Wine Club Picks for May 2011 – Coeur de Terre Vineyard – McMinnville AVA

May 17th, 2011

As the weather begins to warm up heavier red wines get pushed aside for whites. Not Pinot Noir! This lovely red has the perfect flavor profile that early spring and summer dishes need.  We have found a wonderful Pinot from the McMinnville AVA in Oregon that should really make your summer dishes sing.  Keep in mind that foods with light spiciness that spend a short time on the grill are ideal for the forward fruit flavors of Pinot Noir.  Try pairing it with an herb-crusted chicken or pork tenderloin, or a peppercorn beef filet….or the wonderful salmon that Washington is known for. It also pairs beautifully with mild cheeses. Pinot is the perfect versatile wine to enjoy with all of these dishes. 

The Riesling we are featuring this month is from Coeur de Terre Vineyards. This fairly new winery is making a great name for itself and hands down, winemaker, Scott Neal knows how to make a true German style Riesling.  Make sure and read our article about the aroma of petrol in Riesling, before you open the bottle.  The strong “petrol” nose may be a first for you, so keep an open mind and be ready to experience what classic aged German Riesling is all about. 

Mark your calendars for July 23rd. Our annual BBQ event will take place at our home and we will be featuring award winning wines from Eaton Hill Winery out of Granger, WA. 

McMinnville AVA

This is our first time to feature this particular AVA. There are only six wineries in this AVA that are estate driven wineries. Coeur de Terre, is one winery that produces wines solely from their estate vineyards, all of which are within this unique AVA. 

McMinnville AVA was established in 2005 and 600 acres are dedicated to vineyards. It is entirely contained within the Willamette Valley AVA, running between McMinnville and Sheridan. McMinnville is one of the few AVAs that is designated in part based on elevation, with vineyards required to be between 200 feet (61 m) and 1,000 feet above sea level, where the soil and rock formations differ from surrounding areas. Primarily uplifted marine sedimentary loams and silt, the top soil is shallow and relatively infertile.

Coeur de Terre Vineyard

It’s not often that a winery is inspired by a rock….but it’s true if you are speaking about Coeur de Terre. Coeur de Terre, is French for “Heart of the Earth.”  While establishing their vineyard in 1998, Scott and Lisa  Neal found a massive heart shaped rock on their property and this rock symbolizes their dedication to working with nature.  Like many pioneers before them, they wanted to create the perfect Pinot Noir but with one important difference….they wanted to utilize only organic farming techniques. It continues to be important to them that they work sustainably with nature to create a healthy environment for their vines as well as for their family. 

We came across Coeur de Terre on a crisp spring morning in April, 2011.  We were on the hunt for artisan wines that used only fruit from the McMinnville AVA.  Not an easy task because many winemakers will use a combination of fruit from different AVA’s or they will use fruit from the larger Willamette Valley AVA.  Not so with Coeur de Terre.  Owners, Scott and Lisa Neal take great pride in producing estate grown Pinot Noir.  They do it all…..they live on the estate, they plant the vineyards, they farm the land and they make the wine.  

We met Lisa that morning as she was running their beautiful tasting room, which is spacious, open with views of their land. The fireplace was burning and its warmth took the chill off our bones from the morning air and mist. We were not only greeted by Lisa and her warm, inviting smile, but we were greeted by their family dog, Jack, as well.  A winery wouldn’t be a true winery, without the winery dog taking charge and welcoming its guests.  On a warmer day, their deck with Adirondack chairs would be the perfect place to relax and enjoy a glass of wine while taking in the view. 

Scott and Lisa moved to this location in 1998 after scouting potential vineyards over a Memorial Day weekend. Once settled, their first task was to plant a 3 acre block of Pinot which is known as “Renelle’s Block – otherwise known as “mother block, “ named after and dedicated to Scott’s mother, Renelle.  Eventually they planted another 13 acres of Pinot, blocks named after Lisa’s great-grandmother, Sarah, and their two daughters, Abby and Tallulah.  They are hands on and they are responsible for all aspects of the vineyard and winery operation. All new plants are grafted at the estate in their greenhouse from hand selected vines in their vineyard. All viticulture activity is directed by Scott and Lisa and all winemaking is done onsite in micro sized lots keeping the blocks separate until final bottling.   They produce approximately 3,000 cases a year.

Before leaving, we met Scott, the winemaker, as well as Scott and Lisa’s young daughters. It’s a true family affair and it didn’t take long to see the pride that they have for not only their family and friends, but for the land and the wines that they produce.

Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2008 Estate Pinot Noir (2010 Outstanding Wine—Oregon Wine Awards)

Using only estate grown fruit, selections from Renelle’s Block, Sarah’s Block, Abby’s Block and Tallulah’s Run.  This wine first impresses with an intensely deep hued wine that is brilliant, but nearly opaque to the intensity of color. The nose greets with spice and the scent of a cedar cigar box along dark cherry, coffee, and toasty tone. On the palate, the wine is deeply textured and presents itself with sweet luscious fruit reminiscent of dark pie cherries with spice and the estate’s signature minerality. The finish is long with hints of toffee, coffee and more spice.

Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2006 Riesling

This is Scott’s first attempt at Riesling—a true classic German style Riesling. Made with fruit from Hyland Vineyard located in the McMinnville AVA. Hyland has some of the oldest Riesling vines –dating back 30 years. This wine is vibrant with acidity opening to delicate floral notes and honey on the nose. In the mouth one gets minerality infused with nectarine, soft apple blossom, and pear. It gains texture and finishes with an infusion of honey, luscious peach and peach pit. 

Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2009 Oregon Pinot Noir (2nd Red selection for wine club members)

The McMinnville AVA is known for its intense Pinot Noirs of dark fruits and earthy overtones, and this wine lives up to these expectations. Intense red color lures you in with signature Coeur de Terre earthy aromatics followed by notes of dark cherry, toasty oak and pomegranate fruits and cedar cigar box. The soft lush palate embraces one with ripe fruits and layers of pie spice and minerality.  The wine shows nice structure with finely grained tannins, round mouth feel and deep roasted coffee overtones on a very nice finish.

Let’s Pair Up

Filet au Poivre—Pair with Coeur de Terre 2008 Estate Pinot Noir 

You Will Need: 

  • 4 (8 ounce) tenderloin steaks (about 1.5 inches thick)
  • Salt
  • 2 Tbsp whole peppercorns crushed
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter                  
  • 1 tsp olive oil                             
  • 1/4 cup pinot noir               
  • 1.5 cups beef stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream 


Remove steaks from refrigerator 1 hour before cooking. Coat both sides of steak with salt and crushed peppercorns. Set aside. 

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and the oil until they begin to smoke. Add the steaks and cook for 4 minutes on each side (medium rare).  Remove and place on platter covered with foil. Pour off the fat but do not scrape the pan clean. Deglaze the pan with wine. Stir in beef stock and reduce by half over medium heat.  Add the cream and stir to thicken and combine, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the steaks back to the pan, spoon the sauce over and serve. 

Arugula, Goat Cheese, Beet Salad—Pair with Coeur de Terre 2006 Riesling

You Will Need: 

  • 2 lb beets   
  • 3 cups baby arugula   
  • 8 oz goat cheese   
  • chopped walnuts        
  • red wine vinaigrette 


Preheat oven to 400. Wrap beets in foil and place on the middle rack of the oven and roast for 45 minutes to one hour. Let cool, peel and slice into strips. Wash the arugula and spin dry. Place arugula in a large bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. Toss arugula with just enough dressing to lightly coat. Arrange on four plates, garnish with beets/ crumbled goat cheese and walnuts. 

Red Wine Vinaigrette: 

  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar  
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard  
  • 1 tsp sugar  
  • salt and pepper to taste  
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Whisking constantly, add the oil in a slow, steady stream and continue to whisk until thickened. 

**** Note:  The steak and the Goat Cheese Beet Salad may be served together and paired with either the  Estate Pinot Noir or the Riesling.  Keep in mind that Pinot Noir is a very versatile wine and believe it or not….this special Riesling is equally versatile. Give it a try!  ENJOY!


“Petrol” Not Only for the Pumps

May 17th, 2011

This month we are featuring a Riesling that we found very unique and intriguing. Most of the Rieslings that we have featured in the past have been young, sweet or dry. All have been quite enjoyable and well received by our club members. This time however, you will notice a distinct difference in our selection. The character that really stands out in the Coeur de Terre 2006 Riesling is the so-called “petrol” note. This aroma can be somewhat polarizing. The Alsatians refer to it as “gout de petrol” which is a great term if you enjoy it. If you don’t, then like some, you may just refer to it as “kerosene.” 

Sometimes a very young Riesling exhibits a nose and to a lesser extent, a flavor that is best described as “petrol-like,” a term that suggests a slightly oily, petroleum or kerosene overtone, which is more appealing than it sounds and is highly appreciated among Riesling collectors. When Riesling is young, it usually has only a very slight petrol character. A classic aged German Riesling (the real ones, not those that are created and sold to the English-speaking world), have a pronounced petrol character. A true lover of Riesling will find this character highly desirable and they prize it greatly. 

What gives Riesling the petrol note? Well, it’s interesting but technical. If you are like me, I don’t really understand the chemistry behind it; but I will attempt to explain it to you without putting you to sleep. The aroma compound we are talking about is known as 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2,dihydronaphtalene…otherwise known thankfully, as TDN. TDN is not often found in grape juice or in young wines. It originates from the gradual breakdown of protective plant molecules known as carotenoids. 

Carotenoids are pigments that absorb light. They are important in leaves to support photosynthesis (once the chlorophyll is gone from leaves in the fall, they give the leaves their orange, yellow and red colors). In the berries, these compounds absorb UV rays that would be harmful to the DNA and other cellular components. 

A good way of thinking about this is to think of carotenoids as grape sunscreen. When UV light is high, carotenoids build up during berry development to shield the cells from the harsh rays. Near the end of the growing season, the molecules break down into smaller components, some of which are precursors to very powerful aroma compounds. These aroma compounds are often bound to sugar groups and known as glycosides. Glycosides are not aroma-active, so they won’t be observable by smelling or tasting. However, during fermentation, yeast enzymes liberate glycoside-bound aroma compounds, helping to create the complex bouquet that we love about wine. 

TDN is created during the aging process from carotenoid precursors (terpenes) by acid hydrolysis. The initial concentration of precursors in the wine determines the wine’s potential to develop TDN and petrol notes over time. Factors that are likely to increase the TDN potential are:

  • ¨ Ripe grapes (accentuated by low yields and/or late harvest)
  • ¨ High light exposure
  • ¨ Water stress, which is most likely in regions that don’t practice irrigation. This primarily occurs in dry vineyard sites during warm and low-rain years
  • ¨ Warm soils 

These factors are considered to contribute to high-quality Riesling wines. The petrol note is in fact, more likely to develop in top Riesling wines than in simpler wines made from high-yielding vineyards. Riesling grown in warmer climates, such as Alsace, will tend to exhibit the petrol character earlier in their post-bottling development.  In addition to the intensifying and complexity of aromas, bottle-aging induces Riesling’s famous petrol aroma. If you have ever siphoned-off petrol, you will know that its strong vapor has nothing in common with the classic petrol aroma of a mature Riesling. It does not literally smell or taste of petrol. For those who really enjoy the honeyed richness of a great Riesling, petrol is one of the most recognizable words used to describe its classic aroma. 

I find the petrol character highly desirable. I know that if I put a dry vineyard estate Riesling in my cellar for 6-7 years, petrol will likely develop. But I also know that not everyone has developed a taste for this.  Therefore, a discreet amount of petrol aromatics is a great enhancer, too much can be a bit of a turn-off. I think that those who enjoy the taste of really strong and aged cheeses tend to like this type of Riesling. Those who lean more toward lightly flavored foods do not like it. What is very interesting about this type of Riesling is that it pairs beautifully with a large variety of foods. 

When you experience this type of wine, keep an open mind, get past the initial shock of the “petrol” aroma and enjoy what it does to your palate when paired with a great meal. If you don’t like the petrol character, then a good rule of thumb is “DON’T AGE RIESLING!!!” They will develop this characteristic more as you age them.


Wine Club Picks for April 2011 – Agate Field Vineyards & Paradisos Del Sol

May 17th, 2011

Spring is in the air and if you are anything like me, you are anxious to get outside and enjoy some sunshine (which at times is hiding behind those gray clouds here in the Northwest.)  I am always looking for something new to do this time of year.  What better way to enjoy some sunshine but to travel to eastern Washington  and hike the vines on Red Mountain. Beginning in April through October 29th, you can be lead on a guided walk of the vineyards, a program called “Watch Wine Grow,” at Terra Blanca Winery and Estate. The walks run from 1-3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The cost is $15 and they encourage you to make reservations. 

Spring also means that I’m ready to put away the heavy sweaters and bring out the bright and cheery lighter ones.  It is the same with wine. I am ready to put away the heavier red wines for a few months and concentrate on the whites  Although it is not quite warm enough yet to really enjoy a crisp white wine on the patio,  we have found a really rich white wine that for all intent and purposes can stand up to any red wine. In our travels, we came across the Oyster White by Paradisos de Sol in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA. This is a very complex white wine and if you love the taste of brie and/or oysters, you will love this wine.  Just released in 2/10, it is already getting great reviews! We think it will be a great way for our wine lovers to make the transition from reds to whites this season. 

So here’s to spring….as we lighten up and air out our cellars. 

Our Pick for April 2011: 

Decisions, decisions!  As we traveled to eastern Washington in February, our goal was to find the perfect wines that represented both the Yakima Valley AVA and the Rattlesnake Hills AVA.  Both of these AVA’s share the climate traits of cold winters and long dry growing seasons with very low humidity.  The long summer days and cool nights, paired with minimal rainfall and lots of sunshine allow for the ultimate expression of fruit and a balance of flavors.  Our winery picks of the month are Agate Field Winery and Paradisos del Sol.  Both are unique and offer wines that are very true to the AVA they represent.

Featured Wineries:

Agate Field Vineyards


Our trip to the Yakima area in February was rather unique in that we experienced a lot of tumbleweeds as we drove around. It was a brisk February weekend and the winds were high and everywhere we looked, we saw tumbleweeds. Well, this was very fitting for our trip to Agate Field Vineyard. This winery has a “cowboy feel” to it as you drive up the long drive. With the wind howling and tumbleweeds scattered about, I thought I must be on a movie set for a western film. The building is rustic, made of logs. It has a second-story deck that overlooks the vineyards of Whiskey Canyon.  The tasting bar is made of knotty pine and high above the shelves of wine are wagon wheels. Beyond the tasting bar is the barrel room and this is where we met winemaker Bob Radke, pouring his premium wines. Bob has an infectious smile and a down to earth personality. He is one person who truly loves what he does. He likes keeping the wine production low (500 cases a year). This gives him a hands-on approach. This is a family business—founded by Ben Rashford and his wife, Ruth. Bob is not only their winemaker but he is their son-in-law. Their daughter, Ginger, is often behind the wine bar offering a generous pour. Don’t be surprised if you actually feel like you are part of the family after you experience Agate Field. We enjoyed all of their wines very much, but two that really stood out for us are our featured wines this month. .

AGATE FIELD 2006 La Moisson Red—92 Points Wine Spectator Silver Medal Winner

60 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet Franc.  Firm and focused, deliverying a juicy core of black cherry, plum, black olive and mint, whizzing through a layer of fine tannins, zooming through the lively finish. Stylish aned complex, this has miles to go. Best from 2012 through 2017.  (250 cases made)

AGATE FIELD 2005 La Moisson Red (second red for club members) 89 points Wine Spectator—Silver Medal Winner

55 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Cabernet Franc, 18% Merlot. An inviting wine that lures you to another sip with currant and dried tomato flavors up –front, shading in black olive and earthy –spice character as the finish lingers. Best from 2009-2015. (250 cases)

Paradisos Del Sol

Paradisos del Sol located in Zillah, WA, opened its doors in 2000 and owner and winemaker, Paul Vandenberg, never looked back. Paul named it Paradisos because when he walks through the vineyard he feels like he is in paradise. Paul has been making wine since 1983 and he views himself as a winegrower not a winemaker. He also feels that he still has more to learn and sometimes he is amazed at the way his wines turn out. For example, our featured white Semillion called Oyster White, is a unique white wine that was just released in February 2011. Paul told us that he really isn’t sure why it turned out the way it did this year and he isn’t really sure if he will be able to duplicate it again. This white wine is full bodied for a white and very complex and buttery. He only produced 88 cases of this wine and the public is crazy about it, especially if you love oysters and brie.  Will cellar well for several years.

We like visiting this tasting room because it is like visiting grandma’s farm. When you pull in, you may scratch your head and wonder if you are at the right place. A sign is posted that says, “Yes! This is a tasting room. Come on in!” There are colorful flags blowing in the breeze and you will be greeted by more than one chicken or turkey scratching the ground. Enter a cozy tasting room that is located inside the L-shaped rambler. More than likely you will be greeted by Paul and his wife Barbara who love to complement food and wine. You will be offered small bites (similar to a day at Costco—minus the wine) that will complement their flight of wines. Paul loves to educate the public about wine and he is a firm believer that great wine is grown not made.


Carefully grown to have tropical fruit aromatics. Barrel fermented and aged in aged oak for roundness, suppleness and complex flavors. Crisp acidity brings harmony to a seafood dish—skip the lemon, you’ve got this wine!  Excellent with fish and poultry, especially oysters and don’t forget the brie.

Let’s Pair Up

Fried Oysters with Brie—Pair with Paradisos del Sol 2009 Oyster White (Serves 4)

You Will Need:

  • 1 dozen shucked Oysters                           
  • 4 ounces of Brie cut into 12 equal pieces
  • Creole Seasoning                                      
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup flour                                               
  •  2 Tbsp minced shallots
  • 1/2 cup corn meal          
  • 1 Tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 lb fresh spinach


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pat the oysters dry and lightly season them with creole seasoning. Mix the four and corn meal and add some more creole seasoning to it. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Dredge the oysters in the flour, shaking off the excess flour. Pan-fry the oysters for 1-2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Place the oysters on a baking sheet. Lay a slice of cheese on top of each oyster and bake for about 2-3 minutes until the cheese melts.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the shallots and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for 1 minute. Add the spinach and sauté for 2-3 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. To serve, mound the spinach in the center of a plate and arrange 3 oysters on top.

Herb-Crusted Leg of Lamb—Pair with Agate Fields 2006 La Moisson Red

You Will Need:

  • 6 tbsp bread crumbs
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter—softened
  • 6 garlic cloves minced
  • 6 tbsp chopped flat parsley
  • 3 tbsp thyme
  • 3 tbsp chopped rosemary
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • one 7 lb bone-in leg of lamb fat trimmed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup Dijohn mustard 


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the butter, garlic, parsley, thyme, rosemary and lemon juice. Season the lamb all over with salt and pepper. Rub some of the herb mixture on the underside of the lamb and set in a roasting pan, fat side up. Spread the mustard over the top of the lamb, then pat the remaining herb mixture over the top of the lamb. 

Bake for about 2 hours, until browned on top and meat temperature registers 150 degrees. 

Transfer the lamb to a carving board and let rest for 15 minutes.


Scoring Wine

May 9th, 2011

Take a trip to any wine shop or tasting room and you are sure to encounter bottles of wine that proudly display their wine scores. Many wine merchants, brokers and auction houses regularly include scores in their wine descriptions and wineries use them to market their wine. This practice of assigning a score to wine has had an incredible effect on the wine market. Scoring a wine enables the investor and trader to take a position, which can affect the market, even if they know very little about wine. The wine score also allows a wine novice to make decisions about a certain wine before purchase. The wine scores are also understood across the globe and wine buyers use it as a guide when purchasing wine. This scoring system also allows the wine producers to make a name for themselves and their wines. But be aware, with a high wine score comes a higher price for wine drinkers everywhere. 

Who Scores the Wine 

Many well-known writers and critics score wines on a regular basis. The most popular rating system is that used by the American critic, Robert Parker, who influenced the practice of awarding scores as points out of 100. Most wine publications have some type of wine scoring scale. When you find a wine score you will often notice many will have initials after them to indicate who supplied the rating. For example, if Wine & Spirits rates a wine it will have a (W&S) in parentheses. The following are the most well-known wine critics out there: 

¨ Robert Parker with Wine Advocate (RP or WA)

¨ Wine Spectator Magazine (WS)

¨ Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (ST or IWC)

¨ Wine Enthusiast Magazine (WE)

¨ Wine & Spirits (W&S) 

What Do the Scores Mean? 

Scoring wines on a 100 point scale, with 100 being the best, most critics follow the same scoring patterns, which can be summed up as follows: 

¨ 95-100—an extraordinary wine of superior quality, which is classic and collectible

¨ 90-94—an outstanding wine with superior character and style

¨ 80-89—the wine is good to very good, and has many wonderful qualities

¨ 70-79—The wine is an average, drinkable wine

¨ 60-69—Below average and not recommended

¨ 50-59—undrinkable 

Out of all wine critics in the world, Robert Parker is the most influential. His critique has a profound effect both on prices and market demand for fine wines around the world. Historically, the wines that Robert Parker scores highest, particularly those awarded more than 90 points tend to be the wines that show the biggest increase in value. Collectors flock to wines in the 95 to 100 point range and most are willing to pay a premium price for quality wines. Even less expensive, widely

Qualities That Are Considered 

Wine critics have experienced palates and they can often detect subtle nuances in wine that the average wine drinker would not. When they critique a bottle of wine and assign a score, they are looking at the following: 

¨ The color and clarity of the wine

¨ The wine’s aromas

¨ The structure of the wine, including underlying tannins and how well the wine will age

¨ The initial flavors in the wine

¨ The underlying tones and flavors

¨ How long the wine will linger on the palate “the finish”

¨ How the wine coats the palate

¨ How the wine compares to other examples of the varietal and style 

Often, the differences between a very good bottle of wine and an outstanding bottle of wine are so subtle that the average wine drinker won’t be able to tell the difference. Just because a wine doesn’t rate in the 90’s doesn’t mean it isn’t a good wine. It’s really up to the individual to decide how much they are willing to pay for a 95+ point wine. 

Also keep in mind that wine changes character as it ages. A wine score may very well change over the life of the wine. Many critics will go back to certain wines and taste them again, providing new scores. 

Last but not least, keep in mind that wine scoring is subjective. Many will use wine scores to keep them away from a really bad choice, but don’t be afraid to try wines that aren’t rated in the good to superior range. I have often found wines that I really love, regardless of what Robert Parker said about it.


Wine Club Picks for March 2011 – Bella Terrazza Vineyards & Ryan Patrick Vineyards

May 9th, 2011

We ended the month of February in a big way this year. We had a wonderful tasting party at our home on the 26th , and we ended our evening by having dinner at our favorite wine bar , Northwest Vintage, in downtown Puyallup. A big hearty thank you to all 30 you who attended our tasting party. We enjoyed seeing familiar faces and we really enjoyed meeting new people , some who came from our meet-up group and others who are members of the Madsen Cellars wine club. 

A special thanks to Dana Madsen, owner and wine-maker of Madsen Cellars, who brought a wonderful flight of wines for our tasting, and graciously poured for our event. This allowed us to mingle with all of you and to catch up on your wine interests and wine jaunts.  

During our tasting event, many of you asked how I manage to make such a variety of foods that pair so well with the wines that are served.  It takes thought and effort, but it really isn’t too difficult. I have given you some pointers in this newsletter that will help you if you should want to try your hand at pairing wines with food, or putting together your own tasting party or dinner.   Many of you have also requested my recipe for the Shrimp in Dill Sauce that pairs perfectly with Chardonnay. Feel free to email us with your request and I will make sure and send you a copy of that recipe or go to our website and you will find the recipe in the March 2010 newsletter archive.  

Our next event will be in July. It will be our annual BBQ and we will set a date soon so you can mark your calendars accordingly.

Pick of the Month:

Our two picks for the month of March are wines from Bella Terrazza Vineyards and Ryan Patrick Vineyards.  Both tasting room are in Leavenworth and both use estate grown grapes from the Columbia Valley AVA.  We visited these tasting rooms during our recent trip to Leavenworth in February.  Leavenworth is a wonderful Bavarian town worth visiting any time of year, but especially during the winter months. The Bavarian village blanketed with snow is something  to behold.  Make sure and read our blog about our recent trip to Leavenworth, where we enjoyed visiting the numerous tasting rooms within walking distance of each other in downtown Leavenworth, and where we enjoyed their annual winter Bavarian festival….smooshing anyone?  We hope you will enjoy our selections, which left us wanting more after our first sip. 

 Bella Terrazza Vineyards:

The name “Bella Terrazza,” is Italian for “Beautiful Terrace.” This depicts the setting of the actual winery which is located on a southwest-facing terrace perched above the Wenatchee River in the Sleepy Hollow area west of Wenatchee. February really isn’t the best time to venture to the winery, but we enjoyed their cozy tasting room which is located under Der Sportsman in Leavenworth on Front Street. It has a feeling of entering a wine cave. Barrels line the back wall and a wine bar welcomes you. A few small tables are available, where you can purchase a glass of wine and visit with owner and winemaker, Bob Richards. Bob’s red wines are intense and full of flavor and his whites are crisp and very refreshing.  We came to understand and appreciate Bob’s love and philosophy of winemaking.  His motto is “Local Vines Creating Exceptional Wines.” He is a true believer that wines are made of “people, memories, commitment, dedication and passion.” Their vines were planted in 2001 and they were licensed in 2006.  Bob understands the true meaning of artisan wines.  He only produces 1200 cases each year and he plans to keep the production about the same in the future. He may be fairly new to this business by wine standards, but Bob definitely knows what he is doing.  When we return to the Wenatchee area this spring/summer, we plan to stop in at their actual winery.  We have heard wonderful things about its atmosphere.  It is connected to the family nursery, where you can pick your own blueberries when in season, as well as enjoy a wonderful picnic on the lawn while taking in the view of the Cascade Mountains and the Wenatchee River Valley. I’m sure that when we return to see Bob and experience his new wines in the future, we will be treated with great care.

Bella Terrazza Lemberger

This wine opens with aromas of black currant and green olive. Smooth in tannin. This is a medium bodied red that tastes of deep black cherry with a long walnut finish.  Pair with any pasta/cheesy dishes, turkey, barbecued meats, lamb, veal, chicken in red sauce. Pairs beautifully with bleu cheese and goat cheese. Try a bit of chocolate with it as well.

Bella Terrazza Estate Grown Cabernet Franc (second red selection)

Beautiful garnet color with distinctive aromas of chili peppers and plum. Bold and fruity in the mouth with a spicy lingering finish. Pairs with poultry, lasagna, couscous with meat, Middle Eastern fare and Greek cuisine.

Ryan Patrick Vineyards:

This winery is owned and operated by Terry and Vivian Flanagan. They opened for business in 1996 and named their new venture after their two sons, Ryan and Patrick, both of whom are now instrumental in the family business. Their first tasting room is located in the heart of Leavenworth, WA. On the numerous occasions that we have been to this tasting room, it has always been packed. No need to wonder why. The atmosphere is pleasant, the tasting room staff are cheerful and knowledgeable and most of all, we all have come to love and respect wine-maker, Craig Mitrakul. Craig has been an integral part in the winery’s success and is proving to be one of Washington State’s most desirable winemakers, producing award-winning wines. Most of the wines produced are estate wines, using fruit grown from three separate family-owned vineyards in North Central Washington. The vineyards are near Quincy, WA which will soon be listed as the Ancient Lakes AVA, which when granted will be the newest viticulture at in Washington.

Ryan Patrick 2008 Reserve Chardonnay

Their best Chardonnay to date! Tropical fruit aromas greet your nose with delightful floral notes, oak and hints of butterscotch. Smooth, velvety texture showing bright acids and clean, fresh pear and green apple at mid palate. Long, clean finish with notes of honey and grapefruit.

Let’s Pair Up:

Bella Terrazza Lemberger—Pair with Mushroom and Goat Cheese Pizza

You will need:

  •  1 pkg (13.8 oz.) refrigerated pizza dough                      
  •  2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion thinly sliced                                                          
  •  3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 8 oz pkg sliced button mushrooms                      
  • 1 6 oz pkg sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 5 oz. pkg shiitake mushrooms                                                    
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 4 oz. pkg goat cheese, softened
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil) finely chopped


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and shape dough into large rectangle on the baking sheet. Bake for 7 minutes or until set. Cool slightly.

Heat oil in 12 inch skillet over medium high heat and add the onion, cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add garlic; cook for 30 seconds. Add the button and cremini mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes then add the shiitake mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cook 10 more minutes or until liquid has evaporated.

Spread goat cheese on pizza crust. Sprinkle with 1.5 cups mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. Top with mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Ryan Patrick 2008 Reserved Chardonnay—Pair with Chicken and Mushroom Fettuccine Alfredo

(made in a slower cooker and served 6-8)

You will need:

  • 1.5 lbs chicken breast tenders
  • 16 oz cremini mushrooms cut into thirds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, cut into chunks
  • 1.5 cups Parmesan cheese
  • 1.5 cups whole milk or half and half
  • 2 sticks butter cut into pieces
  • 1 lb pkg uncooked fettuccine chopped parsley


Spray slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange chicken in a single layer in the bottom of the slow cooker. Top with mushrooms; sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Combine cream cheese, parmesan cheese, milk or half and half and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth and heated through. Pour over the mushrooms. Cook on love for 4-5 hours or high for 2-2.5 hours.

 Cook fettuccine according to the package directions; drain. Add to the slow cooker and toss to coat. Sprinkle with parsley and more Parmesan cheese.


Classic Food and Wine Combinations

March 30th, 2011

Everyone seems to have their favorite combinations of food and wine. As I have said many times, there are no rights and wrongs, no absolutes. If you like a particular wine and food combination, no matter how eccentric, feel free to indulge.  Remember you are not looking for the one and only perfect match. Most dishes can be paired with several different and contrasting types of wine. 

Food universally has changed over time. It is common now to mix, match and borrow techniques and flavors and spices from any number of cuisines. Today we have new foods and some new ways with wine.  Believe it or not, an oaky chardonnay can sometimes pair beautifully with a steak just as nicely as a red wine.  It can be a bit confusing, so below I have given you some pairings that will hopefully make it a bit easier for you. Remember, they are only suggestions, nothing more. 

Riesling: Chinese and lightly spiced food, sun-dried tomatoes, red peppers, salads, roast vegetables, fish, cold roasted meats, apple and apricot tarts. 

Sauvignon blanc: Thai food, asparagus, goat cheese, salads, vegetables (not mushrooms), fried fish, shellfish, sharp sauces. 

Chablis: all fish, except the most oily, high fat cheeses such as Chaource, Camembert, Coulommiers.

Pinot blanc/Pinot Gris (not late harvest sweet): fish, quiches, chowder, risotto, pasta with creamy sauces, chicken.

Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot:  meat, poultry, lamb, bean dishes. It also can pair nicely with tuna if the wine isn’t too tannic.

Pinot Noir:  salmon, monkfish, tuna, mushrooms, pork, duck, quail.

Italian Reds: complements most savory foods, but avoid fish

Syrah/Shiraz:  roast turkey, goose, duck, sausages, barbecued meats and vegetables, meaty casseroles.

Pairing with International Cuisine:

Chinese: Can be a challenge for wine. Most wines are too powerful or too dry. The best choice is a dry, dry/fruity (not sweet) Riesling. Brut champagnes can also work well.  Most reds do not work well. However, a lightly chilled Pinot Noir can work.

Thai:  The best choice is Sauvignon blanc.  Riesling and a un-oaked lemony Semillon can also work well.  Try to stay away from reds.

Japanese:  Best bet is a German Riesling or Brut champagne, especially blanc de blanc or a dry sparkling wine. Beef dishes such as teriyaki are best paired with a low tannin red such as pinot noir.

Indian:  This cuisine is known for its hot spices and complexity of flavors, therefore it is hard to find the right wine. White wines are best, especially un-oaked whites such as Semillon, Marsanne, Muscat and Riesling.  If you love only red wines, then you might try a red Bordeaux.

Perfect Cheese Pairings 

When I host the quarterly tasting parties, many often wonder how I pair the foods with the wines that are featured.  Below is a quick rule of thumb when putting cheese, wine and light foods together.


Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Port, Sparkling, Syrah, Ziinfandel, Lemberger

Food: Figs, apples, pears walnuts, nut breads, steaks, vegetables, pasta salad


Wine: Beaujolais, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Food: Berries, peaches, plums, hearty breads, hazelnuts


Wine: Merlot, Riesling, Fruity Zinfandel

Food: Red apples, grapes, pears, toasted almonds, dark breads

Medium Cheddar:

Wine: Gewurztraminer, Medium-body Merlot, Riesling, Syrah

Food: Apples, grapes, cherries, hazelnuts, dark break, water crackers, egg dishes, sauces, pasta, party trays,  sandwiches, burgers

Monterey Jack:

Wine: Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Fruity Ziinfandel

Food: Plums, peaches, toasted pecans, salsa, sandwiches, burgers, salads

Pepper Jack:

Wine: Syrah

Food: Grapes, salsa, grilled meat, rustic breads

Sharp Cheddar:

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Champagne, Chardonnay, Riesling

Food: Hazelnuts, apples, grapes, pears, peaches, mushrooms, water crackers, sandwiches, burgers.

 Cheese Spread for Forty

  • 10 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-1/2 tsp grated onion
  • 1 ½ tsp minced fresh garlic
  • 2 sliced pears
  • ½ cup roasted hazelnuts finely chopped

Combine the first five ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat with a mixer until well blended. Slice the pears into wedges and place on a tray. Place a half oz. dollop on each pear slice and sprinkle with hazelnuts.


Heat spread for 2 minutes in microwave for dipping

Replace the Worcestershire sauce with your favorite wine.

Add one of the following: spices, fresh herbs, fresh or dried fruit, smoked fish.


Wine Club Picks for February 2011 – Viento – Columbia Gorge and Columbia Valley AVA’s

March 30th, 2011

Valentine’s Day happens to be one of my favorite holidays.  Call me a romantic, but there is nothing better than sharing my love of fine wine and fine chocolate with my favorite loved one.  The best way to experience both wine and chocolate is to head to Yakima, Washington the weekend of February 18-20th.  Travel to Eastern Washington, purchase a passport and let your experience begin. 

 I highly recommend that you visit no more than four or five wineries in one day.  It is also important to select only the wines that you are really interested in trying. If you insist on trying the entire flight (some wineries have up to ten or twelve different wines to try), then I strongly recommend that you sip and spit.  Yes I said “spit.”  It seems unnatural to spit out a wonderful, full-bodied wine; but in the long run, you will be glad that you did. If  you really want to experience the true nature of the wine, then it is important that you save your palate.  If you drink every pour that is given to you, your pallet will experience what I like to call “palate fatigue.” Once your palate is gone, all the wines start to taste the same and you will defeat the purpose of finding that special wine that you might be searching for.  Now some of you may just enjoy the experience of “winery hopping,” and that’s okay too. But for me, I’m selective and careful and I want to remember the experience and I want to remember the wines. 

Typically I like to pack a light lunch so my wine sipping doesn’t meet an empty stomach.  However, during this event, I don’t always need to eat what I packed because some of the  wineries pull out all the stops.  Some go beyond the simple taste of cheese and crackers. Some provide fondue, others provide hot soups and appetizers.  It’s all worth the price of the passport for the weekend event. 

Don’t forget our tasting party on the 26th.  We are looking forward to introducing you to winemaker, Dana Madsen. He is an impressive new winemaker and we hope you  will enjoy the flight of wines that he will be bringing to share with us all.

Our Pick of the Month:

This month we are featuring two AVA’s, but one winery. The winery we selected is Viento, which is located in Hood River.  We wanted to bring to you an incredible crisp white wine called Gruner Veltliner, which is new to the Northwest.  Winemaker, Rich Cushman is responsible for making this Austrian varietal wine and this is his third release.  Viento also uses vibrant fruit from the larger Columbia Valley AVA for their red wines.  This month you will experience two wonderful AVA’s, and one incredible winemaker.

Viento is the perfect name for this private wine label of winemaker, Rich Cushman. Viento, is Spanish for “wind.” If you have ever been to the Columbia River Gorge area, then you are familiar with its constant wind. The heart of the Columbia Gorge is in Hood river, Oregon, which is about one hour east of Portland. This is a beautiful place to get away for the weekend or vacation. We are especially fond of this area with all the wineries that dot the “Fruit Loop Trail.” 

We experienced Viento wines for the first time in the summer of 2010. The tasting room was quite small and it was located at The Gorge White Houses Annex off Highway 35 in Hood River. The Gorge White House is a historic home on a century old working farm. The fields were in bloom and people were gathering flower bouquets and purchasing seasonal fruit. This unique place showcases fine wines, craft beers and art  from the Hood River area. I remember the place being rather quaint and charming but what I remember the most are the wines made by Rich Cushman. His entire flight-of-wines were exceptional but we were most intrigued by his new wine varietal Gruner Veltliner. The 2009 Gruner Veltliner is his third vintage. Rich was familiar with this leading white grape of Austria and he was curious enough to plant this new-to-the-northwest variety just to see how it would perform. It seems that Rich found the right location for this varietal in the Columbia Gorge AVA. Underwood Mountain Vineyard has an elevation of 1200 feet on the Columbia River (Washington State side) and it is planted on an extinct volcano. This varietal is performing quite well and the local wine lovers as well as non-local wine lovers are falling in love with it. 

Rich Cushman was born and raised in Hood river, Oregon. He left to attend school at UC Davis in the 1970’s and then he went on to apprentice in Germany, where he fell in love with Riesling. When he returned to Oregon in the early 1980’s, he planted Riesling  – the vineyard known as Columbia Gorge Vineyard in Hood River. Those vines are now 28 years old, the oldest Riesling planted in the Gorge. 

Rich has been making wines for over 25 years for not only his own private label but for other wineries in Willamette Valley and Columbia Gorge. He moved back to Hood River from McMinnville, Oregon in 2007, where he is making wine full time for himself as well as for Phelps Creek (whom we featured in August 2010) and Mt. Hood Winery. His new tasting room should be opening in 2011 which will be located next to their vineyard “Columbia Gorge Vineyard.” 

*A special thanks to Rich Cushman, who braved the snow and cold  in early December to meet us at Mt. Hood Winery, where we picked up our wine selections for our club members.  What a treat it was to meet him and taste his other wines made for Mt. Hood Winery. We also want to thank him for the kind dinner invitation and we plan to take him up on that when we return to Hood River in the near future.









2009 Gruner Veltliner—Underwood Mountain Vineyard—Columbia Gorge AVA 

Intensely aromatic and rich with crisp lemon, pear and white pepper characters. The dry flavors show apples, lemon, pepper and minerals.  “90” – Wine Enthusiast.  Paul Gregutt describes it as “…lightly floral, mineral-infused, vivid wine, it displays the white peppery character natural to the grape, and a mix of citrus fruit flavors somewhat reminiscent of New Zealand sauvignon blancs. Excellent penetration and structure.” 










2006 Viento Vento Red Wine—Columbia Valley AVA 

Viento means “wind” in Spanish and Vento means “wind” in Italian.  This is a Super-Tuscan style blend of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Grenache, 14% Barbera and 11% Syrah. The bouquet shows deep cherries, plums, crushed currants, juniper, vanilla and nutmeg. 









2007 Barbera—Lonesome Spring Ranch—Columbia Valley AVA 

This is the FIRST wine that Peter Cushman, second-generation Viento winemaker has made entirely on his own—and maybe it’s beginner’s luck but the wine is stunning! Beautifully ripe fruit and careful winemaking bring together bright red fruit flavors balanced with smoothness and depth on the finish. Pair with olive tapenade, Bolognese –sauced pastas, eggplant parmagiano or lentil soup.



Let’s Pair Up:

Asparagus Linguine—Pair with Viento 2009 Gruner Veltliner (Yields four servings)

You Will Need:

  • 6 ounces uncooked linguine                         
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 minced garlic cloves                             
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter                                 
  • 2 Tablespoons white wine (chicken broth is ok)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese to taste
  • 1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice     
  • 1/4 tsp salt 1/8 tsp pepper


Cook linguine according to package directions. As the pasta is cooking, melt the butter and oil in a nonstick skillet and add the onion and garlic.  Saute until tender. Add the asparagus and cook and stir for 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add the wine, cook and stir for 2 minutes until the liquid is reduced. Remove from the heat. Drain the linguine; add to asparagus mixture. Add remaining ingredients; toss to coat and serve immediately. 

Eggplant Parmigiana—Pair with Viento 2006 Vento Red Wine (four servings)

You will need: 

  • 2 eggs, beaten  
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Dash of garlic powder
  • Dash of onion powder
  • Dash of salt  
  • Dash of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • Vegetable oil  
  • 1 jar (26 oz) pasta sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated  Parmesan cheese
  • 10 oz shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 16 oz shredded mozzarella cheese


 1. Preheat oven to 350 degree.  Combine eggs, milk, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Place bread crumbs in another shallow dish. Dip eggplant into egg mixture; coat with bread crumbs.

 2. Heat 1/4 inch oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown eggplant on both sides in batches; drain on paper towels.

 3. Spread 3 tablespoons pasta sauce in bottom of 13×9 inch baking dish. Layer half of eggplant, half of mozzarella cheese, half of Swiss cheese and half of the remaining sauce in dish. Repeat layers. Sprinkle with Parmesan and Romano cheeses.

 4.   Bake 30 minutes or until heated through and cheeses melt.


Gruner Veltliner “The Groovy Grape”

February 26th, 2011

I must admit that Gruner Veltliner is a new wine for me. I have heard about it in passing and I have seen it on wine lists occasionally when dining at fine restaurants in larger cities. However, I have never really thought about ordering it or having it with a meal. If I want a white wine from Europe, I typically select a Riesling, quite possibly because I am more familiar with Riesling and because I can pronounce it successfully. (Why make a fool of myself when I don’t have to!)  It wasn’t until recently when I took a trip to the Columbia Gorge AVA in Hood River, Oregon, that I decided to try this wine. After my first taste of Viento 2009 Gruner Veltliner, I was hooked!!! I have always admired Rieslings but I fell in love with the Gruner’s intense purity and minerality. Immediately I had to learn more about this varietal.

First things first, I knew I had to learn how to pronounce it correctly. It’s my understanding that most Americans pronounce it VELT-leen-er but Austrians will correct you immediately and tell you that it is pronounced Velt-LEEN-er. Its nickname is GruVe (groovy). It is the most widely planted white grape variety in Austria. It makes up about 1/3 of all the vineyard land in the entire country, albeit a country the size of Maine. Most wine producers in Austria make more Gruner than Riesling because it is easier to grow and it is the source of some top Austrian wines.

Grunr Veltliner became popular in American in the mid to late 1990’s. It was trendy and “groovy” at the time and it could be found on many wine lists in upscale restaurants across the country. Like most trends, they fade away over time. For some reason, this trendy wine went by the way side for a while but it is surprisingly making a come-back and many sommeliers and wine directors have started selecting this wine again because it pairs so well with so many things. Gruner Veltliner is incredibly versatile. It is known for its spicy minerality and firm acidity. It pairs well with chicken and fish but it pairs equally well with those difficult vegetables like asparagus and artichokes. It is also a wine that can be enjoyed young or it can be cellared for several years, allowing its complexity to develop.

With Gruner Veltliner’s popularity on the rise, this grape varietal is now being grown and bottled by wineries and vineyards in Oregon, Maryland, and the Finger Lakes region of New York State and parts of California. Austria will probably always produce more of this grape than any other country, but it is nice to know that wineries in America have recognized this beautiful grape for what it is and they are taking steps to introduce it to the masses and hopefully bring back some of its popularity. I know for sure that when I see Gruner Veltliner on a wine list at a restaurant, I will select it over a Riesling any day…why? “Because, it’s always good to be groovy!”



February 23rd, 2011

One of my favorite holidays each winter is Valentine’s Day.  I’m a romantic at heart and I love nothing more than sharing a bottle of wine and some fine chocolate with my husband.  It has been two years since our wine jaunt has taken us to the Yakima area to celebrate their first event of the season, “Red Wine and Chocolate.”  This event always begins in early February and takes place over two weekends.  We really wanted to head that way over Valentine’s Day weekend, but with the heavy rain and snow on the pass, we decided to wait until this past weekend to head that way.  I’m glad that we did.  The pass was dry, the day was sunny and the wineries were less crowded.  However…..the winds were extremely high on Saturday and we had to contend with our share of tumbleweeds. 

This wine jaunt was important to us because we really wanted to revisit a few of our favorite wineries and we definitely wanted to visit those that we missed in 2009. One of our favorite stops is Piety Flats Winery. Located in an old Mercantile Building right off of I-82 on Donald Wapato Rd, it is always like taking a step back in time when we walk through its door.  I love browsing the Mercantile, purchasing my snacks for the day and of course tasting their line-up of wines.  We featured them in the fall of 2010, when we selected their Chenin Blanc for our club members.  Our time was limited and focused, but I didn’t leave until I enjoyed a taste of their Chenin Blanc and a taste of their late-harvest black muscat.  It’s always a treat.

Our next stop was Eaton Hill Winery. Now I must admit that we visited them in 2009, but I remembered that this winery not only pairs chocolates with their award winning wines, but they serve a warm soup as well.  The wind was wild, the temperature in the low 40’s and my stomach was rumbling.  As I entered the tasting room (located in the restored Rinehold Cannery building, built in the early 1900’s), the smell of soup and wine filled the air.  Two years ago they served a Mexican Wedding Soup that I remember well. This year they served Barbara’s Mexican Bean Soup. After a lite bite I was ready to sample their wines again.  They never disappoint! Our picks are the 2000 Konnowac Vineyards, Gold Foil (a silver medal winner), 2005 Konnowac Vineyards Silver Foil, (2 silvers, 3 bronze medals), Autumn Red Lot 09 and their 2007 Konnowac Vineyards Malbec.  We enjoyed visiting with their tasting room staff and we have invited them to feature their wines at our annual July BBQ for wine club members. They have agreed and we really look forward to featuring their wines which will pair beautifully with Brothers BBQ of Puyallup, WA.

**It should be noted that Eaton Hill Winery has been up for sale and it looks like it might have sold.  We can only hope that the future owners will keep the atmosphere and integrity of this fine winery.

Our next stop was Steppe Cellars.  Located off the beaten path, up Chaffee Rd at the top of the hill, this tasting room is located in a Quonset hut. A unique and yet cozy tasting room. On this windy, chilly day, the patio heaters that are strategically placed inside kept the temperature cozy and warm.  The Quonset hut also kept the winds at bay….or attempted to. The winds were so strong, that it took the door right off its hinges and the wind whipped through and a few empty wine bottles crashed to the floor.  This just added to the experience and it didn’t keep any of us from sipping the wines and nibbling on the treats.  We enjoy owners Tom and Susan Garrison, who are generous in their pours and offer great conversation. Their winemaker, Anke Freimuth-Wilman creates amazing Gewürztraminer and Riesling wines.  The 2008 Gewurztraminer is well balanced and dry (just the way I like it) and the Riesling –is crisp with wonderful hints of pears and apples.  I’ll save my purchased bottles for a warm summer day.  Our other pick is definitely their 2007 Artemisia.  I love a blended wine and this one is so rich. I love that the blend is a blend of six different varietals. Perfect!!!!

We left Steppe Cellars only to be greeted by tumbleweeds that nearly blocked the road entirely as we made our way back down Chaffee Rd.  The tumbleweeds were everywhere, but we didn’t let that stop us from making our way to the next winery.  The high winds and the road took us to our next stop, Portteus Vineyards and Winery.  We were greeted by a young boy as we made our way to the tasting room. The winds were so strong that he was having difficulty standing on his own two feet. Literally falling into the winery, the place was packed with wine lovers. The tasting room is nothing fancy, but who needs that when you are there to experience good wine and good wine is what Portteus Vineyards is all about. Owner and winemaker, Paul Portteus opened the winery in 1981. He is a very well- known and respected winemaker in the area, who is handing over more of the winemaking responsibility to his son Seth. They offer quite a flight of wines. The value wines are good for the buck, especially the 2008 Cabernet Franc with its spicy hints of clove and dark chocolate. We also enjoyed Purple Haze, which is 50% Sangiovese and 50% Petite Sirah. Who wouldn’t like a wine with that kind of name….a little Jimi Hendrix anyone? Our favorite premium red wines were the 2009 Reserved Petite Sirah and the 2007 Estate Red.

As the wind continued to blow us along and as we continued to dodge the tumbleweeds, we came upon Cultura Winery.  Intrigued by their elegant black and white sign, we pulled into their lot. The tasting room is in a new barn shaped structure with a beautiful red door. Enter, and you will notice a beautiful red wall, a cozy, contemporary atmosphere and owners Tad and Sarah Fewel behind the wine bar. They have three Bordeaux style red wines, all of which are exceptional.  Their flagship wine, 2007 Kairos is an equal blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Our personal favorite is the 2007 Chronos which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and a small percentage of Merlot.  They also have a nice 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.  They are a small operation, making approximately 600 cases a year.  They plan to keep it this way because they like the hands on approach. This is one new winery that will always be on our list to visit when we are in the area.

Our next stop was Paradisos de Sol.  We like visiting this winery because it is like visiting grandma’s farm.  When you pull in, you may scratch your head and wonder if you are at the right place. A sign is posted that says, “Yes! This is a tasting room. Come on in!” There are colorful flags blowing in the breeze (or lying flat on the ground with the high winds that day) and you will be greeted by more than one chicken or turkey scratching the ground. Enter a cozy tasting room that is located inside the L-shaped rambler. Owner and winemaker, Paul Vandenberg, loves to complement food and wine. You will be offered small bites that will complement their large flight of wines. The pairing is perfect and you will enjoy the experience. Our favorite is the white Semillion that is called “Oyster White.”  It is one of the most rich and bold whites that I have tasted in a long time.  In fact, another rich buttery white that came to mind was a vintage Chardonnay that I tasted two years ago at Blackwood Canyon outside Benton City, WA.  When my husband mentioned this to winemaker, Paul Vandenberg, he said that he was mentored by Mike Moore and he makes his wines in a similar style. (For those of you who do not know of Blackwood Canyon wines and Mike Moore – check out our blog article called The Renaissance Man of Wine.) The Oyster White wine stood out above all others and it is our pick for wine club members in April. It’s an expensive white ($32 a bottle), but worth every penny.  Only 88 cases were made and they seem to be flying out the door.  One thing that Paul mentioned is that he isn’t really sure why this particular wine turned out the way it did this time around.  He’s not sure it can be duplicated.  I’m glad we purchased our share. It will be great with seafood, especially oysters and equally good with brie. 

Agate Field Vineyard – this is our winery pick of the trip.  This winery has a “cowboy feel” to it as you drive up the long drive.  With the wind blowing and tumbleweeds scattered about, I thought I must be on a movie set for a western movie.  The building is rustic, made of logs. It has a second-story deck that overlooks the vineyards of Whiskey Canyon. The tasting bar is made of knotty pine and high above the shelves of wine are wagon wheels.  Beyond the tasting bar is the barrel room and this is where we met winemaker Bob Radke, pouring his premium wines.  Bob has an infectious smile and a down to earth personality. I enjoyed meeting him and I especially enjoyed my second visit with him the following day when we picked up our wine order for club members.  This is one person who loves what he does. He likes keeping the production of wines low (500 cases a year).  This gives him a hands-on approach.  This is a family business – founded by Ben Rashford and his wife, Ruth. The winemaking is done by Bob, (their son-in-law).  After a visit to Agate Field Vineyard, you feel like you are just another member of the family. Our wine picks are the 2005 La Moisson Red and the 2006 La Moisson Red. Both are made with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, but the 2005 has 18% Merlot added, which gives it a nice depth. Both are silver medal winners and they have earned 89-92 points in Wine Spectator.

Not far from Agate Field Vineyard is Wineglass Cellars. It’s a simple name, a simple label, but nothing simple about the wines.  Plan to stay awhile when you visit this winery. They have a wonderful flight of wines to sip…from a crisp chardonnay that really lingers in the mouth, to many full-bodied reds. Owner and winemaker, David Lowe is known for his “Capizimo” which is a beautiful blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, sangiovese and malbec. It took a Bronze medal in 2009 at the Washington State Wine Competition.  As the crowd stayed in the main tasting room, we ventured back to the barrel room to meet David and to taste his Pre-Release premium wines.  Premium they are. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Elerding Vineyard is everything I personally like in a cab. Lots of black cherryon the nose and a hint of pepper. We also liked the 2007 Syrah “Les Vignes de Marcoux.” I’m just beginning to really appreciate a good Syrah and this one is right up there among my favorites. I would describe it as earthy with a bold finish.  A very well balanced wine.  Typically I like a Syrah with a meal, but this is one Syrah that I could enjoy without the food.

Our final stop before the end of our day was Severino Cellars. This tasting room is located in a beautiful restored craftsman style farm house, with an inviting front porch.   Enter through the back door and you come into the kitchen, which is the tasting bar. The staff is friendly, and what better way to end our day than to sip their wines in the kitchen nook and visit with others. Severino is a small operation, making only about 1200 cases a year. This is the type of winery that we personally enjoy.  All of their wines are a great value but our personal favorite is the Severion Red Lot #3. It is 66% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a beautiful blend that is very fruit forward and easy to drink.  Sipping a glass of it in the kitchen nook was a great way to end our day of tasting.

When we stay in Yakima for a weekend, we always enjoy having dinner at The Second Street Grill. This restaurant is in the downtown area of Yakima in a stylish red brick building with large glass windows. The glass windows at the front of the building double as garage style doors that I imagine open up in the good weather so the dining experience can be taken outside.  I love that the interior of the building is sectioned off into different areas. The dining area is in the front of the building with tables and booths with high backs which give you privacy. Up a few steps and you are in the center of the building which is the large bar. The bar offers an extensive tap stand, many of which are Northwest brews. Toward the back of the bar is a fireplace and lounge area with leather chairs and couches, the perfect spot to have a drink, an appetizer and wait for your table to become available. The menu has a lot to offer from steaks to pasta dishes to salads.  We enjoyed a nice shrimp appetizer, Filet Mignon, potatoes and steamed green beans that was prepared perfectly.  Paired with a nice bottle of Northwest Merlot and we were set for the evening.  We have never been disappointed when we have eaten here. We have always had great service and good food. The wait can be a bit long, but that’s okay with us because we can always enjoy a drink in the bar, as we go over our notes of our wine jaunt.

Day Two

We woke to a bright sunny day, no wind….no tumbleweeds and a few more wineries to explore.

After picking up our club member wines from Agate Fields Vineyards, we came across Sheridan Vineyard Winery. The gate was open so we ventured in. Well, the Sheridan Vineyard Winery wasn’t open, no need to open because their wines are all sold.  We have heard wonderful things about winemaker, Scott Greer’s wines but we had yet to sample them.  Disappointed we were getting ready to leave when we noticed that another tasting room located across the gravel parking lot, on the bottom level of a home, was open.  Excited, we made our way to the small tasting room and met Pat Dineen, owner of Dineen Family Vineyards. Retired from the banking industry, he and his wife turned their interest to wines. Their lovely home overlooks some of the prettiest Zillah vineyards in the area and their tasting room is simple yet elegant. Pat was quick to let us know that he grows the grapes but he doesn’t make the wine. But as we all know, the wine starts with great fruit, so Pat’s dedication to producing the best fruit can be experienced in each glass of wine poured. Dineen wines are made by Scott Greer. We were able to taste and purchase their 2008 Estate grown Heritage Red Wine that is a perfect blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cab Franc, a wine with deep red color and cherry notes.  We also picked up their more value wines, the 2008 Kamiakin Red Wine blend and their 2008 Kamiakin YakimaValley Syrah. The red blend is a blend of 60% cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. It is rich in color with a bold fruit nose. I enjoyed the balance of tannins and its long finish. The Syrah is also deep in color, almost black. This wine is dense but also silky smooth with a  long finish.  All of these wines will get even better with age. They are now on the bottom of our wine shelf, where we will let them age for a few years (if we can).  We want to thank Pat Dineen for his generous pours and for also letting us taste his Cabernet Sauvignon, which has yet to be released. Though it was a bit tight, it opened up beautifully and I know that in time it will be a superb cab. We may have been unable to taste Scott Greer’s wines for Sheridan Vineyard, but we were able to taste his superb wines under another label. My mouth was very pleased!!!!

Before heading back to the western side of the state, we decided that we would explore the wine tasting rooms in downtown Yakima.  We have never visited these tasting rooms because we typically like to drive through the country side and enjoy wine tasting with a view. But this time we decided it was time to see what the city of Yakima had to offer.

Our first stop was Kana Winery.  We noticed this winery the night before as we left Second Street Grill. The tasting room was packed! An assortment of dark and white chocolate truffles were waiting to be paired with winemaker, Ben Grossman’s wines. It was really difficult to pick our favorites.  The majority of their wines have been given high points from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast; but we narrowed our favorites down to three. Our first pick is the Rhone-style blend of Viognier, Roussane and Marsanne known as “Masterpiece.” This wine received 87 pts from Wine Spectator and it’s a really food friendly wine.  We also enjoyed the 2004 Ciel du Cheval, Red Mountain which is a beautiful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France, Merlot, Petit Verdo and Malbec. This one received 89 pts from Wine Spectator. I wish I would have had a bottle of it last night to pair with my steak dinner.  Last but not least, the 2006 Scarlet Fire, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain is a Rhone style red with a blend of Mourvedre, Counoise and Syrah. We were able to get a few bottles before its upcoming release.  Superb!!! No wonder it received 90 pts from Wine Enthusiast.  All of their wines are under $30…a great value for wonderful wines.

WE STRUCK GOLD at Treveri Cellars!!!!  We adore a good sparkling wine.  In fact, every December, we feature a sparkling wine for our club members along with a Gluhwein and a premium red wine.  Well, we don’t need to look any further for top notch sparkling wines.  German born owner and winemaker, Juergen Grieb has an impressive line of sparkling wines. He had four of them available for tasting, but he quickly informed us that he will have four more available soon. A total of eight sparkling wines in one location! I’m in heaven. We first sampled his Sparkling Blanc de Blanc “Brut.”  It was crisp, complex and very dry….just the way I like Brut.  Our second taste was the Sparkling Pinot Gris. I’ve never tasted a sparkling Pinot Gris – this one was semi-dry with soft bubbles. Very refreshing! The last two were my favorites. The Sparkling Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Definitely a Riesling and a Gewruztraminer…their flavors are easy to recognize and now the taste is captured with bubbles!  There is no doubt that German winemaker, Juergen Grieb understands wine. With a degree in winemaking and a degree in sparkling winemaking and 30 years of experience behind him, I am so glad that he has turned his attention to sparkling wines. What a unique experience it was to visit a tasting room that featured only sparkling wines.  While tasting the wine and nibbling on the treats, Christian Grieb took the time to show us the process to make these sparkling jewels. Each bottle is handcrafted in the Methode Champenoise method. A true art.  As we started to leave the tasting room (located an industrial warehouse building), my husband exclaimed, “Did you see all the happy faces in there?” Our hat is off to Juergen Grieb who put smiles on all of our faces as we sipped his bubbly treats.

Our final stop before heading home was Gilbert Cellars. This is a wine bar and tasting room that is contemporary in style, it has friendly tasting room staff and a light menu. It was a great way to end our trip.  Many great wines from winemaker Justin Neufeld to pick from; many of which have won awards.  Our favorites were the 2009 Chardonnay Doc Stewart, 2007 Allobroges (bronze medal winner), 2007 Petit Verdot (bronze medal winner and 90 pts) and last but not least the 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon which is a blend of their five favorite barrels (91 pts). This is the perfect place to stop in Yakima for a light meal and a great bottle of wine.

As our day ended, we loaded our van with all of our boxes of wine and made our way back to Western Washington. We always enjoy our trips to Eastern Washington.  We were in need of some sunny days and in need of some great wine. I just couldn’t ask for a better way to spend my weekend. One thing we did manage to leave behind….The Tumbleweeds!


Wine Club Picks for January 2011 – The Pines 1852 – Columbia Gorge and Columbia Valley AVA’s

February 21st, 2011

Dear Wine Club Members 

It is hard to believe that it has already been two years since we started this unique wine club of ours.  So many wine makers are excited about our concept of featuring small artisan wines by AVA.  There are literally hundreds of wineries in Washington and Oregon and we have only scratched the surface. It seems that on a monthly basis, new wineries are popping up everywhere. Not all of them meet our criteria when selecting premium wines, but it goes without saying that we are hugely indebted to the hundreds of wine industry personnel who work the tasting rooms  and welcome us with  a generous pour of wine and a warm smile. 

Sometimes an incredible wine maker is just around the corner. During our holiday shopping trek, we happened to drop in on Madsen Family Cellars near Olympia, WA. Not expecting a lot, we entered their tasting room in the warehouse area of Lacey.  The tasting room is nothing fancy, but  one should not judge a book (or wine) by its cover.  The Chardonnay, both oaked and non-oaked, were very good, the off-dry Riesling….perfect.  Then we started on the reds.  OH MY!!!  Using fruit from Horse Heaven Hills and Red Mountain AVA’s, winemaker Dana Madsen has crafted a robust line-up of premium red wines….many of which have won awards and have received 92 pts.  Needless to say, we ended our shopping day on a happy note with several bottles in our van. Before leaving, we invited Dana to share his wines with our members at our quarterly party in February.  Mark your calendars for the 26th of February. Dana will be joining us at our home where everyone will be able to taste some of his award winning creations.

Our Pick of the Month:

This month we are taking our wine club members back to the Columbia Gorge AVA and the Columbia Valley AVA. Why these two AVA’s? Our featured winery “The Pines 1852,” is unique in the fact that the Pines Vineyard has fruit unique to both AVA’s. Half of their vineyard meets the Columbia Gorge AVA requirements and the other half meets the Columbia Valley requirements. You might think of it as an invisible line drawn down the middle of this vineyard where the two AVA’s meet. Note the label on the Pinot Gris, it’s fruit comes from the Columbia Gorge AVA, while the label on the Old Vine Zinfandel indicates that its fruit is from the Columbia Valley AVA

Featured Winery of the Month:

The Pines 1852

The Pines 1852 was open for business in 2001 and is owned and operated by Lonnie Wright.  According to Gretchen, the tasting room extraordinaire, Lonnie is considered a “grape guru,” in the Columbia Gorge area. Nobody knows the Columbia Gorge AVA better.  Lonnie has been responsible for the Pines Vineyard since 1982, when he revived the old vine zindfandel that was planted….you guessed it..”in 1852.”  In addition to that, Lonnie is responsible for approximately 200 acres of grapes throughout this AVA and many in the wine industry such as Sineann, Pheasant Valley, Cathedral Ridge, Mystic, Eola Hills and Maryhill, depend on the grapes from vines that are planted and maintained by Lonnie. 

Like any successful winery, it takes a team effort. The perfect combination came together in the 1980’s when new wine-maker Peter Rosback contacted Lonnie Wright because he was in need of some grapes. Like many new wine-makers, their creations start in a garage or a basement.  Peter began his wine production in his basement using the Old Vine Zinfandel provided by Lonnie.  As Peter continued to grow his business, Lonnie continued to add new plantings to the Pines Estate Vineyard.  In the early 1990’s Peter Rosback started his own winery, Sineann, in Newberg, Oregon, using many varietals from the vines planted and nurtured by Lonnie. In 2001, Lonnie created his own label “The Pines 1852,” and Peter Rosback continues to be the winemaker to this day. 

We have visited this tasting room on several occasions when visiting Hood River, Oregon.  A trip to Hood River would not be the same if we didn’t stop in for a tasting. We always enjoy our visit with Gretchen, who manages the tasting room and her knowledge about the wines, their origin and the history of the vineyards is quite amazing. When you visit this tasting room, make sure and take your time. They have quite the lineup of regionally grown varietals. You’ll start with their pinot gris and viogonier – both of which are superb.  Their most popular wines are Lonnie’s zins and the port-style zinfandel called Sweet Sierra. The Old Vine Zinfandel is by far one of our absolute favorites and we know that we must get there soon after its release, because more than likely it will be gone.  As you enjoy the wines, you will also enjoy the art gallery that shares the space with the tasting room. Although you cannot take your wine glass into the gallery area, it is worth your time to take a look before leaving.

The Pines 1852 Old Vine Zinfandel 2009

The Old Vine Zinfandel was first planted in Dalles, Oregon in the late 1800’s by Louis Comini, an Italian stone mason. Louis Comini brought grape vines from his homeland in Genoa, Italy, and planted them in the Columbia River Gorge. This Zin is made from those grapes from the Pines Vineyard, one of the oldest vineyards in the Northwest. Interestingly, half of this vineyard is located in the Columbia Gorge AVA and the other half is in the Columbia Valley AVA.  This Zin displays complexity of flavors that only come with age with black pepper, currant, and chocolate covered cherry and aromas of raspberry, cherry and a hint of smoke. This wine will not disappoint your palate with its full-bodied finish, long legs and deep garnet color.

The Pines 1852 Big Red 2007 (2nd red for 2-red wine club members)

This blend is a crowd favorite. It is a unique blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel. This wine brings together the best of four wines for a hearty blend with a full mouth-fell. Long legs, jammy berries and a peppery finish make this wine great with steak and pasta






The Pines 1852 Pinot Gris 2008

The 2008 vintage is a classic Alsacian-style. Almost bone-dry, displaying characteristics of green apple and Meyer lemon with a hint of pear with aromas of pineapple and citrus. This fruity, crisp Gris is best if served chilled. Pairs well with chicken and fish.







Let’s Pair Up:

Portobello Sirloin and Fettuccine—Pair with The Pines 1852 Old Vine Zinfandel 2009

You Will Need: 

  • 1/2 cup zinfandel                         
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves minced                  
  • 2 tsp olive oil                  
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 small onion sliced                     
  • 12 oz lean sirloin cut into thin strips
  • 12 oz Portobello mushrooms sliced     
  • 8 oz spinach fettuccine

Let’s Get Started: 

In a large zip lock bag, add the zinfandel, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, olive oil and dried oregano. Add the onions, mushrooms and sirloin.  Put in refrigerator and let marinated meat  sit for at least four hours. Rotate the mixture from time to time, making sure that all the beef and mushrooms absorb the marinade. 

Prepare fettuccine according to packaged directions—omitting the salt and oil. While fettuccine is being prepared, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Place half the beef mixture in the prepared skillet and cook for about 4 minutes until the meat is no longer pink in color.  Remove and set aside. Place the remaining beef mixture in the skillet and cook for the same amount of time. Add the reserved beef mixture with its juices back to the skillet, increase heat to high and cook for five more minutes.  

Drain pasta and serve beef mixture over the fettuccine. Serve with a light salad. 

Creamy Lemon Pasta with Chicken—Pair with The Pines 1852 2008 Pinot Gris 

You Will Need: 

  • 3 boneless/skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 lemon quartered 2 tsp garlic powder divided
  • 1 tsp black pepper divided
  • 28 oz chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 8 oz pkg of rotella pasta
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest 

Let’s Get Started: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place chicken in a lightly greased baking dish. Squeeze the lemon over both sides of the chicken and sprinkle with 1.5 tsp of the garlic powder and 3/4 tsp of the pepper.   Bake for 40 minutes, or until the juices run clear.  

While the chicken is cooking, place the chicken stock in a sauce pan and add the remaining garlic powder and pepper. Bring to a boil and then add the lemon juice and pasta and cook over medium heat until all the juice is absorbed. About 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.  When chicken is done, cut into bite size pieces and add to the pasta. Add the cream and the zest. Stir well and cook for about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes.