Another Successful Taste of Tulalip

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 12.25.27 PMTaste of Tulalip 2015 is now behind us and once again, it was a taste sensation that featured a collaboration of wine, food and art.

We applaud Lisa Severn, the director of food and beverage at Tulalip Resort Casino, and her entire team for their incredible efforts to make this amazing event so enjoyable.

Let’s start with the art. We had the pleasure of meeting Mike Gobin, the talented artist and master woodcarver who created the commemorative wine bottle and plate featured in this photo. He showed us several pictures of his work, all of which represent a beautiful expression of his Tulalip culture. He had our complete attention as he shared stories of his people and his craft. We also were delighted to meet his super-nice family.

His commemorative bottle contains a unique blend of wine created by Tulalip‘s talented wine expert, Tommy Thompson, and the event’s 2015 honorary winemaker, Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville. Sourced from DuBrul Vineyard grapes, this stellar wine blends 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. We somehow had never met Kerry before, so we were glad to have that opportunity, and hope to taste more of her wines in the future.

Sparky TOT2We were fortunate to spend considerable time with Sparky Marquis, co-winemaker/owner of the award-winning Australian winery, Mollydooker Wines. His seminar, “Turning Water Into Wine,” was both informative and fun. We also chatted with him throughout the weekend, at the Celebration Dinner, the Grand Taste and at Tulalip Bay, one of our favorite Seattle-area restaurants where we ended off the event enjoying a fantastic meal with our very good friends, Robin and Sue from British Columbia.

We are big fans of Mollydooker wines: Carnival of Love, the #2 wine in the world, according to Wine Spectator, in addition to the coveted Velvet Glove, Enchanted Path, Blue Eyed Boy and seven more!

We first met Sparky last year at his Cellar Door in McLaren Vale, Australia. For more information, see our blog posts, Mollydooker Part 1 and  Mollydooker Part 2 and learn about Mollydooker’s Marquis Fruit Weight™ process and their “yum-worthy” wines.

Throughout the weekend, we sipped our way through dozens of wines and send kudos to these wineries, whose teams poured some of our favorites.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 1.30.35 PMWashington State

  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  • Betz Family Winery
  • Cote Bonneville
  • Double Canyon / Archery Summit
  • Fidelitas
  • Figgins Wine
  • Gorman Winery
  • Karma Vineyards
  • Leonetti Cellars
  • Obelisco Estate
  • Quilceda Creek
  • Reynvaan Family Vineyards


  • Caymus VIneyards
  • Silver Oak Cellars
  • Stone Street


  • Chateau Coutet, Bordeaux, France
  • Domaine Huet, Loire Valley, France
  • Inskillin, Ontario, Canada
  • Mollydooker WInes, McLaren Vale, AustraliaRocca di Frassinello, Maremma, Italy

Flowers TOTAnd then there was the excellent food experience at the Italian-themed Celebration Dinner and at various seminars and booths throughout Saturday.

Executive Chef Perry Mascitti and his talented culinary team were joined by special guest Chris Cosentino, the award-winning Chef/Owner of San Francisco’s Cockscomb and Boccalone, to prepare the delicious dishes. From extravagant gourmet treats to tasty snacks, there was something sensational to pair with every wine.

Antipasta TOT Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 1.56.48 PMThe Celebration Dinner was the Friday night highlight that kicked off the weekend activities. The mouth-watering dinner started out with “Amuse Bouche” Dungeness Crab and Lemon Cannoli Ricotta by Chef Gerry Schultz, followed by Antipasti Carni and Formaggio (pictured) by Chef JP Ponticelli.

Next up was Rustic Polenta Lasgna by Chef Brent Clarkson; Intermezzo by Chef John Jadamec; Seared Chilean Sea Bass by Chef David Buchanan; Filet Mignon Braciole by Tulalip Executive Chef Perry Mascitti; and Semplice Insalata also by Chef JP Ponticelli. Rounding out the explosion of flavors was Tiramisu (pictured) and a pink box of assorted Italian cookies, including chocolate biscotti and wedding cookies, by Chef Nikol Nakamura.

Last, but definitely not least, Taste of Tulalip 2015 supported the charity, Heartbeat Serving Wounded Warriors, which provides emergency assistance and numerous programs for wounded service members and their families in Washington state.

If you didn’t attend this year’s event, you missed something great. Be sure to stay tuned at this time next year, so you won’t miss out again.

Many thanks to Lisa Severn and Allan Aquila for inviting us to this extravaganza. It was a weekend that we will be raving about for a long time to come.

Margot and Dave

Bellingham Grape and Gourmet

Grape & GourmetThe 12th annual Bellingham Grape and Gourmet is less than a month away, and we are really looking forward to attending. This year, the event will be held at Silver Reef Casino on Nov. 1. 

The evening of “sensational wines and exquisite food” is hosted by Bellingham Bay Rotary Club.

The event is also a fundraiser — all proceeds will be donated to local non-profits.

Almost 40 Washington and Oregon wineries will be pouring — including our friends at William Church, Forgeron Cellars, L’Ecole 41, Walla Walla Vintners, Dunham Cellars, Airfield Estates and Hightower. Wines range from Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Viognier to Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir. And there’s more, including both white and red blends.

If you find a wine that’s a real palate pleaser, you can purchase it at a 20% discount right on site. You can also sample tasty bites from local restaurants, including one of our favorites, The Steakhouse at Silver Reef Casino.

Last week, we were fortunate to be invited to a pre-tasting, hosted by BB Rotary Club event organizer Bryant Engebretson and his wife Hillary. Our two favorites were William Church Winery’s 2 Spires and Walla Walla Vintners Cuvee, but we know there will be more to add to that list on Nov. 1 at Bellingham Grape and Gourmet.

Grape & Gourmet 1So what are you waiting for – get your tickets now!

Sunday, Nov. 1 at Silver Reef Casino, 5:00 – 8:30 p.m.

VIP Tickets ($100) give you early admission at 5 p.m., which means 90 minutes without the crowds!

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for regular admission ($80).

We hope to see you there!

Margot and Dave


Summer Sippers

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 9.08.12 AMOur recent sunny May weather makes us think of summer sippers while it is still spring. So here are some recent releases of good-value whites and rosés that pair perfectly with warm evenings on the deck or patio.

14 Hands 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Washington State
Our favorite white wine is Sauvignon Blanc, particularly when it shows aromas and flavors of grapefruit. This beauty does just that, and pairs nicely with prawns or other fresh seafood dishes. It also is a refreshing crisp taste of summer to sip and savor on its own on the deck. ($10)

14 Hands 2014 Pinot Gris Washington State
After Sauv Blanc, our second favorite white wine is Pinot Gris, which also pairs best with seafood. Similarly refreshing, this Pinot Gris is rounded with flavors of pears and honeysuckle, and contains 2.5% Pinot Blanc. We recommend it to accompany seafood pasta. ($10)

Santa Cristina 2014 Pinot Grigio
This wine comes from an established growing region outside Venice, Italy. Think of orange blossoms and tropical fruit, and you’ll travel to the Tuscan sun without leaving your patio. In addition to seafood, this elegant and fragrant wine also pairs with chicken salad — or any salad, actually. ($12)

Santa Cristina 2014 Cipresseto Toscana Rosato
Cipresseto is one of the first rosés produced in Italy. Named for the Cyprus trees near the vineyards, this dry rosé blends Sangiovese and Canaiolo. Fermentation and time in stainless steel tanks generated a crisp wine with distinctive aromas of raspberry and jasmine. According to the tasting notes, its savory undertones mean it will pair well with tomato dishes or calamari.  ($14)

Other Summer Sippers from 14 Hands and Santa Cristina

  • Santa Cristina 2014 Campogrande, $12
  • 14 Hands 2013 Chardonnay Washington State, $12
  • 14 Hands 2013 Hot to Trot White Blend Washington State, $10

Samples were provided by 14 Hands and Santa Christina, both of which are part of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

Margot and Dave


Australian & Californian Winemaking Merge into Two Lands

Two LandsEarlier this month, we were invited to a virtual tasting of a new wine brand, Two Lands by Jacob’s Creek – a winemaking collaboration between Jacob’s Creek chief winemaker Bernard Hickin and award-winning Napa winemaker Ehren Jordan.

The branding of this new line of wines, launched exclusively in the U.S., says it all: “Two Lands: California craftsmanship meets Australian character. Harnessing the power of collaboration to bring together the best of both worlds”

This new venture merges Australian and Californian winemaking into four satisfying bottles of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our favorites were the Pinot Grigio and the Shiraz, both sourced with South Australia fruit.

2014 Two Lands Pinot Grigio
This refreshing, crisp summer sipper makes us think of lazy days on the deck. With beautiful flavors of apple, peach and citrus, this wine is rich, smooth and very rounded; it would pair well with icy prawns or some good cheddar. Jacob’s Creek recommends it with seafood chowder.

2013 Two Lands Shiraz
We became super fans of Shiraz after wine tasting in Adelaide during our trip to Australia a year ago. Two Lands Shiraz is medium-bodied and flavorful, with big ripe fruit, a lovely mouthfeel and a long, dry finish. It’s still young, so be sure to decant it for a few hours. This is definitely a food wine – think of BBQ ribs or a savory stew.

Each bottle is priced at $13.99, a testament to the notion that wine does not have to be expensive to be good.

Many thanks to Jacob’s Creek for the samples and including us in this digital tasting.

Margot and Dave

And the winner is … ANC Wines

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.34.37 PMJarrod Boyle of Alexandria Nicole Cellars is continuing his winning streak with a number of recent accolades for several of his stellar wines.

Knowing Jarrod, he would also credit Jose Yanez, the excellent foreman at Destiny Ridge Estate Vineyard, assistant winemaker Matt Dodson, and Jarrod’s amazing wife, co-owner and marketing manager, Ali Boyle.

And last, but definitely not least, Jarrod would point to Mother Nature.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.35.57 PMTwenty-three varietals are planted at Destiny Ridge, and the belief at ANC is that quality starts in the vineyard.

The winery’s motto is “approachable elegance” — and judging by the recent awards, and dozens and dozens of previous ones, Jarrod and his team are definitely succeeding.

Here are the most recent awards:

  • 2014 “Crawford” Viognier, Best of Class and Double Gold, Savor NW Awards
  • 2014 Shepherds Mark, Gold, Savor NW Awards
  • 2013 Jet Black Syrah, Best of Class and Gold, Seattle Wine and Food Experience
  • 2013 Shepherds Mark, Gold, Seattle Wine and Food Experience
  • Beverage Tasting Institute Ratings
    • 2012 “Gravity” Merlot, 92 points and Cellar Selection
    • 2012 “Little Big Man” Petit Verdot, 92 points and Cellar Selection
    • 2011 “Alderdale” Cabernet Sauvignon, 92 points
    • 2012 Quarry Butte, 91 points
    • 2014 A squared Pinot Gris, Best Buy

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.35.44 PMThe outstanding wines are what brought us to Alexandria Nicole Cellars almost 10 years ago. But the warmth of the ANC team and the winery’s fabulous events played a big role too.

Over the years, we have had the pleasure and honor of becoming friends with Jarrod and Ali, and we are so excited for their new venture, The Estate on Destiny Ridge — a breathtaking, luxurious and private venue for entertaining in the middle of wine country.

We also can’t wait for their glamping season to start up again this summer.

Congratulations to Jarrod, Ali and the ANC team on the latest accolades.

Stop by and see them at Taste Washington, or at their tasting rooms in Woodinville and Prosser.


Margot and Dave


Tinhorn Creek-Beautiful British Columbia Part 2

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.43.53 AMTinhorn Creek Vineyards, quite simply, is a must-stop destination for any visit to British Columbia wine country. September 23rd marked the 20th anniversary of Tinhorn Creek, which has grown from barrels of wine in the basement of a house to 150 acres of vines on a beautiful estate in Oliver Osoyoos wine country, in the south Okanagan’s “Golden Mile” region.

Over the years, Tinhorn Creek has also become known in Canada as one of the most progressive wineries, focusing on sustainability and being environmentally friendly.

This winery is the epitome of what we consider a top pick: Good juice, good people and good events such as concerts and winemaker dinners at their onsite restaurant, Miradoro.

Sandra Oldfield, co-owner, president, CEO, and the face and voice of Tinhorn Creek, has been active in the wine community on Twitter for years. She embodies the experience declared on their website:Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.11.39 AM

“We grow grapes and we make wine. There are many steps between the field and the bottle, but at the end of the day it’s about farming the land responsibly, having fun, and making wines to share with family and friends. Because that’s what we are: friends, family – and friends who become family.”

Sandra also was the winemaker until this year, when Andrew Windsor joined the team, after after spending the past eight years in wine regions of Australia, New Zealand and France.

The winemaking team works from vines on two very distinct parcels of land:

  • 50 acres at the Tinhorn Creek Vineyard on the west bench, which benefits from sunrise and morning light, and is perfect for Gewürztraminer and Muscat
  • 100 acres on the Black Sage bench of the Diamondback Vineyard across the valley, which soaks up the intense afternoon heat, and therefore works well for Cabernet Franc and Merlot

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 12.02.23 PMSo let’s talk about the wines, starting with Tinhorn Creek’s Cab Franc, surely the best in Canada. We’ve tasted two vintages and enjoy the rich flavors that exemplify the varietal characteristics. This is a fantastic food wine, particularly with hearty beef stew or prime rib.

Earlier this year, the B.C. Wine Appreciation Society held a blind tasting of eight B.C. Cab Francs against four from other wine regions of the world. Tinhorn Creek 2010 Oldfield Selection Cab Franc, the winery’s first reserve version, won by a wide margin.

Going back several years, our first taste of Tinhorn Creek wine was at Whistler, back in the late 1990s — a 1995 Pinot Gris that set the bar for all the Pinot Gris we tasted in the following years.

More recently, last month, we visited the vineyard and tasted the 2013 vintage, which is crisp, balanced and brimming with citrus, pear and apple aromas and flavors.

In the late summer heat, we were also wowed by the Oldfield Series 2013 2Bench White, a delightful blend of Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc that screams for seafood to pair with it.

Tinhorn Creek is also known for its Merlot; the 2012 vintage is not at all jammy, and has a bite at the front palate that will taste marvelous with steak.

And yes, most of us in the U.S. can enjoy Tinhorn Creek wines here too – Tinhorn Creek is one of eight B.C. VQA wineries that offer wine exclusively at Whole Foods Market stores in Washington and Oregon.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 12.17.56 PMIn addition, Tinhorn Creek now ships wines direct to consumer in 34 states.

Of course, it’s more fun to visit.

And if you’re lucky, you’ll see the newest member of the Tinhorn Creek family. Right after our visit ended, the winery became home to a new puppy, Sam.

How cute is he?

Yes, he’s grown a lot in the last two months, but he is still adorbs (a word that has never been used on this blog since it launched in 2007)!

According to Sandra, one of Sam’s favorite things to do is to nap on the cool tiles in the shower (without the water)!

So what are you waiting for?


A Taste of Summer from Carlton Cellars

What an unexpected and pleasant surprise a few weeks ago to see Seattle temperatures hit almost 70 degrees — in March! You know what that meant … time to sit on the deck with a glass of white wine.

Our wine of choice for the deck – and later to be paired with salmon barbecued on a cedar plank — was Carlton Cellars Proposal Rock 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp, elegant, refreshing, with strong notes of grapefruit, pear and citrus rind — perfect!

You might recall that I went on a tour of Carlton, Oregon wineries with friends after the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland last summer. Fondly nicknamed “Blitz Carlton,” you can read about it here and here.

One of the bottles I brought home from Blitz Carlton was that same Carlton Cellars Sauv Blanc, knowing Dave would also enjoy it because of the strong grapefruit flavors.

He also enjoyed the story behind the name and label.

In 1999, Carlton Cellars co-owner Dave Grooters proposed to his future wife and winery parter Robin at a stunning spot at Neskowin on the Oregon Coast. Only later did Dave learn this place is actually known as Proposal Rock! Surprise!

Look at the label of Proposal Rock Sauvignon Blanc (above). See the two people? What a great story!

Dave Grooters is more than Carlton Cellars’ co-owner, grower, and winemaker. He is a storyteller, and his enthusiasm about the wines and the labels is enchanting.

He and Robin honor the Pacific by naming each wine for a special place on the Oregon coast, illustrated by really cool label art. On the right is the label from Carlton Cellars 2011 Canon Beach Pinot Gris, which I described last summer as “the crispest Pinot Gris in Oregon.”

Looking forward to visiting Carlton again next month!



Harvest Party

It’s that time again – our favorite wine event of the year – the annual Harvest Party in the Vines, held by Alexandria Nicole Cellars at their Destiny Ridge Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills in central Washington.

Let me tell you, Ali and Jarrod Boyle know how to throw a party! This is our fourth, and we just keep having more and more fun each year.

This event is so well planned – from the special hotel rate at the Marriott in Richland, to the party buses to take us on the 45-minute drive to the Estate vineyard, to the amazing “surf and turf” menu created by awesome chef Frank Magana. In addition, there’s live music and harvest hoopla, including a skeet-shooting contest, wine balloon toss, grape stomping, barrel rolling and much more.

And let’s not forget the incredible wines. ANC’s Estate Vineyard, Destiny Ridge, contains 263 acres of planted vines with 23 varietals. Believe me, 23 varietals is huge in Washington state:

White Wines: Crawford Viognier, a2 Pinot Gris, Shepherds Mark southern Rhone white blend, Sauvignon Blanc, Late Harvest Riesling, Cabernet Franc Rosé.

Red Wines: Quarry Butte Red Table Wine, Gravity Merlot, Alderdale Cabernet Sauvignon, a2 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Syrah, Jet Black Syrah.

In addition, wine club members (like us) can also enjoy:

White Wines: Reserve Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne.

Red Wines: Block 17 Syrah, Destiny Bordeaux Blend, Member’s Only, Grenache, Mackay Duck Press Red, Lemberger, Malbec, Rock Star Red, Tempranillo, Mr. Big Petite Syrah, Primativo

We became wine club members in 2007, the same year I started this blog and when ANC first moved to Woodinville. Over the years, Ali and Jarrod became our good friends. But it all began with the wine.



Blitz Carlton!

After the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland last month, I had an opportunity to join a few friends – and make new ones – on a post-conference tour to Carlton, Oregon.

And I can’t say enough good things about the people, the wine, the food, the accomodations and the amazing hospitality. I will most definitely return to Carlton – and I highly recommend you think about visiting too.

I will definitely write more in future posts, but I’m traveling a lot in the weeks ahead, so for now, I’d like to give big thanks to the wonderful people in Carlton Wine Country,  Republic of Jam, Seven of Hearts Wine, K&M Wine, Lobenhaus Bed & Breakfastwith special shout-outs to Thea, Lena, Bethany, Lynette, Byron and Ken.

Here are some of my tweets I posted while I was visiting the wonderful Carlton on a Blitz bus (hence, the Twitter hashtag, #BlitzCarlton). Enjoy!

  • First stop for #blitzcarlton #WBC12 is Seven of Hearts
  • Wine bloggers at Carlton’s Walk on the Park. Post #WBC12 #blitzcarlton
  • Pinot Gris @7ofheartswine is refreshingly crisp on a warm day. (Stainless steel & barrel fermented #mustbuy #blitzcarlton
  • K & M 2010 chardonnay an understandable award winner #blitzcarlton
  • 09 Cuvee from K&M Wines is bright, beautiful & a new fave @kandmwines #blitzcarlton
  • 2010 Luminous Hills Estate Pinot Noir wins Mr. Personality and only $28. Wow! #blitzcarlton
  • Mmm pepper. Thank you @marycressler for encouraging me to taste GSM 2010 @7ofheartswine Bring on the steak! I am a new fan! #blitzcarlton
  • Yea! RT @melanie0: @republicofjam Lovely ladies rocking hospitality. Some of my fav folks of all times #blitzcarlton
  • Ben Rice band is rocking the house @horseradish restaurant in Carlton. And love their blues. Oh yeah. #blitzcarlton #WBC12
  • Late night with Lena @7ofheartswine: Cab Franc and chocolates Yummy! #blitzcarlton
  • The Lobenhaus B&B in Carlton wine country is beautiful. Make time to stop over if you are near Portland OR #blitzcarlton #WBC12
  • 3 cheers, no 10 for the wonderful people in Carlton wine country @CarltonWine So friendly, nice & mighty fine wine & food #blitzcarlton
  • Good morning beautiful Lobenhaus B&B @Carltonwine. View from my patio! #blitzcarlton
  • This is definitely one place I am coming back to visit. Lobenhaus B & B @CarltonWine #blitzcarlton thanks!
  • Finally! I have wanted to taste @KenWrightCellars wine since 1997. And Ken is brilliant and funny #blitzcarlton
  • Love to learn – side by side cooperage tasting at @lemelsomwinery #blitzcarlton
  • 06 Estate Reserve from @carloandjulian – wow that is special! @CarltonWine #blitzcarlton
  • Brilliant! @CuveeRestaurant Thanks for a beautiful lunch #blitzcarlton @carltonwine @alexanawinery @bellepente and Carlo & Julian
  • 2011 Cannon Beach Pinot Gris, Carlton Cellars, the crispest Pinot Gris in Oregon @Carltonwine #blitzcarlton
  • Pinot Blanc is the new burrito wine! @noblepig? #blitzcarlton
  • Big reds loaded with fruit, 2010 Cab Franc is smooth & the Maserati of Cab Franc! @terravinawines #blitzcarlton @CarltonWine
  • If you like big red wine, @terravinawines in @Carltonwine is a must stop in Oregon wine country. #blitzcarlton
  • Donna Jean 09 Pinot Noir from Mouvance @Carltonwine is savory, silky & makes me want to sing like Michael Jackson #blitzcarlton
  • 09 Old Vine Meritage: Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot, Malbec & Petit Verdot & I love it @trooncarlton #blitzcarlton

So again, if you’re thinking about taking an Oregon wine country tour, plan to spend a day or two in Carlton!



Say what? Wine & Lemon Meringue?

Summer sippers are bountiful in Oregon wine country, as we recently discovered at #WBC12, the Wine Bloggers Conference held this year in Portland. During last week’s heat wave, we were refreshed by crisp Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and several Rosés.

But tasting wine took on an entirely different experience at Noble Pig in Carlton. (Note: In the weeks ahead, I have several blog posts to write about this wonderful town in the Willamette Valley.)

Our smart and creative hostess Cathy Pollak, a winemaker and well-known food-and-wine blogger, poured a taste of her 2009 Pinot Gris Noble Pig. First, we swirled and sipped this soft, lush white wine with a creamy finish. Then came a surprise.

Cathy poured what seemed to be about a teaspoon of lemon olive oil into a paper cup, instructed us to toss it into our mouths (like a shot) and then have another sip of the Pinot Gris.

She said it would taste like lemon meringue pie.

Say what? Wine transforming to the taste of lemon meringue pie? Is this a good thing? It turns out the answer is a resounding yes!

It was absolutely delicious. So good, in fact, I bought a bottle of her Galantino Lemon Olive Oil, so Dave could experience this taste sensation at home. (He loves lemon meringue pie, but that’s another story.)

Cathy offered up many other unusual pairings, but that one was a standout to me. Be sure to read her food blog for more creative adventures. And yes, we recommend the wine too.

As mentioned, we will be writing several posts about our two days in Carlton, in addition to sharing our experiences at the Wine Bloggers Conference 2012. We hope you come back often to read them.