A family fun 4th of July!

A family fun 4th of July!

I truly love summer, especially a Seattle summer. Hot sun, long nights, BBQ’s with friends and a slower pace life. However, with this love comes some headaches.. known as school summer vacation. My kids are home, all day long. I have put out more arguments then I can count. I am continually finding new activities to entertain the little darlings. Begging my friends for play dates. Constantly looking at the clock wondering if it’s an acceptable time to crack open a bottle of wine (if that already hasn’t happened during a play date)

I am really not complaining though. Summer is my favorite time of the year. I just find it exhausting entertaining (or finding things to entertain) my children all day long. But the perks do outweigh the negatives.. by far. And wine tastes so much better, sitting out on my deck in the sun, watching dad play with the kids so I can unwind.

Summer wines can vary for me. I do tend to drink more whites and rosé’s. However, with the long summer nights, we tend to open some amazing reds we have been saving for special occasions. But for the sake of this blog, I am going to give you my top 5 summer wine varietals. This is a fun list to explore. Head into your local wine merchant and ask about this list. They should be able to point out some stellar wines for you (or check out if you want someone to come and pour a tasting of these varietals for you).

5. Vinho Verde – an inexpensive, Portuguese, high acid, light bodied slightly effervescent white wine. There are many reasons why I love a Vinho Verde. First of all, it’s a low alcohol wine, which is nice for those evenings where you want a glass of something, but don’t want to feel all wobbly. Also because of the low alcohol, it pairs very nicely with loads of summer friendly foods. I personally love a Vinho Verde with Mexican foods, seafood, Asian foods, and anything spicy. The slight bubbles help tone the spiciness down. Check out the Espiral from Trader Joes, only $4.99 and surprisingly delightful!

4. Sauvignon Blanc– this is a staple summer wine. Again, pairs deliciously with summer foods. A Sauv Blanc can be light – medium bodied, acidic and depending on the country of origin, it may be grassy, citrusy, or even slightly oaky. I prefer either a more citrus or slight oak Sauv Blanc, especially to pair with food. I have many go to Sauv Blancs between France, WA and CA, but my all time favorite is Salvestrin Winery Sauvignon Blanc ($24.00) out of CA. The problem with this wine is that you cannot find it in WA. But if you take a Napa Valley trip, make sure you stop by! Check out their website though.

3. Chardonnay – a medium to full bodied white wine, produced in many parts of the world. I know this wine can often get a bad rep. But this summer I have fallen (hard) for this delicious, rich, white wine. Give me a smooth Chard and I am one happy gal. I do prefer the crisp, mineral, slightly oaky Chardonnays (Chablis) from the Burgundy region of France. I find them slightly complex and enough minerality to keep my attention. However, I have discovered many WA Chardonnays (and a few Chilean)  that also keep me interested. My two favorites WA chards at the moment are Revelry Vintners (around $15.99) and Baer Winery’s “Shard” ($24.00).  Both are stainless steel, crisp and heavenly.

2. Petite Verdot- This varietal has long been a blending varietal into Bordeaux wines from France. But in recent years, it’s been standing beautifully on it’s own. It has stout tannins and can have a violet, dark fruit and vanilla flavor on the palate. It is a particular grape, so it can be a hit or miss. With food, you need weight, protein and fat.. so basically cheeses and heartier meat dishes. The Petite Verdot I am in love with this summer is the Blue Print Petite Verdot from El Corazon ($34.99)

1. Rosé – really, a no brainer this summer. This light to medium bodied wine is perfect for a long summer evening. Almost every region makes a rosé (Rosado in Spain, Rosato in Italy). A rosé goes perfectly with summer meals as well. Charcuterie, grilled fish, pork, salads, shrimp, egg dishes, pretty much anything you would eat in summer. I am a big fan of Provençal rosé’s and Spanish Rosado’s. The AIX rosé from Provence ($14.99) is a standard in our home. I also have fallen in love with Espelt Rosado ($12.99) and the 2013 Red Car rosé from CA ($19.99 and Pinot Noir grapes, delicious).

There you have it! A must try wine list to survive the summer heat (or your children). Enjoy exploring this list… and let me know what you try!


A successful summer play date!

A successful summer play date!

Check out your local wine merchants rosé selection!

Check out your local wine merchants rosé selection!


Take a Chance on New Zealand

Usually I jam pack our weekends; I hate being bored. But last night (a Friday night) our plans were cancelled and we ended up with a night at home. My older daughter invited a friend over, my younger daughter was annoying them.. so they were content (or arguing.. it’s interchangeable with this family) However,  it was still a perfect evening for sitting on the deck and trying out some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s.

A lot of people tend to turn their nose up whenever I mention the idea of a New Zealand Sauv Blanc. I often get the ” I don’t like to drink grass” comments. Yes, on the nose (and sometimes on the palate), you get a grassy flavor. But why turn your nose at that? Why not explore a little more? Maybe you can see past the grass. And not every NZ wine tastes like grass. That is what my husband and I set out to do last night- set the record straight on their wines. We ordered a Veggie Thai pizza, cracked open two bottles of New Zealand wine and let our palates work on the rest!

New Zealand in Seattle

New Zealand in Seattle

Wine 1: Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2012 $13.99 Ken’s Market

When you think about New Zealand, you think luscious land, tropical and sunny weather, water, etc. Well, that is what their Sauv Blancs taste like. To me, they taste how New Zealand would feel (I have never been, but it is on my bucket list). On the nose, Dashwood had a clean, grass scent with a hint of bell pepper. On the palate it was high in acid, with hints of grass, grapefruit and bell pepper. Slightly tart and tangy, which could be from the high acid. By itself, the wine didn’t do much for me, all I could taste was the tanginess. What this wine needed was food. Our spicy Thai pizza was a perfect combination. The spice of the pizza brought the acid down.. and the acid of the wine brought the spice down. It was this amazing. Both tasted completely different, but it a great way. Neither one over shadowed the other, which is what you want when pairing food and wine. Because of that combination, I would highly recommend this wine, but as a wine to pair with food (i.e. not for a happy hour drink without food). Pair this with Thai food, goat cheese, chicken dishes, white fish, fresh herb dishes, oysters, peppers, shellfish and veggie dishes. Avoid red meat and salty foods.

Wine 2:  Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2012 $11.99 Ken’s Market

Same year, same region, whole different taste. On the nose, it had a creamy grass, green apple and green pepper smell. On the palate, really high in acid, with slight green pepper and grass flavors. I could hardly drink the wine, for fear of acid reflux (which I have never had). I paired this wine with the Thai pizza as well. It toned down the acid, but still the wine didn’t do it for me. Neither good nor horrible with the food. It left me with a blah feeling. A wine I will probably forget. Spend the extra $2 and pick up the Dashwood.

What I really want you to do, my friends, is give New Zealand wines a chance, especially during this hot August month. These wines will pair perfectly with your seafood or salad dinners. As I have said in the past, don’t judge unless you try. Don’t automatically say you don’t like NZ Sauv Blanc’s. Give it a whirl again, pair with some food and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Cheers my friends!

The Pseudo-Cellar

When snow hits Seattle, the whole city just shuts down. The city is at a standstill. As we are hunkered down in our home (because you really don’t want to drive in Seattle when it snows, because Seattleites cannot drive in snow. Even if you know what you are doing, chances are those next to you, don’t), I figured it was a good day organize my “pseudo-cellar.” I didn’t get far, because it dawned on me, I should blog about my makeshift cellar. To share my ideas in hopes to help out my fellow novices. So here I go…

What I mean by “pseudo-cellar” is just that, I have a pseudo wine cellar. In my dream home, I would have a beautiful, temperature controlled tile room with wine racks lining all the walls – of course all full of wine. But reality hits.. and I have my small little home in North Seattle with barely enough room to fit a family of four, let a lot a room devoted entirely to wine. So, we make do.

We have a lot of wine. Mostly to be consumed within the next 5 years, but we do have a few collector bottles that need to be aged a good 10-15 years. But where does one put wine in a small home, especially wine that needs to age? For us, we just had to be creative. With that, my pseudo-cellar was born.

It started with a wine fridge, which is a great way to keep your wine at a constant temperature – which is extremely important. Wine thrives in a cool place with consistent temperatures. A wine fridge can help you with that. You can even find them at Target for around $50. They don’t take up much room either. However, our wine outgrew that option. I still have the fridge, and use it to keep white wines and bubbles chilled.

If you are going to consume your wines right away, small counter wine holders work well. They are convenient, cheap and can look really cool in your kitchen. But, I wouldn’t recommend using them to store wines for long periods of time. The kitchen is the worse place to store wines because of the constant changes in temperature.

Since we graduated from the wine fridge, we purchased a nice leaning shelve from Crate and Barrel, which had slots for wine and then wedges to store more wine. However, it looked cluttered to me, especially since it was in our downstairs family room. So, we kept a few bottles on the shelf, and decided to use our dark storage room as the wine storage room. We were lucky to have wine rack given to us from an auction last year and it has been the greatest gift ever. It fits perfectly in the dark, even temp, storage room –  between boxes of clothes and old toys. Which works perfectly. It’s not in the way, the wines that need to age will be safe and it’s still very easy to get too (once in a while you have to crawl over a box or two).

For wine racks, they don’t have to be expensive. The company below donated the rack I inherited (of course from someone who has my dream cellar in their home and didn’t need the rack), but you can also purchase racks at Ikea which do the same job at half the price.

No matter your home space or financial situation, you can still keep your wines safe. Some day I will have my dream home and dream cellar, but until then, I am pretty proud of my pseudo-cellar.

Happy Cellaring!!

Tonight’s Tasting:

There is no tasting tonight – however I have a Winery for you to find at your local wine shop. Last night, with a wonderful halibut and salmon dinner, we cracked open a bottle of 2009 Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc (Napa, CA). Their Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorites. Its fresh, light, touch of citrus, melon, granny smith apple and mineral. You would think this wine would be perfect on a warm summer night, but last night it tasted just as great with the snow falling outside.  Cakebread Cellars has an amazing wine selection, beyond their Sauvignon Blanc – although they are pricey. The Sauv Blanc is around $24, but worth the price. You can find Cakebread in many local wine shops, as well as QFC and Safeway (if they have a large wine selection). Splurge on their wine and let me know. And if you find yourself in Napa Valley, make sure to stop by the winery!!

Washington vs. California wineries part 2

I am absolutely thrilled to be heading to Napa Valley in two weeks. This is a much-needed, mini-vacation with my mom (my wine inspiration). Although a bittersweet trip as well, since I will be saying goodbye to a dear friend from the bay area, who is packing up and moving to London. Talk about going out with a bang though, a final Napa Valley wine trip.

As I said in the last blog, I am a fan of local businesses and proud to support Washington wineries.  But, how can I resist a wine trip to California? The birthplace of US wines.  Visit almost any country and no doubt you can easily obtain a California wine. And they make damn good wines too. You must look past Gallo, Mondovi and Sutter Homes (I’m not putting them down, they have their place) and search for smaller (using the term lightly)wineries. There are so many wineries in California; it will take me years to get through them all, if that is even possible. There are over 107 American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) in California, which include, Napa, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Valley and Rutherford.

California wines really made their mark in the world (even though before that, many people in the were travelling to California to fill their empty wine bottles right from the barrels) in 1976 when they beat France in a famous wine competition. A huge blow to the French ego’s. Check out the movie Bottle Shock… it will tell you all about that!

 That was a beyond brief history lesson. Now, here are some of my recommendations for wineries to visit. To be honest, I have only been through Napa (about a half-dozen times). So, my recommendations are limited to that region. And if you hadn’t noticed, I am visiting again in 2 weeks, so I may discover some new favorites to tell you about.

Here we go! Take notes my friends: my top 5 favorite wineries in Napa.

1.) Plumpjack Winery, Oakville

620 Oakville Cross Road, Oakville CA 94562

Fun and hip. Those are the first word that pop i to my mind when I think of Plumpjack. They cater to parties and are off the beaten path. They make a killer Cab that you will want to hold on too, for probably 10 years or so. Very much worth the trip.

2.) Peju Province, Rutherford

8466 St Helena Highway, Rutherford CA 94573

Who doesn’t love wine and chocolate? This is place to visit if you want beautiful scenery and grounds (fresh flowers everywhere), fabulous wine and chocolate. I don’t know what I love more, their Cabs or the chocolate sauce they make. To top this visit off, it is family owned, intimate and very friendly to visitors (even those visitors who are wine novices). Peju is a very easy stop; right off Highway 29.

3.) Cakebread Cellars, Rutherford

8300 St. Helena Highway Rutherford, CA 94573

I heard about Cakebread through my Arizona girlfriend who is also a wine fan. She raved about them, so on my last trip to Napa, I made an appointment to taste (they are appointment only). Cakebread wines are expensive, but they make you feel like a million bucks when you visit. They tour you through their facility, which is breathtaking. It has a modern feel, but the building is a barn. I can see why they have such a loyal backing. They are known for their Cabs and Sauvignon Blanc, but to be honest I loved their Syrah. But, I am not complaining about their other wines (well, maybe their Pinot Noir, I am not a fan of that)- very impressive. They are also another family owned winery right off of Highway 29.

4.) Andersons Conn Valley, St Helena

680 Rossi Road St Helena, CA 94574

Now this is a winery off the beaten path, by about 15 minutes. The best thing about this winery is the location. You taste the wines in wine caves! With wine barrels surrounding you. It is pretty cool, to say the least. The wine is alright. Not my favorite Napa wine, but for the tour and tasting, the trip is totally worth it. The Anderson’s are down to earth and not pretentious. They are by appointment only as well.

5.) Salvestrin Winery, St Helena

397 Main Street St Helena, CA 94574

Again, I save the best for last. And again, I may be a bit biased. My husband  and I stayed at their Inn the last time we visited Napa. Wow is all I have to say. We met the family, sat on their patio, tasted their wines (some from right out of the barrel), and woke up at 4:30 am to watch them harvest the grapes. And to top that off, their wine is truly outstanding. Sadly though, you will not be able to Salvestrin in stores. It is only available through their winery (they can ship though!). My two favorite is their Sauvignon Blanc and Retaggio (a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, Cab and Cab Franc – it will knock your socks off). They are also appointment only, but if you pop by without one, they will not turn you away. As a side note, if you want to throw a party, they have an amazing facility you can rent. A patio within the vineyards!!! And for a true experience, stay at their Inn for the weekend.

Happy wine trails in California and don’t forget your designated driver and wallet (you will need loads if cash in Napa).