Take a drive out to the picturesque McMinnville Foothills in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and explore a winery built on the American dream and Biodynamic soil. Turn into Momtazi Estate, and the road ultimately leads to the impressive Maysara Winery. I had the pleasure of visiting this family owned and operated winery this summer as a guest while attending the 2019 Wine Writers Educational Tours. Our revelatory introduction to the 532 acre estate was led by owner Moe Momtazi.
Here in Washington State, the wine world is growing. In fact, we recently passed the 1,000 winery mark! To help spread the word about our world class wine region, the Washington State Wine Commission has invited select wine lovers to take part in a campaign to Sip the Season, and I am very excited to participate. As such, I am introducing friends and family to some wine samples during the holidays. I feel it would be remiss, however, if these wines and stories aren’t also shared here on the VinoSocial blog.
Seven Hills Winery
Walla Walla Valley Merlot SRP $25
This Merlot is elegant and succulent. While it’s easy to get distracted by all the shiny new wineries starting up, Seven Hills serves as a great reminder not to lose sight of the original brands that paved the way. Be sure to stop in at the pioneering winery’s tasting room on a visit to Walla Walla. Housed in the charming historic Whitehouse Crawford building, it’s a sentimental favorite of mine. This was one of the very first tasting rooms I visited in Walla Walla years ago.
Cabernet Sauvignon SRP $25 This lively red wine from the folks behind Hightower Cellars was perfect for a weeknight pasta meal (Andrea Robinson’s book, Everyday Dining with Wine has a great recipe for Linguine with Walnuts, Arugula, and Olives). It bears repeating that the Hightower Cellars Merlot wowed me earlier this year. Plus, with prices ranging from $20 to $55, the wines crafted by Hightower Cellars exemplify fantastic quality for the price. These folks are definitely on our radar to visit next time we head to Red Mountain, one of Washington’s smallest and most prestigious wine growing regions.
2017 French Creek Chardonnay SRP $28 Ashley Trout, founder and winemaker of Vital Wines, has both a winemaking style and an ethos that resonate with me. Her Vital Wines project is a non-profit winery whose profits go entirely toward health care for those in the wine industry. Buy this mouthwatering wine knowing that it tastes good and does good.
Ashley is also the force behind Brook & Bull, and I was overjoyed to recently attend a popup in Seattle featuring that Walla Walla winery’s latest releases. The wines are so popular that there weren’t any available for me to purchase and take home that day! If you appreciate wines of balance that aren’t overpowered by oak such as an elegant Cabernet Franc, and a smooth Malbec, give these wines a try.
This tempting wine is waiting patiently to be uncorked at a holiday party next week, and I am eager with anticipation! Meanwhile, here’s a cool thing to note about Matthews Winery – a visit to their tasting room is at their serene farm in rural Woodinville. Their summer dinners should be on the radar of those who are fans of farm to table fare.
Basel Cellars is based in Walla Walla, about a 5 hour drive from Seattle, and a wine lover’s dream region featuring fine wine and delectable food. However, laws have changed in Washington State enabling wineries to have multiple tasting rooms – and Basel Cellars has three! Find them not only in Walla Walla, but also Woodinville, and Leavenworth. Meanwhile, this enticing bottle of Claret is getting shared with friends coming over for a holiday dinner featuring beef skewers and Romesco sauce.
Vin du Lac
2017 Viognier SRP $24.95 This wine made its way to Thanksgiving dinner in order to be served with turkey. Although the in-laws are not typically wine drinkers, they thoroughly enjoyed this thirst quenching white. When visiting the Lake Chelan area, stop at the winery’s lovely grounds for a meal at their bistro.
If the wine gracing your table this time of year is from Washington State, be sure to share it on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #siptheseaon. It will help you connect with other wine lovers exploring our region’s great wines!
Washington State not only has more than 1,000 active winery licenses, it is the birthplace of some incredibly giving wineries. A perfect example is Vital Wines.
I first discovered Vital Wines during a visit to Walla Walla, the winery’s home base. During check in at the hotel, we were invited to a wine tasting in the lobby. Vital Wines as well as the Brook and Bull wines were being poured. Of course, I couldn’t pass that up, and am glad I didn’t! The entire array of wine was a tempting treasure trove full of gems. Ashley Trout, one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top 40 Under 40, is the powerhouse behind both brands. Suffice it to say, I am a big fan of her winemaking.
On that same trip while catching up with winemaker Peter Devison of Devison Vintners and Cadaretta, he mentioned that he’d contributed wine to the Vital project. Well then, there is no doubt that quality product is involved here. Plus, he’s not alone. A community of supporters has donated everything from fruit, corks, capsules, labels, graphic design, winemaking, and lab work to sustain Vital Wines.
Wine with a Cause
What’s the big deal, why are all these people involved? As noted on the winery’s website, “Vital Wines is a non-profit winery whose 100% profits go toward better healthcare for vineyard and winery workers in the Walla Walla Valley. All profits go to the SOS Clinic, a free, non-profit health care clinic in the Walla Walla area dedicated to helping people get the healthcare that they both need and deserve with no questions asked. Winemaking and vineyard work is both physical and seasonal, making it a prime industry for this kind of care.” When it comes to wine, we may forget that getting the grapes into our glass is a labor intensive process. Many of those who work in the industry do not have company sponsored health insurance.
During the opening session of the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference (now the Wine Media Conference) in Walla Walla, Ashley pointed out that in the next decade she’d like for Vital Wines to solve more problems on the worker side and address social responsibility. For example, light was shed on the fact that lots of vineyards in the region are planted in a way that doesn’t allow mechanical harvesting. As such, Ashley feels that wineries need to work with vineyards that prioritize care of people working the vines, and that is has to be done en masse.
Vital Wines Chardonnay
This holiday season, I had the good fortune to receive a sample bottle of the 2017 vintage of Vital Wines Chardonnay from the Washington State Wine Commission as part of the Sip the Season promotion. I could hardly wait to share this Chardonnay with others. Not just because I anticipated a delectable bottle of wine, but because it would give me a chance to spread the word about the worthy mission behind the winery. The more people who discover Vital Wines, the better!
An invitation to dinner at a friend’s house included a menu of sous vide chicken and lemon risotto. That sounded like the perfect pairing for Chardonnay, so a plan was hatched to open the bottle from Vital Wines that evening.
Like biting into a pastry wrapped baked apple, the Vital Wines Chardonnay delivers a sense of comfort and happiness. Indeed, it was a wonderful complement to the flavors on our plates and we all enjoyed it!
Fruit from the Vital Wines Chardonnay comes from French Creek Vineyards, one of Washington State’s oldest Chardonnay vineyards established in 1981, planted to Wente Clone Chardonnay. The wine retails for $28.
Now it’s time for you to discover Vital Wines! If you’re looking for wine with meaning this holiday season, look no further than the crowd pleasing Vital Wines Chardonnay. Then, be sure to share it on the Insta or Twitter. To discover others sharing the magic of Washington wine this season, follow the hashtag #siptheseason. Cheers to Vital Wines and doing good!
I recently uncorked a sample bottle of Mettler Family Vineyards Estate Grown GSM. When most people hear, “Lodi,” they tend to think, “Zinfandel.” However, there are over 100 varieties grown in Lodi. This wine is just one of many examples of fantastic Lodi wine beyond Zin. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If variety is the spice of life, Lodi is one spicy place!
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Lodi, California. I have visited twice, most recently receiving the great honor of being invited to Lodi for a “Behind the Bottle” tour last year with the people of Visit Lodi. So, you’re probably thinking, “She must be biased in her opinion!” Perhaps, but the hubby absolutely loves this wine and he wasn’t with me on the tour!
Mettler Family Vineyards
Lodi is all about multi-generational farmed family wineries, and Mettler Family Vineyards is no exception. One of Lodi’s oldest farming families, the Mettlers have been tending to vineyards of premium wine grapes in Lodi since the late 1800s.
Notably, Adam Mettler, Winemaker for Mettler Family Vineyards as well as Michael David Winery, was named 2018 Winemaker of the Year by Wine Enthusiast. This honor for Mettler and the Lodi region as a whole speaks to the innovation of the winemaking and its wow factor.
When I visited Lodi in 2017 the Mettler Family Vineyards Aglianico and Pinotage were on my list of recommended Lodi Wines. To that list I now add their GSM.
Mettler Family Estate Grown GSM
The price points on Mettler Family Vineyard wines are incredible for the quality, starting at just $19.99. Priced at $35, the current vintage of GSM is at the high end of pricing for this brand but still worth every penny.
The 2014 vintage is a blend of 40% Grenache, 36% Syrah, and 24% Mourvedre. Pretty aromas of violet emerge at first sniff, giving way to dried fruit. On the palate, the violet comes through along with baking spices and some candied cherry and raspberry. This red wine is an easy quaffer. I can still hear the hubby proclaim, “This is a great wine!”
Food Pairings for GSM
We enjoyed this wine with a tomato based pasta dish. However, the notes of baking spice coming off the wine had me thinking about rubbing a blend of cinnamon, clove, and allspice under the skin of a chicken before roasting the bird. Accompanied by a berry barbecue sauce, I think the fruitiness of the wine would come out even more.
Devison Vintners has just released its first wine. However, the Walla Walla based family behind the brand is anything but new to the industry. This year will be Winemaker Peter Devison’s 19th harvest, after all. His wife, Kelsey, began a career in wine sales and distribution 13 years ago. Together, they’ve launched their own brand and just released one of the most beautiful rosés I’ve tasted this year. If the 2018 Devison Vintners Rosé is any indication of what’s to come, expect to hear plenty more about this couple and their wines in the future!
I first encountered Peter when he spoke at the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington. Two years later, we worked together at a Woodinville winery after he moved across the state. Peter’s talent and dedication to the cellar were apparent from the start, and I have great respect for this hard working winemaker.
It is from Peter that I learned what makes rosé exceptional. Quality rosés made with intent are main stream today. However, he was at the forefront of the movement in Washington State, and is a master of rosé. While some winemakers bottled pink wine made with the cast-off juice from another wine, (saignée method, a process that concentrates the red wine), Peter made a point of bringing in grapes while they still retained acidity and had lower levels of sugars. He kept the wine on the lees (yeast particles) for a period of time in order to build mid-palate intensity and reduce astringency. Then, unlike the sweet rosé most of us know and fear, he fermented the wine to dryness.
Peter embraces a minimalist intervention style of winemaking and has mad skills when it comes to native fermentation. In other words, he relies on the natural yeast on the grapes and in the cellar rather than using commercial yeasts. Commercial yeasts can alter flavor and amp up alcohol. He also minimizes racking, the process of moving wine from one vessel to another. “The more you have to move a wine, it depletes greatness,” he’d tell me. Over the years, the resulting wines have been awarded top scores from critics. It will be exciting to see what happens when his latest wines reach the market.