A New Home and a Better Attitude, Thanks in Part to Good Wine

I whined quite a bit in my previous post about how hard it was to look for a new house.  Well, on the house front, after some patience and many more tours, we finally found a home we liked and wanted to call our own.

While looking at homes, I critiqued each one the way I did wine, and found the experience slightly more enjoyable.

I don’t want to jinx our potential new home, so I am not going to post pictures or talk about it. But once the financing is complete, I will probably find a way to talk about our new home in all my posts. Consider yourself warned.

I made sure to supplement our home search with a few good wines.  After all, what good does it do to come back from looking at some “yuck homes” only to pour a glass of bad wine.

A glass of good wine cures any bad day and helps change a bad attitude into a more optimistic one.  The more remarkable wines that cured my can’t-find-a-home-blues, include:

L Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. A straw yellow (with slight green tinge) wine, with a yeasty and almost dosage nose (similar to what I smell when drinking champagne.  The wine was light and savory, with a slight citrus after taste. It was refreshing and bright, much-needed after a blah day.

Maison Bleue Jaja 2012 Columbia Valley White Wine. Always a fan, I have enjoyed every Maison Bleue wine that I have tried, and this was no exception. Light yellow in color, this wine was also savory and citrus, very light and airy. The palette matched the nose: light, with a slight citrus aftertaste. You can never go wrong with a bottle of Maison Bleue.

Two great wines that turned my frown upside down, and made the search for a new home just that much easier. Once the purchase is complete and we are fully moved-in, I look forward to a relaxed summer of trying wines and starting a new chapter of our lives.


Chicken Spiedini, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and a little Treveri to ring in the New Year

Continuing my virtual journey through Italy, I incorporated a little bit of Italian cuisine into our holiday meal.  One of my favorite meals that my husband prepares is Chicken Spiedini, which hails from the Garozzo’s in Kansas City (and the Abruzzo region in Italy)

Chicken Spiedini

Chicken Spiedini

Spiedini basically means “skewered meat” and while it can be prepared many ways, my husband prepares it a la Garozzo with a lemon marinade, and serves it with a red sauce.  Quite a tasty meal and what better to pair it with than with wine from that region: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

Why did I chose a red wine to go with chicken? My research all pointed to pairing the wine to go with the sauce.  In this case, the chicken is covered in a red sauce, make a red wine a better choice.

MasciarelliI chose a 2011 Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  A lovely ruby-red wine with a nose of tart cherries and slight citrus (perfect for the chicken marinade).  There were also hints of leather and warm plums.  It was a medium bodied wine with a palette of tart cherries and mild spices. It paired nicely with my meal, playing off the marinade and the marinara sauce.

After celebrating Christmas with an Italian twist, I decided to ring in the New Year with something local and popped open a bottle of Treveri Cellars sparkling wine.

Treveri CellarsI chose the Blanc de Blanc Brut. The wine is made from primarily chardonnay grapes from the Columbia Valley, using the Methode Champenoise. The wine had a fruity almost lemon curd nose with a dry, tart palette.  It was light and airy, the perfect mix of tart and fruit.  Very refreshing and a great way to ring in the new year.

I have to say, 2013 included many great wines and great meals.  I am looking forward to what I will discover in 2014.

Superbowl, BBQ Chicken and The Velvet Devil

the vevlet devilFor Superbowl Sunday, my goal was to minimize time in the kitchen and spend more time watching the game.  I pulled out my handy slow cooker and made BBQ chicken.  My sides were just as simple – smashed yams and salad.

I decided to pair my meal with The Velvet Devil Merlot.  Over the summer I drank both Charles Smith’s Red Devil and Charles and Charles Rosé, and really enjoyed both.  I knew going into this meal, that my wine selection would not disappoint.  The fruits and tannins of the wine stood up nicely to my rich, flavorful meal.

To be honest, I have yet to try a Charles Smith wine that I didn’t like and I hope to be able to go visit his winery soon.

…and now back to the game!


Raising A Glass to the Marketplace Wine Bar in Spokane, WA

Sometimes, you just need a glass of wine on a hot day.  On on this hot day, we went to the Marketplace Wine Bar – for a glass of wine and a cool place to sit.  The original catalyst for visiting the Marketplace Wine Bar was to use an expired Groupon.  The original deal was for two glasses of wine and a cheese plate, but instead we opted for two glasses of wine and to purchase a bottle for later.

The Marketplace Wine Bar serves exclusively BridgePress Cellars and Emvy Cellars wine, and offers a few snacks.  On that hot day, I opted for a glass of their BridgePress Rosé.  The Rosé has a wonderful, light and fruity scent, and had a slight sweetness on the palette.  It was a very refreshing glass of wine – something I would call a “porch wine”.  I could see myself easily drinking a glass while sitting on the porch or the dock, just enjoying the moment.

My brother had a glass of the BridgePress 600 (600 denotes the fact that they are the State’s 600th winery – go team!).  This red was robust and made a [good] statement.  It was definitely the opposite of my Rose and would do well with a grilled steak.

The staff at the Marketplace Wine Bar was very helpful and very patient.  And the wine bar is connected to Spokane’s farmers market.  So after enjoying our glass of wine, we wandered through the booths.  It made for a very nice Saturday afternoon, and possibly a nice new habit.

Bartholomew Winery Visit and Tasting

Bartholomew Winery

Bartholomew Winery is located in Seattle, WA in the Old Rainier Brewery.  There is a South Seattle Artisan Wine movement and part of me wanted to experience artisan wine and part of me wanted to check out the historic landmark.

The tasting room is open every Saturday and Sunday from Noon – 5pm, and was a good way to ease into my Sunday.  When we pulled up to the tasting room, we were greeted by a sleeping mastiff in front of the door.  I automatically like the winery before tasting any wine.  It just felt comfortable.

I had my daughter in tow, and the owner Bart Fawbush, didn’t even blink as my daughter investigated the different rooms.

He poured a full tasting flight:

  • 2010 Roussanne Columbia Valley Lawrence Vineyard
  • 2008 Riesling Columbia Valley Lawrence Vineyard
  • 2008 Cuvée Blanc Columbia Valley
  • 2009 Malbec Rattlesnake Hills
  • 2007 Cuvée Rouge Columbia Valley
  • 2008 Jaxon Columbia Valley

There were a few that stood out to me the most:

  • The 2008 Riesling – it was a pale yellow, straw color with a light citrus (grapefruit) nose.  The palette was slightly sweet but also savory, something that is different from most Rieslings.  It was a refreshing drink.
  • The 2009 Malbec – a beautiful burgundy red, with a nose of warm cooked plum.  The palette was spicy and reminded me of red, tart cherries.  I automatically thought of steak when I tried this wine.  My brother Seth, is a big fan of Malbec, so I bought him a bottle.  I will be interested in his review.
  • The 2007 Cuvée Rouge – a black cherry red, with a nose of cooked fruits (reminded me of jam).  The palette was similar to the nose, dark fruits, but with a hint of earthy flavor.  A smooth combination.

More than the wine, the winemaker, Bart was the best part of my experience.  He was incredibly hospitable and very nice, plus he makes good wine.  I will be back for another visit!

Barrister Winery Tour and Tasting – A Wonderful Experience Part 2

And finally – Part 2, the tour of Barrister Winery.

Our tour guide was winemaker/owner Greg Lipsker, an excellent guide and teacher.

The Wine Press at Barrister

The Wine Press at Barrister

We started the tour in the area where they press the wine every fall.  Greg explained that Barrister Winery leases rows of grapes from various vineyards in the Columbia Valley.  They decide both the crop-load and when to pick, so around harvest time, he is traveling quite a bit down to the vineyards, tasting the grapes and deciding when to pick.  The grapes are then transported up to the winery to be made into wine.

Barrister Winery takes a hands-on approach to making their wines, which I feel comes through in their wine – it has soul.  For example, when making the red wine, after the grapes have been gently pressed and the yeast has been added, the skins separate from the grapes and form a “cap” on top of the vat.  Instead of using an automated machine to push down the cap, Greg and his partner, Michael White push down the cap by hand.

I did learn that white wine is stored in stainless steel vats until it is ready for bottling and reds are stored in barrels.  I had assumed both were stored in barrels.

We then journeyed down a big freight elevator to the barrel room.  On our way down, Greg told us a little more about the history.  The building was originally attached to the railroad behind the building via a bridge.  Cars would be offloaded from the train over the bridge to their building.  From there, the cars would either be brought down to the main floor for transport, or the elevator was raised to create a bridge for the cars to be moved to the building next store (which is why that building is called the Jefferson Auto Lofts).

The barrel room was pretty unique, an unfinished basement of this old building.  They had recently held a dinner down in the room for

Barrister Winery Barrel Room

Barrister Winery Barrel Room

60 guests, so barrels had been moved around to create an open space for the dinner.

Greg gave us various samples from different barrels so we could compare and contrast, he gave us about 6 comparison’s in all.  I think this was the best part of the tour.  As a novice to wine, I did not realize the difference a barrel, a year or even the location of grapes in the same vineyard could make.  The two comparisons that stood out to me most was French oak vs American oak and old vs. new barrels.

For the French oak vs. American oak comparison, we tasted from a 2009 barrel.  I found the French barrel gave the wine a spicy flavor, while the American barrel gave the wine a mellow, sweet flavor (my preference).  Similar, I found the Old barrel gave the wine a spicy flavor while the new barrel had more earth tones.

Along one wall were various wine bottles stored in pockets along the wall.  Greg told us that they keep a case of each of the wines they produce, so that they can test how long their wine can age.

We went from the barrel room to where their bottled wine was labeled and stored.  I questioned why we were to store our wine bottles sideways, while they stored their wine bottles upright.  Apparently, wine bottles are stored up right at first to allow the cork to expand and keep the wine safely in the bottle.

As we were heading towards the elevator, a train went by the building.  Greg had us feel the barrels, which vibrated with the passing train.  Greg told us that by the time the wine is bottled, it has been vibrated by the train about 200,000 times and they feel their wine is “train-settled”.  Something I felt gave the wine (and winery) personality.

Greg was an excellent tour guide and host.  I left the tour having learned quite a bit about wine and having a whole new perspective and appreciation for the wine making process.

Thank you Greg and Barrister Winery for an excellent tour.

Maison Blueu Granache – a Delicious and Smooth Red Wine

I read a review of Maison Bleue by Paul Gregutt.  Gregutt’s description of the wine  sounded so wonderful, that I had to give it a try:

They are distinctive, immaculate, fragrant, complex, evocative, one might even say definitive wines – and they sell for a fraction of what competitors of comparable quality generally charge.

When I looked at the Winery’s website, I fell in love.  The winery has a vintage European look and feel and something about it, just resonated.  I can’t explain, but it just worked for me.

I purchased the 2010 “La Montagnette” Upland Vineyard Grenache [Snipes Mountain].  The store’s wine clerk was very excited about my purchase and started quizzing me about what I was going to pair it with.  Since I am not quite there yet in my pairing expertise, I admitted that I wasn’t sure – he recommended duck.

The wine was dark, ruby-red in color.  It had a very light nose, there was just a hint of dark fruit.  The palette was sweet, but not sugary, more of a berry versus a plum flavor.

I really enjoyed this wine and plan to buy more.  When it comes to red wine, this is the type I really like – light and refreshing, versus a heavy taste.  Plus, with summer right around the corner, I can imagine myself enjoying a few glasses, while sitting on the porch watching the sunset.  I strongly recommend this wine.

Barrister Winery Tour and Tasting – A Wonderful Experience Part 1

Barrister WineryOver Easter weekend, my brothers, sister-in-law and I went on a tour of Barrister Winery in Spokane, WA.  I was very excited to go tour a winery – the last time I toured a winery, it didn’t mean much to me.  Now, I had a little bit better understanding of the industry and was looking forward to learning more.

Not only has the winery received many rave reviews in both local and national publications, the owners/winemakers for Barrister winery were also former lawyers, which I felt was fitting, since I work with lawyers now.

We did both a tasting and a tour, so I am going to split my experience into two parts.  Part 1 will discuss the tasting portion of our visit, and part 2 will detail the tour.

Barrister winery is located in downtown Spokane, WA on Railroad Ave.  The building is literally next to railroad tracks – very fitting.  The building where the winery is housed is old and rich, but still warm and inviting.  The tasting area included a bar, as well as a big open room filled with cocktail tables and art.  The winery hosts and is used for events and I could see it being the perfect spot for an anniversary dinner (mental note to self).

We were a touch early, so we started our journey with a tasting flight, and the women that helped us were very nice and very informative.  I have an ability to ask a lot of “stupid” questions, and they never hesitated to answer.

Our tasting flight included:Wine tasting at Barrister

  • 2011 Klipsun Vineyard Red Mountain Sauvignon Blanc
  • Rough Justice Columbia Valley Red Wine (a mix of grapes and red wines)
  • 2009 Artz Vineyard Red Mountain Merlot
  • 2009 Columbia Valley Cabernet Franc
  • 2008 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

There were two that stood out to me the most, the Sauvignon Blanc and the Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Sauvignon Blanc was light yellow, almost clear in color.  It had a wonderful, light citrus nose and it had a sweet (but not overly sugary) and refreshing citrus palette.  I could see this wine being wonderful on a hot summer day.

The Cabernet Sauvignon was a lovely dark, ruby-red color.  It had a pleasant, sweet cherry nose and interesting palette – both spicy and dark fruit.  I also felt it was a bit chalky, but not in a bad way.  The wine would go nice with a heavy meal.

Mind you, I have a lot (and I mean a lot) to learn about pairing, but I mean well.

On a side note, this winery is very family friendly.  The open tasting room and friendly staff make for a comfortable experience for both the adults and the children.

After tasting, we were greeted by owner/winemaker Greg Lipsker.  Stay tuned for Part 2…..

Columbia Winery 2001 Otis Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Other Tasting Notes

Columbia Winery TastingOur second stop on my recent Woodinville tasting trip was to the Columbia Winery. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I went with my brother Seth, who also did an excellent summary of our tastings.

Pulling into the parking lot, the winery was exactly what one would expect when tasting wine – a large manor with groomed lawns and an inviting porch.  As we walked inside, we were greeted and automatically felt at ease.  Inside the winery there was not only the tasting area but also a fireplace with seating, all very warm and inviting on a cool March day.

We selected our flight of four and our hostess was very helpful in explaining each pour and offering her thoughts and insights on the wine.  This is something I really appreciate, since my knowledge of wine is somewhat lacking.

Our tasting ($5 each) included:

  • 2008 Wyckoff Vineyard Chardonnay
  • 2010 Columbia Valley Small Lot Series Rosé of Syrah
  • 2008 Otis Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2009 Columbia Valley Small Lot Series Malbec

She also offered us two bonus pours:

  • 2001 Otis Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (she served this to us after the 2008 Cabernet so that we could compare the difference between a newer and aged wine)
  • 2009 Small Lot Series Late Harvest Syrah

The wine that stood out to me the most was the 2001 Otis Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.  The hostess had us try this one after we had tried the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, so that we could experience and taste the difference between the newer and aged wine. The wine was dark red, almost amber in color with a mellow nose – it was smokey and reminded me a bit of a musty/old basement.  At first, I didn’t think I was going to like it based on the smell alone.  But the taste was a little surprising to me – it was smooth and reminiscent of dark fruits.  There was a bit of a burn from the alcohol, but there was a little spice to the burn.

Our hostess mentioned the wine would be good for grilled or smoked foods. Automatically, it made me think of a summer barbecue, steaks on the grill, eating on the porch.  I ended up purchasing a bottle to try during grilling season.

Another wine that surprised me during this experience was the 2010 Columbia Valley Rosé.  When I saw the wine in a display at the tasting room, I automatically thought “summer” something I was so craving – so I had to try it.  The color was a very light red – pink almost.  It smelled of sweet fruits, like strawberries and syrup, very light and fruity.  What was surprising was the taste – I was expecting an almost too sweet to drink wine, but it was almost sour.

This got me thinking – is that how all Rosé’s are – sweet smell but a sour taste or are there some that are sweet all around?  Another wine I will have to investigate more.

Januik Riesling and Novelty Hill Merlot Tasting Notes

Novelty Hill 2008 Columbia Valley MerlotContinuing my education, I recently did a tasting trip with my brother Seth.  We went to Woodinville to try a few more Washington wines.

Our first stop was Novelty Hill/Januik. From my understanding, Michael Januik used to be the Winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle.  I really liked those wines so I was eager to try out his offerings.

The tasting room was sleek and very modern – lots of stainless steel and open space. While neither winery grows their own grapes, they do make the wines on premise.  Behind walls of glass, visitors can see the barrel room and the tank room – pretty cool really.

I did learn the mystery behind all the different vineyard names included with each wine. Apparently, those are the names of the vineyards the grapes are sourced from.  The winery itself doesn’t necessarily own the vineyard, but they are giving credit to it on the bottle.  I also learned from the lady pouring our wine that only about 20% of wineries in Washington State grow their own grapes.

We did a flight of four ($7), which included:

  • Novelty Hill 2010 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
  • Januik 2010 Bacchus Vineyard Riesling
  • Novelty Hill 2008 Columbia Valley Merlot
  • Januik 2009 Lewis Vineyard
  • We also got a bonus pour of their Late Harvest Sauvignon

Two of the five really stood out to me, the Riesling and the Merlot.

The Januik 2010 Bacchus Vineyard Riesling was pale and light in color.  It had a sweet, fruity (stone fruit) nose and the palette left you with a stone fruity (peaches), mildly sweet taste.  I hate to say it, but it wasn’t overly remarkable and I wasn’t sure what you would drink the wine with. Our host mentioned that it was a good pairing with spicy Thai food.  Anytime anyone mentions Thai food, I am in, so I bought a bottle to try.

That night we opened the bottle to enjoy with our spicy Phad Thai.  She was right, the pairing was nice.  The hot of the food was chilled nicely by the mild sweet of the cool wine.  I can’t honestly say it was so great that I would buy another bottle, but I did enjoy the pairing.

The Novelty Hill 2008 Columbia Valley Merlot was given 90 points from Wine Advocate.  I learned the best possible is 100, so 90 points is pretty good!

The wine was a clear ruby-red with a nose of cherry and warm cooked fruits.  However, for me the taste was a bit bitter (apparently those are tannins I was tasting).  It still had the dark fruit flavors, but the bitterness was a bit much for me. I am not sure if that was due to the fact that I had a Riesling right before, which was a bit sweeter or if maybe Merlots aren’t for me, but I was a little disappointed by the bitterness.

So, I think my next step is to learn a little more about Merlot, as well as about the pointing system. To see how and who decides the points.

Novelty Hill/Januik Barrel Room