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

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Find, November 30th

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 fiscal cliff is looming. While I'm overtly political in my personal life, I tend to leave that out of the blog, that's not why people come here.  If you want that, we can be friends on Facebook.  The fiscal cliff though, in it's being is not necessarily a political topic unless you start to assess blame for it's existence and the chance of us driving off of it. What it is, in case you don't have time for that wikipedia link is a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts that would attempt to quickly reduce the budget deficit. Why it's sorta "cliffy" is that while that sounds okay in principle, it fails to take into account the current economic realities, where a particular combination of tax hikes and spending cuts in a down economy can have dire consequences.  The most interesting thing about cliffs is that without going right up to them and looking over the edge, you don't really get to take in their grandeur.

The idea of a cliff, the earth ending abruptly and then plummeting precipitously down to the ocean, or a river or what have you is exhilarating to behold, but not from a distance. So for example I've been to the Cliffs of Moher on the coast of Ireland. Absolutely stunning. It's a beautiful place to look from the edge of Ireland into the Atlantic. It's easy to imagine that in simpler times, we're talking long ago that the inhabitants could have simply thought it was the end of the Earth. Also, it's terribly windy. .

Where cliffs are unimpressive is from a distance. If you were to tell someone, "hey, there's a cliff up ahead, it's beautiful." They wouldn't necessarily believe you, or grasp the full reality of it.  A cliff is a dramatic viewpoint is that abrupt visual change, the horizon drops and the sky opens up. It's a beautiful and terrible thing all at once, particularly if you're prone to cliffs like one Wile E. Coyote. Here's hoping that while we may take in the view on this one, that's as far as we go.

Today's Friday Find is a Friday Fudge. That means that it's a buck or two north of our $20 limit. The Mannina Cellars 2009 Sangiovese from Seven Hills Vineyard. Sangiovese, here in Washington, is typically thought of as a great food wine, and one that can serve as an entry point for red wines for those who claim that New World reds are simply to dense and concentrated for them. It's typically a wine that highlights bright red fruits and lighter spice notes.  This wine however is a horse of a different color and I credit the vineyard site for that.  Dark hued and earthen this is certainly a Sangiovese and a great food option but it will give you a glimpse of the kinds of range the grape is capable of, and a bit of a hint of why the wines of Tuscany, which are nearly all 100% Sangiovese can show such great range. It's $22, wonderful for the price and you can find it at Wine World, and well stocked wine shops throughout Western Washington.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

SE Wine Collective: Pleased to be Your Neighbor...

From Marty Sparks, aka Lucha Vino

The South East Wine Collective is a new venture that opened this fall in South East Portland.  The project is the brainchild of Kate and Thomas Monroe and came to life as they were scouting their neighborhood for a new production facility to host their own winery - the Division Wine Making Company.

The “best space” turned out to be larger than necessary for a single winery, so the idea for the SE Wine Collective was born.  They invited three other urban Portland winemakers to join in the venture.  The space plays host to Helioterra, Vincent Wine Company, Bow & Arrow and of course the Monroe's Division Wine Making Company.

Putting together the group of wineries was pretty easy.  All the winemakers already knew one another as members of the close knit urban wineries in the Portland area.  They are all at a similar point in developing their businesses; building a brand and reputations and many still hold a second “day job” while running their wine making ventures.

The excitement is palpable at the SE Wine Collective.  Everybody is really stoked about having their production facility and tasting room right in their own community. Anne as well as Kate and Tom live right in the SE neighborhood.  They are building connections with their neighbors and you can feel the energy it is generating for the winemakers and for visitors.

The tasting room has a hip urban feel to it.  The ceilings are double height and the interior is a mix of warm woods and urban concrete.  There is a private dining room and barrel room right next to the wine bar.  The space is cozy and is already being put to good use.  Anne hosted a private dinner for 20 Helioterra Wine Club members as a harvest celebration.  A gourmet food truck brought the feast to the revelers, parking at the facility and preparing fresh pasta dishes for the event.

Anne explained how cool it is to be working in the production facility and see somebody enjoying your wine in the tasting room.  She has taken the opportunity to introduce herself and share some of her story with the people enjoying her wine.  If you are lucky, you might even get to lend a hand with a punch down or some other aspect of the wine-making process.

An advantage of sharing the production space is the ability to share ideas and equipment with one another.  Tom and Kate had most of the production equipment and the other winemakers have contributed some of their own equipment as well. There has always been an ethic of sharing withing the urban Portland wine scene.  Now, with four winemakers in one place, the cooperation come even more naturally.   That ease and access to more equipment turned out to be a major coup with the 2012 vintage.

2012 turned out to be one of the driest seasons in Oregon in the last 30 years.  The fruit was beautiful with the Pinot Noir being a bit riper than usual.  The quality of grapes this year lead to higher production yields per ton than previous vintages.  There was very little waste and mold was not an issue in 2012 like it has been in so many other vintages due to the moister weather that Oregon typically experiences in comparison to Washington.

Each of the winemakers has a slightly different style.  Anne makes Pinot from the Willamette Valley and some single varietals from Washington grapes.  She focuses on letting the fruit express itself and often asks for her Washington fruit to be harvested early to maintain some of the subtle character of the grapes.

Helioterra 2010 Columbia Valley Syrah Sourced from the Coyote Canyon vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA.  The Syrah is co-fermented with Viognier.  Thirty percent of the Syrah is fermented as whole clusters.  The result is a really nice Syrah that shows off notes of dark fruit, all-spice and cracked pepper along with elegant floral overtones.

Vincent makes Pinot from the Ribbon Ridge and Eola-Amity Hills AVAs.  He takes a “less is more” approach to his winemaking.  As an example, he does fewer punch downs than others explaining that “if you handle that really nice cut of beef too much you can end up with a charbroiled burger instead of a nice juicy steak.”

Vincent 2011 Zenith Pinot Noir – Vincent let the grapes ferment for several days before any punch downs and then only did a single daily punch down until pressing off the juice to produce a Pinot Noir that is spicy and medium to full bodied with ripe strawberries, all spice and hints of white pepper.  Vincent says the grapes from Zenith are a bit more robust and are able to stand up to more time in the barrel which leads to the additional spice character in this wine.

Tom and Kate are heavily influenced by the time they spent learning the wine-making process in France.  In fact, they began their careers by travelling back and forth between the States and France to take part in three vintages.  Each time they worked in a different region of France.  The time they spent in Beaujolais inspired them to make a wild, young and racy Beaujolais Nouveau that was being released at their Pre-Thanksgiving Party.

Division 2011 Chardonnay is made from Chardonnay vines that were planted in the mid-70s.  These are some of the few remaining original Chardonnay vines planted in Oregon. The grapes come from the Eola springs area west of Salem.  Tom uses one stainless steel tank, one neutral barrel and one new barrel when making this Chardonnay.  The barrels are made for white Burgundy wines which allows for some nice subtle barrel notes to come out in this gorgeous example of Chardonnay.

Bow and Arrow focuses on making wine in the style of the Cheverny region of France located in the Loire Valley.  The red wines from this region are all blends of Pinot Noir and Gamay.  Scott chose this style to provide “something different” while still using the Pinot Noir grape that is so prevalent in Oregon.

Bow and Arrow 2011 Rhinestones because France makes the Diamonds, anyplace else is just making imitations…  A blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay this is a medium bodied red wine with enough acidity to make it a refreshing complement to a variety of dinner dishes.

The urban wine scene in Portland is kicking out the jams!  If you live in the area, or are just passing through, you need to make time to stop in at SE Wine Collective and see exactly what all the excitement is about.

Friday, November 23, 2012

"Black Friday" Find, November 23rd

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

Black Friday, the term strikes fear in the hearts of men... women too. What is probably one of the most obscene "holidays" on the human calendar. The idea behind "Black Friday" is that it is the first day of the calendar year when retailers actually go into the "black" or make a profit for the year. Which, if you think about that, even using the fiscal year calendar, it's sorta depressing. If the fiscal year starts in July we're looking at damn near December for retailers to get out of the red? That's almost half the year. You can do math.

What further makes Black Friday confounding is how much you just spent on dinner the night before. I mean, turkey, and all the fixings, that isn't cheap, so going out the next day and willfully looking to throw some more loot around is not a state of mind I can necessarily relate to, although wine shops don't typically have crazy blow out deals either.

Over the past several years there have been news stories of people perpetrating acts of violence against one another. People have been shot and pepper sprayed and in probably the most famous case, trampled to death, and here's the kicker, not so people could get something for free. So they could "get a deal on it."  Insane by definition. You're going to kill someone so you can pay for something? That does not compute. Robbery I can at least try to understand.

This Black Friday, why don't you eschew that flagrant consumerism and instead stay home, maybe do some work around the house or go and get a work out in.  Eat left overs and enjoy the day with your family. You can go shopping later. This week's Friday Find is in honor of Black Friday, it's the Trio Vintners Riot.  Chuckle. This is a bit of an outside the box blend for this 2008 Columbia Valley Red Wine, mostly Mouvedre with smaller percentages of Sangiovese and Grenache. Lots of red fruit in the flavor profile of this wine, with aromatics of savory spices and a touch of earthen character.   The wine is comprised of fruit from some very prominent Washington vineyards, den Hoed and Morrison Lane. And the oak makes it'self known, but is not over the top.  The winery, of Walla Walla, has released the 2010 of this wine but I found the 2008 last week. The Trio wines are available at 6th Avenue Wine Cellars, Esquin and Pete's in Seattle and in Portland check at Garrison's and Vinopolis. Its in the $18 neighborhood.

Stay home, and don't get into any riots.  Happy Black Friday, behave yourself.

Monday, November 19, 2012

For Thanksgiving; Go Oregon and Go Outside the Box

Gwynne told me I should have written this post last week, she said that most people will pick up their wines for Thanksgiving over the weekend. I'm counting on you all being the last minute shopping kind, and so for those of you who either don't have it all that together, or haven't made up your mind about what you'll pair with Thanksgiving, this is for you. Before I go on though, I should say I'm a firm believer in that "drink whatever you like" ethic. If you like something, why not drink that, who cares what anyone else thinks?

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the end in terms of the reasonable person standard for how much food one ought to consume in a sitting. For me anyways it's often the kick off to a long slide down a slippery, gluttonous slope that doesn't stop until sometime shortly after the New Year. Luckily it's after cyclocross season has ended, or at least almost ended.

A uniquely American experience, except Canada also does it, Thanksgiving's roots actually run deeper than it's assumed Pilgrim celebrations in Massachusetts and in fact may have roots as far back as the 1570s and the Dutch city of Leiden. While some of that is still up for debate, what's not is that it's serious chow time come Turkey Day.

When it comes to the perfect Northwest Thanksgiving, the perfect source of Northwest food friendly wines is Oregon.  Why Oregon? Acid, acid, acid.  Acidity in wine does two things in relation to food that can enhance the overall experience. For one, higher acid wines actually cause you to salivate, they can literally be mouth-watering. This, combined with acid's ability to cut through heavy foods, creamy sauces and rich fatty meat, a staple of the holidays, make wines with higher acidity a better holiday match-up.  As it stands in the Northwest you don't get better acidity than what Oregon wines from the Willamette Valley bring to the table.

With it's reputation for Pinot Noir you'd think my work was done when it comes to Thanksgiving wine pairings. Pinot Noir has great acidity after all, but that's too easy. This holiday season we're going Oregon, but we're also going outside the box.

These wines I'm recommending won't just taste great with your turkey and fixings they'll make you seem cool, these aren't your everyday Northwest varietals. Find me someone who says they don't want to seem cool and I'll show you a liar; so here goes.

Kick off the evening with an air of celebration and nothing says celebration like bubbles.  Oregon probably doesn't produce enough bubbles. Those that it does produce are typically quite good, in this case it's better than that.  The Ecosse Non-Vintage Brut is a sparkling revelation, I don't use that word lightly.

Two things here make it fantastic, it's from Oregon, so that means, great acidity in the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that's used to make the wine. The same grapes with great acidity grow in Champagne, which is the only place that produces Champagne by the way, but you probably knew that.

Where Oregon gets sparkling wine absolutely right and California misses is that "fruit-forward" signature, crisp fruit aromatics of cut apple mingle with a fresh baked bread aroma that is thanks to this bubbly spending five years on the lees. The mouthfeel is classically done and the folks at Ecosse have a winemaker from Champagne pulling the strings.  The crazy thing about how good this wine is that you can find it under $25 retail, in Seattle Esquin has it and in Oregon/PDX you can find Ecosse at Great Wine Buys, Storyteller, Liner & Elsen, and a handful of Fred Meyers throughout the Willamette Valley. The friends you dine with will think you're some kind of Jedi if you come correct with this bubbly. And maybe you keep the price to yourself?

In between niceties and the bird there are a load of side dishes to survive. I make a killer green bean casserole wherein I make the cream of mushroom soup from scratch. Yes, I don't mess around. But enough about me. These side dishes are heavy, creamy and loaded with goodness. They also need that zingy Oregon acidity. Enter the Illahe Grüner Veltliner, a wine that hails from Austria, this Grüner shows the range that Oregon offers. I'm drinking the 2010 but you can look for 2011 as well. Where Grüner differentiates itself from the other bright and vibrant Oregon white wines is in the aromatics. Smoke and flinty minerality like you might find in Sancerre or Pouilly Fume frame the citrus and floral aromatics. That crispness follows through on the palate and Grüner has great weight as well. This wine is in the $15 neighborhood and you can find it at Whole Foods and New Season in Portland and in Seattle it can be had at the awesome boutique picnic as well as PCC.

Turkey time. I'm proposing two options for  your bird wine this year and I think you'll find both of deliver on that acid we've been talking about as well as depth of flavor and complexity.

2011 Evening Land Vineyards Seven Springs Gamay Noir Friend and fellow wine writer Jameson Fink just did a short piece for Foodista magazine suggesting wines you might bring for different kinds of hosts. I'm giving you a wine for someone like Jameson. Gamay Noir is a super wine geek wine, it's best known in it's Beaujolais Nouveau iteration but it can be a really vibrant and sophisticated wine. This is a red wine that zings and pulses. Lots of zippy dark fruit; like biting into a blackberry just a touch too early in the season as well as a hint of a savory earthen character this Gamay Noir from 30 year old vines brings a complexity and depth that can compliment the gamy elements of turkey (pun intended) and cut through some of Aunt Marilyn's heavy gravy. The wine retails for $24 and can be had at Liner & Elsen in PDX and Whole Foods through out the Northwest.

The 2011 Stoller Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir so, there's probably not any of this wine left. And that goes for a lot of the great rosé that was made in 2011 throughout the Willamette Valley. My hope is that you might still have a bottle of it lying around and if you do, Thanksgiving and turkey is begging for rosé.  I know that there's nothing outside the box about Pinot Noir, but bringing that bright bursting acidity of a rosé of Pinot Noir is where I'm at least hoping to get some originality points with you. Let's be real people, Summers around here are far too short for us to relegate these great wines to that little window. I try to hold onto three or four bottles of my favorites to help me get through the dark and the cold and all those rich meals on the holiday calendar. This rosé from Stoller is crazy good with strawberry fields forever on the aromatics as well as hints of citrus. The palate is bright and lively and delivers tart early season cherries and strawberries. This wine is long gone and you're not going to find a ton of rosé still lingering, the good stuff is long gone from the retail market, but here's hoping you've got one or two stashed away.

Here's hoping your holiday table is surrounded by good people enjoying some amazing food and wine. Happy Thanksgiving from the Anthem.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Find, November 16th

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.

There are hobbyists and then there are those who become obsessed with their hobbies. And there's probably a third category that we could call those with a healthy obsession. That's probably debatable however. I'm a bit of a case study in this myself, I enjoy wine, so I write a wine blog, and not just every once in awhile, we've posted 122 times since January 1.  I'm no Deadhead though, that's a real commitment.

You can add to the long list of things I simply do  not understand, along with anime, golf, tennis, khakis, pleated pants and why English food has weird names like "spotted dick" those who have given over their lives to following the Grateful Dead around.  Those days are more or less over and I think people have moved on to Phish or something but I mean this was a serious American cultural movement. This was a way of life.

I should also say that there are some great songs by the Grateful Dead, the whole American Beauty album more or less. They were an American original.  The level to which people "geek out" or "geeked out" over the Grateful Dead is probably best illustrated by their song Dark Star. The song was originally released as a single back in 1968 and it wasn't very popular, but it became over time an obsession for their fans. Given their style of music and their relentless touring Dark Star became a vehicle out of which they could improvise, jam and move from song to song. Kinda of like scratching for a hip hop deejay.

The song because of the fame it acheived on tour is among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fames 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.  The crazy thing is how long the song is.  Again the recorded single was only a scant 2 minutes long.  The more famous and favored versions of the song were in the neighborhood of 23 minutes to perhaps, a Rotterdam show where Dark Star lasted 48 minutes and 10 seconds.  How high do you have to be to listen to the same song for 48 minutes?

Good question. (Also mad props to Wikipedia on bailing me out on this one.)

Today's Friday Find is from a Washington winery which actually has a huge soft spot for the Grateful Dead and their flagship wine is named for that classic tune. Dark Star from the Kana Winery in downtown Yakima is a Rhone blend that carries a very friendly price tag. Mostly Syrah this blend also has substantial amounts of Grenache and Mouvedre from some of the best vineyards in the Washington, including Elerding and Red Willow.  A fair bit of new oak influence and three years in the barrel gives the wine a luxurious mouth-feel and texture that punches way above it's price point.  Classic Washington Syrah characteristics layered spice and dark red cherry aromas and flavors of dusty dark fruit with savory, spicy finish.  For $18 you can't go wrong. The wine is also fairly readily available at smaller wine shops in Seattle as well as some well-stocked grocery stores. You'd have to be stoned or something to pass up this wine at this price.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The ¡Salud! 2011 Barrel Auction

from Kelsey Ivey

Lifting its glass to the health of Oregon’s seasonal vineyard workers and their families, the wine community joined forces this weekend at one of the most successful and longest running industry fundraisers. The ¡Salud! Auction.

“As a collaboration of the medical community and the wine industry,” said Ernie Pink, owner of Amalie Robert Estate, “we are all here to do the right thing for the right reasons.” And armed with some of the year’s best wines by Oregon’s top winemakers, the industry is battling for a good cause – and winning.

In its 21st year, ¡Salud! hosts a two-day event to fund-raise money to cover healthcare expenses for the Willamette Valley wine industry’s workforce. Through the generous support of donors, the organization reaches out with much-needed programs such as flu shot clinics, trainings and more for the workers who keep the industry humming.

Kick-starting the event on Friday November 9th, the weekend affair began with a night of many bottles at the Oregon Pinot Noir Tasting & Big Board Auction.

Held at Domaine Drouhin Oregon with its yellowing vineyards ablaze in fall, the event showcased 42 of Oregon’s most celebrated wineries. Previewing the 2011 vintage, wineries served up exclusive Pinot Noir cuvees crafted custom for the ¡Salud! event. Blended from some of their best vineyard blocks and barrels, each wine sang its early glory for tasters and bidders. With only five cases available from each winery, the one-of-a-kind pinots sold to the highest bidder.

Highlighting some of the best qualities of the Oregon vintage, a few of my personal stand out Pinots Noirs of the night included:

Amalie Robert Estate
On the nose this young Pinot – which only came out of the barrel that morning –featured a light bubble gum and fruity-floral aroma followed by a delicate, fruit glissando on the palate.

Brooks Wine
Complemented by a jar of dried mushrooms, this earthier Pinot Noir balanced its soil qualities with ripe red fruits and a touch of soft acidity on the finish. A blend of Estate and Temperance Hill Pinot, this wine was Oregon effervescent through and through.

Hamacher Wines
One of the top sellers of the night, this exclusive cuvee was dark like a Willamette winter night and featured equally as sultry blue fruits. Tipping off with a hint of sweetness like a cinnamon sugar pie topping, the Hamacher Pinot Noir sold for an impressive $1,200 per case.

However, case totals didn't stop there! Mingling among French oak barrels, stainless steel fermenters and in the dusky glow of the winery’s down-turned lights, the attendees sipped and savored the wines as bids slowly crept up throughout the evening. Increasing by $25 to $50 per bid, the auction played on the heartstrings and palate of the crowd until the last bidding station closed.

Trisaetum topped the night with each case selling for $2,050 followed by runner ups: Dusty Goose ($1,600), Domaine Droughin Oregon ($1,300), Penner-Ash Wine Cellars ($1,250), Hamacher ($1,200), Beaux Feres ($1,100), Elk Cove Vineyards ($1,100) and Amalie Robert Estate ($1,063).

In total, the night raised $148,250 – a number and a cause we all can say cheers, cin cin, prost and above all Salud to!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Friday Find, November 9th

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.

Life is short. Nothing teaches that truth more resoundingly than having children.

What's curious though is how we spend our lives. And by curious I mean, sorta depressing.  The average American spends 8 years in a car. Assuming a lifetime that ends sometime in our 70s, which is young nowadays. This is cumulative mind you, but 8 years. How's that for disgusting? 8 years behind the wheel or in the passenger seat, or in a carseat in the back. 8 years. Jeeessus.

We spend about a year and a half of our life in the bathroom.

We spend about 26 years sleeping. That seems like a lot, but the fact is we don't really have much of a choice, we can't not sleep. Even though Nas may have said, "I don't sleep cause sleep is the cousin of death." If we didn't sleep all of our other endeavors would be impossible, or at least far less enjoyable. At the very least, this is a good reason to invest in a nice mattress.

We'll spend more than a decade working, 10 years. That's a long time, too long but again for most of us it's a necessary evil.

How this for depressing, we spend on average 5  years waiting, that could be waiting in line, waiting on hold, 6 months of that is waiting at stop lights. We spend 1 year of our life looking for things we've lost or misplaced, and only 2 weeks of our cumulative life smooching and making out. This needs to be rectified.

*These statistics are from various sites mostly though which is British, so take it with a grain of salt. 

This week's Friday Find is a 2009 Red Wine from who I happen to think are the coolest cats in Woodinville. No offense to everyone else making wine over there. But Two Vintners is doing a lot of "outside of the box" kinds of things and winemaker Morgan Lee is a cool cat. The 2009 Make Haste Red Wine is a mystery wine in the fullest sense, you don't know what it is on the label and they aren't telling anyone. The aromatics of dusty red fruit, and the nice acidity/low alcohol relationship make this wine a bit of a gem at this price point. While a fair bit of American oak can be used to "luxuriate" a lower priced wine and while the oak influence here cannot be denied the acidity brings a finish and character to the wine that keeps the emphasis on the red fruit, as opposed to chocolate which can often be the result. For $14 you gotta try this. Hurry, the clock is ticking.  As the old saying goes, life is too short to drink bad wine. (I was able to track this wine down at Wine World Seattle and you might be able to still get it from Full Pull.)

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Washington Petit Verdot Shows Its Range

The Petit Verdot grape, French for "little green" is so named because in Bordeaux, it's homeland, it's on the difficult side to ripen. In France the grape is a prized part of the Bordeaux blending arsenal but in many years it may need to be "cut loose" if it's been a cooler vintage or a shorter growing season. In parts of the Médoc, where it's mostly planted, the wine only comes to maturity every four years or so. Traditionally blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, it is a supporting actor at best in France, and a moody one at that.

In Washington State however, if you've been paying attention for the last 3-4 years Petit Verdot has seen it's star rise.  It seems every couple of years there's an "it" varietal rising to the top in Washington state, where so much can grow so well. While Petit Verdot has never seen the heights that Malbec and Grenache have in recent years, you don't have to look nearly as hard to find it. Washington Wine Report's Sean Sullivan puts plantings  at 301 acres as of 2011 and looking forward it's "being planted briskly."

While in Bordeaux the wine is incorporated into blends to add tannins, color, serious structure and "stiffness" to both Cabernet and Merlot it's often thought of as too austere and monolithic to stand on it's own.  While a great deal of the Petit Verdot grown here in Washington is being used for some of the state's Bordeaux style blends, as well as a backbone for outstanding Cabernet and Merlot there's a fair bit of it being made as a single varietal. Enough of it, and by some of the state's most established names that it cannot be dismissed as mere novelty.

A quick look on the interwebs and I count in a few clicks Sleight of Hand, Dusted Valley, Forgeron, Gilbert Cellars, Januik, Seven Hills and L'ecole 41. None these the names of fringe or upstart wineries and some of them are among the state's old guard.  Many of these bottlings are limited edition, wine club or tasting room only and they offer an opportunity to provide a bit of variety to those who are loyal consumers of a particular label.

While Petit Verdot in Washington state may not ever make a short list for the wines that the state does best, it shouldn't be dismissed as gimmicky. There's enough complexity and nuance there to make something very interesting. The tendency to bottle single varietal Petit Verdot however is a relatively new one here, we'll know more about it in a few years. What I have not found though, is a dark, inky, tannic 2x4 hitting you over the head, which is kind of what I had expected.  What Washington's wine country though may have unlocked through both it's long warm growing season and  some innovative, patient and curious winemaking talent is a new way of looking at Petit Verdot.

For winemaker Hillary Sjolund of Sonoris wines and the consultation firm Enomama it's Washington's hot sites that really make for exciting opportunities where Petit Verdot is concerned. "Ripeness combined with lower acids make them really approachable and outside the box when compared to Cabernet or Merlot."

The 2012 vintage will set up nicely for Petit Verdot after a couple cooler vintages in a row. For Hillary Washington's Ciel du Cheval and Dionysus vineyards are great sites for Petit Verdot and she expects that the  2012 vintage may see her first single varietal of the wine.

I tasted two examples of the wine that show stylistic differences certainly but also a range in where we're finding the grape planted and how the state's varied growing regions are showing up in Petit Verdot. If you're looking to expand your own palate, try something unique or maybe see if you can figure out how this wine shows up in some of your more traditional favorites, seek one out and  see what you make of it.

2007 Terra Blanca Signature Series Petit Verdot This wine is tall, dark and handsome, like me. Aromas of smoke, game, earth and the darkest fruit character. I held onto this wine for about a year and a half before I gave it a go, and given the combination of a tannic varietal with a tannic site in Red Mountain, I was a bit nervous. The wine though was very dialed in from a structural standpoint and delivered well on balance. Flavors mirror the wine's aromatics with blackberries, plums, and substantial meaty characteristics. The tannins were softer than I expected but the wine held a substantial structure and has an obvious longevity ahead of it. $-Sold Out

2009 L'ecole 41 Petit Verdot Seven Hills Vineyard This Petit Verdot continues to show why Walla Walla is such an important part of the Washington wine lexicon. From the Seven Hills estate vineyard we have a wine that's aromatic and flavor profile is true to that site.  In place of big dark fruit aromas of anise, fennel, savory earthern aromatics, along with violets and black currant. The wine is (again) wonderfully approachable, with smoky and savory flavors, tobacco and blackberries. $ Sold Out


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Woodinville's St. Nick's Wine Festival Welcomes Winter

From Lucha Vino:

With all this balmy weather it is hard to believe it is already November.  It feels like winter will never get here.  If you are anxious for some sign that winter will arrive then you are in luck.  The 12th edition of the St. Nicks festival is coming up November 30th through December 2nd in Woodinville wine country.  This is your chance to coax winter out of hiding, taste some fabulous wines and pick up some great deals too.

The festivities kick off on Friday this year with a free community tree lighting at Chateu Ste Michelle that will be followed by a unique tasting event with 45 wineries pouring some exclusive wines. The tree lighting festival, including music and cider, is free.  The tasting event that follows includes sweet and savory small bites and the opportunity to taste some special wines from Betz, Col Solare, Efeste and many others.  The event has a limited number of tickets available at $50 each.  This is a great chance to taste wines from a collection of unique Woodinville wineries all in one location.

Can't make the Friday event? Don't despair!  There are still two more days of festivities on tap throughout the Woodinville wine district.  You can purchase a one or two day pass that gets you in to all the participating wineries plus some other great perks.  Perks? Yes, perks!  How about full case discounts, live music, food trucks, two for one wine tastings and more?  Yep, there is more.  You can check out all the details here.

Be safe while you taste (he's watching after all).  All designated drivers get free entry to participating wineries. You can also take advantage of a shuttle service provided by Shuttle Express that will be available for an additional fee.

Mark your calendar for November 30th, or December 1st and 2nd and keep up to date with all the latest details on this cool event at the website, like the Woodinville Wine Country page on Facebook or follow @WineWoodinville on Twitter.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Friday Find, November 2nd

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.

This week is a little different.

At some point, within my lifetime, the term, "urban legend" became code for "elaborate bullshit story."  I don't remember exactly when this happened, but I do remember a time when elaborate stories were simply referred to as "bullshit", and not the stuff of legend.

Perhaps the first such tale I recall being exposed to was the idea of some jackass putting razor blades in candy around Halloween.  I was a kid back in the 80s and this was before both Myth Busters and and so I couldn't just Google it. Like all urban legends, everybody knew someone or had a relative to whom this happened, but no one had direct first hand experience. The ironic thing is, according to Snopes, is that there is one actual case of this being documented and it involved a very sad and pathetic 49 year old Minneapolis man who put pins in Snickers bars and then handed them out to kids for Halloween in the year 2000. That's like going out and shooting someone with a musket today, talk about old fashioned.

Generally though, most urban legends are either straight up nonsense or the result of a hoax.  The most famous of all such hoaxes, now the stuff of legend involved two Canadian brothers, one named Doug and the other named Bob, McKenzie was their last name.  Bob and Doug McKenzie, in an effort to get a free case of beer placed a baby mouse in a beer bottle, fed it a bit so that it grew and then turned this "mousey beer" into the Elsinore Brewing company. The adventure that followed involves an evil, murderous Brewmeister, a mind control plot to destroy all of Canada, or at least those who drink Elsinore beer and mind control driven violent hockey.

Today's Friday Find is a beer not a wine. Don't worry, we're still a wine blog.  Caldera Brewing down in Ashland Oregon is one of the Northwest pioneers in canned craft brewing, and here's the thing, they weren't doing it to be trendy. Ashland is an outdoors enthusiast's paradise, not to mention an epicenter of Southern Oregon wine, but with kayaking, mountain biking and a litany of other outdoor options, you can't take bottles of beer safely or responsibly out into the wild with you. They're heavy, relative to cans and they might break. Not a problem with cans.

The Caldera IPA, in a six pack of cans for somewhere in the neighborhood of $9.99 is a perfect break from all that red wine you'll likely drink this cold, dark Northwest winter. Remember folks, we had one helluva a summer so no complaining. It's a classic embodiment of the IPA, super hoppy, loaded with citrus and pine. IPAs are said to have been traditionally made a bit higher in alcohol, and that was so that the British could ship it over to India. You get thirsty colonizing the world. However compared to porters of their time they were on par in terms of alcohol and really the big alcohol IPAs, or Double IPAs were actually created here in the US&A.  This Caldera beer is not high in alcohol but the use of the whole flower hops by the people making it results in a great full flavor beer with less bitterness than might usually accompany an IPA. I enjoyed the heck out of it. Load up on this palate cleanser, I know Whole Foods has it, and Pete's in Eastlake will gladly order it for you. Don't worry there's more wine coming folks.