Monthly Archives: January 2008

More Northwest Wineries Producing Wines Labeled Simply “Red”

It seems as if it was only a few years ago that Northwest wineries wouldn’t be caught dead producing something with the generic, non-descript, “red wine” label. The reason? Too many consumers equated it with red table wine, which is sometimes perceived as a blend of leftover reds that might be slightly lower in quality.

But times have changed. Quality continues to improve, blended wines are much more popular, and consumers are becoming savvier and not jumping to conclusions about labeling. With this in place, it now seems as if almost everyone has something labeled as simple as red wine or a variation on the theme.

nullA couple of examples I’ve enjoyed as of late include the O.S. Winery 2005 Red Wine and the 2005 Firehouse Red from Tamarack Cellars.

The 2005 Red Wine (about $20) from Seattle-based O.S. Winery is another winner from Bill Owen and Rob Sullivan. Made from a blend of Columbia Valley grapes that include cabernet, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and syrah, it’s quite jammy, with lots of nice, berry flavors and a touch of black currant and chocolate on the finish.

The Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red (about $20) is a tasty blend of cabernet, syrah, merlot and four other red varietals. It’s complex and heady, with dark fruit flavors, pepper and spice nuances and plenty of structure, allowing it to pair well with a pork, duck or beef entrée. The name of the wine, by the way, comes from a World War II fire station and barracks in Walla Walla that have been restored and now house the winery’s tasting room and production facility.

Look for Owen Sullivan and Tamarack Cellars wines at Compass Wines in Anacortes, Purple Smile Wines in Fairhaven or the wine section of your grocer.

Wine Class at BTC

3:00 to 5:00 pm – French, Italian & Spanish Wines. Sample wines, discuss their flavor characteritics and learn a bit about the history of these three great grape growing countries of Europe. Click on the Wine Classes Page for all the details.

Terra Blanca Winery: Great Red Wines and More

A couple of months ago I paid a visit to Terra Blanca Winery, located in Eastern Washington’s Red Mountain appellation, about 15 miles west of the Tri-Cities.

nullThe winery recently expanded its facilities to include a huge new tasting room (pictured at left), two banquet rooms and the largest cave storage project in the state with enough capacity for over 3,000 barrels.

One of the things I like about Terra Blanca is that they don’t rush to release their red wines. This gives them more time to mature and develop their character, resulting in elegant wines with complex flavors and softer tannins.

A case in point is the 2002 Syrah (about $20), which was just released in April of 2007. This beautiful wine has luscious blueberry and plum flavors with a slightly smoky, slightly spicy finish with traces of clove and black pepper.

Another red wine gem is the 2004 Malbec (about $28). Blackberry and black cherry flavors are backed by a good measure of acidity, providing the wine with a bit of brightness to contrast with a trace of spice on the finish.

The winery’s white wine current releases are also impressive. The 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (about $14) is the quintessential wine for this varietal with a nice herbaceous, citrusy aroma and layers of melon, grapefruit and key lime pie flavors.

The 2005 Viognier (about $15) is a personal favorite, with a lovely floral aroma that is so intense, you’ll pick it up as soon as you begin pouring the wine. It’s full of apricot and nectarine flavors and a complex finish that resembles a crisp apple topped with a touch of cream.

The winery also has an extensive selection of reserve and library wines, but you’ll have to visit the tasting room to try them. For more information visit

Plenty of Bargain Priced Wines Available for Those on a Budget

Let’s face it, after the holiday season shopping frenzy many of us are a bit strapped for cash. That’s why January is a perfect month to take advantage of bargain-priced wines to serve with your next meal.

The unthinkable alternative would be to temporarily give up wine altogether – a completely unnecessary option when you consider there are plenty of affordable choices to keep both your palate and your pocketbook happy.

nullFor starters, try the Segura Viudas Brut Reserva (pictured at left, about $10). This tasty little Spanish sparkling wine features beautiful tiny bubbles, a pleasant aroma of baked apples, subtle pear flavors and a clean, dry finish.

For chardonnay lovers, the Blackstone Winery 2006 Chardonnay (about $10) is a flavorful, well-priced California white wine that will pair nicely with poultry, salads and pasta dishes. It’s quite tropical, with a generous helping of banana and walnut flavors and a slightly creamy finish.

Also from California is the Gnarly Head Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $12). It’s packed with dense black cherry and blueberry flavors and hints of dark chocolate on the finish, making it a great wine to serve with a pork, duck or lamb entrée.

For a change of pace, the Viu Manent Secreto 2006 Carmenere (about $10) is an unbeatable red wine bargain. This lesser known varietal from Central Chile resembles a cabernet franc with its herbaceousness, but it also has plenty of structure and a finish of white pepper that make it an excellent food wine. Try it with burgers, roast beef or a big, juicy steak and enjoy.

2007 Appears to Be Another Banner Year for Washington Wines

The future looks brighter than ever for the Washington wine industry.

nullAccording to the Washington Wine Commission, 2007 was a record year for grape growers, with an estimated harvest of about 127,150 tons. This was an increase of six percent over the 2006 harvested tonnage.

Of course, quantity doesn’t always assure quality, but every winemaker I’ve spoken with to date has had nothing but good things to say about the potential of the 2007 vintage. And this comes on the heels of the 2005 and 2006 vintages, which many felt were exceptional years for Washington wines.

I’ve also sampled several 2004 wines – an off year by most standards due to a heavy frost in some areas – and found them to be outstanding. I think one reason for this is the polished skills of Washington winemakers, many of which now have a good 10 to 20 years of experience under their belt. In short, we’re building up a nice reputation in our little corner of the world, and it’s attracting attention on both a national and worldwide level.

One other item of note about the 2007 harvest is the increased diversity of grapes being grown in the state. Lesser-known white varietals such as Roussanne and Viognier and reds including Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, and Malbec are really beginning to take off. Some winemakers feel that the prospects for these and other newer varietals to Washington are virtually unlimited.

Watch for the release of 2007 white wines beginning this spring and red wines later in the year and early 2009. In the meantime, go pick up a bottle and enjoy some of the best wines in the country – it’s a great time to be a Washington wine drinker.