Pinot Grigio

May 31st, 2014

nullDouble Blind 2013 (about $15) – This Italian Pinot Grigio falls squarely in the medium-bodied white wine category, so if you don’t like your pinots too lean or too heavy-handed this wine will make an excellent choice.

Green melon, lemon/lime and Granny Smith apple flavors fill the glass, with a borderline creamy note to the otherwise crisp, bright finish. Perfect with a light salad of fresh greens or pasta.

Celebrate Malbec With Affordable Choices From Argentina

April 8th, 2014

These days there’s practically a special day for everything. World Smile Day, World Pasta Day, World Left-Handers Day … even World Malbec Day.

Did somebody say Malbec Day? Now that’s a day I’ll celebrate.

World Malbec Day was established a few years by an organization called Wines of Argentina (think Washington Wine Commission as a regional equivalent). April 17 is the day for this year’s events, which include tastings around the globe in recognition of this red wine grape that has really taken off during the last 20 to 25 years.

Malbec has shown promise in Washington State as well, but production has been nowhere near the quantity coming out of Argentina. You’ll find Washington malbec primarily as a component of a red wine blend or, if it is bottled as a single varietal, frequently costing somewhere around $25 to $30 a bottle.

That price range can be a bit steep for some people’s wine budgets, although I’d say that many Washington malbecs are well worth it.

But if you’re trying to be a bit more cost-conscious, look no further than Argentina for solid, reliable malbecs. It’s relatively easy to shop locally and find Argentinian malbecs that fit nicely within the $10 to $20 a bottle category.

nullWhatever the source, it’s good to know that malbec is an excellent wine to have on hand at the dinner table. It pairs well with most everything beef (prepared in practically any style) and also complements lamb, barbeque pork ribs, and roasted chicken.

Here are some Argentinian malbecs from the country’s critically acclaimed Mendoza region that I’ve tasted as of late for you to consider:

Árido 2011 Malbec (about $12) – This wine jumps out with black olive, pepper and dried herbs along with adequate acidity and somewhat firm tannins. Enjoy it with a juicy, medium-rare pepper-encrusted steak.

Argento 2012 Malbec (about $14) – A sip of this malbec is almost like sinking your teeth into a savory berry pie. Juicy blackberry fruits, with melt-in-your-mouth buttery, caramel and herbal accents on the finish. Fun, but sophisticated, this wine is a pleasure to taste.

Tomero Wines 2011 Malbec (about $19) – Understated boysenberry and blueberry flavors lead off, with a nice meaty texture in the mid-palate and a trailing hint of smokiness. If you like your malbecs more reserved without all the fruit-forwardness, this is the wine for you.

Argento Reserva 2011 Malbec (about $19) – Stunning violet and plum aromas are followed by perfectly balanced black currant, blackberry and black plum flavors. The nicely structured finish glides endlessly on a velvety note of bittersweet chocolate. This malbec is the complete package and one of the best I’ve tasted in quite some time.

California, Oregon Great Sources for Pinot Noir

March 25th, 2014

Finding pinot noir from Washington isn’t always easy. Finding a good pinot noir from the state can be even more difficult.

Close-to-home wineries Challenger Ridge and Mount Baker Vineyards come to mind as producers of this finicky grape, as well as a few wineries in Eastern Washington within the Lake Chelan Appellation and from Gingko Forest Winery in Mattawa.

But if you want an established domestic source for pinot noir, California and Oregon are unquestionably your best bets.

California’s Carneros, Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast regions provide the perfectly cooler climate in which pinot noir flourishes; and in Oregon, the Willamette Valley has become world-renown as the quintessential producer of pinot noir in the United States.

nullOne sticking point I often have with this wine is its price. Although what you pay is purely discretionary, be forewarned that some pinots may cost you a small bundle. For most of us, this isn’t a problem as long as the wine delivers. The rule of thumb, simply stated: pay more, expect more.

Here are some suggestions of pinot noir from California and Oregon for you to consider:

Simi Winery Sonoma County 2011 Pinot Noir (about $24) – Pie cherry, raspberry and pomegranate flavors predominate, with slightly herbaceous undertones and a whisper of smokiness on the finish. Roast chicken or salmon come to find as first-rate food pairings.

Robert Mondovi Napa Valley 2012 Pinot Noir (about $26) – This is the style of pinot noir I prefer, with slightly darker berry fruits on the palate and a bit of a softer finish. Even those it’s more fruit forward, the wine’s underlying earthiness and minerality gently remind you that this is undeniably pinot noir.

J Vineyards Misterra 2012 Pinot Noir (about $50) – This Russian River Valley gem is even darker still, with a scant amount of pinotage and the red Champagne grape, pinot meunier, blended in for added complexity. Blueberry, dried black cherry and notes of roasted coffee shine through to a bright finish with nuances of toasted oak.

Hyland Estates 2010 Estate Pinot Noir (about $35) – Sourced from the McMinnville Appellation (a sub-appellation of the Willamette Valley AVA), this lovely pinot opens with floral aromas, luscious cherry and strawberry flavors and expressive acidity. The finish comes across as borderline velvety with spicy accents. Outstanding!

Hyland Estates 2011 Cloury Clone Pinot Noir (about $60) – From the same region’s more challenging 2011 vintage, this pinot offers leaner layers of cranberry, raspberry and red currant flavors with trailing notes of sweet cedar and toast. Serving suggestions include roast duck, pheasant or perhaps pork tenderloin in a sour cherry reduction sauce.

California Well Represented at Vancouver International Wine Festival

March 18th, 2014

Even though last month’s Vancouver, BC International Wine Festival had a decidedly European flavor, I found myself spending plenty of time around the California wine section.

One thing that’s always appealed to me about California is the broad range of varietals and styles this top-producing US wine area has to offer.

From its cooler coastal regions known for leaner, brighter wines to its warmer central valleys famous for big, expressive reds, California has you covered at virtually every point on the wine spectrum.

nullPersonal favorites at the Festival included the Hope Family’s 2011 Treana White Wine (about $23), a nutty, butterscotch-like 50/50 blend of marsanne and viognier; and the overachieving Truett-Hurst 2011 Colby Red (about $14), a delicious combination of cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, syrah, merlot and petit syrah.

Everything from Michael David Winery (producer of Seven Deadly Zins) was an over-the-top guilty pleasure I couldn’t ignore. The 2011 Petit Petit (about $18) was a standout, with mouthwatering blackberry and currant flavors and a vibrant, slightly edgy finish to balance out the fruit.

Back at home, I’ve also enjoyed a number of new releases from California. Here are my tasting notes:

William Hill Estate Winery North Coast Chardonnay and North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon (about $17 each) – The chardonnay is a lovely choice, with luscious Bartlett pear flavors to lead off and brighter citrus notes near the finish with accents of vanilla and toffee. In between, there’s a pleasant layer of meaty chestnut that lends a bit of texture to the mid-palate.

The cabernet could use a bit more cellaring time, but aeration opens up the wine’s dark fruits of berry and plum for current enjoyment. There’s also a dusting of cocoa powder and a whisper of mocha on the finish.

Simi Winery 2012 Chardonnay (about $18) – This is a lighter style chardonnay with touches of apple, pear and white peach. Oaky undertones linger on the finish as a complement to the fruit without overpowering it. The wine should pair beautifully with roasted chicken and root vegetables.

Seghesio Family Vineyards 2012 Sonoma Zinfandel (about $24) and 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel (about $38) – One can’t talk about California zinfandel without mentioning this pioneering winery. Both wines offer understated, food-friendly interpretations of the grape that are a nice break from heavier-handed alternatives.

The Sonoma Zinfandel offers bright red fruits of raspberry and boysenberry, with a dash of dried herbs, pepper and sage; while the Old Vine displays aromas and flavors of slightly darker berries, layers of red currant and caramel, and a lengthy finish with hints of anise and spice. Try either with a pork roast or veal entrée.

Broaden Your Wine Tasting Horizons With Choices From Europe, South Africa

January 7th, 2014

I’ve always tried to use my column as an opportunity to feature Washington wines and, rest assured, I’ll to continue to do so.

But it’s also a good idea to let down your provincial guard once in a while and venture out into the rest of the world of wine.

nullAs we start off the New Year, this is a great time to resolve to explore wines from other countries. While doing this, I encourage you to compare and contrast styles between Washington wineries and the rest of the world, find some new favorites, and above all, have fun.

Italy is a great place to start because many Italian wines are made in a food-friendly, light to medium-bodied style.

A perfect example is the Frescobaldi Morellino di Scansano 2010 Pietraregia Riserva (about $25). This sangiovese-centered blend is filled with bright red fruits of plum, currant, pie cherry and cranberry with mild accents of white pepper and spice. The finish carries a touch of tannic grip, allowing it to pair perfectly with pasta or chicken prepared with a tomato-based sauce.

For an exquisite Italian white, consider the Frescobaldi 2012 Pomino Bianco (about $18). A blend of chardonnay and pinot bianco, it opens with lovely aromas of allspice and honeysuckle, generous flavors of Golden Delicious apple and green pear & an elegant, slightly creamy finish.

South African wines have improved markedly over the past decade or so. You may already be familiar with the country’s popular pinotage grape, a cousin of pinot noir, but there are a number of other solid wines to choose from this part of the world as well.

nullThe more I tasted the Mulderbosch Vineyards 2009 Faithful Hound (about $19), the more I enjoyed it. This five-varietal Bordeaux blend consists primarily of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, but the small amount of cabernet franc really comes through on the nose and palate with its herby, earthy qualities. There’s also a good measure of spicy blackberry to taste, along with a lengthy finish of dried black cherry.

The Mulderbosch 2011 Chenin Blanc (about $14) is another tasty and refreshing choice that is quite affordable. Filled with tropical and citrus fruit flavors, there’s also a note of field flowers and faintly sweet clover that starts at the bouquet and carries through to the finishing taste.

One more well-priced choice, this one from Portugal, is the Herdade de Gâmbia 2011 Red Wine. This three-varietal blend is comprised of touriga (traditionally used in Port wines), syrah and aragonez (tempranillo). Sassy and slightly spicy, it’s filled with bright red fruits along with an underlying touch of minerality. I picked up a bottle at Bellingham’s Seifert and Jones Wine Merchants for only $12.

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