Buying For a Large Group? Keep it Simple With Reliable, Well Recommended Wines

May 28th, 2007

Ah, the dilemma of buying wine for a large group of people. You really can’t justify purchasing something expensive, partly because infrequent wine drinkers probably won’t appreciate it and partly because you want to save it for yourself.

On the other hand, you don’t want to come across as being too cheap, especially if that large group includes close friends or family. And trust me, people will remember that lousy $5 bottle of merlot that you brought to the last get together for a long time.

The solution? Keep things simple by purchasing reliable, well recommended wines that fall within the $7 to $15 a bottle price range. Here are a few selections to consider:

Redcliffe 2005 Sauvignon Blanc (about $9) – The initial rush of citrus is tempered by herbaceous/melon flavors that soften the acidic edge and add a bit of roundness to this white wine from New Zealand. Give it a try with barbeque prawns.

Terrazas 2005 Chardonnay (about $ 10, pictured at left) – This lighter style chardonnay from Argentina has gentle pineapple and tropical fruit flavors and hints of oak on the finish. A nice match with salads and poultry.

Ironstone Vineyards 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $9) – Beautiful plum aromas, dark berry and cherry flavors and a soft, rich finish highlight this tasty California cabernet. The wine should pair up well with burgers, steaks and a variety of other hearty foods.

Pair Up Your Next Barbequed Meal with a Variety of Wines

May 21st, 2007

The barbeque season is in full swing, and choosing the proper wine to serve with grilled foods is a key element in maximizing the enjoyment of your meal.

Selecting a wine requires you to consider two simple, but important things: what type of food is being prepared and what’s the dominant flavor?

Lighter foods such as chicken, sole, snapper, or vegetables should be paired with a light to medium-bodied red or white wine. Heartier foods like burgers, ribs, steaks, or lamb require a more robust, medium to full-bodied wine.

But you can’t stop there, because a dominant flavor, such as black pepper or a spicy barbeque sauce can overwhelm the taste of your wine. In that case, you have to choose something that can either match or beat the food’s dominant flavor or provide a contrast to it – such as a wine that’s slightly sweet or high in acidity.

nullRegardless of what’s on your grill, the versatility and variety of wine means there’s always something that will provide the perfect match. Here a couple of wines you might consider serving at your next barbeque:

King Estate 2005 Pinot Gris (about $16, wines pictured at left): This lovely white wine from Oregon features gentle pear and citrus flavors backed by crisp acidity, allowing it to go well with lighter grilled foods.

Zefina 2003 Serience Red Wine (about $29): This full-bodied blend of Syrah, Grenache and three other red varietals from Eastern Washington is loaded with berry flavors plus touches of oak and spice on the finish.

Wine Class at BTC

May 19th, 2007

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.

A $40 Syrah That’s Worth Every Penny

May 14th, 2007

When I pay $40 for a bottle of wine I want to be absolutely certain that I’m going to get my money’s worth. Why? Because it’s just as easy to take that same $40 and buy four decent $10 a bottle wines that will provide me with a good measure of enjoyment over a longer period of time.

But if purchasing a wine in this price range makes you nervous, let me nudge you out of your comfort zone and suggest giving it a try. Pricey wines should – and, fortunately, usually do – offer you a lot more in terms of quality and taste and it’s fun to do the occasional splurge and give yourself a real treat.

nullA case in point is the Northstar 2003 Columbia Valley Syrah. I recently shared a bottle with friends and we were all equally impressed.

It’s dense and chewy with subtle, ultra-black cherry flavors that melt into a layered finish of coffee, dark chocolate and hints of molasses. Polished, silky tannins complete the package and make this $40 wine worth every penny.

The irony of this story is that Walla Walla-based Northstar Winery was originally on a mission to make the world’s best merlot – and merlot alone. But customer demand led them to expand their product line, and they also currently produce cabernet, semillon, and now this spectacular syrah.

Northstar wines are usually available at local Haggen stores, and if you have trouble tracking down the 2003 Syrah it can be purchased online at

Newcomer Winery Dakota Creek in Blaine is Off to a Great Start

May 7th, 2007

I think it’s always a good idea to consider quality allowances for startup wineries. I usually give them at least two to three years to make adjustments before I raise my expectation level in terms of the style and taste of the wines they’re producing.

This certainly isn’t the case with Blaine’s Dakota Creek Winery, which is currently in its first year of releases. Husband and wife owners Ken and Jill Peck are off to a great start, offering a variety of wines that one would expect from a much more well established winery.

During a recent visit, I tried their 2006 Pinot Gris (about $18), a remarkable white wine with a beautiful nose of fresh pears followed by lush stone fruit and more pear flavors. For a food pairing, try it with fresh crab or grilled peaches.

Also worth noting is the 2005 Firefighters Red (about $17), a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah. It has lovely blackberry/raspberry aromas, black cherry and currant flavors, perfect acidity and touches of oak and spice on the finish. At this price I think it’s an absolute steal.

Dakota Creek wines are available at Compass Wines in Anacortes, Northern Meadows in Blaine and Gateway Wines and Purple Smile Wines in Bellingham. The winery is located at 3575 Haynie Road in Blaine and tours are available by appointment by calling 820-4752.

The winery will also be open to the public from 10 am to 5 pm on May 12 and 13 as apart of the City of Blaine’s Mother’s Day Studio Tour, which will feature works by local artists.

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