Wine Coolers: Preparing for Summer Wine Season

Last week a heat wave hit Seattle. I couldn’t let the 80+ degree temperatures (in April!) go to waste, so I reached for a bottle of Rosé. Unfortunately, I was caught off guard by the summer-like conditions. I had to think fast and throw my wine in the freezer for a quick blast of cool, before settling on semi-chilled wine.

At least I had a full glass in hand while watching the sunset.

The freezer method worked (kinda) for the moment, but it is not a long term solution. What I really need is a wine cooler. Something to keep my wine at the correct temperature, ready to drink at a moments notice. Like many, I tend to chill wine only when needed, so my fridge isn’t too full and my food isn’t fighting for space with my wine.

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Refocus and Recharge, Ready, Set, Go!

When I first started this blog, I wanted to be like so many of the other wine bloggers out there. I wanted to write articles about great wines I had tasted, offering my unique insights. I wanted to be someone people looked to for wine recommendations, the person wineries sent their wines to for reviews. I wanted to be one of the greats.

But the truth is, I am not that person. I enjoy wine, but sitting and writing up tasting notes is not my style. And I really don’t have the knowledge of a great wine critic, I am a novice and I have many, many years of learning ahead of me.

Over the past 3 years of blogging, I realized one very important thing: I have more fun learning about wine while at a dinner party or with friends and family. I enjoy the social aspect of wine. These events and gatherings (big or small) also produce some of my best writing.

So where do I go from here? I am not 100% sure, but I think I have a pretty good idea how to refocus my writing and make my blog enjoyable for myself and for others.

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 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




Tasting Pinot Noir at Rex Hill Winery

On Sunday, I went to Rex Hill Winery to do a tasting.  This was my first “official” tasting for this blog – and actually one of the few tastings that I have done.   The last tasting I did was probably five or so years ago.

The winery is very nice – nestled on a hill in Newberg, OR, off of 99W.  The tasting room was warm and inviting and the grounds were lovely.  It was a brilliant winter day and I could tell that in the spring and summer, the vineyard and picnic area would be just stunning.

I had my three-year old, husband and mother-in-law in tow, and while I was the only one doing the tasting, the person pouring the wine was very hospitable, offering my daughter crayons and picture to color.  He didn’t eve blink as she sat in an antique looking desk, coloring to her heart’s content.

The person pouring the wine was courteous and gave me some information about each wine – but to be honest it was a little awkward.  I didn’t know what I was doing and wasn’t sure how to go about making small talk.

I did take some notes and here is the low down on my experience:

  • The tasting flight was for 5 wines and cost $10.
  • They all smelled like wine – note to self, need to learn more about the smelling portion
  • The first part of the tasting included two Chardonnay’s:
    • 2009 Rex Hill Dijon Clone Chardonnay & 2009 Rex Hill Old Vine Chardonnay
    • To me the Chardonnays were both a little sharp.  I am not sure if that is even the right termonology, but that is the thing that struck me the most. I did notice the Old Vine was a bit sweeter and smoother.
    • Interesting tid-bit about the “old vines”.  Apparently, these are grape vines from California.  The vines are used to warmer temperatures, and overall did not produce well for Rex Hill.  However, the summer of 2009 was a hot one and the grapes did good, thus the wine.
  • There were three Pinots:
    • 2007 Rex Hill Sims Vineyard – this one had an earthy flavor to it
    • 2008 Rex Hill Reserve Pinot – a smooth taste and I liked it the best.  I ended up buying a bottle of it (for $48)
    • 2008 Rex Hill Jacob Hart Vineyard – was fine – not as good as the second one

I brought the 2008 Rex Hill Reserve Pinot home and will serve it at the next get together with my brothers.  I would like for them to weigh-in to see if I am at least on the right track for tasting.

What did I learn:

Well, for starters, tasting wine for real and not for show is hard.  I have a lot to learn.  Plus, the next time, I will bring along someone with more wine knowledge than myself, that can fill me in on the important details and procedures.

So, thank you Rex Hill for the fun experience and the patience.