It’s not often that a winemaker initiates a discussion on consumer perceptions of wines and winemakers. Especially rare is a winemaker who openly discusses his use of oak chips in winemaking. Insists that wine tastes better paired with music. Or asserts that sulfite free wines age forever. Yet, all this and more was tackled head on during an online media tasting with Clark Smith, winemaker for WineSmith Wines & Consulting and author of Postmodern Winemaking.
I wasn’t sure what to anticipate from the virtual event. One thing was for sure, though. When I received the sample bottles, I was excited to see wines rarely associated with California such as Saint Laurent and Petit Manseng.
Here’s the first thing Clark wanted to say:
“My wines are highly manipulated. ALL wines are highly manipulated. Those are not grapes in the glass. No wine is as manipulated as any beer, and that’s the truth. The foundation of our brand is total honesty.”
Although winery tasting rooms were forced to close in March, maintaining a steady supply of wine hasn’t been a problem in our house! In order to stay afloat during these wildly challenging times, wineries have provided consumers all kinds of offers. A library vertical – yes, please! A mystery library pack – sign me up! Shipping included – okay! In other words, I’ve discovered some terrific deals. Revealed here are eight Washington Wines worth staying home for and what to pair with them. August is Washington Wine Month so don’t let it pass you by without trying some of these soul satisfying wines priced from just $17-36. Continue reading “Eight Washington Wines Worth Staying Home For and What to Pair with Them”
Although it is my regular practice to spread the word about notable wines and wineries, I don’t normally write about clients. However, these are far from normal times. Not to mention, I have been a fan of Avennia since the release of their inaugural vintage in 2012. Working with them for nearly two years in order to help wine lovers connect with the brand has just been icing on the cake. I consider myself extremely fortunate to assist such a celebrated winery and a team of generous and talented people. Through our partnership it’s become clear that there’s a lot to admire about the winery in addition to first-rate winemaking. Here’s an insider’s update on what’s happening at leading Washington winery Avennia lately, along with an exploration of some of their wines I’ve recently opened and the foods paired with them.
Founded by Marty Taucher and Chris Peterson, Avennia is based in Woodinville, Washington about 20 miles outside of Seattle. The two met while working harvest at DeLille Cellars in 2009. When Chris reviewed Marty’s business plan for a winery, an innocent inquiry as to who was going to make the wine led to a partnership. By the 2010 harvest, the two were working Avennia’s first crush. Since then, Avennia has amassed top accolades and earned some of the highest scores in Washington State for their world class wines. Marty manages the business side of the winery while Chris oversees the cellar.
At the first signs of the pandemic, my company was impacted significantly. As business plummeted, so did my spirit. I remember speaking with Marty on the phone right when everything started going in a tailspin. Thankfully, the first thing he did was offer reassurance, “Don’t worry, Nancy, we’ll get through this.”
It’s easy to return to the familiar wines. The wines we know we like. After all, there’s comfort in the familiar, right? However, during a time when it’s critical to exercise caution in the everyday routines of our lives, wine is one aspect where we can choose adventure. Let’s talk about the less talked about wine varieties and explore Oregon’s alternative wines.
Think about wine from Oregon, and Pinot Noir is sure to come to mind. Or maybe one of the other leading planted varieties – Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Each of them fine selections in their own right. However, given the choice between those or a juicy red Zweigelt or fragrant Gewurztraminer I say back the truck up and head down the road less traveled! In fact, there are over 70 varieties beyond Pinot Noir grown in Oregon.
Did you know that Muller Thurgau is the seventh most planted variety in Oregon’s Willamette Valley? In case you’re not familiar, Muller sounds like Bueller, as in Ferris Bueller – the very one that took an infamous day off. Gewurztraminer is sixth. Pinot Blanc fifth. What makes these varieties compelling? Distinct personalities. Food friendliness. Character. Ultimately, this is the kind of juice I’m craving right now.
Six of Oregon’s Alternative Wines
While in Oregon last summer on a wine-soaked journey hosted by some of Willamette Valley’s wine industry veterans, I was exposed to a number of the ‘other varietals’. These are the wines that captivated me.
Gamay Noir Brick House Vineyards $34 SRP Don’t confuse Oregon Gamay Noir for the highly promoted Beajuololais Nouveau. Although the same red grape variety is involved, carbonic maceration is not used here. Brick House practices Biodynamic farming on its 40 acres and ferments with indigenous yeast. The result is a serious wine with notes of cherry, baking spice, and slate. I was extremely excited when I saw this wine being carried at VinoSocial client Esquin! Try this if you like: Pinot Noir. Pair with: roast chicken, Asian cuisine, sausage, and special occasions.
Minumus / Craft Wine Co. $30 SRP Prepare a picnic, pour a glass of this captivating white wine, and get lost in the moment. The name of the grape is pronounced similarly to coroner but with an e instead of o. Sure, maybe coroner isn’t the best word to use but isn’t it going to be easy to remember now? The name comes from Dr. Julius Kerner who developed this delectable cross between Riesling and Trollinger. This fascinating wine inspired me to take advantage of a recent shipping deal and order more of the Minumus alt wines, Vermentino and Muller Thurgau among them. Try this if you like: Picpoul or other refreshing white wines. Pair with: bacon wrapped goat cheese atop a salad.
Sokol Blosser $28 SRP With limited free time during a day of wine education at the property, I ventured into the tasting room for a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am sampling and purchased this bottle as a result. Sokol Blosser is one of the founding wineries of the Willamette Valley, family owned and operated, and deeply committed to being good stewards of the land. They also happen to be the first commercial producer of Muller Thurgau in the U.S. This fragrant, pretty white wine evokes spring. Try this if you like: Torrontes, or off-dry white wines. Pair with: Thanksgiving dinner. Some sweetness on the wine also lends itself to spicy food.
Left Coast Estate $50 SRP This red grape is mostly known as a blending partner in Champagne. Here it is on its own, opulent, fruity, and delightfully gulpable. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of this wine! Try this if you like: Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir. Pair with: risotto and a drizzle of truffle oil.
Native Flora $34 SRP Scott Flora’s fascinating philosophy of farming is all about experimentation and improvability. This wine is for people with an adventurous spirit who desire a glass filled with something that gets along well with food. Try this if you like: Pinot Gris. Pairs well with: light seafood.
Now is a great time to pour something other than the usual in your wine glass. Let Oregon’s alternative wines take you to another place.
Cooking can be a challenge while trying to avoid going to the store. So, when I don’t have all the ingredients called for in a recipe, I manage by making substitutions with what is in the pantry. After all, things are hard enough so why not give yourself permission to incorporate non-traditional ingredients if that’s all you have? No matter what you cook, remember it can be elevated by serving a terrific wine with it any night of the week. That’s why this satisfying risotto style barley recipe and wine pairing is what you need right now.
This hearty dish is a twist on a recipe from the lovely photo-filled cookbook, Jerusalem, by acclaimed duo Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. My addition of a bacon jam condiment from Seattle’s Eden Hill Provisions adds another layer of flavor. It is also one of the indulgences we’ve enjoyed during the stay at home order, purchased to champion the neighborhood restaurant’s efforts to keep going and support its employees. Eden Hill makes it easy to order – purchase selections online and choose pickup or delivery. I received notice that my order was ready less than 15 minutes after placing it. Plus, wine is available for purchase, so stock up!
Let’s Get Cooking
Recipe serves 4
1 tablespoon unsalted butter 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 onion, diced (I used a red onion, but you can use whatever you have) 2 cloves garlic, chopped 1 cup pearl barley 1/3 cup red or white wine 2 tablespoons bacon jam or 1 slice bacon 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (less if you don’t like such a smoky flavor) 1 bay leaf 1 teaspoon salt 2 cups chicken stock (vegetable stock or beef stock are fine substitutes) 1 jar or can crushed or chopped tomatoes, 18 ounces 1 teaspoon caraway seeds 4 tablespoons chevre
In a medium pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the olive oil. Put the onion and garlic in the pan and sauté for about 5 minutes until they become transparent. Then, add the barley and stir for about a minute. Pour in the wine, increase the heat to medium high, and bring to boil for a few minutes until the wine starts to reduce. Next, add the bacon jam (or bacon), paprika, bay leaf, salt, and stock. After mixture reaches a boil, reduce heat to low. Let mixture cook for 30-45 minutes. Stir regularly to prevent the grains from sticking to the bottom of the pan. It is ready when the barley is tender.
While the barley is cooking, toast the caraway seeds for 1-2 minutes in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Be sure to stay at attention so as not to burn them! When the seeds are fragrant remove pan from the heat, usually 1-2 minutes.
Serve the barley, topping each portion with some of the goat cheese and sprinkled with caraway seeds.
Wine Pairing for Risotto Style Barley
The great thing about barley is that it has a heartiness to it, helping it stand up to a similarly hearty wine. Additionally, this preparation includes wine (an easy bridge ingredient), savory herbal notes from the bay leaf, and some smokiness from the paprika and bacon. For a veggie oriented dish like this, I often turn to Cabernet Franc. With bacon involved, I consider Oregon or California Pinot Noir. Or, to highlight the smoke factor from the paprika, Syrah or a Rhone style wine that mirrors that smokiness comes to mind. It would also be interesting to try Malbec with this recipe.
In celebration of Walla Walla Valley Wine Month, I opened a sample of Spring Valley Vineyards Cabernet Franc to accompany this risotto barley recipe. As the first sip washed over my tongue, clouds parted, horns trumpeted, and everything seemed right in the world. Okay, not really, but this was a WOW bottle! The red wine offered all bright fruit at first, then transformed to a subtle note of green bell pepper, bay leaf, followed by chocolate. I appreciate that the wine is focused on the fruit and a sense of Walla Walla, rather than oak. What is more, paired with the barley, the food and the wine celebrated one another.
Spring Valley Vineyard 2015 Katherine Corkum Cabernet Franc Walla Walla Valley SRP $50
If you don’t have access to this wine, look for the varieties below to complement this savory dish. Cabernet Franc Pinot Noir Gamay Noir Syrah GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blend Malbec