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Esquin’s Exclusive Quilceda Tasting with Arnie Millan

Quilceda Creek has been producing celestial wines since its inception in 1978. Quilceda Creek produced its first commercially-released Cabernet Sauvignon in 1979. Owner, and winemaker, Alex Golitzin had the good fortune to have the assistance of legendary winemaker and uncle Andre Tchelistcheff who was a mentor to Alex in Quilceda Creek’s early days. Over the years, Quilceda has earned lavish praise from the world’s wine press, sometimes bordering hyperbole.

Today, Alex and son Paul have made Quilceda Creek one of the world’s greatest estates, racking up an amazingly consistent track record of 98-100 points scores over the past 15 years with no score lower than 96 points (only twice in 15 years) with their flagship Cabernet. Quilceda Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon remains the benchmark for what can be achieved in Washington  – and dare we say, and the United States.

So imagine our excitement when we learned that my colleague Jeff Fournier and I, along with David Leclaire, had been invited to attend Quilceda’s release party for the 2014 Columbia Valley Red (CVR) and the 2014 Columbia Valley Cabernet last month.

When we arrived, there was already a crowd. We quickly found the two tasting tables and made a beeline to the 2014 Columbia Valley Red Blend. Good thing we were early because the tasting room soon was filled to capacity. Amazing appetizers were tray-passed around the room. This was a party for the Seattle area wine trade, so we were able to hobnob with friends we hadn’t seen for months.

2014 is looking to be another outstanding vintage in Washington State and you can taste the concentration in both the Columbia Valley Red (CVR) and especially in their flagship Cabernet.

When we were done tasting, we went to the winery behind the tasting room to pick up our allocation of both wines. Thankfully, Jeff’s car was big enough to hold the cases of wine.

Below are my tasting notes.

Quilceda 2014 Columbia Valley Red $51.99/bottle

The 2014 Columbia Valley Red was beefier than the 2013. The fruit was noticeably darker and fuller bodied and the tannins were smooth and well-integrated. If I had to rate the wine, I’d give it 93 points.

Quilceda 2014 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $171.99/bottle

The big brother, the Columbia Valley Cabernet was outstanding. The wine is rich, intense and loaded with black currant and cassis fruit. The tannins were big and long on the finish accentuated by a contrail of that dark fruit. This wine needs some age to come together but I think it will be amazing in 7 to 10 years. I’d give it 97 – 98 points but I’m being very conservative because the Cab is in its infancy.

~ Arnie

Weekend Wine Pairing : Oven Roasted Lamb Rack Salad with Couscous, Fennel, Mint, and Tomatoes

Rosé Time!

It is definitely beginning to look more like spring; in the wine business that means the arrival of the Rosé! I can think of no better foil for the winter doldrums than to tease one of the scarce sunny days on the deck with brunch or late lunch. Whether Easter, or any Sunday, there are fewer things as civilized as taking a meal al fresco with a nice bottle of Rose!

The Rosé Revolution is now hegemony!  Never in my life have I tasted and seen so many Rosé. Beyond the great Bandol and Tavel, we see Rosé coming from every great wine region in the world. Not only is it just about the best thing for an afternoon quaff, Rosé also lends itself to a wide variety of foods. The touch of anthocyanin, that gives Rosé its color, also gives the wine more body which allows it to pair with heartier fare!

Looking for something to pair with your Easter Ham? Look no further. Roast Turkey, Standing Pork Crown Roast, Cedar Plank Salmon, Tuna Salad – you name it, Rose will fit the bill. Almost just to prove my point, I would like to present a perfect party dish that is made for Rosé – Oven Roasted Lamb Rack Salad with Couscous, Fennel, Mint, and Tomatoes.

 

Oven Roasted Lamb Rack Salad with Couscous Fennel Mint and Tomatoes recipe + ingredient list

The other thing I love about Rosé? Even the priciest Rosés are still relatively affordable in the vast scheme of things. One of my favorite things to do, for a party, is fill a galvanized tub with a bunch of Rosé + ice and let people have at it! Rest assured there are great inexpensive Rosé, and you can find a lot of them here at Esquin Wine & Spirits.

Here are a couple favorites:

OLIVARES JUMILLA ROSADO 2016 $6.99

Floral and red fruit aromas mingle on the nose, with a refreshing and balanced palate. This Spanish Rosé pairs beautifully with grilled vegetables, fish, pasta, or on its own.  70% Garnacha 30% Monastrell

LAURIBERT ‘LA CUVEE DE LISA’ ROSE 2016 $8.99

We are pleased to welcome the new 2016 Les Lauribert La Cuvee de Lisa! A gorgeous Rosé with tart, refreshing acidity that is balanced with notes of barely ripe strawberries. It’s springtime in a bottle!

MILBRANDT ROSE 2016 $11.99

Intense nose of mineral, strawberry, melon, and herbs. The palate is lean and fresh with plenty more red berries, and a saline finish.

Join us Saturday, April 15th, from 2-5PM at our tasting barrel to try the 8th World of the World – Rosé!

Spring Classes at Esquin

Italy In-Depth 3 Class Series

Italy! The Land of the Vine, according to the ancient Greeks; nowhere else is wine so closely intertwined with daily life in every village throughout the Italian peninsula – not even France. Nowhere else is there such a enormous array of excellent native varietals.

Beginning Sunday April 2nd, Sommelier Arnie Millan will be offering an in-depth look at Italian wine with three classes, each organized by region:

1. April 2nd – The South (Campagnia, Sicily, Puglia, Calabria, Sardinia, Basilicata)  1-4:30PM in the Sky Lounge $69

2. April 23rd – The Center (Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio, The Marches, Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Molise, Abruzzi) 1- 4:30PM in the Sky Lounge $69

3. April 30th – The North (Piedmont, Valle d’Aosta, Lombardy, Veneto, Alto Aldige/Trentino, Friuli-Giulia-Venezie) 1-4:30PM in the Sky Lounge $69

Join us for the complete series $195, tickets available here>>

Each region, its history and wines, will be discussed in depth. Classes will include tasting regional wines. We will taste 8 wines per class from the Italy’s greatest appellations. Free parking is available in Esquin’s lot on the South end of our building. The Seattle Times recently named Arnie “The finest Wine Mind in Seattle.”

FOOD + WINE CLASSES with Lenny Rede

April 9th – Bourbon and Barbecue! 2-4PM in the Sky LoungeTwo great tastes that taste great together. We will explore a variety of styles of barbecue and an equal number of bourbons, including a few local favorites! Do’s and don’ts on how to make your next BBQ the best party ever. $49 Call 206.682.7374 to register. Advance registration is necessary. Gift Certificates are available.

May 14th – Champagne & Caviar! 2-4PM in the Sky Lounge
Explore the range and elegance of Champagne and some classic pairings – including Caviar, Lobster, Fried Chicken, and Popcorn. We will discuss the production styles, rules, and history of the King of wines. With Special Guest! $49
Call 206.682.7374 to register. Advance registration is necessary. Gift Certificates are available.

Jeff’s Januik Blend

I recently attended a blending seminar at Novelty Hill Januik Winery in Woodinville with the Master of Merlot himself, Mr. Mike Januik. We were given five wines, out of barrel, from different sites and tasked with blending and bottling our own wine. There were no rules.

First, I started with the Stillwater Creek Merlot. This is a cooler vineyard than most and makes for a great Merlot site, because Merlot ripens earlier than the other Bordeaux varietals. This wine is soft and plummy with a round mouth feel and dark berry fruits, it will be perfect for the mid pallet of my blend and could soften any hard edges the other wines might have.

Second,  I tried the Cabernet Franc from Ciel du Cheval –  one of Washington’s most famous vineyards on Red Mountain. Wow! The aromas soar from the glass with violet, red and dark berry fruits carrying through to the pallet. My impressed self thought, “I MUST incorporate this in my blend!”

Third, I tried the Malbec from Stillwater Creek. Oh boy, a very showy wine with dark berry fruit and creamy texture, it is dense and dark.  I realized  I would have to be careful with this one if I wanted to blend with it. A wine like this could overpower a blend.

Number four was a Cabernet from the Wahluke Slope and the Weinbau Vineyard. A good example of Cabernet with slight herbal notes, red and black currants and Mocha nuances. This is a medium to full-bodied wine with moderate tannins.

Number five was the Shaw vineyard Cabernet from Red Mountain. This wine has the markings of good Cabernet, like the Weinbau, but is bigger in structure. It has more concentration of fruit weight and tannin with good acid to make it balanced. I liked it, and a little could go a long way in a blend.

After tasting the five selections given, and I was tasked with coming up with my own blend. The question to myself was, do I want something out of the ordinary or try my hand at a classic style that could compete with the world’s best.  I decided to go for a right bank Bordeaux style with a slight twist.

I eliminated the Malbec and the Weinbau Cabernet, as they didn’t have the structure I need, and decided to use the other three wines.

My blend:

50% Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Franc

30% Stillwater Creek Merlot

20% Shaw Cabernet from Red Mountain.

Typically you wouldn’t see any Cabernet in a right bank Bordeaux style wine, but I wanted to add a little mussel to this blend.  I used a heavy dose of Cab-Franc, because I liked it so much, and the Merlot helped soften and smooth out the transition from the mid-palette to the finish.

My blend resulted  in a wine with floral aromas and dark fruit that expressively carry through to the palette, with a soft and seamless texture in the transition, and a long finish. Too bad I only got to make one bottle.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog and maybe learned something. If you ever have any questions about Washington Wine or anything at all please e-mail me Jeff@esquin.com

~ Jeff

Women in Wine in the Sky Lounge

Curated by Brass in Pocket, in support of the Walla Walla Community College, comes an event celebrating amazing women in Walla Walla wine history. Join us for appetizers and wine tasting on March 22nd, 5 – 8PM, in the Sky Lounge at Esquin Wine and Spirits!

Featuring:

Ashley Trout – VITAL WINES – Vital Wines produces wines that complete a circle. All proceeds go to the SOS clinic,  a free, non-profit health care clinic in the Walla Walla area dedicated to helping people get the healthcare they both need and deserve – no questions asked. These wines give back to those that provide us with beautiful wines throughout the Walla Walla valley.

Amy Alvarez-Wampfler – Abeja – With it’s namesake meaning Bee in Spanish, Abeja ‘ah -BAY – ha’ pays homage to the care of the land and the times when farming implied a respect for the environment . Abeja creates wines with the philosophy that each day we can make a difference in the quality of our care for the land.
Mary Derby – DAMA Wines – Started by Mary Tuuri Derby,  a visionary, artist, and dreamer, DAMA wines began with community and continues with love. Recognized for their bold, trailblazing wines, DAMA has been emerging from a small boutique winery to a power brand.
Selena Kritsonis – Woodward Canyon Winery – Along with a 14-acre Estate Vineyard in Walla Walla Valley, Woodward Canyon sources fruit from a handful of well-established Washington state growers including Champoux Vineyard, one of the older vineyards in the State.

Sabrina Lueck – College Cellars – A non-profit teaching winery located at the Center for Enology and Viticulture on the campus of the Walla Walla Community College. College Cellars wines are crafted by students as a part of their study of the science of wine making.

$40

100% of ticket sales support a scholarship for women in the Walla Walla Community College Enology & Viticulture program, additional donations accepted at the event.

 

Saviah tasting with the winemaker Rich Funk

Richard Funk winemaker of Saviah Cellars has been crafting wines in Walla Walla Valley since 2000.  The winery strives to produce rich, artfully balanced wines that showcase unique soils and climate.  We are proud to say we have carried their wines since their first commercial vintage production.  You could say “we got that funk”!

Join us for our tasting with the winemaker event with Saviah and Rich Funk on March 15th, 6 -7:30pm, in the Sky Lounge.

$15 tasting fee, which can be used towards your purchase, space is limited RSVP by calling 206.682.7374

 

Washington Exploration Series with Regina Daigneault

Washington Exploration Series with Regina Daigneault featuring wines from:

WT Vintners | Lauren Ashton | Otis Kenyon | Andrew Rich | VITAL 

March 8, 6-7:30PM, in the Sky Lounge

We welcome Regina (Reggie) Daigneault – for a tasting exploration series of the Pacific Northwest, beginning with Washington, in celebration of Washington Wine Month. Reggie has been a wine educator for the past 15 years, bringing together a respected following of wine lovers, foodies, and enthusiasts alike.

We begin our Washington Exploration Series by exploring the viticulture regions within Washington State. We will look at why the vineyards, climate, and soils differ from each other. We will explore the cooler climate wines from Columbia Gorge along the Columbia River, and taste the differences of the Walla Walla, Columbia, and Yakima Valleys. Guests will feel the soils and rocks of these regions, while noticing how geology can define the flavors of the grapes.

 

$15 tasting fee, which can be used towards your purchase

small eats will be provided

Space is limited, RSVP by calling 206.682.7374

 

Join us for the full exploration series:

California Series 4/19 6 – 7:30PM in the Sky Lounge

Oregon Series 5/10 6 – 7:30PM in the Sky Lounge

Wines of the Rhône Valley Classes March 19 and 26

Beginning Sunday March 19th, Esquin’s Arnie Millan will host a two-part series of classes

focused on the wines of the Rhone, their history and their effects on the world of wine.

The Rhone Valley is home to some of France’s greatest wines, from noble Hermitage in the North to celebrated Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the South. The ancient Greeks and Romans planted vines here. The Papacy moved here for a brief but unforgettable period, thereafter bringing great prestige to the area.

In short, this is a region with a wondrous past yet whose present achievements in wine attract the world’s attention. The wines of the Rhone continue to exert a huge influence on wines being produced around the world, from Washington State to Australia and South Africa.

The first class, on Sunday March 19th, features the Northern Rhone Valley from Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, Saint Joseph, Cornas to Saint- Peray.

The second class, on Sunday March 26th, explores the Southern Rhone Valley with its great villages dominated by the renowned Chateauneuf- du-Pape.

We will taste 8 wines per class from the region’s greatest appellations. Cost is $79 per class or $145 for the two-part series.

The classes will be held on on Sundays, from 1:30 – 4:00 p.m. in Esquin Wine & Spirits Sky Lounge at 2700 4th Avenue S., just South of the stadiums in SODO. Free parking is available in Esquin’s lot on the South end of the building.

Gift Certificates are available.

The Seattle Times has named Arnie “The finest Wine Mind in Seattle.”

To register, please click on the following links:

Rhone Valley Entire 2 Class Series
March 19th class: The North
March 26th Class: The South

or call Esquin at 206-682-7374 or email Arnie.

Weekend Wine Pairing – French Onion Soup and Gorman Old Scratch GSM

The weather always drives my cooking decisions and with the crazy “thunderhailsnowmageddon” we have been experiencing of late I just want to make a hearty soup and curl up with a good book and nice glass of wine. Nothing says hearty winter soup like a classic French Onion Soup. Now before you say oh but that is so time consuming, a weekend afternoon is a perfect opportunity to spend some leisure time in the kitchen. The recipe is simpler than you might think, and the payoff is definitely worth the effort.
A bowl of French Onion Soup, a simple salad and a nice bottle of Red et voilà you have a fantastic weekend supper. If you want to make more of a meal of it add a large plate of charcuterie, pate or rillettes, with cornichons and mustard.

 
Tradition has it that a nice white or red burgundy is a great pairing for this dish. Any medium bodied red with nice fruit and good minerality will pair beautifully – think Beaujolais, Dolcetto or Barbera. Want to class is up? A great Châteauneuf-du-pape will rock everyone’s world. Today, I am pairing with new red from my buddy Chris Gorman, the Old Scratch GSM.


Gorman Winery Old Scratch GSM Columbia Valley 2014 $24.99
A Syrah driven blend (80%Syrah, 10%Grenache, 10% Mourvedre) that spends 24 months in French oak is a dark magenta in the glass with lively aromatics and a spicy palate with plenty of dark fruit- boysenberry, blackberry, currant and licorice notes. Medium bodied with soft tannins and a telltale mineraly finish that leaves you wanting more. 420 cases produced.
Sourced from some of Washington’s finest vineyards; Klipsun, Boushey, Lonesome Springs, Kiona, and made in much the same manner as his Pixie Syrah, that last couple of vintages have received 94 pt scores! (and is almost twice the price!)
Chris founded his eponymous winery in 2002 and has garnered accolades from virtually every wine publication on the planet. He came to winemaking from years working in the wine trade, because of that experience he makes wines that are easy to like, because he knows what people like. Now well into his 15th year and producing some 8000 cases of wine, he is no longer a garagiste having to steal grapes from friends, he is one of Washington State’s leading winemakers. The Old Scratch GSM is proof that he not resting on his laurels.

French Onion Soup (Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée)

6 Tablespoons Butter

6 medium Yellow Onions (2lbs)

1 clove garlic chopped

2 cups water

2 tablespoons Flour

1 cup Sherry Amontillado

6 cups Beef stock, homemade if you can

1 bay leaf

2 Thyme sprigs

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons Cognac

1 teaspoon Vinegar, Cider or sherry

1 teaspoon Worcester Sauce

Toasted baguette, about 8 slices ¼ inch thick

Gruyere Cheese, Grated, about 12 ounces

Chives for garnish

Click here for printable recipe and instructions

~ Lenny

 

 

Steamed Clams with Chorizo and Palencia Albarino

To quote Hank Shaw, “There is nothing more Iberian – meaning Spanish, Basque or Portuguese – than the combination of shellfish and pork.” He even speculates that this classic combination was used to ferreting out Conversos during the inquisition. But, mostly I think it is because the combination is so delicious.

Today, I give my interpretation of Hank’s Steamed Clams with Chorizo. Other than some fresh clams, I get mine at Mutual Fish which is right down the street from my house, and good quality Spanish Chorizo, I get that at Big Johns PFI, the other key ingredient is Pimenton de la vera. Smoked Spanish Paprika is unlike the bitter grocery store paprika that your mother used to sprinkle on everything, Pimenton is sweet and smoky and adds a depth to any dish, and aside from saffron is what makes Paella taste like Paella.


I can think of no better pairing for this dish than a good Albarino. Albarino is the undisputed great white wine of Spain. Native to Galicia on northeastern coast the wine has been served with shellfish since the time of the Cluny Monks walking the Pilgrimage of the El Camino de Santiago in the twelfth century. For hundreds of years, Albariño vines could be found growing around the trunks of poplar trees and in bushes along the outside margins of a field. Today, the Albarinos of Rais Baixes are recognized as some of the best wines in Spain.


Recently an Albarino was awarded a Platinum Medal at the 17th annual Platinum Judging, conducted by Wine Press Northwest magazine. It is made by a young man Named Victor Palencia and is one of my favorite white wines produced in the state.

Palencia Winery 2015 Albarino, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley $15.99 “This grape is native to the Iberian Peninsula, yet it thrives in the arid Columbia Basin. Aromas of dried pineapple and banana play out on the palate with hints of melon, gooseberry and lemon meringue. It earned gold medals in two Oregon judgings prior to its Platinum.” – Andy Perdue

“Clean, clear and bright with fresh white peach and tropical notes on the nose, a mélange of fruit opens on the palate; sweet cantaloupe, apple, peach, pear and lemon zest are framed with bright minerality and zippy acidity. A refreshing and delicious Galicia style Albarino.” – Lenny

Victor Palencia is barely in his thirties’ and has been making wine before he could legally drink! It was a New Times Article that first brought him to the attention of the public, A Vineyard Prodigy Too Young to Drink. Since then Victor has been named in “Americas Top 40 under 40” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine and his wines consistently receive Gold Medals and praise from press and competitions. The future is bright for this young man who was born in Mexico and raised in Prosser, working with grapes since age 13. He says it was his destiny to make wine.

Spanish Style Steamed Clams with Chorizo 

1 pound Roasted potatoes 3 pounds small Manila Clams*

1/4 cup olive oil

1 shallot, finely diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon red chile flakes

1/2 pound Spanish chorizo, sliced

1 cup white wine (Albarino)

2 teaspoons Pimenton De la Vera

1 teaspoon Sherry Vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 teaspoon sea salt

Big loaf of crusty bread

click here for printable recipe instructions

 

 

 

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