What’s going on …

What’s going on in Washington wine country?

Saturday Sept. 1:

  • Wines from Australia, Italy, New Zealand and Oregon are on the tasting menu at Vino Bello’s Saturday wine tasting.  Tasting is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. $5 tasting fee. Call 206-244-VINO.
  • Take a trip to Vinoritaville to celebrate the 2007 Grape harvest. Silver Lake Winery is holding its 2007 Harvest Party from noon to 7 p.m. in the Yakima Valley. You’ll find live music, a grape stomping contest, limbo contests, a blessing of the grapes, kalua pig samples and … most importantly, you’ll find out the answer to the popular question: What exactly is a Vinorita?

Wednesday Sept. 5:

  • Join Columbia Winery’s  winemaker Robert Takahashi at a winemaker dinner at Qube restaurant. The evening begins at 6:30 p.m. with a reception in the lounge. Price is $85 per person. Call 206-770-5888 for reservations.

Saturday Sept. 8:

  • Basel Cellars 3rd Annual Stomp: For details, call 1-888-259-WINE or 509-522-0200 or e-mail info@baselcellars.com
  • Happy 40th Anniversary, Chateau Ste. Michelle! From 11-4 p.m., help the winery celebrate with barrel tastings, new release tastings, winemaker bottle signings and more. Cost: $30 at the door. A complimentary tasting glass is included with admission.

If you have any events to include in the weeks ahead, please contact info@writeforwine.com.

Alcohol, an issue with legs

Everywhere I go, the topic of the alcohol content in wine tends to be discussed.

Some people say wines with high alcohol content don’t pair well with food. Wine Enthusiast’s Unreserved blogger Jim Gordon says such wines don’t go well with him, period. “… my problem is not that wines over 14 or 15 percent alcohol don’t go with food. My problem is that they don’t go with my metabolism. I like to have a 3-4 ounce glass of wine before dinner while I’m cooking, another glass or two with dinner, and then another small one after dinner if it’s good enough to savor. But I have to get up the next morning without a headache and have a good day.”

Gordon and others have responded to comments by California wine maker Randy Dunn of Dunn Vineyards, who wrote an open e-mail to the media calling for a stop to the current fad of high alcohol wines, particularly those that have alcohol levels over 15 percent. (Credit goes to Appellation America for the e-mail.)

Dunn says these so-called “cigar wines are made for standing and not sitting down with a meal. I hate to see the whole industry cater to that segment of the population and there’s a whole bunch of the population that likes to drink wines that are not just sipping and sitting wines.”

What do you think?

Cheers!

Tripping to Red Willow

We are really looking forward to what promises to be an amazing weekend in eastern Washington after Labor Day. On Friday, we are joining Columbia Winery’s annual pilgrammage to Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Our hosts Mike and Karen Sauer will tell us about their vineyard and share some of the excellent wines that Columbia Winery has produced from their grapes. Then there will be a barbeque in the vineyard and an incredible experience for anyone: 360-degree views of the spectacular sunset in that part of Washington state.

The next day, we’ll travel to Prosser, wine tasting along the way of course, until we reach The Hogue Cellars, where we will join their 25th anniversary celebrations. We really enjoyed our last trip to Hogue in April–this time, we’ll have the treat of tasting some of their library wines and a picnic-style lunch.

The Columbia Winery tour ends at that point, so we will head to Walla Walla that afternoon for another round of tastings at our favorite wineries: Forgeron Cellars, Reininger Winery, Goose Ridge Estates and Three Rivers Winery (we adore their 2003 Meritage) … to name a few. There are many more.

Maybe we’ll be luckier this time and find Long Shadows Vintners open for tastings. That’s been on our list for a long time, but the winery hadn’t opened yet when we were there in April. We’ve been anxious to taste the 2004 Pedestal Columbia Merlot for months. I just noticed their Web site says it’s sold out, but hopefully there is some left for tasting at the winery!

Cheers!

What’s going on …

What’s going on in Washington wine country?

Wednesday Aug. 22:

  • Only a few seats are left for Fall Line Winemaker Dinner at Cafe Piccolo. The cost is $60 per person. Call Cafe Piccolo for reservations: 206-957-1333.

Friday Aug. 24:

  • Rosé and Ribs at Novelty Hill and Januik Winery. Try the new release Spring Run Rose and feast on Mike Januik’s barbeque ribs and some surprises from Chef Charles Walpole at 7 p.m. $85 per person. 

Saturday Aug. 25:

  • Meet Kestrel Vintners’ Platinum Blonde, and have her sign your bottle, at Vino Bello’s Saturday wine tasting.  Tasting is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. $10 tasting fee. Call 206-244-VINO.

Thursday Aug. 30:

  • Chateau Ste. Michelle is hosting a winemaker dinner at icon Grill. The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a free Q&A session with winemaker Bob Bertheau, followed by a savory dinner. Call 206-441-6330for reservations.

Saturday Sept. 8:

  • Basel Cellars 3rd Annual Stomp: For details, call 1-888-259-WINE or 509-522-0200 or e-mail info@baselcellars.com
  • Happy 40th Anniversary, Chateau Ste. Michelle! From 11-4 p.m., help the winery celebrate with barrel tastings, new release tastings, winemaker bottle signings and more. Cost: $30 at the door. A complimentary tasting glass is included with admission.

If you have any events to include in the weeks ahead, please contact info@writeforwine.com.

Who knew that “back to school” could be so much fun?

There are several reasons why I so frequently mention our favorite wine bar, Vino Bello, on this blog. Owner Michele Smith is an engaging and wine savvy hostess, and Jake–a man of many names–is our favorite bartender. No wonder why Vino Bello is known as the “Cheers” of our neighborhood. The third reason is the wine … more specifically, the wine tastings. Every Saturday, Michele showcases either Washington state wines or wines from around the world.

Our most recent Saturday tasting was from L’Ecole No. 41, which produces premium wine in the cellars of the historic Frenchtown School in Lowden, Washington, just outside Walla Walla. As the third-oldest winery in Washington state, L’Ecole has been making wine since long before the state became home to more than 500 wineries.

L’Ecole is French for school, and the turn-of-the-century schoolhouse is now a family winery. The restored schoolhouse (which we visited in April) is preserved in character, with original chalkboards, light fixtures and fir floors. One of their library wines is called Recess Red. Who knew that going back to school could be so much fun?

At Vino Bello, we tasted L’Ecole’s 2006 Semillon, 2006 Columbia Valley Chardonnay, 2004 Columbia Valley Merlot and Syrah, and 2004 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon. High on our list was the Cab, with its old-world structure showing dark fruit flavors on a balanced finish. But our favorite was L’Ecole’s 2004 Ferguson Commemorative Reserve, and that’s what we took home with us.

The Ferguson honors Washington state wine industry pioneers Jean and Baker Ferguson, who founded L’Ecole No. 41 in 1983. This reserve bottling was designed for long-term aging, which is a good thing because it is one-of-a-kind for L’Ecole and received 92 points from Wine Enthusiast & Cellar. We’ll be going back for more!

Cheers!

Opulent and luscious

We recently had an opportunity at our favorite wine bar, Vino Bello, to taste some of the “opulent, voluptuous and concentrated” wines from O-S Winery and meet the knowledgeable, opinionated and entertaining winemaker Bill Owen: “Just call me Owen. I was Owen before Cher was Cher.” When Owen found that I’m a writer for Write for Wine, he opined that writers should not use cliches such as “boutique winery” or “world class wine.” I agree. Being opinionated is not a bad thing in Owen’s case. He is so knowledgeable … he has traveled and studied extensively … that his opinions matter to a lot of people, including me.

Back to the O-S wines: The current releases are aged exclusively in French Oak barrels. About 35% are in new barrels while the remainder is in barrels in the second, third and fourth years. The results, according to the winery, are “opulent, voluptous and concentrated wines that are immensely pleasing in their youth, yet possess the structure and balance to reward cellaring.”

Specifically, we tasted the 2006 Riesling–in my case, I must admit, reluctantly. I’m not much of a white wine drinker and Riesling has never been my cup of tea … er, glass of choice. But O-S Winery’s 2006 Riesling took me by surprise. This 100% Champoux Riesling was clean and crisp, with peach, pear and citrus flavors. It would be paired perfectly with lobster or scallops. Owen says his wine has the lowest alcohol content (10 1/2%) in Washington state, and he promises that his Riesling will be twice as good next year. I won’t hesitate to drink it again.  And you shouldn’t hesitate to spend $20 on a bottle, particularly if you like Riesling.

We also tasted O-S Winery’s 2004 Ulysses–my tasting notes have four stars next to this lush, elegant wine! This big red is incredible–both jammy and silky, with complex black fruit flavors. This distinctive wine is a superb blend of 45% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Cabernet Franc from Sheridan Vineyard. Wine Spectator rated it 90. If you have $50, it is well worth a visit to the winery in Seattle.

Cheers!

What’s going on …

What’s going on in Washington wine country this weekend?

Thursday Aug. 16-Saturday Aug. 18:

Saturday Aug. 18:

  • Vino Bello’s Saturday tasting this week is Sake from Sommelier Hideyo Seek. Find out what’s hot in the world of sake.  Tasting is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. $10 tasting fee. Call 206-244-VINO.

Friday Aug. 24:

  • Rosé and Ribs at Novelty Hill and Januik Winery. Try the new release Spring Run Rose and feast on Mike Januik’s barbeque ribs and some surprises from Chef Charles Walpole at 7 p.m. $85 per person. 

Saturday Sept. 8:

If you have any events to include in the weeks ahead, please contact info@writeforwine.com.

Darighe time

It’s almost Darighe time and the excitement is mounting in Washington state! Woodhouse Family Cellars is releasing the 2002 vintage of its flagship Darighe label, and if you have $45 to spend on a bottle of exquisite red wine, send in your pre-order now. (Cases can be purchased at a 15% discount.) Pre-orders will be taken until Sept. 30. Then the price goes back to $50 for a bottle and $540 for a case. The wine will be available for pick up and shipping in late November.

The 2002 Darighe, with its deep garnet hue, is a traditional old-world wine, a Bordeaux-style blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 13% Malbec and 13% Petit Verdot.

According to the tasting notes: “On the nose, the new French oak imparts rich spicy notes of vanilla, clove, nutmeg, anise and cedar, which support a complex fruit core of ripe plums, black cherries, cassis, minerals and wet earth. On the palate, the wine enters round and sweet, quickly broadening to incorporate the ripe fruit flavors of plums, black cherries, earth, cassis and vanilla, as well as the dense tannic structure that is a hallmark of Darighe. The fruit flavors and spiced vanilla notes mingle in the lengthy finish.

Owner Bijal Shah gave us a little preview when we were at a tasting at Woodhouse Family Cellars about a month ago, and I must say 2002 Darighe is going to be as highly coveted as its predecessor, 2001 Darighe.

What’s going on …

What’s going on in Washington wine country?

Saturday Aug. 11-Sunday Aug. 12:

  • Vino Bello’s Saturday tasting this week is from L’Ecole No. 41, which has been making fine wine in the Walla Walla valley since 1983! Tasting is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. $10 tasting fee. Call 206-244-VINO.
  • South Seattle Artisan Wineries wine tastings: Aug. 11 is the second Saturday in the month, which means tastings from 1-5 p.m. at four wineries in Georgetown — including one of our favorites-Fall Line Winery. (You simply must try the 100% cab!) We also recently tasted some fine wines from the other three wineries: O-S Winery (formerly Owen-Sullivan), Cadence Winery and Nota Bene Cellars.

  • Columbia Winery is having its annual case sale. Stock your cellar from the more than 750 cases selected of cellar-aged older vintages. These wines are discounted for one day only. Case Sale opens to the public at 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday.
  • 3rd Annual FETCH! Wine Tasting Walkabout Fundraiser: A fun-filled Saturday afternoon (1-4 p.m.) with wine, food and, of course, dogs at Buchanan Vineyard in Langley on Whidbey Island. Five different wines will be showcased, along with gourmet cheeses, breads, nuts, chocolate and fruit. And there will be dog treats and water bowls for the pups. $20 per person in advance; $25 per person at the door. FETCH! is a not-for-profit organization “that is devoted to promoting safe responsible off-leash play time for dogs and their owners.”
  • Woodinville Wine Cellars hosts its Annual Summer Celebration and Gourmet BBQ on Sunday, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the winery. Enjoy wine, great food and the live music of “Little Sense.” Wine club members: $60; others $70.
  • Silver Lake Winery in Zillah-Summer Music Series: From noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays in August in Zillah, enjoy live music on the lawn while sipping a glass of wine. Or you can try the salmon dinner for $10.

Wednesday Aug. 15:

  • Join Columbia Winery‘s new Director of Winemaking, Kerry Norton at 6:30 p.m. at Il Fornaio Cucina Italiana for a winemaker dinner. Price: $45.00 per person (exclusive of tax and gratuity) 600 Pine Street in Seattle. 206-264-0994

Thursday Aug. 16-Saturday Aug. 18:

Friday Aug. 24:

  • Rose and Ribs at Novelty Hill and Januik Winery. Try the new release Spring Run Rose and feast on Mike Januik’s barbeque ribs and some surprises from Chef Charles Walpole at 7 p.m. $85 per person.

Saturday Sept. 8:

If you have any events to include in the weeks ahead, please contact info@writeforwine.com.

How long can wine be cellared?

Here’s another tip that comes from Columbia Winery’s own wine educator, Steve Vernon–a wise and funny guy whom you’ll find in the winery’s Woodinville tasting room, if you’re lucky.

A bottle of wine can age at the rate of $1 a month. What does that mean exactly? A $70 bottle of wine can be cellared for 70 months. A $25 bottle of wine can be aged for 25 months, or about two years.

This calculation makes cellaring easy, eh? Of course, my humorous husband tried to trip up Steve by asking him how to calculate cellaring if the bottle of wine was bought on sale. Steve laughed and didn’t answer.

Cheers!