Think Outside the Wine Bottle

May 29th, 2006

It’s Memorial Day. Summer is just around the corner and picnics, barbeques and a host of other outdoor activities are in full swing.

If your beverage of choice usually consists of some kind of six-pack in aluminum cans, I’d like you to consider taking along some wine as a change of pace at your next outing.

Unconventional packaging for wines is becoming increasingly popular and the functionality of non-bottled wines is undeniable. They travel easily, they serve large groups of people well and in many cases they retain the freshness of the wine better than a recorked bottle.

The big issue that remains is taste. Now, I won’t go so far as to say that these wines are going to win any major awards, but the quality – especially when compared to box wines of, say, a decade ago – has noticeably improved.

So put your wine snob attitude aside and give these wines a try. You might be in for a pleasant surprise.

Wine Block (about $10) – You may find it hard to believe that they’ve crammed two 750 milliliter bottles into this small, cube-shaped container. Available in chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon from California.

nullFrench Rabbit (about $11) – From Southern France (gasp!) comes an octagonal-shaped squeezable package with a screw top enclosure that holds one liter of wine. Current releases include chardonnay, pinot noir, merlot and cabernet sauvignon.

Black Box (about $24) – A whopping four 750-millileter bottles of Monterey County, California wine are contained in a vacuum sealed bag surrounded by a black box. The chardonnay makes for a good summer wine; it’s crisp and light with some nice green apple flavors.

Several Bellingham Venues Now Offer Wine Tastings

May 22nd, 2006

There are several venues in Bellingham that now offer wine tastings on a regular basis – a great feature for those interested in wines.

I think wine tastings are important for a number of reasons. First, they help take the fear and guesswork out of selecting wines of a particular varietal or winery because you get to do some sampling before you make your purchase.

Second, the tastings sometimes give you an opportunity to meet with the proprietor, a wine distributor or perhaps even the winemaker. This allows you to ask questions about the wines you’re sampling and also introduces you to people in the industry who have useful information about a variety of wines and wine-related topics.

Third, wine tastings are a great place to meet others that are interested in wines and who frequently like to exchange their experiences, opinions and personal recommendations.

nullHere are three locations in Bellingham that currently offer regular tastings. Note that the number of wines available to sample varies at each venue and a minimum charge of $5.00 per person normally applies.

The Vines, 1319 Cornwall Avenue – First and third Thursday of each month from 5:00 to 8:00 pm. Phone 714-1161.

Zephyr Bistro, 11 Bellwether Way, Suite 101 – Every Friday from 5:00 to 10:00 pm. Phone 671-3767.

Purple Smile Wines, 1143 11th Street – Every Saturday from 1:00 to 5:00 pm. Phone 756-0422.

Wine Class at BTC

May 20th, 2006

2:00 to 4:30 pm – Beginning Wine Tasting. The perfect class for those just getting started with wines. The format will be relaxed, yet informative, with plenty of wines to sample. No wine snob attitudes permitted! Click on the Wine Classes Page for more information.

Note: The class caps at 20 students and has been filled to capacity the last two sessions. Early registration is highly recommended!


May 20th, 2006

Rex Goliath 2004 (about $7): Does it get any better than this? A California Chard that’s loaded with flavors and value priced at under $10 a bottle.

The wine is packed with baked apple and tropical fruits and a touch of oak on the finish to complete the package. If you like big, tasty Chardonnays and don’t want to spend a small fortune then this one’s a must-try.

Thurston Wolfe Wines Featured at Bistecca Restaurant

May 15th, 2006

Last month I moderated a six-course dinner at Bellingham’s Bistecca Italian Steakhouse. Each course, superbly prepared by Chef Marc Eilberg, was matched with a premium wine from Thurston Wolfe Winery in Prosser.

Thurston Wolfe winemaker Wade Wolfe always does an excellent job with a wide array of varietals and offers them at extremely reasonable prices. Here are my tasting notes on some of the wines that were served:

2005 PGV (about $15): This blend of 70 percent Viognier and 30 percent Pinot Gris results in a full-bodied white wine with wonderful fruit aromas and just the right balance of acidity. It was paired with seared scallops and a light wine butter sauce and will also go well with chicken and other seafood dishes.

2004 Lemberger (about $15): A lovely red wine with berry and cherry flavors, touches of black pepper spice and a subtle vanilla finish. The wine was a wonderful complement to Eilberg’s marinated pork loin and butternut squash ravioli, accompanied by an incredible smoked golden tomato sauce.

2003 Sangiovese (about $16): Blended with 11 percent Syrah, this Sangiovese is packed with intricate flavors and plenty of character. Lovely floral and slightly smoky aromas lead to red fruit flavors topped by a touch of spice and the varietal’s signature acidity. An entrée of slow roasted leg of lamb with grilled eggplant provided a perfect food/wine pairing.

Thurston Wolfe wines can be purchased locally at The Vines, The Purple Smile, Community Food Co-Op and selected Haggen stores.

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