Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last Minute Champagne

Uh-oh! Oh, no! Oh, man! You waited 'til the last minute to buy your bubbly. Not to worry. This one is easy. There are lots of good sparklers from inexpensive to high-end in supermarkets and the state liquor stores. My favorites with a few more costly exceptions are wines made by French companies in California which sell for $12 to $20 depending on whether they are on sale. My French son-in-law, loves Chandon NV Brut best, because it is dry, balanced and lively and not too yeasty. Chandon Blanc de Pinot Noir has a slightly pink bronze cast to it, a little more body, and is not quite so dry. We served Mumm's Napa NV Brut at our daughter's wedding. It's a little creamier than the Chandon and in the same price range. Finally, Roederer Estate seems a little sweeter and creamier than the others, but it is rarely on sale these days. Echo is pleasant. If you want bubbly from the Northwest, Domaine Ste. Michelle works, as does Ste. Chapelle from Idaho. Mountain Dome is excellent but hard to find. Gruet from New Mexico is an excellent value at about $12, but hard to find. French Champagne, the real thing, has gotten much more expensive in recent years partly due to the increase in the Euro. Veuve Clicquot is widely available and priced close to fifty dollars much of which pays for a lot of marketing. Origine by Hemard is in the $20 range and probably a better buy. My favorites are Reoderer, Pol Roger, and Bollinger. Bollinger is the biggest and yeastiest of these. If you can afford to pay twice as much or more, Dom Perignon, Crystal and Salon, may actually be better values in term of quality/price ratio, but for most of us the best values are Chandon and Mumm's Napa. By the way, Costco has the best price on on Dom Perignon at about $120. Enjoy! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

New Year's Wine Punch

If you are expecting a big group for New Year's Eve, here's an economical way to celebrate. I got these recipes from Don of Chicago's North End.

New Year's Wine Punch

1 part Ginger Ale
1 part inexpensive Rose or Pink Wine
1/8 inexpensive Brandy
Optional: Add Orange Juice or Triple Sec to taste

Lake Forest Punch

1 Part White Wine
1 Part Scotch

Look out! Your guests will need a cab or at least a designated driver after this one.

You will need lots of ice. Big blocks last longer.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Rum Runner

My mentor, Fritzy Haskell, was a rum runner, before she and Ben opened Haskell's Wine and Spirits in Minneapolis many years ago. Rum Runner in Tucson, Arizona reminds me a little of Haskell's. Of course, Fritzy directly imported many wines from small chateaux in France. This is almost unheard of today, although Mike Dodson in Seattle seems to accomplish this every year with Burgundy, as does North Berkeley Wines and Kermit Lynch.

Anyway, as I said the Rum Runner in Tucson sort of reminded me of Haskell's because of its broad selection of wine from California, Washington, Oregon, France, Spain, Italy and Australia. For a change, Australia did not have an in-your-face end display right in front of the store entrance. They had a nice selection of Washington wines including Stella Maris, Woodword Canyon, Seven Hills, Spring Valley Uriah, and Fourteen Hands Cabernet. Oregon was represented by St Innocent, Panther Creek, Erath, and Elk Cove.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Wine Notes

The Vin De Tabula Rasa, made by Oregon winemaker, Andrew Rich from Washington State grapes, is indeed a "blank slate." Even though it is a blend of 50% Syrah, 26% Counoise, 13% Mourvedre and 11% Grenache, you can fill in the blank with whatever you want to call this more than adequate red, but you would never guess it is a "Rhone" style wine. Why Counoise has become an "in" grape with Northwest winemakers is beyond me. It seems like a mean, tart little grape that only adds an odd tangy twist.

Bob Tovey reports he tasted a 1978 Jordan Cabernet that was just about dead.

The 1999 Maiden from Harlan Estate had all the attributes of a Bordeaux - good black fruit and and some backbone but lacked greatness.

The 2003 Gloria Ferrar Chardonnay from Carneros was clean with light fruit and not overoaked, but not too exciting either.

The 2005 Valley of the Moon Chardonnay from Sonoma was very light, almost like a Pinot Gris. Nowhere near as good as the Zinfandel.

The 2005 Springbock Nelson Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand had a very strong aroma of straw and grapefruit. Aromatically correct, but not to my taste.

The most recent vintage of Girard Chardonnay was elegant, French tasting with lots of cool minerality - my kind of wine.

The 1996 Mazzolla "Matrix" showed relatively little complexity considering the blend of grapes and it tasted old.

The 2005 Searidge Merlot tasted fresh with good fruit, better than two buck chuck.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Holiday Wine Gifts - II

Okay, so you didn't get to the wineries and it's too late to order direct. No problem! There are lots of options. You can go to the state liquor store, high end supermarkets, wine shops or the local gas station. Here are some suggestions for last minute shopping.

At the state liquor store, you can buy 2003 Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot or Chardonnay for seven bucks. Or you could get the Sagelands 2002 Four Corners Cabernet or Merlot for $10. All the Red Diamond wines are good at $7. Barnard Griffin wines are old standbys. Hogue Genesis works, too. For $15 you can buy Gordon Bros. 2004 Merlot, 2004 Helix Syrah, or 2004 Waterbrook Melange. For $18 you can get 2004 Willamette Vineyards Pinot Noir and for $25 to $30, great buys are the 2002 Whitman Narcissa, the 2003 Novelty Hill Cab, the 2002 Basel Cellars Claret and the 2001 Reininger Red. By the way, Linie Aquavit is just great herring.

At Costco, you can choose from several Reininger wines. choose from several Bordeaux, or buy the spectacular 2001 Terra Blanca Onyx for about $35. It's worth it just for the Label Art, but the wine is incredible! Dunham Cabernet VIII is available for about $35. To impress the boss, 1998 Dom Perignon is available at a mere $115.

At Trader Joe's, there are several good Zins under ten dollars and a variety of California wines from Wineries such as Caymus and Stag's Leap for $30 to $50. Sorry, but in my book two buck chuck and Yellowtail won't do the trick as gifts, even though they are certainly good enough wines.

At Whole Foods, check out the special reserve wines in the back. Almost any of these would make a spectacular gift. Strength in Pinot Noir, California, and Northwest. At the PCC, you can buy a wonderful Zinfandel from Shenandoah Vineyards in Amador county for less than ten dollars and the last I heard it was still organic. Pete's is another place to look. They are particularly strong in the Champagne department.

Okay, let's get really serious, for the connoisseur in your family you should buy her or him a bottle of great Bordeaux, Burgundy or Port. If she has a taste for American wines then I recommend some of Washington's great wines. Januik, Brian Carter, Northstar, Pepper Bridge, Terra Blanca Onyx, Sheridan L'Orage, Andrew Will, Cadence, and Fall Line are some wines to look for. Wines from McCrea, Buty, Reininger, Apex, Syzygy, Sandidge, Cougar Crest, Beresan, Isenhauer, Dusted Valley, Amavi, Three Rivers, Kestrel, Walla Walla Vintners, K Vintners, Hightower and Palouse are other wines to look for. Where are you going to find these wines?Metropolitan Market, Whole Foods, University Village QFC, Larry's Market, Mc Carthy and Schiering, Seattle Cellars are good places to look.

Now the hard part! Where are you going to find Bordeaux, Burgundy and Port. La Cantina on Sandpoint Way in Laurelhurst has a great selection of Burgundy carefully chosen by proprietor, Mike Dodson in his annual Pilgrimage to France. Mike also has a great selection of Bordeaux including some fabulous 2000s on sale. Try the 2000 Fourcas Dupre at $16 a bottle, a phenomenal buy from one of my favorite Chateaux. Champion Cellars, owned by my friends Stephanie and Emile Ninaud, has a great selection of French wine. Pike and Western, in the Pike Place market, has a nice selection from virtually every region. If you are looking for Italians, DiLaurenti's might be the place to go and the Spanish Table specializes in, guess what, Spanish wine.

Have fun! Next up - bubbly for the New Year!

Monday, December 11, 2006

'Tis The Season -Menu For Hope III

'Tis the season to eat, drink, and be merry, but not all of us six billion souls on the planet can eat, drink, and be merry. For the past two years, wine and food bloggers, a merry bunch who eat and drink a lot, have done an online fundraiser for those less fortunate. Last year over $17,000 was raised. This year the beneficiary will be, appropriately, the World Food Programme. Organized by Pim of Chez Pim and Alder Yarrow of Vinography, there are dozens of cool items to bid on from around the world including some twenty-two wine items.

I've donated a custom designed itinerary for your tour of Washington's Wine Country geared to your preferences and travel dates. You will have the opportunity to visit small little known wineries where you will be able to taste and purchase wines that are not generally available. You will be able to taste some of Washington's greatest wines whether they be from Red Mountain, Walla Walla, the Yakima Valley or Seattle and Woodinville. This will be an unforgettable experience for you and your friends. Please note that this item includes consultation and information only. You will be responsible for making your own reservations and travel arrangements. It's going to be a great trip! Value - $100. Code - WB 15.

To see all the great items in the raffle go to :

To see the fabulous wine items go to:

- Search for Menu for Hope

Here's how to donate:

1) Go to the donation page at:

2) Make a donation. Each $10 will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize or prizes you'd like in the"Personal Message" section in the donation form when confirming your donation. Be sure to specify the Code. This is very important! Do tell us how many tickets you want to allocate per prize, and please be sure to use the prize codes - for example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for UW01 and 3 for UW 02 or 5 for WB 15!

3) If your company matches your donation, please remember to check the box and fill in the information so we can claim the corporate match.

4) Please also check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you if you win. your email address will not be shared with anyone.

5) Check back at Chez Pim on January 15th when we will announce the results of the raffle
(the drawing will be done electronically. Our friend the code wizard Derrick ,Obsession with Food is responsible for the wicked application that will do the job).

Ask Bob and Kathy, or Jayne or Sam and Carol about our wonderful trips to Walla Walla, Red Mountain and the Yakima Valley.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Terroir Quote

I keep turning up quotes on art museum wall panels that seem to apply to wine. Can this be coincidence?

"A place can never be defined, change is not the screen of science, but of poetry, art and myth."
- Bela Hamvas

Basque Country In Seattle - Harvest Vine

Okay, I confess! My favorite restaurants are in France, San Francisco and New York with one exception - Harvest Vine. In my opinion, Harvest Vine is the best restaurant in Seattle by far. Walk into Harvest Vine and you feel you are in the Basque country. No atmospherics, just the real thing. Specializing in tapas and raciones - Spanish small plates by any other name, the Vine also has an incredibly authentic wine list including many French Basque wines such as the red, Irouleguy (ih-roo-lih-ghee) and the sweet or dry white, Jurancon (your-an-sohn). There is a huge selection of Spanish wine, aperitifs and after dinner drinks. Delicious sherry for starters and Port and other interesting wines for dessert.

The Basque Country is a state of mind. The Kurdistan of Europe, the Basque Country straddles the border between France and Spain integrating the food of both regions into a cuisine that is probably older than either. Being Basque is loving family and food and the Basque language. The Basques probably love food and wine even more than the French do. Now THAT is an accomplishment! Basque social life to a large extent is dominated by food clubs in which Basque men (and now finally some women) meet to cook together and eat together. My kind of people!

While the population is now concentrated in industrial cities such as San Sebastian and Bilbao, the heart of the Basque Country is still in the countryside where the food and wines are raised. Look north from the town of St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port to the rolling vineyards of Chateau Branas, and you know you are in wonderful wine country. Visit villages such as Ainhoa and Espellette and you feel yourself to be in different world. Visit Harvest Vine and skip Homeland Security and jet lag.

Chef Joseba Jimenez di Jimenez trained in both France and Spain before arriving in Seattle. Anything on the menu at Harvest Vine will be excellent. We like some of the most typical, if somewhat exotic Basque dishes such as Spanish White Anchovies, Baby Eels (Angullas), Blood Sausage (Morcilla), Squid with Squid Ink Pasta (Calamares Con Fideos), and Pan seared Foie Gras with caramelized pumpkin in grape must (Foie de Pato Con Arrope).

For starters, the Aceitunas (Olives) are great with La Gitana dry sherry. The Remolachas (multicolored beet salad) is exquisite. The Plato de Chacineria ( selection of cold cuts) will satisfy any red-blooded All-American Male Carnivore. In the Seafood department, the Ensalada de Langosta is fresh and cool, the Vieras ( pan seared scallops) are perfect, and the Sardinas a la Parilla are classic, if a little strong for the American palate. All of the game is perfectly prepared whether it be Venaison, Quail, Squab, Rabbit, or Guinea Hen. The cheese plate is typical starring Agour, P'tite Basque, and Bleu de Basques. Desserts are just "yum," as my friend Mindy says.

The wine list is sixteen pages long. Among the Sherries, we prefer the dry Finos and Manzanillas and the semi-sweet Pala Cortados. We had the ever so slightly salty Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla with olives for an appetizer. The Lustau Fino Puerto was elegant, light and slightly salty, too. The white 2003 Las Renas Criansa from the Bullas D.O. was dry, fruity, candied and jammy. The 2005 Lagar de Cervera Albarino from the Rias Baixis D.O. was light, sour and slightly spritzig. It tasted like a Sauvignon Blanc and was not the best Albarino I've ever had. Among the reds, the 2004 Gorrondino from Bizkaiko Txakolinado D.O. was big and dry with delicious fruit, but corked. Wine from a second bottle was much better. Finally, we tasted a Grenache-Tempranillo-Cab blend from Spain that was round, soft, medium-bodied with berry, vanilla and almond flavors balanced with noticeable acid and tannin. After dinner we tasted 2003 Don PX La Noria Organic Montilla and the 1975 Don PX Gran Riserva Montilla both of which had that wonderful old style smokiness of traditional Spanish wine.

By the way, if you want to blow a bundle on wine that is quite easy as there are many vintages of Vega Siciliana and Pesquero de Duero priced from $50 to $550 a bottle. If I were ordering by the bottle, I would choose the 2005 Laxas Albarino at $28 per bottle as a white and 2000 Domaine Etxegaraya Irouleguy as a red at $34 and ask them to decant the Irouleguy immediately as it is young and will need to breath.

You will come away content and surfeited, if not overstuffed ,with all these wonderfully tempting morsels. No TSA, no jet lag to the Basque Country!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Vote For The Seattle Wine Blog

If you like the Seattle Wine Blog, go to and vote for the Seattle Wine Blog by clicking on the "Top 100" at the upper left. You also will have the chance to find out about other great wine and food blogs.

A Wine Wedding

Bob Tovey reports on a recent trip to Sonoma for a wedding at The Vintner's Inn in Santa Rosa. Of course, Bob and Kathy couldn't resist visiting wineries with the bride and groom (chaperons on the honeymoon?). Wineries mentioned as rising stars were Wilson, Dutcher Crossing, and Mauritson Family Winery where they had a great Zin. Blackberry explosion with hints of Cassis, Bob writes. The Sauvignon Blanc was rich, smooth, with mild hints of fruit and fig. Bob describes Maritson as an old family that has been growing grapes for years and started making wine in 1998. Bob felt that the quality and history were similar to Goose Ridge here in Washington.

At my recommendation, the Toveys visited the Russian River Valley which Bob described as "just beautiful, the fall colors were really out in full strength." They visited Dry Creek Winery which Bob found to be radically different from Chalk Hill Winery in the Chalk Hill area. He also describes the Chalk Hill area as totally different from the Russian River with different trees and different soil with lots of rolling hills. He felt that the Dry Creek was much more French in style than the Chalk Hill. He liked the Chalk Hill whites better than the reds. Bob and Kathy loved Healdsberg. Their Sonoma trip ended with lunch at Benzinger Winery.

Finally Robert reports on some "hot picks" from the Oregonian Wine Tour Guide of November 21st: 2004 Maryhill Winemaker's Blend($12); 2005 Ken Wright Celilo Vineyard Chardonnay ($27), 2003 Durant Dundee Hills Pinot Noir($24), 2005 Broadley Vineyards Pinot Noir($19), and 2003 Abecela Tempranillo($21). The Ken Wright Winery staff assure me that the 2005 Celilo is even better than the 2004 which reminded me of some of the best white Burgundy I've tasted. I tasted the Abecela Tempranillo a few years back and it was quite good, sort like a new style Rioja.

Thanks Bob for a great report. I am envious of your great trip to Sonoma.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Holiday Wine Gifts - I

Well, I'm finally back after a week of turkey, snow and power outages. Wine is the best Holiday gift. Most people love wine and even if they don't drink, they usually like a wine gift which they will save for a special occasion. Wine is easy to buy and will show you to be a sophisticated and worldly person. Wine is available over a vast price range from three dollars to thousands of dollars. This weekend you can follow my urgings and go out there and taste the wine yourself so you can give gifts that literally reflect your taste.

Once again, the South Seattle Artisan Wineries (SSAW) are open from 1:00 to 5;00 this Saturday. This is an opportunity to taste and give exceptional wines from the Seattle area. Chris Gorman will be opening his new winery in Woodinville this weekend. Be the first on your block to taste his wines and give your friends and family wine from one of Washington's newest wineries. While you are in Woodinville you can stop by Ste Michelle and taste not only Chateau Ste Michelle wines but Col Solare and Northstar as well. Stop in at Novelty Hill to buy great wine at reasonable prices. While you are there, you can taste and buy Mike Januik's great wines, too. Check out Mathews, Page, Facelli, and DeStefano. Check to see what other Woodinville wineries are open.

It's not too late to order wine direct from wineries. After all we won the right to do so recently, although you could always do this with Washington wineries. For the wine lover in your family try the trinity of Syrahs from Sandige, the three Syrahs from Three Rivers, or the three different vineyard designated wines from Andrew Will - great opportunities to taste "terroir" - the differences in wine from the microclimate of each vineyard.

Look for more ideas on holiday wine gifts in the coming weeks. Check out the Seattle Wine Blog every few days for more recommendations. Don't hesitate to send a "comment" if you have a question about wine in the Seattle area.
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