Don’t Miss Taste Washington’s 20th Anniversary Celebration

Run, don’t walk, to get your tickets to Taste Washington, which we call “the Super Bowl of Wine Events” because it is the country’s largest single-region wine and food extravaganza. You don’t want to miss this explosion of tastes, fun and education on March 23-26 in Seattle.

This year, Taste Washington celebrates its 20th anniversary with almost 300 wineries, more than 70 restaurants and top national chefs. In honor of this milestone, the 2017 expanded lineup offers four days packed with diverse activities.

And for the first time ever, you can purchase The Connoisseur Festival Pass for four days of VIP access to signature events, with these extra benefits: jump the line at all major events, reserved seating at Alaska Mileage Plan Chef’s Stage and a gift bag with a bottle of Washington state wine, an autographed Cook + Cork Cookbook, a one-year subscription to Seattle Met magazine and a trio of El Gaucho spices.

We love to go to Taste Washington every year and are really looking forward to the 2017 activities:

  • You’ll find “super-exclusive wine pours” at the VIP Red & White Party at AQUA by El Gaucho on Thursday, March 23 from 7p.m.-10 p.m.
  • Taste Washington on the Farm gives you an opportunity to explore the northwest’s bounty, alongside farmers, chefs and winemakers on Friday, March 24 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. New excursions in this year’s lineup include visits to Tahoma Farms and Ox Bow Farm & Conservation Center.
  • The New Vintage with its trendy Rosé Lounge at the Four Seasons Seattle features music, more than 40 wineries and 11 chef stations on Friday, March 24 from 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
  • Informative and fun wine seminars, which include tastings and interactive panels, will be held on Saturday, March 25 and Sunday, March 26 from 10:30 a.m.-noon at the Four Seasons Seattle.
  • New: Think about joining a Taste & Savor Tour through Pike Place Market on both Saturday and Sunday, at 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
  • The Grand Tasting at CenturyLink Field Event Center will be held on both Saturday and Sunday, from 1 p.m.-5:30 p.m. (tasting hours have been extended this year).

Before you enter the doors of the Grand Tasting, we highly recommend that you develop a plan. Because once there, you will be hit with a massive amount of taste potentials — and it can be overwhelming.

So make a list of wineries and restaurants you want to make sure to visit. But always leave room for some flexibility; chances are something will catch your eye as you walk through the aisles.

Of note, we recommend tasting and spitting wine (or pouring it into the buckets at each booth) at this major event, but if you think you might want more than a sip or two, many hotels in the area are offering special weekend packages. Otherwise, be sure to have a designated driver, or take cabs or local transit home.

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Border Wine Storage

If you are in the Vancouver area and want to find storage space for the wine you purchase in the U.S. — or if you are in Whatcom county and need more storage room for your wine collection — look no further.

Border Wine Storage is now open in Ferndale, WA, and is offering “grand opening prices” worth checking out.

Throughout 2017, you can store eight cases of wine for $21/month in a temperature-controlled, secure locker, just a 15-minute drive from the B.C./Washington border and a 10-minute drive from the Bellingham airport. Sixteen cases cost $32/month for storage. Other sizes and rates are also available.

“The sixteen-case locker is our most popular size but you can easily trade up or down as your wine storage needs change,” says Chimo Boehm, co-owner of Border Wine Storage. “This allows B.C. wine enthusiasts to order and store wine purchased in the U.S., opening up the vast selection and lower prices of wine, which can be delivered to a ‘real’ address in Washington state that is close to home. We call it ‘wine without borders.'”

This provides people from the Vancouver area the opportunity to sign up for their favorite U.S., South American or European winery’s private mailing list or wine club, or they can order wine from major online retailers.

Wine enthusiasts in Bellingham, Birch Bay, Semiahmoo, Blaine, Ferndale and Lynden might also enjoy the convenience of extra storage space for their wine collections.

Specifically, the storage facility offers:

  • A refrigeration system for a constant temperature of 55-57 degrees (13-14 degrees Celcius)
  • Humidity in a range of 60 to 70% RH and monitored to prevent your corks from drying or your labels mildewing
  • 24/7 professional monitoring service with cellular back-up
  • Two forms of keypad entry and individually keyed lockers
  • Security cameras to monitor every vantage point
  • Locker access seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

More details can be found at Border Wine Storage or by phoning 360.393.4391 (WA) or 604.283.7095 (BC).

In the name of transparency, we recently met Chimo, when we first heard of Border Wine Storage, and we have become wine industry friends.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Washington State Crushes Wine Grape Harvest Record

The state’s record for its wine grape harvest was crushed in 2016, according to a report released by the Washington State Wine Commission.

The commission’s Annual Grape Production Report showed 2016 had the biggest wine grape harvest in the state’s history: the 2016 harvest totaled 270,000 tons, a 22-percent increase over 2015 and easily surpassing the previous record harvest of 227,000 tons in 2014.

The largest growth came from Cabernet Sauvignon, with a 23,700-ton increase. This also meant that Cab Sauv was the top-producing variety grown in the state — 71,100 tons or 26% of the total. Merlot was ranked second, at 48,400 tons or 18% of the total. Syrah came in third of the reds, at 21,300 tons, followed by Cab Franc at 4,300. Malbec rounded off the top five reds at 2,700.

Overall, red varieties accounted for 58% of the total production, compared to 51% in 2015.

Chardonnay was the top white grape and third overall at 45,000 tons, while Riesling was right behind it at 41,300 tons. Sauvignon Blanc was ranked third among whites, trailing with 9,800 tons, followed by Pinot Gris at 8,700 and Gewurtztraminer at 2,600.

A sign of further growth — there are now more than 900 winery licenses in Washington State.

“2016 was a year for the record books,” said Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission, which represents every licensed winery and grape grower in the state. “Not only did we see our biggest harvest ever – but it was a great harvest. The weather in Eastern Washington cooled down a bit to extend the growing season and allow the grapes some extra time to mature on the vine. Our growers and winemakers are extremely excited about these wines.”

Further details are available in Annual Grape Production Report.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Your Car + Their Driver When Wine Tasting in the Seattle Area

There’s a new, safe way to visit the numerous winery tasting rooms in the Seattle area — now you can order Main Street Drivers to be the designated driver of your car. In other words, the company’s “your car + our driver” concept means a professional chauffeur drives your vehicle.

It’s less expensive than renting a car or a limo service. And whether you are with your spouse, family or a group of friends, everyone can enjoy the day wine tasting without having to worry about safe driving afterward.

Think about it – customized transportation at taxi prices to take you around Seattle Urban Wineries and Woodinville Wine Country — popular wine destinations in the Seattle area.

This is particularly helpful if you want to participate in Spring Release Weekend or other winery events, have a fun night on the town, during special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries and birthdays, or even in the busy summer tourism season (so you don’t have to worry about finding a parking space).

Founded in 2011, Main Street Drivers began offering its services in the Hamptons, and now operates in the wine regions of Finger Lakes and North Fork in New York, Willamette Valley in Oregon and the Walla Walley Valley, in addition to the new service in the Seattle area.

All drivers have professional driving experience, background checks and insurance.

Reservations are $35/hour, plus a 20% service fee/gratuity, and can be made at the Main Street Drivers website, where you can also find additional information.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Data Science to Easily Pair Wine and Cheese? Yes!

How many times have you wondered which cheeses pair well with your favorite wines? Or perhaps you’ve debated which wines complement your favorite cheeses.

You might have conducted online searches or looked at books for advice. Ultimately you probably found the answers, but how long did it take?

Now, thanks to data science and a Canadian professor, you can find results in an instant.

University of Toronto professor Gary Bader specializes in biological network analysis; he and a team of computer scientists and molecular geneticists developed a free interactive website, Wine and Cheese Map, to suggest pairings for about 100 red and white wines, and about 270 cheeses.

“You just quickly look at a picture and see patterns that would be very difficult to find if you were looking through data spreadsheets one row at a time,” Bader told the BBC.

The website process is very simple. To find which wines pair best with your favorite cheese, just type the name of the cheese in the search box. In an instant, you will be shown red and white wines that pair well with it. Similar cheeses will also be identified.

For example, if you have some delicious Gorgonzola in your fridge, and wonder what wine to drink with it, simply type in “Gorgonzola.” You will discover that it goes very well with California Cabernet Sauvignon, as do three similar cheeses, Cashel Blue, Stilton and Fourme d’Ambert.

Or if you have a bottle of Shiraz ready to pour, and want to know what cheese to pair with it, simply type in “Shiraz” and you will see the answer (as shown in the map below): Gruyere, Winchester Aged Gouda and many other cheeses.

In addition, the map’s interactive features allow you to move between different wines and cheeses. For example, if you click on “Gruyere” in the above map about Shiraz, you will be shown a new map (below); and you will discover that Gruyere also goes well with California Sauvignon Blanc, Tuscan Sangiovese, Syrah and California Zinfandel. Again, other similar cheeses are also noted.

The map can be used for planning parties or even when you’re shopping. So next time you are visiting a cheese bar in your favorite grocery or specialty store, or choosing wine from your cellar to go with that special cheese in your fridge, open up Wine and Cheese Map on your mobile device to help make your selections.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Lauren Ashton Scores Again

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 4.17.09 PM The motto of Lauren Ashton Cellars — “True Washington Character” — has been noticeable in every sip we have tasted of Kit Singh’s elegant wines in the last five years.

This continues to be the case in his two recent releases, which we were fortunate enough to sample last week, courtesy of the winery: 2013 Proprietor’s Cuvée and 2013 Cuvée Estelle.

As with any new release, the wines are still young; but both are very approachable with decanting. They also have great aging potential.

Lauren Ashton Cellars 2013 Proprietor’s Cuvée ($65)
This is an elegant, complex and impressive Cab-based Bordeaux-style blend — 70.4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.3% Merlot, 13.3% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec — showing structure and balance immediately, followed by plush tannins after opening up. Luscious dark-fruit flavors follow a nose of violets, black cherries and plums. Pair this wine with beef, pork, lamb or any rich meat dishes. Kit wowed fans with the 2009 and 2011 vintages, and we predict that he is set to do the same with this stellar release.

Lauren Ashton Cellars 2013 Cuvée Estelle ($40)
This is another elegant Bordeaux-style blend, with Merlot (64%), Cabernet Sauvignon (27%) and Petit Verdot (9%). The Merlot brings aromas of violets and black fruit, the Cab Sauv adds depth and weight, and the Petit Verdot offers hint of spice to sweet cherry flavors. Enjoy this wine with grilled meats, or pour it as a stand-alone wine to enjoy with friends.

The bottom line: We highly recommend stopping by Lauren Ashton Cellars Tasting Studio in the Hollywood District of Woodinville or finding out more about these notable wines at their website.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave