A Thanksgiving Wine Primer

Thanksgiving is, by a foodie standard, the orgasmic holiday. Everyone stresses the perfect turkey, the perfect sides, the perfect desserts and the holy grail…the perfect wine pairings.

The typical Thanksgiving dinner has a myriad of flavors. Turkey. Mashed potatoes. Green bean casserole. Macaroni and cheese (that may just be my family…). Stuffing/dressing. Cranberry sauce. An assortment of sweets for dessert.

What is a perfectionist to do when it comes to wine pairings and Thanksgiving dinner???? Here’s what’ll be on my table:

Sparkling: Yes. That stuff that’s meant for celebrations. Sparkling wine isn’t just for celebrating a promotion or the new year any more. Sparkling wine adds a nice versatility to the table, as it can easily pair with everything from appetizers to dessert. My recommendations: Michelle Brut, Treveri Cellars Blanc de Blanc Brut or Rosé and Mumm Napa Brut Rosé, Brut Prestige or Cuvée M.

Rosé: A nice dry rosé is always welcome throughout the year, but there’s something special about the pairing of turkey and rosé. My recommendations: speak with your local wine shop specialist to see what they have in stock. My personal preference lies within the Provençal and Rhône style rosé’s. A nice Rosé of Pinot Noir is also divine.

White: Riesling. Without a doubt, the balance of acidity and sweetness in Riesling makes it super friendly with the myriad of flavors on the table. My recommendations: Personally, I’m on a big Washington Riesling kick, so anything from Washington of course tops the list, but an Alsatian or German Rieslings are divine as well.

Red: Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir (Beaujoulais) are the classic answer to this question. But why play it safe? Experiment with a Syrah or Merlot-based blend. You’d be surprised how a nice Merlot or Syrah can pair with roasted turkey. My recommendations: Owen Roe Ex Umbris Syrah, Helix Syrah by Reininger Winery and Basel Cellars Merriment or Claret.

If you’re not feeling like wine, then here’s a delicious harvest-style cocktail to enjoy:

3 oz. White Whiskey (I use Colonel Cobb Moonshine from Double V Distillery in Battle Ground, WA if you live in the PDX area)
1 oz. Maple Syrup (I’m partial to barrel aged like this one from Woodinville Whiskey Company, but any high quality maple syrup will work…)
10 or so dashes of Grapefruit Bitters

Mix in a shaker with ice. Shake well. Pour into a highball glass and enjoy.

Here’s just a brief preview of what will be on my table this year. Mind you, this is not the end all of end all bottles, either. We may end up opening some other stuff in addition or to substitute.

Thanksgiving Wines at the World HQ

Now, if you have a special bottle that you’ve been dying to open…the best advice comes from my dear friend, Jeff Weissler of Pairings Portland Wine Shop‘s latest newsletter: Drink that yummy, special wine (the one you’ve picked out and have been waiting to open), before your guests arrive! Why? Chances are it’ll get lost in the orchestra of so many flavors and a crowded full plate! Having said that, sometimes it’s all about the sharing. :)

Prosser, WA: Washington’s Hidden Gem

Recently, I was contacted by the Prosser Wine Network to spend time in their quaint town and taste the fabulous wines that come from there, and the neighboring AVA, the Horse Heaven Hills.

Before I go into my weekend, I want to share a little bit of history on Prosser and it’s importance to Washington Wine. In 1879, Captain William Prosser surveyed the land in the town now known as Prosser and in 1882, claimed a homestead there. He filed for township in 1885, but never returned to the town upon being elected as Yakima County’s auditor. In 1887, the Hilzinger family placed a flour mill in the area, thus encouraging more settlement in the area. Fast forward a few years to 1919. Washington State University established an Irrigation Experiment Station in the town of Prosser. This lead to Prosser being a hub for agriculture and agricultural research. One of those researchers was a man by the name of Dr. Walter Clore.

Walter Clore came to Washington State University (then known as Washington State College) in 1934 to study horticulutre. In 1937, he was approached to help staff the Irrigation Experiment Station. While he was testing all sorts of fruits and vegetables in his 40 years as a researcher for Washington State, he cultivated an interest in growing wine grapes. In 1960, he partnered with a microbiologist and Napa Valley native, Charles Nagel, to find out just which grapes would thrive and where. From there, the Washington Wine Industry was given an opportunity to flourish and Prosser had another moniker to add to their legacy…the birthplace of Washington Wine.

In 2003, the Washington State Legislature officially recognized Dr. Clore as the Father of the Washington State Wine Industry. On May 30, 2014, the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center opened to the public.

Now that you’ve gotten a lesson on Washington Wine, let’s move on to the weekend.

Malbec Vertical at Hogue

Malbec Vertical at Hogue

I joined the group at Hogue Cellars in Prosser for a Malbec tasting. Can I just say that Washington Malbec is absolutely amazing? It’s almost better than chocolate, but chocolate still squeaks by in the #1 position. Do what you can to get your hands on some. You won’t be disappointed. The manner in which you approach getting your hands on some Washington Malbec is out of my hands, though. However you got it is between you, your chosen creator and (possibly) the man or woman with the handcuffs.

The view from the Mercer Estate Ranch House

The view from the Mercer Estate Ranch House

Our accomodations for the weekend were at the beautiful Mercer Wine and Mercer Canyons Ranch House. The view above is from the patio/pool area, where I sat with 4 other bloggers and chatted the night of our arrival. Yes, this is really my job. Drinking wine while overlooking such a stunning view…yeah. My life sucks. ;) I wouldn’t trade it for anything…wait, okay…*almost* anything in the world. Wait. No. Even my caveats or the people I would give this up for don’t compare, so I can confidently say that I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world. (Apologies in advance to my future husband, whoever he may be. I’m sorry that your work trips suck in comparison, honey. Here, have some wine…)

IMG_7692Rows of vines in Champoux Vineyards

IMG_7694Grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills

The next morning, we made our way from the Mercer Ranch Estates into the town of Prosser, but we took the “long way” that took us past the Mercer family vineyards and farms, plus the highly acclaimed Champoux Vineyards, which was planted by the Mercer family. After stopping for the photo opportunities documented above, we made our way to Daven Lore Winery.

Daven Lore is situated just outside of Prosser. With a stunning view of the city of Prosser from their facility, you never want to leave the area. We were lucky enough to enjoy breakfast at the home of the winemaker, which is also situated on the property. After a fulfilling breakfast, we made our way into the winery for a tour and tasting.

IMG_7699View from Daven Lore Winery

IMG_7705Our lineup at Daven Lore

Daven Lore may very well be the most hidden gem in the Prosser area. From a crisp rosé to an opulent Syrah-based Port style wine, the offerings of Daven Lore do not disappoint.

From Daven Lore, I went on to Walla Walla (yes, there is a post coming on that adventure as well), as I had made plans before I was contacted about extending my stay in Prosser. If you’re curious about the other wineries that were visited, please visit the websites of my fellow bloggers who were on the trip: Ravenous Traveler, Sacred Drop, Wild 4 Washington Wine, and Decanter Banter.

Thank you to the Prosser Wine Network, Mercer Estates, Chef Kristin Johnson of Martilla’s Kitchen (who provided us with a delicious meal on Friday night), Hogue Cellars and all of the wineries involved with the Prosser Wine Network! I look forward to my next Prosser adventure!

Disclaimer: This trip was provided by Prosser Wine Network in exchange for postings on this blog and on social media.

Gratitude, “Your palate is your own,” and “To hell with SEO!”: An IFBC recap

My last post was sheer reaction. It had to be said. If you’re reading this and were at WBC 14…well, you’ll get it when I say that post was my “print writers” response. That being said…

First off, I want to say thank you to the crew at Foodista and Zephyr for busting their asses all weekend and putting on yet another stellar conference. While some failed to make the most of the weekend, I made some fantastic connections with those who I mentioned in this post, plus new folks like Chefs Perry & Chris from Haute Mealz (Chris also has his own blog: cook good. write bad., Renee from The Good Hearted Woman, Sarah from Gazing In and new winery and distillery folks, such as Lachini Vineyards and Grapeworks Distillery in Woodinville.

The additions to my collection from my Woodinville excursion.

The additions to my collection from my Woodinville excursion.

One of the best sessions that I went to was the Wines of Bordeaux. Okay, okay…maaaaaaaaaaaaybe it’s because they had bubbles waiting for us as we walked in. But honestly, this was definitely one of the best sessions. The 2011 Château Sainte-Marie Réserve Entre-Deux-Mers (Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon/Muscadelle blend) is a *KILLER* deal at $15.

While in the tasting, the woman sitting next to me kept saying that she wasn’t getting any of the aromas & flavors that others were getting in the wine. I turned to her and said, “Your palate is your own. If you’re getting something different, then that’s completely okay.” And it’s true. When you’re tasting wine, don’t worry about the tasting notes. What do *you* taste? What do *you* think of the wine?

The other best session that I went to was recipe development with Shauna James Ahern of Gluten Free Girl. My biggest takeaways from this session weren’t the tips on recipe development. They were actually more of what drives people to sites. The three best quotes are as follows:

Community

Hell with SEO

Inspires

All of these are reminders that all of us bloggers need to sometimes sit back, remember why we started, where we’re currently at and strive to make sure we’re reminded why we’re blogging…to keep making our passion an extension of ourselves.

Turning Male Bovine Excrement into Filet Mignon: In Defense of IFBC 14

There’s a post out there that is critical of IFBC after the author attended a whole whopping two sessions, then walked away. The first two, to be exact, based on what this person wrote. The two kick off sessions and you discount the conference. Yeah…um, let me insert the popular photo of McKayla Maroney here.

Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com

Okay, people that have been to IFBC, or any of the other Zephyr-affiliated conferences, scrape your jaws up off the floor. You know as well as I do that this is a preposterous idea and that you can’t always just walk away from the conference and completely black list it from your list of conferences to attend in the future.

    Warning: You are now entering a No Male Bovine Excrement Zone!

These conferences are a chance to take bovine excrement and turn them into, at the very least, meatloaf; if you’re adventurous and willing to take a chance, you can turn it into Filet Mignon (or something that looks like it). How do you do that? It’s simple. Take the opportunities you’ve been given and work them. This isn’t like elementary school PE class where someone gets picked last for the kickball teams because they’re the “unpopular” or “clumsy” kid. No. This isn’t even high school. It’s more like college. You pick what you want to do, then you either give it your best effort and succeed or you blow everything off, wonder WTF happened when finals week comes around and fail all your classes.

As a wine blogger, I didn’t know what to expect coming into IFBC. I mean, I did, being that I’m familiar with the format that Zephyr Adventures uses for their conferences. That being said, I still didn’t know what to expect, being that I was, once again, a Zephyr conference rookie. So what did I do? I did the same thing I did in Portland. I started talking to folks. Random folks. I didn’t care if they were into wine or not. We had something in common, being that we were at the conference. The Farmstr event was a great way to break out of my shell and meet new people. There, I had a chance to meet cool people like Jana from Merlot Mommy, Adriana from Adriana’s Best Recipes, Heather from United States of Motherhood and Chef Rebekkah, who is a private chef in Seattle and a supplier for Farmstr. And that was just the first night I was there!! As time went on through the weekend, I was able to meet even more cool people, including those who I’m calling my inspiration for wanting to pull both food and wine bloggers in the PDX area together for a “Mastermind Group”, just as Corbett Barr suggested to us at WBC14 in Buellton.

My takeaway from this rant is this…you have two options when you go to a conference like this. You can take bovine excrement and turn it into a delicious Filet Mignon or even an acceptable meatloaf if you’re not ambitious enough to try making the Filet. Or, you can sit there and hold that steaming pile of bull poop and smear it around because you’re unsure of what to do with it. Me? I’ll take the bacon-wrapped filet with a glass of Château Beaumont Cru Bourgeois, please.

Woodinville Wine Country: A Taste of Washington in one city

This week, IFBC participants will be descending upon this beautiful state and the Seattle area. While the schedule is jam-packed, I’m planning on taking some time to meander out to Woodinville and hit a few of my favorite wineries.

Who are my favorite wineries in Woodinville, you ask? Well…here’s a list of where you can find me when I’m in Woodinville:

JM Cellars: With a line up that leaves you unsure of what to buy (or wanting to buy everything), JM Cellars doesn’t disappoint. My personal favorites are the Bramble Bump Red and Bramble Bump White. Beware, you can easily miss their driveway, so pay attention!! Address: 14404 137th Pl NE

Guardian Cellars: Bold reds are the hallmark of Guardian Cellars. The tasting room has an funky, industrial feel and the wines have names like Chalk Line and Confidential Source. Yep. Just like what you hear on any police show. Address: 19501 144th Ave NE #E600

Sparkman Cellars: located directly next door to Guardian is Sparkman. With bold reds and enticing whites & rosé’s, this place is destined to become a favorite. Address: 19501 144th Ave NE, #E-400

Alexandria Nicole Cellars: located in the Hollywood Schoolhouse, Alexandria Nicole’s satellite tasting room delivers on their goal of approachable elegance. Address: 14810 NE 145th St.

If you’re hungry while in Woodinville, I highly recommend The Purple Café. Great food and even better ambiance!!

All in all, have fun while in Woodinville. Stop in at someplace new or go to your favorites. Whichever you choose, make it an experience!!

Off The Beaten Path – Cowlitz Wine Tour

The communities of Castle Rmp; Toledo are not necessarily what you would think of when you think of wine destinations. To most, these towns are just names you see on a freeway sign. You may take a quick break to fill up your gas tank or take a quick run through the drive-thru restaurant, but not stay for the local culture.

Well, I’m here to say STOP! Take an hour or two…or three…and take a break. Experience what small town hospitality has to offer.

Cowlitz Wine Tour Map  (image courtesy of Mt. St. Helens Cellars)

Cowlitz Wine Tour Map (image courtesy of Mt. St. Helens Cellars)

The three wineries that make up the Cowlitz Wine Loop are HarMony Wines, Mt. St. Helens Cellars and Bateaux Cellars.

When you’re coming from the south, like I do (I’m located near the border of Clark and Cowlitz Counties), HarMony Winery is the first stop. In addition to making the traditional (AKA Grape) wine, they also make a variety of fruit wines. When I visited, they were pouring 11 wines. Between my Mom and I, we tasted through a good majority of them and we were impressed with the reds. The Counoise and Murphy’s Romance are highly recommended!! They are located at 555 Kroll Road in Castle Rock, WA.

HarMony Winery Owners Deann & Les, along with the wines they were pouring during my visit!

HarMony Winery Owners Deann & Les Murphy, along with 10 of the 11 the wines they were pouring during my visit!

The bench outside of HarMony.

The bench outside of HarMony.

Mt. St. Helens Cellars was the next stop on the wine loop. They have a good variety of wines, from aromatic whites to enticing reds, they appeal to every wine lover. My personal recommendations are the Albariño and their red blend called Sasquatch in a Bottle. If you’re not familiar with the legend of Sasquatch, you can read up here. Mt. St. Helens Cellars has a tasting room located at 1254 Mt. St. Helens Way (off of exit 49 in Crossroads Plaza) in Castle Rock, and the winery itself is open by appointment at 211 Morningstar Dr., Silverlake, WA.

The whites at Mt. St. Helens Cellars

The whites at Mt. St. Helens Cellars

The red lineup at Mt. St. Helens Cellars

The red lineup at Mt. St. Helens Cellars

The final stop is Bateaux Cellars. Bateaux came onto my radar at the 2013 Craft Wine Festival in Vancouver, WA and has been a go-to for me ever since. With deliciously crisp whites, a fantastic Rosé of Sangiovese and a stellar line up of reds, Bateaux is one of my “must finds” when I see they’re at a festival I’m planning on going to. This is, in my opinion, one of Western Washington’s hidden gems. Bateaux is located at 288 Smokey Valley Road, Toledo, WA. Just a hint, though…DO NOT FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS FROM GOOGLE! Go to their website and get the actual address, as the address on Google is incorrect. Dear Google: Bateaux Cellars is at 288 SMOKEY VALLEY ROAD…NOT JACKSON HWY S!

The full lineup of Bateaux Cellars Wines

The full lineup of Bateaux Cellars Wines

A partial view of the line up

A partial view of the line up

The remaining closeup of the line up

The remaining closeup of the line up

All in all, I HIGHLY recommend taking the time to work the Cowlitz Wine Loop into your wine tasting repertoire. One piece of advice would be to call ahead, though, as these places are almost all run by folks who have other careers beyond the wine industry.

Advice for the IFBC Wine-related Events

So, we’re closing in on IFBC. Tons of great food, advice and knowledge will be shared throughout the conference. This is my first IFBC, but I’ve been to the Wine Bloggers Conference that Zephyr puts on the last three years (Portland, Penticton & Santa Barbara).  I know that the fine folks at Foodista and Zephyr are going to do their best to make sure those of us attending the conference are going to have one hell of a good time!

While perusing the agenda for IFBC, I noticed that Wines of Bordeaux will be there. I am really looking forward to the session they’re putting on, but I wanted to share some advice, from a wine bloggers perspective, on how to make the most of this session.  This advice also pertains to any other wine tastings that may happen during the conference.

1.  Spit. Yes. Spit that delicious elixir. I know it’s hard, especially when the wines are fantastic, but you don’t want to make your “blogger brand” look bad.

2.  Do break the food and wine pairing rules. Seriously. My favorite food and wine pairings are as follows:

  • Grilled steak and Riesling
  • Kit Kat bar and Robert Mondavi Chardonnay
  • Rosé and ANYTHING.  And I’m *not* talking about White Zinfandel, either.

3.  Don’t say how you’re “allergic to sulfites” when presented with a red wine, but make a beeline for a white wine. Whites actually have more sulfites in them than reds. Also, stay away from the dried fruits, as dried fruits have more sulfites than both red & whites. These two articles: Sulfites in Wine: The Myths, the Facts and the Truth and The Bottom Line on Sulfites in Wine are great starting points on educating yourself on why you may get up with a bit of a headache after drinking wine and the use of sulfites in the winemaking process.

4.  Do ask questions!! There are no stupid questions when it comes to wine. If you don’t know how the aromas are integrated into the wine, then ASK!

5.  Don’t be intimated by tasting notes that talk about the flavors found in the wine. If you get something else, then say so! Everyone’s palate is different and for someone like me, I may take it as a challenge to see if I, too, can pick up on that note that you’re getting.

6.  Do take pictures of the labels!  This way, you can remember the fantastic wines you had and you can do what you can to acquire them when you get home!

The most important thing, though, is to have FUN!