This Wine Has Three Cats On The Label And It’s Awesome

Posted on: October 29th, 2014 by

san lorenzo rosso conero la gattara

Dang, is this wine for real? YES! It came recommended from a highly trusted source and did not disappoint. The story of how it all transpired started like many others in the year 2014: Facebook.

My buddy Cameron posted that this wine is available at the restaurant he manages. (Tavolata in Seattle; excellent, do go there.) And it’s good. (Duh, like he’d hype it just for the felines.) Naturally, I needed to find out how good. So this scene played out when I stopped by for dinner:

Me: “Hi, I’m looking for a red wine from Italy and, uh, it has cats on the label.”

Server: “Uhhhhh…I’ll have to ask someone about that.” [Backs away slowly, prepares to dial 911.]

Luckily, Cameron was there that night to retrieve the bottle, assisting the (justifiably) puzzled waitress. And it turned out to be fantastic:

2008  Fattoria San Lorenzo Rosso Conero La Gattara

It’s from the Marche region in central Italy. And it’s a big, rich red. No shrinking violet here! Yet never over the top. It also got better and better the longer it was open. I ended up buying a sixer of this three cat wine for the purposes of squirreling (!?!!) awaw a few bottles for a spell. If you crack one open now definitely give it a big decant. I guarantee you by the second glass it will be purring like a…well, you know. (Hint: Not a squirrel.)

In conclusion, this blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese unites two things that make life grand: wine and cats.

What Red Wines Are Good to Drink With A Chill?

Posted on: October 27th, 2014 by

Opera 02 LambruscoWith autumn’s chill permeating the air, I return to red wines. But how do I like to enjoy them?

Three words: With. A. Chill.

Red wines served too warm are a scourge of some restaurants as well as folks who live in a home heated to a kiln-like temperature. Warm red wine is just plain gross. (Unless it’s mulled.) I strongly advise you to stick all your red wines in the fridge for like 20 minutes and drink them with a touch of coolness.

There are some red wines that lend themselves to be serving fairly cold or seriously chilled. My favorite would have to be Lambrusco. Not only is it an amazing food wine–probably the best pizza wine in the history of the world plus awesome with beef jerky–but its frizzante nature (aka semi-sparkling) makes it super-fun to drink. Purple foam y’all!!!

rachel belle

Pretty much how the podcast recording with Rachel went, except sub red wine for (The) Champagne (of Beers). Photo by Michael Clinard.

I was delighted to find a partner in crime for a chilled red wine adventure: Rachel Belle. She had a bit of an epiphany regarding chilled red wine on a recent trip to Italy. So I knew I had to have her as a guest on the podcast. I strongly suggest you tune in to KIRO Radio to hear Rachel on the Ron and Don show as well as the Ring My Belle Weekends podcast. Do it! Rachel is super quick-witted, funny, smart, and has an inquisitve cat.

Other wines we enjoy? Marchione Grignolino. It’s a red that is very light in color but not lacking depth in the flavor department. (Both the Opera 02 Lambrusco and Grignolino are from importer A.I. Selections. Cheers, AI! BTW, AI does not stand for Artificial Intelligence nor Allen Iverson. Rather, “Acid, Inc.” Because that’s how they like their wines: lively.)

We also sample a bottle of Raisins Gaulois, from iconic Beaujolais producer Domaine Marcel Lapierre. It’s a slurpable Gamay.

Finally,  we get scientific with one of my favorite bargain red wines: Castaño Monastrell. (Note: I had five graphic designers critique its label.) Now this is not a red wine I would recommend drinking cold, but, for comparison’s sake we tried some served at room temperature and some chilly from the fridge. How was the wine different? TUNE IN:

All wines provided as samples. Thank you to A.I. Selections, Kermit Lynch, and Eric Solomon Selections.

Go Haywire for Pink Bub Sparkling Rosé From British Columbia

Posted on: October 21st, 2014 by

PINK BUB!!! #bcwine

I don’t know if a wine gets more fun than this Haywire Pink Bub sparkling rosé, which I had the pleasure of enjoying while on a trip to the Okanagan Valley. (Read all about it and listen to the podcast, too.) An almost equal mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the welcoming personality of this wine starts at the top. Of the bottle. With a crown cap aka bottle cap:

haywire pink bubYou want more BC Wine? You got it:

Talkin’ Concrete Eggs With Haywire Co-Owner Christine Coletta

Electric Riesling from Tantalus

Dabbling in Dry Muscat

BC Wine 101 With Luke Whittall 

Luke II: Wine Without Worry Podcast

A Gewürztraminer that Rules the Roost

Image via Okanagan Crush Pad.

British Columbia Winery Tour: Interviews at Six Okanagan Wineries

Posted on: October 16th, 2014 by

St. Hubertus

What a pleasure to travel to British Columbia and visit wineries up and down the Okanagan Valley. I had my handy audio recorder with me and captured six interviews with six fantastic folks while on a media trip put together by Wines of British Columbia.

You may have gotten a taste of my experience there when I previously told you about the electric Riesling at Tantalus Vineyards. There’s more from this winery, but first let’s get to know Andy Gebert, Co-Owner of St. Hubertus Estate Winery.

He poses with grapes:

St. Hubertus

And pours us Chasselas, which is a white wine grape I’ve never tasted outside of bottles from France’s Alsace region. Cool!

St. Hubertus

Who else will you get to know on this episode of the Wine Without Worry podcast?

Quail’s Gate Winery: Rania Peters, Marketing Manager

Meyer Family Vineyards

Peach Cliff Rock at Meyer Family Vineyards

Meyer Family Vineyards: Janice Stevens, Co-Owner

Tantalus Vineyards: Jane Hatch, General Manager

Black Hills Estate Winery: Glenn Fawcett, President and Wine Evangelist

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery: Chris Wyse, President

Without further ado, here’s the show:

For more British Columbia, just say, “Hello BC.”

Food Photography Philosophy From Leigh Beisch

Posted on: October 15th, 2014 by

the essence of wineDo you have an emotional connection with lychee? How about when it’s in your wine?

I hadn’t given it that much thought until I got a review copy of The Essence of Wine to check out on my tablet. The words are provided by Vinography’s Alder Yarrow and the beautiful photos by Photographer Leigh Beisch. It’s a meditative visual work considering many of wines most classic flavors and aromas (oak and pear, for example) along with Yarrow’s picks for bottles that exemplify each essence. Lengthier essays on wine can be found throughout the book as well.

Read Yarrow and Beisch’s thoughts regarding the creation of the book and how the process impacted them on Grape Collective.

The food dude in me had to ask Beisch about photography. I was really impressed how energetic all of these inanimate objects were in every photo. My query and her response, the latter I enjoyed for its philosophical insight as well as practical advice:

JF: Many of the pictured fruits are squeezed, smashed, and/or sliced; they look very dynamic. Can you give a casual photographer a quick tip for shooting food so it doesn’t look it’s “sitting there doing nothing”?

LB: “Food is an experience. We share it, we desire it, we need it to survive! Don’t think of it as a static object when photographing it. Food has a life span, it dies quickly, sometimes subtly. Shoot it quickly, passionately. Show evidence that it was enjoyed.”

Lychee by Leigh Beisch. Please peruse her photography portfolio.

Tannat and Uruguay: An Unlikely Duo

Posted on: October 12th, 2014 by

wines of south america evan goldstein

I was sent a copy of Wines of South America: The Essential Guide by Evan Goldstein. He’s not only a Master Sommelier but also President and Chief Education Officer of Full Circle Wine Solutions. I can vouch for his abilities as an educator after peppering him with questions regarding the state of the South American wine industry, his thoughts on Malbec in Argentina and Carmenere in Chile, and news of a surprising upstart in sparkling wine: Brazil. You can find Goldstein’s thoughts concerning these topics on Grape Collective.

Speaking of surprising, not only are they making wine in Uruguay, but also doing so most notably with an obscure grape best known in Southwest France’s Madiran region: Tannat. I asked Goldstein to explain how this unlikely duo creates notable wines:

JF: When you think about a signature grape for a country, Tannat is probably one of the least likely candidates. Why is Uruguay proving to be such a successful spot for this little-known grape?

EG: It’s a peculiarity that Tannat has found such happiness in Uruguay. But three of the four countries (less Brazil that really doesn’t have one) have signature grapes that, in my opinion, are better as expats than they ever have been in their native homelands. Ironic.

The efforts made to find supremacy with Carmènere in Chile are mirrored by the same effort made to make Uruguayan Tannat so special—again control of yields, best selections/clones, usage of support grapes, climate needs better understood, the role of correct timing of leaf plucking, accepted–and indeed, encouraged–amounts of shriveling/desiccation, and new in-winery practices (including choice use of cold soaking rather than micro-oxygenation).

The confluence here, with a little fairy dust from above I am sure, has made this county such a choice locale for the grape though you do find it as well in Brazil and, to lesser degrees, other spots.

Recommended Dessert Wines For An All-Dessert Dinner

Posted on: October 9th, 2014 by

georgian restaurant seattle

You ever have four desserts for dinner? No? Sure, probably two or three but four’s kinda crazy. Well, lock me up and throw away the key. Because I was recently invited to hang out in The Georgian Restaurant, a lovely dining room housed inside Seattle’s Fairmont Olympic Hotel, where I was treated to four sweet creations from the hotel’s talented and creative Pastry Chef, Chloe Lee.

What could make this even better? All four courses were paired with sweet wines selected by Master Sommelier Joseph Linder.

Ok, could it get even better? YES! Because my pal Denise Sakaki was able to join me. All the wonderful photos are courtesy of her. You should check out her fantastic blog Wasabi Prime. Denise is the undisputed queen of the roundup post. I mean, just look at this epic retelling of her eating and drinking adventures in Alsace. And besides writing and photography, Denise is also a talented graphic designer and illustrator. Hire her!

A few words from Chloe herself about the sweet items she prepared:

the georgian restaurant seattle

Yuzu Cream, Raspberry Jelly, Lemon Curd, Parsley-Mint Cake Crumble, Honey Veil

“The desserts for this tasting were all renditions of Georgian menu items. This summer I have been fortunate to have a lot of beautiful herbs and flowers to use, which was the inspiration behind the anise-hyssop sorbet. The flowers were candied in Sambuca sugar to enhance their natural flavor. I love the familiarity of the licorice and the bright green of the finished product.

“We use honey harvested from our rooftop apiary religiously in The Georgian, I can’t think of a dessert I make that doesn’t contain it in some capacity. The caramelized honey gelato is an ode to our dedicated beekeeping team who supply it for our every whim.

“I am a savory girl at heart, and I can never go without good salt and good fat, so those things carry me into a lot of salt-laced dessert components like the olive oil pudding (which I adore and eat by the spoonful), and the parsley-mint cake.

“Balancing color on my plates is so easy in the summer with all the amazing berries, herbs, flowers, and fruit we have in season. I am always motivated to stay true to Seattle’s culture and to utilizing Washington’s abundant produce. The chai pickled cherries are a nod to both those inspirations and are an item we use often in savory applications as well as dessert.”

So without further ado:

Dessert I: Yuzu Cream, Raspberry Jelly, Lemon Curd, Parsley-Mint Cake Crumble, Honey Veil

Wine Pairing: Mission Hill Riesling Icewine 2001

Notes on the wine: Joseph mentioned that the acidity of the wine is more pronounced when the wine is colder. It definitely changed as it warmed up. Also, I can’t say I’ve had an ice wine this old. Holding up very nicely.

Dessert II: Blackberry Mousse, Anise Hyssop Sorbet, Candied Anise Hyssop Flowers, Blackberry Sauce

the georgian restaurant seattle

Wine Pairing: Chartreuse de Coutet Sauternes 2004

Notes on the wine: This bottle laughs at a decade of age. A pittance of time!

the georgian restaurant seattleDessert III: Almond Granite, Caramelized Honey Gelato, Chai Pickled Cherries, Toasted Almond, Salted Caramel

Wine Pairing: Bodegas Hidalgo “Alameda” Cream Sherry

Notes on the wine: Sweet sherry is sooooo goooood. Do you want to learn more about Sherry, in all its forms? Have a look at these posts:

How I Overcame Sherry (Wine) Anxiety

The Versatility of Sherry With Master Sommelier Chris Tanghe

Halloween Candy and Dessert Wine Pairing on Serious Eats

10 Fascinating Things I Learned at a Sherry Seminar

Dessert IV: Dark Chocolate Cake, Olive Oil Pudding, Milk Chocolate Olive Oil Crunch

the georgian restaurant seattle

Wine Pairing: Dow’s Vintage Port 1994

Notes on the wine: This is from a killer vintage and is a wine that will probably outlive us all. (Not to be morbid, just stating a fact.)

Finally, Denise and I were sent home with a jar of blackberry sambuca jam. Which Denise used to fill some tart shells. I, however, just spread it on toast. A dish I call the Bachelor Tart.

georgian restaurant seattle

Thanks to everyone at the hotel for providing all the food and wine and for hosting a most memorably sweet evening. See you next time…for some salad.



Label Lust: Minimus Vermentino

Posted on: October 6th, 2014 by

Minumus Vermentino

Word of Minimus Wines, located in Oregon, came my way via the Northwest Wine Anthem. So when I saw one of their offerings, a Vermentino, available by the glass at Seattle’s Matt’s in the Market, I pounced. What a fantastic lunchtime wine. You don’t often see domestic versions of this Italian grape (aka “Rolle” in France), so the stars aligned concerning both a producer and a variety I wanted to know more about.

I love the front of this label. It reminds me of an entry from an old encylopedia. And if anyone gives me guff about noontime imbibing, I will just turn the label their way and ask them to politely to stop interfering with my studies.

Minimus Vermentino

Troon-ly a fine site for Vermentino in Southern Oregon.

I’ve previously had Vermentino from the same spot in Oregon–produced by Troon Vineyard themselves–which I would recommend getting as an interesting comparison.

And if you get to Matt’s for some daytime wine drinking, for which the 12.7% alcohol Minimus Vermentino is ideally suited, get the Cobb-esque salad, which has the wonderful touch of coming with deviled eggs instead of the tratiditional hard-boiled.

Are you hankering for more Southern Oregon wine knowledge? Check out not one, but two podcasts. The first with Clive Purshouse of the aformentioned Northwest Wine Anthem. The second with guest Herb Quady, Winemaker at Quady North.

Getting To Southern Oregon By Way of Pittsburgh

Quady North: A Snapshot of Southern Oregon Wine

Tantalus Riesling: Electricity in Okanagan White Wines

Posted on: October 1st, 2014 by

Tantalus Riesling 2013Finally got to visit the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Beautiful wine country! Big thanks to Wines of British Columbia for sending me on a mission (media trip) to discover what the region has to offer.

I was really excited to see numerous wineries, but especially Tantalus Vineyards. I discovered their Old Vines Riesling Natural Brut, one of the most exciting sparkling wines I’ve tasted, during last year’s Riesling Rendezvous at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, Washington. And they were the first stop on this trip. Woot! (Sorry, I know “woot” is passé, but I feel this is woot-worthy.)

Anyhoo, we were up in the Okanagan to explore wines that are now featured at Whole Foods locations in Washington and Oregon. Which is kind of a big deal as it’s been really difficult (read: almost impossible) to buy wines wines from our fair neighbor up north.

If you want to read more about the program and all of the featured wines, check out Eric Degerman’s epically detailed post on Great Northwestern Wine. And, rest assured, there will be some epicness from me as well in the form of a podcast featuring guests from many wineries represented. Stay tuned to Wine Without Worry!

waterfront restaurant kelownaBut back to the Tantalus and its Riesling, which takes numerous forms at the winery. If you’re in BC and can get your hands on the aforementioned sparkling or Old Vines bottling, which are both totally amazing, do so. Seriously go to the Waterfront Restaurant and Wine Bar in Kelowna, where they might still have some of the latter, for a BEAUTIFUL meal.

Tantalus also makes a sensational Riesling ice wine. Even a Syrah one, too. But this post is all about Riesling, dammit!

Riesling lovers in the Pacific Northwest can focus on a bottle that’s a wonderful entry into Tantalus’ RACY, lively style at Whole Foods. Warning: it might inspire you to get into a car/plane/boat/train/landspeeder destined for BC.

You’ll first find the excellent 2012 Riesling there, which is drinking in a most lovely manner right now. I’d enjoy it at brunch, lunch, pre-dinner and–of course–with seafood. (And then keep your eyes peeled for a bit of the 2013 Tantalus Riesling once the prior vintage sells through, lucky Washingtonians and Oregonians.) Winery General Manager Jane Hatch used one word to describe their Riesling’s chief attribute: electricity.

Here’s Hatch and Vineyard Manager Warwick Shaw:


And although I was there on a gorgeous, perfectly sunny day, Tantulus sure looks pretty in the snow. Here’s a shot from their Facebook page. (I also recommend following them on Instagram at tantatuswine. That’s their Twitter handle, too.)

tantalus vineyards

For more information on British Columbia as a whole, just say “Hello, BC.

Woodinville Wineries: Meet The People Behind The Labels

Posted on: September 29th, 2014 by

chris peterson avennia

Not too long ago I spend some time touring Woodinville wineries as a guest of the Washington Wine Commission. My days there culminated with attending the Auction of Washington Wines, an event that raised over 1.8 millions dollars (!) to support uncompensated care at Seattle Children’s Hospital and fund viticulture and enology research at WSU.

But a lot happened leading up to the auction in Woodinville, which is not too far northeast of Seattle (like 30 minutes). There’s a lot going on there: over 100 wineries and tasting rooms. Did I hit all one hundred-plus? Not this time. But I did interview a slew of interesting folks representing Washington wine, from newbies to some of the top names in the state. It’s going to be a two-part extravaganza on my Wine Without Worry podcast. So who is up in Part One? Check it:

Betz Family Winery: Steve Griessel, who owns the winery along with his wife Bridgit, reveals how a wine lover from South Africa finds his way to Woodinville. (Note: Betz Family Winery is not open for visits, but they’d be happy to answer any questions you have about the wines or the winery if you get in touch with them.)

Two Vintners OG

Two Vintners OG: Orange is the new white.

Two Vintners: Winemaker Morgan Lee steps out of the tasting room and into the parking lot to speak with me about extended skin contact. Which means we’re talking about one thing: grapes. (That’s what you thought, right?) Specifically, Gewürztraminer. The “O.G.” is–as far as I know–Washington State’s first “orange” wine, with the color coming from the skins hanging out with the juices for a longer period of time than usual. Strangely enough, the story starts with a Bloody Mary.

the experience of landscape

Find out how what the author means by “refuge and prospect”.

Refuge and Prospect: You’ve gotta be intrigued by a winery that derives it’s name from a book by Jay Appleton called “The Experience of Landscape“.  Winemaker Jason Baldwin explains.

Avennia: How do you make a Sauvignon Blanc that is an intriguing contrast to the light-and-lively versions you’re most likely to encounter? Chris Peterson (pictured at top courtesy Richard Duval Images–Richard was on an earlier show giving wine country photo tips), Avennia’s winemaker, walks me through the process. BTW, I corralled him after a stupendous meal at Cafe Juanita. Seriously, go there if you are anywhere near Seattle.

Cadence: Though the winery is 5 miles south of downtown Seattle, I was able to speak to Winemaker Ben Smith just before a dinner in Woodinville about a grape we both have a great fondness for: Cabernet Franc. Also discussed: how to show off a site by blending Bordeaux grapes, specifically single vineyards on Red Mountain.

Listen to the episode:

Want more Washington wine? Let’s head to the Horse Heaven Hills.