Picnic & Barrel Auction

August brings one of our favorite summer wine events — the Auction of Washington Wines and its Picnic & Barrel Auction on the scenic grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery.

On Aug. 15, more than 100 creative Washington state winemakers will be on hand, along with the talented chefs from Tulalip Resort, to provide fine wines and tasty treats. Talk about a gourmet picnic!

Notably, the largest and most prestigious selection of limited production bottles will be sold to the highest bidder, with proceeds going to Seattle Children’s Hospital and Washington State University’s Viticulture and Enology Program.

As you wander through the beautiful lawns, winemakers will be pouring their recent releases and more than happy to chat about Washington wine. So this is truly an event for both experienced wine enthusiasts and novices alike.

And if you want more tastes, barrel samples of yet-to-be-bottled wines are also available at the Barrel Auction. When you find one you like, place your bid on a case. The top-five highest bids for each winery will take home a medal, and be the first to receive the wine when it is released.

We love the Picnic & Barrel Auction because we can chat with our winemaker friends and make new ones. We can learn about the latest vintage, experience pours from many different wine regions, and feast on amazing appetizers such as “Rare Beef Tenderloin Lollipop with Roquefort Hazelnut Crust.”

At the Auction of Washington Wines website, you’ll find a full list of wineries participating in the auction, wineries pouring to guests, and the samples on the restaurant menus, along with an easy way to purchase tickets to an afternoon of fun and worthy causes.

We hope to see you there!


What’s in Our Glass?

Summertime means warm, lazy evenings on the deck and tasty weekend BBQs. And what better accompaniment than a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, a medium-bodied Pinot Noir or a robust Cabernet Sauvignon?

Yes, those have been in our glasses so far this summer – refreshing whites with prawns or humus on the deck, medium-bodied reds with unique, flavorful salads, and big and beautiful reds with hamburgers or on occasion, steaks.

Here are the wines in our glasses — at home or in tasting rooms — that we’ve loved in the past couple of months.

What’s in your glass this summer?



Time to Enjoy the Chateau Ste. Michelle Summer Concert Series

You know it’s truly summer when Chateau Ste. Michelle is alive with the sound of music. We attend one of the concerts at the scenic outdoor amphitheater every year, and regardless of whom we see, we have a fabulous time.

How can you miss? Beautiful grounds, fine wine, summer weather and music for dancing!

This year, we saw Pat Benetar and Berlin, featuring original lead singer, Terri Nunn. We were asked not to take photos out of respect for the artists, so you can’t see them on stage here. But believe us, the stage was jamming and the place was hopping.

Concert-goers came early (the gates open two hours in advance) to enjoy the warm temperatures and picnic on the grass – we saw everything from fried chicken and potato salad to delicious-looking cheese plates. Some people brought their own food, while others purchased food from vendors in the amphitheater.

And of course, many of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s popular wines were omnipresent — and oh so tasty.

Once the music started, most people were on their feet, particularly during Berlin’s chart-breaking song “Take My Breath Away” from the 1986 movie “Top Gun,” and Pat Benetar’s signature “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.”

But frankly, even if the music isn’t your favorite, this concert series is a win. What’s not to like about sunshine, gorgeous grounds, fine wine and happy people?

So if you haven’t bought tickets yet, have a look at the concert calendar and go for it! Still to come: a range of pop, jazz, rock and blues through Aug. 25, including Gipsy Kings, Gladys Night & the O’Jays, Lyle Lovett, Chris Isaak and more.

Have questions? Check out the concert FAQ.

It’s a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon or evening.


A Long Weekend in Carlton Wine Country

Carlton Wine Country in Oregon is a perfect getaway from Seattle, not only because of its close proximity but also because of the friendly people, the warm hospitality and naturally, the fine wine.

We recently spent a long weekend in Carlton at the beautiful Lobenhaus Bed & Breakfast, where eight other visitors, also from the Seattle area, shared stories of their positive experiences in the region. Each group had a list of wineries to visit, and we all compared notes as we dug into the absolutely delicious and plentiful breakfast served each morning by our delightful hosts, Shari and Joe Lobenstein.

In addition to Lobenhaus, here is our list of favorite places (in no particular order) to visit in Carlton Wine Country.

Seven of Hearts: Our first stop on Friday afternoon was to visit with Rachel Go and winemaker Byron Dooley <pictured above>, who showed us his amazing lineup of 30 wines in the 2012 vintage and 21 wines in 2011 – several of which we tasted, loved and brought home.

Carlton Cellars: We spent an hour on Saturday chatting with winemaker Dave Grooters <pictured right>, listening to his entertaining stories and trying several outstanding wines, ranging from crisp summer sippers, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, to several tasty Pinot Noirs.

K&M Winery: We had so much fun with Ken Morrison and Mauro Hernandez <pictured left>, who poured classic Pinots such as NV Pinot Noir Oveja, 08 Pinto Nori, 09 Pinot Noir Reserve and 2010 Pinot Noir Cuvee. (And that cheese spread throughout the tasting room – what a treat.)

Ken Wright Cellars: From a 2011 Pinot Blanc to a 2007 Pinot Noir, Ken Wright’s wine showcased the stunning grapes that put Oregon on the map.

Noble Pig: What we love about this tasting room is that each flight of wine is accompanied by unusual pairings. For example, it’s a unique experience to taste lemon oil shots (last visit) or orange oil shots (this time) right after a sip of white wine.

Barking Frog Winery: Known for bold, full-bodied reds, we particularly enjoyed the two Barberas and the 2009 Pinot Noir Bailey, which won a double gold at the 2013 Oregon Wine Awards.

Troon Vineyard: After so many pours of Oregon Pinots, Chelsea Janzen showed us a nice change of pace at this laughingly described “anti-Pinot” winery. Their fabulous big reds include a stellar 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, a 2010 Old Vine Meritage and a 2011 Zinfandel. Troon was recently named “One of the Top Ten Hottest Wine Brands” in the US by Wine Business Monthly.

We really experienced the Carlton wine country spirit at each of these wineries, but a trip to Carlton is never complete without a stop to see Lynette Shaw and Amy Wilder <pictured right> at Republic of Jam.

These two incredible women run their store like a jam tasting room with flights of jam paired with tasty treats. Here’s an example: Boysenberry Orange Teriyaki Chicken.

Wow, what an explosion of flavors at Republic of Jam! We tried so many, but my favorite was Blueberry Lemon while Dave preferred Cranberry Raspberry.

We intend to write more posts about our experiences in Carlton wine country. Until then, check out the websites in this post and think about planning your own visit soon.