Yellow Hawk Provides Washington Wines with an Italian Flair

August 27th, 2007

Tim Sampson, Owner/Winemaker for Walla Walla’s Yellow Hawk Cellar has a mantra that appears on every label: “Wine should taste like fruit.” The first time I heard this, an alarm went off inside my head warning me that I might be trying a high-priced knockoff of a Boone’s Farm fruit salad.

But in this case, nothing could be further from the truth, and Sampson has done an excellent job of producing handcrafted wines that display just the right balance of fruit, acidity, structure and taste – all at reasonable prices.

Yellow Hawk specializes in wines with an Italian flair, using grapes from the Columbia and Walla Walla Valleys. And while the fruit flavors in Sampson’s wines are prevalent, they’re equal to their Italian made counterparts in that they all make excellent food wines.

nullCurrent releases include the 2006 Muscat Canelli (about $14), a nearly bone dry white wine with floral aromas and flavors that suggest pear and citrus. The 2004 Sangiovese (about $18) is perfect for tomato-based dishes with plenty of bright cherry flavors backed by brisk acidity.

The 2005 Barbera (about $20, pictured at left) is loaded with dark fruit and herbaceous flavors with a slightly spicy finish. It’s complex, tasty and versatile and I think it’s an absolute gem of a red wine. And if you like blends, the 2003 Mescolanza di Rosso Riserva (about $28) is a must try. Dark berry flavors, hints of black licorice and a polished finish add up to what Sampson feels is his best effort to date.

Yellow Hawk Cellar wines can be purchased or ordered at Gateway Wines, The Vines, Purple Smile Wines, the Community Food Co-Op and most Haggen stores.

Wine Class at BTC

August 24th, 2007

6:00 to 8:00 pm – Wines from Walla Walla. Learn more about wines made from the Walla Walla appellation and by winemakers from this Washington grape growing region. A must-attend class for the serious red wine drinker! Click on the Wine Classes Page for more information.

Walla Walla Wineries Continue to Flourish

August 20th, 2007

I recently returned from my annual visit to the Walla Walla Valley, where I’ve been following the local wine scene for over 10 years. During that time, the growth in the number of wineries has been tremendous, from less than 10 in 1996 to over 100 today.

Walla Walla winemakers have been criticized by some – including me – for placing too much emphasis on heavy-handed, overpriced red wines. But things are slowly changing, and now it’s much easier to find both white wines and reasonable prices in addition to some absolutely killer reds.

For example, Rulo Winery has several delicious white wine blends, a viognier and a rosé all for about $20 or less. Bergevin Lane Vineyards currently features an outstanding 2006 Calico White (a blend of chardonnay and viognier) and a 2006 Rosé for around $16 each.

nullNewcomer Sleight of Hand Cellars has just released a 2006 Gewurztraminer for $16 and a 2005 Cabernet Franc-based blend for only $18. And Ron Coleman of Tamarack Cellars offers a lovely 2006 Chardonnay for about $18 to complement his full line of awesome red wines.

In addition to great wines, one of the best things about the Walla Walla area is its people. During my visit I made an appointment with Yellow Hawk Cellars winemaker Tim Sampson and his wife Barbara Hetrick. We chatted while sampling wines at their “tasting room” – the front porch of their home shaded by grape-covered trellises – in beautiful, 90 degree weather. For wine lovers, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

If you’d like to learn more about the Walla Walla Valley, I’ll be teaching a class on August 24 from 6-8 pm at Bellingham Technical College that will include a tasting of several wines from around the area. Register by phoning 752-8350 or go to and click on “Continuing Community Education.”

Covey Run 10K Race to Benefit Children’s Hospital

August 18th, 2007

8:00 am – Covey Run Winery in Woodinville will be partnering with Auction of Washington Wines to raise $100,000 for Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center by holding a 10K race (open only to runners age 21 and older) and 5K Fun Run & Walk. All donations made by participants to the hospital will be used to cover medical expenses of children in need.

Registration begins at 6:30 am at the Redhook Brewery in Woodinville. For more information about donations and to register, please visit

Barbequing? Don’t Forget the Zin

August 13th, 2007

With warm, sunny days in seemingly short supply this summer, I take virtually every opportunity I can to fire up the barbeque.

I think it’s a great idea to have a bottle of zinfandel on hand to serve with barbequed foods because most zins have a bold, robust quality with peppery, spicy undertones that complement just about anything that’s put on the grill.

California is still far and away the king of zinfandel production but Washington wineries are also beginning to produce some really nice zins – Maryhill winery and Zefina are two that come to mind – and you can expect to see more and more Northwest zinfandels start to hit the shelves in the next one to three years.

Here are a couple of suggestions to try for your next barbeque that I recently enjoyed:

nullBogle Vineyards 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel (about $12) – This intense, flavorful zin is made in classic California style with a slightly high alcohol content and just a trace of residual sugar. Packed with brambly, blackberry flavors and touches of spicy oak on the finish, I think it’s an outstanding value for an old vine zinfandel.

Thurston Wolfe 2005 Dr. Wolfe’s Family Red (about $15) – This full-bodied blend from Eastern Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills is made primarily from the primativo grape – which is essentially the Italian equivalent of zinfandel – combined with petite sirah and lemberger. With plenty of nice, dark fruit flavors and a soft, yet spicy finish it’s a natural to pair with barbequed meats and vegetables.

Thurston Wolfe wines can be purchased or ordered from local wine shops, the Community Food Co-Op and selected Haggen stores.

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