Two Notable Food & Wine Events Featured in November

October 29th, 2007

Two of my favorite fall food and wine events are coming in November – one local, one not quite so local – but neither should be missed, even if you have only a passing interest in wines.

Bellingham Bay Rotary Club will host its annual Grape and Gourmet event on November 4 at the Bellingham Best Western Lakeway Inn. The festivities will feature food and wine samples from 21 local restaurants and 34 Pacific Northwest wineries such as Samson Estates, Bergevin Lane, Dunham Cellars and Lost River Winery.

The benefits of an event of this kind in Bellingham are twofold: first, it’s a great way to expose yourself to a number of top-class wineries and restaurants at a single venue; second, you’ll be contributing to the Bellingham Bay Rotary Charitable Giving Program, whose past recipients have included a number of local non-profit agencies.

VIP tickets, allowing admission from 5:00 to 8:30 pm, have already sold out, but there are still tickets available for tasting and grazing from 6:00 to 8:30 pm. The cost is $75 each and they can be purchased by phoning Bob Yost at 756-2751.

nullIf you don’t mind traveling to Eastern Washington – and why not, there are plenty of great wineries to visit along the way – consider attending the Tri-Cities Wine Festival in Pasco on November 17 at the Red Lion Inn.

Approximately 65 Pacific Northwest wineries will be serving over 200 wines at the public tasting which runs from 6:00 to 10:00 pm. Tickets, which include wine samples, bread, cheeses and chocolate, run $55 each with additional hors d’oeuvres also available for purchase. For more information go to

Spokane Offers Several Great Wineries

October 22nd, 2007

Like nearly every other area in Eastern Washington, Spokane has seen a significant increase in the number of wineries over the past few years. Three of my favorites during a recent visit included Lone Canary Winery, Robert Karl Cellars and Barrister Winery.

Every time I stop by Lone Canary it seems as if winemaker Mike Scott has taken his wines to another level. He’s featuring several new releases that are currently available and, quite honestly, there’s not a bad one in the bunch.

Particularly worth noting is his 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (about $10), an incredibly tasty, incredibly priced white wine. It’s both tropical and herbaceous, with bracing acidity and a touch of peach that grabs you on the finish. The 2004 Merlot (about $20) is also outstanding, with plush, red fruit flavors and a silky finish that will have you wanting another glass.

nullAt Robert Karl Cellars, winemaker Joe Gunselman continues to produce some killer red wines that show considerable depth, intensity and aging potential. His 2005 Syrah (about $29) is massive and meaty, with understated dark fruit flavors and hints of coffee and bittersweet chocolate. Also worth noting is the winery’s signature red wine blend, the 2005 Claret, which is scheduled for release sometime around February of 2008.

The kings of cabernet franc, Greg Lipsker and Michael White of Barrister Winery, have yet another winner with their 2005 vintage (about $25). It displays generous dark berry aromas and flavors, supple tannins and a lengthy finish. Also available at the winery are the Rough Justice Table Wine (about $19), a blend of cabernet and three other varietals and the 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (about $19), a textbook sauvignon blanc that shows that Lipsker and White can deftly produce a quality white wine as well.

For more details on these and other wines, as well as information for ordering and local distribution, visit each winery’s web site at,, and

Italy, Spain Provide Food Friendly Wines

October 15th, 2007

This week we continue to look at wines from Europe, with a few more recommendations from Italy and Spain.

When I think of Italian wine I think of sangiovese, and the LaCarraia 2005 Sangiovese (about $10) is a classic example of this varietal from the Umbria region of Italy. With medium body, restrained dark fruit flavors and a good measure of black pepper and spice on the finish, it’s the perfect wine to pair with everything from tomato-based pasta dishes to pepperoni pizza. And at this price, it’s easily affordable to enjoy on an everyday basis. The wine should be readily available at major Bellingham grocers and wine specialty shops.

But don’t overlook Italian sparkling wines – many of which are great bargains. The Tizzano Non-Vintage Pignoletto Frizzante (about $11) is a terrific little sparkling white wine that’s value priced. It’s crisp and extremely dry with a faint trace of almond on the finish. This is something nice to hand your guests when they first arrive and it should pair well with light appetizers. It’s available at Gateway Wines in downtown Bellingham.

From Spain comes an incredible red wine that will absolutely blow you away. The Novellum De Rejadorada 2003 Tempranillo (about $22) is intense and complex on every level. The nose has a smoky, sultry aroma of dark berries followed by layers of cassis and sweet oak flavors. A lengthy, rich finish suggests a touch of black licorice with silky, polished tannins.

Any preconceived notion you may have of light-bodied, raisiny Spanish wines will be wiped away with the first sip. This outstanding wine can be found at Purple Smile Wines, Gateway Wines and Haggen stores in Sehome, Fairhaven and Barkley Village.

Ready for a Change of Pace? Try These Tasty, Affordable Wines From France

October 8th, 2007

I’ve recently been enjoying a variety of red and white wines from France, Italy and Spain. If you seem to be stuck in a rut with the same old domestic label, consider moving out of your comfort zone and give these European wines a try.

From the Gascony region of southwest France comes the LaLande 2005 Sauvignon Blanc (about $10). It’s surprisingly fruit-forward for a European white wine, with generous peach and pear flavors that are capped by a slightly nullherbaceous finish. An interesting side note about this wine is that it’s sustainably vinified with no chemical herbicides used.

The Grange-Rouquette 2005 GSM (about $12) is a delightful red wine blend of grenache, syrah and mouvedre from France’s Languedoc region. The wine’s subtle red berry flavors melt into a savory finish that is highlighted by just a touch of white pepper.

If you don’t find either of these wines on the shelf at your grocer or wine shop just ask for them by name and they can be special ordered for you.

If you’re curious about wines from the Bordeaux region of France, the Chateau Saint-André Corbin 2004 Bordeaux (about $19) is a must-try. This lovely blend of 75 percent merlot and 25 percent cabernet franc shows dense, dark plum flavors rounded by toasted oak and ample tannins that add up to an exceptional, full-bodied red wine.

Then for dessert, treat yourself to the Chateau Les Tuileries 2004 Sauternes (about $17 for 375 milliliters). Intensely floral, it’s loaded with flavors of apricot and spiced apple with a soft, lingering finish of honey and rose hips. You’ll find it at Quel Fromage, located at 1200 Old Fairhaven Parkway in Bellingham.

Next week I’ll offer a few more European wine suggestions from Italy and Spain.

Cellar Your Wines Properly by Building Up a Home Inventory

October 1st, 2007

It’s been said that the typical American cellars a bottle of wine for an average of 15 minutes – which is the amount of time it takes to purchase it at the grocery store, drive home and open up the bottle.

nullProperly cellaring (or aging) your wine – particularly red wine – is important because it allows the flavors of the wine to develop and the tannins to soften. This could be the difference in turning a good red wine, which is perfectly drinkable now, into a great wine.

Why don’t Americans allow more cellaring time for their wine? I think there are two major reasons. First, Americans want instant gratification. This is the land of fast food, 24-hour grocery stores and high-speed internet. When we want something we want it now, so buying a wine and putting it away to enjoy a year or two later goes counterculture to many wine drinkers.

The second reason for little or no cellaring time is essentially because of a lack of what I call “home inventory.” Many Americans stock no more than a bottle or two of wine at home at any time. Then when the first dinner or social event comes along they immediately use what’s on hand, and that bottle they planned to save for next year is already gone by next weekend.

While I can’t solve the need for instant gratification problem, I can offer a suggestion that will help you build up your wine inventory.

Start by purchasing your wine in larger quantities. There are plenty of good, everyday wines available that fall in the $7 to $9 bottle price range. With a nearly universal 10 percent discount you can easily pick up 12 bottles for under $100, tax included.

After you’ve consumed, say, the first two or three bottles, replace them with three or four more, perhaps with something a bit pricier that you can cellar for several months. If you continue this practice, you’ll start building up a nice home inventory, which is great to have on hand for friends, special meals and social gatherings.

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