Arts and Crafts Were Never This Fun

Sparkle and Fade

A Cabernet Experience

Exploring Terroir with Forgeron Cellars

Oregon's French Connection

Maison Louis Jadot's Résonance

The French Connection

Rhone to Columbia Valley: The Syrah Doctrine

C'mon Get Happy

New Growth at Matthews Winery

Who We Are

The staff of the Northwest Wine Anthem, we're good

Monday, January 30, 2012

Father & Son...Brigadoon Wine Company

From Kelsey Ivey

Just past where the road ends in a tree-filled cove of the southern Willamette Valley, Brigadoon Wine Company grows vines like family with family.

Sprouted in 2008, Brigadoon Wine Company located on a 66 acre farm with 15 acres of vineyards rooted in Bellpine soil, produces two wine varietals in a father and son affair. From rich and fruity Pinot Noirs to its breathtaking Pinot Blanc, the winery produces high quality wines that won’t break the bank.

“We do what we do and do it well,” said winery owner Chris Shown while savoring sips of their first vintage Pinot Noir. An accolade to the hard work and study of his son, Matt Shown the winemaker, as the sprawling vineyards draped in fog and surrounded by dense evergreen forest framed the duo through their brand new, tasting room windows.

Welcoming visitors like guests to their home, Brigadoon exudes rustic charm with its knotty wood, American antique style tasting room in the cozy Coastal Range foothills – practically hypnotizing you to come on in and relax like one of the family.

This down home trend also expands beyond the tasting room too and into the vineyards.

Tending the vineyards is like having a lot of children, explained Chris. The first one you dote on and worry about, but with each additional child you realize that bumps and bruises are just part of growing. And with this philosophy in mind, Matt and Chris have learned the same with the vineyards. “We do less and less each year,” said Matt. “A very hands-off approach.”

Brigadoon tries to strike balance between wine and site as stewards of the land. With hopes of making the wine business a multi-generational business, Brigadoon treats the soil with respect and understands its limitations and opportunities to nurture and flourish.

“Don’t try to make something out of the vines that isn’t there,” explained Chris. “I am, what I am, what I am.”

By not manipulating the vines, Brigadoon creates wine that reflects its site’s unique characteristics.“The ground is our factory and we must take care of it for our livelihood,” said Chris. Yet while practicing sustainable measures to protect the land, they don’t wish to compete for the most “green” with expensive labels and certifications either. “The money spent to renew [certifications] could be better used – such as on learning about other cultural practices to make the vineyard greener,” explained Chris. “The best imprint you can have in your farm is your boot.”

Chris and Matt’s attention to detail and passion for their land is easily tasted in their wines that sip with a pure, clean and light quality that is rarely sampled in wines of their price point.

2011 Pinot Blanc

The 2010 Pinot Blanc with a light and refreshing flavor features soft tones of citrus and melon without being over powering on the pucker. Finishing with a lingering clean and even tone, the almost clear colored wine makes a wonderful aperitif or really a good any-time-of-the-day-sipper. ($16)

2010 Lylee Pinot Noir

Described by Chris as a “wine for Tuesday night with meatloaf” the Lylee Pinot Noir, which is a combination of Chris and his wife’s middle names, is a light, yet jam-packed with flavor. Priced at an affordable $19 for a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, the wine nurtures red cherry flavors with a soft undertone of rosemary and forest leaves. Though inexpensive, don’t confuse this wine for cheap. The Lylee Pinor Noir is a fantastic quality wine that can be paired  with much more than just meatloaf.

2009 Tap-Root Pinot Noir

Brigadoon’s barrel select Pinot Noir with a heavier oak influence yet still well balanced by a pleasant silky texture and notes of bright fruit flavors. This wine is aged in French oak for 16 months ($32).

2008 Pinot Noir

Brigadoon’s first vintage, the 2008 Pinot Noir strikes a balance with the fruits of its labor. Featuring a ruby red color with a round velvety texture, light tannins and a cherry flavor, this Pinot Noir knocks you back and then consumers you with a finish that settles to the dark side. Get this bottle while it lasts, there isn't a whole lot left. ($42)

In 2011 Brigadoon produced 400 cases of wine but they hope for their next vintage to reach 600 to 800 cases as they continue to grow. Selling predominately out of their brand new tasting room, which opened just in time for the 2011 Thanksgiving wine weekend, visitor can enjoy taking in their beautiful view and sampling their wines April –November.

“We are very hopeful for the 2011 vintage. It will be light, very different." said Matt. "More fruit in the Pinot and more acidity in the Blanc."

And with a buzz already growing about their wine and plans to increase their production numbers for this coming vintage, Brigadoon is a winery to watch out for – this is no country bumpkin even if their tasting room is a little in the backwoods.

"With a name like Brigadoon, we could disappear for a hundred years," joked Matt while sipping their earthy Pinot Noir. "But we won't!" replied his father with confidence and pride.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Find, January 27

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

Ross Mickel is probably one of Washington's most understated, and if you ask those in the know, under-rated winemakers.  His unassuming label, Ross Andrew seems to fit his humble personality, but his talent is undeniable. If you doubt me, just note Ross was invited by the team at Force Majeure, formerly Grande Reve to craft their Series II which has garnered some lofty scores in the 97 and 95 point neighborhood.  So while Ross has the talent to deliver some serious wines he has yet to develop the ego or the obnoxious pricing to match it.  Frankly, it just doesn't suit him so likely, his wines like him will remain approachable in price for us to continue to enjoy.

The Meadow is a white wine blend from Ross Andrew that seems such a natural for the Anthem.  The fruit for the wine is sourced from both Washington(84%), in the Columbia Gorge and Oregon's Willamette Valley (16%).  The resulting wine is another great example of the kind of aromatic whites the Northwest is capable of.  Loads of aromatics that include pear and fresh cut green apple.  The wine is bright young stone fruits and a kiss of lemon peel.  Mostly Pinot Blanc, with a mix of Pinot Gris and the bold aromatics coming from the Riesling and Gewurtztraminer.  Also, probably my favorite chidlren's rhyme to read to my daughter right now is Over in the Meadow.  The Ross Andrew wines are fairly well distributed in the Seattle market .

Monday, January 23, 2012

Naughty or Nice... Hard Row to Hoe Zinfandel Release

From Lucha Vino

You say Primitivo.  I say Zinfandel.  Whichever name you want to give this grape, one thing is for sure.  You need to checkout Hard Row to Hoe's new release, the 2009 Zinfandel .  This voluptuous wine conjures up images of Mae West’s sultry invitation to “Come on up and see me some time…”

Before we get to the details on this bad girl we'll take a look at where the inspiration comes from.

Don and Judy Phelps are making some of the most interesting wines in the Lake Chelan AVA today.  The creativity and wit begin with the winery's name and extend through the names many of their wine's carry on their labels. 

Don is a great host at their tasting room regaling visitors with the story of an industrious entrepreneur, a row boat, lonely miners and the ladies of Point Lovely.  (Read more here.  Or, better yet, stop in to the winery for a visit and hear the story first hand.)

Back to the wine.  Judy is the winemaker, Don does most of the vineyard management.  Judy has a has a Master of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Connecticut Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department and Completed the UC Davis Wine Making Certificate in 2006 (the first graduating class).  She began making wine in her garage and went straight into the pro ranks starting Hard Row to Hoe with Don in 2006.

Judy definitely likes variety.  When I asked her about her favorite wine to make she responded with “Trying something new!”  You can see her pioneering spirit represented in the 12 different wines included in the 2009 Hard Row catalog.

Don and Judy grow five varieties on their estate vineyard from Sauvignon Blanc to Cabernet Franc and a few in between.  Their six acre estate vineyard on the Northern shore of Lake Chelan is tended through organic means only.  That means Don spends more time working in their vineyard using natural pesticides such as Cinnamon oil and planting other natural vegetation to assist with pollination and distracting pests from the grape vines.  All the hard work is worth it and shows in the wines Hard Row to Hoe delivers.

One of the most challenging wines Judy has made is a Cinsault that is still in the barrel.  The great challenge for Judy is allowing the grape to express its character rather than putting it through an exhaustive program to achieve a flavor profile based on a preconceived notion.  Judy prefers to work with the character of the grape rather than blending it away through the use of barrels or blending in other grape varieties. 

As a result, you will see many single varietal wines in the Hard Row to Hoe Catalog. Judy can take this approach with her single varietal wines since Hard Row to Hoe sells the majority of their wine directly through their tasting room.  Selling through their tasting room is a luxury that allows Judy to explore the unusual grapes and deliver some delicious wines for all of us to enjoy.

2009 is the second offering of Hard Row’s Zinfandel.  They sourced the grapes from the Rosebud vineyard on the Wahluke Slope, purchasing all they had to offer.  How much was that?  Somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 tons – Judy says that is the maximum Don can haul with his truck!  It is also all the Zinfandel that Rosebud grew in 2009.  This grape needs a long growing season which makes it difficult to grow in Washington.  As a result, 2009 is only the second Zin release from Hard Row.  The last one was in 2006.  The need for a long growing season is also the reason you will not find very many wineries making Zinfandel from Washington Fruit. 

This Zinfandel is not like those you may have grown accustomed to from our California neighbors to the South.  Judy really does let the grape do the talking and it shows.  The Rosebud Zinfandel was aged for 12 months in French Oak Barrels that ranged in age from one to three years.  After barrel aging the juice was aged for an additional 6 months in flex tanks (a relatively new material that is permeable to allow for additional breathing with less character influence on the wine).

The Hard Row Zin is shapely, luscious and has curves in all the right places.  The nose shows notes of Raspberry, Strawberry and a light earthy smokiness that gives way to a palate featuring similar red berry character along with some tart rhubarb and spices all rolling into a cranberry tinged finish.  In the old Point Lovely parlance you might say this Zin is a “Lovely Tart.”  One that could very well have induced many a miner to ante up and make that rowboat trip across the lake!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Find, January 20

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

The "Blizzard of 2012" has hit us square in the face and once again Seattle is trapped at home for the most part.  Yours truly included.  The writing was on the wall of course, the Facebook wall, with many of us pointing to Cliff Mass's blog.  This is the man who practically invented weather and yet was unceremoniously thrown off of the Seattle NPR affiliate KUOW, (aside).  While Seattle was coping with the blizzard Portland was dealing with rain of biblical proportions.  The LA Times made fun of Seattle and Portland probably made fun of itself, but it definitely made fun of something, but in a very cynical, ironic and almost imperceptible way.   In the end, we're all left to wonder if maybe the Mayans didn't just get the month wrong.

The Cana's Feast 2008 Two Rivers blend is of the Bordeaux style sort, the wine is plush, velvety and comfortable, perfect for your blizzard  or flood inspired lock down.  Cana's Feast is one of a handful of Oregon wineries that is making a goodly amount of Washington sourced wine.  The winery's name has biblical inspiration so it'll pair well with your wintry End of Days scenario.  With the Two Rivers they've delivered a value priced $18 wine that's coming from Washington vineyards like Coyote Canyon, and Red Mountain's Tapteil and the big dawg, Ciel du Cheval.  Gobs of dark fruit, cedar and spice as well as nice structure and acidity make for a wine you can pair well with dinner or drink by the fireplace.  This hearty red fits you like a warm flannel shirt on a cold winter day and even if it's only raining a lot, if the flannel is tight enough and paired with a handlebar mustache, that'll work too.  The Cana's Feast wines are pretty readily available in the flood and snowed in markets, at a variety of grocers including Fred Meyer, Safeway and Zupan's.  In Seattle look for the wines at Whole Foods or Sixth Ave Sellers.  Hopefully these are locations that you can either walk to, or take a boat.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

EFESTE's Seriously Good Time on February 4th

On February 4th in Woodinville, EFESTE Winery will kick off Rockin' Sips, a wine and music event with some of the hottest names in the Washington Wine industry pouring their wares. For the evening's hosts, owners of EFESTE Angela and Kevin Taylor, it's not just another party; it's part of a deeply personal commitment. In 2006, their son Joe was diagnosed with Leukemia and Rockin' Sips presents them with an opportunity to pitch in and do their part.

Happily, Joe completed his treatment for Leukemia in March of 2011, and for the EFESTE family this fourth annual event is a to contribute to the medical advances being made in the fight against cancer. Last year, the Rockin' Sips event, in conjunction with a portion of the proceeds from the very limited Klipsun Vineyard-sourced Tough Guy Bordeaux blend, helped EFESTE raised $18,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Who's the eponymous Tough Guy? The Taylor's son, Joe, of course; the wine is named after him.

While the inspiration for the event is serious, the event itself is about having a good time, with wine, food and music from classic rock cover band Sea of Green. EFESTE winemaker Brennon Leighton is "kind of a big deal" and he counts some of the best names in Washington wine among his friends. As a result of those friendships, wineries like Buty, Gramercy Cellars, K Vintners, Hestia Cellars, Sparkman Cellars will also be pouring. Palate cleansing beer will be provided by Pike Place Brewing and pizza will be readily available. Tickets are $35 (click here to buy) and all proceeds go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In addition to the great people and excellent wine, be sure to bring your check book to enter a killer raffle for a chance to win great prizes, including magnums of wine from some of the participants and a pizza party for 19 of your closest friends at EFESTE. The event is 4 to 7pm, on Saturday February 4th.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Raptor Ridge: Telling Tales of Terroir

In culture upon culture throughout the centuries, the traditions, norms and mores of a given people have been passed down through the tradition of storytelling. It is through stories and the transfer of knowledge inherent in the medium that we know who we are and where we came from. It's not too great a stretch to say that winemakers are storytellers, too, transferring the knowledge of the vines, grapes, and soil from the vineyard to the consumer.

The Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is defined by its elegance and at Raptor Ridge, winemaker Scott Shull is an ardent believer in the unique nature of that expression. Through his wines he hopes to allow all of us to experience the stories of the Valley and the vineyards.

Scott founded the estate winery, in the Chehalem Mountains AVA in 1995 with the 18 acre Tuscowallame Vineyard. Since then, he has become one of the Valley's most reliable storytellers. The winemaker, like the bard, must allow the story to tell itself, yet as the keeper of the story, it's his role to make sure that it's told properly, and that the truth within those wines is preserved. The wines of Raptor Ridge include a vast array of single vineyard Pinot Noirs and cuvee blends and Scott's goal is ultimately to make sure nothing gets in the way of the tale emanating from the vineyards.

Scott's approach to both his estate fruit and the fruit he's sourcing from multiple vineyards is very hands on. From cropping and trellising to leaf pulling, Scott puts careful thought into the vineyard practices that he believes will ultimately result in the truest expression in the bottle. In both the single vineyards and the cuvees, the aim is to provide a clear reflection of the vintage and place, be it Shea Vineyard or the Willamette Valley Reserve blends. Scott's been at it long enough that he knows what each wine is capable of and the story it can tell and his role is to help it achieve that potential.

Like those storytellers who came before him, Scott is taking a page from both the old traditions and the scientific methods of today. Scott's winemaking approach is not dogmatic. Rather, he believes in doing what is necessary to highlight the best elements of the wine and that might mean a combination of, say, cross flow technology for filtration and following Biodynamic principles like racking under a new moon. The methodology is focused on the Pinot Noir and what it needs as opposed to a winemaker's ego.

The Raptor Ridge Pinot Noirs are expressive and elegant. The Reserve blends, both 07 and 08 certainly give a nod to the vintage and are classically Willamette Valley. The winery's intention behind the Reserve bottling (begun ten years ago), was to provide a signature wine that Raptor Ridge could be known for in some of the 25 states it's distributed in. The Reserve bottlings are barrel selections and blends (the 2008 is a blend of 8 vineyards) that Scott thinks best tell the valley's story for that particular vintage. These Reserve wines are not only wines that Raptor Ridge can stake its broader reputation on, they have become favorites with the wine club members as well.

Raptor Ridge also produces six single vineyard offerings, including their Estate, sourced from the Adolfo block. The aim of the single vineyard bottling is to express that site's unique identity. The Shea Vineyard bottling remains the most popular, but having tasted the Meredith Mitchell I can understand the surge in popularity that Raptor Ridge is seeing in this wine.

The 2007 Willamette Valley Reserve is an elegant bottling and the acidity of the cooler vintage makes for an expressive wine. The blend for this particular vintage resulted mostly in Chehalem Mountain AVA from the Hawk's View Vineyard making up 30% of the blend. The aromatics lean towards Burgundian aromas of earth and moss, with a background of baking spices. The wine brings on blackberries and cola across the palate with soft tannins and an acidity that makes it a wonderfully balanced wine and one more example of why 2007 was such a wonderful vintage.

The 2008 Stony Mountain Pinot Noir delivers dark fruit and herbal aromatics. The palate of the wine has loads of black cherries, stone and nutmeg, ending in a spicy finish. The vineyard is located in the McMinnville AVA on a very steep slope, located near Maysara's prized Momtazi vineyard. I think we can expect the profile of this vineyard to continue to grow.

The 2008 Meredith Mitchell Pinot Noir is a broad shouldered, full-bodied Pinot that is dark hued and rounded but still carries ample acidity. Aromatics of cola, and dusty cherries and a hint of that 60% new oak comes across in smoky notes. The wine is full rounded with bramble berries, raspberry compote and a finish with white pepper. I am absolutely crazy about this wine, and I encourage you to look for it. It's on my shortlist of the 08s I've had.

The 2008 Willamette Valley Reserve. This super concentrated Pinot Noir is loaded with dark fruit aromatics, smoky cherries and spice.   Rounded and full bodied, this wine has superior structure, tannins and acidity.  Red berries ripe to bursting, baking spices, and leaning toward forest floor as spice carries out the finish.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Find, January 13

From Tiffany Stevens

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

Maison Bleue is located in Prosser, Washington. Jon Martinez makes Rhône-style wines, both whites (Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, Chardonnay) and reds (Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah). His winemaking talent is generating a lot of interest, and there are too many accolades and awards to mention. Suffice it to say, this winery crafts exceptionally good wine, and could easily charge more for their wines. (Did I just say that out loud?) The vineyard sources are in and around the Yakima AVA, including Snipes Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills. With so much press about these wines, the days of a $20 Maison Bleue beauty should be cherished and fully enjoyed while they last.

Today’s Friday Find is the 2009 Jaja, a Yakima Valley Red Wine from Maison Bleue, 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah from Boushey and Upland Vineyards. Vibrant ruby colored in the glass, the Jaja Red is an all around beautiful wine. Mouthwatering scents of raspberry cream, bright cherry, and hints of Herbs de Provence rise from the glass. Initially, the flavors reveal tart red fruit and black plum, as earthier herb nuances and smooth tannins come into play as the wine opens up. A few wines I’ve recently tasted fall into a category I can only describe as having a certain “glass ball rolling around on your tongue” quality,more specifically defined as clarity and focus that are exceptionally expressed. Odd description, but it is meant as the best of compliments. Maison Bleue’s website provides a list of northwest retailers and restaurants where their wines have been available, although calling first would be wise. It cannot be confirmed nor denied that the supply at the Fred Meyer in Newberg, Oregon has curiously been dwindling as of late.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

All the Young Dudes... Vinyl Wines

In the Mott the Hoople classic, written by David Bowie, we hear that "all the young dudes, carry the news, boogaloo dudes, carry the news." Carrying the news out of Walla Walla comes the "young dude" of Vinyl Wines, winemaker Chip McLaughlin. Chip grew up around wine and the wine industry with his brother Erik holding several posts in the wine industry (currently, Erik is the Director of Wineries at Corliss Estates). That early and constant exposure to the wine industry, coupled with the opportunity to drink some amazing wines has made wine approachable for Chip, more so than it is for many of his generation. Chip and his brother are close and Erik's relationship with wine became Chip's. Wine was automatically cool for Chip growing up because Erik was into it. "I never really saw wine as being stodgy or the like until I got a little bit older." In addition to the the cool factor Chip got to see behind the curtain early on, so he knew that winemaking is not glamorous work.

Like anyone starting their own wine label, Chip wanted his to be an expression of his personality. Chip's first love was music and when he looked at ways to make his passions his work, a collaboration between wine and music seemed natural. So Vinyl Wines and its reference to records was born. The Vinyl Wines concept really was conceived when Chip was listening to a new band his friend had recommended on MySpace. (Chip assures me this was "back when MySpace was still cool.") Chip's idea and what makes the Vinyl Wine brand so unique isn't the label, but what's on the cork. Each bottle of Vinyl Wines includes a download code on the cork. By visiting the website and entering your code you can download music by new and somewhat undiscovered bands from all across the country.

What kind of bands end up in a wine bottle? Bay area band Spanish Cannons is one. "My initial reaction was "What?! Really?" says front man Chris Michael (no relation to George). "I think nowadays its harder and harder to get attention for your products, be it music or wine or whatever. You have to really do something or say something or create something that stands out among the rest." Chris thinks that Chip has done just that in the Vinyl Wines product and he counts Spanish Cannons among the proud to be involved. "I think Chip really tapped into something amazing and I am excited to see where it goes from here. As far as musically, I hope people can relate in some way. We aren't looking to reinvent the wheel, we just want to create something that people will enjoy and hopefully make a part of their lives, like Chip's wine."

So, with such an imaginative concept behind the packaging, does the wine inside measure up? Yes. Chip wants to make a serious wine and with the first releases he's done quite well. Stylistically, Chip wants the wines to be balanced and technically well made. Chip favors wines made in an Old World style and that definitely came through in his Grenache (tasting notes below). "The exciting thing about being in Washington is that the entire industry here is still learning and maturing. I know that it is impossible to recreate what people do in Europe, and that's okay. I just want to make the most well balanced wines that I can with each vintage. Washington is doing something truly great right now and I can't wait until people start comparing other wines of the world to ours, instead of the other way around."

What's to come from Vinyl with the next release? Production is growing and while Chip hasn't let any varietals out of the bag, he's shooting for a release to coincide with the Walla Walla Spring release. There's more in store for the musical side as well. If all goes well there's a chance that some fairly well known musicians and bands might show up on the Vinyl corks next time around. For Chip, the idea behind Vinyl was to take away the perceived pretentiousness behind wine without taking anything away from the wine in the bottle or the music that accompanies it. "I definitely wanted to make it something hip," he says. I say he did it.

These releases are largely sold out from everywhere at this point, though there might be some Rose lingering in Seattle at a few shops. My words of wisdom for you is to get your hands on some of the 2012 Vinyl Wine releases when they come to market, as there won't be many and they'll go fast.

The 2009 EQ-Grenache: From the hip youngster comes an Old World style Grenache with aromatics that are almost Burgundian or Oregon Pinot in nature, dust and earthen characters, violets and dried Montmorency cherries. The fruit for this wine comes from the Walla Walla Valley's little known Cockburn Ranch Vineyard (hold the jokes). It displays an acidity that speaks to that balance Chip mentioned earlier. Red fruits like raspberries, red currants and cherries, and a touch of white pepper leads to the finish. The 13% alcohol says that all is not lost to the big and hot here in Washington.

Washington is single-handedly saving the world from bad rose and the 2010 R3 Rose was Vinyl's contribution to the effort. The hue on this wine is a bright hot pink but the aromatics present red fruits across the board. A hint of residual sugar and bright red fruits and rhubarb on the palate make this a summer wine for when the living is easy.

The wines were provided as samples.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Seattle's Wine & Food Experience; February 26

February 26th marks the date for the Seattle Wine & Food Experience and kicks off a very busy year for Jamie Peha and her Peha Promotions company.  Following the February event in Seattle Jamie will launch a series of Oregon focused events (more on that later).  And in addition to the Oregon focus for Peha Promotions this year, expect an Oregon wine focus at the Seattle Wine & Food Experience and to that we say... thank you.

This year's Seattle Wine & Food Experience, in addition to the Oregon focus will feature the following:
  • Distillery Row – featuring a dozen craft distilleries
  • Chef demo stage emceed by none-other than Chef in the Hat Thierry Rautureau
  • Artisan Food "Shop" a dozen great products locally made for the most part both for sample and sale
  • The 6-7-8 Audi Lounge featuring Taylor Shellfish Oyster bar paired with sparkling wine
  • Fonte Coffee Lounge
  • Live music by the group FOUR
  • The Beef Bistro featuring (Trellis, Andaluca, The Capital Grill, LUC) 
  • Special Wine Region: OREGON (more than 30 Oregon wineries in one area)
  • Stella Artois (serving up their fab beer in those killer glasses)
  • Beer and cider exhibit
Among the Oregon wines being poured include favorites here at the Anthem like Angelvine, Brandborg and R. Stuart & Co.  For those of you in Seattle not quite committed enough to make it beyond the boundaries of Woodinville, let alone the Willamette Valley this marks your chance to get a crack at the Northwest's Pinot Paradise.  

We're excited to see some of our Washington favorites as well like Forgeron Cellars and Treveri Sparkling wines.  There are also some wines we've never tried like those at Chelan's Four Lakes and Woodinville's Baron's V.  

For you booze hounds, the Distillery Row will run down a lot of Washington made spirits.  The food, chef demos, beer, cider and Oyster bar make it a full circle event that at $49 you oughta give serious thought to.

Get your tickets here... or:

We'll be giving away a pair of tickets to the Seattle Wine & Food Experience this week on the Anthem.  In order to win, Like the Northwest Wine Anthem on Facebook as well as the Seattle Wine & Food Experience on Facebook and comment on one of those Facebook pages between today (Monday and Friday to be entered.  Family members, pets and lovers of staff of the Northwest Wine Anthem are  not eligible.  Void where prohibited.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Friday Find, January 6

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

So much of Washington Wine Country lies on the arid eastern side of the Cascade mountain range.  The high desert climate brings with it huge diurnal swings that allow the grapes to achieve ripeness and sugars with the help of the daytime heat, and when that cool desert air kisses the fruit good night the acidity of the fruit is also preserved by that nightly cooling down.  Factor in whatever amount of irrigation your vineyard needs and voila, Washington does have the perfect climate for wine growth.  In Washington's third designated AVA, The Puget Sound you get a whole other experience.  Most of the vineyards are "dry-farmed" that is to say that they don't need or use any irrigation, (this is often the practice in the Willamette Valley given the similar climate).  And most of the wines chosen to grown in the Puget Sound are quite different from what you'd find over in Eastern Washington.  Strange names like Siegerebbe, Madeline Angelvine and Madeline Sylvaner.  Riesling and Pinot Noir are more familiar cool climate success stories. All of these varietals don't need as many heat units to attain ripeness and can thrive in the cool climate.  

This week's Friday Find is from the wet, west side's Whidbey Island Winery.  This is a find in two senses, this $12 wine is a bargain for one and for many of you likely an opportunity to sample varietals you're unfamiliar with. A non-vintage blend, (but the Whidbey folks tell me for all intents and purposes this wine is a 2010) of Madeline Angevine and Madeline Sylvaner.  Aromatics of all kinds of honeysuckle and a palate full of cut honeydew and cantaloupe couple with just a touch of sweetness and a nice food friendly acidity make this wine easy like Sunday morning, or a more appropriate time of day.  The Whidbey Island wines are available throughout Western Washington, or you could make a day trip over to see them.  

Thursday, January 05, 2012

From Behind Enemy Lines...The Pinot Debate, California vs Oregon

Here at the Anthem we give California a hard time.  Mostly in jest, mostly.  So, in an effort to get a little perspective we've sought out a "Behind Enemy Lines Correspondent" Charlotte Chipperfield a California based sommelier.  Charlotte runs down the Oregon versus California Pinot Noir debate for us...

Let’s face it, every industry has a diva. The fashion industry has their models and the wine industry has Pinot Noir. That’s right, Pinot Noir. Often the most demanding of all grapes. Tending to be thin skinned, (taking offense easily), and insisting on ideal growing conditions. Requiring an environment not too windy, not too harsh, not too dry, not too wet, nor too hot, hence, the diva mentality. With all dramatics aside, Pinot Noir may be demanding but given these ideal conditions and time to reach its maturity, this diva produces exceptional fine wines.

Here on the West Coast, Pinot Noir can be found thriving in both Oregon and California. But much like the state's collegiate football teams there is some animosity, (in the friendliest of manners of course), between these states and their ability to outscore each other in producing award winning Pinots. Having been raised in Oregon and having spent most of my adult life in California, you can image me sitting on the 50 yard line with webbed feet and bear claws trying to decide which end-zone to run towards…or am I?

The driving competitive factors between Oregon and California Pinot Noir production may be hard to pinpoint but there is no denying there are differences. For example, let’s compare the Pinot Noirs of both Bergstrom Winery out of Newberg, Oregon and Wild Hog Vineyard from Sonoma's Russian River Valley.
-Wild Hog Vineyard photo from Cork & Caftans wine blog

Bergstrom Winery has been producing wine in the Dundee Hills of the Willamette Valley forjust over 12 years. Their 2008 Oregon Pinot Noir has strong depth and character exuding a high acid structure, dark cherries, baking spices, minerality, and a touch of mushroom or earthiness.

Wild Hog Vineyard of the Russian River Valley has been making wine since 1990. Their 2008 Saralee's Vineyard Pinot Noir explodes with big fruit flavors, tart fruits, strawberries, blackberries, red plums, light to medium bodied with a slight effervescence.

As you see, two very different drinking experiences. So which states scores the most points when it comes to producing fine Pinots? Oregon may sit on the same parallel as Burgundy but don't be
fooled by the nuances of earthiness and silky tannins, Oregon could be charged with emulating its Burgundy cousin in displaying similar subtleties and complexities but I will let you gather the evidence before that trial. While, Californian winemakers deal with a warmer climate they are also creating a distinctly fruit dominating style of Pinot not to be dismissed. Pinot Noirs from this star studded state tend to display an ease of drinkability and an element of "je ne sais quoi" of their own. This race is tough to call and ultimately is up to the consumer and their individual palate but there is no denying a driving competitive factor is the climate.

It is, however, evident that our thin skinned diva is versatile as much as picky. And as to not offend our diva, let’s just say I'm positioned towards the end-zone that allows me to enjoy basking in the sunshine clawing my way through blackberry bushes over waddling through puddles in a forest hunting for mushrooms.


Sunday, January 01, 2012

Top Five Discoveries of 2011; The Anthem Looks Back

There are somewhere in the ballpark of 700 wineries in Washington state these days and Oregon is creeping up on 400. That adds up to a lot of opportunity for discovery. With such great variety there's so much wine to discover year in and year out and 2011 was full of gems.

As the days, weeks and months ticked by, we here at the Anthem were able to taste a lot of wines; wines from friends, wines we bought, wines we sampled at events, wines we received to write about and wines we shared over dinner, barrel samples of wine, aged wine and wine just pressed off the skins. That's a lot of wine.

At the Anthem we try to bring you undiscovered gems from the Great Northwest and along the way we often find that we ourselves are incredibly pleased with the discoveries. This year was no different, (actually maybe it was, as this was our first year in operation) and so we give to you our Top Five Discoveries of 2011.

5: A Value Wine that Transcends Time

The Bookmark NV1 from J. Bookwalter Wine Company was our Friday Find on October 21st but it stood out among the value wines we featured this year for a number of reasons. First and foremost, its price was astounding. Though the wine claims to retail around $15, I've yet to see it for more than $10. The NV (or non-vintage) designation is reallly what makes this blend special and for the $10 pricepoint, Bookwalter is using wines from some very nice barrels. The NV1 release contains wine as old as 2005 and is mostly comprised of the 2008 vintage. This was easily our top Friday Find of the 2011 year and from the readers I heard from who bought several bottles, you agreed. (Our tasting notes here.)

4: Doom & Gloom Don't Live Here

You can accuse us of being Northwest wine cheerleaders, "Ready? Okay!" and we'd be fine with that but the "sky is falling" approach that has been taken with really the last two Willamette Valley vintages is way over the top. Willamette Valley insider Jenny Mosbacher ran down the inside dirt for us on 2011 in this brilliant post. A couple of know-it-alls start talking smack and the next thing you know the whole crop has gone to pot. Fact is, if you talk to winemakers in the Valley about 2011 a lot of them are very excited, and exhausted, but they feel the vintage holds substantial promise. As further proof I found myself completely blown away barrel sampling the 2010 offerings from the Valley at the Salud Cuvee Auction. If there was a discovery to be made there it was that this vintage is "just right" as I think back on all the hand wringing that happened a year ago (cue the birds). Oh, and take my word for it, when it comes to market buy as much 2010 Antica Terra Pinot Noir as you can get your grubby little hands on.

3: Youth is Served

While it's very obvious to anyone who looks around that the wine scene remains steeped in old people what with their fancy cars and money; there's a movement afoot. The thing about being old is eventually you stop being old and start being dead. Before that happens you stop working as well, you may need help across the street with the groceries, and a reminder about whether or not you've already seen that movie. We've seen a youth movement here in our own wine region that's refreshing. Young winemakers in Oregon and Washington are showing a deep respect for the traditions of wine while doing it their own way. Young winemakers to watch include Brian Rudin of Walla Walla's Cadaretta, Melissa Burr of Dundee's Stoller Vineyards, Chip McLaughlin of Vinyl Wines and from Southern Oregon, Chris Jiron of God King Slave Wines.

2: Oh Canada

I love Canada for a lot of reasons, chief among them hockey, syrup and talking funny but if you're a wine lover that's ever needed a reason to love Canada, I give you Joie Farm winery. They make quite simply the best aromatic white wines I think I've ever had and I would say the best the new world has to offer. The growing, yet somewhat mysterious, Canadian wine industry is still shooting out all manner of varietals but they are indeed a cold climate region, perhaps more than anywhere in the world. The varietal selection and wine making techniques of Joie Farm's Heidi Noble and Michael Dinn are aimed at making the most of what they're given in BC's cool Okanagan Valley. There's a definite homage paid to old world white wines of the alpine regions of France and Italy and if you're one of those wine drinkers who claims to love white wines and you haven't had the wines of Joie Farm, what's holding you up?

1: My Wine of the Year

On occasion there are wines that stick with you and every once in awhile you say "Whoa." As it turns out my whoa wine of 2011 was actually released late in 2010, but the fact of the matter is, I drank it in 2011. The 2008 Les Collines Syrah from Walla Walla's Kerloo Cellars was my wine of the year. It was absolutely outstanding. The Syrah from Les Collines in 2008 was special, I had another Les Collines gem from Forgeron Cellars that was also memorable. The vineyard is part of the Amavi estate holdings and with its reputation for excellence, it has become one of Washington's most sought after sources for Syrah. The Kerloo Syrah delivers earthen and herbal aromatics and an opulent potpourri of dried rose petals and violets, delivering on both elegance in the aromatics and substantive complexity on the palate. A hint of orange zest has you wondering if there was any cofermented Viognier but this is 100% Syrah. The herbal elements that are a signature of Les Collines appear in the palate along with layers of earth, blue fruits and toasted hazelnuts. This wine is all gone, but the 2009s are not, though they will be soon. If you've not yet discovered Kerloo - hustle.