Friday, April 4, 2014

Taste Washington 2014

Another successful Taste Washington has come and gone.  This event is a must for any Washington wine lover.  I had newbies in tow this year and beforehand I tried to prepare them for the magnitude of this event.  I gave them advice such as - do not try to taste/eat everything, share tastings with your spouse, use the dump bucket, take water breaks etc.  I saw their eyes gloss over the moment we walked in.  No matter, fun was had by all!

As always I like to split my time between visiting some new (for me) wineries and seeing some of my favorites as well.  Here is a sampling of my highlights from Taste Washington 2014:

Cairdeas Winery - My first sip of the day was from this Lake Chelan winery, it was their 2013 Cinsault Rose'.  Cinsault is starting to pop up in Washington as a single varietal.  This rose' was dry and crisp and begging for spring. It was a great way to start the day!

Cadaretta - Their 2011 Syrah was everything I love in a Syrah - earth and spice followed nicely by dark fruits with a nice long finish.  Winemaker, Brian Rudin explained that this was due to a partial whole cluster ferment which allows the stems to enhance and influence flavors.

Cotes de Ciel - Most Washington wine drinkers are familiar with the Ciel du Cheval vineyard.  It is one of the oldest vineyards on Red Mountain. Richard Holmes, son of vineyard founder Jim Holmes, poured a 2013 Roussanne for me.  I was immediately taken aback with the perceived sweetness on the tongue, but it was the immense tropical fruits exploding on this wine.  Perfectly rounded out with that richness and slight acidity that is familiar to this varietal..  Richard tells me they are releasing their first red wines this September.  He was visibly excited about it....and so am I!

Sun River Vintners - So, I have the hubby to thank for discovering this winery.  He urged me over there after having a sample of their 2011 Souzao. Souzao is a Portuguese grape normally grown for using in port wine.  It had a that slight raisin-y quality but it was restrained enough to not taste anything like a port.  Very interesting wine, one I'd love to spend more time with.

Taste Washington isn't all about the the wine, it's about the food too.  There was some fabulous food this year:
  • RN74 had amazing bacon deviled eggs
  • Piatti Restorante with their roasted pear, gorgonzola and honey crostini
  • Hoist House at Swiftwater Cellars and their shaved leg of lamb on a crostini with a huckleberry reduction. They had this specifically paired with the Swiftwater Cellars 2009 Proprietary Red and the pairing was spot on.

Once again Taste Washington has outdone itself.  It is truly the wine event of the year and provides a great opportunity for up and coming wineries to make there name known.  The addition of the photo booth this year was a winner. What a great way to commemorate your experience! You can see mine here.

I want to thank the Washington State Wine Commission as well as Visit Seattle for organizing and putting on this wonderful event.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tulpen Cellars Grenache...Keep it Simple

So, unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple weeks, I’m sure you have heard about the Skagit River Bridge Collapse that happened on 5/23.  This is right smack in the middle of my neck of the woods.  Due to the increased traffic on all the side roads to get around this detour, my major grocery shopping has been (voluntarily) limited.  The headache and road rage just isn’t worth it.  I mean, I live in rural Skagit County for a reason.
For this reason my meal options have been limited. However, I did manage to come up with a pretty tasty dinner. I threw some organic, grass fed hamburger patties on the grill, melted some Beecher’s white cheddar on top; a little ketchup, mustard, dill slices, tomato and fresh arugula from the garden and voila! No buns in the house, so it was unintentionally low carb.  It was pretty darn tasty if I do say so myself.

One thing I do not have a shortage of is wine.  This particular evening I chose a Tulpen 2010 Grenache. This lovely wine comes from Yellow Bird Vineyard, located up Millcreek Rd next to Walla Walla Vintners.  This is winemaker, Ken Hart's, completely dry farmed vineyard. I had the pleasure of meeting Kenny on my bus tour at the 2010 Wine Blogger's Conference. He is a very well respected grower and vigneron in the valley.  This wine is a lesson in blessed simplicity-cherry cola with pepper, rounded out with a nice acidity. This paired really well with my burger, the acidity cut through the fat and that lovely Grenache pepper played off the arugula so well.

This wine is worth seeking out, as well as any in the Tulpen line up.  I found mine at Compass Wines in Anacortes.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Thoughts from Taste Washington 2013

I consider myself a Taste Washington veteran. I believe this is my ninth year of attending this event. I can truly say it gets better ever year. The two day format that was instituted last year was again very successful. With over 200 wineries and 65 restaurants, a game plan is a must.  My game plan is to not only visit my favorites, but also hit a few new ones as well.

Avennia - This one was at the top of my list to try.  I had read so much great press about this winery and it's wines...I was not disappointed.  Everything they were tasting was great, but I especially loved the Gravura red blend.

8 Bells Winery - This urban winery has a 2010 Red Willow Syrah that was one of my top three tastes of the day. Classic Red Willow, all from a 2006 planting.  They also produce a clonal Red Willow Syrah with 8 different clones that I am anxious to try.

Lauren Ashton Cellars - I enjoyed talking to the winemaker, Kit Singh, who was very engaging and informative about his history and his wines. The Cuvee Meline, a Sauv Blanc/Semillion blend, was absolutely lovely. I paired amazingly well with the spicy pepper spread next door.

Pomum Cellars - I have tried and loved Javier Alfonso's Idilico label, so I was excited to try his Pomum wines. Alfonso poured me the Tinto, a Tempranio/Garnacha/Graciano blend. He definitely has a knack with these varietals.  The acid is tempered, but not too much so the luscious flavors of dark berry and tobacco can shine through. Very nice.

A few other random notes - I like the chef stage at the one end of the room, I think it makes for less congestion.  I love the variety of foods, from high end restaurants to food trucks.  However; restaurants, please I beg you do not make food that requires utensils.  I usually will pass it up.  One bite, on a toast or a something neat and clean.  Thank you!  I noticed no cars this year, which is a good thing, but a large amount of space was dedicated to a beer sponsor.  Um, don't they have their own convention/festival/tasting events?

As usual, I enjoyed myself immensely.  I loved connecting with favorite winemakers and discovering new ones.  Special thanks to the Washington State Wine Commission and Visit Seattle for putting on another outstanding event.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Take The Bull By The Horns with Idilico

Idilico is the name of a 1200 lb bull in Spain that was granted a pardon by it's matador for fighting so valiantly.  It is also the name of the only Washington winery focusing on Spanish varietals exclusively.  Spanish winemaker, Javier Alfonso has created a line up of wines that are an excellent value for the money.

Idilico 2010 Garnacha - Grapes sourced from Upland (Snipes Mountain) and Elerding (Yakima Valley) vineyards, 240 cases made.  I have to say, a lot of value priced Garnacha (Grenache/French) tends to be on the sharp & acidic side. Almost pucker worthy.  This was not the case with this wine.  I opened this on a weekday. If I didn't have to work the next day, the bottle would not have survived the evening.  But alas, I was a good girl and saved the rest for the next night.  What struck me was how well balanced this wine was.  Great tart cherry up front, but it didn't drop off.  It slightly mellowed but was still there through the finish as well as some earthy mineral tones.  This wine in no way needed food, but I did try it with some BBQ meatballs.  It really sings with BBQ sauce.  The next evening, the robustness has suffered only slightly.  It was still very pleasant to drink.

I picked up this wine from Full Pull Wines and to be honest I haven't seen this wine at any retail location.  I highly recommend getting on Full Pull's mailing list, they have introduced me to some fabulous wines, including Idilico.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Annual Wine Dinner 2012 - A Celebration of Pacific Northwest Food & Wine

We decided to move our wine party a bit earlier in the year.  Normally we have it towards the end of November, this year we had it the beginning of October.  This allowed us to take advantage of the late summer harvest fruits and vegetables.  As much as possible, we try to support local farms and businesses.  This year was no exception, as you read on look for links to the sources of some of the wonderful additions & ingredients we were able to use.

As always we greeting our guest with bubbles. This year though, we mixed it up a bit.  We did a sparkling wine cocktail.  A sugar cube was placed in the bottom of the glass, a few drops homemade cranberry bitters were dripped on the sugar, topped off with Treveri Cellars Blanc de Blanc Brut.

First Course

Tomato Confit, Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil Oil
Watermelon, Basil, Gothberg Farms Feta, Honey Drizzle

This was our versions of a caprese salad. We slow roasted tomatoes with basil in oil, then chopped them up with some shallot and balsamic vinegar. After an exhaustive search for true water buffalo burrata, we settled for water buffalo mozzarella.  It offered a richness missing in cow's milk mozzarella, very nice. Secondly, we took squares of watermelon, layered with Gothberg Farms feta and basil. Gothberg Farms is a goat farm in Bow, WA.  Traditionally feta cheese is made from sheep's milk, Gothberg's goat feta is a bit richer and firmer so it was able to be sliced quite easily which aided it plating.  The dressing was a mixture of Bruce Bowen's Bees honey, champagne vinegar and olive oil.

The wine pairing for this course was Tranche Cellars Pink Pape and Saint Roch Les Vignes Provence Rose'.  This was are one and only blind tasting.  It was kind of a gimme.  The crowd had no problem picking out the Walla Walla Rose' vs the French Rose'. The Tranche was much darker in color and richer in flavor, it paired much better with both dishes.  I do have a soft spot in my heart for French Rose' from the Provence region.  I drink it pretty exclusively when we are on vacation in St. Martin.  However, in this setting the Tranche was the clear favorite.

Second Course

Duck Three Ways
Bluebird Grain Farms Farro Salad with Duck Confit, Honey Crisp Apples, Currants, Marscapone
Homemade Duck Pastrami, Balsamic Onions, Gothberg Farms Mustard Seed Gouda
Duck Fat Fingerling Potatoes

This was a shared plate per couple.  We were really pleased with how the farro salad turned out.  The farro had a nice chewiness to it, the duck skin cracklins were a nice touch on top.  The duck "reuben" was fantastic.  The dark caramelized onions and the creamy gouda (called Buck's Brew, a seasonal cheese brined in Boundary Bay Brewery Scotch Ale) complemented the pastrami so well.  The duck fat potatoes, well, they really don't need any explanation.  Simply awesome.

The wine pairing for this course was Northstar Winery 2006 Walla Walla Merlot and Woodward Canyon 2008 Charbonneau (77%Merlot/13%Petit Verdot/10%Cab Sauv).  This was a very interesting match up.  Two very different wines from very different areas of the Walla Walla AVA.  The Charbonneau was very elegant and layered.  The Northstar Merlot was big and bold, with dark fruits.  Both paired beautifully with the duck.

Third Course

Baked Egg in Truffle Cream
Poached Egg atop Root Vegetable Hash with Meurette Sauce

Yep, just like Anthony Bourdain, we too are self proclaimed "egg sluts".  Eggs in cream infused with truffles, what's not to love?  Roasted rutabagas, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, onions and bacon made up the hash.  Meurette sauce is this lovely, rich, wine sauce, poured over a perfectly poached egg.  Heavenly!

I was the most worried about this wine pairing.  After consulting my wine pairing bible, What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea - Even Water - Based on Expert Advice from America's Best Sommeliers I decided on a Rhone blend.  2010 Rotie Cellars Southern Blend (75% Grenache/15% Syrah/10% Mourvedre) and 2009 Gramercy Cellars The Third Man (50% Grenache/30% Syrah/20% Mourvedre).  This was probably my favorite pairing of the night.  The earthiness of both wines matched both with the truffles and the root vegetables.  Also, the acid brightness cut through the fat from the eggs beautifully.

Fourth Course

Celery Root Cream with Wild Mushroom Marmalade
Cold Beet Soup with Gothberg Farms Chevre

When we originally tested the cream soup it was with sunchokes and that was the plan, to use sunchokes.  Alas, when the time came to go grocery shopping, no sunchokes.  So celery root was the back up vegetable and let me tell you, it stepped up to the plate quite nicely.  The lovely thing about using root veg for a soup, is it almost always requires no thickener.  There is enough natural starch in the vegetable that none is needed. Added to it was this wonderful wild mushroom marmalade that added nice texture and flavor.  The beet soup was a curveball.  This thick, rich soup has rice, lentils and ground pistachios it in that provided a nutty, earthy texture.

I brought out the big guns for this pairing, two huge syrahs.  2006 Reininger Winery Ash Hollow Syrah and 2007 Waters Winery Forgotten Hills Syrah.  Great pairings across the board.  It was amazing to taste these two syrahs from completely opposite ends of the Walla Walla AVA.  Both having that wonderful earthy quality that is signature Walla Walla.

Main Course

Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Leek Cream
Elk Ragu with Trofie Pasta
Corn with Green Beans
Fig, Bacon, & Blue Cheese Empanadas

We chose classic dishes for our main course.  Roasted tenderloin is always a wonderful wine dish. Elk Ragu, with in-house hunted elk, was rich and slightly gamey.  The corn and green bean side dish was served warm. It had a wonderful lime and ginger dressing that provided a nice palate cleanse.  We kept the fall theme going with our fig, bacon, blue cheese empanadas.

For the wine pairings for this course, I just had to go Cabernet Sauvignon.  2007 Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Tero Estates Windrow Field Blend.  Of course, the Leonetti was incredible; rich and perfectly decadent.  However, the Tero was up to the challenge.  A true field blend from one of Walla Walla's oldest vineyards, the Tero offered up a full and layered, beautiful cabernet sauvignon.

Dessert Course

Dark Chocolate Affogato
Rum Fig Salted Caramel Ice Cream with Rum Caramel Drizzle

What more can I say?  Yum, all around for these two dishes.  Affogato is an Italian dish that consists of a scoop of ice cream or gelato with hot espresso poured over it. The salted caramel ice cream is a bit of a play on rum raisin ice cream, only with rum soaked figs.  No wine pairing for this...none needed.

It was another successful wine dinner.  Yes, it is an extensive menu, but we served the first course at 6:00pm and served dessert at 11:00pm.  So everything was spaced out well and worked out fine for our guests.  I must mention Slough Food, our resource for the Gothberg Farms Cheese, as I was unable to make it out their farm store to buy directly from them.  Now to starting planning for next year!

Watermelon Feta Caprese

Duck Three Ways
Baked Egg in Truffle Cream
Corn & Green Beans
Poached Egg atop Root Vegetable Hash
Cold Beet Soup