August 31st, 2014

nullIf you’re new to the site, welcome!

You’ll find plenty of recommendations from Washington and Pacific Northwest wineries, wine-related events I’ll be attending or moderating, upcoming wine class details and other useful information.

If you’re a return visitor, be sure to check out the Category titled Bellingham Herald Articles for weekly updates on wines, wineries, and related topics that I think you’ll find to be noteworthy.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions, comments, or suggestions. Linger, browse and enjoy the site!

Dan the Wine Guy

Dan Is On The Air!

August 30th, 2014

Be sure to follow my radio spot, “Washington Wine of the Week” every Thursday at approximately 5:45 pm on KGMI 790AM in Bellingham.

nullDuring that time, I’ll be chatting with Tracy Ellis, the host of PM Bellingham.

I’ll feature a special recommendation of a select Washington wine each week and also give you my slant and insightful comments on Washington wines and wineries. Keep informed and tune in!

You can also now follow Dan on Twitter (with the occasional tweet) at @Dan_Radil.

Bellingham Herald Articles

August 29th, 2014

nullPosts on this web site under the category “Bellingham Herald Articles” were originally printed in the Bellingham Herald…the source for Whatcom County, Washington news.

For the latest updates in local, regional and national news, visit their web site at www.bellinghamherald.com

Swiftwater Cellars is Truly a Destination Winery Worth Visiting

August 26th, 2014

Swiftwater Cellars bills itself as “Washington’s ultimate destination winery” and after spending a day there earlier this month, it would be difficult for me to argue otherwise.

The facility is located about 80 miles east of Seattle, just a few minutes north of Interstate 90 near the towns of Roslyn and Cle Elum. Because of its relative proximity to the freeway, I’d hardly call this a remote area. And yet, upon arriving, one can’t help but feel you’re in an entirely different world surrounded by pine forests, rivers and streams, hiking trails, and expansive views of the nearby Cascades.

Swiftwater Cellars is privately owned by Don Watts, a successful Tri-Cities farmer who built the facility in the heart of the pre-existing Suncadia Resort. Suncadia is a 6,400-acre project that includes a 254-room lodge, spa, and two golf courses.

nullAlso within the Resort is a separate, private community with its own golf course and clubhouse, which might seem like Sudden Valley with an Eastern Washington flavor to Whatcom County residents.

A visit to Swiftwater Cellars is unique, to say the least. Rather than featuring a dedicated space, the “tasting room” is part of a larger complex that includes the Hoist House restaurant, a gift shop, and public golf course club house. There’s also an adjacent amphitheater with seating for over 2,000 outdoor concertgoers.

With all of these destination goodies to keep you occupied, it would be easy to overlook the winery itself. I’d recommend making arrangements for a tour of the two beautiful barrel rooms and pristine stainless-steel holding tank area located on the facility’s lower level to remind you that this is indeed a winery.

On the building’s main level, half of Swiftwater’s circular tasting bar is shared by the restaurant, and I’d care to wager this is one of the few Washington wineries where you can sample wines, order lunch or dinner, and then enjoy a cocktail all in one sitting.

The 1980’s classic rock piped over the facility’s omnipresent speaker system can be maddeningly distracting, as can the mealtime crowds. But the wines, which are first-class in every respect, more than make up for this, and visitors can order them by the glass, flight, carafe, bottle or case.

Watts did his homework by hiring winemaker Linda Trotta (pictured above), who spent 20 years at Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma, California prior to coming to Swiftwater Cellars. Trotta produces the winery’s Washington wines, and she’s clearly at the top of her game. Tony Rynders is responsible for the winery’s pinot noir, which is sourced from Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Next week, I’ll give you my top recommendations from the wines I sampled during my visit. In the meantime, check out the winery at swiftwatercellars.com.

Wine Flavor Profile Affected by a Number of Factors

August 19th, 2014

One of the fun things about wine tasting is comparing and contrasting the flavor profile and characteristics of the same type of wine made by a different winery.

If you’re relatively new to wines and haven’t tried this, your first reaction might be, doesn’t one merlot pretty much taste like any other merlot?

To that I would say, you are mistaken, grasshopper.

There are a multitude of factors that can affect how a wine tastes, and today, I’ll give you what many consider to be among three of the most important.

First, vintage. Like any other agricultural crop, wine grapes can fall victim to poor weather conditions. As you might suspect, wetter and cooler than normal growing seasons don’t allow the grapes to fully ripen and develop their signature flavors. The resulting wines can be higher in acidity, lower in alcohol and lacking in character.

nullSecond, geographic region. The climate, soil conditions, and even the specific vineyard in which the grapes are grown can have a profound impact on the wines they produce. For starters, know that grapes grown in cooler climates generally result in wines with brighter, leaner flavors while those in warmer climates yield more full-bodied wines.

Third, winemaker style. A winemaker has a host of options to exercise that can help him or her arrive at the wine they’re trying to achieve. For example, the use or non-use of oak during the aging process, as well as the length of aging time, can affect the wine’s flavor, color, and aroma.

nullSide-by-side tastings can help you discern the differences that these and other factors have on a wine. Have fun with this by organizing a group tasting or simply make notes on your own for comparison purposes.

Here are my tasting notes on a chardonnay and a pinot noir produced by two different wineries. The first, Stoller Family Estate in Dayton, Oregon, was Wine Press Northwest Magazine’s 2014 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year. The second, J Vineyards & Winery, is located in Sonoma County, California.

The Stoller 2012 Reserve Chardonnay (about $35) is the leaner of the two, with aromas and flavors of green pear, Fuji apple and citrus throughout and a finish suggesting lemon chiffon. The J Vineyards 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay (about $28) is bigger and rounder, with baked apple flavors accentuated by a touch of orange zest and toasted vanilla.

The Stoller 2012 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir (about $25) is a sensual delight, with floral aromatics, red berry and cherry flavors, and an almost sultry, inky finish with hints of baking spice. The J Vineyards 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (about $37) displays gentle raspberry and strawberry fruits with an underlying note of lavender. It’s delicate, beautifully balanced, and a pleasure to taste.

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