Monthly Archives: November 2008
If you haven’t made your wine selections for Thanksgiving dinner then now is the time to do it. To simplify your search, remember that Washington wines can easily provide you with the variety and versatility you’ll need to complement practically any traditional Thanksgiving food you can throw at them.
For those who prefer dry, white wines, try the Terra Blanca 2007 Sauvignon Blanc (about $14). Made from Yakima Valley grapes, it features a zingy aroma of gooseberries and plenty of citrus and lime flavors that linger on the palate. Also notable is the Lost River Winery 2007 Rainshadow (about $15). This newly released blend from the Winthrop winery is a tasty combination of 60 percent sauvignon blanc and 40 percent semillon.
And who says you can’t serve a cabernet with Thanksgiving dinner? I think as long as the wine isn’t a huge fruit bomb or overly tannic, it should go perfectly well with turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes and gravy.
A couple of suggestions: The Eaton Hill 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $24) from Yakima Valley is a super-delicious red wine, filled with beautiful vanilla aromas and flavors along with a nice touch of chocolate-covered cherry on the finish. The Sagelands 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $13) is also an excellent choice, with a pleasant fragrance of fresh berries along with plenty of silky dark berry, plum and black cherry flavors.
To finish up, remember that the wine should always be sweeter than the dessert. Late harvest and ice wines work well here, and a sure fire winner is the Mount Baker Vineyards 2004 Late Harvest Viognier (about $20 for 375 milliliters). It’s loaded with mouth-watering pear and peach flavors that melt into an incredibly lengthy, honey-like finish.
Thanksgiving is less than 10 days away, so for today and next week I’d like to offer up some suggestions for wines that can help complement your Thanksgiving Day dinner.
With dinner preparations to consider and relatives to deal with, this is the time of year our stress levels seem to kick into high gear. So you might be relieved to know that the wine selection process for Thanksgiving dinner can essentially be a no-brainer. That’s because most traditional Thanksgiving fare isn’t too spicy or heavily seasoned, so there’s very little risk that the food you serve is going to overwhelm the flavors of the wine and render it tasteless.
Of course you can’t just grab any wine and expect it to work, and you also can’t serve just one wine and expect everyone to like it. The key is simplicity and variety – that is, don’t offer big, overly bold-flavored wines, and remember to provide your guests with several choices to keep them happy.
If you like to choose your wines from closer to home, Washington State offers plenty of variety, from lighter bodied rieslings to flavorful chardonnays and merlots to sweeter late harvest wines that work great with desserts.
With that in mind, let me give you a couple of Pacific Northwest wines for starters. The Pontin del Roza 2007 Pinot Grigio (about $13) makes a nice choice, with lovely floral and pear aromas, pleasant rhubarb flavors and a spritz of lime and lemon zest on the finish. The wine’s natural acidity will cut through heavy creams and sauces, allowing you to enjoy the flavors of both the food and the wine.
Another good white wine choice is the Washington Hills 2006 Riesling (pictured at left; about $11), with gentle pear and melon flavors and a whisper of honey on the finish. This is a nice, unobtrusive wine, with a low alcohol content (only 11 percent) and a light, refreshing quality.
If you know anything about Washington wines, the names Mercer and Hogue should suggest excellence among those in the State’s wine industry. Combine the two and throw in a winemaker with over 20 years of experience and you have all the ingredients for a potentially great new winery.
That’s the story behind Mercer Estates, which released its inaugural set of wines earlier this year. Located in Prosser, the winery is a partnership owned by the Mercer and Hogue families. The Mercer family has been growing grapes since the early 1970’s – with wines from their Champoux Vineyards consistently earning critical acclaim – while Mike Hogue built The Hogue Cellars into the second largest winery in the state prior to its sale in 2001.
Also on board is winemaker David Forsyth, who spent 23 years at The Hogue Cellars before joining the team at Mercer Estates. Forsyth sources his grapes from the Yakima Valley, Columbia Valley, and Horse Heaven Hills Appellations.
Hot off the press is the winery’s 2007 Chardonnay (about $18), an exquisite wine with wonderful mouth feel. It has a lovely fragrance of lemon chiffon, flavors of pear and baked apple, and a rich, creamy finish with a hint of macadamia nut. This wine is so new to Whatcom County that it’s just beginning to hit the shelves at local grocers. Look for it at the Food Pavilion in Fairhaven and the Ferndale Haggen.
Also currently available is the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $24), with a pleasant cherry/vanilla aroma followed compact flavors of red cherry, bittersweet chocolate, and licorice. Not only will this wine pair well with foods including steak, roast beef, and medium-aged cheeses, it also carries excellent cellaring potential.
Other current releases include a 2005 Merlot and the 2007 vintages of Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc. If you don’t find Mercer Estates wines at your wine shop or grocer simply ask for them by name and they can ordered and in stock within about three days.
Sandhill Winery is family owned winery located on the far eastern side of the Yakima Valley. Current releases include one white and three red wines, masterfully produced by winemaker Pete Hedges.
What struck me most about Hedges’ red wines is how perfectly balanced they are. That is, they all seem to have just the right elements of fruit flavors, tannins, alcohol and acidity that mesh together into a seamless, pleasurable wine tasting experience.
The Sandhill 2003 Merlot (about $25) is filled with beautiful berry aromas followed by a ton of dark cherry and blueberry flavors on the palate. The finish, capped by just a hint of acidity, is lush and luxurious without being fat. For Washington Merlot drinkers, this wine may very well be as good as it gets.
Another winner is the Sandhill 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $25) which spent nearly two years in oak and 20 months in the bottle before its release this year. It’s a powerful, yet elegant cabernet, with subtle touches of black licorice, chocolate and ultra-dark plum and a toasted oak finish that adds length and depth without being overbearing.
For the more budget minded, the winery’s alternate “Ridgefield” label offers a tasty, affordable red wine with a bonus for environmentally conscious consumers. The 2005 Ridgefield Cinnamon Teal (about $11) is a delightful blend of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, with fairly soft and fruity flavors and a slightly spicy, savory finish. A portion of all sales proceeds from the wine go to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge in Southwestern Washington.
For white wine drinkers, the winery also produces a 2007 Pinot Gris – which I’ve yet to try – that also retails for about $11 a bottle.
Sandhill and Ridgefield wines can be purchased or ordered locally at the Community Food Co-Op and The Vines wine shop and can also be found at Compass Wines in Anacortes.
6:45 to 8:30 pm – Bellingham Bay Rotary Club hosts this event that features food and wine from a number of local restaurants and Northwest wineries. Cost is $75 per person, with VIP admission at 5:00 pm for an additional $50.
Tickets can be purchased from and Bellingham Bay Rotary member or online at www.bellinghambayrotary.com.