The Greatest Seattle Sunset Ever and Four Rosés

Posted on: July 23rd, 2014 by

Piling on, but WOW! #seattle #sunset #nofilter

I have seen some beautiful Seattle sunsets in my ten years here, but none better than this recent one. Viewed from the top of Capitol Hill looking down on Lake Union, this and many other pictures blew up my Instagram feed. And for good reason.

With so many colorful shades and textures, it got me thinking about…rosé.

All these wines were sent to me as samples for my consideration. Starting with not one, not two, but three rosés from Ousterhout Wine. What did each have in common? All were from the 2013 vintage in California’s Russian River Valley (RRV), made from Pinot Noir, and exceptionally pale.

Ousterhout Rosé

Rosé plus The Golden Mean equals The Golden Rosé.

The label logo is an instrument you can use to produce the “Golden Mean“, which is a 1 to 1.6 ratio. The winery website explains the story behind this choice:

“This number reflects the relationship to perfection and beauty that is pervasive throughout nature such as the adjacent bones of the fingers, a chambered Nautilus, the Parthenon, the American flag, and female facial beauty….As a plastic surgeon specializing in facial feminization, Dr. [Douglas] Ousterhout uses the instrument that measures this ratio daily in his surgical procedures. For this reason, we have chosen it as our logo as we continually strive to craft the perfect wine.”

The Golden Mean is not something I’ve ever considered regarding how I perceive facial beauty, male or female. And fortunately I don’t have to disclose my ratio on Tinder or OK Cupid, which might put me in some sort of Leaden or Coal Lump Mean. Anyway, Dr. Ousterhout lets his winemaker make three rosés, which is my idea of a Golden Mean. Or, rather, a Rosé Mean.

The first two Ousterhout wines, the the RRV and RRV Woods Vineyard drank pretty similarly, but the 800 Vines Vineyard stood out for having the most prominent Pinot Noir character. In flavor and structure, it approached some of those qualities you’d find in an elegant red Pinot. I enjoyed all three.

Oh, and here’s what the Golden Mean looks like:

the golden meanRosé number four also comes from Sonoma County but rather from the RRV portion, the 2013 Tin Barn Vineyards  ”Joon” hails from the Sonoma Coast. Normally I back away slowly from rosé made from Syrah and likewise one with a color closer to red than pink. But there go my preconceived notions! It certainly had some backbone to it, but showed off an exuberant perkiness that made it really fun to drink. Joon will have red and pink wine lovers holding hands like sleeping sea otters.

tin barn vineyards joonI first heard of Tin Barn Vineyards thanks to my pal Elaine of Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews. You may remember Elaine from my podcast episode with her. Anyway, she introduced me to Amy Tsaykel over at the winery. I read an old blog post of hers and thought her writing was fantastic, and was really happy to get her to write on Grape Collective. Amy’s home is a 35-foot RV parked in a Sonoma vineyard, and she tells here tale here:

Vardo in the Vineyard: Romance, Uncertainty, and The Simple Life

The Top Ten Places in The World You Must Visit if You Love Wine

Posted on: July 18th, 2014 by

bay of fires taylors beach

Why does my post about picks for the ten best places in the world for wine lovers start with a photo of a beach and not of vineyards? Excellent question.

The answer? I fell in love with an ocean paradise located on the western coast of Tasmania in the beautiful area called “Bay of Fires”. And not only is this spectacular island full of white sand, blue waters, and orange-tinted rocks, but also sparkling wine, aromatic white wines, and Pinot Noir. Of all the places I’ve been, it’s number one on the list of spots I desperately want to see again.

My rationale behind selecting my personal top ten list? It was important not just to take into account the vineyards, but also all the other things that make a place memorable. So while it’s wine-centric guide, you’ll additionally find recommendations on where to eat, sleep, drink, hike, and more from local experts and authors.

So where can you discover Tasmania, along with my other nine picks? Here:

Grape Collective: Top Ten Wine Travel Destinations

Taylors Beach photo via Wikimedia Commons/Poco a poco.

top ten wine destinations

Getting to Know Oregon and Washington Albariño

Posted on: July 16th, 2014 by

abacela albarino 2013Are you familiar with the white wine grape, Albariño? It’s most famous in Spain, and you’ll see it in Portgual referred to as Alvarinho. But in Oregon? In Washington? Yes and yes, you’ll find Albariño in both states.

It’s wild to think that Abacela has been making it–from their own fruit, no less–since 2001. A seafood-loving, heat-busting wine, this Albariño is also notable for where it’s grown: not in the well-known Willamette Valley, but rather in Southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley.

It seemed serendipitous that right after I had finished enjoying this sample bottle sent my way, I was off to Wenatchee, WA for the first time. And there I would expand upon my repertoire of Pacific Northwest Albariño.

Thanks to Visit Wenatchee, I was off for a weekend sojourn to the epicenter of apples. Spoiler alert: there would also be cherries. And (fermented) grapes.

wenatchee weather july

First things first. It was going to be scorching hot. Yowza! I was staying at the Warm Springs Inn and Winery, where the warmth comes from both Wenatchee in July and the owners, Julie and Ludger Szmania. Also, the Inn is located on “Love Lane“, so maybe that contributes to the overall vibe.

Veterans of the Seattle restaurant business, Julie and Ludger recently reopened the Inn. It’s a place and a lifestyle that provides a shift from the demands of their former occupation. (But Ludger still has that chef’s itch to always be in the kitchen, whether it involves Sunday brunch or cooking for an on-site wedding.)

So at 3:46 PM on a Saturday, with the temperature just about to crest into triple digits, I took a glass of lemonade down to the Wenatchee River, which conveniently flows right by the Warm Springs Inn backyard. Staking out a shady spot, I watched numerous folks on inner tubes float on by:

I see you floatin'. #wenatchee

Before I left for a food and wine event at Ohme Gardens, Julie and Ludger put a cold beer in front of me, which made them heroes in my eyes. I figured I’d need a beer before heading to an outdoor event in the hottest part of the day. Thankfully, the Ohme Gardens are surrounded by trees and shade. And even for someone who wilts in 80 degree heat, I managed to be much more comfortable than I thought possible:

ohme gardens

Ohme, oh my! Thankful for the shade.

It was here that I discovered an Albariño from Washington State: the 2013 Crayelle Cellars. It was definitely my wine of the night. Like the example from Abacela, it’s lively and refreshing. And the fact that I field-tested this in extreme heat should lend extra credence to my assessment.

Crayelle AlbariñoI returned back to the Warm Springs Inn for some triumphant beer and peeping of the super moon. Sunday brought a bike ride around the river along the Apple Capital Loop Trail (before it got murderously hot). Afterwards? Lunch at the super-cool Pybus Market.

At a spot called Fire, we enjoyed a multitude of wood-fired pizzas. The most notable being one with local cherries, bacon, and goat cheese. Then a gelato sample at Ice, an olive oil and vinegar tasting at D’Olivo, a quick wine tasting at Jones of Washington (I got the Sauv Blanc), and a coffee at Cafe Columbia to finish. If you’re wondering howl I drank hot coffee in that heat, the market is mercifully air-conditioned.

pybus market wenatchee

Wenatchee, I’ll be back!

Drinking Wine in Las Vegas: What’s Hot in the Heat

Posted on: July 14th, 2014 by

bellagio las vegas exterior

What wines are people drinking in Las Vegas? I turn to Head Sommelier of Michael Mina Bellagio, Cole Sisson, who stopped by my Wine Without Worry podcast to inform me of what’s hot in the world of fermented grapes. Some of the questions we tackle:

Las Vegas weather.

  • Coming from Seattle, what was it like that first night on the job, stepping out onto the floor of a fine dining destination in Las Vegas?
  • What do guests think of Washington wines; are they a tough sell?
  • When will Riesling rise to heights unseen as the ultimate white wine?
  • What’s it like to see a whole foie gras brought to customers and carved tableside?
  • OK, what if you are actually outside in Vegas, what do you drink to combat the heat?

Find out on this episode:

Wine Without Worry: What Happens In Vegas When It Comes to Wine

Get Wine Without Worry on iTunes. And if you enjoy the show, please rate it.

More with Cole on Grape Collective, including thoughts on pairing wine with meatless dishes.

Bellagio photo courtesy MGM Resorts International.

Easy Apricot Chicken Paired With Wine

Posted on: July 11th, 2014 by

easy apricot chickenDo you know my pal Peabody? She is a creator of culinary concoctions, but none more curious than the one I’m about to share with you.

As part of her blog series encouraging newlyweds to get in the kitchen and cook together, Peabody has put together some no-fuss recipes. (Think one pot dishes.) And then she has a 42 year-old bachelor (me) come up with wine pairings. So what are the ingredients in this Easy Apricot Chicken? Just four. But I’d say a couple of them are rather…unexpected:

  • Chicken (duh)
  • Apricot jam (pretty much duh, too)
  • Dried onion soup mix (huh?)
  • Russian dressing (what the…?!?!)

As Peabody says, “When I tell people what is in this they are horrified.” (Guilty as charged.) BUT, she reports, they all enjoy the finished dish. There’s also a sweet history behind this recipe, a little window into Peabody’s life from 8th grade. Additionally, the introduction to her post has some musings and advice concerning Three Relationship Rules. It’s full of charm and candor.

Check out the entire post, get the exact recipe, and find out my wine picks. I recommend four Washington wines: a still and a sparkling duo in both semi-sweet and dry form.

Love and Marriage: Newlywed Easy Apricot Chicken

Thanks to Peabody for the use of her photo. Peruse previous pairings with Peabody.

Greek Terracotta Art and The History of Wine

Posted on: July 9th, 2014 by

Attic Terracotta Column-Krater

If you are interested in the history of wine from not just the past two hundred years but over two thousand years ago, there are a series of videos on YouTube by Emily Kate worth checking out. I recently interviewed her to get to know more about the ancient objects and artifacts that she finds most fascinating:

Is there an artistic image you feel is particularly illustrative of the the history of wine?

As a New Yorker, I am often at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I love to look at the Amphorae and Krater collection. There is one in particular that I find significant: An Attic Terracotta Column-Krater from 550 B.C. These were used for mixing wine and water for the Symposium (ancient parties for drinking and debates). This one is important because it features wine, women and song which were ever-present at the ancient parties but were previously missing from decoration on artifacts.

Read the rest of the interview on Grape Collective.

Learn more about the ancient history of wine in Greece

Get to Know The Authors of “The World of Sicilian Wine”

Posted on: July 7th, 2014 by

the world of Sicilian wineMuch of the joy that comes from visiting a part of the world I love is getting to meet like-minded people along the way who enrich my experience. This was most definitely the case in Sicily, when on the final day of a recent stay I got some quality lunch and dinnertime conversation in with Bill Nesto (a Master of Wine) and Frances Di Savino (a keen student of Italian culture, particularly medieval and Renaissance studies), who just happened to have co-authored a book I am looking forward to get on my nightstand ASAP, “The World of Sicilian Wine“.

Before occupying my nightstand with all things Sicilian wine in hardcover form, I asked Bill and Fran to occupy a half hour on my Wine Without Worry podcast. They augment my exclamation point-y enthusiasm for Sicily with some in-depth thoughts culled from the (fermented) fruits of their scholarly pursuit.

But lest you think this sounds too serious a tone, especially in contrast  to my court jester/carnival barker approach, rest assured that Bill and Fran are fired up by a passion for Sicily that comes through in every sentence uttered about this island.

And about the book’s title? Bill explains, “We wanted to get across the message that this is more than just a region of a country, it’s a world unto itself.” Fran elaborates, “We wanted to convey to readers right from the start that this was not a typical wine guide, that we’re really offering readers a multi-dimensional way to understand Sicily as a place through the medium of its wines by discussing history and culture, literature, art. So I think it has several meanings in that way.”

Find out more about a story that starts in the 8th Century…BC. Listen to the show:

Wine Without Worry: Explore The World of Sicilian Wine

Get Wine Without Worry on iTunes. And if you like the show, please rate it!

Finally, keep up with Bill and Fran on their website.

Azeinda Agricola Rallo

The vineyards of Azeinda Agricola Rallo.

How To Take The Best Vineyard Photos

Posted on: July 4th, 2014 by

king estate oregon

You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take great vineyard photos. But it does help to know one. This image of King Estate in Oregon is courtesy Richard Duval, who I’ve had the pleasure to spend time with in both Seattle and Walla Walla.

So what’s his tip for capturing moments like these?

“Look for elements of interest that add drama and impact – clouds, higher angles, low light, patterns of rows.”

Read the rest of his pointers, including how to photograph wine bottles, winemakers, and wine grapes on Grape Collective.

I’d also like to note that regardless of your expertise or equipment, Richard has some great ideas to employ the next time you visit wine country.

Learn more about Richard:Richard Duval is professional photographer/writer who travels the state capturing the ever-growing wine industry. Find his work in Washington Tasting Room Magazine,Washington Wine Report, Sip Northwest, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Northwest Travel Magazine, and Nature Photographer. See Duval’s work at VineLines and Duval Images. All photos ©Richard Duval Images and may not be used without permission.

Follow Grape Collective ‘s board How To Take The Best Photos in Wine Country on Pinterest.

Choose Your Own Wine Adventure at The Winemakers Studio

Posted on: July 1st, 2014 by

wente winemakers studioAre you interested in being a winemaker for a day? Does the thought of playing with beakers and graduated cylinders make you want to get your wine nerd on? I know, me too!

Now you can indulge that passion at The Winemakers Studio, located at the HQ of my podcast sponsor, Wente Vineyards, in California’s Livermore Valley.

To learn more, I welcome back Carolyn Wente, CEO and Fourth Generation Winegrower, to the show for a chat about this cool new spot for the wine-curious. So what can you expect to encounter at The Winemakers Studio?

Well one of your options is to partake in the Winemakers Blending Experience. Mix it up with four barrels of Wente Cabernet Sauvignon, each from a different site. You get to sample how different vineyards produce different flavors (and other components) that contribute to what you experience in the glass.

If that’s not enough, Wente also has Malbec, Petite Sirah, and Petit Verdot on hand for your experimenting pleasure. What does a splash of Petit Verdot do to your Cabernet? Find out! Make One Blend To Rule Them All. (That would be YOURS!)

But it’s not all glass beakers and graduated cylinders. (Sorry.) There are also education stations throughout the studio. For example, you might get some insight on how different levels of toast (not the whole wheat kind) on an oak barrel affect a wine’s flavor. Or feel a swatch of silk fabric to understand what it means when someone (like me) calls a Pinot Noir “silky”. (My request for a silk robe to wear to truly appreciate the texture of Pinot Noir was respectfully considered. And denied. OK, I made that up.)

But maybe you’ve arrived The Winemakers Studio and are not recognizing some of the things exactly as I’ve described above? Do not fear. And do not blame me. See, just like at a winery and in a vineyard, things aren’t static in the studio. The season dictates the activities taking place. Your visit one month may be different than the next. And that’s a good thing. One of the guiding principles at The Winemakers Studio? “Keep it fresh, keep it changing,” explains Carolyn.

She continues, “You really get to understand the decisions that a winemaker and a grape grower have to make throughout the year.”

So what’s the goal of The Winemakers Studio in a nutshell? Or rather, a tiny oak barrel? Lest you think it’s too serious, Carolyn sums it up:

“Learning and having fun while you do it.”

Listen to the show:

Wine Without Worry: Build Your Own Adventure at The Winemakers Studio

Get Wine Without Worry on iTunes.

And, hey! Carolyn and I also had a great talk about the history of Chardonnay in California, and Wente’s significant role:

Wine Without Worry: Getting to Know California Chardonnay with Carolyn Wente.

A Smooth Tale of Two California Cabernets

Posted on: June 26th, 2014 by

smooth stonesAre you looking for a duo of California Cabernets, though from different producers, parts, and vineyards, united by one thing? And is that thing you desire…SMOOTHNESS?

Well you’ve come to the right blog.

Now, don’t take smooth like these wines are devoid of edge or interest. They just aren’t going to clobber you over the head with pumped-up brawn and muscle-flexing.

So what are the wines? I’m glad you asked. And BTW, both were sent to me as samples.

2010 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

The first is the 2010 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon ($53). Perhaps you remember Jordan from my epic podcast, vineyard tour, and cheese eating extravaganza? Check it out! AGAIN!

Anyway, there is many a thing to love about this Cabernet from Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. The Jordan is elegant right out of the gate; no need to sit on it for a decade. BUT IF YOU DO, it will be awesome, like the 2003 I had at the winery. Just make sure you give the 2010 plenty of time in the decanter and it will awaken in your glass.

Ok, would I want to hold onto it for ten years and then give you a full report? Sure! But that would mean sending Jordan an e-mail where I tell them this: “Good news! I have scheduled a post regarding the 2010 Cabernet to be published…IN 2024!”

Trust me, it’s a wine with a pedigree and a track record. Buy a case and drink one every year. If you do that and tell me, you can write a guest post on the development of it from 2015-2026. Or I’ll just call you on the phone and we can record a segment for my podcast. Seriously.

2011 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Napa Valley Cabernet SauvignonAnd if we’re talking about longevity, how can we not mention Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars? This Napa icon was established in 1970 and is still going strong. Case in point being the 2011 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis ($55). This Napa Valley Cabernet, like the Jordan, can please the impatient as well as reward those with long-term impulse control. And it’s very expressive for such a youthful wine. (Translation: Smells real good right away.)

Also, Artemis is the Greek Goddess of the Hunt, which is cool. (Also of the Forest, Hills, Moon, and Archery. What a show-off.)

So when it comes to California Cabernet, do not be swayed by preconceived notions. Let your taste be like that of a Greek God or Goddess: inquisitive, with a healthy skepticism, and BEHOLDEN TO NO ONE! (This is how I imaging Greek mythological figures act.)

Note: Both prices taken from the winery website.

Stacked stones by a.pitch from Flickr.

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