What Makes Avennia a Leading Winery in Washington

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.

Avennia Winemaker, Chris Peterson (photo via Facebook)

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.

Avennia Founding Partner Marty Taucher during Avennia’s first live tasting

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.”

Principled Leadership

It turns out that Marty had read an article of mine that highlights five lessons on marketing during these challenging times. Like so many other businesses, Avennia was planning a quick pivot. In order to stay engaged with customers, social media would play a key role much to my relief! Additionally, employees would be kept busy with curbside pickup and wine delivery to customers’ homes. Remarkably, the winery also stepped up to help out the distressed hospitality industry.

With news of rising wine sales making headlines, it seems that most people are under the impression that the wine industry as a whole is booming. It may be true for wine sales in grocery and chain stores. Conversely, that is not the case for the majority of boutique wineries. The pandemic has forced the closure of tasting rooms and the cancellation of events. At the same time, wineries faced the shuttering of restaurants that carried their products. Wine sales have actually diminished for many smaller operations as a result. This is by no means an easy time for independent wineries.

Nevertheless, in the face of all these challenges, Avennia’s leadership remains community oriented. They even found ways to give back to the restaurants that have been part of their story.

Delivery of Frank the Tank, a Bordeaux-style wine that Avennia makes for Ethan Stowell Restaurants (ESR), was bumped up. This enabled ESR to offer the wines for take-out with ESR@HOME meals to go.

Over the years, a collaboration between Chris Horn, Purple Café’s lead wine buyer and beverage director, and Avennia winemaker, Chris Peterson, resulted in wines made under the Purple label. The folks at Purple Café, like so many other restaurants, had to close and lay off their employees. So, Avennia offered these wines for purchase. For every bottle sold, they pledged $5 to a GoFundMe account in support of those employees currently out of work. A donation of nearly $5,000 was contributed.

Adapting to Change

With wine club events cancelled, Winemaker Chris Peterson stretched beyond his routine activities and immediately began making videos as another way to connect with club members and customers. Chris and Marty also hosted their first virtual tasting, with more to come.

As of this writing, Avennia includes local delivery or UPS ground shipping with all new purchases of 3 or more standard bottles or 2 or more magnums. As the weather warms up, shipments are put on hold so take advantage of this great deal now if you can! Alternatively, local customers can request no-contact curbside pickup.

Tasting kits will soon be available in the local market. Each kit serves at least two people and contains 5 different Avennia wines in 5 oz. bottles. Plus, three different options are currently available.

Also, it’s the season for the annual release of the ever popular L’Egerie Rosé (it sold out in just three weeks last year!). The wine is currently available exclusively to their club, which makes it a great time to become a member.

Acclaimed Avennia Wines

One of the characteristics of Avennia’s wines that I most appreciate is that they truly showcase the vineyards from which the fruit is sourced. That’s partially because the wines are fermented with native yeast. It’s one component of Avennia’s winemaking philosophy based on doing less in order to let the fruit speak for itself.

During the stay at home order, wine from our cellar has been making more frequent appearances on our dinner table. The following are bottles we’ve recently enjoyed. Although these vintages may not be readily available, don’t fret. Avennia’s wines offer consistent quality year in and year out.

Note that I do not receive sample bottles from the winery. Bottles purchased at the winery included a modest discount.

Avennia Cabernet Franc 2016

Champoux Vineyard
Chris told me that 2016 was stellar across the board. So, although it is still a little young, it’s a terrific vintage to open now.

One of the calling cards of Cabernet Franc is a green bell pepper trait. However, Chris makes a point of not picking too early so that it doesn’t dominate the finished product. What does shine through, is a beautiful essence of violet that I associate with wine sourced from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Additionally, raspberry, dark chocolate, and tamarind comingle without any one flavor dominating. It’s a stellar expression of this variety and this vineyard. Open a bottle to transform a night from ordinary to extraordinary.

Cabernet Franc Wine Pairing
A recipe for a pasta dish by Nigel Slater recently published in Food + Wine Magazine made a wonderful partner for the wine. A creamy Dijon sauce envelops the pasta and incorporates Italian sausage and fresh basil. It’s an absolutely harmonious pairing.

Avennia La Perle 2017

This blend of 55% Roussanne and 45% Marsanne was Avennia’s inaugural release of their Rhône style white wine. It is an elegant wine delivering flavors of pear and apple followed by a sophisticated mineral/chalk driven texture.

La Perle Wine Pairing
Although it’s an upscale wine, we poured it with a simple dish of Kielbasa and apples over polenta in order to elevate another night of quarantine cooking. After all, this is a wine that deserves to be the star of the show.

Frank the Tank 2016

Purchased at Frelard Pizza, this accommodating red wine is a steal of a deal at just $20 a bottle! Chris crafts this fruit forward Bordeaux style blend specifically for Ethan Stowell Restaurants. While the restaurants currently focus on takeout, this easy drinking wine is also available to go.

Frank the Tank Wine Pairing
Frank is one of our favorite wines for pizza or spaghetti night. Then again, it would also perfectly accompany fancier fare that features red meat.

Avennia Arnaut Syrah

I am a sucker for Syrah from Boushey Vineyard, so we will likely be uncorking at least one of our bottles of Arnaut Syrah in the near future. Chris notes that the 2013 vintage of Arnaut is in a real sweet spot right now. Also, the 2012 vintage was one of the leading vintages to date.

These are all top notch selections showcasing the quality of Washington State vineyards. Consider treating yourself to wine from Avennia.

Resources

Avennia Website
Follow Avennia on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube
Tips for Pairing Cabernet Franc with Food
Ethan Stowell Restaurants – ESR @ Home Meals to Go
Heavy Restaurant Group Employee Relief Fund

Let’s Talk About Maysara Winery and Momtazi Vineyard

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.

Maysara Winery cellar door (L) and tasting room entrance (R)

Maysara Winery’s Momtazi Vinyeard

After touring Momtazi Vineyard with Moe, I will never gaze at a grapevine the same way. There is something very spiritual about how he perceives and cares for the vines. Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Maysara Winery and Momtazi Vineyard”

Discover Vital 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

French Creek Vineyard Wine

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!

Resources

Vital Wines Website
Brook and Bull Website
Vital Wines on Instagram
Washington State Wine Commission
Visit Walla Walla

Mettler Family Vineyards GSM

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!”

wine and food pairing
Photo via Mettler Family Vineyard Facebook Page

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.

Berry Barbecue Sauce Recipe

Have you tried this brand yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and any Lodi wine you’ve experienced. Head on over to social media and #LetsTalkAboutWine!

More on Lodi Wine

Mettler Wines
Lodi Wine and Food: Where to Eat, Drink, and Explore
Lodi Wine Country’s Best Kept Secrets
Visit Lodi
Lodi Winegrape Commission

Devison Vintners: New Winery, New Release

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!

Photo courtesy of Devison Vintners

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.

Exceptional Winemaking

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.

Winemaker

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.

The official release for Devison Vintners is slated for spring of next year and the anticipated lineup includes: Continue reading “Devison Vintners: New Winery, New Release”