Arts and Crafts Were Never This Fun

Sparkle and Fade

A Cabernet Experience

Exploring Terroir with Forgeron Cellars

Oregon's French Connection

Maison Louis Jadot's Résonance

The French Connection

Rhone to Columbia Valley: The Syrah Doctrine

C'mon Get Happy

New Growth at Matthews Winery

Who We Are

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

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wine and Food?!?! Wine is Food!!!!

Last Friday I was commuting home by bicycle, this is fairly mundane. However on this particular afternoon I got to glimpse perhaps what is at the heart of America's wine drinking culture-problem. That is profound.

Right before I enter my high end neighborhood with all the private gates I pass a fairly rundown tiny little plaza with a gas station/convenience store, a teriyaki joint and a pizza place. I don't stop at any of them if I can help it. It's next to a happening transient drinking hangout and a Crossfit. I don't really care for either of those kinds of social settings either, and on some days you can't really tell them apart but that's not the point. I saw this very fancy black luxury car parked at the pump, the guy was walking around the front of the car, about to re-enter his automobile, he was dressed to the nines. Here's the kicker, he was carrying a bottle of wine. Now, one can only conclude that he bought it at the sorry ass convenience store there. This actually happened.

What the hell guy? You're spending a year's salary (somewhere between 60-90k) on your car, some serious coin on your wardrobe and you seriously just bought a bottle of wine at that hell hole? I wouldn't buy beef jerky from there and that's what gas station/convenience stores specialize in. On your way to Jack in the Box homey?

Here's the thing, he's not. He's probably got something nice on the grill, or some sushi take-out waiting behind his private gate. He's rolling like a baller except he's drinking like somebody who's cooking meth for a living. Gas station wine? No offense, but seriously.

Here's the deal, wine is food. There, I said it. Wine is food, so you get what you pay for. Just like food is food, there are some killer deals out there. For example in Seattle, you can eat some of the best Thai and Vietnamese cuisine in the city for a song, and similarly there are wines out there, Spanish wines come to mind that you cannot believe how good the wine is for the price. Down right shocking.

In fact food should be the occasion to celebrate good wine, and you gotta eat, so it doesn't necessarily have to be a special occasion. The foodie movement has got us all thinking more about what we eat, and celebrating food, whether it's high end white table cloth dining, or great grub from a food truck.  Can wine get a little bit of that love and consideration? You don't have to geek out on pairing and consult your local sommelier, but at the very least show some human dignity. Everyone's big on eating local and so Northwest wines are really the only way to round out that locavore meal. Remember, wine IS food!

To save you some time and energy I've got two recommendations to help you on your way with popular summer eats. Northwest salmon, who doesn't love that, and spicy Asian cuisine.

Squash Blossoms and Pinot Noir
That Oregon Pinot Noir is the perfect wine for the great salmon caught and cooked here in the Northwest is no secret. While salmon on the grill is always a great bet, mix it up from time to time and take advantage of the summertime farmers markets in full bloom. We stuffed squash blossoms with smoked salmon mousse and pan sauteed kale. (Don't try this with chocolate mousse, results will vary wildly.)

The 2010 Meredith Mitchell Vineyard Pinot Noir from Raptor Ridge is another in what seems like an unending vintage of beauty. Fine tannins along with black fruit and an earthy minerality carry this wine through the palate. It stands up to the smoky creamy salmon mousse and it's very pretty aromatics of dried violets and ripe berries make it a natural compliment to any sensory experience, you know, like food. Pinot tends to be the best red wine to pair with food due to its higher acids and more medium bodied mouthfeel. Its presence is much more noticable than a denser, fuller bodied wine.

Burmese Style Pork and Chardonnay
Burmese cuisine is a bit of a hybridization, influences from neighboring China and India play a big role. I don't pretend to be an expert on Burma, but I did see the movie Beyond Rangoon once, with Patricia Arquette. Great film. I should clarify, we didn't watch it together, she stars in it. Anyways, I learned all this from a cookbook.

Burmese curry is lighter in weight and packs some serious kick. In hindsight I should have gone a bit easier on the dried red peppers. To balance a spicy dish you want something fruit forward, bright and it can also have a touch of residual sugar, like a Riesling or Gewurtztraminer.

I went with the 2012 Steel Chardonnay from Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla. Steel is real, we like to say that a lot in the cycling world. Besides the fact that it rhymes, I'm not sure what it means, carbon fiber is real, aluminum isn't imagined. But steel fermented Chardonnay brings a freshness to what is too often an oak clobbered wine here in the states. This wine is loaded up with citrus aromas like grapefruit and lemon zest and flavors match along with some wet stone and cut green apple.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Find July 26th

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 don't really take summer vacations in the summertime. I mean, I don't really like the term staycation, it's like rom-com to me, annoying, but I have a hard time arguing with it's ability to get to the heart of the matter. So when I go on vacation in the summer, I go on a, well, a staycation. There's a reason for this. Seattle is paradise/nirvana/perfect in the summertime. This has long been suspected by those of us who live here but now it's been substantiated as a fact. Seriously, why would you go anywhere else? There are times through our Fall, Winter and Spring, none of which you can really tell apart that you want to pull your hair out, it's dark and it's wet. It's the kind of dark and wet that actually penetrate through to your soul. It's godawful. That's a great time to travel, the hell away from here. Summer is not. 

This week meteorologist Cliff Mass laid the truth on us. It's more or less what we already knew, but he gave us the lowdown on why this place is so unbelievable in the summertime. There are lots of "sciency" things at play, but it boils down to the fact that the Pacific Ocean and the Puget Sound mix up their magic fairy dust and they sprinkle it all over us. This leads too moderate temperatures, our average summer high is under 75 degrees, cool sleeping temperatures at night, the average under 53 degrees. Pretty perfect. Mix in the dew point and humidity, or lack there of, perfect. Magic fairy dust. 

This week's Friday Find doesn't come from a Seattle winery, though had I thought of that, it would have been pretty convenient. Instead it's from Southern Oregon and Foris Vineyards, their 2012 Pinot Blanc. Pinot Blanc is a variety I'd like to see more of, particularly in the Willamette Valley but this one from Southern Oregon's Rogue Valley is a lot of fun to drink. The aromatics are richly floral, with under-ripe stone fruit making a strong push. The sur lie treatment, 5 to 6 months according to the information I could find on the 2011, probably similar for this vintage, crafts a medium bodied richly textured wine, that, with the great acidity and minerality of the Pinot Blanc fruit gives you the perfect set up for oysters, or throw a couple of halibut on the grill. It's summer, it's damn near perfect and this wine is ready. At $13.50 it's a no-brainer. I'm not sure about the wines availability but you can get it from their website

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Proper Place in Prosser: Alexandria Nicole

Big A, little a, what begins with a? Aunt Annie's alligator, a, a, a.

The Washington winery with the big A on the label is Alexandria Nicole Cellars located over on their Destiny Ridge estate vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. The vineyard was planted by winery owners Jarrod and Ali Boyle back in 1998 and the label kicked it off in 2001. The wines, across the board, are very New World, in my opinion, emphasizing masculine ripe dark fruit and barrel spice. Alexandria Nicole produces very small lots, with many of the wines at under 200 cases (with total production in the neighborhood of 10,000 cases) and has over the years been out in front exploring varietals like Malbec, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo. (Believe it or not, there was a time when Malbec was a rare find in Washington.)

While they're not located in Washington wine epicenters like Walla Walla, Woodinville or Red Mountain, Alexandria Nicole has worked hard to establish themselves, the town of Prosser and the Horse Heaven Hills AVA as a central part of the Washington wine conversation.

Prosser Proud
Firmly anchored in Prosser, Alexandria Nicole was among the first "east siders" to open a tasting room in Woodiniville. Their emphasis though is on showcasing and showing off Eastern Washington wine country, and their Destiny Ridge location. Whether it's through estate designated wines or the myriad of events that aim to bring fans and club members to the Prosser or Paterson area. Jarrod is a Prosser native and you get a real sense that Alexandria Nicole believes in the potential of the tiny Benton County seat of nearly 6,000. They've taken on wine country chef Frank Magana, formerly of Prosser's Picazo 717 and in so doing quickly cut to the front of the line in terms of culinary talent and quality for their catering and winemaker dinner operations. Taking what can easily be an after thought to the next level through Frank's creativity and talent.

Additionally, the Destiny Ridge vineyard's "glamping" which is shorthand for glamorous camping has landed Alexandria Nicole on a variety of shortlists for Northwest wine tourism "must-dos." Three "tent" sites dot the Destiny Ridge vineyard, and the term tent here is a bit of a stretch that includes a queen size bed. Guests are treated to an unparalleled opulent approach to tent camping complete with air conditioning and private bath all outside among the vineyard rows. It sells out quickly and can be an elusive opportunity to experience the scenic beauty that is Washington wine country.

Travel the Northwest's various wine producing regions and you'll hear winemakers or winery owners bemoan the lack of support from local government or winery associations in helping fashion their region into a destination. You'll hear no "what ifs" from Alexandria Nicole, they're working to make it happen on their own terms.

The Washington wine industry has seen a lot of change over the last few years, wineries have come and gone and an emphasis on Walla Walla, Woodinville and Red Mountain has continued. There is little doubt though that the Yakima Valley does not begin and end on Red Mountain with some of the state's great fruit coming out of Red Willow, Boushey and Upland vineyards. Alexandria Nicole remains a steadfast in their support for Prosser, but they're not standing pat.

Pushing collaboration and an outside the box approach like creating the world's first wine/beer hybrid the Noble Rot with big names like Dogfish Head Brewing, the Rockstar Red collaboration between Anthony's Restaurant sommelier Eric Zegula, chef Frank Magana and Eric Degerman of Great Northwest Wine or the collaborative approach to the Jet Black Syrah with film star Jet Li. Okay I made that last one up. But for Alexandria Nicole fans, or those not yet familiar with the wines you can plan to expect the unexpected.

2010 Petit Verdot Little Big Man
The French translation of little green is anything but with the heat units available in the Horse Heaven Hills. Like you poured yourself a glass of nighttime, that is inky. Rich and ripe aromatics of blackberries and crushed stone. Ripe fruit dominates the palate with blackberry compote, dusty ripe cherry and more earth. $42

2009 Rock Star Red
A Syrah, Grenache, Counoise blend, if you're into Deep Purple and Smoke on the Water, this is your wine. Deep garnet in color and loads of smokiness along dusty cherry aromatics. Dollops of black cherry, white pepper, more smoke and cedar coat the palate in a Deep Purple hue. $42

2010 Cabernet Franc Wild One
 Aromatics of anise, black plums and white pepper eschew any of the varietal's reputation for green characteristics. Ripe fruit flavors with more plum, fennel and barrel spice with a mouth coating richness that persists for a lengthy finish. $42

Wines were provided as samples

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Find, July 19th

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.

When was the last time you had a perfect day? Is there such a thing? If you don't know this already, life is complicated. Perfection is difficult to obtain. Some days though you feel like you get close, and I had one on Wednesday.  Part of the reason that the blog has been relatively quiet of late is that it's summer in the Northwest and it's glorious right now. Makes sitting at your laptop difficult. 

I've taken the week off work and some teammates and I decided to go down to Mt. Rainier on Wednesday and ride our bicycles around some of the mountain passes. For the uninitiated this might seem like a bit of a zany idea but climbing for 14 miles at a time up to the 6,500 feet at Sunrise, is about as spiritual as it gets for me. There's a bit of suffering for sure but it's not really that difficult, you just keep pedaling and the views will help you get there. 

Good teammates and some pointed jokes along with some classically Northwest summer weather made for perfection. Today's Friday Find may be a perfect Washington Chardonnay particularly for the 2012 vintage. The Savage Grace wines are made in Woodinville and still fairly under wraps, but we're hoping to profile them in greater detail shortly. In a vintage with "hot" white wines, and by that I mean out of balance and high in alcohol the Savage Grace is certainly more graceful that savage. At 13.3% abv and with great acid you've got yourself a beautiful Chardonnay from Washington that drinks a heck of a lot like Oregon. 

Aromatics are rich with honeysuckle and ripe pear along with alfalfa and a touch of sweet hay. The palate is superbly balanced, flavors of apple, almond and hints of lemon zest accentuate the balance in Michael Savage's approach to this wine. The combination of fruit from one of Washington's coolest sites and winemaking that used both barrel and steel fermentation gives you excellent acid and mouth-feel. For just shy of $20 this wine is a steal and a great way to discover one of Washington's unknown gems, they don't even have a functional website yet. You can find the wine at Pike & Western as well as Soul Wine in South Lake Union.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Find July 12th

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.

America has an education problem. Seriously. I don't mean to bring you down but we really do. It's not just that our current public education system is in trouble, our private schools have far too much ability to structure the curriculum to their liking and so we have a serious math and science gap when you compare us to the rest of the developed world. We rank just about with Turkey and Mexico when it comes to college completion rates. In a 2003 study US 15 year olds ranked 24th out of 38 developed countries for mathematics, 19th in science and 26th for problem solving. That's a problem that needs solved.

Our biggest issue, among many is the litany of achievement gaps that exist, between the US and other nations and internally those across race, and socio-economic status. An economic consulting firm, McKinsey and Company reports that were the US to prioritize education in a way that would allow it to close it's achievement gap between itself and countries like Finland and Korea, we would see a rise in growth of our national GDP in the neighborhood of 9 to 16%. Were we to focus on our internal achievement gaps across race, ethnicity and socio-economic status as well as across lower performing states, many of them in the country's Southeast we'd see another 9-14% increase. By ignoring our education problems, we're basically holding back our ability to grow economically. Consider it a self imposed permanent recession say the folks at McKinsey and Company. (depressing statistics courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Seattle's Ackerley Foundation works with the University of Washington's College of Education to provide a conduit to get UW Masters of Education students into some of Seattle's most at risk schools. This program allows these graduate students the opportunity to work with an experienced teacher in a hands on environment and it gives some of the city's students who need it most, extra, in many cases individual attention from a very eager educator. The program allows both UW students and local educators to partner in delivering energized attention to local K-12 students that hopefully imparts a higher value on education through that experience.

This week's Friday Find is a nice Sauvignon Blanc from Matthews Winery that contributes 10% of it's proceeds to the Ackerley Foundation's UW partnership. The 2012 Blackboard Sauv Blanc is a fine product of what was a somewhat difficult white wine vintage for Washington state. Point of fact it was simply too warm a vintage, the alcohol % on this wine though managed to stay under 14%, as it should be and so as a result you still get a good sense of crisp fruit and acidity that can make Sauvignon Blanc so enjoyable. (There are some Washington white wines from 2012 in the 15% neighborhood sadly.) Aromatics of green apple and and honeydew rind and the palate comes through with more melon, wet stone and grapefruit. For your $15 you can do a bit of good while enjoying a white wine that goes well with summer.  

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Keep Oregon Pink

The continued rise of rosé from the Northwest may have peaked, in terms of perfection with the 2011 vintage. Acids and a cooler vintage created some very pretty pink wines. While the warm vintage of 2012 doesn't necessarily lend itself as well to the creation of carnation colored wines, with sugars often higher acids will be a bit lower. Making for less of that bracing acidity that can make rosé so refreshing. If the fruit is so great across the board winemakers may shy away from setting some aside to make rosé that typically hits more of a white wine price-point than the tariff that Pinot Noir can command. 

What hasn't peaked however, at least apparently is the growing popularity of dry rosé, and we're thankful for that. In the 2012 iteration from Oregon, there are some dandies out there. The 2012 Rosé of Pinot Noir from Stoller Vineyards is a wine that I've probably tasted 3 or 4 times and it's better each time I have it. I'll take that as a good sign. The aromatics are of orange zest and flowers in full bloom. The wine is darker hued than the previous release and it's also a fair bit richer in flavor with dollops of ripe red berries and a still prominent acidity striking a balance. You definitely get the sense that the warmer vintage has filled this wine out, but it's still got great zip. $19 

I don't know much about the J.K. Carriere wines, though I've seen them around. When I saw this one in the cooler in Dundee's Red Hills Market, I had to pick it up. The 2012 Glass, a White Pinot Noir is a fantastically crisp, beautiful pink hued wine. It's also gone apparently, and so I'm sorry for you on the chance that you didn't get any. The folks at JKC, I'm going to shorten it now, have been making pink wine since 2001 which would probably put them on the front end of the revival of rosé here in the Northwest. 

Fruit from Temperance Hill Vineyard, one of my favorite Pinot sites in the world is whole cluster pressed and fermented in barrels, which upon tasting you'd find surprising, it's so crisp you gotta think it's steel. Its' then aged in barrel on lees and according to their website they use "Champagne methodologies from 100 years ago to strip color and broaden an earthy mid-palate, similar to a rosé Champagne without the bubbles."; Whatever the hell that means. The results = awesome. Super crisp complexity and pretty to look at. Grapefruit aromatics compliment a world of spice, minerality and citrus flavors. This wine has so much going on it takes awhile to all sink in. $22 is what I found it for, $21.99 technically but I'm not fooled. While the wine is sold out at the winery you may still find it in some retail markets.

When a winery starts to get serious about their pink wine, great things can happen, and that's just what happened with Southern Oregon's Troon Vineyard Troon has a very popular tasting room rosé that's got a touch of sweetness to it called Jeanie in a Bottle and the 2012 Foundation 72 Rosé is a pink wine much more suited for those wine geeks and foodies. 

Mostly made up of Sangiovese with some Petit Sirah, Tempranillo and Merlot in there this is a wonderful wine. Fruit was identified early with this wine in mind and the winemaking and harvesting were done with a target in mind. Bullseye! Dry rosé with great minerality, acidity, balance and bright fruit character. Mission accomplished. Home run, other metaphors, sure why not? This wine is fantastic, aromatics of strawberry and cut rhubarb, flinty minerality, bright fruit flavors, beautiful to look at. $19 I think, and an anemic 103 cases were made so keep your fingers crossed it's still around. Email the folks at Troon to inquire about availability. 

For a crack at Oregon rosé with an emphasis on the Willamette Valley don't miss Drink Pink at Patton Valley Vineyards on July 13th. Details here.

(The Stoller and Troon Vineyard wines were sent as samples.)

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Drink Pink at Patton Valley: July 13th

from Kelsey Ivey

Rosé, blossom, salmon, carnation, blush, coral, bubblegum, fuchsia – no matter the hue you’ll find it at this upcoming Willamette Valley wine event as long as it is pink (ish). 

On Saturday, July 13, join 24 area wineries as they welcome summer in with the season’s pinnacle wine at the Drink Pink Rosé Festival. Follow the rolling vineyards to Patton Valley Vineyard to taste a variety of rosés , enjoy delicious food and sway to the sounds of two live bands from noon to 4pm.  

From Soter Vineyards’ Compass Cuvee Rosé with its juicy and ripe fruit flavors to the bright and crisp Pinot Noir Rosé by Brooks Wines, the valley will showcase a palatable pink for all taste buds. 

Also look for Rosés by:

• Anam Cara Cellars
• Alexana Winery
• Anne Amie Vineyards
• Apolloni Vineyards
• Bergstrom Wines
• Big Table Farm
• Biggio Hamina Cellars
• Byrn Mawr Vineyards
• Divison Winemaking Company
• Domaine Serene
• Elk Cove Vineyards
• Merriman Wines
• Montinore Estate
• Patton Valley Vineyard
• Penner-Ash Wine Cellars
• Sokol Blosser
• Soter Vineyards
• Stoller Vineyards
• Van Duzer Vineyards
• Winderlea Vineyard and Winery
• Trisaetum
• Omero Cellars
• Illahe Vineyards

So if a cool glass of Rosé is on your mind in this summer’s sweltering sun, then head to Patton Valley and
drink pink. The event is sure to leave you with a rosy demeanor – and it won’t be caused by the heat!
Tickets can be purchased on Patton Valley’s website for $48 per person.