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

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Find, July 27th

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 at or 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.

Each week as part of our Friday Find I try to tie in a little bit of knowledge dropping.  Sometimes its about philosophy, like last week, sometimes it's about literature, like that time I said I didn't like Ken Kesey and made at least one person angry enough to no longer read this blog, and sometimes it's about a thing more essential to the human condition than even those academic pursuits.  Today is such a day.  Today, I'm going to explain to you why those of us who race bicycles shave our legs.

The most typical misconception is that cyclists shave their legs for aerodynamic reasons. This may be a real upside but in order to see that pay off you'd have to be racing at such an elite level that it's not really something I can comprehend.  So, in most cases this has nothing to do with it.  Another reason that's cited and has a lot of credence in the professional cycling ranks is the difficulty that is associated with giving deep tissue massages to the hairy-legged.  In any case, I don't have a soigneur going to work on me, so that's not it here either.

So then why do I shave my legs, particularly given my low ranking within the great bicycle racing community? I'm a Category 3 Cyclocross racer and a Category 4 road racer.  There are no contracts on the horizon for me, unless I get a new cable service or something.

For me it boils down to three things, tradition, vanity and band-aids.  As a guy who's not exactly hair free, shaving your legs is a royal pain in the ass.  All women who do this, and let's face it, they do it because of a male social construct, should be given medals. Shaving your legs is incredibly time consuming and man, when the leg hair is growing back and you're wearing denim. NOT COMFORTABLE.

                       Yours truly a few laps before the crash. thanks to @luchavino for the photo

In cycling circles, real cyclists, those who race specifically, they shave their legs, it's what they do.  If you showed up at a race with hairy legs, no one would give you any respect.  This sounds absolutely insane, and I grant you, it very well may be, but it's true.  Ask someone.

Shaved legs just plain look better in lycra cycling kits.  This is scientifically proven.  I don't really see a need to pursue this line of argument any further.

Lastly, band aids.  Tonight I crashed my bicycle in a criterium.  A criterium is a race the object of which is to go around and around and around.  Many times.  The idea is that come the last lap, you have positioned yourself well to make a surge and win the race.  These races occur here in Seattle every Thursday, and they have no bearing on your official rankings and are not officially sanctioned.  For me, it's not so much about winning or even trying to win as it is about spending as much time as I can at the front of the race, working hard and building up fitness for the coming Cyclocross season. I was actually doing that quite well this evening until I crashed.  It was my own fault.  I came home with some impressive road rash and tomorrow when i have to change the bandages I will be very happy that my legs aren't hairy.

After fixing myself up I poured myself a glass of Rosé from Del Rio Vineyards.  The wine is a 2011 Rosé of Grenache from their Rogue Valley vineyards and on a hot day like this evening it was a lot of fun to drink.  There's a bit of zing to the wine that almost makes you feel as though there's a touch of fizz in the glass, it's got brilliant acidity and loads of fruit forward character that make it fun to drink on it's own.  The wine was barrel fermented and went through a partial maloactic fermentation. Not an example of bone-dry pink austerity rather a playful  yet serious pink wine that is a lot of fun, and it even tastes as though there might be a hint of residual sugar on the wine as it finishes out with round sweet melon flavors.  This Rosé can be had for somewhere in the neighborhood of $12.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Outstanding in the Field with Gilbert Cellars

The Outstanding in the Field (OITF) dinner series is perhaps the ultimate expression of the farm to table movement for those of us who don't or can't grow our own food in a backyard garden.  The dinner series, the brainchild of Jim Denevan, the founder and former Santa Cruz area chef aims to "re-connect diners to the land and origins of their food."  The series, a "roving culinary adventure," makes its way across the continent hosting dinners on farms, ranches along coastlines or in large urban gardens.  The aim is to allow diners to greater appreciate that food comes from a place, and that these places deserve our attention.

This year my wife and I were lucky enough to grab tickets to the dinner at Carnation, Washington's Full Circle Farm.  Nearly all of these events sell out; some in only a matter of hours. The dinner, which served 140, was prepared by Lark's Johnathan Sundstrom, an OITF veteran, using local ingredients from Full Circle Farm, Alvarez Farm of Yakima Valley, and Lopez Island's Jones Farm.  The wine pairing was provided by Yakima Valley's Gilbert Cellars and were poured by winemaker Justin Neufeld and cellar master Geoff Howell. Gilbert Cellars makes a variety of both single varietals and blends and have developed a reputation for delivering very nice wines for incredibly reasonable prices.

The guests' arrival was greeted by Justin and a glass of the 2011 Gilbert Cellars Rose of Mourvedre paired with two appetizers; a smoked mackerel crostini with Dinah's cheese, tomato lavender chutney, and marcona almond; and a pork rillette from Jones Farm with red wine cherries. The Gilbert Cellars Rose is another fine example of how the Northwest is bringing pink wine back into the serious wine lexicon. The Rose of Mourvedre was crisp and light, with a lip smacking acidity and melon flavors that made it a perfect food accompaniment. The dinner guests plowed through it.

After the appetizers, Andrew Stout the founder and farmer of Full Circle Farm, took us on a tour of their facilities. He and his wife Wendy began the endeavor 15 years ago on 3 acres.  In that time it's grown to hundreds of acres at a few different locations. Their emphasis is on habitat preservation, organic, seasonal and appropriate crops.  The farm has grown to quite an operation working mostly direct to consumer along with some specialty grocers in the Seattle area. To diversify their direct to consumer, organic produce delivery they work with local and West Coast farms to provide customers with quantities and varieties of produce to meet their needs year round.

We wrapped our tour and headed to the table; set up in a semi-circle in the middle of an open field.  Seating was family style and we ended up next to one couple from Los Angeles, one from Philadelphia and, as luck would have it, Geoff from Gilbert Cellars. Our first course was an incredible beet salad with lettuce, burrata (mozzarella injected with cream) and olive oil croutons.  The meals are served family style and so becoming friendly with those who are sitting around you is a smart move on a number of levels.  At the very least it will hopefully inspire a pang of guilt should they over-help themselves on any of the courses.  This course was paired with a 2011 Unoaked Chardonnay from Gilbert Cellars, fermented completely in stainless steel. It's bright and crisp with aromatics of green apple and lemon. A palate cleanser and  great wine for that creamy burrata.

The second course was a grilled Yukon River Keta salmon. The fish was dressed with lemon mint butter and accompanied by asparagus, sugar snap peas and baby carrots.  For Gilbert Cellars this was the trickiest of pairings.  They were torn between their oaked Chardonnay and the Rhone style blend the Allobroges that they settled on.  Geoff thought with the grill and a little bit of char on the fish they could pull it off.  An unconventional pairing and yet one that definitely worked; the 2009 Allobroges, mostly Grenache, is lighter in body for a red wine with great flavors and acidity that allowed it to be paired with a meat as delicate as salmon.

Our final entree was an insanely good pork loin from Jones Farm with smoked pommes de terre Robuchon, which is French for #$&!@ing delicious, along with garlic scapes, escarole and porcini mushroom sauce.  Seriously, smoked mashed potatoes? This man is a genius.  The good people at Gilbert Cellars brought the Left Bank to the table, a Bordeaux style blend that includes all five of the Bordeaux varietals. Geoff's take on the pairing was that the wine's "dark fruit core played well off the char on the pork loin" and the smoky elements of the mashed potatoes.

Our dessert course was a candied ginger shortcake with a berry and lemon verbena whipped cream.  For this course the wine, a 2011 Riesling from Gilbert Cellars, stole the show. The riesling demonstrated brilliant acidity,  and a kiss of sweetness that would have made the Germans proud. For the winemaker, Justin, this final course was the best pairing as he felt the acidity of the raspberries gave the Riesling a particular vibrancy.

For Gwynne and I, it was an outstanding meal, a special treat, from start to finish. From the food to the wine and the company. We left with a greater appreciation for how much work goes into creating the food that we eat, and what the impact can be, and at Full Circle getting to see the mindfulness and care that is taken with both the food and the land.

Gilbert Cellars was recommended to Outstanding in the Field by the staff at Lark, and it was a great choice, they're definitely producing wines with nice, approachable structure and prominent acidity that make for great food pairing. Geoff really found the whole concept behind what they're doing at Outstanding in the Field invigorating, saying, "the beauty and purity of the idea, and the commitment of the people who make it happen, to showcasing these farmers, chefs, and artisans within the context of the place where it all happens - the farm, vineyard, etc... - is extremely important.  For people to see where the food is grown, meet the people who are growing it, and see just how much it takes to make it all happen - especially in a sustainable manner - really helps to further the cause and deepen the guest's understanding and commitment to the process.  Truly Outstanding." Agreed.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pretty in Pink – Patton Valley Vineyard Rosé Festival Favorites

As a Pacific Northwester, I find myself unaccustomed to the sporadic heat waves that dot our otherwise mild summers. During these times I turn my back entirely on the heavy reds and syrupy dessert wines of my winter weather habits and turn to light sparkling wines, recently, Rosés. Last weekend I was delighted to attend and snag a few new favorites at the Drink Pink Rosé Festival, hosted by Patton Valley Vineyard in Gaston, Oregon.

After arriving in Gaston, a quick 45-minute drive southwest of Portland, we were wound up a dry, gravely, rustic road and directed to down a grove of Patton Valley Vineyard’s cherry trees. We walked along the grapevines toward the main event munching on fresh cherry palate cleansers, with the active trills of Calamity Jazz floating through the air, immediately setting the tone for this laidback, pink-themed summer wine tasting.

As a relatively seasoned event planner, I often find myself overly discerning as an attendee, however, Drink Pink had me completely blissful and critique-less. The ambiance, theme and related décor delivered an airy, summery, sophisticated experience and had me justifiably color-obsessed. The 15+ participating wineries showcased a varied palate of pink wines alongside Crown Paella’s, well, paella, and other delicious hors d'oeuvres. 

On such a hot summer day, each wine was light and proved to be thirst-quenching (a quality I personally do not often ascribe to wine) – here are a few of my favorites:

Elk Cove – 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé ($15)
This Rosé wins most unique and bang-for-your-buck: a tart yet bright wine with hints of vanilla on the finish, and further reviewed by Anthem’s own #handsomeman here.

The special label pictured dons the Cochon 555 logo, a culinary competition and tour to support local agriculture and raise awareness about sustainable culinary practices. Both Elk Cove and Sokol Blosser were among the featured winemakers in the March 2012 event.

Penner-Ash - 2011 Roseo ($18)
An impressive and beautiful raspberry color (for a Rosé) with the taste to match – this almost effervescent, crisp wine manages bold raspberry and cherry fruit flavors with a lightness only Rosé can provide. Added bonus: the screw top = hassle-free and picnic-ready!

Sokol Blosser – 2011 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($18)
Refreshing citrus on the nose, dry with light strawberry notes.

JK Carriere – 2011 Glass Willamette Valley White Pinot Noir ($20)
Peachy and crisp with light sweetness, high citrus acidity, and a pretty pale blush color for your summer tablescape.

Colene Clemons – 2011 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($20)
A delicate light copper wine with notes of intermingling strawberry and peach. On the dry side of Rosé with mild acidity. 

Patton Valley Vineyard’s own 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé was also among my favorites – you can find the Anthem’s tasting notes and musings on the history // transformation of American Rosé from the #handsomeman here

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Find, July 20th

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 at or 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.

For Nietzsche the Greek tragedy was the highest form of art, particularly in it's earlier forms before reason came along in and ruined things.  It's roots in the ancient festival of Dionysia; Greek tragedy came to symbolize the human condition, a balance between mankind's Apollonian and Dionysian natures.  The two progeny of Zeus representing in Apollo our tendency towards order, logic and reason and in Dionysus our animal impulses of sexuality, ecstasy and intoxication. The interplay and battle between these two are a constant struggle between succumbing to our impulses or turning towards order and separating ourselves from our emotive or carnal forces.

For Nietzsche it is this true essence of our humanity that has never been captured since. Perhaps as society has become more complicated we've moved to either side of the dialectic, either the orderly and staid Apollonian or the rambunctious and drunken Dionysian side has dominated. Rather than capturing that interplay of dark and light, carnal and practical that is a part of all of us. Art too has often taken on the role of keeping that Dionysian element alive in an all too Apollonian world and in so doing, it's one-sidedness fails to capture that complete humanity and thus by Nietzschean standards falls short.

This weeks Friday Find is a single vineyard Merlot from Washington state for $13, yes for real.  The Bacchus Vineyard Merlot from The Independent Producers and the wine-score-hating folks on Red Mountain at Hedges Family Estate. This is a really wonderful wine for the money on a number of counts, one it's not oaked to the gills and structure comes through substantially. Rather than loads of barrel spice or toast you are offered a fair bit of earth and herbal qualities. There's definitive fruit characteristics and for me, if it's Merlot and Washington state it's a good chunk of blueberry on the palate and aromatics, along with smoke and cedar. The wine sets up perfectly for food and it allows you to get a sense of what the Bacchus Vineyard from the Sagemoor Vineyards really has to offer.  Again, for $13 I'd recommend you pick up a couple bottles. Bacchus was the Roman counterpart to Dionysus and I'd think that your carnal side would appreciate the wine experience while your Apollonian side would appreciate the frugal better judgment you displayed in purchasing it. Hell, this wine might redeem Nietzsche's hope in humanity.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fight, Fight, Fight for Washington Wine

When the terms “cougar” and “wine” come together, for many it sparks images of bleached hair and full-to-the-brim glasses of White Zinfandel or Chardonnay (or terribly-named tv shows...). Here in Washington, when Cougars and wine come together, the result is some of the finest wine in the state. On Thursday, July 19, Seattleites have the opportunity to taste what 122 years as the state’s land-grant university have done for the local wine scene at the 4th Annual Washington State University Wine Symposium at the Palace Ballroom. While clearly there’s some extra love given to Cougs at this event (Alumni Association members save $5 per ticket!), you don’t need to be a Coug, love a Coug, or even be friends with a Coug to enjoy this event; you just need to like damn fine wine. And Beecher’s Cheese. Did I forget to mention the Beecher’s Cheese?

As the state’s original land-grant university, WSU has long had a strong focus on agriculture. Through their fast-growing Viticulture & Enology program, research through WSU Extension, and partnerships throughout the Washington wine industry, WSU plays a critical role in growing and maintaining the Washington wine industry and its nearly 700 wineries. Take a look around your favorite winery, and you’re likely to find a Coug involved as a winemaker, owner, business manager, tasting room manager, or key consultant on everything from organic grape production to pest control. The Viticulture & Enology program at WSU supports undergraduates in Integrated Plant Sciences, turning out students who may helm their own wineries, or take on the less-sexy but incredibly vital research and development aspects of wine. While you sip your Syrah, your mind may not immediately jump to test tubes and lab work, but for many winemakers the ability to embrace their inner chemistry nerd is a key driver to their work. In addition to training the next generation of winemakers, the program offers multi-disciplinary graduate studies and professional certificate programs through WSU Extension.

Clearly, Cougs celebrate Washington wine, and the WSU Wine Symposium celebrates and showcases Cougs in the industry, whether they’re blending the wines or making sure your tasting room experience is unforgettable. In the world of Washington wine, Cougs are behind some of the heaviest hitters, and the Symposium has lined up 11 great wineries to pour their wares:

For its fourth year, the Symposium has added a few new features to up the ante – guests will enjoy live music, and if you dig what you sip, bottles will be on hand for purchase. Seattle food demigod Tom Douglas’s Tom Douglas Catering will provide tasty treats, and the Coug-owned Beecher’s Cheese will be sampling their cheese in both regular and “mac &” form. With Beecher’s there, don’t be surprised if Oprah ends up picking up a last-minute ticket.

Speaking of last-minute tickets…this event is pre-purchase only – no ticket sales at the door, so be sure to visit the registration page and pick up your tickets. We Cougs are nothing if not a hospitable bunch, and want to share Cougar pride – and wine – with the world. So, Coug, Husky, Beaver, Duck, or Geoduck, make your way to the Palace Ballroom this Thursday. With wine this good, you may even find yourself throwing out a celebratory “Go Cougs.”

Tom Tuttle singing the fight song by willpwr1

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Find, July 13

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 at or 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 Northwest is a land of mystery. A far off corner of the map shrouded in mist, clouds and the dark of its signature evergreen trees.  The birthplace of enigmatic geniuses like Bill Gates and the sad Kurt Cobain and Elliot Smith. Possibly at least partially responsible for the tragedy that is Twilight series and then there's always Portland, let me know if you figure them out. Where else then would Sasquatch call home?

When doing some research for this week's Friday Find I stumbled upon the Sasquatch Northwest Investigators, "Home of like minded people who enjoy the outdoors and on going (sic) research into the Sasquatch mystery."  The homepage leaps with promise, pencil renderings of Sasquatch as well as different drafts of logo artwork for the organization, photos of a few of the members either "enjoying the outdoors" or looking at plaster casts of foot prints.  The website founded in 2006 however really begins and ends with the home page.  The buttons at the top of the page promise links to photos, empty, videos, ditto and news, "no items."  There are about 90 comment posts in the "General Discussion" area.  I can't really make any sense of most of them. It's truly a sad state, although the fact is it's not that much different than most people's wine or food blogs you come across. Many of them go without updates for months, sometimes years.

Let's get back to the whole mystery theme shall we?  This week's Friday Find is a bit of a mystery at that.  The producer, the Modern Wine Project I was at least able to trace to Trey Busch of Sleight of Hand Cellars, thanks to a Full Pull purchase I made some time ago, but still haven't picked up, it's more about being busy than lazy. The website for the Modern Wine Project is non existent and their Facebook page seems to have gone the way of the Sasquatch Northwest Investigators page, the trail has gone cold. The only place I can find any information is from some Cellar Tracker notes on the interwebs.  The wine, as best I can tell, was a bottling for Garagiste, Syrah mainly, with a bit of Grenache and Mourvedre. It's a crazy electric pink color, and while done in a dry style is much more round and luscious than many of the ultra crisp lip smacking Roses that are so hip to the scene right now.  Aromatics are ripe watermelon and strawberry, the wine itself is a bit curvy, particularly for a rose. Round, full bodied and loaded with luscious dark red fruits.  All of this was done in the neighborhood of $10.  An outstanding value, if you can track it down, like a hairy man-like creature ambling through the back woods of the Pacific Northwest.  It can be very elusive.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Generation Now: A.F. Nichols Wines

Alex Nichols is the owner and proprietor of the label of the same name, A.F. Nichols. Alex is a young guy by anyone's standards at 24, and he's already crafting Willamette Valley Pinot Noir that leads one to believe that when it comes to his winemaking style, he's an old soul.

Alex graduated the Enology & Viticulture program at Oregon State in 2009, but has been working in the Oregon wine industry for about 5 years with some vineyard work for the USDA, harvests at Oregon winery Belle Vallee as well as some time in New Zealand. In between these stints and working harvest at Adelsheim (which has been a substantial influence in his wine stylistically), Alex has spent early mornings and late nights creating his own Pinot, with two bottlings in the 2010 vintage. Having sampled the 2010 Principio it's an impressive first effort.  So, how does someone so "wet behind the ears" make such a nice wine the first time out? Alex is always thinking and learning about the wines and the vines of the Willamette Valley.

Alex's background is very scientific in nature, he's a laboratory guy. Yet he's fully aware that crafting wine is art as well as science, and that laboratory gizmos don't replace a winemaker's best tools: "their nose, tastebuds and intuition."  For Alex, his education has continued outside of the laboratory in the vineyards of the Willamette Valley, but perhaps more importantly in his interactions with some of the Valley's great winemaking talent.

Alex has done as much as he can to taste wine with some of those influential winemakers and for him, it's not just about tasting, but about really deconstructing the wine he tastes. "When I taste someone's wine, I try to recall every detail I know about their winemaking and their vineyards, then I can put the pieces together in my head. I decide what I like and don't like about a wine, then I figure out if it is a function of the site or the winemaker." For Alex, all of this analysis, perhaps a product of his scientific background, helps him find his own leanings, or preferences, in style and site factors, like soil types or vine age that contribute to the kinds of wines he'd like to make.

As a young winemaker Alex relishes the opportunity to be a part of the Willamette Valley's second generation. As one of the Willamette's young talents Alex is certainly looking to leave his own mark, but always with the deference due to those who have come before him.  "I think it is important to understand where this industry started, and I want my wines to reflect the classic elegant style that the founding members of our industry were making 25 plus years ago."

Alex's first contribution is the 2010 Principio Pinot Noir, an outstanding and elegant Pinot Noir from this newcomer.  The wine is very balanced with bright acidity, red berry and earthen aromatics. The palate has earthen undertones, black tea, white pepper and cranberry. Fairly light in body but complex and the flavors and aromas have a depth to them. The wine has a phenomenal satiny mouthfeel. $36

This wine was provided as a sample from the winery.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Friday Find, July 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 at or 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.

In the immortal words of the Wu Tang Clan's Ol' Dirty Bastard. "Roll up with the strong Five Deadly Venoms, Told him! Enter the Wu Tang! Witness the Shaolin slang that'll crush any sh!t you bring."  Besides being perhaps the truest statement made in the 1990s, the aforementioned lyrics also pay homage to the greatest kung fu film that was ever made, the 1978 classic The Five Deadly Venoms. If by some miracle you've not seen the film, flip over to your Netflix account really quick and order it. I'll wait. (Actually the above link is the whole damn movie.)

The film tells the tale of the Poison Clan, whose dying master is concerned that their deadly fighting styles are being used for evil.  He sends his last pupil to go and attempt to stop any evil doing. However the mysterious identities of the the 5 deadly venoms makes his job a tough one.  The various styles of kung-fu modeled after different venomous reptiles, amphibians and bugs. Five different deadly kung-fu styles, Centipede, Lizard, Scorpion, Toad, yes, Toad, and the Snake. I don't want to spoil it for you, but rest assured, lots of kung fu action, poorly timed dubbing and brilliant choreography, particularly from something 35 years old.

The 2011 Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Charles Smith Wines is a superb example of what Washington can do with Riesling, and the key is acidity, probably to tie it in, I will say, acidity with kick.  See. The wine is sourced from the more northerly Ancient Lakes area.  The wine is all sorts of fruit forward with peaches, apricots and grapefruit aromas.  It's crisp, refreshing and well priced. Those bright fruits continue in the wine's palate.  As someone who was tasting this wine with me said. "Every restaurant in the tri-state area should have this on their glass pour list." This wine's zing and zest will make it a superb food pairing.  $12.

Full disclosure I'm not sure we have a tri-state area in Washington.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

R.O.C.K. (and Wine) in the 206

Five years ago, Jen Doak saw opportunity in the form of a Gibson guitar. While Gibson inspired many a prolific musician over the years, Jen's epiphany was a little less "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and a little more (find a good song title here). Looking to build publicity for the Gibson Guitar showroom, Jen decided to bring together that most storied of pairings: musicians and alcohol. The creativity that allows musicians to blend notes, melodies and harmonies to produce a song inspired some of them to blend grapes and produce some of the area's best wine. (Even Dave Mathews has jumped on the trend lately, perhaps inspired by the venue he sells out every summer.) With winemakers taking the stage, the first Wine Rocks was born, and it's been going strong - and growing - ever since.

From its beginnings in a Gibson showroom to this year’s Pier 66 venue, the Wine Rocks event has certainly grown up a bit, but it still possesses all the youthful spirit and rebellion one might expect in a city known for bucking and setting the musical trend. While wine tasting and music have long paired, it’s the unique opportunity to watch the hand that carefully crafted your Cabernet craft a squealing guitar solo instead that makes this event sell out every year. From up and coming winemakers like Vinyl Wines’ Chip McLaughlin to familiar faces like Chatter Creek’s Gordy Rawson, a number of Washington’s winemakers will be hoping you dig their jams as much as you dig their juice.

Partying like a rock star means eating like a rock star, and in the Pacific NW that means one thing: Food Trucks. Last year’s Georgetown event introduced the trendy bites, and this year’s lineup features some of the best eateries on 4-6 wheels. One swing through Portland, Austin, or any other hipster food capitol and you’ll see that the battle for food truck supremacy is fierce. So how can you pass up the opportunity to dine from the truck ranked America’s Best? Marination Mobile will be there slinging tacos, sliders, and (fingers crossed) their mouth-watering Kimchi Rice Bowl. Save room for the bite-size Filipino delicacies from Lumpia World, check out an Eastern take on the ballgame classic at Tokyo Dog, and of course, save room for dessert from Sweet Wheels
Photo courtesy of Marination Mobile website

While the wine at this event rocks in more ways than one, sometimes a summer night calls for an ice cold beer or a cocktail. Our friends at Pike Place Brewery and Pyramid Brewery will ensure you get your hop fix if you need to throw a challenge at your palate. Girl power will be in full force with female-run Brovo Spirits, and the local emphasis continues with Washington-based Project V Distillery.

The main event, of course, is the wine, and this event gives you lots of wineries and price points to choose from. July 5 is the official start of Seattle summer (in case you missed the memo about Juneuary), and this event is perfect to find the Rosé, crisp white, or smooth red you'll be sipping all summer. There will be some familiar names for readers of the Anthem, like Dusted Valley, Fidelitas, Kiona, Long Shadows and Smasne. Hitting up the White House-approved bubbles from Treveri Cellars may be the closest most of us come to the Oval Office. With 40 wineries to choose from, you're sure to find a new favorite.

The best part? You can feel good about this evening out, as this not-for-profit event will benefit The Giving Grapes Foundation, working to provide financial assistance to service industry professional forced to take time off due to injury or illness. Tickets are just $35, and on sale now. This event sells out every year, so get your tickets quick and remember - save the mosh pit for after the wine tasting. We hope to see you on the waterfront!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Drink Pink at Patton Valley Vineyard; Redeeming American Rosé

From know-how to science and from marketing to defining a new world style, California has benefited the wines, winemakers and wine drinkers of the Northwest. In many and perhaps most cases it has been Californians who came here looking for new frontiers in American wine.  Looking for different terroir, different varietal possibilities and different styles than the Golden State can produce. The fact is that we owe California an enormous debt of gratitude; the Northwest stands on the shoulders of giants whose feet rest in California. There is, however, perhaps one exception. Rosé.

For all of that both Oregon and Washington have learned from the California wine industry, if there's a place to part ways, it's when it comes to the Golden State's pink wine.  Known to American wine drinkers as White Zinfandel, rather than advance the cause of pink wine, California and its sickly sweet syrup has set back the importance and deep traditions of rosé here in the states tremendously.

Lucky for everyone involved, the Willamette Valley has come to the rescue of American Rosé. The Valley has come to be known as one of the world's finest producers of Pinot Noir.  In recent years, brilliant bottlings of Rosé of Pinot Noir have arrived on restaurant tables and wine shop shelves on a mission to redeem American Rosé, and anyone who's tried them knows that this endeavor has been successful. If American pink wine can come back from the abyss it will come back on the strength of wines like these. Beautiful and undoubtedly serious, with bold aromatics, zingy acidity and great flavors.

In an effort to celebrate this brilliance, both literally and figuratively, the Drink Pink Rosé Festival kicks off on July 14th at Patton Valley Vineyard. They and 16 of their fellow Rosé producers have teamed up with Portland's Crown Paella - it is a perfect food wine, after all.  Attendees will get to taste Rosé from some of the Valley's newer producers like Colene Clemens as well as some highly regarded stalwarts like Elk Cove, Bergstrom and Penner-Ash. Patton Valley plays host and in addition to a bucolic setting and top notch food and drink, expect music from the big band; Calamity Jazz. (If you're not familiar with Patton Valley this event should a fantastic introduction, their wines continue to impress me and with efforts like the Pinot and now this Rosé I've tried, it will not be long before they're mentioned among some of the Valley's must-try producers. I've also heard great things about the Chardonnay.)

Tickets to the event are limited, they're $45 and available here.

2011 Patton Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir Rosé.  An outstanding example of the kind of serious wine that Rosé can be.  Patton Valley farms one block of their vineyard for this wine each year. They've selected the Dijon clone 113 of their Pinot for the rosé bottling. Red berry and bubble gum aromas lead to a palate of deep strawberry flavors with a great backing zing of acidity and a hint of effervescence. The wine is done completely in stainless steel but the fermenting on lees gives it great depth of flavor and softens the mouth-feel just a touch. $16 

2011 Elk Cove Vineyard Rosé of Pinot Noir. Beautiful color, hovering gracefully between pink and salmon.  Aromatics are fresh flowers and bubble gum.  The flavors and acidity of this wine are absolutely fantastic, watermelon sherbert and raspberry flavors in a dry, crisp and bright package perfect for summer. The acidity also makes it a fantastic compliment to food. This rosé is crafted from both young and older vines.  Initially the wine is gently pressed and allowed some time in contact with the grape skins. After a stainless steel fermentation some Pinot Noir is blended in for color and texture. (The wine is sold out at the winery. I cannot communicate to you how sad it is; the wine is brilliant.)

2011 Bergstrom  Rosé. Light salmon in color offset against a beautifully done label with accents of pink.  Aromatics of sweet strawberries and orange zest. This Rosé is done with both neutral oak and stainless lots blended together, and that technique contributes resoundingly to the palate. The wine is bright and balanced with great flavors of strawberry and watermelon. Traditionally crafted from Pinot Noir chosen specifically with this rosé in mind. The neutral oak fermentation gives it a bit more nuance and depth. $19

These wines were provided as samples.