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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Carnivore's Delight with Chef Frank Magana & Alexandria Nicole Cellars

On November 1st in Seattle's Madrona neighborhood, look out for skyrockets in flight, a Carnivore's Delight.

Frank Magana has been the unofficial chef of Washington Wine Country for some time if you ask me. I know there are several culinary sharpshooters here in Washington, Seattle mostly, but what's different about Frank is that he went to Wine Country, as opposed to just serving Washington wines in a Seattle establishment. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Frank's former restaurant Picazo 717 was long the go-to establishment for wine country travelers and and wine industry folks around the Tri-Cities, Red Mountain and Prosser. Frank's efforts and investment in the has been acknowledged and awarded by both winemakers and the Washington Wine Commission. Frank is also a friend of mine, and one helluva guy, so go see him.

Really, my only issue with Frank is that he's over there, in Prosser, making it much tougher to eat his food than I'd like it to be, what with me being in Seattle and all. Frank is now the executive chef at Alexandria Nicole Cellars , and he's bringing his show on the road, here, to Seattle. He's throwing a party pairing the wines from Alexandria Nicole's Destiny Ridge vineyard with a meal that seems appropriate. The Alexandria Nicole wines tend towards masculine, dark and brooding, so in that spirit, Frank is cooking up four courses for meat lovers, vegetarians need not apply.

The Carnivore's Delight will be hosted at the Glassy Baby studio in Madrona. "I'd like to bring a little bit of wine country to my west-side friends who can't make it to the sunny side as much as they'd like to." In an effort to highlight the Alexandria Nicole winemaker Jarrod Boyle's wines and their estate vineyard Chef Frank has prepared a "feast highlighting some of my most favorite beasts." (Bonus points for the rhyme Frank.) I haven't seen the menu but the ad shows silhouettes of duck, lamb, pigs, and cows. Old MacDonald is going to be one sad dude come November 2nd.

The Carnivore's Delight will feature hedonism for a good cause, appetizers along with four courses, all meat, and ANC wines paired with each. Tickets are $85 for the event with proceeds going to benefit the Seattle Children's Hospital and you can purchase tickets here. (Prizes for best costume, but I wouldn't dress up like a farm animal if I were you.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Find, October 25th

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.

Like me you probably have a laundry list of things you wish you had done sooner. Buying a Sonicare toothbrush is on my list, taking hot yoga classes, and probably most glaringly working with a financial adviser. I have this tendency to do this thing that drives my wife crazy, it goes like this. She tells me something, either something I should try or something she heard about that she thinks is interesting.  A few months or more later I mention to her that "so and so said I should try this" and she stares at me and says "Are you serious?" This means that she had made that suggestion earlier and I blew it off.

Most recently I had been advised by a professional cyclocross racer that the "Scientific 7 Minute Workout" is great for relieving lower back pain from racing. I mentioned this to Gwynne and she told me that she had suggested that about 4 months ago and I scoffed at the idea. I don't remember that, but she also is not a professional cyclocross racer, in my defense.

A similar thing happened with the whole financial adviser idea. It had been something Gwynne had been suggesting for sometime but after we went out to dinner with a friend who explained some of the things that her financial adviser had helped her with, it became and idea I finally entertained. 

It's probably some of the best money we ever spent. While we pay an annual fee to our "guy" we have seen our net worth increase DRAMATICALLY. Really, really dramatically. I think by understanding how to approach debt, like say student loans aggressively, and how to manage our savings, coupled with completing a will, and purchasing additional life and disability insurance the whole process has been incredibly helpful. I had always thought of us as smart people and so the idea that we needed someone to tell us how to manage our finances sounded crazy to me. I was wrong, including the time I dialed the wrong number in 1997 and a wrong left turn I made in February of 2004, this makes three times now. I try not to make a habit of it.

First let me say that wine, as wonderful as it may be to drink and enjoy should not be seen as a financial investment. It's simply not a reliable return on investment and when it is, from a percentage standpoint it's nominal, perhaps enough to cover your next wine purchase but it's no way to live. Instead, buy nice wines and drink them with friends over dinner, now that is an admirable way to live. 

This week's Friday Find is not necessarily going to set you up for long term financial success but in terms of delivering a high return on investment it certainly will do that. The 2009 Pinot Noir Cuvee from Seufert Winery has us once again singing the praises of this tiny winery in Dayton, Oregon. Jim Seufert produces a number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs and we did a piece on them a couple years ago that you can read here.  

The 2009 Cuvee is a $20 Pinot Noir crafted from a variety of Willamette Valley sources that punches way above it's weight class. Great ripe berry aromatics, floral elements, with notes of clove and baking spice. The palate makes a case for a really pretty Pinot Noir with brightness and elegance from what has otherwise been noted as a ripe vintage. Flavors of ripe raspberry, Montmorency cherries and nutmeg finish out with a fresh acidity.  You can order the wine direct here

Monday, October 14, 2013

Making Wine in the Vineyard

One of the first things a winemaker will tell you is that “great wine is made in the vineyard.” And while obviously, they’re not actually making wine there, rather, growing it, the utterance gives you a real sense of the undeniable importance that proper vineyard location and its subsequent management can have on the final product, the wine in the bottle.

There are things about a vineyard, its soil quality, slope, sun exposure and heat units that made it a good location to begin with. More often than not vineyard sites that are in use today passed muster on most of those criteria before they were even planted. Some of the oldest vineyards in the Northwest were chosen by wine whiz kids coming north from California with these things in mind. While others came into being as the wine industry grew, many were originally established as farms or orchards and as the farmers and land owners watched their neighbors find success in the wine industry they converted their property over. It was a case of making do with what they had.

Stoller Vineyards happens to be a case of the latter, one that worked out, really, really well. A long time family owned turkey farm (notice the little two legged bird on the label) Bill Stoller was convinced by Harry Nedry that his land would make a prime Pinot Noir location. Given its southern exposure, the signature Dundee Jory soils and the great drainage Rob Schultz, the vineyard manager at Stoller thinks it’s a sterling case of serendipity.

“This site is perfect really, so we should be able to get to a place where we’re making history with these grapes.” Rob points out that the Stoller vineyards are one of the warmest sites in what is a cool section of the Willamette Valley’s Dundee Hills. That southern exposure and the diversity of elevation that the vineyard is planted within not only means that ripeness is not an issue but that they can harvest the vineyard over a three week period as the various blocks of the vineyards will reach physiological ripeness at different times.

As Rob toured me through the Stoller vineyards a couple things stood out; by Willamette Valley standards it’s a large vineyard and the site’s contours and topography made for a lot of variance, in terms of elevation, slope, sun exposure, what have you. It’s also been planted over a course of a few years and so they’ve dabbled in different techniques. For example Block 96 is planted in a tight Burgundian spacing and further down the hill you’ll find wider spacing between the rows. Rob joined the team in 2011 and 2012 was his first vintage.

Melissa, the winemaker & Rob, 
For Rob to do his job well it’s about his collaboration and cooperation with the winemaker, Melissa Burr who’s taking those grapes that Rob so carefully tended and trying to make the best Pinot Noir they’ll give her. “We share the same goal of trying to grow & make 100 point wines, of trying to make wines that show the terroir of the site.” While they have different jobs they have a lot in common, whether that’s their taste in wine styles or their closeness in age. That translates to a complimentary philosophy. “I take a winemaker’s approach in the vineyard.  She tries to make the wines taste like the vineyard.”

This played out in the day that I spent with Rob, on our tour he pointed out the vineyard’s section 14. “The tannins are a bit out of hand in that block, it’s something I’m working on.” Later in a tasting with Melissa she said “We’re trying to figure out section 14, I’m trying to coax out more fruit, right now it’s lot’s of tannin, but we’re working on that.” These two are on the same page. 

Melissa ferments each section of the vineyard separately, that allows her and Rob to taste through them once the wine has gone through malolactic fermentation. “We discuss the relative merits of each section and discuss what’s lacking or not.  For instance, certain sections might be lacking in tannin structure.” (They’re probably not talking about section 14.)

In that instance Rob then might be able to do certain things with that block that's lacking in tannin. One common vineyard practice to raise the level of grape tannin is to pull leaves from the vines and allow for more sun exposure. There have been studies examining the effects light has on tannin development in the grapes.

Rob's also got his eye on managing vigor or vine growth. "Vigor is a real issue with Jory soils, and I believe if we can manage that well, get to the right place, we can really move towards perfection in the wines we produce."

You get a real sense of mutual respect from talking with Melissa and Rob, whether that’s in each other’s company or not. There’s a teamwork attitude and approach, and frankly it’s something that comes across from everyone at Stoller. Rob’s gratitude and appreciation for his vineyard workers also comes out almost immediately. He knows that both he and Melissa cannot meet their goals without everyone being on board.

Rob knows what he has to work with and part of his strategy is to take the long view with everything that he and Melissa do and ultimately the wines that result from their decisions and actions. "One thing I do, is to compile all the vineyard information, the fermentation notes, and the subsequent quality into a singular report, and over time, hope to be able to track what I do, what Melissa does, and how that results in subsequent wine quality."

-Photos courtesy Stoller Family Estate

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Find October 11th

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.

Shutdown got ya down? I have committed to keeping the pages of the Anthem free of politics but there's no denying that Shutdown 2013 is a real drag. Rather than point fingers at who's to blame let's look at some of the impacts.

There's no zoo for the kids in D.C. to visit, the same goes for the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. This shutdown is for the birds.  Speaking of birds you might have heard that there was a salmonella scare lately. Here's the thing, the CDC was closed down by the government shutdown so there's really no one to track this to a potential source. The good news is that common sense has prevailed and the sleuths at the CDC are able to come back to work.

The National Parks are closed, and in some cases that's effective, while in others people are just jumping over barricades. Good news for those of you worried about your congressman or woman's fitness level, their gym and health club remains open during the government shutdown, for some reason. Interestingly enough there's a subway system that takes members of Congress from their offices to the Capitol Building, it's a short walk and only a 30 second train ride. That subway system is still opened, maintained and fully staffed. It's essential apparently. What's odd? Congress has deemed non-essential toxic waste clean-up. Clean up by the EPA has been suspended at over 500 locations.

Bizarro world.

This week's Friday Find is deemed essential in terms of delivering value and consistency, the 2011 Stateline Red from Walla Walla's Gifford Hirlinger winery. The State Line Red is named for the State Line Road that the winery is located on, This is their food in the door, kitchen sink red blend. The cool 2011 vintage shows up with lots of lighter red berries. You'll also pick up an oak influence, so make those dusty red berries. The wine is velveteen and finishes to a bit of spice. For $16 from a small family owned winery you can feel good supporting the local guy, the little guy and make this a go to weeknight wine to pair with your heartier meals. I picked mine up at the Magnolia Metropolitan Market.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Hanging with Boudreaux

from Lucha Vino

Rob Newsom of Boudreaux Cellars is an adventurer, story teller, wine maker and nice guy.  You could put the phrase “hell of a…” in front of each one of those labels and still be telling the truth. 

Recently, I had the pleasure of spending some time with Rob exploring his winery and listening to stories of adventure, old buddies, and (of course) wine making.

Rob moved from Louisiana to the Pacific Northwest in the mid 1970s.  He hasn’t lost his Louisiana drawl or down South hospitality in the intervening years. Both welcome you into his world and make you feel like a long time friend from the first time you meet.  Whether he is regaling you with stories of mountain climbing, building his winery or making wine you will hang on every word.

Rob ultimately moved to his spot on Icicle Creek in the early eighties after discovering the location on a climbing adventure.  First, he built his cabin and then twenty years later built his winery on the same location.  He personally cut the timbers for his cabin and built it himself by hand.  He also hand built the bridge that crosses Icicle Creek (twice!).  Rob says that cutting the timbers for his cabin and building that bridge were two of the most dangerous things he has ever done in his life.  When you consider the fact that he has climbed mountains in the Himalayas, Denali in Alaska and our own Mt. Rainier (multiple times) you can begin to envision what cutting those trees and building that bridge must have been like!

The Boudreaux Winery is rustic and striking, rising up among ancient trees along Icicle Creek.  Rob and his assistant wine maker, Tyler Vickrey, handpicked and carried all the river rock that adorns the exterior walls of the Boudreaux winery.  They just placed the last rock this year and Rob likes to say they are stonemasons that make wine on the side.

It was during the 90’s that Rob was introduced to Washington wines through Leonetti and the Figgins family.  Between outdoor adventures and wine Rob built a lasting friendship with the Figgins family.  He immediately became known as “Boudreaux” (a famous Southern character known for adventure and story telling). 

As the story goes, Rob was complaining about the cost of wine to Gary Figgins.  So Figgins threw down the challenge “Why don’t you do it yourself.”  Naturally, that was all the encouragement a guy like Rob Newsom would need.  His retort “I think I will!”  The name for the winery was a natural fit with Gary Figgins’ son Chris naming Rob’s first wine the “cru Boudreaux.”  And that is how you start a winery that has become one of the most unique wineries in the state of Washington.

When we walked into the winery Rob got things started by pouring us a glass of the “Big Nasty”, an unfiltered chardonnay that hit the spot considering the mercury in the thermometer was already pushing 100 degrees.  Next, we took a stroll down into the barrel room where it was considerably more comfortable.  The barrel room is completely underground with ambient temperature control varying from 49 to 59 degrees.  With the cooler temperatures in his barrel room, Rob likes to age his wine in barrel for an extra year.  You will see that most of his wines spend up to 36 months chilling in barrel.

Rob intertwines his love of adventure with his winemaking.  While we were hanging out in the barrel room we tasted a “Frangio” – a blend of Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese.  The result of getting some Cab Franc from Den Hoed and then wondering “What the heck do I do with this?”  Frangio was the result, a co-ferment of Cab Franc and Sangiovese that melds the herbal spiciness of the Cab Franc and tart cherries and earth tones of the Sangiovese into a splendid slightly spicy medium bodied wine.  Rob sells most of the Frangio to his friend J-Bo in Lousianna. 

As the story goes, J-Bo tried the wine and wanted to know how much it would cost.  When Rob replied with the price of a bottle, J-Bo said, “not for a bottle, for all of it!”  And the rest is history as J-Bo bought the whole lot for $12,000!  And that is how you get a wine named after you…

After we tasted the J-Bo Rob told us about a little Cab, Syrah, Sangiovese, Petite Verdot he had just whipped up.  And the adventure continues.

Back up to the tasting room and Rob opened a 2007 Cabernet and 2008 Cabernet Reserve for us.  The stories were already blowing my mind and now these two cabs finished the job.  Boom!

Rob’s first reserve cab was 100% Champoux fruit.  Today it is a blend of Loes Leonetti estate vineyard fruit and Champoux. The Boudreaux Reserve Cabernet is a one of a kind combination of Walla Walla and Horse Heaven Hills AVA grapes from two of the highest quality vineyards in Washington.

The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon showed dusty dark cherry, clove and menthol spice with a dry cedar spice and slight cocoa finish.

The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon reserve features bold rich dark fruit with some slightly herbal overtones and a big spicy tannin fueled chocolate finish.

Both of these wines are big, bold , rich and sassy.  You can enjoy them now or lay them down in your cellar for the future.

You can taste the Boudreaux wines at their tasting room in Leavenworth, the Wine Library in Woodinville and by appointment at the winery just off Icicle Creek outside of Leavenworth.  Rob’s wines are dynamite captured in a bottle. Get on out and taste them for yourself.  If you are fortunate enough to book a visit to the winery you will get the double pleasure of tasting the Boudreaux wines and listening to Rob’s stories of life and adventure.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Friday Find October 4th

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.

You can call me lazy today if you'd like, but I was reminded of the sheer genius of this Friday Find from last year by one of our readers, and given the "pumpkin creep" we're currently experiencing. That is to say, all the pumpkin beverage displays and cute little "pumpkin spice salvation" coffee tweets I'm seeing, it's time to dig in my heels and make my stand against this madness. To that end I bring you today's Friday Find, updated from about this time last year. Enjoy.

The pumpkin craze has gotten out of hand.  Pumpkin is good for bread, and pie, oh, and for pumpkins.  There are probably some other satisfactory uses of pumpkins, I know for example that people use them in catapults. These people are probably unemployed and so they've found this relatively harmless way to occupy their free time, to them I say, VOLUNTEER!

I have been accused of being curmudgeonly before, and frankly, I believe that I'm probably too handsome to be a curmudgeon but I do not care for the pumpkin beverage craze.  By that I mean the coffees and the beers. Pumpkin beer was a novelty ten or so years ago. At the time I lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan and there were three small craft breweries in the vicinity, Kraftbrau, of course Bells Brewing and New Holland Brewing. Only one of them, New Holland, made a pumpkin beer. These days if you were in a town with three microbreweries, you'd likely have 12 pumpkin beers between them. It's not funny anymore folks, it's not cute and the fact is there's so damn much pumpkin beer being made that you can drink it in April.

Pumpkin coffee? Sick. I love coffee, you know what I like my coffee to taste like? Coffee.  When I go off on one of these rants people say, "But Clive, you love pumpkin, and you love coffee." Yeah, you know what else I love? Mushrooms.

To further complicate this tirade I've got to get into a bit of full disclosure. I love pumpkin pie, but actually, just the cheap frozen kind.  I know what you're thinking. "Okay mister pumpkin beverage hater, what gives?"  I'll tell you, first, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," but to further explain, I came from a small blue collar neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Meat and potatoes, and at Thanksgiving, that meant frozen pumpkin pie. To me, that's what pumpkin pie is, and that's what it tastes like and that's how I like it.

To that point, it's pumpkin season, we know not because of the awesome jack o' lanterns we're all carving but because Big Box Coffee and every micro and macro brewery in America has unleashed their damned pumpkin beverages upon us. But, I'm here to save the day with an actual wine that pairs nicely with pumpkin pie. Riesling is probably the single best pumpkin pairing but a Pinot Blanc from Oregon will also do the trick. Today's Friday Find is the 2012 Pinot Blanc from Youngberg Hill.

The wine is very pretty and while less well known than the other two wines produced in the Willamette Valley that also begin with Pinot, it's a wine more folks oughta get to know. The aromatics are floral, fresh white flowers mostly, peach skin and lime zest. Flavors dig a bit deeper into that peach skin, with a fair amount of pronounced stone fruit, grapefruit makes the scene and there is a rounded spice note as well, maybe that's coriander. That could be attributed to the warmer vintage or perhaps it's a result of the neutral oak used in the wine. The acidity is there, but it's tame, balance achieved. It's a nice pumpkin pie wine, but frankly, it's just a nice wine period, even if you decide to skip the pumpkin all together. Youngberg Hill produces small lots so if you're into trying this out, you should contact them at the winery to find out where you might be able to score some. Consider it the anti-dote to all the pumpkin insanity that has been loosed upon the world.

You could instead continue down this road to ruin of pumpkin flavored beverages, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Baby's First Harvest: Kramer Vineyards' Oenocamp

me, slacking off to take a picture.

So, the Handsome Man sent me out to Yamhill County for some manual labor – it’s harvest season in wine country! Having been a contributor to the Anthem through two harvest seasons, it’s kind of a wonder it took me this long to get a taste of the manual labor that goes into creating the adult grape juice I’ve come to know and love. Lured by the prospect of day-drinking through some sparkling wines, my third harvest at the Anthem landed me at Kramer Vineyards with an intimate group of other enthusiasts for the Kramer “Oenocamp,” and boy do I have a new perspective. Truthfully, I was excited to finally get my hands dirty. I also feel as though one shouldn’t be allowed to consume wine before assisting with at least one harvest. The work is exhausting, time-consuming, challenging, sticky, and, did I say exhausting?

As I arrived, the bees, which we had been warned about, were already zipping around the crush pad, likely driven mad by the sticky sweetness in the air that seems to hang permanent during this time of the year. After a quick Harvest 101, we were paired up with long-time harvest worker Margarita, who was all too kind about my obviously newbie grape-snipping skills, and the inevitable slowing of her usual pace as she whipped her way down and around me along each row of vines, filling to the top at least eight buckets to my one. We are picking Pinot Gris, and the grapes are a beautiful dusty purple color, juicy and ripe as I watch the clusters fall into the bucket with each snip of my clippers.

Carmine on the vine.
Harvest is well under way for our host and winemaker Kim Kramer, who is notably giddy about the work she does with Kramer Vineyards’ wine, primarily the sparkling wine program. Kim is the daughter of owners Keith and Trudy Kramer, who began planting their vineyard in 1984 with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Müller-Thurgau. Their estate vineyards have since grown to produce Muscat, Pinot Meunier, Grüner Veltliner, and Carmine, a multi-colored cluster of fruit with strong floral flavors. Fun fact: even with only acre of Carmine planted, the Kramers have been cited as one of the largest growers of this strange and tasty varietal.

Having been raised at the vineyard, Kim admits she was initially daunted by the idea of joining the family business, knowing how exhausting and difficult the work can be. Despite her concerns, she soon found herself in the Chemeketa wine program and working at St. Innocent Winery, eventually drawn to the winemaking process at St. Innocent with her first attempt at sparkling wine in 2006. Kim joined Kramer Vineyards in 2008 with some ideas about where to take Kramer wines, to which Keith and Tammy were quite receptive. In 2010, Kim worked harvest in Burgundy and returned with a certainty about where to take the Kramer Pinot Noir – she explains, “my goal is to promote healthy, clean fermentations, and in doing so, we’re able to produce wines that fully express the vineyard my parents worked so hard to establish,” citing their estate vineyard status as key in the creation of each wine.

bandages - (not me! I swear)
Even with my limited involvement, I can attest that the work is, in fact, extremely difficult. Hunched over for hours at a time snipping away at each individual cluster of fruit, trying not to accidently catch your own appendages or get stung by the swarming bees, and that’s just the beginning. By the time our group had finished, we had collectively filled eight bins of grapes, with minimal injuries(ish). We rinsed, sorted them and helped Kim cram four bins into the press, and by “we” I mean I stood about 30 feet back because, I mean… the bees, guys. So many bees…


2013 will be Kim’s fifth vintage of sparkling wine, and as she talks us through the winemaking process, her excitement and passion for her work bubbles over us like the sparkling wines she produces, which makes consuming it all the more enjoyable. The 2011, which she notes seems to best represent the Kramer vineyards, is delightfully crisp and refreshing, especially after a long morning of harvest work. 

For more information about how to get involved in harvest for the 2014 vintage, which I highly recommend, reach out to your local wineries for details about harvest events and volunteer opportunities.