Monthly Archives: September 2006

Comfort Wines: Consistent, Reliable, Well Priced

Vic Hubbard, wine buyer for Bellingham’s Community Food Co-Op, likes to refer to something he calls “comfort wines.” Comfort wines, he says, are “familiar, fairly consistent…wines that are made in enough quantity to have good availability.” In addition, “these wines are not too expensive to enjoy at least occasionally.”

I like that concept. The fairly recent proliferation of wineries and wines is staggering, and walking into a store and trying to make an informed purchase can sometimes be a bit overwhelming.

That’s why I think it’s nice to have some measure of reliability in a wine from year to year. And comfort wines – like comfort foods – should be something you can buy without reservation, knowing that they will please your palate on a consistent basis.

I’ve got a couple of suggestions for what I would select as comfort wines. First up is the Barnard Griffin 2004 Fumé Blanc (about $9). nullThis Columbia Valley white wine has plenty of citrus flavors followed by a slightly herbal finish. It matches up perfectly with chicken or seafood, it’s readily available and it’s always extremely well-priced.

Another of my all-time favorite labels is the Marietta Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel from California’s Sonoma Valley. The lot numbers vary from year to year, but the wines are consistently solid and delicious. If you like your Zins with lots of dense, lush, blackberry and currant flavors and touches of spice on the finish you can’t go wrong with Marietta. It’s another wine that’s both tasty and affordable, generally priced in the range of $10 to $15 a bottle.

Wine Class at BTC

2:00 to 4:30 pm – Pairing Food With Wine. Explore the basic elements of taste for food and wine and take the guesswork out of your wine purchases when planning for meals, dinners out, or social occasions. Click on the Wine Classes Page for more information.

Washington Wines Provide Good Quality at Reasonable Prices

From one side of Washington State to the other, there are good wines – and good wine bargains – to be had. The 2004 whites have been hitting the shelves in full force and both the 2005 reds and whites have started to creep into the market; although most of the reds won’t be released until the spring of next year.

2005 may well be the benchmark for future production in the state. Quantities were plentiful and quality is said to be outstanding. And with the demand for Washington wines as high as ever, don’t look for a drop in prices anytime soon.

nullThat doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of good deals available. I recently tried the Samson Estates 2004 Chardonnay, a great little wine for only about $11. Winemaker Rob Dhaliwal has really done a nice job with this wine, allowing it to ferment in stainless steel rather than oak.

The result is a very crisp, clean wine with lots of green apple flavors and a touch of citrus. The wine has just the slightest whisper of sweetness and the mouth-feel of a full-bodied white. Find Samson Estates wines at local grocers and wine shops or at the winery tasting room located at 1861 Van Dyk Road in Lynden.

On the eastern side of Washington, another well-priced wine that has just been released is the Lone Canary 2005 Barbera (about $15), the latest offering from Spokane winemaker Mike Scott, who continues to amaze by producing red wines that are both tasty and affordable.

His Barbera is packed with bright, red fruit flavors – particularly cranberry and currant – and is balanced by precisely the right amount of acidity. Production was limited to just slightly over 300 cases. Lone Canary wines are available locally at the Fairhaven Market and Barkley Village Haggen or can be ordered online at

Old World vs. New World Wine Styles

People in the wine industry sometimes refer to wines as Old World versus New World. What’s the difference?

Old World wines come from the classic grape growing countries of Europe including Italy, France, Spain and Germany. The New World consists of the United States, Chile, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

The wine styles of each these regions is markedly different, with Old World wines generally subtler and more earthy, while New World wines are bolder with much more emphasis on fruit flavors. This information can come in handy when you’re shopping for others, planning a dinner menu or simply looking for a wine that you can serve by the glass on its own.

Here are some Old World wines I recently tried that were quite good and I think you might enjoy:

null2003 Perrin & Fils Chateauneuf-du-Pape (about $32) – Lovely cherry and berry aromas and flavors and silky tannins make this a truly elegant wine. Although a bit pricey for some, consider it a special treat that’s worth every penny.

2004 Guiseppe de Cortese Langhe Nebbiolo (about $19) – A lighter style red wine with red cherry flavors, hints of black pepper and plenty of acidity.

2003 La Rasina Rosso di Montalcino (about $24) – Beautiful licorice on the nose followed by plenty of cranberry and red currant flavors. Bring on the pasta and tomato sauce!

Cabernet Franc

Note: This wine received Best of Show honors at the 2006 Tri-Cities Wine Festival on November 11, 2006.

nullBarrister Winery 2004 (about $25): One thing that bothers me a bit about most of the Cabernet Franc I’ve tried is that it always seems to have a green pepper/vegetal sort of flavor that really isn’t very appealing. But Barrister’s Greg Lipsker and Michael White have truly become the masters of this varietal, making their Cabernet Franc into a tasty, fruit-forward wine that has been earning accolades and keeping red wine drinkers extremely happy.

This wine really is the complete package; beautiful aroma, big berry flavors, soft tannins and a long, silky finish. It recently received the equivalent of a double gold medal at the Indianapolis International Wine competition – one of only 85 wines out of 3,800 entrants to be so honored. Not bad for a little winery out of Spokane, Washington, where the future continues to look bright.