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Drinking Local: Whidbey Island Winery

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There is an unbridled enthusiasm here in Seattle and beyond for local eating and drinking. If you’re living in these parts and really want to drink local, look no further than the wines made from grapes grown right on Puget Sound at Whidbey Island Winery. Though the grapes may have unfamiliar names (Sigerrebe, Madeline Angevine, Madeline Sylvaner, anybody?) the wines are light, refreshing, and full of charm. A good place to start is with the Island White, a blend of Madeleine Sylvaner and Madeleine Angevine. The Siegerrebe offers a little more complexity and richness. And though both of these whites have a touch of residual sugar, they are thirst-quenching and not cloying. If you’re looking for something completely dry, check out the Madeline Angevine; it’s the liveliest of the bunch. This trio of whites would all go great with seafood and spicy fare. Try steaming up some local Penn Cove Mussels with Madeline Angevine.

I would be remiss if I did not point out that the winery makes a full compliment of reds from grapes brought in from Eastern Washington; stylistically they are light on oak influence and moderate in alcohol. The Italian varietals are especially promising; don’t miss out on the Dolcetto. And the unfortunately named Lemberger is a must for any Pinot Noir fan; serve it blind and you will win converts. I also got a tank sample of a rosé made from Lemberger and Sangiovese (!) that was dry and delicious.

Not only are the wines charming, but the location is idyllic and contemplative. Let’s take a tour!

Here’s the winery:

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The vineyards:

Whidbey Island Winery Vineyards

The entrance gate to the vineyards:

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Some pruning work:

Pruning

Winemaker Greg and Assistant Winemaker Leah posing for the camera:

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Future bottlings of Merlot and Roussanne:

Barrel and Tank

Winery Cat Sangiovese scares the hell out of poor Dioggi:

Winery Cat and Dog

Good use of leftover wine barrels:

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So have you had any Puget Sound whites before? Check out the information for a whole host of wineries courtesy of the Puget Sound Wine Growers Association.

Cochon 555 Seattle: Wine and Pork Galore

Buty and Bacon

What can I say about Cochon 555 in Seattle? A lot. But I’ll let the photos do most of the talking. Not only was there Buty and bacon, but also delicious wines from K Vintners, Domaine Serene, and Syncline:

Cochon 555 Wines

Charles Smith of K Vintners was on hand to pour the Phil Lane Syrah:

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The hacksaw came out for a butchering demo courtesy of Tracy Smaciarz from Heritage Meats:

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The menu of Spinasse and Chef Jason Stratton plating:

Spinasse at Cochon 555 Seattle

Here’s the skin and ear salad with cherry bomb chiles:

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The trio of offerings from Lark:

Lark Trio of Pork

And here’s what they looked like. Are you hungry yet?

Lark

There was palate-cleansing beer courtesy of Charles Finkel from Pike Brewing. (Where do I get one of those beer-dispensing backpacks?)

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Cafe Juanita had a menu both instructive and delicious:

Cafe Juanita

Of course there was dessert:

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How did Ethan Stowell color his ravioli dough? The secret was pig blood.

Ethan Stowell Ravioli

Joule had wonderful sauces to accompany their roasted pork. I had the one on the left with serrano chiles and fish sauce. (At least that’s what I thought it was. Regardless, it was fantastic.)

Array of Sauces by Joule/Revel

Thanks for being awesome, Cochon 555. See you next year?

Cuts of Pork

Full disclosure: Cochon 555 provided me with a ticket to this event.

Still Life With Rosé

Seattle Restaurant Sitka & Spruce in Capitol Hill

Ah Seattle, such a bizarre day from you Wednesday. A sunny afternoon, bright light streaming through the windows of Sitka & Spruce. Then I return to Esquin and barely escape a torrential downpour. No matter, I’m still glowing from a lovely lunch with fantastic French wines from importer Kermit Lynch.

The pictured rosé, the 2010 Domaine Fontsainte Gris de Gris, was actually a tank sample, thus the DIY vintage labeling. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it’s ready to go. Looking forward to the arrival of this rosé in about a month or so. I also really enjoyed the red wines Fontsainte produces in the Corbieres region of France. What was most interesting about these wines is that they go through a process called carbonic maceration. I know, it sounds a little…unsettling. But without getting bogged down in details, it’s a process most widely used in Beaujolais that helps produce very fresh, fruity, and lively reds. Do not fear the carbonic maceration!

Speaking of Beaujolais, we also sampled a few offerings from Domaine Dupeuble. Like the Fontsainte rosé, we tasted a few 2010 wines that were samples yet to be officially bottled. I had a similar reaction: “These are tank samples?!?” Could have fooled me. The 2010 Blanc, made of Chardonnay, was lively and bracing like a good Chablis; the Gamay, ready for a slight chill and to be passed around the table.

So are you ready for rosé yet?

Thank you to Kermit Lynch, Domaine Fontsainte, Domaine Dupeuble, and Cavatappi for providing lunch and the wines.

Mark Ryan Winery: Black and White Photo Love

1928 Indian Scout

While Mark and I sure had fun eating pizza, drinking beer, and talking wine at Big Mario’s, there was a lack of tasting wine. So on a recent trip out to Woodinville I was determined to rectify that situation.

First, a little bad news:

Last Vintage

Noooooooooo! I knew this was coming, but seeing that 2009 will be the last vintage of Chardonnay was a serious bummer; it was probably my favorite from Washington. I loved how the oak provided richness and structure, without turning the wine into a liquid 2×4.

Tasting at Mark Ryan

Rolled through an impressive lineup post-Chardonnay trauma. I have a similar, though not as fan-boy, fondness for the Viognier for the relatively light-handed style of production. (Brief rant: too much domestic Viognier just tastes like oaked-up, super-heavy, oily Chardonnay. And nothing stateside comes close to Condrieu, the supreme ruler of aromatically sumptuous Viognier.) My favorite reds were the accesible-now 2008 Dissident (a Columbia Valley Cab/Syrah/Merlot blend) and the 2007 Water Witch (a Klipsun Vineyard Cab/Merlot blend).

Dead Horse Club

I was then unfairly teased by these wooden six-packs containing wines only for the lucky few members of the Dead Horse Club. (Sounds like a biker gang name or something.) Contact the winery if you want to get on the waiting list.

1928 Indian Scout

And here’s a ubiquitous shot of me posing in front of this ultra-cool 1928 Indian Scout. Don’t worry Mark, I didn’t touch it. Nor did I spill any wine on it. (None that didn’t wipe up pretty easily.)

Special thanks to Joan for being a lovely and gracious host at the tasting room.

Woodinville Wine Tasting: Pictures of Ross Andrew (and Bud Light)

Ross Andrew Lineup

What a pleasure to taste through a lineup of very understated* wines from Ross Andrew Mickel. Though only slightly visible on the left in the above photo, I have designated porch-pounding status upon the 2009 Pinot Gris. More Pinot Grigio (light, fresh, gulpable) than Pinot Gris (oily, heavy), it’s a Washington wine that should be on hand, and well-chilled, in your residence at all times.

Other charming touches at Ross Andrew? I enjoy the unwavering enthusiasm for the consumption of large bottles, especially when full of the excellent 2008 Boushey Syrah. There is a great program in place to encourage drinking those big bottles rather than tucking them away in some deep, dark cellar never to see the light of day or to fill a glass:

Ross Andrew Growler

Oh, and maybe you would be concerned how to safely pour such a giant bottle? On display is a custom-made (though not for sale) apparatus of a certain genius. Not only an engineering feat, and an example of DIY ingenuity, this invention uses leftover wine barrel parts for its construction. You can see how the wine seeps into the staves: functional and educational!

Ross Andrew Wooden Pourer

Wait, I haven’t explained the Bud Light! If you recall a scorcher of a summer a few years back, a birthday party for one of Ross’s friends not only demanded well-chilled Meadow, but light beer as well. And, naturally, like all winemakers, Ross realizes that it takes a lot of beer to make good wine. Therefore, a photograph to immortalize that event and a reminder to all who pass through the door that the people who make and drink wine don’t have to be so serious.

How To Stay Cool In Woodinville

So now that I’ve crossed Ross Andrew off my list, where next in Woodinville?

*I must give credit to Kirsten at the tasting room for providing me with the one word that I though perfectly and thoughtfully summed up the wines.

Curious About Portuguese Wine

Encosta dos Curiosos Portugal WineI’ll admit for quite a while I was only familiar with two wines coming out of Portugal: Port (duh) and Vinho Verde. But there is a whole host of new and exciting Portuguese wines that need to get their due. Like the Encosta dos Curiosos, which I am now decreeing as My Official House Wine.

What do I love about the Encosta dos Curiosos (EC)? Well, it satisfies my penchant for the obscure and unusual. I can’t say that I’ve had a wine that was a blend of these four grapes:

  • Castelao
  • Tinta Miuda
  • Alicante Bouschet
  • Aragones

The EC also defied my shopworn stereotype of Portuguese reds. I always found them to be rustic, and I’m using rustic as a euphemism for hard-as-nails, tannic, and barnyard-y. (Clearly I was a Portuguese wine dilettante.) But the Encosta was light, refreshing, and gulpable. At only 12.5% alcohol, the EC’s easy-going personality can play nice with a variety of everyday foods from burgers to pasta. And possibly a steak, especially if it was in taco form. Wash down some carne asada with a slightly chilled bottle of EC!

And with so much to love about the EC, what was the clincher to making it my house red? The astoundingly low price: 6 bucks. Take a flier on a bottle and come back for a case. (Before I buy it all myself.)

So what is your house wine?

2008 Bordeaux: We Do The Hard Work

bordeaux wine 2008Not to be outdone by my tasting in an ornate hotel ballroom, our Arnie Millan recently attended a whirlwind tasting of the 2008 Bordeaux vintage. Here is his report:

I flew into San Francisco last for an intensive tasting of top Bordeaux from the 2008 vintage. The Union of Grand Cru de Bordeaux put on this tasting of 100 top estates. It’s almost easier to list who wasn’t there: all the five First Growths (Mouton, Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Haut Brion), Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Petrus and other high priced exotica of that ilk.

Alas, we were to taste only the other remaining top classified, or otherwise renowned, estates and have the rare opportunity to meet the Chateaux’s owners; people whom we only heretofore knew by name, mentioned in print in somewhat hushed tones. How cool is that? And they were all pleasant and unpretentious.

Overall, this is an excellent vintage which favored the Right Bank (Pomerol, then Saint-Emilion) and the estates of the Médoc, particularly Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Margaux. These wines are drinking well now and I think they’ll show even better with age.

The biggest disappointment was the wines of Graves and Pessac-Léognan. They did not show well at this tasting. I hope age will be kind to them. This was the only region from which we tasted dry whites. The superior white was from Château Pape-Clément followed by Domaine Chevalier. One of my favorite estates there is Smith Haut Lafitte but the wines were disappointing, especially after tasting Pape-Clément immediately beforehand. On the plus side, I was able to meet and chat with the charming proprietress Florence Cathiard and her husband.

My list of the top wines of the tasting must start with Pomerol’s Château La Conseillante and Pauillac’s 2nd Growth Pichon Baron (de Longueville). They were extraordinary and smoked the rest of the pack. They were both distinguished by a vibrancy, a depth and complexity of flavor which was transparent and fresh. Amazing.

Other top wines were Les Ormes de Pez, a Saint-Estephe I tasted with Sylvie Cazes whose family owns this estate along with Lynch-Bages (tasted but not as good) and whose brother is the famed Jean-Michel Cazes. What a lovely, unassuming person!

bordeaux wine 2008Also, I enjoyed Saint-Émilion’s Pavie Maquin with owner Nicolas Thienpont (right), whose family also owns Pomerol’s elite Le Pin. Canon La Gaffelière was delicious, represented by the irrepressible and perpetually grinning Count Stephan von Niepperg (see below, dressed in amazing style).

bordeaux wine 2008A surprise was the Médoc’s Chateau La Tour de By. This is an obscure small estate whose inexpensive wine was first-rate. Here are the others I enjoyed, not already mentioned:

Saint-Julien

Léoville-Poyferré, Léoville-Barton, Talbot, Branaire-Ducru, Lagrange, Beychevelle, Gruaud-Larose and Saint-Pierre

Pauillac

D’Armailhac, Clerc-Milon, Grand Puy-Ducasse, Haut-Bages Libéral, Pichon-Lalande

Margaux
Rauzan-Segla, Brane-Catenac, Giscours, Kirwan, Lascombes

Pomerol

Clinet, Gazin

Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
Angelus, Canon, Clos Fourtet, Figeac, Larcis Ducasse, Troplong Mondot

So those are Arnie’s thoughts on the 08 vintage. Do you have any questions for Arnie about Bordeaux?

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