Historic Moment in Washington State Wine

The movie Bottle Shock tells the story of a 1976 wine competition in which California wine was victorious over French wine. Known as the “Judgement of Paris”, it’s a tale that many are familiar with. It seems, however, that few are aware of an important historic moment in Washington State wine. The hero in this story is the pioneer of vinifera grape growing in Washington State that has been producing classic European varietal wines since 1967, Chateau Ste. Michelle.

At a blind Riesling tasting sponsored by the Los Angeles Times in 1974, Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 1972 vintage of Johannisberg Riesling won top honors. Moreover, although Ste. Michelle Johannisburg Riesling was the least expensive wine in the tasting, it beat out German, Australian, and California Rieslings. It is significant to note that producers included P.J. Valckenberg in Worms, the oldest family-run wine export company of Germany, as well as Liebfraumilch Madonna, the oldest brand of German wine. Domestic producers included a who’s who of California stalwarts such as Beaulieu Vineyards, Heitz Cellar, and Freemark Abbey.

The Real Johannisberg Riesling

A visit I made to Schloss Johannisberg in 2019 was in many ways like a return to my childhood. Not that I grew up in a castle, mind you! It has more to do with memories of that Chateau Ste. Michelle Johannisberg Riesling. For years, Liebfraumilch was my parent’s adult beverage of choice for holiday dinners. It was a banner moment when Chateau Ste. Michelle Johannisberg Riesling made its way to our table in the 80’s and became synonymous with celebratory meals at our house.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. However, imitation in the wine industry often results in a cease and desist letter. Or something like that. Chateau Ste. Michelle’s first Riesling, the 1972 vintage, was named Johannisberg Riesling as the term was often used in the United States at the time. It was a reference to the German city of Johannisberg, in the Rheingau wine-growing region of Germany which is famous for Riesling. The moniker was also an indicator of an off-dry style of Riesling. However, it is no longer considered an appropriate designation according to federal alcohol regulations. All wineries were required to phase out the use of the term Johannisberg Riesling by January, 2006. Chateau Ste. Michelle took the term off their labels after the 2003 vintage.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling Today

This wine is now labeled as Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling. Priced at just $9 a bottle at the winery, it is a great value. Not only that, through a partnership with the Mosel’s Ernst Loosen, Chateau Ste. Michelle produces Eroica Riesling. These wines portray excellent quality in a wide array of styles from bone dry to decadently sweet dessert wines.

The next time you want to taste a bit of history, pour yourself a glass of Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling.

If you’re thirsty for more Washington State Wine historical moments, read about Washington State’s more than 1,000 wineries.

Roasted Grape and Garlic Compote

Add this sweet and savory roasted grape and garlic compote to your cheese board to take it up a notch!

This slow roasted condiment is inspired by one introduced to me years ago at a cooking school called Culinary Communion. Not only does it fill the house with an enticing sweet and savory perfume while it’s cooking in the oven, it perfectly complements an evening of wine and cheese consumption. Best of all, it’s EASY to prepare. In other words, throw a few ingredients into a cooking vessel, put it in the oven, and let it take care of itself.

Roasted Grape and Garlic Compote Recipe

• 1 – 2 pounds of seedless grapes
• herbs of your choice – a couple of sprigs of rosemary or thyme
• 1 head of garlic, cloves removed and peeled
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• pinch of salt
• approximately 1/2 bottle white (Riesling was used here) or red table wine

Preheat the oven to 350°.
Place fruit, herbs, garlic, olive oil, and salt in a medium baking dish or Pyrex bowl. Then pour enough wine so that it is almost level with the top of the fruit. Place the dish in the oven and cook for about 50 minutes until the wine becomes  syrupy. While in the oven, check on the dish periodically and if it is getting overly brown around the edges or cooking down too fast, cover it with foil.

Let the compote cool then serve it with some delectable cheese. We love aged cheddar, a bloomy rind cheese such as brie, and goat cheese on our cheese plate for a contrast in textures and flavors. Toast some bread to make crostini, or pile some crackers onto the platter. Voila, you’ve got an easy and delectable snack or dinner course.

Wine Pairing

This dish has herbs in it to add a savory note. However, the grapes bring sweetness to the compote. Keep that in mind for your pairing. A wine with a little residual sugar (RS as they say in the wine biz) wouldn’t hurt. In fact, a sweet dessert wine with a cheese course is divine.

One of my favorite pairings with a cheese board is sparkling wine. The cheese coats the mouth with all its rich deliciousness. Then, the fizzy bubbles come along and scrub a dub dub to keep your palate ready for more!

Riesling would be a lovely complement to the compote, especially if it’s the wine used for the recipe.

For red wine lovers, prepare the compote with a red wine then use the same wine to accompany your finished preparation. I tend to look for a lighter bodied wine so that it doesn’t duke it out with the cheese or fall flat from the sweetness in the compote. Some of the “alt wines” coming out of Oregon such as Gamay Noir or Pinot Meunier come to mind.

However, this is wine and cheese territory. Fun stuff, right? So, experiment and find what YOU like.

 

Shop for Wine Around Seattle

It sounds like a lot of people are planning to spend Black Friday at home in pajamas this year. Well, then, I say we start a movement and #optforwine! To that end, here is your guide on how to safely and effortlessly shop for wine and gifts around Seattle this holiday season.

Local Delivery

One of the silver linings of the current pandemic guidelines is that some wineries offer to deliver wine locally. In some cases my wine was even delivered by the winemaker! First, check the winery’s website or social media channels to ensure delivery is available. Some wineries have a dollar or quantity threshold before delivery is available. Typically, wineries request that the option for “pick up” be checked while placing an order online along with a note requesting delivery in the comments section. Then they text or email delivery information.

Locus Wines

The tasting room is based in Pioneer Square (former home of The Estates Wine Room). At this time, orders of $75 or more may be delivered in Seattle but I’m not sure how long the offer stands. My order was delivered the next day.

BONUS:  tack on an order of pastry squares to your order for $12.

Nota Bene Cellars/MCM Wine Co.

Delivery included in the Seattle Metro area. I am now well supplied with some lovely 2016 Cabernet Franc.

W.T. Vintners

For the next couple of weeks, local delivery is available within 25 miles of the Woodinville winery with a $150 minimum purchase. Shop online and select “Pick-Up” at check-out. Then make a note you’d like your wines hand delivered and they will text or email to coordinate.

Pro tip:  be sure to buy some Boushey Vineyard Grenache!

Library Wines

Is there a better way to explore the difference a year makes than by exploring one wine from several vintages? It’s certainly the best way I know how while we’re at home!

For the holiday season, Avennia has two of their signature wines – Arnaut and Sestina – available in 3-year vertical sets.

Virtual Auction

Would you like to add some Quilceda Creek or Leonetti library wines to your collection AND support a good cause at the same time? Check out the Auction of Washington Wines Bid for Bottles through December 3rd. Winning bids & donations support the wine industry directly through Washington State University’s wine science research – securing the future of the Washington wine industry. This virtual event also supports Seattle Children’s Hospital. So go on, bid on one of a kind wines from the Private Barrel Auction, magnums, verticals, and more from some of Washington State’s most celebrated producers.

Tasting Kits

Avennia

This leading winery in Washington State has really stepped up its offerings this year. Among them, a self-guided tasting will be available for pickup from the tasting room. Include it in a minimum order of $150 for complimentary delivery in King County.

Dusted Valley Tasting Kits

Experience a winemaker-guided tasting from the comfort of your own home.

Office Gifts

Elsom Cellars

The Office Holiday Party Kit includes a Cheese & Charcuterie Platter featuring a multitude of Seattle Made and Seattle Good Business Network member products, and of course, a bottle of Seattle Made Red produced and bottled by Elsom Cellars!

Gift Cards

Many wineries and local wine shops offer gift cards. Do you know a frontline worker who might appreciate the chance to order wine of their own choosing? Support a local business, celebrate a real life hero, and get all the feels! Effortless online gift card purchase are available from the following establishments.

Avennia (Woodinville)
Esquin Wine & Spirits (SODO)
Locus Wines (Pioneer Square)
Viscon Cellars (West Seattle)

Additional Offers

Curbside pickup and online ordering are standard offerings at most Seattle area wineries. Some continue to offer tasting but under the current restrictions do so outdoors. If you’re comfortable with that, try to make an appointment ahead of time  since seating is usually limited. Also, remember to dress accordingly.

Washington wineries outside the Seattle area such as Chelan based Cairdeas offer shipping included with online purchases. Plus, it arrives in Seattle the next day! We ordered a case of their Diffraction Red which is now our “house wine.”

Remember to take the pledge to support locally owned wineries! Now go shop for wine around Seattle.

 

In the interest of full disclosure, some VinoSocial clients are mentioned here. However, this is not a sponsored post, and I do not receive payment if you purchase from them. I also paid for all the wine I received via delivery.

A Pledge to Locally Owned Wineries

The latest government response to the rising numbers of coronavirus cases has required restaurants and tasting rooms in Washington State, Oregon, and California to once again shutter their doors to indoor service. Now everyone keeps saying over and over, “The holidays are going to look different this year,” which, frankly, makes me want to scream. In my mind, if you’re going to state the obvious it should be, “We’re going to need more wine!” In fact, how about if we make a pledge to locally owned wineries?

We’re going to need more wine!

Even before the latest restrictions, wineries faced serious struggles. One day into my work with Seattle Urban Wineries, one of the locally owned establishments announced its permanent closure. Yesterday I received an email from an Oregon winery noting that a mandated closure immediately results in a loss of 40% of revenue. These are clearly dire times for independent businesses and the people behind them.

The good news is that wine is essential! Therefore, local purveyors of the secret sauce that’s going to get us through these days confined in our homes are able to offer curbside pickup, delivery, and shipping.

Leslie Dines recently wrote an article for Forbes outlining a consumer pledge drafted by a Facebook Group called Seattle Restaurant Support. Since wine and restaurants go hand in hand, much of the pledge could easily be adapted for wineries. I PLEDGE to buy lots of gift cards for friends and family, and essential workers! I PLEDGE to take pics….and tag the businesses, giving as many positive endorsements across as many social media platforms as possible. I pledge to share this and encourage everybody to do the same. I PLEDGE to be patient and kind.

Let’s take a pledge to support locally owned wineries. Pick even one of these and you can make a difference. Note that there are things you can do that won’t even cost you anything beyond your time (and we have plenty of that, right?)!

A Pledge to Locally Owned Wineries

I pledge to….

Buy wine directly from the wineries.

Margins are slim in the wine business, and direct sales go further toward sustaining a business. The next best thing is purchasing wine from a locally owned wine merchant or restaurant.

Give wine this season.

It’s going to be a welcome gift!

Purchase gift cards.

Bonus points for donating them to essential workers!

Spread the word.

Leave a nice review for wineries you’ve patronized. Since these are trying times for everyone, it’s understandable that purchasing wine may not be an option. However, sharing positive experiences you’ve had previously still helps get the word out about these businesses.

Follow wineries on social media.

Like, comment, and share their posts!

Host a virtual tasting.

As part of a way to sustain my own small business during this time, I’ve been organizing virtual tastings that highlight local and/or family owned wineries. This is a great way to get together with friends, family, or coworkers while learning more about our State’s magnificent wine regions and producers. Tastings can include:
Pairing ideas.
Regional focus.
Winery focus.

Join a wine club.

Wine club membership is one of the best ways to receive the greatest savings on wines. The way it works is that wineries allocate a certain amount of wines to their club members. These wines are released at a designated frequency – annually, quarterly, or monthly for example. Wine clubs are usually free to join, and charge members when the wine is released. Although membership benefits vary from winery to winery, they typically include:
Discounts on wine purchases.
Special wines crafted exclusively for members.
Release events. Although in the Before Times, these could be festive parties, some wineries are currently creating fun virtual events for club members.

Will you take the pledge to support local wineries? Please share this and encourage others to take the pledge! Head on over to Instagram or Twitter and drop a line about your personal pledge.

Resources

Leslie Dines on Forbes
Top Ten Ways to Enjoy Wine at Home
Eight Washington Wines to Pair

Get to Know Seattle Urban Wineries

It is my mission to get wineries on social media and a bottle of wine on every dinner table. I am excited to announce that this quest is one step closer to being realized! A group of over 20 wineries has reached out to me to help take their social media to the next level. Read on and get to know Seattle Urban Wineries.

Get to Know Seattle Urban Wineries
Photographer Richard Duval and Cascade Cliffs Georgetown Tasting Room Manager Sylvia during a visit in early March

Continue reading “Get to Know Seattle Urban Wineries”