Washington Wine of the Week – Selections for Summer, 2015

For the week of September 21, 2015: Bonair Winery 2013 Yakima Valley Chardonnay – This nice little Chardonnay from the Zillah winery has everything you’d expect from this varietal: Gentle apple and tropical fruit flavors, a touch of toasted oak and a very reasonable $12-a-bottle or so price. Need an affordable, solid everyday white wine? This one should fit the bill.

For the week of September 14, 2015: VanArnam Vineyards 2013 Malbec – Kent VanArnam provides the Yakima Valley with another stellar winery, this one located just north of Zillah with sweeping views of the valley. This gorgeous Malbec displays true-to-the-varietal characteristics, with lovely violet aromatics, understated spicy berries on the palate, good acidity, and just the right amount of tannic structure. There’s an almost elegant quality to this wine that make it worth purchasing and worth savoring.

For the week of September 7, 2015: La Chanterelle Winery 2012 Syrah – The epitome of micro-boutique wineries, 120 case-per-year La Chanterelle in Bellingham is off to a great start. Winemakers Donatas Pocus and Lotte Freeman have crafted a beautiful, full-bodied wine with intense blueberry flavors, hints of cedar and spice on the finish, and sturdy tannins that suggest a bit more cellaring…if you can contain yourself from enjoying the wine now.

For the week of August 31, 2015: Cairdeas Winery 2012 Counoise – This sparingly used Rhone varietal is beginning to make it’s way into Washington wine glasses, and winemaker Charlie Lybecker knocks it out of the park with his current interpretation. Blended with 25% Petit Sirah for added structure, this stunning red displays subtle blackberry fruits with a beautiful spritz of black pepper on the finish. I once termed Charlie as one of Chelan’s “up-and-coming winemakers” but I can’t say that anymore…because he’s there. His wines are almost reason alone to pay a visit to this picturesque Washington AVA.

For the week of August 24, 2015: Nefarious Cellars 2014 Consequence – Dean and Heather Neff do a terrific job with Chelan AVA wines and this blend of Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, and Marsanne is a perfect example. Baked pear aromas and flavors fill the glass, with a zingy finish of citrus/key lime that’s tempered by slightly peachy accents. It’s delicious when served lightly chilled and should pair well with lighter seafood dishes.

For the week of August 17, 2015: Hyatt Vineyards 2013 Riesling – From one of the State’s long-standing wineries in Zillah, Hyatt offers another solid white wine at a budget-friendly $10 price. This is classic, old school Washington Riesling, with a bit of tropical fruit, a bit of citrus and some crisp Fuji apple on the finish to balance the 4.5% residual sugar content. It’s a natural wine to serve as a contrast with the spicy elements of take-out Chinese or Thai food.

nullFor the week of August 10, 2015: Thurston Wolfe 2012 Howling Wolfe Zinfandel – There’s not enough descriptors to cover this excellent Wade Wolfe (at left) wine, easily the benchmark by which all Washington Zins (at the highly affordable $20-a-bottle price point) should be measured. Rum raisin on the nose, slightly peppery for openers and then some gorgeous black cherry flavors with a finish that hints at chocolate/caramel. Enjoy now or within the next two to three years.

For the week of August 3, 2015: Tamarack Cellars 2014 Rose of Mourvedre – This long-standing Walla Walla winery gives us a tasty rose sourced from the Wahluke Slope. The Mourvedre grapes used in this wine are so dark, they don’t even require any skin contact after pressing…the juice is simply pumped off and fermented in stainless steel. Strawberry/rhubard aromas start you off with ruby red grapefruit and granny smith apple flavors on the palate and a crisp, vibrant finish.

For the week of July 27, 2015: Milbrandt Vineyards “The Estates” 2012 Malbec – Looking for a quiet, reserved red wine? You’ve come to the wrong place with this Malbec from the Prosser-based winery! Big, juicy blackberry aromas and flavors are backed with an semi-smooth finish that belies the eye-popping 15.5% alcohol content. A prime candidate for anything beef, especially when it comes off the grill.

For the week of July 20, 2015: L’Ecole No. 41 2013 Semillon – Why this varietal isn’t more popular is beyond me. This Washington Semillon has plenty to offer: gentle honeysuckle and clover aromatics, soft pear and peach flavors and finish of lemon crème. Walla Walla winemaker Marty Clubb has been producing this wine for many years with great success and this vintage is no exception. Well-priced to boot, this wine should be on your must-try list.

nullFor the week of July 13, 2015: Whidbey Island Winery 2013 Siegerrebe – Western Washington pioneer winemaker Greg Osenbach has the vineyard and the experience to craft this cool-climate grape into a beautiful wine. Pear, litchee, and fragrant spices fill the glass and a touch of residual sugar is impeccably balanced with bracing acidity. The 2014 vintage is also scheduled for release in July of 2015.

For the week of July 6, 2015: Arbor Crest Non-Vintage Cliff House White – An amazing blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Chardonnay, this ultra-impressive white wine is loaded with stone fruit aromas of peach, nectarine, and apricot that carry over to the initial taste. As the wine progress, the Sauv Blanc really kicks in, with a herbaceous, citrus flavor profile and crisp finishing notes. At only around $10 a bottle, skillful winemaker Kristina van Loben Sels deserves a hearty round of applause for serving up a stellar wine that won’t break the bank.

For the week of June 29, 2015: Palencia Wine Company 2014 Albarino – This newer Washington varietal is gaining momentum and Victor Palencia gives us reason to want this wine even more. It’s wonderfully complex, with ambrosia and stone fruit aromatics and flavors of spiced apple, pear and citrus on the palate. The finish is bone dry, with a nice slate-like/minerality quality that suggests a pairing with fresh shellfish.

For the week of June 22, 2015: Barnard Griffin 2014 Rose of Sangiovese – Another smashing success from Richland winemaker Rob Griffin, this rose is a subtle explosion of strawberry, red currant, and watermelon fruit flavors. Bracing acidity tops things off and makes this an ideal sipping wine for the summer when served well chilled.

For the week of June 15, 2015: Seven Hills Winery 2012 Merlot (Seven Hills Vineyard) – This is a big, powerful Merlot, with slightly smoky aromatics, understated dark fruit flavors, and still with enough finesse from Walla Walla winemaker Casey McClellan to make this readily enjoyable…as well as a candidate for the cellar for years to come.

For the week of June 8, 2015: J Wrigley Vineyards 2013 MAC Cuvee Pinot Noir – John and Jody Wrigley have produced a stellar Pinot Noir from three vineyards in Oregon’s McMinnville AVA. This wine has all the classic Pinot characteristics; slightly earthy aromatics, bright red cherry flavors and great acidity. There’s also a plush, almost elegant finishing note to this wine that will allow it to pair perfectly with salmon, duck or roast poultry.

For the week of June 1, 2015: Dynasty Cellars 2012 Malbec – Sourced from Walla Walla’s Les Collines Vineyard, this Malbec opens with beautiful berry aromatics followed by generous blueberry and blackberry flavors on the palate. With surprisingly good acidity at its core, this red wine promises only to get better with additional aging. A fine effort from Bellingham winemaker Peter Osvaldik.

Sips of the Season Wine Tasting

Saturday, November 7, 2015 3:00 to 5:00 pm – Join Dan at 9 Restaurant at North Bellingham Golf Course for a wine tasting event featuring Washington’s Thurston Wolfe Winery.

This casual, yet informative tasting will include the winery’s PGV Pinot Gris/Viognier blend, Howling Wolfe Zinfandel, “The Teacher” Cabernet Sauvignon, and the JTW Port. Each wine will be paired with a number of skillfully prepared small plates from the restaurant’s Executive Chef, Nick Moss.

Dan will discuss the wines, current releases and vintages, and food and wine pairing techniques.

Click on the link below for ticket information on what is certain to be a memorable afternoon of great food and wine!

Wine Tasting @ 9 Restaurant

Wine Dinner at 9 Restaurant

Saturday, October 24, 2015 from 6:00 to 8:30 pm – Enjoy a five-course dinner prepared by Executive Chef Nick Moss and paired with wines from Kiona Winery and Vineyards.

nullDan will moderate this event, beginning with a 30-minute meet and greet session with wine and appetizers followed by a sit-down dinner at 6:30. Cost is $65 per person, tax included.

Wines scheduled to be served include a 2013 Chenin Blanc, 2013 Chardonnay, 2012 Red Mountain Syrah, 2014 Ice Wine, and a very special 2005 Sangiovese, which is no longer available to the public.

9Nine Restaurant is located at North Bellingham Golf Course, 205 West Smith Road. Reservations are required and can be made by phoning (360) 398-8300, extension 2.

Bellingham Rotary Grape & Gourmet

Sunday, November 1, 2015 Taste through wines from over 30 wineries and sample foods from a number of local restaurants at this always spectacular event at the Silver Reef Hotel & Casino.

Both general admission and VIP ticket options are available and can be purchased through the following link:

2015 Grape & Gourmet

Newer Bellingham Micro-Boutique Winery Already Earning Accolades

This post originally printed in Whatcom Magazine’s August 24, 2015 issue.

Quality, patience, and attention-to-detail winemaking are the hallmarks of La Chanterelle Winery, where the phrase, “small lots of handcrafted wines” has been taken to a new level.

Located in the basement of Donatas Pocus and Lotte Freeman’s home in Bellingham’s Lettered Streets neighborhood, the recently formed winery specializes in limited production, lovingly produced wines that already have wine enthusiasts swooning.

Lotte was born and raised in Deming, where she learned the winemaking trade from friends. Donatas originally hails from Lithuania, moved to Bellingham in 1998, and “caught the wine bug” from Lotte soon after they became spouses 10 years ago. The decision to take their winemaking skills to the next level and establish a commercial winery in 2012 seemed a natural progression.

nullAfter much thought, the name “La Chanterelle” was selected in reference to the chanterelle sites near Deming. The winery logo, a cross between a goblet and the namesake mushroom, was designed by Donatas’ daughter, Greta.

Grapes are sourced from Eastern Washington vineyards, transported cross-state, and dropped into a bin through the basement window. There they are crushed, barrel-fermented, bottled, labeled, and packaged for distribution or enjoyed on the premises at private tastings.

Finished wines can be purchased online, in select local restaurants, and at Seifert & Jones Wine Merchants in Bellingham. Plans are being considered for minimum-order deliveries within bicycling range of the house.

Annual production is limited to about 120 cases; a true micro-boutique winery, by industry standards.

But being small has its advantages. When it’s time to check on a wine’s progress, Donatas says, “we both sit down and have a little ‘board meeting’ (and) invite some friends to taste.”

Initial releases included a 2012 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (sold out) and a 2012 Wahluke Slope Syrah (still currently available). The syrah, termed “naughty” in the winery’s tasting notes, is also gorgeous, with ultra-dark blueberry flavors, hints of juniper and sweet cedar, and slightly chewy tannins.

Future releases, most likely in late 2015, include a 2013 Cabernet and a 2013 Syrah. Allowing extra time in the bottle for the wine to develop character is a priority. “We don’t want to sacrifice quality for commerce,” Donatas notes.

It’s that kind of philosophy that will make their wines worth the wait.

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