Summer is in the Air at Chateau Ste. Michelle

You always know summer is around the corner when Chateau Ste. Michelle starts selling tickets to its amazing Summer Concert Series. This year’s lineup of renowned musicians provides something for everybody, including jazz, rock, blues and contemporary music.

The 2013 lineup features Pat Benetar and Berlin, Lyle Lovett, Chris Isaak, the Gipsy Kings, Counting Crows, Steve Miller Band, Gladys Knight & the O’Jays reunion, and two nights of Harry Connick Jr.

The series begins on June 15 with a live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor and wraps up with Chris Isaak on Aug. 24 (a few weeks earlier this year).

There are two months’ of options on the concert calendar along with answers to any questions you might have about how to prepare for, and what to expect from, an outdoors concert.

We had such a wonderful evening at the Moody Blues concert two years ago and listening to Bonnie Raitt  last year; we are looking forward to another special time this year. We highly recommend you do the same.

Tickets are now on sale at Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Wine Shop and through Ticketmaster.

What are you waiting for?

It’s a wonderful way to spend a lazy summer evening of music and wine on the beautiful grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle.

Who knows, maybe a peacock will even join you! We saw this one at Ste. Michelle last year – beautiful!

Cheers!

Random Thoughts from Taste Washington-Part 2

This is a continuation of our random thoughts from Taste Washington, held March 23-24 in Seattle. To start at the beginning, please read Part 1 first.

Another perennial favorite, 2010 Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon, from Betz Family Winery, continues to showcase how this grape shines in Washington state.

Smart thinking from Col Solare — at their booth, they offered an educational (and tasty) experience of how wine develops over the years, with a side-by-side tasting of the 2007 and the 2003 vintages.

Somehow, we were lucky enough to taste Cooper Wine Company‘s stellar 2008 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon. This standout wine wasn’t on the tasting list provided when we arrived at the event.

Thank you to all our friends who poured us a little-extra-special something from under the table!

Speaking of friends, Bob Silver noted in his blog WA|Wine|PR that the Double Canyon 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon was “the favorite wine that I met at 2013 Taste Washington.” He described it as “Big honkin’ fruit from Horse Heaven Hills, wonderful structure and balance” – so you know we’ll be checking this wine out in the near future. Our palates are similar to Bob’s – he’s never steered us wrong with his many recommendations over the years.

Efeste‘s 2009 Big Papa is drinking so well right now that we need to get to Woodinville to pick up more, stat! Just one taste underlined why Washington wine expert Paul Gregutt described this beauty as capturing the best of Washington in a single bottle.

As expected, we enjoyed JM Cellars’ 2010 Longevity and 2010 Tre. We can’t wait until May, when John Bigelow’s 2012 Red Mountain Sauvignon Blanc is released. We savored a pour at Taste Washington, and indeed, this wine demonstrates the true characteristics of the grape. A perfect summer sipper on the deck!

Another favorite was Sparkman Cellars 2010 Kingpin Cabernet Sauvignon, also sourced from Red Mountain. I adored Sparky’s tasting notes: “Will develop for many years and last well past the end of the world.”

There were so many more wineries that we did not have the time (or fortitude) to visit! And then there was the food!

The standout restaurant booths that we visited were Anthony’s Pier 66Murray’s CheeseIvar’sRelish Burger BarRN74Sullivan’s SteakhouseThe Capital GrilleSweet TreatsThe Yellow Leaf Cupcake Company and every restaurant from Tulalip.

Did you go to Taste Washington 2013? What were your standouts?

Cheers!

 

 

The Super Bowl of Washington Wine

Taste Washington, the Super Bowl for the Washington state wine industry, kicks off March 23-24 with something for every wine enthusiast. It’s also a perfect place for newbies to learn, without fear, about the wonderful world of wine, Washington style. And then there’s the food.

Specifically, Taste Washington features more than 225 Washington wineries and 68 local restaurants.

No wonder that the Washington Wine Commission and Visit Seattle, annual producers of the event, promote it this way: “Taste Washington. Drink. Eat. Learn.” Indeed, Taste Washington is billboarded as “the nation’s largest single-region wine and food event.”

The weekend begins with Saturday seminars to educate your palate. The wine will also be flowing at these educational experiences:

  • Introduction to the World of Wine
  • Cure What Ales Ya!
  • RIEDEL Glass Tasting
  • Washington vs. The World!
  • All Mixed Up – The Art of Blending
  • Yakima Valley 30th Anniversary
  • Join the Cider Revolution

Sunday features the Grand Tasting. Like any Super Bowl, you need to plan to stay ahead of the game. It’s easy – you can download a copy of the event program and start planning which wineries and restaurants to visit.

We organize our tasting route in advance every year. One year, we decided to only taste pours from wineries or wines that we had never before experienced. Another year, we decided to only drink Cab Francs.

Here is more information to help organize your weekend: Participating wineries | Vineyards |Restaurants | Hotels | Exhibitors | Tickets |

There are various price tiers for the event, which is being held at the CenturyLink Field Event Center:

VIP Tickets — One day $145, two days, $185; For this price, your receive one extra hour to enjoy Taste Washington before the crowds arrive; access to the Barrel Room, an exclusive VIP lounge presented by Tulalip Resort Casino; VIP swag bag and special giveaways each day during the VIP hour.

General Admission — One day $80; two days, $125

Seminars — Held over two days, these range in price from $25-$75 dollars

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!

 

Rules for Attending a Wine Festival

We’ve headed into the season of major wine events, so it was particularly timely to receive an email from Hedges Family Estate titled, “Rules for Attending a Wine Festival.”

Not only was it timely, the words rang true according to several winemakers we’ve talked to over the years.

It’s also pretty funny.

So props to Hedges Family Estate – enjoy!

 

Rules for Attending a Wine Festival

by Hedges Family Estate, Red Mountain, WA

  • Don’t tether your wine glass to your neck.
  • Don’t pinch your fingers and say, “Just a little.”  Dump it if you don’t want to finish it, but I’m going to pour as much as I damn well please.
  • Don’t violently lift your glass mid-pour and say, “That’s enough.”  Same deal as above.
  • Don’t say, “Give me the biggest thing you have.”  This isn’t NASCAR.
  • Let “smooth” take the day off from your vocabulary… the whole day.
  • Don’t shove.  I mean… really.
  • Don’t say you hate Merlot. We all saw Sideways. Guess what: Miles didn’t want to drink Merlot because it reminded him of his ex-wife. That bottle he drank in the end—his most precious bottle—had a ton of Merlot in it.
  • Don’t tell every winemaker about the winery that was down the street while you lived in Lodi.
  • Don’t ask how the wine scored… ever.
  • Do wear a “Wine’er, Dine’er, 69’er T-shirt.
  • If you are going to wear one of the those little food trays that has a cutout for your glass, you better be damn sure you are cool enough to wear it.  Note: no one is that cool.
  • Over-buff late thirties guy: Don’t try to impress your date by contradicting me.  You’re going to fail.  Yeah, try me.
  • Don’t lick your glass… pig.
  • Don’t talk about your sulfite allergy.  There is a good chance you have no idea what you’re talking about.
  • Don’t dump into the water pitcher.  And always look before you drink out of it.
  • Practice spitting at home; it will come in handy.
  • Don’t talk about the legs after you swirl the glass.  Here’s a tip: the legs don’t matter.
  • Don’t take your heels off and puke in the lobby.
  • Don’t ask what the most expensive wine on the table is.
  • Keep the rim of your glass food free.
  • If you proclaim that you don’t like white or rose, we will make fun of you when you walk away.
  • NO Perfume!  And go light on the lipstick, honey.

Do you have any tips or rules to add?

Cheers!

Ethos Vertical Tasting Here We Come!

We hope to see you at the Ethos Reserve Vertical Tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle on Sunday March 3. We are really looking forward to this rare opportunity to taste past vintages – 2003, 2004 and 2005 Ethos Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Ethos Reserve Syrah from Columbia Valley.

Chateau Ste. Michelle produces many wines that make Washington state’s wine industry proud but, in our humble opinion, Ethos — the winery’s self-described “pinnacle wines” — reign supreme. These vintage wines will be paired with a special selection of cheeses to showcase how wine fares so much better with age.

Unfortunately, if you haven’t already purchased tickets, the Ethos vertical tasting is sold out. However, there are many more Chateau Ste. Micheel events to choose from, such as:

Chef without Borders Dinner
Saturday, March 16, 7:00 PM
Explore Chef Janet Hedstrom’s world of cuisine while sipping on perfectly paired wines from the Chateau.
Reservations required. 800-267-6793
Price: $120.00 plus tax

Spring Barrel Tasting
Saturday-Sunday, March 16 & March 17, 11:00AM-5:00PM
A unique opportunity to taste several wines that are in the process of barrel-aging and chat with a winemaker. Tickets will be available on 3/16 and 3/17 in the wine shop.
Price: $20.00 per person plus tax. (Includes all barrel tastings and an additional glass of a pre-selected finished wine)

Sip & Savor Sunday
Sunday, April 14, 3:30-6:00 PM
Wine and cheese pairings at the Chateau plus jazz musician Heather Sullivan.

Treasures of the Earth Dinner
Saturday, April 20, 7:00 PM
Join Chef Scott Harberts as he celebrates Earth Day with a menu that will feature ingredients that are sustainably grown and harvested. Dinner will be paired with wines from the chateau’s LIVE and Salmon Safe certified vineyards; Cold Creek Vineyard and Canoe Ridge Estate.
Reservations required. 800-267-6793
Price: $120.00 per person plus tax

Spring Fling Chef Dinner
Saturday, May 18, 7:00PM
Chef Kurt Olson will create a menu to highlight the flavors of spring, accompanied by “a few surprises” from the cellar.
Reservations required. 800-267-6793
Price: $120.00 per person plus tax.

Happy spring! Cheers!

Taste of Tulalip: Only Two Weeks Left

In just two weeks, one of the best wine-and-food events in the northwest will be held at the Tulalip Resort Taste of Tulalip, a weekend extravaganza of excellent wine and delicious food.

A tasting reception and celebratory dinner start the weekend on Friday, Nov. 9, followed by the Grand Taste, which we have attended annually since it was first held four years ago. The good news – there are still tickets available!

What better way to spend a November Saturday afternoon? In addition to experiencing a taste sensation, you’ll probably find some great wines for your Thanksgiving dinner table or for holiday gifts for family and friends.

Grand Taste features pours from 65 Washington wineries, 20 Napa Valley wineries, 20 Oregon wineries, 20 Italian wineries and 20 French wineries, along with multiple food stations by Tulalip Resort‘s award-winning chefs.

Or you could get an all-access pass for Saturday, which includes an early entrance to the Grand Taste, plus cooking demonstrations and a magnum party featuring some of the most highly sought-after wines from around the world. Last year, we tasted the amazing Bordeaux, Chateau Margaux, at this magnificent magnum party.

Yes, we will most definitely be there again this year. And we are planning to stay over at the stunning Tulalip Resort again too.

Taste of Tulalip is recognized as one of the top Northwest foodie “happenings” – an explosion of aromas and flavors that kicks off the holiday season in a unique way.

    We hope to see you there!

    Cheers!

    Do Not Miss Taste of Tulalip 2012

    Run, don’t walk, to get your tickets to Taste of Tulalip, one of the best wine-and-food events offered in the northwest.

    Yes, it’s a month away, but tickets go quickly and this is one experience you do not want to miss.

    The weekend extravaganza kicks off with a tasting reception and celebratory dinner on Friday, Nov. 9. The Grand Taste is held the following day, Saturday, Nov. 10, and features pours from 65 Washington wineries, 20 Napa Valley wineries, 20 Oregon wineries, 20 Italian wineries and 20 French wineries, along with multiple food stations by Tulalip Resort‘s award-winning chefs.

    Or you could get an all-access pass for Saturday, which includes an early entrance to the Grand Taste, plus cooking demonstrations and our personal favorite, a magnum party featuring some of the most highly sought-after wines from around the world. Last year, we were delighted to see the exquisite Bordeaux queen, Chateau Margaux, on the tasting lineup at this magnificent magnum party.

    This is the lineup for Saturday’s All-Access Pass:

    • 11:30 AM – He Said, She Said with “Thirsty Girl” Leslie Sbrocco and Sommelier Tommy Thompson
    • 12:30 PM – Cooking demonstration with Chef Marcus Samuelsson, a 3-Time James Beard Award Winner, TV personality and author, and a question-and-answer session with Executive Chef Perry Mascitti and emcee Leslie Sbrocco.
    • 1:30 PM – Private Magnum Party in mpulse lounge hosted by Seattle wine expert Christopher Chan. You’ll be treated to some of the most elite wines from around the world, selected by Sommelier Tommy Thompson and paired with a menu of Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s appetizers
    • 1:30 PM – Early entrance into the Grand Taste
    • 4:00 PM – Rock-n-Roll Cooking Challenge judged by Leslie Sbrocco, Guest Chef Marcus Samuelsson and Chef Wayne Johnson

    Yes, we will most definitely be there again this year.  And we’d love to stay over at the stunning Tulalip Resort again too – what a wonderful hotel and a great way to enhance the weekend even further.

    Here are our posts from last year’s Taste of Tulalip:

    We heart Taste of Tulalip, and we hope to see you there!

    Cheers!

    WBC Here I Come!

    This weekend is the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, where I’ll be live tweeting. You can follow my tweets  @writeforwine Thursday night through Monday night, and you can follow the conference’s twitter stream #WBC12, highlighting the opinions of about 350 wine writers in attendance.

    I’ll also be posting on the Write for Wine Facebook page, and hope you’ll stop by to “like” it!

    This will be my second time at WBC – my inaugural attendance was at #WBC10 in Walla Walla, where I met fellow wine bloggers, writers and tweeters, many of whom became my good friends. One of the craziest and best events was “Live Wine Blogging,” described by conference organizers as “sort of like speed dating, matching wineries to bloggers in five-minute segments.”

    At WBC10, the Live Wine Blogging hour did indeed speed by, as wine makers and winery marketing folks handed out tasting notes, poured and quickly described their wines, as we tweeted, spit and spilled our way through a number of offerings, ranging from boxes to $185 bottles, sometimes side-by-side.

    This year, an action-packed weekend awaits us in the Portland area, which is extra special for me because it’s where I began writing about wine in 1997, when I managed content after launching KOIN-TV’s website.

    In addition to Live Wine Blogging, activities include mystery bus trips to wine country — a visit to a vineyard and a winery, followed by dinner at a local restaurant or another winery. You don’t know where the buses are going until you get on one, hence the mystery.

    And new this year at WBC is the “Night of Many Bottles” — an evening where everyone brings a bottle of their favorite wine to share with others. In past years, this has been done informally by friends who got together when the formal activities were done. This year, the conference organizers decided to make it part of the official weekend fun.

    And no, the weekend is not only about drinking wine! There are plenty of opportunities to learn about grapes, terroir, wine making, writing and blogging, with keynote speeches, breakout sessions, blogger-to-blogger discussions, Ignite! wine groups and wine blog awards.

    While the focus of the weekend will be on the fine wines of Oregon – and I can’t wait – there are also some other events dear to my heart:

    • A Washington wine event called One Night Stand, featuring magnums from top Washington producers (on Twitter, #WAOneNight)
    • An opportunity to taste new wines of Greece, just a month before I’ll be heading that way to another conference

    I’m also really looking forward to a post-WBC tour to wine country in Carlton, Oregon, where a group of some of my favorite blogger friends will attend Carlton’s Walk in the Park, and stop by several wineries, including Ken Wright Cellars, which I’ve always wanted to visit.

    Next year’s Wine Bloggers Conference is in Penticton, in my home province of British Columbia. So you can imagine how much I’m also looking forward to WBC13! But first, Portland – stay tuned!

    Cheers!

     

    If you love blends …

    … like we love blends, then mark your calendar right now for the third annual – you guessed it – BLEND event on Sept. 16 at Seattle waterfront’s Bell Harbor Conference Center.

    We have not missed this event ever, because Bordeaux blends have been some of our favorite wines for years. I was asked to be a judge at this year’s BLEND blind tasting, but it’s during the day when I work at my “day job,” unfortunately.

    But thankfully we can attend the event, which not only showcases Washington’s hottest blends, but also enticing gourmet food samples from some award-winning hotel restaurants.

    Specifically, BLEND features more than 40 Washington wineries, barrel blending stations and international tasting stations, in addition to a “Bubble Lounge” with champagne, sparkling wines and cider and oysters.

    While both of our palates favor Bordeaux-style blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, others prefer southern Rhone-style blends of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre.

    Some of our favorites are unique-to-Washington blends of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, such as William Church 2008 2 Spires and Gorman 2009 Evil Twin. Unfortunately, neither will be at this event, but some of our other favorites, such as DiStefano 2007 Sogno (Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) will be definite pours for us.

    Some white blends – perfect summer sippers — will also be available, such as the award-winning Shepherd’s Mark southern Rhone blend (Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne) from Alexandria Nicole Cellar and Optu White Bordeaux blend (Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion) from Fidelitas.

    For a full list of wineries pouring at BLEND, in addition to tickets, visit the BLEND website. Net proceeds from the $49-per-person admission will benefit the Washington Wine Industry Foundation.

    We hope to see you there!

    Cheers!

    Great Summer Idea: Yakima Valley Vineyard Tours

    One of our favorite vineyards in Washington state is Red Willow Vineyard – not only for the premium grapes grown there, but also for the down-to-earth (pun intended) wonderful owners Mike and Jon Sauer.

    We had the privilege to spend time with the Sauers during a trip to Red Willow shortly after this blog launched in 2007. My first post discussed the Sauer family and their unique story, while the rest of the five-part series covered the terroir, the history and even Mariners baseball giant, Edgar Martinez.

    So I was delighted to recently hear that more than a dozen lucky wine enthusiasts had the opportunity to experience the joy of Red Willow Vineyards and the Sauer hospitality a week ago, on July 7.

    The Red Willow event was the first in a four-vineyard series conducted by the Wine Yakima Valley Association, whose executive director Barb Glover reported: “Owners Mike and Jonathan Sauer shared the inspiring story of their work operating one of the most historic vineyards in America, and why the Yakima Valley is one of the world’s true ‘sweet spots’ for wine grape production.

    “This kind of experience is normally reserved for visits by influential members of the wine trade and the media. But the 30th anniversary of the Yakima Valley’s designation as Washington State’s first official wine region is on the near horizon; so we want to celebrate by opening some farm gates and sharing with the wider world how we have grown to greatness as a regional wine industry.”

    After the Red Willow tour came the DuBrul Vineyard on July 14. The two remaining tours will be held at Upland Vineyard (July 21) and Boushey Vineyard (July 28). Tickets for each event are $75 and can be found at the Wine Yakima Valley website.

    It’s been our experience that vineyard visits are always something to cherish for many years to come.

    Cheers!