Monthly Archives: March 2008

Taste Washington Showcases Some of the State’s Finest Wineries

When it comes to planning social events and weekend activities my experience has been that Bellinghamsters are notorious procrastinators. Don’t think so? Then why, for example, do I get a barrage of phone calls on December 30 asking me what’s going on for New Years Eve? Yup, I’ve learned that when you live in the City of Subdued Excitement you definitely have to go with the flow.

So my guess is that many of you don’t have any significant plans for next weekend and if that’s the case, here’s an idea. Go to Seattle on April 5 and 6 and experience Taste Washington, one of biggest wine and food events in the state. This really is one of those, “you’ve got to see it to believe it” sort of things – even if you have only a remote interest in wines.

Saturday’s events include a variety of seminars featuring a number of wine industry professionals and culinary experts. Most of these seminars offer the chance to taste some wines and generally cost anywhere from $40 to $65.

But Sunday is when things really take off. The grand tasting will be held from 4:00 to 8:00 pm at the Qwest Field Event Center and costs $85. For an extra $40, you earn VIP status and get access to the tasting two hours earlier.

I know, $85 seems pretty pricey for a four hour wine tasting event, but trust me, it’s worth every penny. For starters, over 200 of Washington’s finest wineries will be on hand to pour up to 600 different wines. Then throw in some of the region’s top restaurants, who serve up substantial food samples strategically placed between the wine tasting stations. Together they’ll provide you with a food and wine tasting experience that is nothing short of orgasmic.

So come on, Bellinghamsters. Put down that cup of coffee, let the gardening go for another weekend and head down to Seattle. You’ll find all the information you need, including details on purchasing tickets at

Malbec Continues to Grow in Popularity Among American Wine Drinkers

Lately, I just can’t seem to get enough malbec. This red wine varietal has historically been a mainstay in France, Chile, and Argentina, but in the last few years it’s become increasingly popular in the United States.

Malbec is generally a bit on the fruity side and very easy to drink because it doesn’t carry the heavier tannins found in a cabernet or syrah. This makes it a natural choice for many American wine drinkers who still prefer to enjoy a glass of wine on its own, rather than paring it with a meal.

In the past, I’ve noted a handful of Washington winemakers who have recently turned out some malbecs that have been nothing short of spectacular. Five Star Cellars, Tildio Winery, Mount Baker Vineyards and Terra Blanca Vintners are just a few that come to mind. I’ve also noticed that Yakima’s Sagelands Vineyard currently has a 2004 vintage for about $17 that is on my list of wines to try.

nullHere are a couple more recommendations from outside the state that I recently tasted and think you’ll enjoy:

The Alamos 2006 Malbec (about $12) from Argentina is a bit plummy to start with a pleasant, underlying layer of red currant. The wine is somewhat dense and chewy, with medium body, a good measure of acidity in the mid-palate and then a nice, soft finish. It all adds up to a complex, flavorful red wine that gives you a lot of bang for the buck.

From California, the Lockwood Vineyards 2006 Malbec (about $11) displays a slightly darker color that the Alamos, with an aroma of fresh raspberries and violets. There are plenty of blackberry and dark cherry flavors in this wine, and a silky finish that makes it quite drinkable. The label suggests paring it with a rib eye steak, and although I wouldn’t go quite that far, I think a pork loin or duck entrée would be a great food/wine match.

Pinot Noir

Montinore Estate 2006 (about $17): Lots of nice, bright cherry and strawberry flavors and perhaps a touch of chocolate on the finish highlight this lovely wine from Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

With a fairly high alcohol content for this varietal (13.8%), and a bit more body and flavor intensity than most, this is a Pinot that you can really sink your teeth into. Try it with baked salmon for an exquisite food/wine pairing.

Wine Class at BTC

2:30 to 5:00 pm – Beginning Wine Tasting. The perfect class for those just getting started with wines. The format will be relaxed, yet informative, with plenty of wines to sample. No wine snob attitudes permitted! Click on the Wine Classes Page for more information.

Ultra-High Priced Wines: Are They Worth It?

Would you spend $100 for a bottle of wine? My guess is that most people would consider it pure insanity to pay a triple digit price for any wine, no matter how good. But even if you felt you’d never pay that much yourself, wouldn’t you still be just a little curious to try one?

nullI took the plunge a few years ago and plunked down a tidy sum for a bottle of Leonetti Cellars 2002 Columbia Valley Merlot. Like many other handcrafted, well-made wines, this one has actually appreciated in value, and it would cost you about $125 today.

I tucked it away in my wine storage unit and planned to save it for a special occasion. That event happened just recently, and the cork was popped with a sense of anticipation as well as a bit of apprehension. I wondered, would the wine be worth it?

Fortunately, the wine delivered, and the first sip was like falling into a cloud, with complex flavors of dark fruit, mocha, and caramel melting into a silky finish. The wine was truly amazing and a genuine, first-class tasting experience. It’s still available in microscopic quantities at Compass Wines in Anacortes, where they also carry several other past releases of Leonetti wines. But be forewarned – the prices of these wines can easily run in the $100 to $200 a bottle price range.

I’ve also seen Leonetti’s more current releases, including the 2005 Merlot, at Bellingham area Haggen stores for around $80 a bottle. Considering the inflationary nature of the winery’s older vintages, some might consider this to be a steal.

So is there an element of risk involved with the purchase of a high priced wine? Certainly. Should your expectations be higher than normal? Absolutely. And is it crazy to be spending that much on a bottle of wine? Most likely, yes, but sometimes going a little bit crazy can be a very rewarding experience.