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, March 29, 2013

Friday Find, March 29th

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.

It's not goodbye, it's "see you later."

This month, the month of March has been designated Washington Wine Month. As is often the case, many retailers, dining establishments and certainly the Washington State Wine Commission have shifted a focus to the wonderful wines being produced in Washington state. Discounts, winemaker dinners and of course the events that surround Taste Washington. March is a celebration of Washington wine, but as March wraps up, that doesn't mean the party should end.

What's important about Washington and Washington wine for those of us here in the Northwest is that it's a local story. A story we should want to be a part of telling. It's a story about 750 plus wineries, and 350 plus grape growers. 19,000 jobs here in Washington and another 10,000 around the country. It's about local. Local winemakers and winegrowers, some of whom, no, many of whom are the salt of the earth. It's about some of the very finest people making very fine wine. Are there some ego maniacs and some jerks working in Washington wine? Sure, but there are jerks everywhere. 

As a Washington state resident, or someone hailing from the Northwest it's an opportunity to develop relationships with winemakers, and fellow wine lovers. To commune over our local bounty. This might sound hokey, but it's real and I'm serious. Washington is still relatively small in terms of wine production when you compare it to California and you can drive out to Eastern Washington and talk to these folks, everyday folks about what they love about it. And you should.

And that's why you shouldn't let the party end on Sunday when it's no longer Washington Wine Month. You should drink wine from all over the world, maybe even California, sometimes. It helps you learn not only about what  you like, but what different parts of the wine world produce so well and it can reinforce what's great about Washington. So, celebrate all year long.

This week's Friday Find is of course a Washington wine, and what does Washington do best but Syrah. The II Vintners 2010 Syrah is just about $20 on the nose and it's got a nose that is signature Washington. Gamy  earthen and dark plums. There is a presence of oak but it doesn't take over the show. In terms of value it's ridiculous. II Vintners is one of those local operations over in Woodinville, winemaker Morgan Lee is doing some imaginative things and if you're not familiar you should get to know their wines. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

State of the Union: Taste Washington 2013

What was was over.

Taste Washington 2013 is in the books, the two day formatted event showcasing some of Washington's finest wines has come and gone yet again. Over 200 wineries, some featured vineyards and AVAs and we're talking over 1,000 different wines easily. I didn't try to taste all of them. From the looks of the crowd at the end of the day on Saturday, some folks may have. I did experience the most aggressive line from a drunken wine event attendee of all time. I believe she was Australian.

There are a lot of tasting events that happen throughout the Northwest throughout the year, but there's not really anything on the scale of Taste Washington, not even close.  It is a combination of wine tasting, educational seminar, food pairing and who's who of the Washington wine and Seattle food and hospitality industry, for example on Saturday I saw Tom Douglas and Dick Boushey. See what I mean?

Taste Washington, in it's grandeur is slightly overwhelming, in terms of the number of wineries there as well as the number of attendees. To arrive at Taste Washington without a strategy is a fool's errand, and let's face it, no one likes to run errands. There's no glamour in that.

My strategy was a list of about 15 wineries that I wanted to check out, a couple that were new to me and a longer list of more established wineries that I knew would be pouring wines I had yet to try. I also gave myself the opportunity to wander around a bit and see what might "catch my fancy." Which is an expression I do not really understand.

My reactions to follow.

Syrah is Where the Sizzle's At (Again)
If you're not a fan of Syrah from Washington state then it's likely your tastebuds and olfactory senses are shot to hell. How else do you explain it? The varietal has so much to offer in terms of range. Perhaps second only to Pinot Noir in terms of it's ability to express the unique signature of the site it's grown in.  Washington has a great variety of sites and growing conditions and so, boom, it's got some great Syrah.  I'm actually trying to remember the last time I had a bad Syrah from Washington.

Highlights were from just about all over the state, the Chelan area vineyard designate Syrahs from perhaps the region's best producer Nefarious Cellars were really stellar, they were pouring the Defiance Vineyard Syrah and an under the table special pour, the Rocky Mother Syrah. Contrasts in style to be sure but both wines demonstrate the largely untapped possibility for cooler plantings of Syrah in Washington. From the opposite of cool sites there were excellent Red Mountain Syrah offerings, namely the Goedhart as well as my wine of the event,  but more on that later.  Not to be outdone of course was Walla Walla Valley. Syrahs from Tertulia Cellars as well as the Loess from Waters make a case for Walla Walla as the most aromatically captivating region of Washington.

That's New(s) to Me
The number of new wineries that rise above the standard bearers or even become part of the conversation is relatively small and speaking of small the newest Washington discovery for me was Ramseyer Vineyards. The little known Ramseyer Vineyards in Zillah, Washington has apparently already built a bit of a cult following, and has received some accolades from the press in high scores from Wine Spectator. I suppose I'm embarrassed to say I'd never heard of them. The wine (there's only one) is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot and Malbec. The 2009 vintage, or Vintage Five was poured at Taste but their 2010 will be all estate fruit and it'll be released in May. Tiny production size at 220 cases but certainly worth seeking out.

You Never Forget Your First Love
The winery that introduced me to Washington and frankly wine is Claar Cellars and I was pleased to find them pouring their wines at Taste. My favorite was their 2010 Riesling which had stone fruit, as well as loads of honey and was taking on the secondary flavor characters which included diesel notes. The wine smacks of German Riesling and is one to seek out. The no frills Claar Cellars, is a family operation which is parked right next to highway 82 as a kind of gateway to the Rattlesnake Hills area in Zillah.

The Return of Value
As Washington's profile has raised, so have the prices on not only it's cult wines like Quilceda Creek, Cayuse and Leonetti but a lot of the high quality, smaller producers have moved from the high $20 mark to the $40 ballpark. While you certainly wish them all the success, as a consumer it's nice to find well made wines offering a high value. This, refreshingly was one of my standout impressions of Taste Washington this year. The values from Kevin White Winery were probably the most notable, his Fraternite blend, of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah is only $20. When I asked Kevin about that his response was as notable as the wine value. "Well, I'm new, and nobody knows me yet, so it doesn't make sense to me to price the wines too high." I can't encourage you strongly enough to seek out his Fraternite and En Hommage, which is a Syrah and Grenache blend for a mere $5 more. Ryan Kerloo pulled out an under the table surprise in his Kerloo Cellars Majestic, a value priced GSM for $26, it was frankly incredible and will not last long. The For A Song wines produced by Vinum are a value beyond belief. Their 2009 Syrah and Chardonnay were both standout wines from the event and the Chardonnay retails at under $10.

Quality Across the Board
I wasn't taking tasting notes but the wines from Avennia continue to impress, and not just a little bit. I've been a fan of their Syrahs but the Bourdeaux style releases are also incredibly well made. What I like most about Avennia is winemaker Chris Peterson's commitment to the Yakima Valley. I believe it's what has made Maison Bleue such a favorite of mine. The commitment to site and demonstration of the region's potential, outside of Red Mountain as an exemplary growing region has produced some fantastic, nuanced and Old World style wines. If you're not familiar with these wines act quickly, it's a rising star.

Wine of the Night (Day)
So, keeping in mind that I did not get to try every wine; the one that I drank and was immediately taken by was the 2009 Collaboration III from Force Majeure. The winemaking team of Mark McNeilly and Mike Macmorran of Mark Ryan and some of the most sought after fruit on Red Mountain has produced a masculine Syrah that stands out in terms of it's texture and depth. Black berries and crushed stone minerality mark a serious Syrah on a day of exceptional Syrahs.

That's a wrap folks.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Find, March 22nd

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.

I have had the terrible misfortune this last couple of weeks of watching two of my friends deal with some very difficult situations. In one particular instance, their life changed completely. I'm not a religious person and so for me, finding something positive in these situations can often prove very difficult.  

Where I am perhaps able to take something positive away from both is that when those close to us experience tragedies that experience can have a violently jarring impact on us, at once very emotional and often, simultaneously a feeling of helplessness or a "it could have just as easily been me."  What it should do however is provide us with tremendous perspective on our own lives and circumstances. Most of us, myself included are supremely lucky, some would say blessed. Yet, we find in many of the moments an opportunity to complain. It might be about the weather, the traffic, a co-worker or something as childish as the way someone else chews their food.

On March 7th my friend and cycling teammate Mark Bender was injured in Hawaii. He was there with his wife Sarah celebrating their 15th anniversary. While bodysurfing Mark suffered a serious spinal injury, he has gone through surgery and at the moment, has very limited feeling and movement in his body. Mark and I raced together in the Master's Cat 3s in cyclocross and we spent a fair bit of time together this last season warming up and watching his boys and his wife race before our races would begin. (Mark and Sarah have four boys.)  I'm not sure what's next for Mark and his family, there is a long road ahead for them. They are people of tremendous faith and so I think that, coupled with the toughness that they all exude will hold them in good stead as Mark goes through rehabilitation and recovery. I hope that one day we'll race together again. 

For me, seeing Mark's attitude and approach, has been in some ways embarrassing (I have a reputation for whining about things among my teammates; the weather foremost among them), he's not complaining, he's putting his head down and doing what he needs to do. Grateful that he's still alive and has a wonderful family and community there to support him. If Mark can do that, than the least I can do is look for the positive, brush off the small things, and keep everything in perspective. I'm very lucky, and so, I should be happy for that.

                                                        photo from Tiffany Stevens

Today's Friday Find is not a wine, but rather a coffee. Yes, I know this is a wine blog, but it's also my blog, and so I can do whatever I want, and in this case, I'm calling attention to a  very special coffee. The good people at Doma Coffee outside of Couer d'Alene, Idaho have partnered with another teammate Jenni Gaertner to sell a particular coffee with all the proceeds going to Mark and his family through the end of April. The La Biccicleta is a floral and nutty roast with mocha and spice flavors. More than anything it tastes like doing the right thing. So buy a bag, for $12.50 plus shipping you'll be helping one of the nicest families you could ever have the pleasure to know. Thanks, and enjoy today. (You can buy a bag for Mark by clicking here.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Oregon Wine: Hitch Your Wagon To A Star

Oregon's largest annual industry gathering, the Oregon Wine Industry Symposium, wrapped up at the end of February after two days of enology, business and viticulture sessions. Guest speakers contributed from a wide range of backgrounds - CEO to scientist, vineyard owner to olfactory educator. They shared their expertise and how it applied to growing the industry's success in marketing, research and winemaking.

Oregon Wine Board (OWB) staff members summarized the positive changes and growth that occurred in 2012. Oregon wine sales increased nationally by 6.4%, exceeding the overall US wine growth of 4.7%. The Board pinpointed more about the type of consumer buying these wines by gathering some revealing information through out of state consumer surveys. Oregon wine rated highly for quality and taste, with people often willing to pay more for these wines than their typical wine purchase. Those surveyed made virtually no association with Oregon wine being mass produced. Feedback indicated that an excellent reputation is solidly established.
People are seeking out Oregon wines. Great opportunity exists in strategic distribution, and making these wines available to these seeking markets. Winery branding and marketing was a major focus during the business sessions. Wineries were strongly encouraged to develop their own websites. The OWB's Executive Director, Tom Danowski made a bold, direct statement to wineries saying " have to do it. You are not even in the game if you do not have a website that tells the world who you are." The OWB has completely revamped its own website. It offers an area for wineries to input their unique profile information into a searchable Oregon wine database, with the ability to link back to their own individual websites.

Another aspect of tremendous marketing potential was brought to light by Lesley Berglund, Chairwoman of WISE Academy. She focused on a three part concept:  what, how and why.
  • What - case numbers, flavors and aromas in the wine, award winning Pinot Noir
  • How - family run, clone and soil type, biodynamic
  • Why - the personal aspect, the emotional story, purpose
With more than 21 years of industry experience, Lesley is well acquainted with many of the unique, inspirational stories of Oregon Wine's heritage. She recently spent time enjoying Oregon wine country and made some observations. She noticed tasting room staff well versed in the facts, able to explain the "what" and "how" with statistics and facts, but lacked the ability to effectively share the "why". Hearing a winery's unique story, why it is special, how the dream became a reality, is key to making a personal connection with the customer. Part of WISE Academy's focus is educating and training tasting room staff to effectively share that story with those who walk through a winery's door. There is potential for great benefit by ensuring the story is communicated effectively.

Throughout the symposium, several references were made regarding the recent abundance of positive press for Oregon wine. Robert Parker stated, "Oregon is finally fulfilling its vast potential...Oregon has come of age, something that is also reflected in the numerous articles about this idyllic region." Matt Kramer referred to those in the Willamette Valley as being in a Golden Age "creating the finest wines they've yet offered."

The words of Ralph Waldo Emerson unintentionally, yet accurately paint a picture and tell the story of Oregon wine today.
"Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage."
"None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone."
"Hitch your wagon to a star."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Find, March 15th

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 mild winter months have packed their bags and finally left town. Our collective wine thoughts can now turn to what pairs well with Northwest sunshine and t-shirt weather. The 2010 and 2011 Oregon vintages produced some stellar white wines. These bright, vibrant wines can easily induce the whitest of legs to parade around the backyard in shorts, while unearthing patio furniture in the 52 degree sun. These wines are capable of convincing the mind that a sunny spring day in Oregon is almost, almost like a day at the beach in San Diego; they're that persuasive. Is one of these lively, delicious wines, occupying that half empty bottle next to your chaise, the reason why you and your sunglasses ignore the pale goosebumps covering your pale legs? Does it really matter? The time has come for the parade of whites and rosés to march past our daffodils and into our wine glasses.

Today's Friday Find is a Pinot Gris that fits the bill for our warm weather plans. The 2011 Pinot Gris from Omero Cellars was fermented in stainless steel, a leaner style with enough roundness of mouthfeel to fill out the wine nicely. Lemon, mild melon and lychee flavor this Alsatian style wine, with all the acidity that also makes this great with food. Fruit and floral aromas and flavors are capped off with nice bit of spice.

Prior to joining Omero, winemaker Sarah Cabot spent time working in New Zealand, and at Belle Pente and Willakenzie, two highly respected Oregon wineries. Sarah's collaboration with Vineyard Manager David Moore, is proving that Omero Cellars is coming into its own. They began producing wines with the 2008 vintage. This 2011 Pinot Gris is their first with 100% estate fruit from the Omero Vineyard. The 26 acre vineyard was planted in 2009. Four acres are planted to Pinot Gris, clones 146 and 152, the remaining acres comprised of five Pinot Noir clones. The vineyard is located in the Ribbon Ridge AVA, the smallest of Oregon's wine growing regions.

You can find the wine at their tasting room in Carlton if you're out and about in Oregon wine country. Their website states tasting room hours are daily from noon until 5pm. The wine is also available for $19.99 at Whole Foods Bridgeport Village and at many Portland area wine retailers. You can contact them through their website to find out how you can have your own delicious slice of sunshine.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

5th Annual North Willamette Wine Trail Weekend - April 13th & 14th!

Save the date, Portlandia! April 13th and 14th, the North Willamette Vintners present their 5th Annual North Willamette Wine Trail Weekend - a weekend of tastings, food pairings from local vendors and restaurants, cooking demonstrations, and more! Participating wineries open their doors from 11am to 4pm for those of us out-of-towners ready to explore the North Willamette wines in a ‘choose your own adventure’ kind of way…

Pick up your tickets from the starting winery of your choice and get to tasting! Ticket tiers are offered as follows:

$45 – Full Weekend Pass!* For the weekend warrior, this gets you a North Willamette Vintners wine glass, access to all Wine Trail activities and a canvas tote for any wine purchases you make along the way.

$30 – Sunday ONLY Pass! Half as much weekend fun, with the aforementioned SWAG.

$10 – Full DD Weekend. Where would us wine-Os be without our beloved designated drivers? Be safe and bring one along – this ticket gets your DD a wine trail kit, a bottle of water and that canvas tote, for toting around the wine they’ll need to break into after a long weekend of being your DD.

*Snag your full weekend ticket before March 15th and get $5 off your pass with the code “WineTrail5” at checkout. 

If you’re feeling lucky, keep your eyes out for the Wine Anthem Wine Trail Weekend giveaway, coming soon via our Facebook page!

North Willamette Wine Trail Weekend
11am – 4pm, April 13th & 14th

Can’t make it to Wine Trail Weekend? The North Willamette Vintners have recently launched a seasonal, self-guided wine touring experience! The inaugural spring route kicks us off with a focus on Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris in the region. A new route and different varietals will be featured each quarter – simply print out your map and be on your way!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mellisoni: Wine and Experience on the Shores of Lake Chelan

From Lucha Vino:

Lake Chelan visitors are having their world rocked with the Mellisoni wine and tasting experience.  Proprietors Rob and Donna Mellison know that wine can rock all by itself like a blazing guitar solo.  But, wine really shines when you surround it with other elements like food, ambiance and friends.  The same way a guitar combines with bass, drums and vocals to create a kick ass rock band. Engaging all your senses can take you from a Joe Satriani guitar solo to a full on rock opera ala Tommy from The Who.

Another thing that Rob and Donna know is that a mosh pit might be part of the punk rock experience, but it shouldn't be part of your wine tasting experience. They know that appreciating and experiencing wine is something that cannot be rushed.  Rather, you need to take your time and truly experience the unique characters of the wine along with food, friends and all your senses.  Just like a great rock band. You can have stellar guitar solos, but you need a full ensemble to put together a super group and rock the world.

Rob and Donna started hosting private tastings on the vineyard out of necessity.  They did not have a tasting room or other facility to host people at their vineyard, yet they wanted to be able to share their wines and experiences. Voila! The Mellisoni wine experience was born.

Let’s rewind the tape a bit and start this thing from the top.

Rob and Donna purchased their property on the South shore of Lake Chelan with the intent of building a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.  Within days of their purchase closing they were off to Italy for an agri-tourismo experience in Tuscany.  They never saw it coming, but that trip to Italy was literally a life changing experience.

Rob and Donna spent two weeks between Tuscany and Umbria.  While in Livernano they lived and worked on an estate vineyard. Quite literally drinking in the Italian lifestyle and winemaking experience.

You could say that their senses were awakened by the time spent in Tuscany and Umbria.  That awakening hatched a plan to bring the agri-tourismo experience back to Lake Chelan.  That piece of property that was going to host their weekend get away was transformed into a vineyard.  And that vineyard would be the place where Rob and Donna hosted people to help them experience wine, food and the beauty of the Lake Chelan valley.  The Mellison’s dream is turning into reality one piece at a time like putting together a super group.

Flip the album over, drop the needle and back in Chelan the vineyard is bursting to life like the sounds of AC/DC and an Angus Young power chord blasting from your stereo speakers.

In 2005 they began by terracing the land and planning for their vineyard.  Plenty of research went into determining what grape varieties to plant and then what clones to use.  Rob wanted to plant red wine grapes, but the guidance was that white wine grapes would thrive on their property.  The lower 2 acre vineyard was planted in 2006.  Seeking inspiration from the Zind-Humbrecht wines of the Alsace region of France Rob and Donna planted the lower vineyard with Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris.

The upper 2 acre vineyard was planted in 2010 and is the home for red wine varieties including Moscato, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Barbera that will be released as single varietal wines.  Then there is Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that will be blended with the Nebbiolo and Barbera to make Super Tuscan style wines.

Rob and Donna are focusing on their vineyard while learning the ins and outs of wine making.  They have partnered with Katy and Milum Perry (from Tildio) to make the Mellisoni wines.  In addition to being the Mellisoni wine maker, the Perrys are also helping Rob and Donna learn the details of the wine business.

When the final notes fade away and the album is done we are back to the beginning or a new beginning.  Rob has big plans to turn the Mellisoni estate vineyard into a wine tourism destination.  There will be a giant pool, cabanas and maybe even a chateau.  I am picturing something like the scene in The Kid’s are Alright where John Entwistle takes his gold albums out on the property and uses them for skeet shooting practice.

If you are looking for a unique and personal way to experience wine you should make a plan to meet up with Rob and Donna for the Mellisoni experience.  You will take part in a private three hour tasting that will feature five wine and food pairings.

The pairings are personally selected to accentuate the character of the wine and the food.  Like this example: Rob pairs spicy habanero infused humus with Gewürztraminer.  The dry sweetness of the Gewurtz immediately soothes the burning fire created by the habanero and lime humus.

You will feel like a rock star for those three hours.  Don’t delay, make your reservations to hang out in the Mellisoni vineyard soon.  The word is spreading and the dates book up in a hurry.  Catch these rising stars before the rest of the world and you will be able to say “I knew about Mellisoni wine before they hit the big time.”

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Bacon & Wine Pairing in Southern Oregon

                                            Bacon imagery courtesy of Off the Bone BBQ

Did you know that when a web search for “Bacon and Wine Pairing” is properly conducted, every varietal under the sun will populate as a perfect match? Syrah, Cab Franc, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel…. The list goes on and on. America’s love for bacon is timeless, however, the foodie caliber fascination of late with bacon has created an obsession unmatched, at least temporarily, by everything but, errr, dare I say… a wine lover’s affection for all fabulous things vin?

Of course, here in the Northwest, we must put a Portland/NW Oregon/hot Southern Oregon spin on it. Our bacon, like our wine, is intentionally local (Wilbur is the name of the most recent bacon donor I partook of), raised in a free-range, organic, healthy, happy, hormone and antibiotic-free, loving environment with flora and fauna variety and Mat Kearney playing in the background.

 We are also very serious about the way our bacon is prepared. Jason Sellers is co-owner of Off The Bone Barbecue and Catering in Southern Oregon and possesses more ardor for bacon than pigs do for mud. He takes pride in perfecting the fine art of bacon barbecue. “Anytime you make something with your own hands from beginning to end, the finished product brings a much larger reward.” Jason attests. “Investing my time into cooking expresses my love for those who get to enjoy the meats of our labor.” Searing, then slow grilling a slab of bacon allows the fat to baste the meat. The result looks nothing like bacon, but produces a moist (not crispy) delicious smoky pink product that will make the traditional bacon strip curl with envy.

 A friend recently forwarded me an invitation for a Southern Oregon wine club event: “Cliff Creek Cellars- Bacon and Wine Pairing! We barbeque local artisan bacon in addition to legendary bacon flown in fresh from the Loveless Café in Tennessee.” DIY pairings with incredible Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Claret and a wonderful white blend resulted in some creativity and a lot of food and wine driven passion. “The biggest hits were the BLT - Bacon, cherry tomato and Rogue Creamery ‘Oregon Blue’ Cheese lettuce wraps with the Roussanne/Marsanne, and a 60% cacao dark chocolate dipped bacon paired with the ‘Cadence’ Port-style Syrah”, Roy Garvin related. Roy is among three generations of the Garvin Family who founded the vineyard and winery in the early 1990s. His mother, Dorothy, standing right beside him in the tasting room, adds “We decided on the Roussane/Marsanne blend at the suggestion of our winemaker, Joe Dobbes.” Cliff Creek crafts an assortment of red wines that are rich and velvety with a distinct hint of cinnamon on the finish well suited for a peppered or maple smoked bacon pairing.

                                             Photo courtesy Cliff Creek Cellars

The buzz created around the bacon and wine events is phenomenal. Emails, calls, RSVPs and a flurry of excuses to cancel on prearranged plans to attend the said bacon pairing events. As a wine advocate, I make it a point to say the name of and pour the wine first when pairing to place emphasis on the wine. However, the craze of bacon (which, I am told, might just be the only substance known on earth to make a vegetarian forget his or her meatless world for a moment) prompts me to blurt out the word “bacon” even before that special vintage bottle title I have so carefully chosen to offer. Gateway meat indeed.

Truth is, I cannot say it’s a bad thing. The most fervent bacon aficionado may be next in line for the CS or MW badge, because, if one loves bacon and wine paired to the quintessential extreme, it may mean one really does adore wine that much, or that, for the very first time, the zeal for a beautiful glass of the good stuff was that much enhanced by the bacon-induced opiates connecting right now with the brain’s receptors, and what could be so wrong about that?

Monday, March 04, 2013

Taste Washington University; Now Enrolling for March 23rd and 24th

To learn more about wine, you have to drink more of it. Sound good? I thought so, and lucky for those of you yearning for learning Taste Washington on March 23rd and 24th is the perfect opportunity. In fact, in the event's 16th year there has been a focus on learning for the consumer with the tag, Drink, Eat, Learn. For both the experienced and the uninitiated Taste Washington offers a an opportunity to enroll one's self in a sort of Washington Wine University over the weekend. Use the following "course catalog" to craft your own Taste Washington learning and tasting experience, and graduate with honors. (Course requirements are in bold and for winery reference please refer to the course catalog addendum.)

Washington Wine 101 (Prerequisites: NONE)
For the beginning level enthusiast enter the WW101 code into your course registration. This entry level course guides students through a survey look at the well known varieties, history and current state of Washington. Beginning with a brief history lesson start your tasting at Washington wine pioneers. Required: Chateau Ste. Michelle, L'Ecole No. 41, Kiona Vineyards and Woodward Canyon. With the history component complete move on to Washington's signature varietals. Required: Riesling from Dunham Cellars and Efeste, Merlot from Northstar and Seven Hills Winery, Syrah from Ross Andrew and SYZYGY. Students may chat with winemakers Ross Mickel about Washington Syrah and Eric Dunham about Riesling for additional credit opportunities. Upon completion of this required course students will be prepared for levels, 201, 202, 301 and 401.

Washington Wine 201: A Sense of Place (Prerequisities: WW101, students may test out of 101 requirements based on prior knowledge) Enter the WW201 code into your course registration. This intermediate level course examines Washington's diversity in growing conditions and vineyard sites. Students will be expected to taste wines that showcase Walla Walla Valley, Red Mountain, Wahluke Slope, Horse Heaven Hills, Yakima Valley the Columbia Gorge and the Puget Sound AVAs. Walla Walla requirements: Rotie Cellars, Dusted Valley, Gifford Hirlinger, optional: Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills and Tertulia Cellars. Red Mountain requirements: Col Solare, Force Majeure, Cadence Winery, optional, Cooper Wine Company, Hedges Estate and Hightower Cellars.  Wahluke Slope requirements: Gilbert Cellars, Milbrandt Vineyards, Saint Laurent Estate, optional Desert Wind. Horse Heaven Hills requirements: McKinley Springs Vineyard, Columbia Crest, optional Mercer Estates. Yakima Valley requirements: Cote Bonneville, Avennia Cellars, Maison Bleue, Kana Winery, optional Eight Bells, For A Song and Two Mountain. Columbia Gorge requirements: Syncline Cellars, Memaloose optional Maryhill. Puget Sound requirements Whidbey Island Winery. Upon completion students are prepared for levels 301 and 401.

Washington Wine 202: A Sense of Place (Prerequisites: WW101, students may test out of the 101 requirements based on prior knowledge)  Completion of WW202 satisfies the same requirements as 201. An advanced course on place and wine is available at Taste Washington through their featured vineyards program. Students can speak with winemakers and vineyard managers about some of Washington's signature vineyards. 202 course completion requirements: Sagemoor Vineyards, Tapteil Vineyards, Naches Heights Vineyards and Stone Ridge Vineyards. Students are expected to engage with winemakers and vineyard managers to understand the unique nature of each of these vineyards and the impact that this specific sense of place has on a wine. Upon completion students are prepared for WW301 and WW401.

Washington Wine 301: Talented Craftsmanship (Prerequisites: WW101)
This class will focus on some of the top talents crafting the wines of Washington. Students are encouraged to explore the established talents of Washington, fresh new faces and a special emphasis is placed on the fabulous women winemakers of Washington. Established Talent requirements: Betz Family Winery, Woodward Canyon, Fidelitas Wines, Januik Winery and Owen Roe. Fresh Young Fellows requirements: William Church Winery, Kevin White Winery, Cairdeas Winery, Avennia Cellars. Ladies First requriements, Chinook Wines, Forgeron Cellars, Sonoris Wines, Goedhart Family. 

Washington Wine 401: Wine & Food Pairing (Prerequisites: WW101 & WW201)
Equipped with a general sense of the history, talent and capability of Washington wine students are now prepared to begin exploring the proper pairing of Washington wine and food. Taste Washington University has paired a plethora of chefs and restaurants to offer you the opportunity to practice your pairing. Pairing requirements: Seafood and white wines, Asian cuisine and Riesling, oysters and Sauvignon Blanc, steak and Cabernet Sauvignon, mushrooms and Syrah.

Post Graduate Study:
For those who have passed with flying colors post graduate work is available via the Taste Washington University seminars. Topics include Washington vs. The World, The Art of Blending, The 30th Anniversay of the Yakima Valley AVA, as well as an Introduction to the World of Wine and a Riedel Glass Tasting.

Remember folks, education is everything. Get your tickets here.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Friday Find, March 1st

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 certain things that are already perfect. As a society, America has long been prized for it's ingenuity. The ability to envision an opportunity and creation or an improvement on a process or contraption to make things easier, faster, "better." When you throw around the term "American ingenuity" you think of names like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Eli Whitney.  

There were certainly substantial and modern additions made by the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, not inventing whole new ways of doing things but improving upon them vastly.  

There's a new way of "improvement" that we're seeing in the approach to everyday foods. I'm here to tell you that this has gone too far. The gourmet-izing of everyday eats is taking the form of fancy taco stands, burger joints and hot dog vendors and while I support those endeavors and love the creations and concoctions can we agree on one thing. Let's leave doughnuts alone. 

Doughnuts don't need improvement folks. They're already delicious. The reason that people have decided to "upgrade" burgers, tacos and the like is because they've fallen on hard times. Gotten bland, boring, bad. Doughnuts? Not so much. There is nothing that captures a slice of heaven like a simple glazed doughnut. We don't need weird meat additives  odd protrusions or the combination of booze in them. They're doughnuts for god's sake.  

Make mine glazed and keep it simple.

Today's Friday Find is the 2010 Glaze Cabernet Sauvignon which is a bit of a second label for Ross Mickel of Ross Andrew wines.  In my theme of keeping things simple and true to their identity this wine does just that. A blend of 3/4 Cabernet and 1/4 Merlot you get those chocolate and fruit aromatics that are undoubtedly Cabernet. The 2010 vintage was supposedly a royal pain in everyone's you know what, but many of the wines are impressing on release. Flavors of dusty black cherry, and measured dollops of spice make this a great everyday option at the $16 price point (I got mine at Ballard Market).