The Local Vine: Best Tasting Menu

I’ve been meaning to go to The Local Vine on 2nd and Vine in Seattle since my company held a fundraiser for The Moyer Foundation there last December. I finally stopped by over the weekend to meet my very good friend Linda from Vancouver. The atmosphere and the staff were welcoming, the wine flowed and the appetizers were delicious. And the tasting menu was awesome!

Whether you’re a wine enthusiast or a novice, The Local Vine’s menu is an excellent roadmap to wine tasting. The wines are divided by type: red, white and a third section for apertif, sparkling and dessert wines. The sections are further divided by descriptors. For example, reds are listed as:

  • Cheerful: unpretentious, easy to drink, aromatic
  • Earthy: soft, medium body, with region-specific flavors
  • Lush: full, yet mellow and round
  • Bombshell: oak, tannins, body, acidity, fruit – everything!
  • Spicy: full-bodied with fruit and zip

Whites are listed as:

  • Refreshing: fruity, mouthwatering, aromatic
  • Succulent: slightly sweek, steely, honeyed
  • Centered: crisp, balanced, racy acidity
  • Fragrant: aromatic, luscious, proud
  • Statuesque: traditional, crisp with good structure
  • Boisterous: exotic, beautiful, rich, full-bodied

Linda chose tastes of one “refreshing” white and two “centered” whites. I tasted two “earthy” reds: Campo Viejo Gran Reserva Tempranillo 2000 and Bersan Cab Franc 2005 from Washington state, plus one “lush” red from Bordeaux: Chateau Les Tourelles de Longueville 2001. I enjoyed all of them, but the Bordeaux wine from Pauillac stood out among the three. Of course, I loved the wines from Bordeaux when we visited Pauillac and Margeaux in 2005.

But I digress. Back to the tasting menu: in addition to dividing the wines by sections with fun descriptors, each wine listing is accompanied by icons that signal if the wine is local, organic, made by a female winemaker, a critics choice or “wine we love.”

And that’s not all that I liked about The Local Vine in Belltown:

  • The wine bar is open — serving wine and food — on Wednesdays through Sundays from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. (I wish The Local Vine had been around when I worked up the street at KIRO-TV a few years ago!)
  • There’s a fireplace and WiFi.
  •  There are more than 100 wine selections that run from $5 to $485 a glass.
  • If you like the wines you taste, you can buy a bottle right then and there.
  • The selections include value wines and hard-to-find choices from both small wineries and superstars.

As you’ve no doubt guessed by now, I will definitely be going back to The Local Vine.


March is Taste Washington Wine Month

 Just around the corner is Taste Washington Wine Month, a March celebration of Washington state wines with an abundance of tasting events, winemaker dinners and discounted wine specials at retailers across the state. This event is organized by the Washington Wine Commission to increase awareness of our state’s magnificent wines.

Stores such as Fred Meyer and QFC, Costco, Haggen/Top Foods, Larry’s Market and Safeway will hold special Taste Washington Wine Month promotions. Restaurants across the state will also feature Washington wine tastings, food and wine pairings and winemaker dinners. And wine bars such as Vino Bello, The Local Vine and Purple Cafe  are holding special tastings, too.

The month-long celebration is the prelude to the annual Taste Washington wine and food festival, held April 6-8 in Seattle, and featuring  850 wines from 200+ wineries.

It’s going to be a busy and fun month!


WWD: Hedges Three Vineyards 2004

I stopped by The Local Vine in Seattle after work and had a wonderful Bordeaux. So when I came home for dinner, I was ready for an excellent Washington state red blend to have with dinner. (WWD=wine with dinner, if you’re new to this blog.) So we dug out a bottle of Three Vineyards, Red Mountain, 2004 from Hedges Family Estates.

It was the last bottle from a half-case that we picked up during our trip to eastern Washington almost a year ago. Not surprisingly, it was even better with age. Indeed, the tasting notes had promised it: “Always a majority blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this wine is suitable for drinking upon release but will also reward those with the patience to age it.”

Three Vineyards is the flagship estate wine from Hedges Family Estates, and a classic, deep Red Mountain wine that blends grapes from — you guessed it — three vineyards: Hedges Estate Vineyard, Bel’Villa Vineyard, and Red Mountain Vineyard.

This fine wine was awarded 90 points in the Wine Enthusiast Magazine last August: “Concentrated and showing a whiff of volatility, this is a blend of 62% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, and a splash each of Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. Grapes are sourced from three different estate vineyards on Red Mountain. It’s acidic and extracted, but opens up with exposure to air into a supple, rich, muscular, raspberry and cherry-flavored red blend. There are hints of rock, fennel and smoke, and a long, concentrated and well-rounded finish.”

Have you tried Hedges Family Estate Three Vineyards 2004? Did you like it? Do you know what is “a whiff volatility?”


Fall Line Does It Again

We finally had an opportunity to taste winemaker Tim Sorenson’s latest releases from Fall Line Winery on the weekend and all we can say is “wow!”

As soon as we arrived for Fall Line’s tasting at Vino Bello, owner Michele Smith gave us both the heads up and the thumbs up about Tim’s 2005 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. And she was absolutely right -the 2005 release is even better than our favorite 2004 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

This wine possesses grace, balance and depth, with aromas of violet, spices, blackberry and licorice. It is a rich blend of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Boushey Vineyards, Artz Vineyards and Windy Ridge Vineyard. It is very drinkable now and promises even more depth in the months to come. But only 467 cases were produced, and previous vintages sold out quickly, so you have been warned to place your order soon!

Fall Line’s other two Bordeaux-style blends also are worth mentioning, although Tim knows that I’ve always favored his 100% Cab blend.

Fall Line’s 2005 Red Mountain Red Blend is a perfectly-balanced, silky blend of 42% Cab Franc, 29% Merlot and 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, while the 2005 Horse Heaven Hills Red Blend has magnificent depth, with 39% Merlot, 33% Cab Franc and 28% Cabernet Sauvignon.

It also was nice to chat with Tim at Vino Bello. As usual, Tim displayed a charming combination of both humility and confidence in his wines. We also chatted about the description of Fall Line Winery in Steve Roberts’ Wine Trails of Washington guide. Steve discovered that Tim is probably the only winemaker in Washington state who has a PhD from Harvard. We know that Tim is a professor of economics at Seattle University (when he isn’t making wine), but we had no idea about his Harvard roots.

We seem to learn something new at Vino Bello every time we visit.


Wine Trails of Washington, Part 2

We were at our favorite local wine bar, Vino Bello, on Saturday to meet Steve Roberts, author of Wine Trails of Washington and taste some wines from Pepper Bridge Winery in Walla Walla. Our favorite wine from Pepper Bridge remains the 2004 Pepper Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley. But I’ll write more about the tasting later. Right now, I’d like to tell you about my chat with Steve Roberts about his book.

Steve, as I mentioned in a previous post, is the uncle of Kelly Roberts, with whom I work. So I arrived at Vino Bello prepared to like both him and his book. I was not disappointed. Steve is open, friendly and completely unassuming. His book, Wine Trails of Washington, is a guide to more than 225 wineries in the state and suggests 32 different tasting trails to visit. I know I will refer to it every time I visit the many wine-tasting areas of our state.

Steve told me that he didn’t always dream of writing a book. And he didn’t always contemplate writing about wine. With a chuckle, he said, “I’m not a writer. I’m not a wine connoisseur. I’m an outsider–I have never worked in the wine industry. But I think that was an advantage because I was not there [at the wineries] to judge their wines.”

Instead, Steve spent 18 months learning about the tales of the wineries and winemakers. “There are no adjectives about wine in the book. I found out about the stories, the history and the philosphy of the wineries,” he explained.

So I leafed through the almost 600-page book to check the listing on Woodhouse Family Cellars, one of my favorite Woodinville wineries. Sure enough, the book discusses winery owner Bjiah Shah, winemaker Tom Campbell and the history of the winery and its five labels, Kennedy Shah, Darighe, Dussek, Maghie and Hudson.

And I totally agreed with Steve’s assessment of Woodhouse Family Cellars in the book: “Just when you were beginning to think that all Woodinville-based business-park winery settings were the same, Woodhouse Family Cellars shatters that image. It offers a top-notch tasting room designed to encourage its visitors to relax and enjoy its wines. That makes it a mandatory stop along the Woodinville Wine Trail South route.”

That listing is just one of many that will help readers decide which wineries to visit. The book also lists Steve’s favorites — favorite destination wineries, favorite winery views, favorite wineries for dining, favorite winery gift shops, favorite wineries to picnic and to wed!

In summary, the book is a celebration of Washington wineries and I can’t wait to read every single page!


WWD: Brian Carter Cellars 2004 Byzance

Our palates tend to favor Washington state Bordeaux-style blends … or blends from Bordeaux itself, especially from Medoc or more specifically, Margaux. So Brian Carter Cellar’s 2004 Byzance, a southern Rhone-style blend, is not a typical wine that we’d have with dinner (WWD=Wine with Dinner).

But we totally enjoyed Brian Carter’s 2004 Byzance, a seductive blend of 55% Grenache, 24% Syrah and 21% Mourvedre (a relative newcomer to Washington vineyards), the three grapes found in the southern Rhone Valley.

Byzance was made from grapes mainly from the Outlook vineyard on the Rosa slope in the central Yakima Valley. Almost black in color, the wine has aromas of blackberries, black cherry and spice. Deep and structured, not too rich, with well-integrated tanins, it paired well with lemon chicken, much to our surprise. Of course, it would have been a good match with some sharp cheese before or after the meal, too.

Our favorite wine from Brian Carter Cellars continues to be the Solesce Bordeaux-style blend, particularly the 1999 vintage. But the Byzance was a nice change and a pleasant surprise.

We also just got word that the new 2005 Tuttorosso (“Totally Red”) — one of Brian Carter Cellar’s most popular wines — is being released on Thursday, Feb. 7. This Tuscan blend is centered on Sangiovese with a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.