Barinas 2014 Monastrell Seleccion is a Spanish Gem

nullFrom Spain’s Jumilla region, this stunning red wine should be on your must-try list of reasonably priced European wines.

Made from 100-percent Monastrell (the Spanish equivalent of France’s Mourvedre grape), this particular vintage from the Barinas winery is filled with beautiful blackberry and violet aromatics, plenty of jammy berry fruits on the palate and hints of spice on the finish.

Overall, there’s an almost rich quality to this wine, while the proper balance of acidity and gentle tannins keep it from being overbearing and make it an absolute pleasure to taste.

At about $16 a bottle, this is one Spanish red that you can easily stock up on for current and future enjoyment.

(Note – The pictured bottle is similar in design to the actual label. Also note that the winery produces a Barinas “Robles” option that is priced at about $12 a bottle.)

Vancouver International Wine Festival

nullFebruary 20 to 28, 2016 – One of the largest and best wine festivals in the world, this year’s extravaganza will feature over 150 wineries.

Although the focus will be on Italy’s Chianti region, many other wine-producing nations are always well represented, including France, Spain, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

The nine-day event features a wide variety of minglers, tastings, dinners & lunches, and seminars and is sure to appeal to wine enthusiasts on all levels.

Tickets can be purchased and event information found at

Wine Dinner at 9 Restaurant

Saturday, January 30, 2016 from 6:00 to 8:30 pm – Join Dan and Casa Ventura Imports President/Owner Basi Rodriguez for a spectacular 5-course dinner paired with Spanish wines at North Bellingham Golf Course’s 9 Restaurant.

Reservations are required and can be made by phoning the restaurant at (360) 398-8300, extension 2.

Wine Tasting Benefit at Dynasty Cellars

nullSaturday, January 9, 2016 from 3:00 to 5:00 pm – Dan will be moderating a special event to benefit Bellingham’s Brigadoon Service Dog’s Veteran Services program ( The event will be held at Dynasty Cellars tasting room located at 2169 E. Bakerview Road in Bellingham.

Each guest will receive four 3-ounce glasses of wine, perfectly paired with appetizers prepared by Chef Nick Moss of 9Restaurant.
Cost is $55 per person, and a major portion of the admission will be donated to Brigadoon. As an added bonus, guests will also receive a 20% discount on all Dynasty Cellars wines purchased during the event.

For additional information, please phone the tasting room at (360) 758-2958.

After Last Summer’s Wildfires Chelan Wineries are Primed for Visitors to Return

Last summer’s record-breaking heat brought with it a number of devastating wildfires to Eastern Washington. The Lake Chelan area was one of the hardest hit, and a series of fires that began there in nullmid-August burned thousands of acres in and around this region known for its resorts, outdoor recreation, and burgeoning wine industry.

Nearly all of the area’s wineries escaped damage with the exception of Ventimiglia Cellars. Owner Ron Ventimiglia was hosting visitors in the tasting room of his winery located near the south end of the lake when he was told to evacuate. Less than eight hours later, the entire facility had burned to the ground, and Ventimiglia escaped with just two cases of wine and his computer equipment. Plans are already underway to rebuild.

Other wineries were much more fortunate, even though the fires came perilously close to the downtown Chelan area and surrounding residential areas. A drive into town gives visitors a feel for just how extensive the damage was – and how much more it could have been – with burned sagebrush and trees and blackened telephone poles lining the highway.

But Chelan residents seem undaunted by the series of setbacks that Mother Nature sent their way during this past summer. Although the reduction in out-of-town visitors during the heart of the peak season hurt the local economy, the area’s wineries are ready and open for business, even during the slower, quieter winter months.

The proliferation of Chelan wineries, now standing at about two dozen, has been a welcome change to an area that, driven by seasonal tourism dollars, nearly comes to a complete halt until mid-spring when warmer temperatures begin to return.

“The wineries have been a big help to the local economy during the off-season,” notes Julie Pittsinger, co-owner of Karma Vineyards. And while most wineries have reduced hours for about a three to four month stretch, all of them are open for wintertime visitors looking to get away and experience the wine region and downtown Chelan.

Winter is a great time of year to check out the area; tasting rooms are less crowded, one-on-one time with local winemakers is relatively easy, there’s no hint of summertime traffic congestion, and finding a table at a local restaurant is a breeze.

The Chelan wine country is divided into two areas: the north and south shores. There are also other winery options in the nearby surrounding areas. Here’s an idea of what to look for when paying a visit:


nullCharlie Lybecker and his wife, Lacey, moved to Chelan a few years ago after starting Cairdeas Winery in West Seattle in 2009. Among the area’s relative newcomers, Charlie has quickly earned a reputation as one of the brightest stars in Chelan’s wine scene.

Charlie focuses on varietals from France’s Rhone Valley including Syrah, Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne. His blending techniques are spot-on, and the tasting room’s atmosphere of friendship, goodwill, and alliance (the three terms that best describe the Gaelic word, “Cairdeas”) are apparent the minute one walks through the door.

Other notable north shore wineries: Wapato Point Cellars, where white wines such as Riesling, Pinot Grigio and Gewurztraminer are the forté, and the in-house Winemaker’s Grill restaurant and outdoor patio invite guests to linger over dinner and a glass of wine; and Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards, owned by Don and Judy Phelps. Here, a fun, near-ribald list of wines are available for the “mostly serious” wine drinker and range from sparkling wine to Chardonnay to Cabernet Franc to Primitivo and virtually all varietals in-between.

It’s not uncommon for husbands and wives to operate and produce wines at their own winery. What’s nullunusual is to have a clear delineation between their winemaking duties. That’s the rather unique scenario at Nefarious Cellars, where Heather Neff is strictly responsible for the winery’s white wines, while husband Dean handles just the reds.

The Neff’s pristine, immaculate facility is situated on Lake Chelan’s south shore. The winery draws on a number of vineyards, including estate sources located both on site and near the town of Pateros. Outstanding current releases include the 2014 Consequence, a white wine blend of Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, and Marsanne, and the 2013 Rx-3, a red wine combination of Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah varietals.

The tasting room at Mellisoni Vineyards has been a work-in-progress for a few years, but that hasn’t deterred owners Rob and Donna Mellison from providing their guests with first-class service during every visit.

A gathering table and relaxed seating area await wine tasters, and Mellisons will eagerly greet you and pour you a glass of one of their outstanding wines. Try the 45°, a white wine blend of Riesling and Gewurztraminer sourced from the steeply sloped vineyards planted above the tasting room; or consider a red wine option such as Merlot, Barbera, Syrah, or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Other notable south shore wineries: One of the few Washington wineries to produce sparkling wines, Karma Vineyards also offers a number of other varietals including two Chardonnays, one aged in French oak barrels, the other in American oak. The winery’s lovely bistro includes a menu that features small, medium and large bite plates. And Tsillan Cellars also offers a dining and wines option at its Italian-themed Sorrento’s restaurant, located adjacent to the tasting room.


Rio Vista Wines boasts the only Washington winery accessible by car, boat, and float plane. Located about 10 minutes north of Chelan on the Columbia River, the folksy, serene setting is home to a number of uniquely named and labeled wines that have earned a boatload of accolades.

Personable winemaker/owner John Little does an outstanding job with a wide array of reds and whites in varying sweetness levels from sweet to dry. His Malbec is a must-try for red wine lovers and his Wacky White and Loony Red blends are almost certain to put a smile on your face.

For more information on the area and its wineries: or

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