Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cheers, Chin-Chin, Salute!
The sound made by the twisting of a cork, followed by a loud pop and the crackling of effervesce means there is a celebration to come, christening an important moment and memory’s to be made.  Significant occasions warrant a significant bubbly selection, here are a few notes to help you make your selection:
Spumante is Italian sparkling wine, means “foamy” which can refer to all sparkling Italian wines, tends to be sweet.
Presseco is an Italian sparkling dry white wine made from Grera grape primary grown in the Presseco region of Italy.
Brut is a term used sometimes for the driest sparkling wines which means it has less sugar than those labeled extra dry.
Champagne is a wine producing region in the far north of France near Paris.  Though used as a term to describe sparkling wine, true Champagne is aged longer than sparkling wine so can be dryer in taste.
The most prestigist brand of Champagne Don Perignon is produced by Moet & Chandon.  The story behind Dom Perignon is that around 1670, a Benedictine monk named Dom Perignon made some significant developments as cellar master at the abbey of Hautviller in Epernay.   He made a celebrated remark “I am drinking stars” however Dom Perignon did not invent Champagne.  He did have some ideas regarding harvest over a period of days rather than all at once to get the ripest of fruit.  He is also credited for the idea of using string to secure the stoppers in the bottles to retain the sparkle for longer period of time.
For a Celebratory toast or to enjoy with your New Year lobster dinner, here are some Sparkling wines we have tried and recommend:
Perrier-Jouet Grand, Champagne  Grand Brut, elegant gold color with enticing bouquet which is followed by soft apple notes, this Champagne is meant for a celebration.
Argyle, Brut Sparkling wine, 63% chardonnay and 37% pinot noir. Perfect fruit balance with a pleasant finish, absolutely wonderful.
Mumm Napa, Brut Prestige, toasty aroma with subtle Vanilla, rich peach color...... fabulous.
Botter Spago Prosecco, a nod to tradition the bottle is covered with a black string to hold the cork in place.  Once the bottle is opened the bright perfume of peach blossoms fills your nose, when tasting the mouth gets hit with a refined peach fruit flavor and a crisp close.
Tasting sparkling wine  by pouring about inch into a flute glass and wait for a moment to settle, and then pour the rest of the glass. Check out the bubble, sparkling wine bubbles vary, some have large bubbles that rise to the surface then fizz and explode and others have tiny sparkling bubbles.   The smaller the bubbles means there will be more of them, they release the flavor into your mouth, the more bubbles there are, the more flavor packed your sparkling wine will be when it hits your mouth Once the effervescence has subsided smell the sparkling wine.  Take a sip but before swallowing swirl it in your mouth sensing the taste, texture and weight.  After swallowing notice the aftertaste, the finish is a good indication of quality.  A better quality sparkling wine will have a bigger and longer the finish.
Celebrate the New Year with a glass of bubbly; Wine Lovin Women raises a glass to all of you for a wonderful New Year!  Denise

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sangiovese is my first love, it happened in Napa Valley; I was at the Culinary Institute at Greystone for lunch.  They paired one of the courses with a Sangiovese from Charles Krug, and I have been in love with Sangiovese ever since.  Charles Krug does not make a Sangiovese anymore so I have been on a mission to find that special one again.
Sangiovese is one of the most planted red variety grapes in Italy. The Sangiovese grape changes in response to its environment, which is why it so diverse, elegant and complex when well-made. The flavor profile of Sangiovese is generally not assertive it can show a strawberry, blueberry, faintly floral, violet or plumy character. Some of my new discoveries are:
Walla Walla river winery by cougar crest Sangiovese has a soft nose and silky feel on the palate, with expressive fruit….a dream in a glass.
Elegance Winery Sangiovese is gorgeous and rich with body, persistence that is loaded with plush personality.  Showing layers of dark cherry and savory notes…compelling and lovely.

Tura Rita, Perlato Del Bosco from Tuscany. Deep purple in color, rich dark fruit on the palate with a lingering finish…..drop dead gorgeous.
For the Holidays try pairing it with an herb Pork tenderloin recipe (see my recipe under the "recipe" tab).  Season’s Greetings…Cheers!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! 

We suggest to pair with your holiday dinner would be a Pinot Grigio, Rose or Pinot Noir.  My favorite pinot's come from Oregon.  We are thankful for all our blog views...Cheers!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sinister Hand
A gruesome tale for you in time for Halloween, sit back pour a glass and I will share the story of the Sinister Hand.
Two rival families had a rowing competition for rights to some highly regarded land, the first to touch the land, after rowing across the lake, would become ruler of the land. One boat was falling behind so a member of the crew grabbed his own sword, cut off his hand and threw it ashore, winning the title to rule the land.
Own Roe Winery in Saint Paul Oregon produced Sinister Hand with a beautiful full red color and generous fruit is expressed from the onset with a harmonious blend of  63% Grenache, 19% Syrah, 16% Mouvèdre and 2% Cinsault.  Fruity notes of raspberry and blackberry warms the palette with silky light tannins that persists thru the long smooth finish.
Sinister Hand is amazing wine with an unforgettable tale…..Happy Halloween
Read the entire tale and more on Owen Roe website

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A sommelier friend once said, “Drinking wine should be about the emotions you experience as the wine crosses your lips; glides over the palate; slips down the throat and says farewell.”  I have always enjoyed tasting wine and the emotional experience that comes from each sip and appreciate the nurturing care and emotional structure the Vintner crafts into each bottle.

In the Walla Walla Valley, a couple of Vintners allowed me to tag a long one fall evening as they tended  their vats of fermenting grapes.  Harvest had just begun and I was giddy with the excitement of what I would see and experience by this unexpected adventure………

As the winemakers performed their punch downs of the grape vats, the CO gases were released and replaced by heady aromas of grapes and yeast working together.

Slipping my arm into a warm vat of fermenting grapes, I could feel the yeast and grapes working together to create the foundation of the perfect nectar.  A small cup in hand allowed me to siphon off some of the fermenting juice.  This was wine in its infancy and my first time tasting it at this stage in the process.  I loved the unsullied taste of the grapes and sediments. 

There were still round grapes that had yet to open but as I popped one into my mouth the intense flavors gave a rush that can only be experienced.  I compared it against tasting grapes strait from the vine and these grapes had already been affected by the winemaking process and held the greatness of what was to come.

The warm wine was tossed out of my glass and quickly filled with freshly pressed chardonnay juice.  Nothing can prepare you for this unbelievable flavor and taste.  I have had numerous fruit juices in my travels but freshly pressed chardonnay juice is the very best of all juices. 

I walked through the racking room where the barrels were staged and ran my hands over the smooth wood, wondering if the wine stains were from the wine seeping through the wood.  The Vintner was kind enough not to laugh at me but said it was spillage from over filling the barrels.

The adventure was too short lived but it brought back the words of my friend and it re-affirmed why I get that emotional rush and pleasure from drinking wine.  Till next time...Cheers! LD  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wine Lovin Women set out for Walla Walla, WA again for another adventure.  This time was for Fall Crush, where we visited some of our old favorite wineries, Tero Estates and Dumas Station.  Both wineries had amazing releases to sample, if you haven’t been there yet or tried their wines you are missing out….so get started on making some plans to check them out. 

During our visit, we discovered a new favorite, El Corazone, which has a tasting room in downtown Walla Walla.  We walked into an eclectic, packed out showroom which made you realize great things were about to happen…no wine snobs here.

El Corazone has been producing since 2007 and during our visit we tasted:

     First Crush, Malbec (Walla Walla Valley) - Stronger tannins and bolder fruit flavor  
     Supernova, Malbec, (Columbia Valley) - Beautiful color, smooth tannins, full fruit and a slight spice on the pallet
     Pistalero, Bordeaux style blend - Marriage of bold fruit, which intoxicatingly rolls across the tongue
     Swordfight, Syrah - Deep color, subtle wild fruit aroma with rich texture in the mouth
     V-Neck , Viognier - Crisp and clean fruit flavor as a Viognier should be, the floral aroma leads you to believe it will hit sweet on the palette however it is dry and smooth with a soft lingering finish   

After two and half hours of tasting wine we were offered a barrel tasting….now the fun begins! 

We sampled a Cab Franc and Syrah to be released in 2013 and a Carmenere which is a grape that was presumed extinct for 150 years but found growing again in a field of Merlot grapes.  Everything we sampled was still a little young but oh so promising.  El Corazone does amazing things with grapes usually known for blending grapes, they have found a thoughtful way of bringing out great flavor.  What a great release 2013 will be!

El Corazone has a great sense of humor with refreshing liveliness to their attitude, their wine and even the labels on their bottles.  When I asked what grapes were in the wine, Spencer the winemaker, told me to read the back of the bottle.  The back label said……”stop reading, start drinking”.
Cheers! Denise

Sunday, September 23, 2012

If I were to choose a wine for its color, I would pick a Malbec. It has such a succulent deep rich color, with dark fruit and spice to complete the dance on your tantalizes my taste buds. It's not the most popular; however there are more great Malbecs becoming available.
The Malbec grape truly comes into its own in Argentina, where Malbec is the major red variety planted and is most often bottled as a singe varietal.  Argentina might have claimed this grape but it originated in the Southwest of France, however Eastern Washington is producing beautiful Malbecs with intense fruit and subtle spice. Malbec is a spicy wine reminiscent of blackberries and chocolate, with an enticing aroma and velvety texture.  Malbecs are also used in small amounts as a blending grape, such as in Bordeaux blends to add color and to smooth the tannins of the other wines in the blend.
One winery you have to be sure to put on your agenda when visiting Walla Walla is Flying Trout Wines located in Milton Freewater Oregon, partnered with Tero Estates.  Wine maker Ashley Trout makes a fantastic 100% Malbec with beautiful color, flavor and long finish. I first fell in love with their 2009 Old Vines Malbec, with intoxicating black fruit aroma which hits full and ripe with a long, lingering lush finish.  Marys Block Malbec also a 100% Malbec which has soft black fruit forward with a smooth spice finish, this has layers of subletieties that are very impressive.  Flying Trout/Tero Estates winery is worth the visit just for the view you get when you make the climb up the stairs to their roof top patio with your glass of wine, you feel in that moment, all of your senses come alive.
Domingo Finco 2011 Malbec, they call themselves “undiscovered high altitude wines” from Argentina.  The 6400’ altitude microclimate and the unique soil from the region of Salta, results in a wine you need to try for yourself.  These factors create an impressive intense color and is extremely well balanced on the palate with a long sultry smooth finish. It avoids all the hurdles as it transitions from nose, to palette, to finish.
Pondera Winery’s 2009 Stillwater creek Malbec is 92 % Malbec, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot make this Malbec rich but balanced with a heavenly finish.  This Malbec won the 2012 Double Gold Award at the Seattle Wine Awards.  Pondera has a tasting room in Woodinville.
The intense character of Malbec is smoothed out with the Columbia Valley 2009 Sailor Malbec produced by Wachtler Winery.  This is a lovely Malbec with aroma that carries nicely to the palate with spice and a finish that makes a captivating bottle.
Ash Hallow, Walla Walla 2009 Malbec possesses a dark berry color created by a riveting meld of dark fruit and texture of the Walla Walla Valley.  A clean and notable Malbec, which is a beautifully realized effort.
Try a Malbec with some roasted or grilled beef, a cheese plate with aged or herbed sheep cheese…it’s all good! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

We found a great Rose' to take on a picnic or camping trip, Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir Rose 2011.  This Willamette Valley Rose has a fresh fruit aroma with a crisp, light and refreshing taste; even better yet it has a twist top so you have one less thing to pack.  Cheers….Denise

Sunday, August 26, 2012

4th Annual Kitsap Wine Festival

Last weekend I had the pleasure to enjoy the 4th Annual Kitsap Wine Festival at the Harborside Fountain Park in Bremerton, Washington.  This event brought together some of the best wineries within Washington and Oregon in order to raise money to benefit the Harrison Medical Center Foundation.
Besides enjoying amazing wines there was also delicious food and brews to enjoy.  It was well worth the entrance fee and I was especially impressed with the overall organization.
I would like to share some of my favorites from the day.  I recently listed in a former blog other wineries that also were present at this event but since I did a recent review of their wines I felt it was important to bring you some new wineries to explore. 

Hightower Cellars – Red Mountain, Washington
Out of Line 2009 – a Blend – Cab Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot – rich, structured and a little complex.  It has a gentle nose with a mild finish.
Pepper Bridge 2008 – 100% Merlot – mild in nose, slight taste of tannins, very mild for a merlot.  Acceptable.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 – 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot – nose is lovely and I feel the essence of fruit deep in my nose as I enjoy the aroma.  The taste is a nice blend and mild.

Pondera Winery – Woodinville, Washington
Malbec 2009 – excellent, not over powering with a lovely color.
Chardonnay 2011 – crisp, fruity with a touch of new French oak.

Forgeron Cellars – Walla Walla, Washington
Chardonnay 2010 – lovely, crisp and not over oaky.  Refreshing.

Naches Heights Vineyard – Yakima, Washington
Syrah 2010 – beautiful color with a deep rich taste.  The nose was mild but interesting.
Vuja De Rose – crisp, light with good flavor of fruit.  Very enjoyable.

Laurelhurst Cellars – Seattle, Washington
Red Wine – Blend – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, and Malbec – old vines, bold flavor, excellent taste.
Cabernet Sauvignon – old vines, good nose, fantastic flavor!!

Knight Hill – Zillah, Washington
Syrah 2009 – good color, great nose but strong in tannins.

Domingos Hermanos – Salta, Argentina
Finca Domingo Torrontes 2011 – White – No Oak!!  Crisp, delicious, full fruit flavor.  Nose and taste are wonderful.  You will really enjoy this wine done in the Argentine style.
Finca Domingo Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 – rich in color and unbelievable rich earthy tones.  I could taste everything that had once grown in the soil and it was the most amazing complex, bold flavor.  Loved it!!
Finca Domingo Malbec 2011 – very mild nose but deep rich color.  The taste was mild and not over powering but complex without over doing it.  A simple easy Malbec that expands in taste with each sip.

Arch Terrace Wines – Benton City, Washington
Chardonnary 2009 – Light, crisp and not oaky, very enjoyable.
Merlot 2008 – Good in flavor and not too bold.

Wachtler Winery – Gig Harbor, Washington
Syrah 2010 – color was good.  Nose was gentle but rich in fruity aroma.  It had a mild finish and was delicious.
Malbec 2009 – Beautiful color, nose was gentle but seductive.  Really enjoyed this Malbec.
Note:  This winery is young but the wine master has a palate that is spot on and I look forward to enjoying his wine year after year.

Angel Vine – Carlton, Oregon
Zinfandel  2009 (Red) – light in taste with nice color. Lovely.
The Morgster 2010 – Pint Noir – this was something special from the wine maker himself.  Not on the list for tasting, he opened one of his special bottles so we could taste his personal creation.  It was wonderful!!   I hope he produces more.

So many wines, so little time.  If there was one drawback it would be the limited amount of time for this event.  2pm to 5:30pm is not a lot of time to sip and enjoy over 30 wineries.  I hope you will put this event on your calendar for next year, Saturday August 17, 2013.  Until then……Cheers! LD

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Simple White Wine Sangria
My Sangria recipe re-posting for you to cool off from the summer heat.  Many recipes out there have a lot of ingredients, I made this one simple and refreshing, enjoy…Denise
1 bottle dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio)
2 shots of brandy
1 orange sliced
1 lime sliced
1 peach sliced
1 lemon sliced
2 shots of triple sec
1 shot of simple syrup (optional)
Club soda
Pour the wine in a pitcher add sliced fruits (be sure to wash your fruit before slicing) brandy, triple sec, stir and chill 2 -4 hours.  Before serving, add 1 liter of club soda, taste test to see if you need the simple syrup (you might need if your fruit isn’t that sweet).   That’s it, you are ready to chill!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Gig Harbor Wine & Food Festival 2012

An event that I can highly recommend is the Gig Harbor Wine & Food Festival.  This event was well coordinated and worth the entrance fee.  There were 30 wineries, 5 breweries and food tasting tables that complimented the wine/beer perfectly.  Tasting classes were also offered along with cooking demonstrations and a cook off competition.

There were so many things to drink and eat that I was unfortunately only able to get around to a small fraction of what was being offered.
Obelisco Red Mountain Estate Wines – Woodinville, Washington

Dry Riesling – VERY dry.  I would pair this with rich seafood and sweet deserts.

Mosquito Fleet Winery – Belfair, Washington

Meritage Blend 2009 – I love when you smell a wine and it tingles all your senses clear to the back of your throat and then leaves you with goose bumps.  That’s how I felt about this wine.  Paired with a meat slider it really brought out amazing flavors.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon –wonderful nose, loved the complexity it brought but not over powering.

Northwest Bubbles – Tasting Class – with Gail Werner-Forecki

D and I took a break to sit under the tutelage of Gail Werner-Forecki and learn about 4 “Sparkling Wines” (Champagne).

Domaine Ste. Michele Brut NV – It was light and fun to drink but didn’t have that over powering sweet or dry taste that most sparkling wines do.

Mountain Dome Winery Brut NV – This was truly my favorite out of all four.  It was such a pleasure to drink and paired great with food.  What shocked me most was that it’s under $20.00.

Treveri Cellars Blanc de Blanc Brut NV – This was good and I understand it is preferred by a former First Lady.

Argyle Brut 2008 – Very nice – old and new vines help to create this light sparkling wine.

Sozo Wines – Seahurst, Washington
I just want to say how impressed I was not only with the wine but with the mission of this company.  Their commitment to end hunger for orphans, windows and the homeless is commendable and I encougage everyone to visit their website -

Potential Pinot Noir 2009 – Oh how I love a good Pinot Noir and this did not disappoint me at all. Gentle tones but rich in aroma.  I paired it with a salmon/cheese spread on good bread and the flavors burst through out my mouth.  A definite YES!

Generosity Tenpranillo/Syrah 2008 – Lots of Syrahs are too peppery and leave my palate wrung out.  NOT this one.  The Tenpranillo gives a balance to this wine that is gentle and enjoyable to drink.

Masquerade Wine Company – Bellingham, Washington

2011 Columbia Valley Viognier – Loved this delicious light fruity white wine.  It’s easy on the palate and goes very well with most foods.  I enjoyed the hint of lavender.

2007 Masquerade – I didn’t see this wine on their website and so I will quote my notes at the time of tasting:  “love the color, the smell tingles the senses and transports me to a fun lovin realm.  Love the complexity of the wine.” J

Madsen Family Cellars – Olympia, Washington

Cab Franc –This wine was very mild with nice tones and a lovely finish.  It’s nice to find a Cab Franc that doesn’t throw you off your feet but lifts you up to enjoy it.

Page Cellars – Woodinville, Washington

Cabernet Sauvignon – Loved  the full fruit (berry) taste that hit my mouth and the smell grabbed my senses.  Overall it was good but not too complex.

Chardonnay – It was very light and not too oaky.  I personally don’t like a lot of oak.

Semillon Blanc – This was semi-sweet with a nice balance and very refreshing.

Ash Hallow Winery – Walla Walla, Washington

Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon Blend – This had a very nice flavor and was complex but not over powering. I'm not a huge fan of Merlots or blends with a lot of Merlot in them.  However, I really did enjoy this one. What a nice surprise!

Stottle Winery – Lacey, Washington

Sangiovese – This had an amazing nose and flavor.  It was light and refreshing and I will definitely enjoy this wine again.

I felt a little over whelmed with all the choices when I first arrived at the festival.  However, after a couple of tastings and reviewing the materials they provided I was able to formulate a plan of action.  Next year I will do a couple more tasting classes and get to the wineries I was unable to visit this year.  I hope to see you all there and share a glass with you…..cheers!  LD

Monday, July 30, 2012

 The Gig Harbor Food and Wine Festival which is held in July had plenty of wineries, food, seminars and demonstrations; the sun was heating up the day so they were pouring primarily Rosé and white wines. The Rosé gets a bad rap from its past, comparing it to the sickening sweet “Blush” wines of long ago.  The Rose’ coming out now, you don’t need to be ashamed to admit you like.
The Rosé wine producers continue to improve the quality and array of flavors and outstanding versions are coming out now; some of the best are dry, crisp and refreshing.  The Rosé color comes from the short amount of time that the skins of the grape stay in contact with the juices…only a few hours.  Since they are fermented and aged in stainless steel to preserve the freshness, you will find the Rosé has little tannins.

While the sun is shining, Rosé has proved to be a refreshing option to pour.  Such as the Rosé of Cabernet Franc from Columbia Valley by Masquerade Wine Company in Bellingham; this has a soft, dry fruit flavor.  Cougar Crest Winery from Walla Walla has a Grenache Rosé, which is crisp and refreshing with just a touch of delicate sweetness. 
I have a favorite Rosé that I was only able to find at my local restaurant.  However, with the new Washington State liquor laws, I can now purchase it at my local super market. It is the Gris de Nabor 2009, a French Rosé by Chateau St Nabor which is made using Tempranillo, Grenache and Cinsault.  This Rosé is dry and smooth and I have enjoyed this served with southern fried chicken as well as a summer seafood salad.
When summer ends don’t give up your favorite Rosé, it can be used like sparkling wine.  Try pairing them with fish or any kind of salty meat. A wide variety can be found from most wine growers and regions so go out and pick up a Rosé and get reacquainted.  Cheers...D

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My husband and I took part in the Bainbridge Uncorked Weekend in June….who knew there were these great wineries on Bainbridge island.  Wow, what a surprise in our own backyard!
Our first stop was at Eleven winery; nestled in the trees was their tasting room and winery.  Eleven is named for the smallest cog in the rear cluster on a racing bike.  The founder and wine maker was a bicycle racer, which you will notice when you walk into the tasting room and see that bicycles are decorating the walls. 
This was my first time to try a Roussanne, which is commonly grown in the south of France.  What a treat, I was so happy with our first stop on the wine tour with just my first sip.  Another one on their list I sampled was the 2009 La Ronde, a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot and Malbec, a winner of a Double Gold medal at the Seattle Wine Awards.  This is a very bold, yet smooth wine with a complex ripple across your tongue to wake up your taste buds.

Another great stop was at Rolling Bay winery, the greeting at the door was like being welcomed into someone’s kitchen.     The people I meet along the way are the part of wine tasting that I really enjoy most; the common ground, passion and individuality of each person I meet just adds to the experience. The Winemaker was even so generous as to give us a barrel tasting, which to me is like taking a peak at a baby sleeping…very special.
At Rolling Bay the first pour I had was of their 2011 Fusion which is a Pinot Gris and Chardonnay blend. This is a beautiful, fruit forward blend, with a smooth finish and “fusion” of flavors.   They had a Rose’ on their list, I had to give that a try,  Rose’s  that are coming out of wineries these day are a whole new experience than what I had in my early years of twist tops….. It proved to be wonderful.  My favorite was their 2009 Cuvee Aldaro which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Merlot.  I really enjoyed the complex flavor that showed through the length.
We next went to Amelia Wynn winery which was also a very personable experience.  The wine maker Paul Bianchi was so gracious as to give me a barrel tasting of his Reisling and Malbec.  I purchased their 2009 Sangiovese, which also won a Double Gold Medal at the Seattle Wine Awards.  I purchased this because Sangiovese was my first love…of red wines that is.
 Go take a drive out to Bainbridge Island; if you can’t make it during one of the wine tour weekends, there is a wine tasting room in town where you can sample the Island out on your own.   Cheers...Denise

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Check out the "Must tips" tab.  We would love to hear some of your wine tips!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Wine Tasting - The Columbia Gorge

Recently I had the opportunity to explore another wine region nestled between Washington and Oregon, the Columbia Gorge. 

My adventure began driving along I-84 west (Oregon side) of the Cascades.  As I headed east, the lush green hills of the gorge sprang up before me and soon I was engulfed in vast greens and blues of the dense douglas-fir forest.  This part of the gorge has always reminded me of the lochs and fiords of Scotland. 

Hood River, Oregon has many wineries and tasting rooms that I’ve yet to sample but there are plenty of signs that will entice you to stop and explore.  But my journey continued on and as I sped east, the scenery changed from lush greens to browns and golds of the high desert prairie.  The hills of the gorge changed to giant grassy pillows on the Washington side and sharp rocky cliffs on the Oregon side; all the while the mighty Columbia River was my constant companion.

At last I reached Biggs Junction, which is 30 miles east of The Dallas, Oregon (another place to stop and explore their tasting rooms).  I exited at Biggs; met up with my friends and turned left, over the bridge to Washington (highway 197).  We wound our way up from the river bottom to highway 14 and turned west.  Several miles down the road sits Maryhill Winery.

Maryhill Winery

Every year on Memorial weekend, the Maryhill Winery celebrates their anniversary.  This year they had an amazing list of wines for tasting.

Viognier 2011 – Smell: fruity/apricot – Taste: gentle on the pallet with a soft finished.  Loved it!!

Sangiovese 2008 – Smell: nice nose, not over powering – Taste: peppery but not too sharp. Enjoyed it.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – Smell: nice nose – Color: deep and rich looking – Taste: sorry but I found it flat.

Malbec 2007 – Smell: soft but fruity – Taste: mild, not over powering, not too bold.  I liked it!!!

Cab Franc 2009 – Smell: mild but fruity – Taste: bite with a slight pepper finish.  Good

Red Zinfandel 2009 – Smell: not complex – Taste: delicious.

There were more wines to taste but my friends and I decided to purchase a bottle of Viognier 2011 and sit outside under the pergola and enjoy the sunny weather along with the gorgeous view.  We were definitely not disappointed in Maryhill and will return soon.

Cascade Cliff Winery

We continued west another 10 or so miles down highway 14 to Cascade Cliff Winery.  This winery sits lower down along the Columbia River but is surrounded by 14 different varietals.  They focus on the Piedmont varietals Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo, all grown and produced on site.  They also produce a unique white wine made with “Symphony” grapes, which is a cross between Grenache Gris and Muscat of Alexandria.  Everyone at Cascade Cliff was happy to stop and explain the wine, grapes and history so that our tasting experience would be enhanced.

Symphony – Smell: light and fruity – Taste: dry but not too dry.  I would buy this for summer BBQs or just to enjoy.

Blend of Nebbiolo/Barbera 2010 – Smell: Good nose/complex – Taste: Very bold, best with hearty food – sucking air though lips while in the mouth releases an un-real bold flavor.  Can’t wait to drink this with Prime Rib Roast.

Nebbiolo 100% 2010 – Smell: complex, good – Taste: young but love the flavor – Color: lighter.  Liked it better than the blend.

Barbera 2010 – Smell: upper pallet, back of the mouth it gives a nice tingle – Taste: nice finish. Eat it with dark chocolate and it brings out the fruit and leaves the tannins behind – Color: lovely – Bold wine.

Blood Red Zinfandel 2010 – Smell: nice/fruity – Taste: more like a port, slightly sweet, nice finish – Color: deep – heavy and dense – great for those who don’t drink cocktails. YES!!!

Waving Tree Winery

We headed back towards highway 197 and were about to cross the bridge back to Oregon when my Mom mentioned that there was a winery just down the road to our left.  We took the left and as the road ran parallel to the river and wound among fruit orchards we soon came to a metal pole barn of non-descript.  Above a simple door was the sign Waving Tree Winery.  Don’t let simplicity fool you.

Chardonnay 2009 – light, fun and easy to drink.  Enjoyed it.

Grenache 2007 – Sweet, fruity smell, light in color

Columbus Landing 2008  a blend of Grenache and Syrah – Smell: reminds me of Christmas – Taste: not extremely complex but enough to stay interested and want to continue drinking it.

Syrah 2007 – Smell: lovely – Taste: very nice, peppery but not over powering – Color: love it.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – Smell: gives you the sense of port/sweet desert wine – Taste: sharp/peppery but nice finish without letting you down.

Petite Syrah 2008 – Smell: not my favorite – Taste: very smooth with a slight peppery taste, very nice finish with not a dry after taste.  It left me really liking it.

Our pallets were tired and it was time to call it a day.  We had only visited three wineries out of a possible 31 in the area but each of us expressed our desire to come back and explore more.  The wines were delicious and the scenery was beautiful.  Nothing could be better….Cheers! LD

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pairing Food & Wine
I love to entertain, it gives me the opportunity to experiment with new wines and recipes to pair with them.  I started out reading about wine and food pairings and thought of making a complete and clear chart  with some of the suggested pairings we all hear about; “white wine with fish, red wine with meat”…etc. My personal motto has always been “eat and drink what you like together.” However, as I dug more into researching this, HOLY COW there is a lot of science involved!  So I have laid out what I found, while trying to keep it simple.
Food and wine pairing comes down to three components; flavor, taste and texture. Taste is one of the more important components in any food pairing, which breaks down to; acid, sweet, salt, bitter, oily and tannins.
Also, you don’t pair wine to a protein, you pair to preparation. You need to really think of all the ingredients and the cooking method for your recipe.  Confused yet…here is a little more help.
Creamy with creamy: creamy wines, such as Chardonnay or Viognier, matched with cream-based sauces such as pasta, poultry or creamy cheeses.  Pairing rich with rich are textures that work well with each other.  This combination is pure heaven and a wonderful treat…get inspired and play with it, recipes can be found at  with wine pairing suggestions.
Acid with acid: Sauvignon Blanc is a great match for fish with a lemon sauce. If the recipe or food has lemon or other citrus in it you will want some acid to match. Some choices to pair a lemon sauce are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or Riesling.  This pairing has such a mouth-watering zing.
Delicate with delicate & bold with bold: A delicate meal, such as sole with lemon butter would be completely over powered with a Cab. Instead, pair with a delicate wine such as Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc , this is simply delicious.  Bold flavors like a beef stew; a bold red like Cab or Syrah would do much better to complement the bold flavors of the dish….this is comfort eating!  
Spicy with sweet-Contrasting, the fun stuff: Pair a spicy chow mien with a Riesling or Gewurztraminer; this is a fun surprise on your taste buds, what a treat this pairing is to play with. The sweetness of the wine is offset by the spice in the food and instead of tasting sweet; you taste the fruit in the wine instead. So try pairing Riesling, Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer with spicy Thai or Indian food.

Tannin to protein & fat: Tannins in wine are enhanced when paired with other tannins present in foods, so avoid pairing a big tannic wine with walnuts or chocolate! The two elements that help soften tannins in wine include protein and fat. This is why a steak is such a classic pairing for a big red wine, it has both protein and fat which help bring out the fruit in a red wine and subdue harsh tannins.  We will be exploring more on Tannins in future posts.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this, I love to entertain. I recently held a Wine and Appetizer get-together where everyone made an appetizer and brought a wine of their choice to pair.  This is not only fun for everyone to find something new, it also offers great conversation over the food and wine samplings that the guests brought.  My daughter Elise made a steak, gorgonzola and arugula Crostini; she paired this with Don Carlo Cabernet Sauvignon.  Don Carlo was a great find on our Spring Release trip to Walla Walla and it paired very well with the steak crostini.  We also had a crimini mushroom with truffle oil and bacon tart; this was paired with a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley Vineyards which is very nice Pinot Noir with a beautiful color, clarity and rich balance of flavor. 
Having a wine and appetizer party is a great way to experiment with your likes, discover something new and is just good fun.  As I have previously stated……the most important thing is sharing and pairing with friends and family.  Enjoy.  Denise

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What Are Sulfites And Why Are They In My Wine?

Growing up in Oregon I would see the words “Contains Sulfites” on wine bottles and wonder, what in the world is a sulfite and why has it been added?

The technical explanation:  Sulfites are compounds that contain the sulfite ion SO2.  The sulfite ion is the conjugate base of bisulfate.  Although the acid itself is elusive, its salts are widely used.  The term “sulfites” is an inclusive term for sulfur dioxide (SO2).  SO2 is a preservative that is used in winemaking and most food industries because of the antioxidant and antibacterial properties.

After doing a little research I discovered that sulfites (preservatives) are added either before the crush or after to prevent spoilage and oxidation (browning).  Sulfites protect the wine from not only oxidation, but also bacteria.  In other words it keeps your wine from going bad and turning brown.

My research sources also tell me that sulfites do occur naturally in all wines to some extent.   Red wines have tannin, which is a stabilizing agent and need less sulfur dioxide to protect the wine during winemaking and maturation.

The United States requires the labeling “contains sulfites” on wine when more than 10 parts-per-million have been added.   In the EU the maximum levels of SO2 that a wine can contain are 160 parts-per-million for red wine, 210 parts-per-million for white wine and 400 parts-per-million for sweet wines. 

There are all kinds of health articles about the consumption of sulfites.  Some people are very sensitive to sulfites and experience an allergic reaction.  Let me just say that if you are concerned about preservatives in your wine, there are now many “natural” or “organic” options that contain very little SO2.   

So as you pick out your next bottle of wine think about the words “Contains Sulfites and what that means to you - LD

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spring Release in Walla Walla
Spring Release is when the wineries celebrate the season and showcase their new releases.  There are over a hundred wineries in Walla Walla, if you have never been there I highly recommend going even if you don’t care for wine.  This wine growing region has a historic downtown which is so charming with restaurants, boutique shops, cafés, and tasting rooms.  Outside of downtown, you will find beautifully kept historic homes in the residential neighborhoods. 
We didn’t save the best for last, we started out with the best and the rest that day was held in comparison.  Saturday morning we set out for Dumas Station which is located out in Dayton, a 20 minute or so drive from Walla Walla, you drive thru some beautiful fields and pastures.  I first heard about Dumas Station from LD, her first time to Walla Walla she came back raving about  “Cow Catcher Red” a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, 6% Syrah and 5% Petit Verdot.
 When I visited Walla Walla for Fall Release 2011, I too fell in love with Cow Catcher Red , it has such a deep fruity flavor and silky finish.  However, my favorite became their 2008 Merlot for its lush flavor with a great finish.   For the first time they released a Cab Franc and it sold out during the Spring Release weekend, so glad I joined the wine club and was able to get some!  It has such deep rich color, wonderful balance of flavor and a beautiful long lasting finish.  Their 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon with its rich aroma, full-bodied texture and a spicy and smoky velvet finish is a great Cab to fill out your wine rack.  I have included a link to the Dumas Station website below; you need to read about their interesting history.
We visited many more wineries than I can put all in one post, I will be sharing more of that in future….Cheers!  Denise