Let’s Talk About Orange Wine

A friend posted about orange wine on Instagram saying she hates to do so because the term leads many to ask her if it’s made from oranges. Sure, it’s not your garden variety wine but it’s been made for thousands of years. Perhaps we need to talk about orange wine?

I remember when I had my first orange wine from Washington. Gah! It was not for me. You know how when you make a cup of tea and accidentally let it steep too long and the aromatics are like *kapow*? Then, each sip leaves you with kitty cat tongue. Yeah, that’s what it was like. Subsequently, I tried one from another producer. Hmmm, better I thought. Then, I had the good fortune to travel to Slovenia and experience orange wine the way it was meant to be. There it is typically crafted from the Rebula grape, often spending months in large vessels. It was just right! Food friendly, too.

As winemakers here in the United States gain more experience crafting orange wines, I’m finding more to my taste. Here are some recent highlights from Washington state and beyond.

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Elsom Cellars Scores a Goal with Stefan Frei Partnership

I still recall my first encounter with Elsom Cellars wine years ago. It was a malbec, and a distinctive one at that. It exuded a spicy, black pepper nuance. Is there a spice more popular than pepper? It adds abundant flavor to life. As do the wines coming out of this woman led business.

While Malbec is still considered the signature variety of Elsom Cellars, the winery is about so much more than that. Especially to me personally. I am a member of the board of Seattle Urban Wineries as a result of Winemaker Rebecca Weber’s outreach. Even if it weren’t for that, I find it admirable that the people behind the brand create such a welcoming space and foster community. They also have much to offer wine loving consumers such as a one-of-a-kind urban tasting experience on the outdoor patio, an indoor space available for private events, and a diverse range of tantalizing wines that even includes a vermouth. There are also bottles that give back to the community.

Celebrating the release of The Keeper
Photo via Elsom Cellars Facebook Page

Meet The Keeper

Elsom Cellars recently scored a collaboration with celebrated Seattle Sounders goalkeeper, Stefan Frei. The wine project, aptly named The Keeper, benefits youth sports programs through Washington Youth Soccer. The bottle is adorned with label artwork created by Frei, a two-time MLS Cup champion and an avid artist.

“I’m really excited about this project,” said Frei. “It’s about coming together to support our community’s young athletes and helping them reach their goals on and off the field.” Continue reading “Elsom Cellars Scores a Goal with Stefan Frei Partnership”

A Colorado Winery for The Ordinary Fellow

Look up “Colorado wine” and Google suggests people want to know, “Is Colorado good for wine?” and, “Does Colorado have good wineries?” Up until last week, I had no idea.

Enter Colorado winery, The Ordinary Fellow. The labels on the samples I received are anything but commonplace, splashed with colorful artwork. A small peel off tab enables an outer sleeve to rotate around the bottle. With each turn of the clever wrapper, cutouts highlight different images below along with clever sayings. The innovative approach is something perfectly playful and enchanting for those who feel that stodgy wine labels can be a snooze fest. Perhaps this is one way to attract a new audience to wine?

 

While the labels may be unique and unconventional, the varietal contents are more commonplace. Bottles I received include consumer darlings Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, and Riesling. What may be a surprise to learn is that the Riesling and Cabernet come from the same vineyard. However, different microclimates can enable very different grapes to flourish within one vineyard. That’s not to say Colorado wine country doesn’t have distinctive qualities. By way of example, here’s a quick overview.

Fun Facts About Colorado Wine

Want to dazzle people with your knowledge of Colorado wine? Here are some talking points to share the next time you’re at a party courtesy of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.

  • Colorado has more than 170 licensed wineries.
  • It is home to two federally designated American Viticultural Areas (AVAs): the Grand Valley AVA and the West Elks AVA.
  • These two AVAs contribute 90% of the wine grapes grown in Colorado.
  • At 4,000 to 7,000 feet in elevation, Colorado lays claim to the highest growing regions in the Northern Hemisphere (by comparison, Washington State’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA ranges from 200 to 2,000 feet).

The Ordinary Fellow Origin Story

Interestingly, Ben Parsons, the bloke behind The Ordinary Fellow, sounds anything but ordinary. The winemaker previously founded The Infinite Monkey Theorem (TIMT) winery in 2008. A 2019 Wine Spectator article announcing his resignation reports, “He kickstarted the urban winery and canned wine trends.” Sounds like Ben is intent on making wine more accessible, something the industry desperately needs. Continue reading “A Colorado Winery for The Ordinary Fellow”

Irresistible Washington Wines Under $26

While celebrating Washington Wine Month throughout March, I opened a number of bottles that reminded me of the remarkable values crafted by our state’s wineries. Here they are, irresistible Washington wines under $26 in order of price point along with food pairings. If these wineries aren’t already on your radar they should be!

Powers Winery 2016 Merlot

Retail price $12.99 at Esquin

On a recent visit to VinoSocial client Esquin I asked for a Washington Merlot under $30 that isn’t heavily oaked. With over 5,400 wines in stock, I was surprised the recommended wine came in at less than half the budget! For the price, I was willing to take a chance.

What’s in the Bottle

100% Merlot fermented in stainless steel, aged in a combination of second use, third fill, and neutral French oak.

With fruit coming from the ethereal Champoux Vineyard (Quilceda Creek, Andrew Will, and Woodward Canyon source from here), plus vineyards in the Wahluke Slope it’s hard to believe what a great value this is.

Blackberry, Tootsie Roll, and dark chocolate comingle in this weeknight winner with lifted acidity.

Food Pairing

Hubby and I tried this out with whole grain spaghetti topped with marinara sauce and I’d do it again!

 

Kevin White Winery 2020 Blue Label

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How Writing Plays a Role in Wine Competitions

Guest author Dana Van Nest shares a behind the scenes look into the Great Northwest Wine competitions.

“Intriguing nose of cherries jubilee, sweet herbs, and chocolate-covered blueberries,” I noted about the 2017 Siren’s Reserve Beijo Red Wine from Siren Song Wines. “Juicy red berries and plum greet you in this smooth and very drinkable blend, and later give way to chocolate and hints of tobacco.”

The Columbia Gorge Hotel where the Great Northwest Invitational takes place

At the Great Northwest Wine Invitational, held this past October at the Columbia Gorge Hotel, I tasted 67 Gold medal-winning wines and wrote tasting notes for each in less than two days. Eric Degerman, journalist and owner of Great Northwest Wine, had invited me to return for a second time as a Chief Judge for this competition (I also served as a Chief Judge at the Cascadia International Wine Competition last May).

With approximately 800 wines entered in this invitation-only competition, we start early with the panels of wine judges receiving their first flights at 8:30 am. The panel is comprised of a number of the region’s most respected wine buyers and merchants. They are a knowledgeable and generous crowd with whom I seriously enjoy getting to work, eat, and drink with for two days. After the panels have chosen the Golds for each flight, the Chief Judges (typically two or three of us) get to work.

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