Washington Wine Month

March kicks off Washington Wine Month and there are a slew of events going on throughout the state during this month. But here is the funny thing; for how much March is touted as Washington Wine Month, August is also known as Washington Wine Month. Kind of weird – I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the official month is, but so far, no resolution. So I suppose our little corner of the winemaking world has enough of a complex to have two ‘months’ to tout its virtues.

In “March,” a lot of wineries are partnering with restaurants (or are a lot of restaurants partnering with wineries?), so it’s a chance to visit and support some local establishments that are putting a proper spotlight on the greatness and potential that wines of Washington produce.

As Washington steps up to the world stage, it’s important that locals discover and embrace the homegrown wines we grow. In fact, the Washington Wine Commission has recently announced the 600th winery to be licensed and a new AVA has been made official in Washington – say hello to the Snipes Mountain AVA! In fact, there may be an 11th AVA as Lake Chelan’s is under review as we speak.

With this support for Washington wines, please go out and support some of the producers throughout the state. Washington produces all sorts of great wines in a number of varietals. World class wines should be quite easy to find, even your next favorite for a Wednesday dinner.

Here are my favorite Washington wines of the moment in the varietals that our state does well (note – I’m just scratching the surface of the good wines from WA, this is only a primer to whet your palate):

  • Cabernet Sauvignon – Washington really shines with this red noble grape, so there are great producers everywhere. Some can be really pricey, but the Five Star Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon is pretty darn good. Vibrant fruit, with elegant tannins, this is a really nice red.
  • Merlot – This varietal stands out in Washington and I really, really like the Merlot that comes from Otis Kenyon. It’s bold, complex and a standard bearer for how good the Merlot from Washington can be.
  • Syrah – The Syrah’s from Betz Family Winery are amongst the best wines that come from Washington and with good reason. Their Syrah has an opulent body and complexity to match.
  • Riesling – I love Riesling and outside of Alsace, I think some of the best in the world come from our state. There are a ton of great values through WA, but right now I really enjoy the Riesling from Tsillan Cellars. Bright acidity and definite aromatics, this is a nice wine with a ton of different foods – particularly shellfish and Asian foods.

Sippin’ on Siduri

I am in love with this winery and I have only had one glass of it. During my dinner at Art of the Table last weekend, Dustin paired the 2006 Siduri Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir with the main course and I was instantly smitten with wine from Siduri. He mentioned that they just received it that day; this stirred my curiosity and I was desperate to learn more about this winery.

Pinot Noir has always been a popular wine, but when Sideways came out a few years ago it reached even higher plateaus. This new demand drove the cost of Pinot up, but on the inverse, mediocre Pinot started to surface. It’s a difficult grape to grow and it can create wines that are deserving of all sorts of praise and sonnets. When it’s great it is truly great. Like Michael Jordan-level great. I felt this way with the Siduri I had. Now I wonder what it’ll be like if I ever have a taste of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Although I doubt I’ll ever have that opportunity.

I started to do some research on Siduri and was walloped with this nugget of information – when Pearl Jam hits the stage, Eddie Vedder drinks Siduri’s Van der Kamp Pinot Noir. I’ve been a huge Pearl Jam fan (Ten Club member!) and have gone to my fair share of shows. I’ve sat close enough to see Eddie bring a bottle of wine onstage and see him swig and enjoy himself. I always wanted to know what he drank and now I know. My obsession with Siduri continues.

Reading more about Siduri I discovered that Pinot noir is the only varietal that they produce. And they make Pinot from vineyards between Oregon and California. So this is great for those Pinot snobs that only drink from certain appellations, they’ll play nice with Pinot Noir from the states that do it best. However, best is a relative term because Siduri’s goal is to produce world-class Pinot noir from areas that grow Pinot best. Admirable indeed.

Digging a little deeper into Siduri, I also discovered that they produce and vinify each barrel of wine by lot, yeast, and cooperage. Idiosyncratic, but in their quest to create top notch Pinot noir that best expresses the terroir, these steps pay off in the long run.

The folks at Siduri have a good thing going. They’ve carved out a winemaking niche that is admirable and have the accolades to show for their efforts. I try to make it to Napa and Sonoma once a year and now I have another place to visit. It should be a fun visit don’t you think?

It’s interesting how much wine can grab you and sweep you off your feet. So much, that you can rediscover how great wine can be and how a sip can make you love it all over again. It’s happened a couple of times in my legal drinking career. Now I can chalk up a glass of Siduri Pinot noir to my list. I look forward to drinking more of their stuff.

The sexy wines of Spanish reds

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us, which for many (mostly marketing and advertising people) is the most romantic day of the year. Chocolate is prominent, roses are abundant, and a special dinner is in the cards for many. But what about wine? Whether you’re ordering out or ordering in, I have a wine for you that exudes sexiness, passion, and surprises. Say hello to the Monastrell grape from Spain.

Specifically, Monastrell wines from the Yecla and Jumilla regions of Spain. Those are the ones that I’m sprung on. Why do I feel this way about them? Well, they have so many things going for them. Spanish wines are super affordable; you can generally get good stuff for under $20. Getting value from your wine is very cool. A big reason is because Spain is the third-largest producer of wine in the world, but they are only now starting to break into the Old World hierarchy of France and Italy – those two countries have wines that are a bit more expensive. This affordability also goes for their Iberian neighbor too; lots of wines from Portugal are also very great.

Another thing to note about Monastrell and Spanish wines in general is that they very fruit-forward with depth and bright acidity to refresh the palate. When you drink one you’ll notice both the fruit and hints of smoke to add to the depth. The tannins are on the finer side, and not chunky or brash. Lastly, and this is my favorite part, they have a bright acidity that is uncommon for many red wines – the acidity keeps your mouth watering for more. Chart this up to the environment of Spain’s vineyards.

The great regions for Monastrell in Spain are Yecla, Bullas, and Jumilla. Since we’re spending time with the Monastrell’s of Jumilla and Yecla let’s focus there. Both regions are located on the southeast corner of Spain. Because of the proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, Spain goes through a bit of a Mediterranean effect where the ocean breezes help cool the wine during the growing season. Couple this with the high heat of the day and the cool nights, the wines have relatively low alcohol levels and high acidity.

What does this mean for you? That you’ll get a bottle of wine that is easy to drink now with potential for aging. And with those flavor characteristics, you’ll get a wine that is quite enjoyable. And how does this equate to a sexy wine? You won’t be ambushed by high alcohol levels and you’ll gently be swayed by the elegance of a wine that will envelop you in it’s graces. Try some, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

As for recommendations? There are two that stand out in my mind as easy drinkers that won’t wallop the wallet.

Bellum from Senioro de Barahonda – Check your local wine retailer if they have this one, because you’ll love it. Long finish with flavors of plum, blackberries, and bits of smoked meat. This is a wine that can take the evening places. Bellum is from Yecla so you’ll notice how great the wines from here can be.

Castillo de Jumilla – Enjoyed this one at dinner the other night, and I’m sure you’ll like it too. It’s a surprising wine in that you get a lot of bang for your buck. The flavors are definitely in the red fruit spectrum, but you’ll notice a bit of earthiness that comes as a back note.

Seattle Happy Hour: Boat Street Cafe

Thank our good friends at City Stimulus for this bit of food info; Boat Street Cafe has announced their new happy hour.

Yup, Renee Erickson’s great little French spot is having a happy hour that runs from 5-7pm. I’m excited about this for a bunch of reasons. The food at Boat Street Cafe (and it’s sister restaurant Boat Street Kitchen) is excellent, so having the opportunity to get their food at a deal is not to be missed. Even if you can’t make it to the happy, go for dinner or brunch, Boat Street Cafe is one of the great Seattle restaurants. It’s also great because this happy hour runs a bit later than most. A lot of Seattle happy hours seem to end at 6pm. I don’t know about you, but I doubt I could get out of work, make it to Belltown (or wherever), find parking, and figure out my order by 6pm. Close to chronologically impossible.

So now we have the option of Boat Street Cafe. Renee’s restaurants are in a funky location on the west end of Denny Ave. where it meets up with Western. Parking can be a bit tricky. I’d look for parking along Western and the side streets. Note, the North side of Denny could be a hassle with the rush of people trying to get off of work.

Enjoy happy hour at Boat Street Cafe! Happy Hour runs from 5-7pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I’ll see you there; I’ll be the one indulging in duck fat fries, hangar steak, and oysters. Other things on the happy hour menu include bread  from Columbia Bakery & Oregon Butter, pate tartines, Nicoise olives, pickled figs with goat cheese, and more! Top this off with the drink deals (four bucks for a glass of Muscadet or Beaujolais; $18 for a bottle!) – and you have a great post work meet-up with some friends.

Boat Street Café / Boat Street Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Drinking fish bladders

During my television viewing of Emeril Lagasse on his Planet Green show, I’ve been noticing this commercial for Bill Nye’s new show called ‘Stuff Happens‘. In the commercial, I’m always caught off guard with Bill asking people if they would drink ground up fish bladders. This sounds gross right? I felt I had to clear the air and figure out the misconceptions.

First off, I’m a Bill Nye fan. He was an original member of the Almost Live! crew for goodness sakes! Almost Live is legendary for Seattleites and he was Bill Nye The Science Guy afterall! He’s a super smart dude who makes learning and science super fun and interesting. So I’m not bemoaning him – if anything I’m just annoyed at people’s perceptions.

When Bill was talking about drinking fish bladders, I’m sure he was referencing Isinglass. What’s Isinglass? Well it is indeed fish bladders and it’s often used in making beer and wine. It’s used to clarify alcohol, helping remove the yeast sediment, sort of like a filter. It’s not for all beers, and it predominantly follows British-style ales.

I first learned about while trying to learn about the myth of Guiness beers. I came to learn of isinglass and it’s use in beer and wine. I didn’t really have a problem with this, but I could see that if I was vegetarian (especially one of those strict, militant ones)  this would be a problem. Luckily, these folks have kept a handy little list that breaks down most every type of beer that would or would not be suitable for vegetarians. That said, Wiki says that most of the isinglass is gone by the time the beer is drank, but it is something to think about nonetheless.

So yeah, there you have it, my little science lesson for the day. Now you know, and as the dudes from GI Joe told us, knowing is half the battle. I’m still looking forward to checking out Bill Nye’s show.

The golden touch of Golden Glen Creamery

Milk does a body good. It truly does. Loaded with nutrients and vitamins, I love milk. Quick story, one summer before high school, my group of friends and I all decided to only drink whole milk to bulk up for the sports year. We bulked up all right; we enjoyed drinking the milk, but we didn’t really enjoy the working out part of the summer.

But back on point, my most favorite milk to grab around town is by Golden Glen Creamery. Their skim milk destroys all other skim milks. It’s so so good. It takes like 2%, so it’s not watery, more full and creamy. Look for the green cap! While I definitely love the skim, the whole milk is like this decadent milkshake treat. And the chocolate milk. Those that say adding chocolate syrup to chocolate milk is the same thing are deluding themselves. This is the chocolate milk to get.

Golden Glen Creamery is located north of Seattle in Bow, but what’s great is that tons of local grocery stores and markets carry it. We get ours from Eat Local on Queen Anne. Go get some today! Oh yeah, be mindful that it’s in a glass container, so you’ll need to pay a deposit, but this is just another excuse to go and get some more. Or you can keep it and toss your Nalgene.

Enjoy your milk and the fact that you’re buying product from local farmers that enrich our community. Neighbors helping neighbors!

Photo from the Skagit Foodshed blog

àMaurice is aMazing.


Earlier this year we went to a Winemaker Dinner at The WAC celebrating the wines of àMaurice. A big reason why we went is because one of us knew the winemaker, Anna Schafer. We had a great time getting to know Anna and tasting her wines created a fondness for àMaurice that most of us carry to this day. Imagine my surprise when I found out they were making a table wine.

Based in Walla Walla, àMaurice is creating some exciting stuff or as Stephen Tanzer mentioned at Art of the Table “… àMaurice was a surprising and exciting winery…. ” Very cool. They make awesome wines, ranging from Malbec to Merlot, Viognier to Chardonnay, and more.

So imagine my surprise this week when I went to the Uptown Metropolitan Market and noticed a white table wine from them called “Pour Me”. Table wines are usually a blend of grapes and have a lot of flavor that’s pretty front and center. In this case Pour Me is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Chardonnay. And Pour Me clocks in at under $15. Sold!

We were excited to try it, because we knew Anna’s talent and the quality of vine that àMaurice plays with. When we tasted it, Pour Me exceeded our expectations. A pretty full body with good acidity and evident fruit; this was a really nice wine. And it had a great finish! Creamy and lush: malolactic fermentation perhaps? This is a really fun wine. Definitely as good as some Washington whites at twice its price.

Another cool thing about Pour Me is that it’s a Metropolitan Market exclusive. In other words, once they’re sold out, you’ve missed your chance. You’ve been properly warned; get yours.

Wining and dining with Stephen Tanzer

Last weekend, my friend Julie invited me to this really cool event a wine dude from Microsoft organized. It was an evening eating and drinking with acclaimed wine writer, Stephen Tanzer. The event was to taste 10 of the best Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah that Washington could produce. I knew I had to attend; how often do opportunities where you can drink great wine and learn a ton happen?

David Hamilton was the guy that organized this event, and it was awesome. It was located at the wonderful Art of the Table restaurant in Wallingford. I could go on and on about how great the food was, but I’ll save that for another time, as Chef Dustin Ronspies has some great themes ahead for dinner. I’m looking forward to going back for the Julia Childs’ dinner. Chef Dustin is a really cool guy and all the praise Art of the Table is getting is well deserved.

But yes, the wine and Steve. Every summer, Steve visits Washington to do some tastings and check out the pulse of the industry as he preps for his renowned wine articles. He tries a ton of stuff from all sorts of different producers. He wanted to have an event to taste the absolute best that Washington can produce, which brought us to that evening. Five Cabs and five Syrahs. All were excellent and with Steve’s expertise, we were able to understand the unique differences of these wines and the future of the Washington wine industry.

In tasting, Steve looks for two main things; aromatic complexity and definition of flavor. I thought this was cool. It’s easy to drink wine, but with tasting having a game plan helps out in appreciating wine. He also mentioned some exciting producers that he was surprised by. From Gramercy to Long Shadows, Trust to Va Piano, even our friends at aMaurice, these were all wineries to keep an eye on.

Eats in August

Seattle’s food scene is one of the best in the country. I don’t have much proof to that statement, but I don’t really think I’m going out on a limb with it. From our restaurants to the local ingredients and Washington wine, we have a distinct culture of food here that should to be explored and appreciated. And along those lines are some really cool events in the coming weeks that Seattle foodies would be proud of.

In the batter’s box is Pike Place Market’s Sunset Supper. This event happens on Friday, August 15th from 7:30 to 11pm. After the market closes, some of our finest restaurants in Seattle occupy the stands in the market to do their thing. What’s also cool is that it benefits the Market Foundation. Prices are $85 or $125, and get your tickets here. Bring your appetite! Seattlest had a great write up on the event, check it out.

On deck is the Pig & Pipes event in Ballard on August 23. On that particular Saturday, the Olde Pequliar will be hosting this really cool event. As the name implies there will be two roasted pigs on the menu and the pipes portion will be coming from the bagpipes. Holla. This event will be supporting Seattle’s Bravest, a charity to support the Seattle Fire Department. I found out about it on Nancy Leson’s wonderful All You Can Eat blog. The event is $15, there’ll be drink specials, and doors open at noon. As before bring your appetite.

Waiting in the dugout is the Incredible Feast. We went last year and had an awesome time. It’s in Phinney Ridge where their Farmer’s Market normally occurs, at 67th and Phinney. This event spotlights local farmers, and some of our finest local restaurants will be using the farmer’s bounty in their offerings. The Incredible Feast has been going for a few years now, and was started by Brasa‘s own Tamara Murphy. She wanted to make sure that local farmers got their due and this event is the result. It’ll be on Sunday, August 24 from 4:30 to 7:30, and it’s $65. Get tickets here. I don’t need to say it, but may as well; bring your appetite.

Happy eating and hope to see you getting full at one of these!


Can’t beat the real thing!

Earlier in the year, a friend tipped me off that Costco was selling Mexican Coke. This I had to try. Because Coke is so intrinsic to Mexican culture the bottlers used cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, the flavor should be better. I knew I had to try it.

And now I’m a convert. It’s so much better and it’s now my mission to inform anyone I know the gift of Mexican Coca-Cola. Think of it like this; imagine growing up and only knowing frozen yogurt. It’s good, you like it, but you don’t know there is something different out there and it’s better. Ice cream. That is the jump I notice with Mexican coke to the stuff we normally get.

The flavor is so much deeper. Softer and not as harsh on the palate. The carbonation is restrained and you won’t feel like burping instantly. Another cool thing is that it actually has a smell! And it’s rad! It reminds me of fresh cinnamon rolls, very pleasing and smooth. It’s just a better product!

I highly suggest you make your way to Costco or your local Latino grocery store and pick it up in the delightfuly retro glass bottle. You can even grab it from Amazon. You’ll love it and you’ll never go back to cans or plastic bottles.

Life tastes Good. With Mexican Coca-Cola.