29 Dec 2011
Bubbly, Champagne, Sparkling Wine – Celebration is a key component to life. Celebrating in life helps sustain momentum and creates positive motion. This New Year’s Eve many readers will be popping corks of all kinds. Check out the fun infographic from our friends at wine.com
Need a little bubbly to celebrate this weekend. Nectar Tasting Room has THREE great sparkling wines. Stop by for 15% off individual bottles and 20% off four or more.
Hard Row to Hoe – Good in Bed
This 2010 brut rose sparkler is made in the traditional methode champenoise way. Using 100% Lake Chelan grapes the 50/50 Pinot Noir / Sangiovese is a beautiful pink color, but not sweet. Enticing aromas of fresh cherry and raspberry with touch of rose petal fill the nose of this beautifully colored wine. On the palate, abundant cherry and strawberry flavors endure from the lush entry to the dry, very long and refreshing finish (retail $40)
2001 Northwest Cellars Brut & Brut Rose
These quality bubbles are made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley, OR. Bottled nearly 10 years ago, the wine is made in the traditional methode champenoise way. A delicious pale gold colour Brut with lively bubbles. Honeyed peaches, nectarine and apricot balance perfectly with tart green apple and lemon zest. The finish is clean and crisp lingering playfully on the palate. The brut rose is a delicate pink color that sparkles with bubbles. Raspberry and blackberry with a touch of quince, floral notes and spice settle into a finish of a lush berry compote. (Retail $31 and $33)
Brought To By Wine.com, Purveyors of Fine Wine and Champagne
28 Dec 2011
It’s that time of year again for the highly anticipated ‘best of wine’ lists from around the web. At least, I anticipate them. I love reading what people enjoyed throughout the year. Regionally, we each have different wines available to us and over time we align ourselves with the palates and preferences of people we read and friends we interact with.
In 2010 I had the privilege of tasting over 500 different wines and reviewing 168 on this blog. 2011 was a bit more challenging from the writing standpoint but I still managed to taste over 300 wines and review 70 (some of which never made the virtual pages of this site).
See last year’s lists:
- Top 10 Value Wines of 2010
- Top 10 Wines of 2010
- Best of the Wine Web 2010
- For a fun look at the 5 Best Wines You’ll Ever Have – VISIT HERE
2008 Wawawai Canyon Ittero ali Rosse (Washington)
This proprietary blend contains fruit from the three growing regions that Wawawai Canyon uses in their wine. The blend is 62% Syrah, 25% Carmenere, and 13% Petit Verdot. In the glass the wine is very dark and has shimmering jewel tones on the outer rim. Immediately aromas of cedar, campfire smoke, dark raspberries and licorice jump out of the glass. This is one of those wines where the aroma is as intoxicating as the drink. In the mouth the wine is very elegant and thick. I get immediate flavors of dark chocolate covered raspberry fruit, hints of smoke, a black licorice and anise spice as well. The finish is smooth and lingers for several seconds. At $29, the Ittero ali Rosse is a beautiful blend that delivers on all levels. Once the bottle was empty, I found myself wishing I lived among the wheat fields of the Palouse. 4/5
2002 Breaux Vineyards Merlot (Virginia)
Okay, I have to admit. I drank way too much of this wine. Most of you know I’m a Merlot lover, when done right – and this one is done right. It is most likely the age of the wine (going on 10 years) but this was without a doubt the BEST Merlot I had the entire visit to the commonwealth. The wine showed a typical browning from the age and was moderately translucent. LOVED the deep, slightly burnt cherries and dark chocolate that emanated from the glass. For a wine of such age the tannins were still relatively thick and the finish showed a strong amount of fruit and almonds. This is a library wine, so getting it might be a challenge. 4/5
Virginia wine ranks high on my overall experiences of the year. The quality and beauty of the area make it a must tour region of the US. Look for spectacular things from this up and coming wine producing state in the next 10 years.
Chile’s flagship grape, previously mistaken for Merlot, shines bright in this wine. The 12 months in French oak are not overpowering and offer the perfect balance of fruit and thickness. After a brief decanting the wine loses the notable burnt rubber aroma and gives way to a beautiful minty blackberry aroma. Smelling this wine was almost as enjoyable as drinking it. The wine is dark and intense in the glass. A slight herbaciousness on the nose gives way to a very complex flavor of red fruit, baking spice and thick plum. A light tannin joins the medium finish on the back end. I often describe wine as being ‘one note wonders’ or just offering ‘two dimensions.’ This Carmenere is the full package of aroma and complex flavor. Again, under $20, scores a strong 4/5.
07 Trapiche Icons Malbec (Argentina)
Taken from a March Madness style wine competition…
The Icons came out ready to dominate. With a bottle twice the weight of the Falling Star it seemed as if the wine didn’t even matter. The 07 Trapiche showed its power with 18 months of aging in new French Oak and amazing aromas of perfume, espresso, and spice. The wine was thick in the mouth without being overbearing. “Oh my god, this is good,” was the comment of the night. 4/5
Various Wines from Nectar Tasting Room (Washington)
I made a commitment early on to not post my reviews and scores on the wines at Nectar Tasting Room. I don’t want to show favoritism and I am more interested in YOU discovering what you like about the wines when you come in. Over the year, however, there have been wines that stood tall for my preference. Below is a list (one from each winery) – stop by and try them for yourself.
- 08 Anelare Syrah ($39) – Columbia Valley Syrah was my wine of the year at Nectar – best described as an elegant lady full of lush fruit and a hint of sassy spice.
- 08 Hard Row to Hoe Primitivo ($30) – A big full body of jammy strawberry and spice.
- 01 Northwest Cellars Brut ($31) – An amazing dry brut sparkling wine that stands up against bubbly twice the price.
- 07 Skylite Cellars Reserve Malbec ($49) – An intense mouthful of flavor including blueberry, dark fruits and tobacco.
- 07 Terra Blanca Onyx ($52) – Big traditional Bordeaux style blend from Red Mountain. Loads of fruit and structure sure to cellar well for 20+ years.
08 Mer Soleil Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (California)
I say Chardonnay, you say _______? This statement often polarizes wine drinkers. Many have a hate for the grape and others drink ONLY oaked Chardonnay (ala Kendall Jackson). The Mer Soleil Barrel Fermented Chardonnay provides a very good balance with the oak seeming very light handed. Definitely a thicker viscosity in the mouth feel with great aroma of banana peel, pencil lead, popcorn. Rarely would I spend $32 on a Chardonnay but this is one of the few that has enough variety in the flavor profile that would cause me to part with my cash. 4/5
06 Benessere Phenomenon (California)
With vines planted in 1923 from Collins Vineyards this Zinfandel lives up to what California Zin is known for. The grapes undergo an 23 day extended maceration to slowly extract the flavor before lumbering for 15 months in French and American oak barrels. With a deep color and flecks of jewel toned purple at the rim, the Zin is moderately robust with aromas of blackberry and earth along with tobacco. The palate reminds Ben of cherry Shesha and me of flowers and strawberry jam. If you like fruit forward Zinfandel then this is a wine you will definitely enjoy. The modest price point of $32 makes this an attainable treat too. 4/5
08 Owen Roe DuBrul Vineyards Cabernet (Washington)
This wine was tasted during the 2011 Cabernet Day festivities among several great wines. Produced in Oregon from single vineyard Washington fruit, the Cabernet was extremely dark, extracted and fruit forward. A complexity arose out of the fruit that demonstrated great characteristics of dried plum, tobacco, and a lingering cherry fruit intermixed with the right touch of oak and cedar. At $70+ this is a big boy wine that delivers on all fronts. Drink now and be impressed, be patient for 10 years and be wowed. 4+/5
07 Col Solare Blend (Washington)
Col Solare is one of Chateau St. Michelle Wine Estates premium brands. The winery and vineyard is on the high point of Red Mountain AVA just outside of Kennewick, WA. Col Solare is a partnership of CSMWE and Tuscany’s Marchesi Anteroni. I visited this facility in December and was blown away at the beauty and quality of their Cabernet based blends. The wine is dark and brooding and offers up aromas of dark cocoa, coffee, dark cherry and hints of black tea. The mouth feel is strong and intense with layers of complexity. This is easily one of the better Washington Cabernet based blends on the market that showcase the perfection of the 2007 growing season. 75% Cab, 20% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc; $75, 4+/5
08 Cayuse God Only Knows (Washington)
The “God Only Knows” wine is 90% estate Grenache and 10% ‘god only knows’ according to the web site. The color is a light ruby rust color that is about 60% transparent. The sniff reveals aromas of violets and other floral fragrance. When the wine was first opened, there was a hotness to the nose along with an odd steely aroma. After about 30-40 minutes that fragrance was gone and additional aromas of cranberry and raspberry jumped out of the glass. Hints of clove were also present.
The first sip left me pretty disappointed. The flavor structure was disjointed and the finish left something to be desired. We poured the wine into a decanter and let it sit for about 30 minutes while we chatted about the upcoming holiday. A second effort started to reveal the true magic of this wine. An elegant layer of fruit lays across your tongue like a blanket of velvet that gives way to a rustic earthiness and lingering finish that includes raw meat (trust me it’s good), and silky cherries. In short, God Only Knows is a phenomenal wine…now, I know. This wine is deserving of a very rare 5/5 score.
27 Dec 2011
After seeing the popularity of my last blog, I took notice that people enjoy a good, honest rant. Upon returning from a wine tasting trip with a sour taste in my mouth compliments of piss poor customer service, the words came out rather easily. I find myself today with a similar height of frustration, but from the other side of the counter. As an employee in multiple tasting rooms, I’ve seen my fair share of pretentious people walk through my doors and clearly state their hard-wired preferences right off that bat. Why go into any new situation with an already-made list of things you wont try or test out. Last time I checked, life was for living. If not, someone please forward me the memo stating otherwise. Specifically, I’d like to address the people who claim to only drink “big reds” and refuse a glass of anything white or pink. Oh I get it, your manhood is bigger than mine because of this preference? Am I right? Well, lets dive deeper into why this is NOT the case.
In my ever-lasting goal to bring everyone together, I’ve come up with four kinds of people in regards to wine:
- Men and women who don’t drink wine at all. They either tried it a few times and never got into the damn thing or choose not to drink at all for various reasons.
- Men and women who have eagerly taken the first steps to liking wine and still stick to whites, often times leaning towards the sweeter side of life. They aren’t opposed to red wines necessarily, but simply haven’t traveled that far in their journey to full wine appreciation. Drink on!
- The unfortunate souls…err….men and women who have taken the step into bigger red wines, yet leave white and/or sweeter wines in the dust viewing them as a person they regret ever dating. These people view drinkers of “anything but red” as uneducated, unsophisticated, and as ignorant as they come.
- Finally! These highly-intelligent, ridiculously-cultured, and scaringly-sexy people that have come full circle and completely understand that all (yes ALL) wine has its place in our hearts, and finding those places are half the fun!
Three of these four categories are completely fine. Group number 3 and their views, however, have created such a heavy presence that many adults are effin’ scared to admit they like enjoy a sweet wine every once in awhile. Why should they be ashamed? As I stated earlier, red, white, and pink can all find a fitting way into our lives. For a couple of examples, sweet wines are a great offset to spicy foods such as Thai and Spanish cuisine. Whites with great acidity (eg Sauvignon Blanc and many dry Rieslings) can compliment a wide range a meals and have the backbone to cut through a lot of heavy, cream based sauces. Dry rose’s are great palate cleansers that seem to pair with any food you can put on a holiday menu. Lastly, on a dripping hot summer day, there’s nothing better than a light, refreshing Pinot Gris on the porch. When were whites seeing as wines for pansies and neanderthals? Personally, I feel whites hold more characteristics to the original grape flavors and have just as much depth as any red you could put in front of me. Disagree? I dare you to send me a red so great, so amazing that it will force me to forget all about whites. If you can, strive to become a number 4 because its truly the right way to live. I try and act cool, but when I’m in the privacy of my own home, I’ll be the first to admit that I turn on Jersey Shore on occasion. Although I should be embarrassed about this, no one should feel insecure when walking up to the bar and ordering a dry white, sweet white or rose. I can speak for most tasting room employees and proclaim our annoyance with the 3rd group. Get over yourselves. Stop buying big trucks. Drink what you REALLY want to drink. For most of you, it’s all an act act anyway. Just be yourselves! What’s your favorite white wine and why?
Ben Hilzinger is a wine slinger at Nectar Tasting Room and at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars. During the day he masquerades as an aspiring drum teacher seeking to instill a sense of rhythm in wanna be rockers. In the evening Ben dons his rock star cape and travels the country with @weshotthemoon. Ben hopes to share the love of wine with his generation and has aspirations to be a wine maker. Follow Ben on Twitter @benhilzinger
22 Dec 2011
Step by step instructions and shopping list for four popular wine crafts
With the holidays upon us, I stumbled upon some very creative Christmas decoration ideas using wine bottles and wine corks. While I don’t consider myself to be a crafty person, several of these look like things that even I could create. For all you winos and wine lovers out there, it’s time to get creative for the holidays. I’ve got plenty of wine bottles and wine corks for those interested in making some of these. Merry Christmas to you and yours, enjoy life with friends, drink happy!
Liquid Cheer with Wine Bottles
Wine Bottles Take Center Stage
Get a few different shaped wine bottles and a tall magnum bottle, add white spray paint (or silver), roll the bottles in Epsom Salt (yes) or use glitter and arrange on a tray with some candles. Sounds pretty easy.
Classic bottles light up any mantle, buffet or centerpiece
Strands of white lights in a wine bottle make for a classic display. Strip the labels off of three bottles and use battery powered LED lights to avoid having to cut into the glass.
Unwrap your favorite vintage
Replace your wine labels with your favorite Christmas wrapping paper. A little glue, some scissors and you’ve got an instant wine holiday display.
Baby it’s cold outside
Even your wine gets a chilly in the winter time. This decoration might require a little more effort for those that sew or knit, but believe it or not you can buy these cozy little warmers for wine bottles.
Wine bottle centerpiece perfection
Get a sprig of evergreen, pine cones and some fake cranberry clusters and you’ve got yourself a fantastic wine-centric centerpiece. Add some battery powered lights and a bow and you’ll be shining bright.
Celebrate Christmas with a ‘sparkling’ tree
Wow, what a tree. This might take a little more effort and a lot of drinking, but this stunning tree will impress the most discerning of wine lovers. I’m definitely putting this on my life of goals for an upcoming Christmas.
Creative Christmas Cork Ideas
Mini cork wreath ornament
This cork ornament can be made with a few corks, some hot glue and a bow. Festive and creative idea.
Wine Lovers Wreath
A wonderful addition to any wine themed Christmas. This masterpiece will require a little more effort. I suggest starting with a foam circle that you can glue and pin the decorations to. Cut out the circle and hang for a festive wine display.
Cork Wreath (the easier way)
Find a circular base you can use to glue the corks to. Add red berries or red bells, a dash of mistletoe and a bow for a touch of color.
Frosty the snow cork was a holly jolly soul
This is a fun decoration you can do with your children. Use a cork for the body and a sliced up cork for the head. A toothpick or metal pick to fix the two together. To make the hat use some construction paper or even a small empty yarn spool. Paint and decorate to your style and tastes.
Cork tree centerpiece
Most craft stores will have cone shaped foam molds that you can use for the base of this idea. For dramatic effect use all the same cork. Add your favorite topper for some extra holiday cheer.
Oh, Christmas cork, oh Christmas cork…
Glue, ribbon and cork can make a beautiful decoration. Color the ends of the cork with a marker to replicate colored ornaments. Sit on a bed of evergreen and pine cone for a great centerpiece.
14 Dec 2011
Keith and ReNae Pilgrim are pleased to announce that they have selected award-winning Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar to be their exclusive caterer for the winery event facility and for the winery’s weekend cafe, Café Orsa.
“Since we opened the new building and event facility on Red Mountain in 2006 the winery has worked with a variety of restaurants and caterers but with the movement of Twigs, a longtime winemaking partner, into the community we were presented with a unique opportunity,” said winemaker Keith Pilgrim.
“We’ve been creating wines for Twigs and the Blackwell family, who own the Twigs restaurants up in Spokane, for five years. We kept talking about having Twigs in the Tri-Cities because we enjoyed their food and liked the family nature of their business. ReNae and I recognize the trust they put in Terra Blanca by having us make the house wine for their restaurant, TnT, so we know going into this partnership that we have a close working relationship.”
Trevor Blackwell, Owner & Chief Operating Officer for Twigs said, “This is a great opportunity for us to work with a business that mirrors our beginnings. Twigs and Terra Blanca are both small, family-owned businesses with roots in eastern Washington. We’re not big corporate chains, we live where we work and we know where our food and grapes are grown. That means guests at the restaurant or at the winery can count on us to showcase the best of local produce, meat, fish and Terra Blanca’s wine.”
Beginning January 1, 2012, Executive Chef Jonathan Holden will be working with the Pilgrims and Director of Banquet Sales Gretchen Wiseman to create menus that are exclusive to events held at Terra Blanca including weddings and corporate meetings and dinners. Menus will focus on sustainable and Northwest cuisine for the winery’s increasingly popular Friday night Happy Hour late openings and weekend hours.
“Twigs brings not only up-and-coming cuisine and spectacular food and wine pairing knowledge, but also a commitment to exemplary customer service. Our clients have come to expect a superior level of service and the chef and staff of Twigs along with our wine staff will allow us to exceed even those expectations,” said Wiseman. “The combination of Red Mountain wine, with beautifully prepared local food, served in a thoughtful way in our stunning facility? There’s nothing else like it.”
For more information about booking events at Terra Blanca Winery, contact Gretchen Wiseman at 509.588.6082, ext. 110 or email email@example.com
About Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyard
Keith and ReNae Pilgrim started Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyard, on world-famous Red Mountain, in 1993. Winemaker Keith Pilgrim oversees production of some 30,000 cases of wine each year that include premiere red wines; ONYX, a red blend, this year’s Seattle Blend People’s Choice award winner; white wines; and dessert wines. Terra Blanca occupies 300 acres, 91 of which are planted with grape vines. The Mediterranean-style facility on the southwestern slopes of Red Mountain, with panoramic views overlooking the Yakima Valley, comprises the tasting room, 8000 sq. ft. of interior event facilities, the state’s first and most extensive series of barrel caves with capacity for 4000 French oak barrels, a state-of-the-art bottling facility, and crushing/fermentation production areas. Terra Blanca also operates a satellite tasting room inside of Nectar Tasting Room at 120 N. Stevens in downtown Spokane.
About Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar
The Blackwell family started Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar in Spokane WA in 2001. Over the last ten years they have expanded their operations to five locations in Spokane. They are continually voted awards by Spokane residents’ in categories of “Best Cocktails,” “Best Appetizers,” “Best Martinis,” and “Best Patio.” In early 2011 they started looking at opportunities outside of Spokane and felt that Tri Cities was a perfect fit. The Columbia Center Mall location opened in October of 2011 with a 7600 square foot state-of-the-art restaurant. Twigs proudly employees over 300 people between Spokane and Kennewick.