Discover. Sip. Savor.

Vin: Wine and Events

Vin: Wine and Events

Vin is a new adventure for the Puget Sound region. Vin: Wine and Events is an in-home wine tasting experience. Whether you want to add a little spark for your next book club or hosting a work party, Vin will create a new element of fun. Vin will help you discover a whole new world of wine.

For those in the Puget Sound area, Vin will come to you for all your wine tasting needs. Packages vary and will include a basic tasting of six wine’s for up to 10 of your friends (a set price), all the way to custom wine parties (prices will vary depending on wines, etc.). We can be as basic or as extravagant as you see fit for your event.  And all wine tasted will be available for purchase!

More information, pricing and packages will be posted soon. Keep an eye out!

Once upon a time in Barcelona…

There are many reasons to love Europe, but today I will focus on one of my most favorite things about Europe.. wine!  Now, before the wine advocates in Washington, California and Oregon get in a tizzy, I would like to say I love wines from the US as well. However, my love and passion for wine began in Barcelona, Spain. And for that, Europe will always have my heart when it comes to wine.

I remember the day I feel in love with wine. Well, it wasn’t really the day, it was about 10:00 a night in Barcelona. At the age of 23 though, my day was pretty much beginning at 10:00 pm. I was heading out to meet up with some friends, but was persuaded to stop into this wine shop off Valencia street. Upon entering the shop, I was mesmerized by the warmth and feeling of the place. It smelled of stone, wood and wine.  The shop looked as though it had been in operation since 1889. The owner was this old Spanish gentleman and even though we didn’t speak the same language, that didn’t stop him from pouring me some of the most amazing wines I had ever tasted. We laughed and drank… and laughed a little more. For hours this continued. I couldn’t tell you the exact Spanish wines I drank. All I remember is tasting, sipping, drinking and falling in love.

From that night on, my mind, palate, nose and ambition changed forever. My ideas of wine expanded beyond belief. During that same period of my life I was able to travel to the Burgundy region of France, Italy and Germany. I adored wines from those countries and regions as well.  But nothing compared to Spain’s wine and the little wine shop that expanded my horizon.

Spain’s Wine Regions:

Spain has 7 wine regions: Green Spain, North Central Spain (Ribera del Duero), Ebro River Valley (Rioja and Navarra), The Meseta, The Mediterranean coast ( Priorat, Montsant and Cava), Andalucía and The Islands.

Spain makes many wines from these regions, more than us in America could imagine. Many varietals similar to the US (Cab, Merlot, Chardonnay) and many we wouldn’t be able to recognize (Aragon, Castellana, etc.).

However, I will not go into all the varietals in this blog. The focus will be on two varietals to explore next time you are in a courageous mood to try something new!

Wine 1: Tempranillo from the region of Rioja

I am a sucker for a good Rioja, Tempranillo. I love its earthy, dirty, jammy flavors on the palate. It can often have strong oak and vanilla flavors as well. When I drink it, I am instantly brought back to my little wine shop However, I am picky about my Rioja’s.  You will find 4 different classifications for Rioja’s – so I will give you a quick low down. This makes a difference in my book.

Rioja – the youngest wine. Spending less than a year in an oak barrel.

Rioja Crianza- ages for two years and at least one of those years in oak.

Rioja Reserva – aged for three years and at least one year in oak.

Rioja Gran Reserva – Aged two years in oak and three years in the bottle.

While you can get some nice Crianza’s at your local wine merchant (for an excellent price at that)… I would spend the extra $5-10 and purchase the Reserva. Often Crianza’s have a bite to them.. with a Reserva (in most cases) I found them to have that silky, smooth, rustic jammy taste that I appreciate.

I often  hear from people that they don’t like Rioja’s. My guess is that they have not tried a Reserva or Gran Reserva, because my friends your opinion would change. Please, give a Rioja a second chance. Step it up a notch on the price scale and you will not be disappointed.

Ontanon Rioja Reserva

Ontanon Rioja Reserva

** A little note on Rioja’s – is they make a light to medium bodied white wine as well… delicious!

Wine 2: Albarino

This is a medium-bodied white wine from the region on Galacia. It has distinct flavors and aromas to Viogniers; hints of peach, nectar, apricot and stone. Albarino is a lively and crisp wine which pairs well with most fish and shellfish dishes.  It is an extremely popular wine in Spain, and quickly growing in its popularity here in the US. And the best thing about this wine is the price. This is an extremely affordable white wine. Often around the $10.00-15.00 price point.

La Cana - $14.99

La Cana – $14.99

There you have it my friends; two new wines that you must try. Even if you are unable to try these wines in the heart of Spain, at least you can bring Spain to your home.

Cheers!

Memories from Barcelona

Memories from Barcelona

Officially, summer is still here…..

Summer is not over yet and here in the Pacific Northwest our summer continues (it is going to be 90 today!). Even if you are thinking about the leaves and temperature’s dropping, I don’t want you to overlook the “summer”  Rosé when choosing a wine. Even though fall officially starts on September 22nd this year, it doesn’t mean you need to forget about your favorite rosé.   Rosé wine can actually be an all year-long wine. It will compliment your Thanksgiving dinner and the color goes perfect with an Easter feast.

A FYI about Rosé is that it is made from red grapes but is light-colored because it has minimal contact with grape skins.

A rosé can be hard to find after the summer season, but if you happen to see one in your favorite wine shop or market, don’t just gaze at it with sadness, longing for July. Grab a bottle and take it home for your cozy end of summer/fall meal. It really is a versatile wine that pairs with many dishes; summer, fall or winter.

Pairing suggestions include: Charcuterie, fish (grilled, fried or stewed), crab, Indian foods, Mexican foods, chicken,  pork (esp. grilled or roasted),  salad, grilled shrimp, ham, dishes with tomato sauces and vegetables. As you can see, a rosé is versatile, light and delicious.

So please my friends, don’t forget the Rosé – the anytime wine!

Rose's at The Grape Choice

Rose’s at The Grape Choice

Sometimes you end up with a bottle of Robert Mondavi

Robert Mondovi Fume Blanc

Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc

I try to support small and local businesses whenever I can. However, there are those times when you need a Target and Nordstrom’s (although, I do consider Nordy’s a local business!). Just like there are those time when you pick up a 2010 Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc. Which is what happened to me yesterday.  Let me explain.

It started off as an extremely rough morning, with my 3 1/2 year old in complete meltdown mode at 5:30 am. So much so that I had to cancel her long awaited play date because she was out of control and it was the only threat I could think of at 5:30 am. It was a threat that I had to follow through with. Which is horrible for me because it ruins my day as well. With that, my morning continued with screaming, tears and tantrums. Finally, I had it. My little “blessing” was going to make me insane if I didn’t get out of the house. So, I packed my sobbing 3 1/2  and 7 year olds (who get’s it. After watching her little sister get into trouble, was being an angel) into the car and headed to the gym. An hour of body pump class (with kids in the child care) would surely clear my head and give me a moment of peace.

After my class I was rejuvenated and I picked up the girls, who actually had smiles. Success!! But, that changed as we got into the car. This is the scenario which was repeated over and over the second I buckled my seat belt: “mom, can you turn on the radio?” “mom, can you turn on One Direction?” “Mom, can you roll down my window?” ” Mom can you roll up my window?” “Mom the music is to loud” “Mom I can’t hear the music”….. we haven’t left the parking lot.

I decided at that moment I needed a coffee to make it through the day. As I am driving to the coffee shop, the crying started again. This time, it was me telling them no at treats at the coffee shop; I just need a latte.

As I drug my sobbing kids into Café Vita on Phinney Ridge, I looked at the barista and asked if I could have a glass of wine. To which he replied “Mam, It’s 10:30 in the morning.” Oh, right.. “Ok just a double tall latte please.”

The rest of my day kind of went the same way. I was done come 4:00. I couldn’t stand it any longer, so I packed up the kids and went to Target. I knew I was shooting myself in the foot, but I had to go for a variety of reasons (toilet paper is an essential item). While I was aimlessly wandering about Target, throwing out “no’s” to my kids for every item they begged for (We don’t need another set of Muppet Band aids), I found myself in the wine isle. And as my kids were whining about needing more maple syrup (conveniently located on the same isle), I quickly grabbed a bottle of wine and headed to the check out stand before my head exploded.

The wine I chose: Robert Mondavi 2010 Fume Blanc (94% Sauvignon Blanc and 6% Semillon), $14.99. Now, maybe my judgment was tainted since I had an on-going headache since 6:00 am, but the wine was surprisingly pleasant. Actually, down right good. On a “normal” day, the thought of picking up a Mondavi wine would never cross my mind. I guess you could say I am a little judgmental with my wines. However, I am glad this happened. This was one of those happy mistakes. Maybe I should be thanking my tantrum-loving child. Nah…

Tasting notes: On the nose this wine had tropical fruit, peach and honeysuckle scent;  a favorable smell. Upon taste, it was even better. A nice balance of mineral and acid, enough to make the wine dance on your tongue. A huge difference from the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s I tried last week. On the palate there was a peach, floral, honey suckle and slight cucumber taste. I really pleasant mixture in my mouth.

This wine had me eating my words (yes, in the past I may have said I would never drink a Robert Mondavi wine).. and I am the first to admit it. I even remarked to my husband that we should look into a case of this to keep on hand (to which he promptly reminded me of all the wine we have downstairs.. party pooper).

I think many of you would enjoy this wine as well, especially at the price. Mondavi can be found in most major stores: Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer, Kroger and Target. I recommend a bottle of this wine, even if your children are behaving like angels.

Cheers to a new day today!!!

When to wine detox?

I love summer and everything about it. Long days, hot sun, friends and family over for dinners, lazy days, vacations and wine. In the summer, wine seems to pop up every where. During dinners, at the beach, play dates, after long runs.. etc. You get my drift. We seem to let ourselves be free to the wine at any possible moment during these hot months.So, I am asking you my friends, when do you detox? September? Do you go, no drinking during the week, then have at it on the weekends (which is considered bingeing and not really good for you)? Or you let yourself have a glass or two every night of the week? Or maybe you don’t drink wine at all, and stick with beer (then why are you reading my blog? 🙂 ). I am curious as to how others moderate wine consumption during this heavenly time of year- considering that wine seems to flow everywhere.

I am a healthy person. I am training for the Walla Walla 1/2 marathon in October, so I work out 4-5 times a week ,eat fairly healthy and watch my wine intake. But I do worry about empty calories from wine as well abuse of these fine grapes. Does anyone else have these worries?

I would love to hear back how my friends moderate their wine intake during this summer season, especially from those working in the business. Or do we live life, not worry and just enjoy the wine?

Cheers! (to either wine or a beet juice detox)

A lazy summer morning making Fairy houses
A lazy summer morning making Fairy houses

 

 

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!

What does a good value wine mean?

A morning read

A morning read

 

What is a “good value” wine? What does that mean to a consumer? As I was reading Food and Wine magazine this morning, it featured an article talking about finding value wines. It gave me lots to ponder. What do I consider a value wine? Is it the same as what my fellow novices would consider a value wine? The more I thought, the more I realized no. It’s all subjective. What I feel is a great value/buy could be unfathomable to some people. And others may think it’s cheap. I believe that as long as you are enjoying the wine and it’s within your budget… that is a value wine. No matter if you are the hunt for a $10 bottle of a Washington red blend or splurging on your favorite $80 Cab from California, it’s all your personal preference. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Cheers to finding your value wine!

*Article: Food and Wine Magazine, September 2013

Taste vs. Price: How to Find Wine Value, by Ray Isle

California wine country and children

Sonoma Square

Sonoma Square

Wine country and children? When you think of visiting California wine country, you think of a weekend away from children, work, life. Taking your children to wine country is not a thought most people would consider. My friends it can be done! And it can be an amazing family vacation spot as well.

We have spent the past three summers taking our children (8 and 3 1/2) to Sonoma, CA. We make this vacation the best of both worlds. My girls adore visiting Sonoma and look forward to this tradition. Many people are shocked that I bring my children to Napa/Sonoma (“don’t they get bored?”). I always think, why not? In Europe families go everywhere together, even through wine villages/vineyards. Why, as American’s, shouldn’t we have the same laid back mentality? I love spending time with them. Why not make it a family holiday doing things we all enjoy?

In Sonoma Valley alone, there are more than 370 wineries. Of course, even without children, it would a challenge to visit every winery. We make decisions to visit Sonoma and Napa wineries carefully when traveling with our children. Below is a list of kid-friendly wineries, restaurants and places to visit with your kids. I am sure there are MANY more, but these are tried from yours truly.

Places to stay:

There are loads of hotels in the Sonoma and Napa Valley regions, many which offer amenities for little ones. However with our children, we rent a house. For the past three years, we have rented the same home outside Sonoma Valley. It comes with a pool, bocce ball court, Ping-Pong table, trampoline and loads of bikes and other kid-friendly gadgets. The home is not fancy by any means, but it suits us perfectly. We spend many hours in the pool and playing games.

Another plus with renting a home, is that you can make your own meals. Taking a family of 4 out to dinner in Sonoma or Napa is very expensive. With a home, you can make a lunch/dinner, drink a bottle of wine, let the kids run around and everyone is happy!

Loma Vista and swimming

Loma Vista and swimming

Being silly on Vacation

Being silly on Vacation

The website that I recommend is VRBO.com. Check out homes in the areas of Sonoma, Healdsburg, Calistoga, and Napa (including St. Helena, Yountville, Oakville). Santa Rosa isn’t that far either and would have good deals.

* On a personal side note: The nice thing about staying in Sonoma, is the family feel of the town. They have a Plaza with many shops, restaurants, Tuesday farmers market, a huge play area for kids, a Whole Foods, toy shops, Train Town, etc. And on the plus side, within the plaza square (where the park is), you are allowed to have beer and wine. How perfect!

Kid Friendly Wineries

This is where I have to admit, I am biased. A few are my most favorite wineries ( I have blogged about in the past).. but what I love about them, besides amazing wines, is they are accommodating with children. I know there are wineries where you don’t bring kids, period (i.e. Napa wineries-  Opus One, Silver Oak and Cakebread are a few that come to mind). I totally respect those that would prefer to keep the riff-raff of children out (and visit them when I am kid-less).

Here is a small list of wineries we have explored which welcome children.

Sonoma Valley region:

Ledsonhttp://www.ledson.com/

Talk about a little girls dream. This winery has a Cinderella-looking castle atmosphere (if Cinderella drank good wine). They have a little deli/picnic area and patience for the little ones. Wines are pretty remarkable as well! My husband enjoys their oaked Chardonnay! I prefer the Bellisimo.

Larson Family Winery: http://www.larsonfamilywinery.com/

Now, the complete opposite feel from Ledson, but extremely family oriented (hence family in the name). Larson winery is on a farm, with plenty of animals. And what kid doesn’t like animals? They also have games and a few bikes for kids to ride as well. This winery has the family-feeling thing down pat, pretty smart. Their wine isn’t my favorite, but a very enjoyable experience (try the Three-Lab Cab… it’s pretty delicious).

Bump: http://www.bumpwine.com/

Bump Winery

Bump Winery

Although it’s a brand new winery and tasting room, the wine maker has been around for ages – making wines at some big known wineries in Sonoma. His tasting room isn’t made for little kids (lots of homemade pottery around), but he has small children himself.. so he is very friendly with those that want to stop by with kids. His wines are simple, but balanced eloquently. A couple of his wines could be on my top 10 favorite Sonoma wines list! Try the Fortune (a white Rhone blend) and Zinfandel when you pop in. Both are divine!

Domaine Carneros (outside Sonoma): http://www.domainecarneros.com/

I have talked about this winery in the past – one of my favorites. They make outstanding bubbles. They have a breathtaking facility and sparkling wines to match. They may not look “kid-friendly” but are very patient with kids (they have kid, non alcoholic wine). This is a place where it’s ok to bring out the IPad/IPhone for the kids. There isn’t much running around for the kids to do. But, totally worth the stop (with or without the rug-rats).

*you will meet other families with kids there, which made my girls very happy this time around. They played contently with the others, so this time there was no need for the IPhone!*

Napa Valley region:

Salvestrin Winery: http://www.salvestrinwinery.com/

Salvestrin Winery

Noelle enjoying Salvestrin Winery

My favorite in California wine country. Not because they make the best wines (but, they are pretty stellar) or because they have the biggest Chateau.. but because of who they are. A very unpretentious, small, family vineyard – competing some very big players in the Napa wine world (Mondovi is a few wineries away). Right off highway 29,  you drive up to their 100 year old home (which they still live in), and are welcomed as though you are family. We have been going to this winery for years now, and it really does feel like home. My girls love running through the vineyard’s, playing with the Salvestrin grandkids if they are around, or just hanging out with us on the patio set up against the vineyard. It’s a place of tranquility and amazing wines. They are appointment only, but I would HIGHLY recommend going if you are in St. Helena/Napa Valley area.

Frogs Leap: http://www.frogsleap.com

How can you not take your kids to a winery whose motto is “Times fun when you are catching flies!” This is another winery with impeccable grounds. And they want you to explore them! My girls love finding the chickens, petting the fat cat and playing outdoor games. They even give kids crayons and a frog coloring book. They also recommend making reservations. But another must-see when you are traveling with your kiddos.

Oh, and the wine is delicious too!!! Check out their Zinfandel and Cab’s! The sauv blanc is also very refreshing on a hot day.

Flora Springs: http://www.florasprings.com/

Flora Springs is a little more popular and on the touristy side. But, it is a great place to take a break, get some lunch from Dean and Deluca next door and try some wines. They have a nice patio out back (I wouldn’t recommend having your kids in the tasting room area) where you can enjoy the sun and your lunch. If you are able to taste their Sangiovese… do it! it’s pretty delicious.

Sterling Vineyard: http://sterlingvineyards.com/

This is one of those big, huge places that I often don’t promote. However, if you want a fun experience for your kids.. go visit them! To reach their winery, you have to take a Gondola ride. It’s fun (except for those who may be nervous of heights). Wines are ok… you can find them in about any grocery store throughout the country.

Healdsburg Region:

J Vineyards: http://www.jwine.com/

Bottle of J Vineyards bubbles

Bottle of J Vineyards Cuvee

Another fantastic bubbles place that is kid friendly and on beautiful grounds. They may not have activities for them or places to run around. What they offer though is patience and kindness to little ones (and animal crackers and juice). You will also need to make an appointment to visit them as well. Their rose bubbles (sold out) are killer!

Field Stone Winery: http://www.fieldstonewinery.com/

Another biased winery. My daughter Ava goes to school with the granddaughter of the winemaker. Which means they are used to having their grandchildren come by, along with other children. They are very pleasant and welcoming to kids (it’s a plus they have a horse at the winery). When you visit, you must try their Merlot!

Places to eat with your kids:

(a quick, simple list)

Sonoma:

1. The Girl and the Fig

2. Sunflower Café

3. Chocolate Cow (for dessert)

4. Tuesday Farmers Market in Sonoma Square

5. Olive and Vine – in Glen Ellen

Napa Valley Region:

1. Picnic at V. Sattui Winery

2. Rutherford Grill

3. Dean and Deluca (not a sit down, pick up for a picnic)

4. Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen

5. Gotts Roadside (rated best burgers in Food and Wine Magazine)

6. Pizzeria Tre Vigne

Kids Activities:

To make this a whole family vacation, there are loads of family activities and adventures:

1. Train Town in Sonoma – great for the little engineers in your family

2. Rent bikes in Sonoma/Napa Valley and ride through the vineyards

3. Playgrounds in Sonoma Square

4. Check out some cute shops (and toy shops) in Healdsburg

5. Safari West – outside Santa Rosa – a hit for our family vacation this year. Pricey and takes most of the day but well worth it. And you can drink wine while on the 2 hour jeep safari ride.

6. Sonoma Farmers Market

7. Stay at your rental home and swim

8. Loads of parks all over wine country

9. The Sonoma Overlook Trail (probably best for kids over 10).

10. Calistoga Hot Springs

11. Ride horses at Bodega Bay (and pick up some salt water taffy).

It’s very possible to make California Wine Country the most perfect family vacation. Its about spending time together (and having good wine). Just keep in mind that 1 or 2 wineries with small children is about all they can handle ( I have pushed it to three though). If they still take naps, visit one before and one after. Let them also have a say in what they want to do for the day. There is nothing worse then dragging cranky, tired, crying children to a winery. You will be miserable and not enjoy the wines.

If you rent a house, I would highly recommend one with a pool. It will make your vacation so much more pleasurable, especially in the summer heat. Also, plan on making a few dinners in the house, so you can enjoy the meal, wine and your family – without having to rush out of a restaurant with overly tired children.

And above all, it’s ok to  let them play on the phone/Ipad/Ipod, etc. while you are enjoying a winery. It’s not bad parenting, it’s letting yourself enjoy a little peace and quiet while focusing on the wine you are tasting. It will not rot their brains. Trust me, you will have a lot of family time and activities together. Remember this is about you, them and wine….

Cheers to you and your family!

*feel free to leave anymore family-friendly wineries/restaurants you know of in the Napa Valley/Sonoma area. This was just a small list!

Lunch in Petaluma

Lunch in Petaluma

Treats at Chocolate Chow in Sonoma

Treats at Chocolate Chow in Sonoma

Mom's are also good to bring on Vacations

Mom’s are also good to bring on Vacations

Ava on a Safari Jeep ride!

Ava on a Safari Jeep ride!

Sometimes you need a night out.. without the kids

Sometimes you need a night out.. without the kids

What do you pair with a Chocolate Chip Cookie??

cookie and wineI had my final Food and Wine pairing class. I had to pair a food and wine. This is what I came up with…

Cooking is not my specialty. However if there is one thing I can do, it is bake chocolate chip cookies. I was curious as to what wine would pair with a chocolate chip cookie (Port, Muscat, etc), and after class and reading I made a pairing decision. For my wine-food pairing analysis I decided to pair my favorite baked good with a Moscato d’Asti. This is a Cascinetta Vietti 2012, Moscato d’Asti from Piemonte, Italy. I purchased the wine at The Grape Choice in Kirkland, WA for $13.99.

I am typically not fan of Moscato d’Asti. I find the sweetness of the wine overpowering by itself. With a chocolate chip cookie however, I figured it would be a balanced/complementary match since the wine is sweeter than the cookie (but both still sweet). A cookie can be matched with just about any dessert wine or sparkling. Sparkling sounded fun for this analysis and I wanted to give this wine another try. This is what led me to this particular pairing.

Sensory evaluation: There was a peach, slight grapefruit and rose on the nose of the Moscato d’Asti. It is yellow in color and slightly effervescent. There is only 5.5% alcohol and I would consider this a sweet wine (sugary, full, residual sugar and pleasant taste).
Upon tasting, I noticed the taste of residual sugar along with hints of peach and apricot. The wine had some acidity and good in balance. For me it was too sweet by itself, however when paired with the cookie, the sweetness level was masked by the cookie. The taste of the cookie wasn’t diminished and either was the flavor of the wine, but the feeling of sugar coating my mouth was reduced. It was almost like having milk with a cookie, the way it cleansed my palate. I thought this was an amusing pairing and would happy to serve this as a dessert to friends over for dinner or patrons in a restaurant

Washington Wine Month: some must haves….

I enjoy wines from all over the world. There is no favorite wine region in my world, because I can find wines from any region that are lovely. To me a solid, good wine… is a solid, good wine no matter the location. However, March is Washington Wine month and being a proud Washingtonian, I feel the need to focus attention to Washington wines.

Even though I purchase wines from all over the world, it’s important to support our growing wine region in Washington. I am extremely impressed with many of the wines coming out of Washington. We are not to be overlooked. We are producing some powerful, favorable, and elegant wines. With that being said, today the focus is on “Carolyn’s favorite wineries of the moment.”

Winery #1

Fall Line Wineryhttp://www.falllinewinery.com/

Winery Tastings are by appointment only

I have fallen in love with Fall Line’s wines, especially their Bordeaux blends. They are smooth, earthy, and fresh. The two varietals I highly recommend are Boushey Vineyard Red Blend – out of YakimaValley (39% Cabernet franc, 34% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon). The 2009 received 91 points from the Wine Advocate. The Boushey is an easy drinking wine that infuses the flavors of cassis, herbs, current, earth and plum on the palate. It seems like a lot of flavors, but it all blends perfectly together. The winery suggests cellaring it for a couple more years, but this wine is enjoyable right now as well.

The other elegant, yet rugged Bordeaux blend is their Red Willow Vineyard Red Blend (64% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet franc). Out of the two blends, this would have to be my number one. It is a medium-bodied wine that is tight at first taste. But after a few swirls, it opens up beautifully. It could benefit from another 2-4 years of cellaring, but I find it even enjoyable to drink now. It has the flavors of smoke, black current, spices and cherry. Its tannins are slightly chewy (For the new wine novice, I will explain tannins in another blog. But basically they give a wine structure and texture). This wine also made the ‘100 Best Wines of Washington—The 2012 List,’ Seattle Met magazine, September 2012.

Both these wine are a little pricey. But worth the splurge. The Red Willow sells at The Grape Choice (http://thegrapechoice.com/) for $34.99 and the Boushey sells for around $30.00 on their website. Both wines can be found easily in many local wine shops throughout Washington.

**You can taste their wines in the Seattle area on Saturday, March 16, 3:00 to 5:00 p.m at West Seattle Cellars http://www.westseattlecellars.com

Winery # 2

Domanico Cellars

2008 Le Monstre

2008 Le Monstre

Ballard Winery and Tasting Room

825 NW 49th Street, Seattle, WA

Open for tastings Friday, 5:00-9:00PM and Saturday, 12:00-6:00PM

Or by appointment during other days of the week

http://www.domanicocellars.com/

I stumbled upon Domanico Cellars about 2 years ago. I don’t remember how I heard of them, but once I found this winery in Ballard, I had to check them out. Talk about a find of lifetime. Domanico Cellars is a small family owned and operated winery in the heart of Ballard (and opening soon, a tasting room in Prosser , WA- where their vineyard is located).

Jason Domanico is one of the most friendly, humble wine makers I have ever met. The second you walk into the winery, he makes you feel as if you are part of his wine family. Probably because his whole family is involved with the wine making process (Jason, his wife Jill and daughter Anna) so he has a family minded business sense. We have visited the winery many times on a Friday evening with our children and a box of pizza. The kids enjoy pizza (and if Jason’s daughter is around, a play mate) and we delight in his wonderful wine line-up.

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite wine, because they are unique, charming and straight to the point. My recommendation would be to visit this winery and taste them all. The line up is usually (but in the world of wine, things can change):

1. 2010 Lewis Family Vineyard Riesling $15 – a dry, yet refreshing Riesling that would be a perfect pairing with seafood.

2. 2008 Le Flirt $21a blend of Merlot, Malbec and Cab Franc. It’s a spicy (flirty) blend!!

3. 2008 Mesa Rojo $21- A Cab, Cab Franc and Malbec blend that is an easy drinking, every day wine to drink with your dinner.

4. 2008 Le Monstre $21 -a predominately Cabernet Sauvignon (with 25% Cab Franc) wine. This is a dark, rich wine that could hold for up to 10 years.

5. 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $32 – I tried this wine for the first time about a month ago and fell in love. It is a smooth, rich, dark Cab that should be decanted for an hour or so. A must try!

But don’t take my word on Domanico Cellars, try it for yourself. Tastings are free and wines by the glass are only $5 (The reserve is $8). Pack the kids,the dog and head down on a Saturday evening. You will be happy to find this wine slice of heaven.

If you live in WA, make sure to support our local economy… and purchase a Washington wine (or two). If you live outside the Evergreen state, I challenge you to put down your California, French and Italian wine. Go to your local wine merchant and ask for a Washington wine. You will be pleasantly surprised – I promise!

PS – you can always order these wines through the winery’s website – unless you live in a state where they continue to have this funny law where wine cannot be shipped to you (and if that is the case, you should move).

Cheers!!!