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 romantic anniversary getaway with the boyf. 

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 massages, facials and an hour spent in the sauna and hot tub, an evening with robes, a bottle of wine and a fireplace warmed every inch. I just wish that could be our 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

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

Cola and Wine. It’s a Thing.

kaimotxo

According to my Instagram feed, this was the summer of Frosé. Everywhere I looked this pink, slushy wine cocktail was being slurped.

And although delicious, one of the perks of being a wine drinker is no measuring, no mixing, no blending.  Find a bottle, open, pour, drink. It’s a simple process and one I value immensely.

But, there is a novelty to a summer cocktail and you shouldn’t miss out on its pleasures. Enter the Kalimotxo. (Pronounced cal-ee-mo-cho). This wine cocktail requires pouring half a glass of wine and filling the other half with cola. And if you want a little added brightness (and you’re not exhausted from the above steps) add a squeeze of lime.

Voilà. Complete. Your late summer cocktail.

The Kalimotxo is popular in the Basque region of Spain and tastes similar to sangria (with less fruit chopping) or cherry cola (with alcohol).

Use a dry, tannic Spanish Rioja for the mixture. Tempranillo and Garnacha are the grapes traditionally found in these wines. Because you’re adding a sweet cola, you’ll want a structured wine with strong tannins. Also, because this is a wine cocktail, use a cheaper red wine. Don’t waste a pricey bottle on something you’ll be mixing and covering up some of the flavors.  

I chose the Albero Tempranillo. It’s dry and lighter-bodied, with lots of cherry flavor and spice. And six bucks.

For your cola, choose something  made with real cane sugar, like Boylan’s Cane Cola. They are less sweet than colas made with artificial sweeteners. That is unless, you want a super sweet red wine cocktail.

Follow the directions below closely and enjoy. Salud!

Ingredients:
Ice
Chilled red wine, preferably Rioja (Tempranillo or Garnacha)
Lime wedge

Directions:
Put ice in glass
Combine equal parts red wine and cola
Squeeze a little lime
Eat some Serrano ham and Manchego

Albero Tempranillo
Vintage: 2015
Utiel Requena

Down The River We Go!

liberte-pinot-noir

River rafting trips mean being ultra selective about the wine brought along. Everything you bring has to be easily packed onto your raft.

And you must be prepared to lose it all. If your boat flips, if a rapid washes everything in your boat away, if you lose your footing while chugging from the bottle, you can bet that bottle is sunk. And swimming upstream and to the bottom of the river is not an option.

Are you on the edge of your seat yet?

Essentially, our weekend trip river rafting was One. Wild. Ride.

Honestly, it was more of a joy ride, except for some extreme paddling when the wind was doing everything it could to divert our path. Which I kid you not, was some of the most resistance I have ever felt in my life (other than that time I tried to get my boyfriend to duet “Time of My Life” at karaoke with me). The Deschutes River is not exactly the wildest river, although I did tell some people at work that we would see Class VI rapids. To be fair, I didn’t really have any idea what I was talking about, but I’m sure I sounded like an experienced river rafter.

We spent two three days and two nights on the river. Rafting by day, camping by night. And packing everything in and out with us.

The selection of wine was limited and because of previously stated potential wine casualties, I brought inexpensive Trader Joe’s selections that would be refreshing during or after a day in the sun.

I brought along the 2013 Liberté Pinot Noir, first, because it’s from San Luis Obispo County, and many people on the trip went to school there. I was so excited to share the fun fact that this wine was from the city of their Alma mater. They weren’t as excited.

At $10, I was pleasantly surprise. It was tart, kind of smoky and acidic. Fulfilling black cherry and smooth enough to gulp when I needed something to quench my thirst after a long day in the sun.

espiral-vino-verde

I picked up the Espiral Vinho Verde, because choosing Vinho Verde when it’s going to be hot is like choosing Cadbury Eggs when you know it’s going to be Easter. (Read: an easy choice). The slight effervescence says party, but not like the fuller bubbles of Champagne scream celebrate. It’s lively, mineral and dry.

These wines and I now have special bond. They made it through my inaugural rafting trip and helped me survive the very rustic camping conditions.

Liberté Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2013
Region: Paso Robles, California

Espiral Vinho Verde
Vintage: NV
Region: Vinho Verde, Portugal