Seattle's Urban Wineries Part 7: Bartholomew Wine

Bartholomew Wine's owner, operator, winemaker, and all around hustler is Bart Fawbush and while he's the new kid on the block in Seattle's urban wine market, he's certainly not new to the wine world. He's also not a fan of New Kids on the Block, just to clear that up.

I've met my share of winemakers and Bart is about as unassuming a character as I've met. He believes, as we at the Oregon Wine Blog do, that wine is about the experience. It was the social element that drew him to the wine world; he likes talking to people and learning about them and about what they enjoy. Wine sets a nice bit of background music for taking in all he can about those he meets.

His experience with Washington Wine is what brought him to this point. After having tasted some of Washington's wines he decided he wanted to know more. Bart gleaned his knowledge by working at all levels within the wine world here in Washington. He assisted on a few harvests, he sold wines as an impromptu representative and he poured at many tasting rooms and events. His experiences taught him a lot about the industry but also about the kinds of wines he wanted to create. From the outset, Bart knew that he wanted to begin his foray into wine with blends and so he sought guidance from Robert Smasne in choosing vineyard sites and thinking about the characteristics of various Washington varietals.

His first releases are a real treat, particularly for those of us who are fans of blends. The first release, including the Orsa, the Jaxon, the Reciprocity, and are all 2007; the Sauvignon Blanc is a 2008. The Orsa is his Rhone Style blend, and he did an amazing job with it. The Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre blend is probably one of my favorite styles of wine. Bart's first go at it is impressive, with brandied cherries on the pallet and a dusty earthen nose. The Jaxon, a Cabernet and Merlot blend, is named for Bart's son. This is the only vineyard designate that Bart is making right now, and it's out of Walla Walla's Pepperbridge Vineyard. His final blend, the Reciprocity, was off the chain. (Young kids like to say off the chain. I used to say off the hook, but I'm trying to be hip here.) The Carmenere and Cabernet blend had Gwynne and I both swooning. Carmenere usually brings a little more of the wild element to a wine, but this blending with Cabernet has tamed it into a refined beauty. (Gwynne and I scooped up a couple bottles of Reciprocity.)

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Bartholomew Wine is also making a really beautiful Sauvignon Blanc, and with summer on it's way this is a wine for the warm weather ahead of us. The wine is a bit more fruit forward than a lot of the grassy, minerally Sauvignon Blancs we get in Washington and it has a brilliant acidity that makes it dangerously easy to drink.

I'm really happy for Bart as I first met him while he was pouring for Smasne Cellars at another event. We'd been chatting for some time about his coming winery and opening weekend. It's clear that there is a lot of love and passion in what he's doing. His blends are really interesting and with his first release he's making really nicely balanced wines. I hope you'll go by and say hello and take some time to enjoy his wine - with what he's doing, it's very easy to enjoy them.

An Honest Review of "Two Buck Chuck"

Fully acknowledging that this may be wine blogger suicide, I am now diving into the wonderful world of Charles Shaw, or “Two Buck Chuck” wine. While the opinions about Charles Shaw range the entire spectrum, I believe they deserve a fair chance at The Oregon Wine Blog. I believe that Charles Shaw gets a bad reputation from people who have never even tried it. Charles Shaw is perhaps one of the most well known labels of “extreme value wine” and many oenophiles form an opinion about Charles Shaw, simply because of the $1.99 price tag. To maintain impartiality throughout this review I am declining to state my personal preference here except to say that I do have my own opinion on Charles Shaw and that was developed after consuming it. With that said, away we go!

Before we get into the wine, let’s talk about the history of the Charles Shaw label. I want to start here because whether or not you are a fan of “Two Buck Chuck” or not, it is important to understand the impact that this wine and other wines produced by the Bronco Wine Company have had on the wine industry. Something I learned in researching for this post was that Charles Shaw is an actual person and did actually produce wines. In the 1970’s, Charles F. Shaw moved to Napa Valley to produce Beaujolais nouveau style wines. At this point Charles Shaw was not trying to produce bargain priced wines and when he sold the name to the Bronco Wine Company in 1991 it carried strong and reliable name recognition. Debuting in 2001, Bronco Wine Company (owned by Fred Franzia) released a new brand of inexpensive wine under the name Charles Shaw. Owner of over 35,000 acres of grapes in Central California, Bronco Wine Company is responsible for over 50 brands of “bargain priced” and “extreme value” wines including Black Mountain, Rutherford Vintners, and Forest Glen, to name a few.

When I committed to doing this review, I ventured into Trader Joe’s, the exclusive retailer for Charles Shaw, and was overwhelmed by the display of the value wine. Intimidating because of the quantity of wine sitting out, not so much by the design or décor of the display, I circled several times before picking the varietals I was going to review. In the end, I settled on a ’08 Merlot, ’09 Cabernet Sauvignon, ’08 Chardonnay, and an ’08 White Zinfandel. Now I know what you’re thinking, “I already don’t like the Two Buck Chuck swill, and now they give me a White Zin, what the hell is next?” Apparently Clive needs to visit California and conquer the White Zinfandel down here as well, now that the evil northwest bosses have been defeated.

Going against convention, I started with the Cabernet Sauvignon followed by the Merlot. The nose on the Cab was very strong but left just as quickly and I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a sign of the wine. Enjoying deep and robust red wines, I was disappointed to taste how fruity the Cabernet was on my first sip and much like the nose, the flavors hopped in their getaway car and sped off, leaving me with only the memory of the tasting. This quick exit was a tell-tale sign that the grapes were not from Sonoma or Napa which typically produce full-bodied and long-lasting wines.
As I moved to the Merlot I was quickly able to pick up flavors of plum as the Merlot had more of a distinct flavor than the Cabernet. Unfortunately the distinct flavor became a metallic one as I sipped. As I took another sip the metallic flavor lingered and tainted the rest of the wine, making it very challenging to enjoy. As it relates to the reds, it’s Cabernet-1 – Merlot-0.

Hoping for a better showing from the “whites” I pulled the Chardonnay out of the fridge. Upon pouring I noticed the very light coloring in the Chardonnay. Similar to the Cabernet there was a lack of a distinct flavor profile in this wine. Whereas Chardonnays find themselves on side of either a crisp, fresh body or a fuller, buttery body, the Charles Shaw Chardonnay is refusing to play the game and is sitting squarely in the middle. Of the flavors present there were hints of pear and apple and of the three wines tasted so far was definitely the most palatable. Although I typically won’t cook with wines I won’t drink, I could see this as an acceptable cooking wine.
And now, the best for last, the 2008 White Zinfandel. As I poured the glass I could see the unmistakable pink color glaring at me, as if it knew my buddy Clive was not around to help me battle. As impartial as I have tried to be tasting Charles Shaw and during this post, it is very difficult to hide my feelings for the White Zinfandel. This wine was just bad. It was near impossible to detect the flavors through my gag reflex. So while I can remotely understand why people would purchase and drink the other three, I find it unfathomable that someone would enjoy this wine.

The common thread through most of the wines was that there was a lack of distinct flavor. It is exactly this characteristic that feeds the success for this label. Particularly for new wine drinkers, I can understand why this wine has mass appeal. Without drinking a lot of wine you don’t know what you like and what you don’t like, and it is an expensive journey to find out. Charles Shaw produces a wine that appeals to people without distinct tastes, and for $1.99 they can’t go wrong.

For better or for worse, the Bronco Wine Company, particularly the labels of Franzia boxed wine and Charles Shaw has introduced wine to a whole new and younger generation of wine drinkers. And while some will progress and transition into more refined tastes, others will be forced to “slap the bladder” for life. Love it or hate it, at least try it before making a judgment on any of their wines. The price shouldn’t dictate your opinion on these wines, as we have all had those $30 or $40 bottles that we also have not enjoyed. So while the wines did not fair so well today in my review, I can understand the type of wine drinker that may enjoy a glass of "Two Buck Chuck."

Wine and Song Around the Plaza (Part Deux)

Just like the next Harry Potter movie, I know that you all have been sitting on the edge of your seats for this post. So, I finally present you the long overdue sequel to Wine and Song Around the Plaza.
Knowing that Day 2 was going to be a long day, Katie and I started out with a big breakfast at home before making our way to Sonoma. We started at water station sponsored by FIJI water. Since this was a charity event for kids, it made sense to have the music students this program benefitted participating as one of the jazz acts. It made even more sense to have them playing outside the water stop as I am sure I would not be the only one to find the irony had local elementary, middle, and high school students playing at a winery.

On Day 1 we sacrificed doing the tequila tasting in favor of visiting more wineries but on Day 2 we decided to begin our day at the Patron Tequila station. They were serving two different drinks and we both opted for the familiar margarita. Now I can taste the difference between Cuervo and a plastic bottle of Sauza, but I don’t think my tequila tastes are refined enough to fully appreciate a margarita made with Patron tequila. It had a great taste to it, but I wasn’t overly impressed. Although I feel this was more to do with my lack of tequila knowledge than anything else. I must say however that it felt very out of place to have a tequila station at Wine and Song. To my knowledge Patron tequila is not produced in Sonoma County and I was never able to ascertain why they were participating.
Since most of the participating vineyards were different from Day 1 (The one exception being Roche Winery), we had no problem accomplishing our mission of branching out and trying new wines. Perhaps the favorite and one that stood out the most was a sparkling wine from Gloria Ferrar Caves and Vineyards. Located in the Carneros region of Sonoma County, Gloria Ferrer was the first sparkling wine house in Carneros. They were pouring their newest release, Va de Vi, a sparkling wine blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and just a hint of Muscat. Crisp berries and savory pear are among the first notes detected and I found myself enjoying a lingering lemon note at the end. A dry sparkling wine that borders demi-sec, this sparkling would pair well with a spicy dinner or a fresh dessert.

Following another wonderful day of Wine and Song Katie and I headed up to the tent for the Elvis Costello concert. This was an experience all its own. We immediately noticed a more mixed age crowd than the previous night at Earth, Wind, and Fire. The of-age crowd definitely took advantage of the plethora of wine available for purchase and some let their hair down and tried to re-live their glory days. This was made no more clear than when I tried to pull out my handy dandy notebook to write down an observation and was immediately confronted by a not-so-sober gentlemen criticizing me for “analyzing everything.” After coming to the conclusion that the woman next to me was my wife and invading my personal space, this concert-goer (who did not have a wedding ring) began to share with us his wisdom for a happy and successful marriage. While I won’t post all of the details here, mostly because then you would be paying $24.95 a month and need a password to read this blog (The Oregon Wine Blog XXX), his recommendations included a daily routine of sleeping, drinking, and having sex....finishing it all off with a big egg was at this point that he fell over.

When all was said and done, this was a great event that allowed locals and visitors the chance to experience some of the best that Sonoma has to offer in a convenient way. Rather than driving from tasting room to tasting room, they came to us all around the gorgeous backdrop of the Sonoma Square. And even more of a reason, it all benefits music education in local schools, which we all know is incredibly valuable to a child’s education but one of the first things to get cut out of the budget. So we get to drink great wine and listen to great music and schools benefit from music programs, why wouldn’t you go?

Ready...Set...Ride in Le Tour de Pinot

What could be better than a summer of wine in Oregon? A summer of wine in Oregon from the back of a bicycle, of course. Behold, the 2010 edition of Le Tour de Pinot! Le Tour de Pinot (LTdP) is an annual event themed around cycling to various wineries. LTdP was spawned initially as more of a joke after Rick and Josh had been watching Le Tour de France 2009. What if we took the whole summer cycling out to local wineries? Well, that's exactly what we did and Le Tour de Pinot was formed.

Each stage is a separate ride on a separate day spanning the summer, allowing riders to join based on schedule and ability.

Le Tour de Pinot's second year is going to be HUGE thanks to support from our new sponsors. Avalon Wine has been gracious enough to support us as Le Tour de Pinot's Jeroboam (primary) sponsor. Block 15 Restaurant and Brewery and Mahlum Architecs have also been gracious enough to sponsor as Magnum sponsors. The level of support we have is allowing us to do things we hadn't even dreamt of last year. What kinds of things?

More Posters. Last year's poster was honestly just something fun to do half way through the tour. We had no idea it'd win over so many people and ended up with a bunch of requests for prints, so this year we're going to have framed copies for every winery, sponsor, and then make any additional posters available for whoever else wants one. The 2010 poster itself will be revealed before the end of June.

Cycling Jerseys. Not bad for a second year cycling tour, huh? We are SO excited to have these made and it wouldn't have even been fathomable without support from our sponsors. Look forward to more info on these as well.

Public Stage. We're welcoming the general public (anybody with a bike, some guts, and a hankering for wine) to join us [at your own risk, The Oregon Wine Blog assumes no liability for any cycling mishaps] for our public stage on July 17! We'll be departing from Avalon Wine, heading to Tyee, and returning to finish up at Avalon. Contact us for more details.

The idea behind this year's tour was to do a little mix of old and new. You'll see a couple familiar names as well as some new. We're also branching out on distance for a few rides and trying to get some more community involvement for some of the shorter rides. We'll be posting more info about this as well, but dust off your bike and hit your trainer if you think you may want to join us.

Tour Stages:

Stage 1 (June 19): Belle Vallee Cellars - Corvallis, OR; 2.8 miles
Stage 2 (July 3): Spindrift Cellars - Philomath, OR; 15.5 miles
Stage 3 (July 17): Tyee Wine Cellars - Corvallis, OR; 24 miles (Public Stage)
Stage 4 (July 25): Harris Bridge Vineyards - Philomath, OR ; 30 miles
Stage 5 (August 7): Airlie Winery - Monmouth, OR; 35 miles
Stage 6 (August 21): Willamette Valley Vineyards - Turner, OR; 57 miles
Stage 7 (August 22): Finale Dinner - TOWB Headquarters - Corvallis, OR


Avalon Wine - Jeroboam Sponsor
Block 15 Restaurant and Brewery - Magnum Sponsor
Mahlum Architects - Magnum Sponsor

So, are you convinced yet?  Watch out as we cruise by in our styling jerseys and spandex, with a backpack of wine.  Don't forget to mark July 17 on your calendar and get ready to hit Tyee with us.

Fighting the Scourge of White Zinfandel; #WARose

image of actual heroes from

Word came through the twitter machine that Paul Gregutt was assembling a taskforce to face off against arch-villain White Zinfandel. Summoned to the waterfront was a taskforce comprised of Washington Wine Heroes the likes of which California has never seen. It was Justice League of America meets X-men meets Voltron, which means it was pretty serious, and very hero-ish.

We assembled on our floating headquarters, the Randall PR Boat of Wine Justice & Ass Kicking. Paul had called forth some of Washington Wines most powerful blogosphere types: Seattle Wine Gal, the Wine Social Media Maven who could assemble an army of followers with a wave of her iPhone; Wine Peeps, who was a fast writer; Shona425 has the power of another area code, what? Write for Wine could write for wine; Washington Wine Report had the ability to unleash his encyclopedic knowledge of Washington wine, terroir, fruit traits, weather, soil composition, oak programs, etc. rendering listeners at a loss to understand how this man could possibly hold down any other job, or even have time to dress himself. Washington Wine & Beer had the ability to provide beer, a power that should never be underestimated. Yashar Wine Monger could blind evildoers by spitting wine at them at high rates of speed, after analyzing them for mouthfeel, balanced acidity and mid-palate character within seconds. I was clearly among a talented group, and my only power was to unleash funnyness, oh, and the handsomeness.

Paul took one look at us and shook his head. We clearly did not have the power to make White Zinfandel quake in fear. Aside from SeattleWineGal's ability to assemble large quantities of people, and Sean of Washington Wine Report's ability to astound people with an infinite amount of wine minutae, we were pretty much worthless. Our power to write stuff down did not intimidate. Paul hung his head, unsure of how to defend the world from swill and advocate for quality dry rosé out of Washington state. The situation looked grim. One of the emmissaries on the Boat of Wine Justice & Ass Kicking, Andrea, piped in, "Well, if the world is going to drown in icky pink White Zinfandel, we might as well open the incredible Washington rosé I assembled. You know, go out in style. Maybe even tweet about it."

And that, folks, is what we did. To counteract the global, or really just American prevalence of White Zinfandel, we popped bottle after bottle of high-quality, nuanced, layered and complex pink wine. Yes, I said pink. This was wine that was a crisp and refreshing summer option but had much of the complexity that makes people say things like, "I only drink red wine." While there are plenty of mindless sweet pink sippers out there, we didn't have any of these on the boat.

Trey Busch of Sleight of Hand Cellars joined us and brought his Magician's Assistant. This was his third Rosé, and he was out to make a light wine that could be enjoyed seasonally. Trey believes that Rosé is best between Memorial Day and Labor Day; that it's not meant to hang around long. Not sure what would happen if Trey lived somewhere without these two holidays, like anywhere but here, I suppose he just wouldn't drink or make Rosé in that case.

The Rosé of Sangiovese from Barnard Griffin is one of the most available Washington Rosés. It's very approachable yet still has a complexity in its off-dry profile. The Syncline Rosé from Columbia Valley was a Rhone style masterpiece. The wine was predominantly Cinsault and Grenache, as well as Mouvedre and Counoise. Chinook Wines Cab Franc-based rosé has been one of the long standing quality rosés in Washington for a long time. This wine has become a way for Washington wine drinkers to mark the changing of Spring into Summer.

Virginie Bourgue, the winemaker at Lullaby Winery from Walla Walla, also stowed away with us. Her Rosé was the most unique of the bunch, and the only 2008. She disagreed with Trey's idea that Rosé is meant to be consumed right away. She bottled this wine in the autumn and feels like it's just now ready. It may have something to do with the fact that she's from France and doesn't understand Memorial Day & Labor Day rules having to do with white slacks and shoes, and apparently for Trey, Rosé. Her 2008 Rosé was was made with Grenache and it came in a 500ml bottle. Being French, she uses the metric system or something so, smaller bottles. The wine was a beautiful light copper hue.

The Charles & Charles Rosé is a single vineyard effort from Wahluke Slope, done by Charles Smith of K Vintners and Charles Bieler who has made wine in Provence, France. The last two wines we drank were Rosés from Walla Walla favorites Waters Winery and Dusted Valley. These were two amazing examples of Washington Rosé that I'll talk more about in a separate post. The Waters Rosé was one of my favorites, and came from the Forgotten Hills vineyard, which I think ranks among the most distinct. It was 75% Syrah co-fermented with 25% Viognier. Amazing wine. The Dusted Valley Rosé from Columbia Valley, is a blend of Mouvedre, Counoise, Syrah and Viognier. The wine is a interesting and unique blend of Rosé that would be a great food pairing wine.

Washington Rosé was poured long into the evening as we all fought off the anxiety caused by the impending flood of White Zinfandel that would soon be upon us. We waited for the end that never came. As the sun came up, people were dancing in the streets with bottles of off-dry Washington Rosé. The evil that is White Zinfandel had been conquered, defeated by superior taste in summer wine and a superior effort from Northwest Winemakers to take back a wine that is an important part of the wine drinking tradition. We had prevailed and lived to drink another day.

Pesto White Wine Chicken

In mid-May, my husband and I visited the Italian Kitchen, a wonderful restaurant in Spokane. He ordered their Tuscan Chicken, a delicious dish with a white wine pesto. I tried a bite and loved it! The next day, I looked online to find a recipe that would be similar to the delicious dinner he had the night before. I found a recipe for Pesto White Wine Chicken, which is listed below.

Last weekend, I took a friend with me to the Arbor Crest Winery in Spokane. It was a beautiful summer day and appeared that many others had the same idea to sneak up to the winery! I highly recommend a stop at Arbor Crest on your next trip through Spokane. The vineyard is located at the top of a hill with a beautiful view of all of Spokane and into Idaho. The Winery has many bistro tables outside as an invitation for guests to buy a bottle and settle in. Feel free to bring up a picnic lunch or just your favorite variety of cheeses to devour with your wine. As a special treat, Arbor Crest's 2006 Sauvignon Blanc was specially priced at $5, down from its normal $12, as they were trying to clear it out to make room for new wine. I love the crisp fruity notes in this wine, and its exceptionally clean finish. In fact, I bought a case! Get there quickly though--it was going fast! I used this wine in the Pesto White Wine Chicken.

Pesto White Wine Chicken
2 cups fresh basil
3 cloves of garlic
1/3 c. fresh grated parmesan
1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. chicken broth
1 c. white wine
2 Tbsp. dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into strips

16 oz pasta (linguine or angel hair)
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 large white onion, diced
1 Tbsp. white sugar
8 ounces sun dried tomatoes (previously packed in oil), drained
8 ounces canned artichoke hearts, drained
1/3 c. pine nuts, toasted
1/2 c. white wine
1 c. heavy cream
  1. Place all of the marinade ingredients into a bag. Set aside while you prepare other items.
  2. Put basil, garlic, and parmesan cheese into a food processor or blender. Gradually add oil until blended and smooth. If pesto is not getting smooth, slowly add more oil. You can also add a small amount of water if needed.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add some salt to the water. Add pasta and cook just until done, as listed on the box. Remove from heat and rinse with cold water to stop cooking process. Toss with 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.
  4. Heat 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in onions and sprinkle with sugar. Cook until onions are soft and translucent. Stir in sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts. Cook 4-5 minutes longer. Add artichokes and cook 2 more minutes.
  5. Stir in chicken and all of marinade. Add another 1/2 c. of white wine. Simmer 10-12 minutes longer, stirring as needed.
  6. Add pesto to the pan. Stir in cream and cook until sauce thickens. If sauce isn't thickening, you can add flour 1 Tbsp at a time to help thicken it.
  7. Once sauce thickens to your liking, add pasta. Salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking until pasta is heated thoroughly.
  8. Top with freshly grated parmesan and serve.
Notes: You can also sub in fat free half and half to reduce the fat in this recipe significantly. Sun dried tomatoes can be extremely expensive. At one store, it was over $4 for a 8 ounce jar. Costco had a 32 ounce jar for around $8. Pine nuts can also be very pricey! If you live near a Winco, the bulk section is the way to go- only buy what you will need at a very reasonable price!

Northwest Sparkling Wine Series: Part 1 of 1

In what was meant to be a multi-part series of sparkling wines of the Pacific Northwest, I present to you the first of our one part series reviewing sparkling wines of the northwest.  Why one part? A few reasons, actually.  One is that not a whole lot of people in the northwest make sparkling wines.  They're expensive to produce, require specialized equipment, and take way more time to finish. Beyond that, there's just not as much of a market. 

We hit up all of the big players and only heard back from two; Domaine Ste. Michelle from Paterson, Washington and Van Duzer out of Dallas, Oregon. Domaine Ste. Michelle delivered three of their varieties to try and Van Duzer one, so let's get it on.

Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut

This offering is described by Domaine Ste. Michelle as not too dry and not too sweet. Think of it as a utility wine for any occasion. Notes of apple and citrus are listed with a lightly toasted finish.

*Pop* "OH SHIT!"

Our first popping didn't go so well. After the cork shot on top of our kitchen's cabinetry, wine immediately poured over our floor. Turns out we're not as skilled with popping a sparkling wine as we are with popping a traditional cork.

Some thoughts:
Megan: "Bubbles are extra fun.  In your mouth they chill and then they pop.  Then they hang out and then it's like BOOM"

Josh: "Smells kind of like a pinot gris.  Fizz on the start and a bit of acid on the finish"  Doesn't taste cheap

Chris: "Incredibly dry, but nose is incredibly sweet.  Surprised by dryness.   Disappointed of its dryness because of how deceiving the nose is."

Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Blancs

This wine is the driest of Domaine Ste. Michelle's offerings and is described as having pear and apple aromas, which makes sense since it is 100% chardonnay. We're all big fans of chardonnay, so let's start sipping.

Gordon: "It's sweeter.  Both tastes and smells sweeter, and it passes quicker.  So far my favorite because it's more complex."

Kathryn: "Does kind of pop on your mouth at first, but then fades quickly.  It's like a pop rock.  You could get drunk on this at a wedding, Whoohoo!"

Josh: "I smell a little more Chardonnay on that one.  Less acidic and doesn't stay on your palate as long.  Got some pineapple on the nose."

Rick: "Very one dimensional.  Perfect for a wedding."

Alyssa: "Like an explosion of yumminess on your mouth"

Van Duzer Methode Champenoise Oregon Sparkling Wine

Made by true Methode Champenoise process, the 40% Chardonnay, 60% Pinot Noir blend marries aromas and flavors of honeyed pear, apple and toast, carried effortlessly aloft on tiny bubbles. I'm a big fan of pinot-based sparkling wines and absolutely loved the previous chardonnay-based one, so this should be exciting.

Megan: "Get some cinnamon, we'll have some cookies."

Josh: "This is very tight.  Relatively dry.  I don't think there's any sugar in this.  Flavor of grapes actually come out with this.  For a more sophisticated palate.  Close second favorite."

Gordon: "Holy shit man.  Raisins, holy shit I smell raisins.  Write that shit down."

Rick: "The most complex of the three so far.  Like it much more than the second and marginally more than the first.  Dry enough to wine over brut fans."

Chris: "Very brightness, feel an "oooh" and eyebrows go up.  A little baked good action in the nose, I could see raisins in the nose"

Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Noirs

This pinot noir-based sparkling wine is billed as having spicy ripe raspberry and strawberry hues. It's classified as medium-dry and is our only 100% red-based sparkling wine for this series.

Kathryn: "Smell doesn't bug me as much as the last one.  Reminds me of the second one. Favorite so far."

Gordon: "It's dryer than the last one.  This tastes like the second one where the taste goes away quicker. Favorite of the four."

Josh: :Has an off-sweet nose. Favorite.

Rick: "Plum on nose, pomegranate.  Favorite of four."

With four very different sparkling wines, the six of us all learned a lot about where each others tastes lie. The Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Noirs ended up being the two highest rated, at least tells me that this particular group likes medium-dry sparkling wines of one grape varietal. The Van Duzer mixed approach didn't go over as well with some, but at the same time it really won over others. Like all wine, taste is subjective.

A huge thank you goes out to Domaine Ste. Michelle and Van Duzer Vineyards for helping us out with this review. While there certainly aren't as many wineries doing sparkling wine in the Northwest as in California, the wines themselves are phenomenal. Do yourself a favor and pick one up.

Pinot from Washington State...Kyra Wines

I had heard rumors, whispers, even mumblings about top shelf Pinot Noir from Washington state. There aren't many of them being made in Washington, due in large part to the significant doubt that the growing conditions allow the fruit to become what it can truly be. Kyra Baerlocher of Kyra Wines in Moses Lake is one of those who is making a Pinot Noir. Given how much I enjoyed their Merlot, I was looking forward to giving their Pinot Noir a whirl. (Kyra sent me the wine to review.)

Washington state's AVAs are warmer than Oregon's, particularly in the more common wine growing areas east of the Cascade Mountains. Recently, the Puget Sound AVA has begun getting a reputation as a possible Pinot Noir spot. There is, however, quite a bit of skepticism and the jury is still out on how the Washington Pinot will hold up to vintners' experimentations. Some Washington winemakers have committed to making the varietal work in Washington and we should see some interesting wines over the next few years.

Kyra more or less happened into Pinot Noir while she was waiting for her estate vineyards to mature. As she put it, it found her. She was working with the Evergreen Vineyards in George, Washington and really liked their fruit, so when some of their Pinot Noir fruit came available, Kyra figured she'd give it a try. What she found is that Pinot is a whole different kind of animal, except, it's not really an animal, but a grape. That's just an expression people use, so you know.

Kyra speculates that winemakers in Washington may be going awry when they treat Pinot like other varietals: "Once I began to work with Pinot Noir, I realized it couldn't be approached like any red varietal from Washington." When Kyra Wines decided to make a specific investment in their production of Pinot Noir, they purchased wine making equipment that is specific to Pinot and started to think differently about how they'd approach this wine. Kyra spent a lot of time and effort on yeast selection and extraction to achieve the best color concentration, which seems to be a weak spot for many Washington Pinots.

In order to get the complexity she's looking for out of the wine, Kyra gives her blending a lot of consideration. She's worked with Mike Buckmiller from Okanogan Estate & Vineyards who has made Pinot for some time out of the Okanogan Valley. Additionally she's working with the fruit from Jack Brady of Underwood Mountain in the Columbia Gorge.

This Pinot Noir is considerably different from the majority of the ones coming out of Washington. Any that I've had anyways. The dark fruit elements of the wine and the color concentration are certainly unique,to Washington Pinot. It's not an Oregon Pinot either though, the completely obvious aside. It's a Pinot of a different color, if you will.

The wine has darker fruit characteristics, the nose is baked cherry tart and thanks to the oak program Kyra used, there's a hint of toasted almond in there as well. The flavor is concentrated - it almost has a smoky fruit element. In comparison to Oregon Pinot Noir I find less of the earth and soil tones. Kyra's Pinot is exciting and really holds great promise for what this varietal can be in Washington. The wine shows lots of layers and a flavor concentration that should allow for the wine to develop and age. I love what Kyra has done with this wine and look forward to her future endeavors.

Raspberry Wine Cake

It's as sweet and delicious as it sounds! I made it last weekend when a friend came over for lunch. We had it with a creamy gorgonzola fettuccine with asparagus (also delicious). For this recipe, I used a bottle of raspberry wine from the Flying Dutchmen Winery located on Oregon's coast in Otter Rock, next to Devil's Punch Bowl State Park. This is a SWEET wine. If you are a sweet tooth, by all means, dive in! For me, it was too sweet to drink, so it was perfect for dessert type dishes.

Raspberry Wine Cake
1 box moist white cake mix
1 3-oz package of raspberry flavored gelatin
4 eggs 1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 1/2 c. raspberry wine
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. white sugar

  1. Preheat over to 325 degrees.
  2. Spray a 10 inch bundt pan with cooking spray. Dump 1/4 c. white sugar into the pan and shake around the pan until coated with sugar. Dump excess sugar.
  3. In a bowl, stir together cake mix and gelatin. Add eggs, oil and 1 c. blackberry wine. Beat 3-5 minutes until well blended.
  4. Pour batter into pan.
  5. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  6. While the cake bakes, mix remained 1/2 c. wine with 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar. Have this ready BEFORE the cake comes out of the oven.
  7. When cake comes out of oven, leave in pan. Immediately pour half of the sugar/wine mixture into the cake. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  8. After the 10 minutes, turn cake onto rack and let cool.
  9. Once completed cooled, pour the rest of the sugar/wine mixture over the cake.

Please tell me someone else was thinking of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and the bundt cake scene!

You will likely have wine left over after this recipe. I recommend reducing it in a saucepan for a while until it becomes like a syrup. It is great drizzled over warm brownie and garnished with fresh mint and berries! Delicious!!!

Winemakers Rock out with their Corks out, 3rd Annual Wine Rocks Seattle

Seattle Wine Rocks 2010 - Images by Alan Alabastro

Wine Rocks got off to a strange start this year with a small group of wine enthusiast/geologists who had become confused by the event title, and had been operating under the assumption that this whole wine rocks thing was about wine and rocks. And while the geology of Washington State is to "blame" for all the top notch wine that is being made here in Washington, it wasn't that kinda party.

While the rocks do help make amazing wine, there's another side to that equation: the winemakers, who spent the event rocking out, uh, with their corks out. Rob Newsome of Bourdreaux Cellars out of Leavenworth gave us a sense of his southern Louisiana roots with a little blues action to kick off the event. After Rob; Paul Gregutt and some renegade-looking rockers, The Paul Gregutt band took to the stage followed by Jamie Brown of Waters Winery out of Walla Walla (and winemaker of one of my favorite Syrahs in the world with their Forgotten Hills). Jamie went a bit wild on us, he was not messing around, donning black and sunglasses he unleashed a obscenity-filled can of lyrical whoopass upon us. I want to say that Gordy Rawson of Chatter Creek went on last, but I might be wrong about that. There was also this young cat who was very handsome and could sing quite well. I didn't catch his name but he was wearing a knit cap, or the Canadians would call it, a touk. My man could sing like a canary, or maybe something more sultry but I just couldn't get past how warm his head must have been.

Oh, there was wine at this event, and as a wine blogger, I should probably talk a bit about that. There was a lot of wine, a lot, and I didn't get to drink all of it, but I definitely hit some of the highlights.

The Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla Vintners was one of the wines that I've not had before and so I was pleased to give this wine a whirl. The wine is 100% Sagemoor fruit from what may be Washington state's oldest vines. This wine had very chocolatey notes on the palate and an excellent finish. I was very impressed.

I was also happy to see one of my favorites from last year's event, Donedei Wines, pouring their Cabernet and Merlot. Both wines are from some of Washington's most amazing vineyards, Ciel du Cheval and Elephant Mountain. Carolyn Lakewold is making amazing wines down near Olympia, so go see them if you get the chance.

The real treat of the evening for me were the two Syrahs that Eric Dunham was pouring. I hadn't met Eric before but made a lot of assumptions about him based on his rock star winemaker status. Pairing up with the guy from Dune doesn't seem to have effected Eric. He was friendly and given how loud it was with all that rocking that was going on, he was patient with my questions. His Syrahs, the Double River and Frenchtown, are both single-vineyard 2005 Syrahs from Walla Walla. The Frenchtown was my favorite of the two; an elegant wine that is a confident example of Washington Syrah.

Wine Rocks number three is in the books, and the Hard Rock Cafe proved a worthy site, the crowd was bumping with another sellout. The beneficiary of the event was Art Corps, the community organization that seeks to grant access to art education to children from all socio-economic communities. We also benefited as these vintners were pouring top shelf wines, many of the wines we were tasting ranged from $35-$65. They weren't holding anything back. Jamie Peha put on another fabulous event again this year; good job, Jamie.

The World Needs Pinot: The International Pinot Noir Celebration

There was a song that I remember from, well, from a long time ago, and the lyrics are "what the world needs now is love, sweet love, that's the only thing that there's just too little of" and how love might cure all the world's ills. I like to think of myself as an optimist, but in this case I think the singer got it all wrong. Certainly, the world could use some more love, but I think the world would wildly benefit from more delicious earthy, complex and delicate Oregon Pinot Noir. Hell, we all could.

To that end witness the 24th Annual International Pinot Noir Celebration July 23 through the 25th 2010, billed as "Three days of Revelery in Oregon Wine Country." The person responsible for this phraseology is obviously highly talented in the art of the understatement. McMinnville, Oregon is going to be host to a proverbial orgy of the palate. (I am in no way implying that there will be an orgy, so get your mind out of the gutter. However, I am looking forward to seeing the blog's keyword search results spike in new and interesting ways.) There will be no shortage of incredible eats (50 NW chefs) as the weekend progresses through an array of amazing food and Pinot pairings(65 local and international wine makers). The Grand Dinner will highlight Northwest cuisine sourced from local farmers and up and coming culinary talent. A series of courses will be paired with specially selected Pinot Noir. The Northwest Salmon Bake will be a feast the likes of which you will not ever see again, unless you come back, or you get a White House invite. The visually dramatic Northwest tradition will be accompanied by what is described as "an extravagant" buffet that will include cellared Pinot Noirs from around the world. This event will take place on July 24th. That day, the world will be getting a lot of what it needs, and by my estimation we should see some swings in world peace, political turmoil and maybe even my Pittsburgh Pirates be on a winning streak.

photo by Andrea Johnson

Peppered throughout this culinary decadence will be seminars by winemakers and chefs, vineyard tours and luncheons, an opportunity to speak with and about wine media, and barrel making demonstrations. The weekend will wrap up with a more public event, and the one I'll be attending, the Passport to Pinot. Passport to Pinot is described as a "pocket version of the three day weekend" wherein you'll get to sample some 60 of the Pinot Noirs that have been poured throughout the weekend, as well as food prepared by some of the chefs that have been highlighted throughout the event, 12 of them, to be exact. The $125 price tag gives you the more approachable opportunity to sample what the $975 Full Weekend experience might have been like. Tickets for both are available here.

Besides the fact that you are essentially given an IV of Pinot Noir and some tasty treats from Oregon's best culinary talent, you're also contributing to a great cause. Salud, is an organization that works to provide health care for the vineyard workers who do a tough job for all this Pinot Noir that we get to enjoy. Proceeds from the event, as well as other auction and donation opportunities will go to assist the organization that works closely with the Oregon medical community to get care to the vineyard workers and their families. So buy your tickets, support a great cause, and enjoy some of the best Pinot Noir in the world.

Fortified (Port Style) Wine of the Yakima Valley: Final Episode

When a wine is referred to as 'fortified,' it means it's been made stronger (or 'fortified') by adding a distilled beverage, traditionally brandy. The brandy is added before the fermentation process is complete, which kills the yeast, leaving behind more sugar, which results in a stronger, sweeter beverage. As I mentioned here, to properly be called Port, the wine must hail from the Duoro Valley in Portugal. Since the wines I received were grown and bottled in Washington, they are more properly 'port-style' or 'fortified wines.'

The first stop in our Yakima Valley fortified wines was Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Syrah. Today's post will look at two very different kinds of Yakima Valley fortified wine. The first fortified wine will look at is a blend of three traditional Port grapes. The varietals used include; Tinta Cao, Touriga Nacional and Souzao. Thurston Wolfe sent two unique blends that contain some of the traditional Portuguese varietals, with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon playing major roles. Finally, we'll look at our one unique port from Lopez Island Vineyards, the only Sangiovese we received.

We received only one completely traditional style fortified blend of 56% Souzau, 25% Touriga, and 19% Tinta Cao. The 2004 Hedges Family Estate Red Mountain Fortified, a regal and austere looking wine. The 2004 is a single vineyard blend from the North Block of Hedges Family Estate. Hedges blend is of course a recognition of the deep tradition of the fortified wines of Portugal's Duoro Valley. The wine, from bottle to flavor profile, means serious business. It speaks of deep dark wood and mahogany, and has hints of tobacco, earth and dark chocolate and cherries. While much of the Yakima Valley uses grape spirits, Hedges goes traditional with Brandy which smooths out the pallet on the wine and reminds you of that old world fortified wine. This wine is a serious one, and while it would go well with any chocolate desert it would also stand on it's own on the yacht or after closing the deal in the boardroom.

Thurston Wolfe sent two variations on the traditional Port blend theme. The 2007 JTW Port is a unique blend of Touriga, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Souzao. The blending of the Cabernet brightens the fruit character and seems to mellow out the traditional Portuguese austerity. The JTW Port's final blend was created in 2008 and laid in barrel until bottling in the summer of 2009. The wine is a classic after dinner drink which tastes of chocolate and spices, Gwynne picked out notes of cloves. The JTW Reserve Port is a 2005 wine that has been selected for further barrel aging. The wine is a slightly different blend, with the Petite Sirah leading the way this time, followed by the Touriga, Cabernet and a tiny bit of Souzao. This wine is incredible, its smooth after two years in the barrel and two in the bottle. It's got dark fruit notes to spare. The extra time has made this a luxuriant example of Yakima Valley fortified wine.

The final fortified wine of our series comes from Lopez Island Vineyard, the 2007 Fireside Port is made of 100% Sangiovese. The wine is all Red Mountain fruit and the use of Sangiovese really makes it stand out from some of the other fortified wines we sampled. The fruit notes are more red than black and while it's very mellow, it's probably a bit more versatile with pairings. More strawberries and slight spice notes typical of Sangiovese. This wine is a sampling of Yakima Valley AVAs as the Sangiovese comes off Red Mountain but the grape spirits come from Wahluke Slope. Talking to Maggie, one of the owners, the attempt to make a fortified wine was more out of personal interest and curiousity but they're really happy with how it's turned out. So am I.

The wines we sampled over a three part series are just a small representation of what kinds of fortified wines are out there in the Northwest and for that matter just in Yakima Valley. I recommend you get out there and sample them before it gets too warm. Summer's coming and you'll have to wait until next winter or at least just until dessert.

Sonoma Jazz+ Wine and Song Around the Plaza (Day 1)

As my wife Katie and I turned onto Broadway and drove towards historic Sonoma Square we didn’t quite know what to expect at Wine and Song Around the Plaza. We fought through the traffic and the freak rain storm that thankfully passed before we had to get out of the car to find some street parking about a quarter mile from the plaza. We grabbed our bags out of the car and started down to enjoy a day of local wine and local jazz.

Although we are pretty familiar with Sonoma and the downtown square, we both noticed that signage was lacking for the event. Not sure where we had to pick up our badges we gravitated towards the first white pop up tent we saw only to find out it was an art show. After finally seeing our destination we began our journey. Each ticket gave us 12 wine tastings, 4 tickets for food tastings, a personalized wine glass, and a nifty velvet tote for our wine glass. It wasn’t until later that an event volunteer would explain why we needed the velvet tote. We had nine locations to choose from so we headed off to a familiar location* to begin our day...The Swiss Hotel (The venue for our wedding rehearsal lunch).

Each location had two wineries pouring as well as a local musician playing jazz and blues music. Pouring at The Swiss Hotel was Headbanger Wine and winemaker Paul Hoffman. I decided to use one of my 12 tastes to start off bold with the Rock-n-Red, a blend of Syrah and Zinfandel. Wanting to get in as much wine as possible, I ventured to the other winey pouring at the Swiss Hotel, Robledo Family Wines which are also currently being poured at the dinner table of President Obama. The wine was good so I started observing my surroundings to feel the vibe of Wine and Song.

I first noticed that there were a lot of families at the event. I always feel it a bit out of place to bring a small child wine tasting, but this felt different. There isn’t much to do in a tasting room for a young child but at Wine and Song there was great music playing, kids (and hippies) dancing, and it was in a secured off area so parents could remove the despicable backpack leash they had their kids on and let them run around a little.

Although each winery pouring punched our tickets for each taste, a few places like Roche Winery saw Wine and Song as a real opportunity. Roche was offering 3 additional tastings while you were there. For a small winery like Roche that doesn’t distribute their wines, Wine and Song provided the perfect setup to get their name out there. Known for their chardonnay, Roche wines were complex and had wines that would appeal to any wine drinker, from the seasoned veteran with a refined palate to the person who is one step removed from drinking from a box. It was at Roche we learned that the velvet tote was for more than decoration. Because we were walking on public sidewalks and the plaza wasn’t roped off, walking around with an empty wine glass violated open container laws. As we moved from location to location, the wine glass had to be in its own carrying case.

Although difficult at some places because of the crowds, we found some time to talk with Angie from Moon Mountain Vineyards who specializes in 100% certified organic out for a future post about them. Giving in to my temptations, I tried their Cabernet Franc which was much less bold than I expected it to be, but very smooth and still full of flavor.

Overall, the wine and music was a great pairing. It was a beautiful day outside and as my wife Katie noted “Even if you don’t like the wine you are going to enjoy yourself.” Wine and Song created a fun atmosphere to enjoy wine in a casual environment. My only disappointment from the day was the food tastings offered at each location. We each had 4 tickets to use and began the day using them sparingly so as not to miss something great. A delicious bruschetta was our first taste and it sadly went downhill from there. An insignificant cheese and pesto tart that had clearly been sitting out for awhile and an almost invisible dab of olive tapenade on a thin cucumber slice were some of the later offerings. I figured the restaurants and cafés would want to showcase their kitchen a bit more than they did. Wanting to experience as much of the event as possible and assuming the food tastings would be a bit more substantial than a tiny piece of corn beef and sauerkraut on a crostini, we opted against ordering a full lunch at any location. With 12 wine tastings, we clearly chose poorly.

Wine and Song was not the only event going on that day. In the evening the concerts in the park began and on Day 1 it was Earth, Wind, and Fire. Katie and I actually didn’t stay for the full concert for a couple reasons. First, we were definitely the youngest people there, but more importantly we were exhausted from the day of walking and drinking earlier. We found it a big challenge to do both Wine and Song and then stay up for the concert as well. On Day 2 we planned much better and were able to enjoy the concert which I will write about later.

Stay tuned for coverage of Day 2 that provided new and different wines, a Patron Tequila tasting, and some infallible marriage advice from a divorced and more than slightly inebriated concert goer.

Cooking with Wine - Spicy Garlic Shrimp and Asparagus

Hey all of you readers of The Oregon Wine Blog! I’m Jill, a friend the non-snooty bloggers who you know and love and the new Culinary Specialist on staff. I only recently developed a love for wine after moving to Washington state four years ago. I grew up in Wisconsin, the land of cheese, beer, and the Packers; you don’t see much wine at Lambeau on game day!

When I have time, I LOVE cooking and baking, so I'll be writing about recipes involving wine sharing various culinary delicious bits with you. Recipe suggestions WELCOME. And I think chardonnay cake is coming in the future, so let that tantalize your taste buds and flirt with future possibilities as I share tonight’s little ditty:

Spicy Garlic Shrimp and Asparagus

1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 ½ cups sliced asparagus
1 ½ lbs peeled deveined shrimp
1 c. chardonnay
French baguette

Prepare asparagus cutting off bottoms of stalks that are too woody or thick. Slice into 1 inch sections.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a non-stick skillet. Add garlic, salt, and both peppers. Saute for 2 minutes. Add asparagus and continue cooking for 3 more minutes. Stir frequently. Add shrimp and cook for 4 minutes. Add chardonnay. For this recipe, I used Columbia Crest Two Vines Chardonnay. The apple and pear flavors of the wine really worked with everything else. Bring the chardonnay for a boil for 3 minutes. Then, turn down to medium low heat, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes to let the flavors grow.

Slice the baguette into 1 inch slices. Put in oven or toasted until lightly toasted on both sides. Remove everything from heat, and put into shallow dishes or bowls. Use bread to enjoy the lovely juices.


Make sure to buy the thinnest asparagus possible. The thicker asparagus is, the woodier the texture and flavor. Also, the cooking time may vary once the wine is added. If you have very thin asparagus, it may be less. Continue to sample the asparagus as you go to make sure it isn’t getting limp or mushy. You can also add lemon juice for added flavors in this recipe. Start with a dash and work up if you like the flavor.

Shameless kitchen gadget plug:

The Pampered Chef garlic press is probably one of the greatest things I have ever been given. It’s a garlic press that doesn’t require you to peel the garlic before you press it. I usually just press garlic through this rather than actually taking the time to mince it.

#WAWine in 160 Characters or Less!

As previously announced, The Oregon Wine Blog participated in #WAwine this evening. A chance for all geeks, winos, and wine royalty to join together on the twitter machine and in real life to talk about something near and dear to our heart: Washington Wine. A worldwide event, we had 2 different correspondents chronicling the night from different locations. So, here you have it, #WAwine in 160 character or less thoughts. Incoherent? Sure. In backwards order? You bet. Still a great time and some great wine!

From The Oregon Wine Blog Headquarters in Corvallis, OR (@OR_Wine_Blog and @rgoranflo):

Thanks @drinknectar. A great chance to drink some #WAWine

"I'm like freaking out" says @rgoranflo. In the best possible way! Glad tonight is an @terrablanca night. #WAWine

Whoa says @rgoranflo. Fruit forward with a little kick at the end. Red Mountain awesomeness. Some good cherry notes @TerraBlanca #WAWine

2005 @terrablanca Reserve Cab Sauv. Bold, Spicy, and oaky on the nose. #WAWine.

2005 @terrablanca Reserve Cab Sauv. Red Mountain. Part 2 of #WAWine.

@Fuzzy_Ninja...@terrablanca Barrel Select Syrah is a fab option.

@Fuzzy_Ninja A great #WAWine for rainy camping...Airfield Bombshell Red, Barnard Griffin Cabernet...

RT @clivity You know the best thing about #wawine ? The people..@coop_cwc @yasharwinemongr @redmtngal @fidelitasjess just to name a few

Ladies and gentlemen, @terrablanca is for real! Check them out. #WAWine

Anybody else drinking #WAWine in Oregon tonight?

@clivity you drinking some bud light? #WAWine

@clivity is probably rocking the house! #WAWine

F*ck this is good, says @rgoranflo of the @terrablanca Onyx. A medley of dark red fruit. #WAWine

The smell of Eastern Washington big reds blends into a synergy that almost can't be described. #WAWine

@terrablanca Onxy....SO enticing. Did you know they are ustreaming tonight? #WAWine

Lot's of dark fruit on the nose. Cranberry. Currant. Smells fabulous. @terrablanca Onyx. #WAWine

@rgoranflo and I are just tweetimg around with the Onyx waiting for the rest of the party to arrive! #WAWine

2006 @terrablanca Onyx. One of our favorite #WAWine selections here in Oregon!

Big day on the Twitter machine. We are gearing up for #WAWine with @terrablanca!

From the Seattle, WA Office (@clivity):

the singing guy from @waterswine cusses a lot but their syrah is other worldly #forgottenhills #wawine

Wow Eric Dunhm is one hell of a nice guy #wawine

i just met an unemployed cardiologist wtf? #winerocks

dick boushey in the heezy #wawine #winerocks

this hippie guy can really sing but its way too warm for that hat #winerocks

Strange question of the night? @dustedvalley asked me what i was wearing...#wawine

these wine folk can rock the house #winerocks Paul Gregutt rocked us out #wawine

nice running into @kk4wine @winomagazine #winerocks

@kk4wine are you here?

@ghwine look at you tweetinmg way to be. #wwine

@smasnecellars Konner Ray blends are really smooth drinking wines #wawine

drinking @jmcellars 06 syrah with @gjunkin #wawine #winerocks

You know the best thing about #wawine ? The people..@coop_cwc @yasharwinemongr @redmtngal @fidelitasjess just to name a few

@OR_Wine_Blog no, the winemaker from Sleight of Hand #wawine

trey busch just tried to wring some wine out of that @fidelitaswines 07 rd mtn...and it worked #wawine

somehow it took me this long to have @efeste but the Feral lives up to the hype wild animal all over the place #wawine

@tarynmiller is celebrating her b day week here @ #wawine tweetup @hardrockseattle

@yasharwinemongr ran off w my camera and god only knows what kinda photos he took #wawine

faupaux white after red but this @ancwine roussanne is crisp and delicious from destiny ridge #wawine

onto @desvoignecellars san remo sangiovese gold @wineawards #wawine

@dustedvalley im drinking @fieldinghills 07 merlot & chilling w @redmtngal & @fidelitasjess in a sweater #wawine

@coop_cwc is in the house @hardrockseattle onto @grandrevewine III peppery goodness #wawine

starting w @fidelitaswine 07 Red Mtn bold and classic red mtn fruit #wawine

this bus is like a scene from Sartre's Nausea, driver get me to #wawine fast

Nearly #WAwine time. Heading down to @HardRockSeattle soon for the festivities. Big ups to @509wines for hosting a gig in Fremont

Did that make sense to any of you? If so, you are a genius. Or drunk.

Straight from the Barrel in Yakima, Yo.

A few weeks ago, I detailed the first day of my visit to Yakima Valley Spring Barrel Tasting with every intention of part 2 following within a few days. Well, it didn't, and there was much sadness in the universe. Wipe those tears away, friends, because your wait is over.

I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning after a very restful sleep in the lovely Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites in Pasco with a belly rumbling from hunger, a head in need of some coffee, and a palate salivating in anticipation of some awesome wine. I made my way down to the breakfast bar at the hotel, very pleased to find a full breakfast buffet for all guests - complimentary, my friends, meaning it is included in your rate! After grabbing a healthy serving of cinnamon rolls, bacon, oatmeal, and coffee, I sat down to focus on the logistics of the day. I was to meet my brother Chris in an hour in Richland, ready to hit the wine trail. Chris, being a relative newcomer in the world of oenological goodness, was depending on me to lead the way. I faced the eternal debate: go to wineries I knew and loved, or, take a little more of a risk and hit some newbies. Wanting a new experience to share with you, I made the decision to focus on wineries I had not been to yet. I sketched out a map, picked up Chris, and to Red Mountain we went.

Behold, a chronicle of our journey and the wine that deserves a place on your rack:
  • Hightower Cellars:A winery that sources fruit from Horse Heaven Hills, Red Mountain, and Walla Walla, Hightower opened on Red Mountain in 2002 and their vineyards are beginning to produce estate fruit. Boasting a female winemaker, Hightower makes some tasty big reds true to their appellations. We sampled a Petit Verdot straight out of the barrel, and both Chris and I agreed that we would have bought a bottle had it been available. Unfortunately, it was indeed still in the barrel so we'll have to wait.
  • Tapteil Estate: Planted in 1985, Tapteil's vines are grandfathers in the Red Mountain family. Producing estate big reds, Tapteil was the biggest surprise of the weekend for me - in a phenomenal way. After barrel tasting two different Syrah's (and loving both), we proceeded to the tasting room to try the rest of their lineup. I walked away with a Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and a Yakima Valley Syrah, and am waiting with baited breath for the release of the next vintage. They're for real.
  • Terra Blanca: Sharing the amazingness of TB with my brother was a must, and we found probably the best organized tasting process of the weekend. Staff and wine was spread among 10 tasting stations, taking customers through a progression to please the palate. The Barrel Select Syrah resonated with my brother, and I walked away with one of my favorite wines ever - the Pantheon.
  • Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard and Winery: Off the Red Mountain path, Goose Ridge was the final stop for the day as we headed back towards Richland. With Charlie Hoppes as the winemaker, you can't go wrong with any of their juice. I particularly enjoyed the Estate Merlot and my brother enjoyed most everything he tried.
As I drove up I-82 towards Prosser the first night, I took a moment to reflect on just how special of a place the Columbia and Yakima Valleys are. Spring being the best time of year in the area, I felt a sense of place that was much more laid back and at-home than my trip to Sonoma and Napa a month before. I hope the Red Mountain and Prosser area never lose that atmosphere, strongly rooted in a down-to-earth agricultural history. World class wine up a dirt road, in the middle of some sagebrush, rattle snakes, and great people.  Oh, and the sunsets...

All in all, Spring Barrel Tasting provided a wonderful opportunity to taste upcoming new releases and visit wineries not typically open to the public. As the day went on, crowds grew and I had to remind myself that it wasn't a race to try as many wines as possible - that trying the wine was the experience, versus completing a checklist. The nature of this type of weekend doesn't leave a lot of time to chat with winery staff or winemakers, but it definitely was well organized and resonates with many consumers. I'd recommend Friday if you'd like to avoid some crowds. Oh, and be safe.