Discover The Wines of France’s Bergerac Region

Posted on: September 16th, 2014 by

Château Michel de Montaigne Bergerac

France. When you think about its wine regions that start with “B”, surely Burgundy and Bordeaux first come to mind. But let’s talk about a lesser-known place that deserves your attention: Bergerac.

So where is Bergerac? It’s just east of Bordeaux. Here’s a (wine) map of Southwestern France, courtesy of Wine Folly:

Original Source: The Wines of South West France by Wine Folly

My buddy Clive Pursehouse of the Northwest Wine Anthem recently returned from a trip exploring this region. He even got to tour Bergerac by bicycle, pedaling along the Tour de France route shortly after it passed through the area. It’s a place well-known for gastronomy (think foie gras, truffles) but the word needs to get out about the wines. That’s why I had Clive on the podcast to talk about his trip. (He’s also been on before; hear what he had to say about Southern Oregon wines.)

So explore the wines of Bergerac: white, red, and (especially) the sweet wines. I can vouch for the excellence of the latter, as I enjoyed a bottle of 1990 Monbazillac (a part of Bergerac famous for sweet wines) with heavenly cheese gougeres. Listen to Wine Without Worry:

Image of Chateau Michel de Montaigne via Bergerac Wines.

Horse Heaven Hills Vineyards Tour

Posted on: September 11th, 2014 by

Horse Heaven HillsHow about we get to know the vineyards of the Horse Heaven Hills in Washington State? I recently returned from a media trip out there. The name of the wine region may not be familiar to you, but there’s lots of history and historic vineyards. You’ve probably poured some of it into your wine glass on multiple occasions without even knowing it. Or have grapes from the region represented in the bottles resting in your wine cellar.

Let’s dive in!

My journey started out at Coyote Canyon Vineyards, which was cool because the night before I enjoyed a bottle of Albariño from Coyote Canyon Winery. This Spanish white wine grape continues to impress me in versions from Washington (and Oregon).

One of the most notable things I noted about Coyote Canyon? The wines? The vineyards? Well, I must admit I was a fan of the awards.

Specifically a belt buckle. Sported by Mike Andrews. You see, that’s your trophy when you win big at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo wine competition.

UntitledWe found out from Mike that they first started planting grapes in Coyote Canyon in 1994. The first grapes in Horse Heaven Hills? Those are thanks to the pioneering Mercer family, who jump-started this part of the state as a location for high-quality wine grapes with their inaugural plantings in 1972. My birth year! More on that later…

You can soak up some of that history and the wines at Mercer Family Estate‘s spacious tasting room in Prosser. And it was really great to be joined by Linda Mercer on a leg of my journey, as she had wonderful knowledge not just of her families history when it came to wine (she planted those initial aforementioned grapes), but also regarding the pioneering days of the Mercer’s in the sheep and wool business. Really, to understand the Horse Heaven Hills today, yesterday, and tomorrow is going to heavily involve the Mercer family.

Anyhoo, where was I? Oh yes, let’s talk about my birthyear. Not because I’m (too terribly) vain, but because 1972 was an auspicious year. For people. And vineyards. In Washington. Champoux Vineyards, specifically. These vines were the second stop of the day. I got to pose with that birthyear block I mentioned earlier:

champoux vineyard

A fine year for things that would eventually grow up to be noteworthy.

While at Champoux, it was a treat to meet the people who’ve worked this vineyard into an icon: Paul and Judy Champoux. The couple generously shared wines showcasing some of their vineyard’s fruit: Powers, Andrew Will, Woodward Canyon, and a wonderful offering from Quilceda Creek:

quilceda creek 2010 cabernetI will admit to drinking the latter wine rather than spitting it. I will also admit that when Judy asked if we want to “revisit” anything, the Quilceda Creek was revisited. And not just by me.

Then it was off to visit Chateau Ste. Michelle’s facility at the top of their Canoe Ridge Estate vineyards. We ate brisket and fried chicken and drank some of CSM’s Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc. Which, year after year, is one of my favorite white wines from Washington and it’s pretty damn inexpensive, too. It has a touch of oak barrel-aging that softens the sharp edges of Sauvignon Blanc. I happen to love searingly acidic Sauv Blanc, but if you find that off-putting, this is the wine for you. I also found out that the vines for this wine were planted in the 1970s, so maybe that has something to do with its consistently fine performance.

Let us gaze at Canoe Ridge Vineyards!

Canoe Ridge Vineyards. #wawine

Our day ended at Alder Ridge Vineyard. Nice view:

Horse heaven hills

One final word about the area around Horse Heaven Hills: trust your GPS. You may think it’s lying to you when you’re trying to head to Prosser for a beer, but it’s actually just sending you along a scenic gravel road. No need to panic.

GPS said this was the way to Prosser....  (It was, actually.)

And if you’re wonder exactly where the Horse Heaven Hills are, the good folks at Wine Folly let me reproduce this map. Click on it to get even more information on Washington Wine.

Also, my pal Mary Cressler from Vindulge was on this trip. Get her take:

Horse Heaven Hills Wine Region — a preview

And while I was there I met new pal Jade Helm of Tasting Pour. Here’s view 3 of H3:

Discovering Treasure in Horse Heaven Hills

washington state wine mape wine folly


Pizzeria Gabbiano: Seattle’s Homage to Roman-Style Pizza

Posted on: September 9th, 2014 by

Who doesn’t love pizza? Seriously, who? But let me not say this in a roundabout way: there’s more than one style AND shape when it comes one of the penultimate exports from Italy. That’s why I am so excited about the latest entry into the abundant world of Seattle pizza: Pizzeria Gabbiano.

Your amazing powers of perception may have first noted this pizza is not round. For some, an insurmountable offense to their strongly-held yet misguided sensibilities. Thankfully, I know Mike Easton, owner of Pizzeria Gabbiano. He’s sets the record–and the slices–straight when it comes to Roman-style pizza. You may remember Mike from such memorable podcast episodes as Il Corvo Pasta: Sipping Vermouth, Smacking Vegetables. So I had him back for a second tour of duty on the show.

Rest assured, the same wonders that are worked with handmade pasta at Il Corvo are being employed over at Pizzeria Gabbiano. As well as a similar ethos of rotating, seasonally inspired ingredients complimenting (but never overwhelming) the most wonderful of dough-based platforms.

Pistachio pesto going on the mortadella. #pizza

Johannes Heitzeberg, who Mike Easton calls “The Man” at Pizzeria Gabbiano. “It’s his show,” Easton explains. Here’s Heitzeberg adding pistachio pesto to a mortadella-topped pizza.

Topics discussed in this episode, recorded in the lobby of the building AND inside the pizzeria as well:

  • Why you’ll never see a pepperoni pizza at Gabbiano, nor one with black olives and button mushrooms.
  • Being in Rome and doing nothing but eating pizza (3-4 times per day), drinking, and walking around.
  • Best toppings in Rome? 1) Salt cod and potato, 2) purple cabbage and pancetta, 3) olive oil, prosciutto and edible flowers.
  • The crust: airy, light, bubbly dough. It’s been a six-month project that began with a humble sourdough starter. And requires carbon steel pans to (twice) bake it.
  • What it’s like to podcast while sitting in Barcelona chairs. (Spoiler alert: Posh.)

Enjoy the show!


Describing Taste: Inviting Versus Projecting

Posted on: September 4th, 2014 by

Summerhill Pyramid WineryI’ve been ruminating on taste and preference, specifically regarding a column in the Wine Spectator labeling “tart” and “green” as negative attributes in a wine. You can read my take on “Dim Somms” over at Grape Collective.

Maybe instead of such a dichotomous debate about how things “should” taste (balanced/unbalanced, over-ripe/under-ripe) we can all take a page out of Kenaniah Bystrom’s book. He’s a bartender at Seattle’s Essex. Bystrom said the most perceptive thing I’ve read about taste: describing, perceiving, relating. Here’s how he described the part he plays:

“Rather than me telling people what something tastes like, I wanted to figure out how to invite them into what story is, because everyone has a different perspective and reality when it comes to the flavor and taste and smell. And that’s really what I feel like my job is, to introduce people to their own experience with what’s going on in the glass, rather than projecting my preference of what’s in the glass.”

I hope to keep this passage in mind whenever I talk, write, or think about wine.

Read the entire interview in Eater Seattle: The Essence of Essex: Kenaniah Bystrom Would Prefer Not to Tell You What to Drink

Greg Lambrecht of Coravin: How To Enjoy Wine Without Removing The Cork

Posted on: September 1st, 2014 by
gambal meursault clos du cromin

Initials are from two MWs (Masters of Wine) who witnessed the bottle being “opened” on these two dates.

When it comes to technology and wine, sometimes I can be a bit of a Luddite. But Greg Lambrecht, inventor of the Coravin, has me preaching the gospel of progress and innovation. Why? How? Well check out this pictured bottle of wine that I tasted.

First of all, it’s a fantastic wine. Meursault is a region of Burgundy extremely well-regarded for some of the finest Chardonnay in the world. (The producer, Alex Gambal, was new to me. Highly recommend, BTW.) But even more interesting are the dates scrawled on the label, beginning with 4/26/13.

That is the date the bottle was first opened. Yes, well over a year ago.

It was fresh as a daisy. Lively. Delicious. Seems impossible, right? Enter the Coravin, a wine access system involving a needle (don’t be scared), argon gas, and years of development and testing. I sat down at The Barrel Thief in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood with Lambrecht to get a demonstration of exactly how Coravin works from the inventor himself. It’s all captured on my latest Wine Without Worry podcast. After some Barolo, we move on to discuss these topics regarding the invention and inventor:

Greg Lambrecht Coravin

Greg Lambrecht’s Coravin has made for some very happy wine drinkers, including himself.

  • How its impacted by-the-glass offerings at restaurants.
  • Getting from Schnapps to 1990 Chave Hermitage.
  • Having a wine bar at home.
  • Going global with the Coravin.
  • The recall to repair earlier this year.
  • The restless mind of the inventor. Leading to…
  • Will the Coravin one day work with sparkling wine? Screwcaps?

So how might a wine bar use a Coravin? I also spend a few minutes chatting with The Barrel Thief Owner Christopher Gronbeck. Does having 160-170 wines by the glass get your attention? Instead of a bottle list full of things you’ll never scratch the surface of trying, Gronbeck’s got it all open (via Coravin, naturally) for you to sample. Like wines from Lebanon, Israel, and older vintages of white Rioja and Bordeaux. Plus much more.

Enjoy the show:

Still Life With Coravin:

coravin wine glasses

Photo of Coravin and Lambrecht courtesy Allison+Partners.

10 Must-See YouTube Videos About Wine

Posted on: August 29th, 2014 by

Victor Watel Panteros666

Over on Grape Collective I hand-picked 10 YouTube videos about wine for your viewing pleasure. Here are my thoughts on the clip that gets things started, “The Wine Magician”:

The first thing you’ll notice about this video is Victor Watel (aka Panteros666) talking about esoteric winemaking, cosmic rhythms, and obscure druidic methods. Or maybe his blue hair, mustache, and crazy pants. (Check out his music.) “The Wine Magician” is a video of Watel’s visit to Coulée de Serrant in Savennieres to speak with legendary biodynamic winemaker Nicolas Joly. There’s also some background on Rudolf Steiner, who, it is noted, had “…always been the weird kid in the neighborhood, having visions of his dead aunt at age nine and stuff.” (The English narration by the native Frenchman Watel is a hodge-podge of curious informality and profanity. Steiner’s “cool-ass church”, etc.) The duo have an oddly endearing chemistry, too:

Watel: “Are industrial grapes, like, in jail?”

Joly: “The industrial vineyard doesn’t have the right to talk, it can only stay silent and obey. It’s slavery.”

I also love the scene where Joly instructs Watel, a wine-tasting neophyte, on what he should expect to find in his glass.

For the other nine plus commentary on each selection, head over to Grape Collective.

Riesling Rules: Three Bottles, Three Countries

Posted on: August 28th, 2014 by


Can we send you three bottles of Riesling? Uh, YOU BET! Three samples of the Best White Wine on Earth arrived for my consideration and, specifically, for a twitter tasting known as #winechat that takes place every Thursday from 6-7pm PST.

The three contenders?

  • Kamptal, Austria: Brandl Riesling 2011
  • Alsace, France: Paul Blanck & Fils Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2010
  • Rheingau, Germany: Schloss Schönborn Riesling Kabinett Erbacher Macrobrunn 2011

What did I have to say about the three of them? To the Twitters!

My favorite of the night was the Brandl:

Tasting note? OK:

The German Riesling?

Note that the Schloss Schönborn is low in alcohol and has some zip to it. Perfect brunch/late morning wine. Or after mowing the lawn on a hot day. Or in lieu of lawn-mowing.

What about the entry from Alsace?

I continue to be stymied by Alsatian Rieslings (and the region’s whites in general) for this reason. This is a much richer version of Riesling; serious stuff you could put in the cellar.

Want more of The Riesling Story? Check out my interview with author Stuart Pigott on Grape Collective.

A note on glassware: I was sent two wine glasses (the “StandArt” and “Gold Edition”) by Gabriel-Glas, which I first took for a spin during this tasting. Usually I’m a jelly-jar type of wine drinkin’ guy, but was impressed with the modern shape of Gabriel-Glas’ well-designed bowl. The mouth-blown Gold Edition is astonishingly light. Like featherweight; I couldn’t stop holding it and waving it about. (Sans wine for safety, naturally.) The StandArt is machine-molded and heavier, but no heavyweight. Both are intended to be a universal glass (as in, you don’t need another); the StandArt goes for $29, the Gold Edition for $55. I’m really enjoying drinking out of both of them on a regular basis. Have a look:

gabriel glas

Find out what Ben Carter thought about these Rieslings (and the Thirty Years’ War) on Benito’s Wine Reviews.

Pairing White Wine With Steak

Posted on: August 27th, 2014 by

One of the many things I love about Dabble Magazine is that my ace editor lets me get a little wild with the pairings. I can do things I dared never dream, like suggesting white wine with steak.

Yup, you read that correctly.

Well, ok the dish is actually steak in in raw form aka tartare. But still a plate full of intrigue when it comes to wine, no?

Find out the method to my madness in the latest issue:

Lovely photo by Simon Burn:

steak tartare

Le Caviste: Behind the Scenes of a Seattle Wine Bar

Posted on: August 26th, 2014 by

le caviste seattle

Are you in Seattle right now? Downtown? Excellent. Head to Le Caviste and get some vino. It’s a totally fantastic wine bar. And since I get the privilege of yammering with owner David Butler while he works, I thought I’d give him a chance to talk in the pre-opening hours about his place on my Wine Without Worry podcast.

So what if you’re not in Seattle? That’s cool. You can learn a lot about French wine on this episode. Because Le Caviste is 100% about the wines of France. You dig Beaujolais, love on some Gamay? Want to explore all ten of the crus, the superb wines from the tip-top sites? You’re in luck; David’s got representatives of each. Always two by the glass and the rest in bottle.

le caviste seattle

Come on in, the Cru Beaujolais is fine.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise to say David’s passionate about the delights of Beaujolais. He’s also cool with serving red wines cool. (What I call “castle temperature“.) Not just Beaujolais but also the red wines of my beloved Loire Valley. (xxoo, Loire Cab Franc.) Conversely, don’t murder your expressive white wines with an arctic chill.

We also talk about rosé and confront my prejudice/mania when it come to drinking the the most recent vintage. But not in a manner akin to an episode of “Intervention”.

What wine regions deserve more love? Marcillac, responds David. You’ll find a red wine from this region made from the Fer Servadou (yikes, that’s obscure) grape grown in soils that are (as David says) “Canyonlands orange” in color. Also the red wines of Savoie made from Mondeuse.

But, wait, there’s more! Like cheese, sparkling wine, and soothing classical music. Listen and enjoy:

Stuart Pigott on The United States of Riesling

Posted on: August 21st, 2014 by

stuart pigott riesling

Attention Riesling fanatics! Get yourself a copy of Best White Wine on Earth: The Riesling Story by Stuart Pigott. The book is a personal and compelling love letter to the grape in all its forms from all over the world. And you’ll find notable producers and bottles from each Riesling region revealed, including Pigott’s Top 100 Global Rieslings. Start building that wish list!

Read my interview with the author on Grape Collective. Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve lived in Washington State for the last ten years. Can you give me a State of the Riesling Address? What does the future hold?

There now is a United States of Riesling, which there wasn’t at the turn of the century. By this I mean the sales of domestic Rieslings grew very considerably as did the production and the proportion of the wines that are good to great. America is now the 2nd largest Riesling producer following Germany, having overtaken Australia and France (now 3rd and 4th respectively). Without all that I couldn’t have written BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story!