2014 Walla Walla Vintners Sangiovese

walla-walla-vintners-sangiovese

Warmth is always craved during February’s short, dark days and frigid weather. Which is why fireside drinking is ideal. A double whammy: Flames to warm your skin. Wine to warm your soul. And that’s my ode to consuming red wine next to a fireplace. You’re welcome.

The 2014 Walla Walla Vintners Sangiovese and my in-room fireplace at Salish Lodge was the perfect drink-location combo for a cozy weekend getaway. 

Never one to every shy away from a metaphor, this was just the right wine for the lodge weekend. Both the wine and the lodge are the perfect balance of refined and rustic. Hikes, falls and outdoor activities are met with the lodge’s spa, fine dining and pillowy beds. The wine is earthy and rustic, with good acidity and tannins.

This 2014 Washington sangio is fruit-forward, soft, subtle, then you’re struck by savory flavors and grippy tannins that remind you you’re drinking an Italian grape. It’s smells like strawberry and leather. Tastes like cherry tart, strawberry, tomato, with savory flavors of herbs and olive. 

Saying that I felt cozy is an understatement. After a massage, facial and an hour spent in the sauna and hot tub, an evening in a robe with a  bottle of wine and a fireplace warmed every inch. I just wish that could be every weekend until June.

Walla Walla Vintners Sangiovese
Variety: Sangiovese
Vintage: 2014
Region: Columbia Valley & Walla Walla Valley

Buty Rockgarden Estate Red Blend

buty rockgarden estate

The weather has been absolutely freezing. Stepping outside results in a gasp for air, tensing your shoulders and praying the moisture in your nose doesn’t freeze.

So instead of deciding to brave the cold city last weekend, we made the decision to find a colder locale. If it is going to be that frigid, there should at least be snow. The destination: Eastern Washington cabin during a snowstorm.

In those conditions, multiple layers, cozy socks, fur blankets and wood-burning fires are expected. And when access to the day’s football game is limited and cell service is non-existent, wine is a must.

Honestly, you would probably drink anything. It is part of the fun, after all. But, ideally it’s something that’s savory and red. That makes you want to grab the bowl of the wine glass with both hands, swirl the juice and gaze into the deep color.

With that in mind, I turned to the Buty Rockgarden Estate Red Blend.

I figured that while everyone was watching playoff games and I was cooking, I could have the whole bottle to myself share with everyone.

When first smelling and tasting this bottle of wine… STONE. But, of course – it is from The Rocks District in Walla Walla. The soil there is distinguished by the tennis ball-sized cobblestones. Because of this, the vine’s roots dig deep, soak up the minerality and have an undeniable Walla Walla rocky smell and taste. As someone whose first wine love was Washington Syrah, it’s like macaroni and cheese: familiar, comforting and one taste is a reminder of why I love it so much.   

There’s meat and spice and a long finish, which means the bottle can be enjoyed for the duration of the evening.

Buty, Buty, Buty Rockgarden everywhere…. (No?)

Buty Rockgarden Estate Red Blend
Variety: Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah
Vintage: 2014
Region: The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater
Price: $48

Wine Resolutions

walla-walla-vineyard

While others may be resolving to drink less this year, I’m resolving to taste and drink more and more. Be more experimental and keep learning as much as possible about my favorite beverage and all that goes into making it. To keep myself from getting complacent, I’ve made four wine-drinking resolutions to keep exploring, because learning about wine is almost as fun as drinking it.  

Drink More Sparkling
Most people reserve bubbles for special occasions, but sparkling deserves more screen time. The pop of a cork makes any night more special. Sparkling is great with spicy food, with rich food or with no food. This year, I will not automatically choose still wine, but make sure sparkling is always an option. Whether it’s Champagne, Prosecco, Cava or Pét-nat – sparkling should have the same chance of making it on the table.

Regularly Explore New (& Obscure) Regions
As a Washingtonian – I find myself drinking lots and lots of Washington wine. And because it’s always my go-to, lots of French wine. But, with a whole world of wine regions and new ones popping up regularly, it’s limiting to stick to the same ones. On my short list: more from Finger Lakes in New York, wine from Greece (one of the oldest wine regions in the world) and I’ll be seeking out some wine from Michigan.

Make a Best Bud Wine Salesperson
Right after drinking wine, shopping for wine is one of my favorite activities. My shopping trips consist of perusing the aisles and choosing wine based on my knowledge. But this year, I want a wine-shop-bestie who knows what I like, recommends wines I love and calls me personally when a new, coveted bottle shows up in the store. So this year, I’ll be pinpointing salespeople at my favorite wine stores, who can be my go-to wine whisperer and share their expertise with me.

Drink More Apéritifs
My nights usually begin and end with wine. The apéritif is usually reserved for dinners out and parties. But, recently inspired by this Food & Wine article and my desire to always act a little more French, I see more apéritifs in my daily life. The whistle-whetting drinks are a great start to the evening and upgrade daily dining. I’ll be stocking up on Campari, Lillet and all the ingredients for the Kir Royale.

Your New Favorite Holiday Cocktail

kir-royale-3

Holiday libations should be three things: Easy. Festive. Not too strong.

Especially if you’re hosting.

It should be a drink that can be easily mixed for guests. If I’m muddling, mixing, shaking, straining, etc. all night long, I’m annoyed. I want something with two ingredients. Tops. But, the drink still needs to feel slightly special. I never discount a good glass of wine at a party, but a drink that feels more thoughtful makes everyone more festive. And as everyone knows, holiday drinking often lasts all night – pick something that can be sipped on without making people sloppy.

My gift to you – the Kir Royale.

Born in Burgundy, the Kir Royale is traditionally an apéritif. “Royale” is a variation of the original Kir – made with Aligoté (a bone, dry, acidic white wine) and Crème de Cassis (a sweet, black currant liqueur).

For a Kir Royale, the white wine is replaced with Champagne and you have yourself a fancy, festive, celebratory beverage.

The Recipe

Add a splash (about 1 tbsp) of Crème de Cassis to a wine glass or a Champagne flute, fill the rest with Champagne (or a dry white wine – if you’re going with a traditional Kir). Add a couple raspberries, a lemon twist or a sugared rim if you’re feeling extra festive.

Traditionally, the drink is made with a small amount of Crème de Cassis, giving it a light blush color and keeping it crisp and refreshing. Adding too much will give it a deep color and make it syrupy sweet.

If you want to make a Kir – use a dry, acidic white wine. Aligoté is preferable, but an unoaked Chardonnay will do just the trick.

Cheers to your new fav holiday cocktail.

A Night for Beaujolais

Beaujolais

There are two types of Friday nights. Those when you’re ready to pass out and those when you’re ready to let loose. A dark, full-bodied Cab is great for a cozy night at home. But, a night out calls for something a little more lively. Which is why you typically reach for a white or sparkling. Fret no more, red lovers. There’s a Friday-night-get-loose-wine for you. The grape’s Gamay, the label says Beaujolais.

We’re not talking about Beaujolais Nouveau, a young wine that is bottled and drank right after harvest. But we’re talking about Cru Beaujolais. The Beaujolais Crus (there are ten of them) are just south of Burgundy and produce wines that are light, acidic and fruity.

This 2012 Roland Pignard Morgon is one of my favorites. It does the trick on a Friday night that is about to get turnt or anytime an invigorating red wine is needed. It’s light, juicy and acidic. It dances around on your tongue.

There’s cranberry, cherry, and floral. It’s easy drinking, but exciting. And always best served slightly chilled.

It’s a wine to reignite a Friday night, to drink all night long.

And won’t make you feel like wearing flannel pants, furry slippers and watching the Golden Girls…

Roland Pignard
Variety: Gamay
Vintage: 2012
Region: Morgon, Beaujolais
Price: About $18

It’s Here! Beaujolais Nouveau

beaujolais nouveau

The third Thursday in November is Beaujolais Nouveau Day. In France, this means a big party to mark the consumption of the first wines of the season. This was yesterday, the 17th.

Since the celebration is held immediately after harvest, the wines being consumed are very young. In most cases they were only harvested six to eight weeks earlier. The whole process: harvest, fermentation and bottling happened in less than two months.

The wine’s easy drinkability is due to a winemaking process called carbonic maceration, where the whole-berry is fermented prior to crushing the grapes. The product is a fresh, fruity wine, with minimal tannins.

The grapes are Gamay. The region is Beaujolais, just south of Burgundy. The region is split into three classifications: Beaujolais AOC, Beaujolais Villages AOC and Beaujolais Crus. Beaujolais Nouveau comes from the southernmost region: Beaujolais. The other two regions give their wine more time to develop. Cru Beaujolais is the most prestigious of the three areas.

Beaujolais Nouveau is not meant to be fancy or serious. It’s young, fresh, easy-drinking.

It’s made for a party. So do just that. Serve it chilled and with friends and appreciate how quickly those winemakers turned this wine around.

My party was made up of Beaujolais from the entire region. 

beaujolais nouveau

  • 2016 Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau
  • 2013 Dupeuble Beaujolais Blanc
  • 2016 Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Nouveau
  • 2014 Domaine Diochon Moulin-a-Vent
  • 2014 Joel Rochette Beaujolais Village
  • 2014 Domaine des Chers Julienas Vielles Vignes
  • 2014 Domaine de la Chapelle Des Bois Fleurie Grand Pre

Wings & Wine

chicken wings and wine

Beer is most likely your answer to football games.

But, if you’re watching a game with me, I’m drinking wine. And I’m going to try to convince you it’s the best choice for game day.

One of my favorite game day foods is wings. You think ice cold beer is the best option to wash them down. That’s because you haven’t found just the right wine.

This is my go-to wing recipe. They’re baked. Which is much easier than frying, but just as delicious.

Serve the Ginger Soy Wings with a bottle of bubbles and the Buffalo Wings with a fruity zinfandel.

With the Ginger Soy Wings, we drank the Treveri Cellars Blanc de Blancs Brut, a méthode champenoise sparkling from Washington state’s Yakima Valley.

These wings are sticky and sweet. A brut sparkling wine is perfect for pairing with the sugar. Bubbles are crisp and refreshing and a drier sparkling offsets the sweetness. The pear and apple flavors were great with the ginger and Asian flavors of these wings. And the bubbles cut through the stickiness to wash them down easily.  

With the Buffalo Wings, drink zinfandel. You do not want a big, tannic red, like a Cabernet Sauvignon. Those will do nothing to cool spicy foods. Zinfandel is lower in alcohol and less tannic, so it works with the spiciness.

This combo was like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with barbecue chips, a staple in my household growing up. Trust me on this one. The fruity and tangy, spice work together. You’ll get sweet and fruity on the front end and, then, tangy BBQ shocks your senses and gives you some real grit. Just like this zinfandel/buffalo wing combo.  

We drank the 2014 Predator Old Vine Zinfandel. It’s fruity, youthful and juicy. Serve it slightly chilled to further cool the spiciness of the wings.

Watching Sunday football is supposed to be relaxing, low-key and a little indulgent. Choose approachable, inexpensive bottles to drink with easy, informal game day foods. Keep the wines casual, food-friendly, and slightly chilled and you’ll find yourself guzzling wine all through the game.

Predator Old Vine Zinfandel
Vintage: 2014
Region: Lodi, California

Treveri Cellars “Blanc de Blancs” Brut
Vintage: NV
Region: Columbia Valley, Washington