the desk reminding me of a brief but fantastic visit to Lake Chelan Wine Country.

The sunshine, miles of blue water views and surrounding green hillsides sprinkled with vineyards and wineries painted a pleasant setting to explore.

There were stories from winemakers and tasting room staff who shared their passion. Here are my top 5 stories about the Lake Chelan’s water and wine industries.

Story One: The brief history of the Lake Chelan wine industry.

In the years leading up to my momentous wine-cation, Lake Chelan was all apples and tourism. The hills encircling the popular 50-mile long lake was once primarily apple orchards, but now many trees have been replanted to vineyards.

The first commercial vineyards were planted in 1998. From the first bonded winery in 2001, it only took eight years for Lake Chelan to become Washington’s 11th American Viticultural Area (AVA).

Today, there are over 30 wineries and tasting rooms nestled among the 31 hillside vineyards. Almost 300 acres of vineyards are planted to a wide range of grapes – Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Clairette Blanche, Counoise, Gewürztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, Picardan, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Roussanne, Syrah, Tempranillo and Viognier.

Story Two: Bringing Rhône to Lake Chelan

Cairdeas (Car dis) Winery is the passion of the dynamic duo of Lacey and Charlie Lybecker. At a Taste Washington event a few years ago, they introduced me to their Rhône-styled wines with Gaelic names such as Caislean an Papa. Given my Irish heritage and love of Rhone, this is high on my favorite Washington wineries list.

How this family winery evolved from beer to Sauvignon Blanc to their Lake Chelan winery fermenting unusual- for Washington –  grapes is a remarkable story.

While living and working in west Seattle, Lacey would bring home a bottles of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. They would compare the different producers and learned what a difference there could be in wines even from the same area.

After years of research, their passion for Rhône wines mushroomed. They were the first Washington winery to plant Picardan, a little known white grape from southern Rhône.

Traditionally, those AOC wines such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape can be blended with up to 13 red and white varietals. Following that tradition, Clairette blanche and Syrah vines were planted in the former apple orchard surrounding their winery.

Cuttings for these little known vines came from California’s Tablas Creek Winery, a partnership between Chateau de Beaucastel’s Perrin Brothers and Haas family of Vineyard Brands. In 1989, Tablas Creek began importing vine cuttings and building a grapevine nursery in Paso Robles.

And now Cairdeas Winery has a little bit of Washington Châteauneuf-du-Pape or in Gaelic, Caislean an Papa for you to enjoy.

Story Three: Diversifying – Apples and Grapes

Fielding Hills Winery was established in 2000. Owners Mike and Karen Wade began as many wine pioneers began, in the apple and cherry business.

In 1998, in need of more grapes for their growing winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle offered apple growers a contract to plant grape vines where apple orchards stood. The Wades transplanted 10 acres near Mattawa as a trial venture.

Merlot and Cab were first, later Syrah, Cab Franc and Malbec were planted. The Wade’s Riverbend Vineyard, not far from Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Indian Wells Vineyard, now totals 23 acres of coveted grapes.

Grapes were first sold to other producers but eventually the wine bug bit. In 2016, after making Fielding Hills wines for 16 years, the Wades opened their first tasting room overlooking Lake Chelan.

Fielding Hills Winery’s production is small at 2400 cases. The predominantly rich, red Wahluke Slope wines are award winning blends from the Riverbend Vineyard planted 22 years ago.

For warmer summer months, an amazing Riverbend Rose made from 100% Cabernet Franc was added to the all red lineup. The first year it was made, it sold out in two days.

More Rosé and white wines, Chenin Blanc, Roussanne and Chardonnay are being made with the help of Tyler Armour.

The Wade’s Concentric Wine Project label is based on the idea of “Serious experiments. Fun wines.” Armour is winemaker alongside owner and winemaker Mike Wade.

The Pinot Gris Pétillant Naturel is refreshingly crisp. It’s the one to grab and enjoy while taking in the panoramic view. The wine is bottled before primary fermentation is finished, creating a natural, lightly sparkling wine.

Their other unusual but perfect summer wine is a red made from Gamay Noir. That’s the grape that Gamay Beaujolais is made from. This lighter bodied red is wonderful slightly chilled.

Story Four: New World wines from Old World tutelage

C R Sandidge’s winemaker, Ray Sandidge has much to brag about. He’s a charming storyteller and a great winemaker. Growing up in a military background, he has traveled the world.

The tales he tells of wandering around Japan as a very young child and his remarkable opportunity to make wine for an old established winery in Germany are entertaining and insightful.

This shaped his winemaking to some degree. His Sabrina White is co-fermented with 67% Riesling and 23% Gewurztraminer. The creation is dry, aromatic and perfect for a summer day. The Rosé of Syrah, another dry, crisp wine that is the palest of pink evokes the distinguished wines of Provence.

His rich, aromatic reds include Caris, a blend of Malbec, Merlot and Cab Franc; Whistle Punk Red is Syrah with a dollop of Malbec and Petite Syrah; and Tri*Umph – as in three Bordeaux grapes – is Malbec, Cab and Merlot.

Save room for dessert! The No. 18 Devil’s Smoke Stack Port, predominantly Petite Sirah with a splash of Syrah is a blend of 5 vintages.

Story Five: A vacation wonderland

Lake Chelan is a tourist’s paradise. Water sports, winter sports, hiking and biking trails, wineries, breweries and cideries abound.

The population of about 4,000 residents grows to over 25,000. Where to put all those vacationers? Hotels, motels, lodges and vacation rentals, that’s where.

In fact, Chelan County ranks an astounding 4th out of 39 Washington counties in lodging tax collected. Many knew what I finally appreciated, Lake Chelan is indeed paradise.

Wine for me Argentina!

Argentinian wines haven’t graced my table recently. So, when invited to an Argentinian barbeque, it awakened the gaucho in me. I remember the first Argentine red wine that really impressed me – a 2004 Zolo Cabernet that sold for 8 bucks.  Another was the little known white grape named Torrontés, the perfect summer wine.

Did you know that Argentina is the 8th largest country in the world, well-known for its beef, soccer teams and wine?

This large country with mountains that provide water to lush valleys and a big city that’s the most visited city on the continent, easily supports almost 2,000 wineries. From the Salta region in the north to Patagonia in the south, Argentina produces enough wine to rank 5th worldwide in wine production.

In between Salta and Patagonia lies the heart of Argentina’s wine country – Mendoza. Lying at the foot of the Andes, Mendoza wineries are spread across more than 350,000 acres and produce 60 per cent of the country’s wines.

The high altitude, long hours of sunshine, and sandy soils comprise the ideal conditions for the production of wine both bulk and premium. Torrontés, Bonarda, Malbec, Cabernet and Merlot are grown on ungrafted original rootstock, unlike most northern hemisphere wine producing countries where phylloxera can devastate a vineyard planted on original rootstock.

My search for a white wine to pair with the oysters took a few days. I knew what I wanted – Torrontés, a white grape that is easy to come by in Argentina but not so much in Kitsap. But what I did find wowed the crowd.

Torrontés is totally Argentinean and the only country to produce it really. Mainly because, after DNA testing, it was found to be a cross of Muscat of Alexandria and Criolla Chica, a grape that was widely planted there and still used in bulk wine production.

It’s very aromatic, with notes of citrus, flowers, pear and peach, not unlike Viognier. The flavors are similar with structure and acidity that keep you coming back for another sip. It’s a summertime wine that’s best enjoyed while young unless you happen to run across a version that is late harvest.

Zolo Torrontés is very aromatic with aromas of citrus, white flowers and pear with a crispness that was perfect with the oysters. Zolo wines are sustainably farmed and very affordable. To further entice you to these wines, one of the winemakers, Jean Claude Berrouet, was the former winemaker at Petrus in Bordeaux.

The name of the winery comes from owner Patricia Ortiz’s lifestyle. She spends much of the week working in Mendoza, leaving her husband solo – Zolo – in Buenos Aries.

Another unusual grape, originally from Italy but now widely grown in Argentina, is Bonarda. It’s kind of like Beaujolais – not the Nouveau type – fruity with little tannins. It’s a wonderful wine to pair with the spicier dishes because the tannins are so minimal.

Altos Los Homigas produces the Colonis Las Liebres Mendoza Bonarda Classica, another bargain at $10 and great for an afternoon’s barbeque. It paired well with the empanadas another Argentinian staple. Empanadas are hand sized pockets stuffed with any combination of meat, cheese and/or vegetables.

We also enjoyed the Finca la Celia Tempranillo with the empanadas. A Chilean owned winery making one of Argentina’s top kosher wines in Mendoza. Tempranillo is a Spanish grape grown all over that country but Rioja is its best known version. Aged 3 months in oak, this wine had the typical cherry and herb flavors. Another bargain under $10.

The other grape that Argentina made famous is Malbec. In the late 20th century, the wine industry shifted its focus from jug wine made from Chica Criolla to premium wine production for the export market.

But it’s Argentina that most of us think of when we hear Malbec. Malbec is Argentina’s most widely planted red grape variety followed by Bonarda, Cabernet, Syrah and Tempranillo. It’s typically deeply colored with intense black fruits and a smooth mouthfeel.

Malbec is indigenous to Southwest France, where it is still widely grown in Cahors and in Bordeaux where it’s blended for its deep color.

With the three Malbecs presented, we devoured the classic dish, Matambre Arrollado which roughly translates to “rolled up hunger killer.” Created to feed guests while the rest of the food was grilled, it’s a flank steak slathered with chimichurri, stuffed with hardboiled eggs and vegetables, rolled up, skewered, grilled and sliced. The presentation is colorful and the dish is delicious.

Catena Zapata is 100% Malbec from a blend of three high mountain vineyards. Founded in 1902, Catena Zapata was instrumental in raising awareness of Malbec and other Argentinean wines worldwide. The pyramid shaped winery stands against a backdrop of striking mountains and vineyards. Their Malbec is no less impressive.

Another Mendoza Malbec we tasted was Espuela del Gaucho Reserve. This wine reflects the land of the Gaucho like this one with its full flavors of dark cherries and plum mingle with subtle notes of vanilla. I liked the balanced acidity and smooth tannins. Stylish and affordable for under $10.

Finally, the king of the flying winemakers, Amancaya Reserve red. A blend of Malbec and Cabernet and a collaboration between Lafite Rothschild and Nicolas Catena. This wine is earthy, plum and blackberry with a hint of pencil lead is a rich blend of 85% Malbec and 15% Cab that was aged for 12 months in oak.

Flying winemakers is a term used to describe those wine makers from one hemisphere flying to the opposite hemisphere to make wine in their off season. Harvest in the northern hemisphere occurs in the fall as it does in the southern hemisphere. The difference being September for the former and February for the latter.

The art of the flying winemaker helps winemakers share old techniques and modern techniques from the world’s wine regions. For example, Champagne producers making sparkling wines in California and Australia. French and Italian winemakers in Argentina and German winemakers in Washington state.

And we benefit from all this shared knowledge. Cheers!

Vintage Lake Chelan

Chelan is a Salish word meaning “deep water.” And it’s no wonder, Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in the United States. It has long had an excellent reputation for fishing and other water related activities. Today, Lake Chelan also has an excellent reputation for wine.

The first grape vines were planted along the shores of Lake Chelan in 1891. But it wasn’t until almost 100 years later, that Bob Christopher and Steve Kludt planted a vineyard that was the beginning of something big.

In the years leading up to that momentous occasion, Lake Chelan had been a successful orchard region but when the apple market collapsed in the 1990s, orchards in eastern Washington were taken out and grape vines went in.

By 2001, Lake Chelan Winery had become the first bonded winery in the area. It would only be eight years later when Lake Chelan became Washington’s 11th American Viticultural Area (AVA).

Granted by the federal government, an AVA is an appellation of indicating an area with distinguishing climate, soil and physical features that makes it unique. The Lake Chelan AVA encompasses the southernmost and easternmost areas of the lake and the surrounding lands that are at or below 2,000 feet in elevation.

Lake Chelan’s soil is a coarse, sandy sediment with significant amounts of quartz and mica that lend a certain minerality to the wines. The AVA is also notable for the significant “lake effect” that fosters mild temperatures resulting in a longer growing season.

In the ensuing decade, more pioneers followed Christopher and Kludt’s lead and more vineyards were planted and wineries bonded.  Paul Benson of Benson Vineyards, Mary and Bob Broderick opened Chelan Estate, Denny Evans started Tunnel Hill Winery, Bob Jankelson introduced Tsillan (pronounced Chelan) Cellars, Larry Lehmbecker launched Vin du Lac, Lynn and Henry Munneke introduced Chelan Ridge Winery, Dean and Heather Neff instigated Nefarious Cellars, Katy and Milum Perry began Tildio Winery, Ray Sandidge unveiled C. R. Sandidge  and Don and Judy Phelps unveiled Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards.

In 2015, vineyards had grown to 140 acres with 15 bonded wineries and a Wine Grape Growers Association. In 2018, the Lake Chelan AVA had over 30 wineries with about 300 acres planted to Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Clairette Blanche, Counoise, Gewürztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Syrah, and Viognier.

On June 7th and 8th, Lake Chelan celebrates 10 years as an official American Viticulture Area (AVA). The Lake Chelan Wine Valley and members of the Lake Chelan community invite you to join the festivities dubbed “Vintage Lake Chelan.”

At Vintage Lake Chelan, you’ll have the opportunity to taste delectable wines at the welcome reception, two seminars and a grand tasting at Larc Hill Vineyard Ranch on the South Shore.

The inaugural Vintage Lake Chelan will kick off with a welcome reception on Friday, June 7 from 6-8 p.m. at the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center. This is a great  opportunity to earn about this exciting AVA while tasting a selection of wines and bubblies, and talking with the wine industry folks.

The next day, Vintage Lake Chelan features two tasting seminars, led by representatives of the Walter Clore Center, and a grand tasting event.

“The Pioneers of the Lake Chelan AVA” will delve into those visionaries of the Lake Chelan AVA. Panelists include Alan Busacca, the geologist that studied the region and filed the official petition for the Lake Chelan AVA, Steve Kludt of Lake Chelan Winery, Bob Broderick of Chelan Estate Winery, Judy Phelps of Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards, Heather Neff of Nefarious Cellars, and Larry Lehmbecker of Vin du Lac Winery.

“Lake Chelan AVA – A Balancing Act from North to South” is a deep dive into the most extensively planted varietals on both the north and south shores, including Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.

Panelists and their wines include Rocky Pond Winery’s Shane Collins and his 2017 Riesling; Jason Morin with Ancestry Cellars 2016 Reunion Dry Lake Vineyard Chardonnay; a 2016 Estate Pinot Noir presented by Michelle Fanton of Tunnel Hill Winery; a 2016 Whole Cluster Pinot Noir offered by winemaker Oscar Castillo of Lake Chelan Winery; Dean Neff of Nefarious Cellars will pour his Defiance Vineyard Syrah, and founder/winemaker Angela Jacobs of WineGirl Wines will pour her Tildio Vineyards Syrah.

A grand tasting with 20+ wineries culminates that evening with delectable bites and delicious wines of the Lake Chelan Wine Valley. You can see the full lineup at http://lakechelanwinevalley.com/vintage-lake-chelan

A couple of highlights – CR Sandidge’s 2018 Sabrina is a white blend made by co-fermenting Gewurztraminer and Riesling.

Early on this Washington winemaker also worked at Weingut Georg Breuer in Germany. While there, Sandidge helped produce the highly acclaimed 1989 Georg Breuer Berg Rottland Trockenbeerenauslese. Winemaker Ray Sandidge has produced highly rated wines both red and white that have earned many awards in many competitions up and down the west coast.

Also high on my favorite Washington wineries is Cairdeas (say ‘Cardis’), an ancient Gaelic word meaning friendship, goodwill or alliance. West Seattle transplants Charlie and Lacey Lybecker believe good wine should be shared with friends, goodwill spread at every opportunity, and the alliances created have brought their flair for Rhone-styled wines to Lake Chelan.

The Lybecker’s dedication to Rhône Valley varietals is evident in their estate vineyard, planted to Syrah and two unusual white varietals: Clairette Blanche and Picardan. Both are widely planted in the renowned Châteauneuf-du- Pape appellation of France.

Tickets for single-day and weekend passes range from $45 to $275, and can be purchased online. For more information and details on Vintage Lake Chelan, check it out at www.vintagelakechelan.com

 

Chenin Blanc an underrated grape that offers so much

I tasted some amazing bottles of wine recently. The depth, complexity and sheer loveliness was so great that it needs to be shared with you.

It may come as a surprise that it was not a Chardonnay, Cabernet or Syrah. Indeed, it wasn’t even from Washington or California. It was from the icon of vinifera grapes, France.

The French make a white Burgundy that every Chardonnay producer wants to hold a candle to. Same with Cabernet. Who can beat a first growth Bordeaux or even a super-second?  Have you ever tried a red wine from northern Rhone? Where Syrah is co-fermented with Viognier? All perfection.

But here is another grape you must taste. It’s a grape that was once held in high esteem, but because Chardonnay, Cabernet and Syrah fetch more profit, this grape’s popularity has waned. This is my shot at convincing you to try a bottle of Chenin Blanc. Or Vouvray. Or Montlouis. Or Bonnezeaux. All from the delightful, versatile Chenin Blanc grape.

The Loire Valley, west of Paris, stretches 630 miles from the Atlantic through the center of France. Dubbed the “Garden of France,” its well-groomed gardens are bountiful, castles and chateaux magnificent, and its vineyards produce great whites.

Indigenous to this region, Chenin Blanc is produced in the center of the Loire Valley with Muscadet to the west and Sauvignon Blanc to the east. Chenin Blanc comes in a wide range of styles from a lush sweetie (Quarts de Chaume) to bone dry (Savennières). Its wonderful sparkling wines are labeled Mousseaux or Cremant.

The climate, soil and topography give the wines a minerality and acidity that balances the concentrated flavors pear, peach, lemongrass and honey flavors. Its greatest asset is its acidity, which is ever present even under warm growing conditions like that in eastern Washington. That balancing acidity also makes these wines age-worthy and food worthy.

Aged Chenin Blancs unveil complex aromatics, body and minerality that make these wines so distinguished. Have you ever had a 9-year old bone-dry Chenin Blanc that was the best white wine you’ve ever tasted?

If not, you may want to try a Domaine des Baumard 2010 Clos du Paillon Savennières. It was sublime. The best wine at the gathering. Everyone was blown away by this amazing, old Chenin Blanc. It paired particularly well with the Thai mussels in coconut milk.

The other outstanding Chenin Blanc we tasted was the Domaine des Baumard 2009 Quarts de Chaume. A luscious, honeyed wine with remarkable acidity for a 10-year old sweet white wine. The 375ml bottle yielded about an ounce and a half in each glass. Enough to enjoy the concentrated aromas for some time before indulging in the taste that lingered forever. A slab of pate is the quintessential accompaniment.

Many years ago, domestic Chenin Blanc was a well-received jug wine with few exceptions. One that stood out was Chappellet Vineyard’s old vine Chenin Blanc. High up on Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley, the original vines were producing when Donn and Molly Pritchard purchased the property back in the 1960s.

In the 1980s, Washington was white wine country. Specifically, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Chenin Blanc. Two wineries that excelled in Chenin Blanc were Kiona Vineyards and Bookwalter Winery.

If you wander to Red Mountain’s Kiona Vineyard, their old vine Chenin Blanc is a must. In this AVA, well-known for its powerful reds, this pioneering family planted Chenin Blanc in 1976 and then another block in 1983. If the conditions were right, the result was a heavenly ice wine.

But with warmer and warmer winters, ice wine conditions are becoming few and far between. Kiona rolled with the change in climate. Their newest edition is Fortunate Sun, a dessert wine much like a Vin Santo. By pruning the leaf canopy late in the season, the autumn sun works its magic to raisin the grapes. Thus concentrating flavors, aromas and sweetness.

Not too far away in Richland, Bookwalter Winery has a drier version of an old vine Chenin from Yakima Valley’s Willard Vineyard, planted in 1980. Bookwalter hand harvests and whole cluster presses then ferments at cold temps with 60% in concrete egg for 4 months and the remainder in stainless steel. Delightfully delicious.

Other dry and off dry, crisp, aromatic, full-flavored Washington versions that compare favorably to those produced in the Loire Valley:

Lobo Hills Roth Rock Chenin Blanc

McKinley Springs Horse Heaven Hills Chenin

L’Ecole No. 41 Yakima Valley Chenin Blanc

Cedergreen Willard Vineyards Chenin Blanc

This delightful yet highly underrated grape offers so much. So much complexity, flavors and aromas. And its wine pairs so well with a wide range of foods from appetizer to dessert throughout each season, won’t you try some today?

Cheers!

What to Pair with Spring Fare

With Mother’s Day, just around the corner, it’s a signal for party planning time. And not just for Mother’s Day Brunch. There are also Bridal Showers lunches, June graduation bbqs and wedding buffets to celebrate. And the best way to celebrate these special occasions is with food and sparkling wine with family and friends.

A sparkling wine is a great way to kick off a special celebration. Another great way to kick off a special day, like Mother’s Day, is with a Champagne brunch. A punch bowl of sparkling Mimosas or Champagne punch, garnished with fresh fruit is a great accompaniment to those Belgian Waffles or easy cheesy egg casserole.

Since kitchens are a natural gathering place, help making crepes filled with ricotta cheese and sweet sliced strawberries is a good group exercise with just rewards. Having a flute of bubbly sounds like the perfect morning, doesn’t it?

In our large family everyone pitched in to make the meals, especially my dad, who had worked in a bakery and was very good at making bread, coffee cakes and rolls. The first loaf with a stick of butter was always devoured before it even had a chance to cool.

Mom was never seen near the stove after all. She worked full time and she was an excellent list-maker and teacher. She did teach all her children how to make breakfast, lunch, dinner and fudge when we were just knee high to a grasshopper.

The only time she was seen near the stove was on Mother’s Day. This tradition probably stemmed from the massive effort and money to take the family out to brunch.

When they retired, my dad would still do most of the cooking. Mom just loved broccoli salad so she would make that for every special occasion. You could count on it for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and all nine of her children’s birthdays.

I would bring the sparklers for every special occasion, especially a Moscato d’Asti on Mother’s Day. This is one wine that everyone loved with its low alcohol, sweet perfumed fruitiness and balancing acidity. Traditionally produced in the northwest part of Italy, Moscato d’Asti is the Muscat grape from the Asti region. It’s not a full sparkling wine but half sparkling or what the Italians term frizzante.

This wine is now produced around the world and some are made with fruit juices such as pineapple. All are low alcohol, sweet and easy to guzzle.

Spumante is derived from the Italian word spumare which roughly translates to foam, thus a spumante is an Italian way of saying sparkling wine. A Spumante is made from Muscat, Glera, Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grape.

The region that is best known for sparkling wine is in Northeast Italy around the city of Veneto. There they have perfected a Spumante and call it Prosecco. They can be dry or sweet or even semi-dry. Prosecco is an ideal brunch wine, especially when making Bellinis.

Other bubblies to consider for the punch bowl that are the very affordable are Spanish Cavas made from a blend of Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel·lo, the traditional grape varieties.

Cava is produced for the most part in the Penedès, a wine-producing region in northeast Spain with a Denominació d’Origen (DO) designation that signifies quality. The biggest producer is Freixenet, headquartered in Sant Sadurní, Catalonia. It’s the largest producer of sparkling wine in the world. Juame Serra Cristalino and Codorniu are the other two huge sparkling wine producers in the area and also make ideal punch bowl ingredients.

The unusual names for these bottles come from ancient history. They are the kings of Babylon, Israel and Arabia, who presumably had many reasons to celebrate.

For your celebrations big and small, here is a rough guide for how much, depending on how many.

Split (1/4 bottle): 187ml or 6.5 oz.; 1 person, 1 glass

Half (1/2 bottle): 375ml or 13 oz.; 2 people, 1 glass

Fifth: 750 ml or 26.25 oz.; 4 people, 1 glass

Magnum (2 bottles): 1500ml or 52.5 oz.; 8 people, 1 glass

Jeroboam (4 bottles): 3000ml or 105 oz.; 4 people, 1 bottle

Rehoboam (6 bottles): 4500ml or 157 oz., 12 people, 2 glasses

Methuselah (8 bottles): 6000ml or 210 oz.; 18 people, 2.5 glasses

Salmanazar (12 bottles): 9000ml or a case; 12 people, 1 bottle

Balthazar (16 bottles): 12 L or a case + 3.3; 20 people, 4 glasses

Nebuchadnezzar (20 bottles): 15 L or a case + 6.6; 20 people, 1 bottle

Solomon (24 bottles): 18 L or 2 cases; The party bottle

Cheers to Mothers, congratulations to graduates and happy nuptials. Best wishes to all!