Easy Guidelines for Choosing a Summertime Wine

July 27th, 2008

To me, the epitome of summertime in the Pacific Northwest is spending time outdoors with good friends, good food and nice glass of chilled wine.

The Washington Wine Commission recommends using a “low alcohol, high acidity, low temperature” criterion when choosing a summer wine. Their recommendations for making a selection include:

> Choose a wine with a lower alcohol content – between 11. 5 and 13 percent.

> Look for grapes grown in cooler areas because they generally produce wines that are higher in acidity. In Washington State, this would include all of the Puget Sound Appellation as well as areas around Lake Chelan, the Columbia Gorge and the west slopes of the Yakima Valley.

> Wines that are fruity, floral or herbal are often lighter in body.

> Wines that are unoaked or lightly oaked tend to be better when chilled than those that are more heavily oaked.

With this in mind, here are a couple of Washington wines I’ve tried as of late that make great summertime choices. Serve well chilled and enjoy!

nullSan Juan Vineyards 2007 Siegerrebe (about $17) – Winemaker Chris Primus had a hard act to follow after his stunning 2006 vintage, but this siegerrebe is certainly a formidable challenger. The wine drinks almost like a sauvignon blanc, with lots of key lime and citrus flavors commingled with spicy aromatics. The initially crisp finish lingers just a bit to suggest the slightest whisper of sweetness.

Mount Baker Vineyards 2007 Rosetta Rosé (about $12) – I’ll admit that I’m not a big rosé drinker, but a wine like this could make me change my mind. Made from 100 percent sangiovese grapes, it displays a beautiful pink color and fragrant aroma of fresh strawberries. Complex wine flavors of rhubarb, kiwi, rose hips and more strawberry on the finish complete the package. Outstanding!

Next week: more new releases from Mount Baker Vineyards.

Wine Tasting at North Bellingham Golf Course

July 23rd, 2008

7:00 to 9:00 pm – Join Dan for a casual, informative evening of food and wine at North Bellingham Golf Course. You’ll get the opportunity to sample several wines from Washington wineries and nibble on light appetizers – all at the low cost of only $20 per person.

Dan will give you his insights on the evening’s wines, along with information on Washington appellations and wine grapes grown within the State. Phone the golf course at (360) 398-8300 for additional details.

Whatcom County Wineries Expand With The Addition of Legoe Bay

July 20th, 2008

Whatcom County’s newest winery, Legoe Bay Winery, is located just a short walk north of the ferry landing on scenic Lummi Island.

Karl Malling and his partner, Susie Wirth, were perfect hosts during a recent visit, and Susie’s buffet spread would have been worth the trip alone. I’d like to think she was trying to do up a “pamper the wine columnist” routine, but apparently this is pretty standard procedure for many island guests. If that’s the case, start making your reservations for a visit. There’s no guarantee on the food, of course, but you will be treated to picturesque views along with a tasting of some pretty nice wines.

nullAllowance should always be made for newer wineries, but Malling, who shares winemaking duties with Larry Smith, are off to a fine start with their first releases. My favorites included the 2005 Viognier, ridiculously low-priced at only about $10. This is a lighter style viognier, with some nice tropical aromas and a clean finish, which makes it a perfect white wine for summertime quaffing.

Also worth noting is the 2005 Reefnet Red (about $13), a blend of cabernet, merlot, cabernet franc and syrah. The wine is nicely understated on all levels, with hints of dark fruit, spice and bittersweet chocolate on the finish. Throw in just the right amount of acidity and tannins for a bit of structure and you’ve got a well-balanced wine that will pair well with a variety of foods. The wine was awarded a silver medal at this year’s Northwest Wine Summit.

Other current releases include a 2005 Chardonnay (about $10) and a 2005 Syrah (about $14). You should be able to find most Legoe Bay wines at Whatcom County Haggen stores.

A tasting room is in the works and plans are to have it open to the public later this year. In the meantime, private tastings are more than welcome and can be scheduled by phoning Wirth at (206) 940-3023.

Yakima Valley Wine Tasting in Bellingham

July 14th, 2008

6:00 – 8:00 pm. Join a number of Yakima Valley winemakers for an evening of wine tasting at Bellingham’s Hotel Bellwether. Cost of $35 per person includes wine, light appetizers and educational demonstrations. Tickets can be purchased online at www.wineyakimavalley.org/events

Use Your Local Wine Shop to Assist in Ordering Wines From Oregon

July 13th, 2008

Finding wines from Oregon in the Bellingham area can be a bit tricky. I have a couple of theories on why this is, the first being our small population base, which doesn’t provide enough of a market demand for retailers to justify large inventories of Oregon wines.

The second and probably more logical explanation is that many of the wineries in Oregon are small, family-owned operations, so most of their wines are sold in nearby wine shops and grocers. This helps the winery maintain a strong, local presence while holding distribution costs down to a minimum.

This doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t enjoy decent Oregon wines in Whatcom County. For example, The Vines wine shop in Bellingham has a small, but nice selection of Oregon wines in a specially designated area.

nullDuring my last visit, proprietor Mike Petersen recommended a 2006 Pinot Noir from Lange Estate Winery (about $22) that I really enjoyed. This is definitely more of a New World, rather than an Old World pinot, meaning it’s a bit more fruit forward than some of it’s European counterparts. It has nice touches of plum and bright cherry on the finish and will pair well with a pork or duck entrée. This Willamette Valley winery is one of many in Oregon that has earned Oregon Certified Sustainable status because of its responsible growing practices.

The Vines also frequently carries wines from Abacela Winery, which is located in Southern Oregon. I went online to the winery’s web site and discovered something called Vintner’s Blend #8, which I thought might be interesting to try. Before I ordered it myself, I called Petersen, and although the wine wasn’t in stock, he was able to have it in his shop for me to pick up within two days – saving me the shipping charges. This is a great example of how local retailers can sometimes assist you in ordering a wine that might not be on the shelves. All you need to do is ask.

The wine, by the way, turned out to be terrific. It’s a blend of several different red grape varietals, and although I wasn’t able to track down what they were (syrah, sangiovese, and cabernet, most likely for starters), it tasted so good, I really didn’t care. I’d call it a veritable berry bonanza, with ample tannins and a good dash of acidity. At about $15 a bottle, I think it’s a great deal.

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