locally grown

After my weekend in jaunt in Napa, I realized more of my energy should be focused on my community. And when I say community, I mean wine community. To quote Paul Gregutt, the author of Washington Wines and Wineries: the Essential Guide, Northwest Editor for Wine Enthusiast and Seattle Times columnist, “You have to come here and visit the wineries. The vast majority of the wines up here can only be had at the winery or a local wine shop.” You know what Paul, I agree and will take you up on that. I am going to spend my next couple of blogs talking about Washington Wines. I promise a return to French, Italian, Argentinian, etc. wines, for those who love an assortment from various regions.  But I feel the need to give a shout out to my State, which produces quality wines and need our community support. 

 Unfortunately, there is some sad news in the world of Washington wine;  the closure of some amazing wineries. This is why we need to support our local wine makers. Three quality wineries that have closed their doors: Olsen Estates of Prosser, Whitman cellars of Walla Walla and Yellow Hawk Cellars of Walla Walla. The closing of these wineries weren’t due to their lack of high quality, simply delectable wines. Consumers are not shelling out the cash for high quality wines. And smaller vineyards are not able to produce two-buck Chuck type of wines (and would we want them too?) Everyone wants a bargain; biggest bang for your buck. I am all for bargains, I shop at Nordstrom Rack and buy Target brand cereal. Some wines at $10 are good, but if once in a while you invest in a slightly more expensive wine, you could have a nice surprise (and a realization it is totally worth the money). There are times you need to throw caution to the wind and allow yourself to splurge $30 on a bottle of Washington wine, which could literally blow your mind. You, my friend, will never pick up a two- buck Chuck again.

Tonights Tasting:

2009 Naches Heights Vineyard “Two Dancers” Columbia Valley $18.00 West Seattle Cellars

75% Syrah and 25% Cabernet Franc

First of all, I love the label. And I think the label itself describes this wine beautifully. It has a dance between fruit and dryness. At first sip (and smell), fruit hit’s you right in the face – blackberry was the fruit that caught my attention first, then cherry –  but then it leaves you with a dry tingle in the back of your tongue. It took me a few swirls and sips to get into this wine. I couldn’t figure out if it was crisp or dry. It was a tango in my mouth – love/hate. Eventually, love one, slightly. It is complex and fun, so we talked about this wine a lot during our tasting. We came to the conclusion though that Two Dancer’s needs to be paired with food. Ian and I drank it alone, and I think it would have less tango and more salsa if paired with the right meal combination. Phil Cline, the maker of this wine, suggests pairing it with a protein such as spicy ribs or BBQ. I think my brother-in-law, BBQ king, needs to serve “Two Dancers” this summer when he throws a big BBQ bash (hint, hint)!

Oh, about the second bottle in this picture, it is a 2006 WineGlass Cellars Merlot. This is a sneak preview into the next blog: Just give Merlot a chance!!

Cheers!

(Quote from Paul Gregutt was from the book: What’s a Wine Lover to Do? by Wes Marshall, 2010)

Washington girl in Napa Valley

“So, you are from Seattle.. what do you think of Washington wine?”

I was asked this question about 3 times from 3 different wineries in Napa Valley this past weekend.

” I enjoy Washington wine, as well as Napa wines, Italian wines, Spanish wines, etc.” It seemed like an odd question to be asked so many times. Talking about this with my mom, we came to the conclusion that Napa, California in general, may be getting annoyed of Washington, since we make some outstanding wines. We are giving California a run for their money. They may feel threatened, since Washington wine country is becoming more known throughout the world. For the longest time, California had their niche in the US wine market. But we are closing in on Napa Valley and producing high quality vino!

With that said, it seems funny that this Washington girl would head over to California for wine, since we have some amazing wines in this state (which was solidified by the worried questions of the Napa Valley wine salesman). But, there are times when one needs to leave town for the weekend and find sun. And that is what I did. My mom and I hopped on a plane and met up with some friends in the heart of California wine country.

 I attempted to go on a budget this time, which is extremely hard to do in Napa (those who have been are nodding their heads in agreement). There have been occasions where I have become carried away in the amount of wineries I visited in one day, as well as the need to bring many bottles home. This time, my finances were low and I had to stay on a budget. Times are tough at the moment and many people are not throwing down $100 on a Napa Cabernet right now. People want to spend $20 a bottle of wine. Napa is feeling the pressure and have dropped their prices, slightly. Still,  it is very rare to find a winery that sells a bottle of wine under $20… at least the one’s I visited.

Most wineries in Napa charge a tasting fee. It can range between $15-$50. You are able to taste 3-5 wines and some places the waive the fee if you purchase a bottle of wine. I (somewhat) planned my visits this time, so every last cent I was not just on tasting fee’s. We were able to hit a few new wineries this time, which is difficult since I have  loyalties to certain wineries. My repeats  this trip were, Cakebread Cellars, Salvestrin and Flora Springs (check previous blog Washington vs. California wines). The three new wineries I explored were Frogs Leap, Chimney Rock and Domaine Chandon.

Here are some updates on the new wineries I visited!

Frogs Leap winery, Oakville

www.frogsleap.com

Tasting fee: $25

Frogs Leap has sentimental meaning to me, since as a child I remember my parents enjoying Frogs Leap wines. I have heard many wonderful things about the winery itself, in person I was stunned. What gorgeous grounds! And on top of that, family friendly. I saw kids running through the vineyards, tweens playing bocci ball and adults basking in the sun relaxing in Adirondack chairs. We lounged on the deck, enjoying the 5 tastings poured right at our table – along with a small cheese platter. The three outstanding wines in my book were the Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Petite Sirah.  But all of the wines were superb and reliable… and the winery itself is a must see. Even if you have your children in tow.

 

Chimney Rock Winery, Stags Leap/Yountville

www.chimneyrock.com

Tasting fee: $20-45

What do you do if you have a 1987 bottle of Chimney Rock Cabernet in your wine collection? You visit the winery (and open that bottle soon). This was a pick of my mom’s. Chimney Rock is located in the Stags Leap district and are known for their kick butt Cab’s. But world-renowned Cab’s lead to out of this world prices. I assumed this winery would be out of my league. I just knew when I walked in, Wine Spectator would be checking palates to see if I was worthy of stepping into the building. I was prepared to be kicked out for being a novice. Alas, I was wrong. Talk about a place I assumed to be pretentious, but was the opposite. They were very willing to help a novice on her journey to learn wines. Yes, pricey wines… but I tasted an 2006, 2007 and 2008 Cab and was shocked at how different each vintage tasted. All so different, yet all so silky and sleek. Mom joined their wine club, so I am excited to enjoy bottle sometime soon (probably on a special occasion, since their wine was the cost of my childs college tuition).

Domaine Chandon, Yountville

www.chandon.com

Tasting fee: $15

If you are in your early to mid twenties, single, wear over sized sunglasses, skinny jeans and Jimmy Choo’s, this is your hang out. Chandon is very pretty and makes decent bubbles. But Napa offers other excellent sparkling wines, without the intensity to dress up in heels. This was our first stop during our Napa weekend. We purchased a glass of bubbles (you don’t have to taste, you can also purchase bubbles by the glass as well as small bites) and a Panini to share. We basked in the sun, sipped rose bubbles,  planned our next stop and jetted off. I am glad we visited, but I have no need to go back. Unless I find myself suddenly single and need to pick up on 23-year-old men in skinny jeans.

My trip was fantastic. I had great wine, bonded with my mom and was able to say good-bye to some dear friends who are moving to the UK. However, I am ready to hit the Washington wine market… I need to help keep California nervous of Washington wines. Hmmm, what shall I pop open tonight?

Cheers!

Deutsche Weine

Recently, a blast from my past told me she really enjoyed reading my wine blog. She also sparked my interest in re-visiting German wines. I spent a good part of my mid-twenties travelling back and forth to Germany (for reasons we don’t need to get into). In all my travels over to Deutschland, I never toured their wine regions; or really drank their wine for that matter. I remember fondly one day, outside this cute German town Lauda (most German towns are pretty cute I have to say), going for a jog  and stumbling upon hop’s growing. I was so impressed, despite not being a huge beer fan. These hops stuck with me and I really just thought of Germany as a beer country. Also at that point and time, I was beginning my wine kick and it never dawned on me to check out their wine regions. Plus, I was a” mature” red wine drinker (this was during my anti-white wine phase) and German’s are known for their white wines. So, I just stuck with beer when I was visiting; felt it was safer.

With this blast from my past on the brain, I decided to explore the area of German wines, since they actually make some of the best Riesling in the world. Around 6 months ago, I took a class comparing wines from different regions; one varietal being German Riesling vs. Washington Riesling; which made my teeth ache from just the thought of drinking all that sweet wine. I sucked it up though. If I was ever going to be taken seriously (ha!) about my knowledge of wine, I needed to understand the difference in regions. Now, I don’t like to admit when I am wrong, but boy was I wrong. These wines were delicious. Yes some were sweet, but some surprisingly were not. And I hate to say this, but I really prefered the German Riesling over Washington. They were less sweet and had a little more mineral flavor, which my taste buds prefer. Sometimes I enjoy being wrong, especially when it come to wine.

Really brief history on German Riesling :

Riesling loves Germany. Because of the cool climate, it helps the grape retain their acidity. German Riesling is the world’s top food wine – because of the low alcohol.  Riesling can be sweet, dessert wines but also can be dry (my preference).  My advice would be to let your wine salesman (woman) know if you prefer sweet or dry, and they can point you in the right direction.

Tonights Tasting

2008 Loosen Brothers Riesling, Mosel Valley of Germany   ($12.00 West Seattle Cellars)

Upon reading about this wine region, I found out a famous German winemaker, Dr. Ernst Loosen came to the US looking for a perfect place to make Riesling’s on this side of the world. He picked Eastern Washington and approached Chateau Ste Michelle about a joint venture. The product was a very fine American Riesling called Eroica (from What’s a Wine Lover to Do? by Wes Marshall, 2010).

This particular wine was alright… but not something I would purchase again. It was more dry than sweet, and had some lime/mineral flavoring – but it also combined grapefruit and granny smith apple flavors – which was overly pungent for me. Too many flavors going on in my mouth that didn’t blend well. I like explosions of flavor, but these flavors exploded in different and awkward directions for me. Now, my husband liked the wine. He enjoyed the combination of flavors. So, it does go to show different palates prefer different flavors. My recommendation, whether you want to try this particular wine or another German Riesling, you must try a bottle. Riesling compliments a wide variety of foods, that you really won’t be disappointed with your bottle. Just remember to let the wine sales clerk know if you want more sweet or dry… or just try both. You never know, you may love each one equally.

Prost!

Where is the best place to buy wine?

This is a question I am asked often. Where is the best place to purchase wine? This is a hard question to answer, since there are so many ways to get your hands on a great bottle of wine. I have my favorites, which I am sure you are sick of hearing me talk about, but it is hard for me to answer that question for anyone else. It depends. Where do you live? How far are you willing to commute for a bottle of wine, how much do you want to spend, are you ok buying wine along with your gas, etc.? The list of questions could go on for hours. So, I figured maybe I should do a little research and compile a list for you.

This is an intriguing topic for me to also talk about, since I was close to purchasing a wine shop around 6 months ago. I wanted to open a shop where my fellow novices were comfortable coming into a non, pretentious store where they wouldn’t get eye rolls for asking where the white zin is (although, there would be no white zin, I would point them into another direction). I was so excited about the possibility of opening a wine shop for people like me in the world – those who want a good bottle of wine, at an inexpensive price – without getting laughed at! Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be at this point in time.

I am sorry to say but this list does discriminate against those living outside Washington. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but I am not sure (besides the obvious grocery stores, Costco’s and BevMo’s) where the best wine shops are in your neck of the woods. I would love it you made comments to let me (and my fellow wine novices) know! For those living in the great state of Washington, below is a list of wine shops I have frequented or heard about through fellow novices.  I want to make sure I lead you in a direction of discovering fine wines. I am in NO WAY paid by or asked to promote these businesses. This list is made up solely on my opinion, which I at least regard highly. If I have missed some special shop (because it is difficult for me to make it to every shop in WA), please let me know. I would love to have a long list overflowing of great wine shops and wine buys.

1.) West Seattle Cellars, West Seattle

www.westseattlecellars.com

Ok, I know you are sick of me always talking about WS cellars, but I cannot help it. Tom and Jan are the most helpful people in the business. They will bend over backwards to get you that special wine. And how can you pass up their $10 and under bins of wines OR their amazing Consumer Wine club where for $100/month you get 12 wines… all personally picked for you. To top all that off, they offer weekly wine tastings (free) and classes (not free, but around $25). I literally drive from my North Seattle home to their shop off California Ave, because they are worth it.

2.) Greenlake Wines/Wine Outlet, Seattle area

www.greenlakewines.com

The Wine Outlet has been in SODO and lower Queen Anne for ages, but they recently opened up Greenlake Wines and Wine Bar. I met up with some girlfriends at GL Wines one night and was pleased with the wine’s by the glass (and flights). They also have some very yummy small plates to accompany the wines. The shop is small and intimate, but when I went back on my mission to find a Spanish wine under $10, they were able to accommodate. Richard, the owner, was incredibly sweet, knowledgable and quick to point out his other shops had a larger selection.

3.) Costco, throughout the good ol USA

Costco is everything that is wrong with America, in my humble opinion. I cannot stand the place. Everything in bulk, bright neon lights burning you,  promoting overeating and overspending. I am not trying to rag on Costco, or those who love it. It has its place in the world. My blog isn’t to complain things I don’t like (that is why I have a husband). However, I do give Costco a little credit, they have a great wine selection. And they do a nice job stocking the shelves with local wines. If you live in an area with no wine shop and need a decent wine, wear your comfy shoes, brave the crowds and check out Costco (make sure you go hungry, they do a good job feeding you with free samples).

4.) Whole Foods, various US locations

www.wholefoods.com

Ok, I know, whole paycheck… but get this? Not with their wines. Holy moly. They have a fantastic wine selection, wonderful help and great prices. I even had an employee offer to help me find a wine, with a screaming toddler. Now, that takes patience (and why I needed that bottle of wine). The only downside I have heard about Whole Foods, from a wine maker over in Eastern WA, is that it is difficult for small, local wine makers to get their wines on the shelves. Beyond that, from a consumers viewpoint, I very much appreciate their selections of wines.

5.) The Grape Choice, Kirkland WA

http://www.thegrapechoice.com/

This shop is more nostalgic for me than anything. I have never purchased a wine from The Grape Choice. My parents frequented their shop and my dad even held a few of his company Christmas parties at The Grape Choice. It is also highly regarded within the community of Kirkland. If you live on the eastside, hop in your Land Rover and cruise on over … you will see why my parents loved the shop so much!

6.) QFC/Fred Meyer, various locations

You need to grab a bottle of wine, while buying your groceries, QFC is probably your best option (WAY better than the wine I have seen at various Safeway’s and Albertson’s). They tend to have a bigger wine section than other supermarkets and try to have a decent local selection. Fred Meyer surprised me with in their wines as well. Very impressive, large wine department!

7.) The Grape Adventure, Kent WA

http://www.thegrapeadventure.com/

If you read my previous blog, which I am sure you all have… I talk about what a great find this is!! If you are in the south sound, check them out. Also a wine bar; with tasty small plates.

8.) Town and Country Markets (Ballard Market/ Greenwood Market/Central Markets), Seattle, Mill Creek, Poulsbo, Shoreline, Bainbridge Island.

http://www.townandcountrymarkets.com/location.html

For a small market, they actually have wine experts to help you! I love this about Town and Country/Central Markets. Wine section is small, but very thorough in selection!

9.) Vino Verite, Capital Hill

www.vinoverite.com

I have not been to this shop, but have heard amazing things from patrons. I plan on making up to Capital Hill to visit, I just need a babysitter so I can take my time to look around (any takers to babysit?).

10.) Cellar 46, Mercer Island

www.cellar46.com

Also a wine bar – very nice atmosphere. Small wine selection, but very, very nice wines. A little pricey, but worth the stop to grab some tapa’s and have a nice glass of vino.

 11.) Wicked Cellars, Everett

http://wickedcellars.com/about_us.html

This is the only wine shop I recommend, but have not shopped at. Same with any novices I know. I saw their ratings on the internet and explored their site. Seems like a non-snooty, helpful wine shop. I am happy to see Everett opening up some fun shops!! Plus, I love the name. Go E-town!

Eastern WA –

Sorry, but you have wineries in your backyards – so I have not included you. You are lucky SOB’s who can frequent your favorite winery any time.. even in snow, since you know how to drive in it. Seriously though, those living East of the mountains, let me know your favorite shops for wine.

I hope you find this list helpful. I know good wine is to be found anywhere (hey, I have found excellent bottles at a gas station), these are just a few places to guide you in your journey for the perfect wine.

Cheers!

Affordable, yet good, Malbec

For the longest time, if I had to choose a favorite varietal wine, a Malbec would have been close to the top of my list. Something in my taste buds have changed recently. I don’t know if has been the crummy, cheap, way to fruity Malbecs that I have been served in restaurants or what, but they are working down my list of favorites. I have been less than pleased with the selection of Malbecs in restaurants lately. Now, you all know I don’t believe in having a “favorite” type of wine, because every wine, winemaker or country can be different. Which means I need to revisit this wine and realize I enjoy a nice, rich in fruit tasting, but not to fruity, Malbec ( I know, I am very confusing). A typical Malbec is very dark in color. Some wine experts call it a “rustic” version of a Merlot. Most Malbecs have a fruity, smoky, plum flavor (hence some having way to much fruit taste for this gal). Malbecs typically come from France, Argentina and Washington.

To get over my sour taste with some of them, I decided my Tasting Tonight would be on an Argentina Malbec.

Tonights Tasting

2010 Zolo Gaucho Select Malbec    ($9.99 Whole Foods)

 My go-to, cheap, yet very delicious Malbec is a Mendoza, Argentina Malbec called Zolo.   It started a few years back, when my girlfriend/co-worker Alyssa and I decided to stop at this new wine bar, at the time, in Kent, WA  called The Grape Adventure. First of all, I am very proud of Kent for having a wine bar ( I live in Seattle where a wine bar is on every corner, next to all the Starbucks, but the suburbs don’t have that luxury of having a variety of small wine bars). And the Grape Adventure is a wine bar with a good wine selection and delicious food (you must try the avocado humus). To top it all off, it is a wine shop as well, so if you can’t stay for a drink, you can pop by after work and pick up a decent bottle of wine.

 We had a glass, or more, of wine that evening; one of them being a Zolo. It was love at first sip, so I of course snagged a bottle to take home. Zolo is not overly fruity, yet you can still taste the cherry, berry and plum notes – very rich in flavor and color. And the taste lasts on your tongue for a long time, yet it is not overpowering. It also has a rich violet smell.  The even better thing about Zolo, is the price point and the ability to find it anywhere. I have been able to find this wine at wine shops, grocery stores, BevMo (for those lucky to have a BevMo.. we don’t in Washington) and Costco all for $9.99 or under. Seriously, a price you cannot simply just walk by.

I have become picky with Malbecs, only because I do not enjoy an overly fruity, cheap tasting wine. Zolo is a wine you must keep a couple of bottles on hand, because it is a nice every day, drinking wine. And the name is also very fun to say.

Salud my friends!

Oh, if you live in the Kent, Maple Valley, Covington area, check out The Grape Adventure – 12930 SE Kent-Kangley Road
Kent, WA  98030 http://www.thegrapeadventure.com/

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

www.plumpjack.com

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

www.peju.com

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

www.cakebread.com

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

www.connvalleyvineyards.com

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

http://www.salvestrinwinery.com

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).

Cheers!

Washington vs. California Wineries part 1

Ok, first of all.. I am slightly biased, since I live in Washington and a supporter of local businesses. However, in recent years it seems I have made more trips to California wine country than to Washington wine country. Really, I am just a fan of wine – California, Washington, Oregon, France, etc. Good wine is good wine.  There are some California wines that are so delicious, goose bumps run up and down my arms, than there are Washington wines that blow me away. No matter what region you are a fan of, you must visit wineries. You gain a whole new perspective on your favorite wines. The best thing about visiting wineries, is the history you receive. You learn all sorts of fun facts about that specific winery, as well as tasting wines you cannot find in your local grocery store. Plus, you spend all day tasting wine. How fun is that!

I want to tell you my top favorite wineries (as of this moment), but there are still thousands more that I have not been too. Since this is my blog however, I am going to let you in on some wineries you probably have not heard of and must check out. I will divide this into two parts. Washington is first, then California (within the next week). I know you are all busy, with short attention spans, so I didn’t want to make this a long, drawn out blog.

A few Washington wine facts:

In Washington, there are over 500 wineries and is the second largest producer of wine in the US (can you guess who is first). Washington wines really started to take off in the early 1980’s – and the quality rivals many California and Old World wines. Washington has 11 wine regions within the state. Northwest, Olympic Peninsula, Puget Sound/Woodinville, Southwest, North Central, Yakima, Red Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills, Tri-Cities, Walla Walla and Spokane.

So, now you have an extremely brief history  – now here is the fun part, 5  wineries you must visit – According to Carolyn!

1. Tefft Cellars, Woodinville/Outlook

Outlook: 1302 Independence Road, Outlook WA 98938

www.tefftcellars.com

Woodinville:  16110 Woodinville Redmond Rd, Woodinville WA

 My first visit to Tefft was 6 years ago in Outlook, WA. I was impressed by their wines. Not my favorite, but consistent and nice. The winery itself is beautiful. They also have a Guest House you can rent. A couple of years ago, they opened a tasting room in Woodinville. Which is a spacious, Italian-themed room, which you can also rent for private parties. They don’t charge a tasting fee, and want you lounge in their over sized couches, while tasting anywhere between 5-10 wines. They really make you feel special and don’t rush you. I have to add that the quality of their wine has increased and is closely becoming a favorite of mine.

2.) Windy Point Vineyards, Wapato

420 Windy Point Drive, Wapato WA 98951

www.windypointvineyards.com

View, View, View!! Holy cow, Windy Point has an amazing location on top of a hilltop in Wapato, where you gaze upon Yakima Valley, orchards and Cascade mountains. Plus, they make some fabulous Syrah’s and Cab Franc’s (first place I ever had a Cab Franc). It is a little off the main road, but worth taking this detour for the view and outstanding wines.

3.) Pontin del Roza, Prosser

35502 North Hinzerling Road, Prosser WA 99350

509-786-4449 (no website)

For me, this winery is similar to those wineries I visited in France – Family run, vines in their backyard, tastings in their home (well, a trailer next to their home), with cats, dogs and various other animals running around. They are very welcoming with picnic facilities available for you. Nothing fancy, but a family feel attraction. Pontin wine has to be one of my favorite’s from Washington, and priced right as well.

4.) DeLille Cellars, Woodinville

14421 Woodinville-Redmond Road, Woodinville, WA 98072 (this is for their tasting room)

http://www.delillecellars.com/index.cfm

DeLille Cellars, hands down, makes top-notch wines. Although, you pay the price for top-notch wines. If you cannot afford a DeLille wine, you at least need to visit the tasting room. As you taste it, you can feel the hard work and passion they put into their wines. Most of DeLille’s grapes come from Red Mountain (not all however).  Red Mountain is known for killer Cabs.

5.) Wineglass Cellars, Zillah

260 North Bonair Road, Zillah WA 98953

www.wineglasscellars.com

So, I saved the best for last. My most favorite winery (and wine for that matter). You must bring a picnic to this tasting, you will be here for a while (unless you come on one of their pizza nights, then they will supply you with plenty of pizza). You may also want to think about biking to this winery, as the website gives you directions on a bike loop! Biking, driving, running, however you get to Wineglass, there is not a bad wine in the bunch.  I cannot even begin to tell you a favorite, I love them all (which I why I belong to their wine club!)

I am not trying to be exclusive;  there are many wineries I have enjoyed visiting, and more I dream of seeing – and will someday. These 5 stand out in my mind as wineries worth the trip. Do you have a favorite Washington winery? Let me know!

Happy Trails!!

ps – some of my facts came from the book Wine Trails of Washington by Steve Roberts

What is your favorite?

One day my five-year old daughter asked me “mom what is your favorite color?” I thought about it and replied “today blue is my favorite color.” She paused for a moment to think about my answer, then asked in a serious yet confused tone ” so you will have a different favorite color tomorrow?”

Yup, my favorite color depends on the day for me. I cannot claim to have a favorite color, since it always changes for me. A lot like the fact I cannot chose a favorite type of wine.

Back when I was about 22 (graduated from my college and Coors Light days) I decided to finally give wine (real wine, not boxed) a try. It might surprise many of you, but despite all my childhood memories of going to wineries, helping my dad pick out wine for dinner parties, and so on.. I never tried wine. It was never an option for me to try it. So, when I was of age and got all my cheap, bad alcohol days past me, I was determined to become a wine lover.

Except for the fact wine was not what I had expected. How did my parents drink this stuff?  Ugh, who drinks something warm or with such a powerful taste? I thought I would never be a sophisticated wino.  After a while, and because I am a tad stubborn,  I discovered  a wine that I could drink – a sweet Riesling or Gewürztraminer (say that three times fast). I started with those and worked my way to a Chardonnay (on occasion). It wasn’t until I was around the age of 24 and living in Barcelona, Spain for the summer when I finally was able to kick my sweet wine habit and indulge in red wine.

I went to a local wine bar, where I spoke no Spanish and the owner spoke no English. He just started pouring and I started tasting. Maybe it was the company I was with or my surroundings or just the beauty of Barcelona. But whatever it was, I fell in love with red wine that night.

Since then, I have taken every opportunity to learn about red wine and play around with flavors that I like (or don’t like). Until recently, I swore I would never go back to drinking white wine again. I had this mentality it was for “new wine drinkers.”Afterall, I wasn’t a new wine drinker anymore.

 After a trip to Napa and talking to many wine experts (as well as taking a fantastic food-wine paring class at West Seattle Cellars), I have thrown away that white wine mentality. I have opened a few bottles of Sauvignon Blanc or Vinho Verde (amazing with tamales) and have been floored by the beauty of their taste.

I have come to the realization that I cannot have a favorite wine. I may have preferences, but that can change daily. Maybe Merlot’s are not my favorite red wine, but then pop open a bottle on Wine Glass Cellars (Yakima, WA) Merlot and have my socks blown off. Never say never people. That is what I learned. Always try and if you don’t like it a first time, try it again down the road.

Now for your challenge. Try something new. If you “prefer” white wines, try a red. If you are a Syrah only gal, pick up a Cab tonight. If you are a beer drinker, pick up a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.  Try something new – be daring. Don’t have a favorite wine, have many favorite wines.  Let me know how it goes.

 Oh, and it case you were wondering, today my favorite color is red!

Another Saturday night in

It’s Saturday night and you are staying home because you are broke, cannot find a babysitter, don’t feel like going out or  none of the above. For whatever reason you are in for the night, but have the urge to pop open a bottle of wine. Yet, you are broke and need to find a bottle of decent wine for $10 or under. That, my friends, is where I come in to help you.

It is Saturday night and I am home, due to most of the above. In my need to blog more with interesting wine bits for my readers,  I have decided to help my Saturday night, feeling poor, friends by tasting 4 different wines under $10 (for those needing to stay within their budgets).

The 10 dollar challenge goes as this:

Pick 4 different wines from 4 different locations, all under $10, to see if they are worthy enough to drink. I decided to focus one region – Spain was the choice tonight. I opened all bottles, knowing most of them will be thrown down the sink. I wanted to taste the differences, not to drink tonight. This is all for you my readers!

The Wines:

The good news is most of these wines I found in at least two stores!

#1: 2009 La Aldea : 100% Monastrell- Jumilla region  Trader Joes $7.49

I was able to find a  TJ’s wine expert to help me decide what wine I should choose for my challenge. Many of their Spanish wines were under $10, so I wanted to hear his expert advice on wine. He a promised full bodied, full tannin wine, with a very nice finish. The description of the wine states a ripe wine with blackberries, dark cherries, earth and wild flowers.

The verdict: bland, tart, not bold at all. There was very little flavor. I did not taste a hint of any fruit. This would be a wine to buy when you just want to get drunk. Not a sipping, enjoyable wine at all.

Sorry Trader Joe wine expert, I question your knowledge.

#2: 2009 Coto de Hayas- Garnacha/Syrah  Fred Meyer $8.49

Ok, I am feeling hopeful with this challenge. First of all, I give a lot of credit to Fred Meyer (Kroger) – their wine section impressed me!! I was blown away by the selection of wines, not just Spanish, but all regions. I stood there, in shock and awe, trying to decide on a wine. The negative is that I received no help. So, I blindly chose.

The verdict: Smooth wine, with a berry finish on your tongue. Not a favorite wine by a long shot, but a decent wine for the price. A wine to take to a party. It is different enough to impress your usually non-drinking wine friends!

#3: Don Ramon Red- 75% Grenache, 25% Tempranillo Greenlake Wines $9.00 (also at Fred Meyers)

The help at Greenlake Wines was appreciated. The selection was small, so I had little hope in finding a wine under $10. However, the sales clerk showed me a couple Spanish wines within my budget. He thought this wine would impress me, so I took his advice.

The verdict: Very, very nice medium bodied wine and a great buy. I had a very hard time deciding what this wine tasted like though. The wine left a spicy dance on my tongue with some berry tones – but hard to determine which berries.

 I was only tasting these 4 wines (otherwise I would not be able to write), but this bottle of  wine I could sip and enjoy. It is hard to describe, but a joy to drink.

#4: 2007  Campo Viejo Rioja – Crianza  Safeway $9.99

As I went stopped at my final store, Safeway, I was nervous I wouldn’t find a $10 Spanish wine. I was very happy to find a Rioja within my price range. I love Rioja’s. They have to be one of my favorite wines. So, I was excited to try my find.

The verdict: Undrinkable. I couldn’t even finish my taste. Even foods wouldn’t help this wine (in my opinion). I may try it again tomorrow, just to give it a second chance. Sadly, I was very disappointed. A wine I will steer clear from. Sorry Safeway – you scored the lowest tonight.

 

The final verdict is that I was not 100% sold on 3 of the 4 wines. Number 2 was decent enough to take to a non-wine drinking friends party, but Number 3 was by far the most enjoyable. For the price, it has the most fun potential. You will find it at Trader Joes, Fred Meyers and possibly small wine shops (I purchased it at Greenlake wines), which makes obtaining this wine a breeze.

Your next Saturday night in and you want to try something different, pick up a Don Ramon, you will be happy with your investment.

Enjoy your wine night in!

Too much wine?

 Can there be too much wine? Maybe.  I guess there can be too much of anything. Over eating, over shopping, too much TV, too much talking, etc. So yes, there can be such a thing as too much wine, I guess…..

When a 5-year-old tells his mom, as they are coming over to my house at 1:00 in the afternoon, that he needs to bring me a bottle of wine (his 3-year-old brother argues no, she needs a coffee) it lead me to ask the question:  “Am I drinking too much wine?” I mean, if a 5-year-old thinks he needs to bring me a bottle of wine when he comes to my house (prior to that comment, he saved an old Trader Joe’s paper wine bag to give me as a present for my wine) and my own 5-year-old argues she must drink her milk/water/apple juice out of a wine glass at dinner – maybe I am talking about/drinking too much wine.

Some of you may agree, but some may think not. We all have our own opinions, especially the topic of alcohol.  What I do know about my interest in wine, is that I enjoy learning about it, just as much as tasting and drinking it. I have a fond respect for wine, without over indulging in it. So does that mean it is too much?

I feel the history, making, and the process of wine needs more respect than the abuse of it. Yes, I have a glass of wine with most of my dinners, when we go  to a dinner party I make sure to bring a bottle the host will enjoy, random evenings with my husband we will have wine tastings (when kids are finally in bed), I take wine classes and  have a growing number of wine books around my home. Maybe by some standards, yes I do focus too much on wine.  But in no way would I do the wine industry injustice by abusing it. 

My answer on this topic is: I will keep on enjoying wine..I work hard, love my family and friends and have other non-wine interests. However, after a long day there is nothing better than getting the kids in bed and relaxing on the couch with an amazing glass of Cab (or Merlot, Syrah or blend)!  So, if a 5-year-old wants to bring me a bottle of wine, bring it! I just ask that it not be a Carlo Rossi!!

Tonight’s Tastings

In light of my topic, tonight’s tasting will not be on wine – but on Sparkling Wines. Champagne/Sparkling Wines are not my forte, yet. However, I do know a delicious Sparkling wine, Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, when I taste it. I will give you a very brief low-down on the four I mentioned:

Champagne: Carbonated wine from the region of Champagne in France. Legally, it can only be called Champagne if created in that region. Usually, Champagne is medium bodied and will pair well with many different types of foods. Just remember for “real” Champagne, most decent bottles will cost you a decent penny. (fyi – you can find some value Champagnes around the $40 price point).

Cava: Spanish medium-bodied sparkling wine from the Catalonia region of Spain. When I lived in Spain, this stuff poured out of barrels like crazy. It was actually on “tap” at many local restaurants, and it was almost a requirement to have a glass or two during lunch (which is probably why they still have Siestas). Cava has to be one of my personal favorite Sparkling wines (see below for a recommendation).

Prosecco: Italian light-bodied Sparkling Wine from the region of Veneto. You can also find a great Prosecco at a steal of a price in many speciality wine/grocery stores.

Sparkling Wine (U.S.): Many great Sparkling Wines are coming out of California and Washington these days. Some tops wines recommended by Wine Spectator are: Domaine Chandon, Napa $18, Domaine Caneros, Napa $25 and Domaine Ste. Michelle, Lux Columbia Valley $23. These are great deals! Sparkling Wine, Cava and  Prosescco are great way’s to add a touch of class to any dinner party (and obviously you don’t have to spend a lot). If you are going to a dinner party and in doubt about what kind of wine to bring the host – always grab a bottle of bubbly.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva (non-vintage) –$8.99 Whole Foods

This is a Cava I had the other night – it was clean, fresh and fragrant – with a scent of honied apples. The price is outstanding as well, $8.99,  a can’t beat price for a delicious glass of bubbly.

Segura Viudas - Spanish Cava

I hold up my wine glass and cheers my daughter’s wine glass of milk! And cheers to all of you as well!