Friday, December 25, 2009

Shooting Star Blue Franc, 2007

Shooting Star Blue Franc, 2007

Shooting Star wines are made by acclaimed winemaker Jed Steele at his winery located about 100 miles north of San Francisco. In 1975 he had the opportunity to travel to Austria and visit their wine-growing region on the banks of the Danube River. One wine that impressed him was a red wine made from the Lemberger grape. In Austria winemakers refer to it by its ancient name, Blau Frankisch, literally “blue grape from France.” Those wines remained in his memory and when he began consulting for Columbia Crest Winery in the early 1990’s he discovered that there was a significant planting of Lemberger in Washington State’s Yakima Valley appellation. The winemakers in Washington label these wines as “Lemberger”, but Jed found that name quite harsh (and reminiscent of a stinky cheese of the same name). He decided that the wine was worth pursuing and recalled the other name for the varietal in Austria. He chose to call his version, Blue Franc, a great choice from my perspective. The Shooting Star Blue Franc is made from Lemberger grapes from the Columbia Valley and is made without oak aging. This 2007 vintage is very smooth and pleasant and unpretentious. The color is deep red with nice clarity and a nose of black fruit and ripe berries. This is a medium bodied wine with flavors of sweet red cherry, blueberry, tobacco and a trace of black pepper. There is crisp acidity and low tannins that make this wine a nice companion to any casual meal or a ham and cheese sandwich. This is a nice wine to try to explore a lesser known grape that produces very drinkable wines. We purchased this Shooting Star Blue Franc at Pete’s Wine Shop, in Bellevue, for about $10.

Merry Christmas!


Enjoy the
Season!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ricciarelli

Ricciarelli

These delicate Christmas Cookies are traditional to the city of Sienna in the Italian region of Tuscany. Legend holds that they were introduced by Ricciardetto della Gherardesca in his castle near Volterra upon his return from the Crusades in the 14th century. Like soft/chewy amaretti, these will not disappoint. They are a popular dessert treat in Italian homes and pair well with dessert wines like Vin Santo or Moscadello de Montalcino. Kate has added these delicious cookies to her portfolio and they are becoming one of our favorite holiday traditions.

Here's the recipe!

2 cups ground almond flour or meal
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Extra powdered sugar for rolling in

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepared almond "flour" or "meal" is available online from Bob's Red Mill and Whole Food Market or Trader Joe‘s. Combine the almond "flour" with the baking powder, powdered sugar, and flour. Beat the egg whites until stiff and mix into the almond mixture. Add the almond extract and blend until you have a soft paste. Place some powdered sugar on a clean, dry surface. Form one tablespoon of dough into a small ball, roll in the sugar, and then form either traditional diamond or round shapes, flattening the cookie with the palm of your hand. Place the cookies on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden.

Makes about 16 cookies.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Este, 2007

Este, 2007

This red table wine from Bodegas Alto Almanzora is produced in the Almanzora Valley of southern Spain. Este is a combination of Monastrell, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. We had enjoyed a few bottles of the 2006 vintage and were glad to find the 2007 available in the Seattle area. This wine has a dark ruby color with a nose full of fresh raspberries, cherries, currants and wet rock. This medium bodied wine is full of rich fruit flavors along with exotic spice and dusty tannins. The bold dark fruit flavors are well balanced by crisp acidity and a mineral coating that make this wine a real winner. We purchased the modern Spanish gem at Esquin Wine Shop, in Seattle, for about $10.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Delas Côtes-du-Ventoux, 2007

Delas Côtes-du-Ventoux, 2007

The French appellation of Côtes-du-Ventoux sits on the East bank of the Rhône River at the foot of the Ventoux mountain range. This appellation mirrors the climatic conditions and grape varieties of its neighbor, the Côtes-du-Rhone. With vinyards planted in limestone, this Delas Côtes-du-Ventoux is made from Grenache (80%) and Syrah (20%). This lovely wine is fermented, mixed and aged in stainless steel tanks and is completely un-oaked. The color is a deep red with a crimson rim. The nose is predominantly dark red berries with some flowers and lead pencil. This is a fruit forward wine with a rich mouthful of black berries, plum, fig, licorice. This is a medium bodied wine with a great lush expression of dark fruit balanced by a mineral and black pepper coating. This everyday red wine, from the excellent 2007 vintage, can be found in the Seattle area for about $10.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Castello di Farnetella Chianti, 2003

Castello di Farnetella Chianti, 2003

Castello di Farnetella is owned by Felsina and they produce this DOCG Chianti Colli Senesi. The Farnetella area is a unique micro district, southeast of Chianti Classico, north of Montalcino, and almost bordering on the production area of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The vinyards are predominantly loam and sand with some clay and a larger proportion of stone and chalk. This Chianti is produced from 92% Sangiovese and 8% Merlot aged for 8-12 months in mature oak barrels. We pulled this Chianti to enjoy this Sunday afternoon as we made some wood fired pizza and watched the movie “Up”.
This wine has a deep ruby color and has a vibrant nose of crushed blackberry and wet earth and slight nuances of spice. This is a medium bodied wine with rich dark berry, strawberry, licorice, tobacco and wet rock. There are nice tannins that add to the complexity along with moderate acidity to keep it sailing along. This was a nice wine to pair with our pizza. We had one pizza with Wood Grilled Mushrooms, Fresh Mozzarella, Pesto, Tomato and another pizza with Arugula, Prosciutto, Black Fig Jam and Goat Cheese. Everything was fantastic. Oh yeah, we also enjoyed “Up”!

Pizza in 750 degree oven

Starting the fire with Apple wood

Mushroom, Pesto, Fresh Mozzarella,Tomato

Arugula, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto, Black Fig Jam

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Three Excellent Wines for the Holiday Season

Three Excellent Wines for the Holiday Season

Perrin & Fils Cotes Du Rhone Villages, 2007
Erta e China Rosso di Toscana, 2006
Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007

Here are three lovely red wines that we have recently enjoyed and can highly recommend them for your holiday enjoyment. Each of these wines are available in the Seattle area and that all represent great values and delicious wines.




Perrin & Fils Cotes Du Rhone Villages, 2007

This red blend is 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah and is made from the well respected Perrin family with the same techniques as Chateau du Beaucastel. This wine has a deep red color with aromas of blackberry and cherry. This is a medium bodied wine with rich berry flavors, licorice, exotic spice and rocky earth. There are smooth tannins and gentle acidity that work together to create a well balanced and smooth finish. This is a truly delicious Rhone blend from the outstanding 2007 vintage. We purchased the wine at Costco, in Kirkland, for about $11.





Erta e China Rosso di Toscana, 2006

This wine is a blend of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 14 months in 2 year old American and French oak barrels. The resulting wine, produced by Renzo Masi, is a big wine that will satisfy your need for a dark, black fruit “tooth-stainer”. The color is dark ruby and nearly opaque. The nose shows dark fruit, ripe plum, leather and smoke. This is a mouth filling full-bodied wine with rich flavors of plum, cassis, cherry, licorice, nutmeg and mushroom. There are abundant tannins that are well integrated with the fruit and acidity to create a harmonious and well balanced wine. The oak aging has aided the development of this wine without adding much oak or vanilla flavors. This wine will pair well with any sharp cheese or a rib-eye steak. We purchased this blend from the Chianti Rufina region, from Esquin Wine Merchants, for about $12.



Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007

We have been big fans of Columbia Crest wines for years. I can't think of another American winery that can produce such a tremendous quantity of wine and produce an excellent product at every price point. They have wines starting at about $6 and wines priced above $35. The Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet, 2005 was recently selected as “Wine of the Year” (2009) from the Wine Spectator Magazine. The Columbia Crest “H3” wines are upper-mid level wines that sell for about $12 to $14 in the Seattle area. The name “H3” stands for Horse Heaven Hills which is the appellation of this wine and the home of the Columbia Crest Winery in Patterson, Washington. This is an excellent representation of a Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon. In the glass this Cabernet has a blood red color and a lovely nose packed with sweet black fruit and hints of spicy oak and vanilla. In the mouth this is a medium bodied wine with an explosion of fresh fruit including blackberry and cassis balanced by some nice minerality and a touch of creamy oak. There are abundant dusty tannins and nice acidity completing the package. This wine is quite delicious and memorable. I highly recommend trying this wine during the holidays and picking up a few extra bottles as gifts for your friends!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Vega Sindoa Cabernet Sauvignon-Tempranillo, 2006

Vega Sindoa Cabernet Sauvignon-Tempranillo, 2006

This red blend is produced by Bodegas Nekeas in the Navarra region of Spain. The Nekeas valley is located at the foothills of the Pyrenees and is buffeted from the winds of the Atlantic. Warm summer days and cool nights help the grapes reach full maturity on the vines. The various micro-climates of the area allow for nice conditions for numerous grape varieties including Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Grenache. This bold Spanish red has a deep garnet color. The nose is full of deep black fruit with leather and spice. On the palate are flavors of ripe blackberry, cassis, licorice and black pepper. This is a big wine with prominent tannins and nice acidity on a full bodied frame. The finish is quite long and elegant. I have found the wines from Bodegas Nekes to be totally satisfying and great values. We purchased the “big-boy", from Navarra, at Total Wine (in Phoenix, AZ) for about $10.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tamarack Syrah Columbia Valley, 2004

Tamarack Syrah Columbia Valley, 2004

Tamarack Cellars was founded in 1998 by Ron and Jamie Coleman. This family run winery is dedicated to the production of small lot, hand-crafted wines from select vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley, Rattle Snake Hills, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope, Yakima Valley, Red Mountain and Columbia Valley appellations. The winery is located in a restored WW II fire station and barracks at the Walla Walla Airport Complex. Production began in 1998 and is currently up to 12,000 cases for the 2008 vintage. Wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, DuBrul Vineyard Reserve, Syrah, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, and Firehouse Red.
Ron Coleman serves as winemaker and general manager. He comes to the job after a long career in the wine industry with experience in wholesale and retail sales, as a sommelier, and through cellar work for Waterbrook and Canoe Ridge wineries.
Tonight we pulled this bottle of Syrah from our wine cellar to bring to a dinner party with our good neighbors. Back in 2004, there was an extreme freeze in the Walla Walla Valley and Tamarack Cellars had to turn all their attention to making wines from grapes throughout the Columbia Valley. This Syrah has a dark ruby color and is nearly opaque. The nose is cooked black cherries and berries. On the palate there is ripe black fruit, espresso, and licorice that commingle with espresso and mocha to create a luscious and balanced wine. There is impressive concentration with smooth tannins and some pepper and mineral notes on the long finish. We enjoyed this lovely Syrah with some African Chicken/Peanut Soup and a Vegetable Cous Cous Salad. You can count on Tamarack Cellars to deliver the goods!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rivarey Tempranillo, 2006

Rivarey Tempranillo, 2006

This is a value wine from the Rioja region of Spain. This is a Crianza, or young wine, that is meant to be enjoyed in its youth. This wine has a deep ruby color and aromas of black berry, cherry and citrus zest. This is a medium bodied wine with a modern style of fresh fruit, crisp acidity and smooth tannins. The flavors are dominated by raspberry, black plum, kiwi and holiday spice. There is no evidence of oak, but the smooth tannins are complimented by some marshmallow and black pepper. The finish is velvety and quite long. This is an excellent wine to sip with a cheese platter and some Marcona almonds. We purchased this easy drinking Tempranillo from Esquin, in Seattle, for about $9.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha, 2007

Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha, 2007

This wine is imported by Elliot Bay Distributing, of Seattle, and is one of the many great wines exported from Spain by Jorge Ordonez. He is perhaps the most influential exporter of Spanish wines to emerge in the last few decades, tapping into the quality and value of the less-traveled regions of Spain such as Toro, Campo de Borja, Montsant, and Jumilla, as well as the Ribera del Duero, Rioja, and Priorat. From the ultra-expensive to the great values he has discovered and facilitated the revival of some tremendous old-vine Grenache (Garnacha) and Tempranillo vineyards that had laid dormant or neglected for decades. As a result, there is now an amazing resurgence of Spanish wine in the international marketplace. The Tres Picos is produced form old vine Garnacha on the slopes of the Moncayo Mountains in The Campo de Borja region of Northern Spain. This vintage of Tres Picos has a dark ruby color that is nearly opaque. There is a lovely bouquet of black cherry, raspberry jam, citrus peel and violets. This wine has a lush mouth-feel with dark berry fruit, cassis, mineral notes and fine dusty tannins. This is a juicy, full bodied wine with gripping acidity and a long, fruity finish. There are some underlying spice and herbal notes that complete the package. There is no evidence of oak on the profile. We have been enjoying Tres Picos Garnacha for the past 5 vintages and the 2007 does not disappoint. This delicious modern red wine, from Spain, can be found in the Seattle are for under $15. Seek this out.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Banfi Centine, 2007

Banfi Centine, 2007

This red wine from Tuscany is a "Super Tuscan" blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. I was anxious to try this new vintage of Centine (pronounced "CHEN - TIN - AY", in Italian) to see if this wine was as good as the past 2 vintages. I am please to report that the 2007 is every bit as good and perhaps better. Castello Banfi is located in Montalcino, one of the best wine regions of Tuscany. The 2007 Centine has a newly designed label that proudly shows the Castello Banfi Estate. In the glass, the wine is a dark ruby red. The nose has fresh aromas of dark fruit and berries and earth. This is a fruit forward wine with ripe blackberries, cherries, cassis, subtle cedar notes and an underlying minerality. In the mouth this is a medium bodied wine with good balance, velvety tannins and vibrant acidity.This wine is quite elegant and delicious and has a long, smooth satisfying finish. This “entry level” wine from Castello Banfi makes a great house wine to enjoy with dinner or on its own. The Banfi Centine can be found throughout the Seattle area for about $12. This wine is an over achiever!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Crave Arizona, Scottsdale 2009

Crave Arizona, 2009

Thousands of food-loving people gathered together as Crave Arizona pulled off three days of food and wine events. Celebrity and local chefs, hundreds of wines, trendy cocktails and delicious food made for an unforgettable event. We had a great time and really enjoyed the Arizona Grand Tasting this past Saturday.




We attended cooking demonstrations by Top Chef Favorites Sam Talbot (Bravo’s season 2) and Stephanie Izard (Bravo’s season 4).

video
















The Grand Tasting was laid out on the Scottsdale Southbridge and showcased small bites from over 40 local restaurants and hundreds of wines from around the world. This year there was and entire section devoted to Washington State wines from over 30 wineries.
We tasted some great wines form Owen Roe, Novelty Hill, Amavi, Reininger Winery, Tamarack Cellars, Nicholas Cole Cellars and Northstar. The food bites were equally impressive as we noshed on delicacies like seared sea scallops, braised pork belly, veal ravioli and chocolate/caramel tarts.







Later in the day we attended a wine seminar entitled: Which One's Washington? With seminar moderator: Shayn Bjornholm, Education Director for the Washington Wine Commission and Master Sommelier. This was a high energy, interactive and educational game show format wine tasting that mimicked the TV show “Family Feud”. Shayn Bjornholm guided the festivities from the helm with his powder blue polyester 70's style tuxedo.




Local Sommeliers added to the fun with the whole audience participating in the spectacle. We enjoyed “blind tasting” numerous as wines as we tried to name the varietal and region. It was a blast for everyone there to try to determine if a wine was Riesling or Chardonnay, from Washington or France.



A big “Shout-Out" for Shayn…. Nice job!
We will definitely attend Crave Arizona again next year.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Poggio alla Sala Chianti Colli Senesi, 2007

Poggio alla Sala Chianti Colli Senesi, 2007

Yesterday, I decided to visit Total Wines at the Desert Ridge shopping mall in Phoenix. We are down in Scottsdale enjoying some great sunny weather and time with family. Our plan was to watch a video and to take home a large pizza from Yo Pauly’s. I was on a mission to fine a fun wine for the evening. I selected this DOCG Chianti from a producer from Montepulciano, Italy in the hills southeast of Sienna and hence the Colli Senesi designation.

This wine has a medium ruby color and appears unfiltered. This Chianti is highly aromatic with dried cherry, prune, dirt and cellar floor. This is old-world style with flavors of sour cherry, strawberry, figs, straw and cedar. This is a medium bodied wine with moderate acidity and gentle tannins. Overall, a good wine, but nothing to brag about. However, our pizza from Yo Pauly's ( half "Whitestone Bridge"/ half "The New Yorker" ) was fantastic!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Kiona Cabernet Sauvignon, 1999

Kiona Cabernet Sauvignon, 1999

Kiona Vineyards and Winery was started after the Williams family, in 1975, planted the first vineyards on what is now known as the Red Mountain Appellation of Washington State. Since then, Kiona has developed a world-wide reputation for great fruit and producing wines of extraordinary quality. Over the past few years the Red Mountain Appellation has gained great respect. Not only does Kiona make their own wines, but they also sell their excellent grapes to other fine winemakers such as Chris Gorman of Gorman Winery. Last night we decided to pull this 10 year-old Cabernet form our cellar. We brought this wine with us to the new Bellevue Purple Café. What a great night! The new Purple Café is a Mecca for wine and food lovers. With a lively modern-urban design, great food choices and walls of wine (literally), it is a welcome addition to downtown Bellevue. We were seated at the tasting counter where we enjoyed some tasty “small plates” that paired well with this wine. This Kiona Cabernet made the Wine Spectator “Top 100 List” back in 2002. The wine had a dark ruby red color with a scarlet rim. The nose is lovely with complex berry notes and some dusty earth. The wine delivers a broad mouthful of mature fruit with cherry, cassis, espresso and smoke. This is a full bodied, chewy and concentrated wine with layers of fruit and smooth tannins creating an elegant and delicious finish. There is subtle oak and acidity that complete the profile of this lovely wine. We had purchased two bottles back in 2002, and this is the last one from the cellar. Oh well!
PS ... Check out the new Barrio Restaurant and Purple Café and Wine Bar in downtown Bellevue!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Novelty Hill Red Wine, 2006

Novelty Hill Red Wine, 2006

Novelty Hill wines are made by Mike Januik, one of Washington’s most acclaimed Winemakers. He was head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle for ten years before starting his own winery in 1999 and he’s been making wine in the Columbia Valley since 1984. This 2006 Novelty Hills Red a blend of 33% Syrah, 18% Mourvedre, 18% Cabernet Franc, 13% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot. The result is a wine with a deep red color being nearly opaque. On the nose are spicy cherry, blueberry and currant. The mouth feel is full and rich with flavors of dried black cherries, ripe blackberry, and dark chocolate with cinnamon spice. There is subtle oak, good acidity and smooth tannins that complete the package. This is a rich red wine for lovers of chocolate covered cherries. There is no real evidence of terroir. This wine will pair well with a nice brick of quality dark chocolate or a big rib-eye steak. This wine is available at Pete’s Wine Shop, in Bellevue, for about $13. This is an interesting Washington State blend.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bodegas Ateca Garnacha de Fuego, 2008

Bodegas Ateca Garnacha de Fuego, 2008

This Garnacha from the Calatayud region of Spain represents another great value wine that proves you can get interesting and delicious wines on a tight budget. The Garnacha grapes are from old vines that really excel in the high elevation and gravely soil vineyards of Bobegas Ateca. This is another fine wine from the Jorge Ordonez Selection. This is a medium bodied wine with a deep red color and a nose of fresh raspberry and fresh orange. On the palate there is ripe red cherry, raspberry and some spicy black pepper. There are supple tannins and crisp acidity with no evidence of oak or earth. The fruit driven style is delightful and refreshing without being too much like candy. This wine shows a zesty, focused personality that will pair well with any spicy dish. This is a great value that can be found at Pete’s Wine Shop, in Bellevue, for about $7. If you are a New World fan, give this a try.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Poyares, 2005

Poyares, 2005

Earlier this year we tried a bottle of this Portuguese red wine and were impressed by the quality and flavors. We bought two bottles from ambassadorofwine.com and cellared one until this weekend. This is a blend of grapes indigenous to the Douro including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinto Roriz. The 2005 Poyares has a dark blood red color with purple hues. The nose is packed with blackberry, toast and earth. This is a full bodied wine with abundant tannins and moderate acidity. The flavors are bold and intense with dark fruit, roasted herbs and espresso with nuances of licorice and coco. This is a well balanced wine that finishes dry and firm. Although more “New-World” than “Old”, this wine deftly controls the abundant fruit and tannins to create a full-throttled, multilayer palate. This wine should cellar well for many years. We are hoping to obtain a few more for that effort!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Monte Antico Toscana, 2006

Monte Antico Toscana, 2006

The 2006 Monte Antico Rosso is a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from various Tuscan vinyards. This wine is blended then aged in oak for about one year. This everyday Italian red is imported by Neil Empson and created by acclaimed oenologist Franco Bernabei. The wine has a deep ruby color and a nose of dark berries and earth. This is a medium bodied wine with flavors of ripe plums, chocolate covered cherries and dried currents. Tannins are soft and supple and there is gripping acidity that lingers on a mineral accented, toasty finish. This wine screams out for a wood fired pizza or a bowl of Pasta Bolognese. This is a great “go-to” wine for any casual Italian dinner. This wine is available at Pete’s Wine Shop, in Bellevue, for around $12.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hatch Chile Salsa

Hatch Chile Salsa

The town of Hatch, New Mexico is the self proclaimed chile capitol of the world. This year our local QFC supermarkets brought in hundreds of cases of fresh Hatch chile peppers to spread a little love in the Seattle area. I bought my fare share of these medium hot red and green chilies and made some large batches of this great salsa.


3 Pounds Fresh Hatch Chile Peppers
6 medium Tomatillos, shucked
1 medium Onion, peeled (cut in half)
2 cloves Garlic, peeled
1 small bunch Cilantro
1 small Lime, juice only
1 tsp. Mexican Oregano, ground
1 tsp. Cumin, ground
1 tsp. Salt
1 tbs. Honey

Place chile peppers, tomatillos and onion halves on hot grill and cook until all are completely charred and soft. Place these vegetables in a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap, allow cooling down for about 30 minutes. Remove and discard stems, seeds and charred skins from the chile peppers. Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until well blended and chopped. Serve with crispy tortilla chips or use to create savory dishes such as Chicken Chile Stew. Salsa can be stored in sealed container, in refrigerator, for up to 2 weeks.

Parris Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002

Parris Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002

This Parris Cabernet Sauvignon is a flagship reserve wine from Chandler Reach Vineyards of Benton City Washington. For the past 10 years, owner/winemaker, Len Parris, has been producing lovely wines from estate grapes grown on north-facing slopes adjacent to the Red Mountain appellation. We had cellared this wine for the past 3 years. The wine shows a deep ruby color with good clarity, but nearly opaque. The nose is packed with black fruit and hints of spicy oak. The flavors are bold, full bodied and intense. Flavors of red raspberry, blackberry, espresso and cassis are framed with tones of earth, leather and vanilla oak. The flavors are balanced by gentle acidity in fully integrated tannins creating a wine with excellent depth and length. Chandler Reach Vineyards should be proud of this elegant wine. The current vintage of this wine is being sold for about $40.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dominio Dostares Leione, 2005

Dominio Dostares Leione, 2005

Last night we dined at Bourbon Steak, located at the Fairmont resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Bourbon Steak is one of the highly acclaimed restaurants owned by the outstanding chef, Michael Mina. As I thumbed through their impressive wine book, I was trying to select a wine that would go well with our dinner and one that would not break the bank. I selected the Dominio Dostares Leione ($42), which is from the Castilla y Leon region of Spain. This wine is made from 100% Prieto Picudo grapes from vines more than 90 years old. This is a relatively obscure grape that is used to produce both red and rose wines in this region of Spain. On the nose is massive dark fruit and berries with a hint of vanilla and spice. The color is a deep garnet red with nice clarity and vivid legs. This is a fruit forward wine with black plum, cherry and currant. There are moderate toasty oak flavors along with cocoa and exotic Indian spice. This wine is modern in style, medium bodied, with abundant smooth tannins and a zesty acidity. It was and enjoyable wine to accompany rich food like Grilled Kobe Flat Iron Steak, Braised Shortribs with Garam Masala and a tasty order of crispy “duck-fat” French Fries!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Columbia Crest Reserve Syrah, 2000

Columbia Crest Reserve Syrah, 2000

Columbia Crest is one of the largest wineries in Washington and produces quality wines across a large price range. We purchased this reserve Syrah, from the winery, back in the autumn of 2002. This wine was highly acclaimed and made the Wine Spectator “Top 100” list in 2002. Last night we decided to open this wine to enjoy over the Labor Day Holiday. We decanted this reserve wine for about one hour before tasting. The color was a dark, opaque purple with black highlights and a ruby rim. The nose was packed with fresh blackberry, plum and spice. This was a big wine with plump flavors of dark berries, chocolate covered cherries and some white pepper. The mouth feel was thick and rich with abundant smooth tannins and gentle acidity. There was a cream cheese component that complimented the generous fruit flavors. This wine cellared very well over the past 6-7 years. This wine was produced from Columbia Crest's best syrah grapes, in small quantities, and was sold at the winery for about $25. This was a stunningly good wine from one of Washington States “Big Boys”.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

WishWilling Pinot Noir, 2005

WishWilling Pinot Noir, 2005

One of the great things about living in the Pacific Northwest is the proximity to the Washington State and Oregon Wine Country. Throughout the years, we have tasted many great wines and had the good fortune of meeting many local winemakers. This bottle of WishWilling Pinot Noir, 2005, was given to us by winemaker Gary Bunker. The Pinot Noir grapes were picked from 30 year old vines on the south-facing slopes of the Murto Vineyard near Dundee, Oregon. This is a lovely wine with a dark ruby color, nice clarity, but nearly opaque. On the nose are fresh aromas of sweet strawberry compote, plums, cinnamon and flint. This is a medium bodied wine with a seductively smooth texture packed with cherry, raspberry and plum all wrapped up with a cloak of leather, black pepper and orange rind. There is a lovely balance of fruit, earth and spice along with gentle tannins and acidity that contribute to a long and persistent finish. This is an elegant Pinot Noir that is a true delight. Thank you for the lovely wine!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Palestra, 2007

Palestra, 2007

Earlier this summer we enjoyed a bottle of the 2006 Palestra and found it was quite delightful at a very good price. Now we just enjoyed a bottle of the newly released 2007 vintage, and once again were impressed. The Encostas do Douro Palestra is a blend of Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. All these grapes are indigenous to the Douro Region of Portugal. This wine has a dark ruby/purple color and a rich nose of black cherry, blackberry and spice. This is a medium bodied wine with flavors of dark berry, cherry, licorice and lingering black pepper. This wine has a gentle and rich mouth feel from abundant, but well integrated, dusty tannins. The finish is soft and elegant, dry with no harsh edges. This 2007 vintage of the Palestra is another example of a great table wine, from Portugal, that can be found in the Seattle area for about $9. We enjoyed this nice wine with some tasty grilled chicken and vegetables on a great summer day! Seek out this wine.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Green Goat Cheese Spread

Green Goat Cheese Spread

Here is a simple spread that can be made in minutes and is interesting and tastes great. The Edamame are high in fiber and protein and beautifully compliment the Goat Cheese. Serve in a bowl alongside sliced baguette or sturdy crackers or spread on toasted slices of baguette as an elegant crostini.

3/4 cup Shelled Soybean Edamame
5 ounce Creamy Goat Cheese (Chevre)
1 Clove Garlic
1 tablespoon Chopped Fresh Thyme
2 tablespoon Milk

Baguette (narrow French bread) sliced and toasted

Add Edamame, Goat Cheese, Garlic, Thyme and Milk to food processor. Process these ingredients for about 30 seconds until well blended to a creamy consistency. Place in serving dish or spread directly on toasted slices of baguette. Garnish with a small sprig of thyme. This appetizer will pair will with a crisp, un-oaked Chardonnay.


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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Woodinville Wine Cellars Merlot, 2003

Woodinville Wine Cellars Merlot, 2003

Woodinville Wine Cellars is an excellent winery that produces small quantities of handcrafted wines from grapes bought from several prominent Washington State vineyards. Their wines are fermented in small lots and barrel aged for up to 18 months, using French Oak selected to complement, not mask the terroir. Last night we went for dinner to the Purple Café, in Kirkland. After scanning our wine cellar, I decided to bring a bottle of the Woodinville Wine Cellars 2003 Merlot. This bottle was signed by the winemaker, Sean Boyd, and had been in our cellar for about 3 years. What a great wine! In any given year, there are a few wines that really “blow you away” and will be fondly remembered for the next few years. This Merlot is one of those. The color is a deep ruby red with a faint violet rim. This wine has a beautiful nose with concentrated aromas of blackberry, chocolate, cassis and a hint of spicy oak. On the palate, ripe black fruit, espresso, spice, marshmallow and mocha commingle to create a luscious and balanced wine. This is a medium to full bodied wine with abundant sweet, soft tannins and gentle acidity creating a closely woven texture and a long, long finish. We had tasted this wine 3 years ago and new it was good, however, three years of cellaring revealed this wines full potential. We purchased this stunner at Pete’s Wine Shop, in Bellevue, for about $20. Great job Sean!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Vega Sindoa Red Wine, 2007

Vega Sindoa Red Wine, 2007

This red blend is produced by Bodegas Nekeas in the Navarra region of Spain. The Nekeas valley is located at the foothills of the Pyrenees and is buffeted from the winds of the Atlantic. Warm summer days and cool nights help the grapes reach full maturity on the vines. The various micro-climates of the area allow for nice conditions for numerous grape varieties including Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Grenache. This is a blend of 70% Tempranillo and 30% Merlot. This is a simple, straight forward wine with a deep red color and pleasant aromas of black berry jam and licorice. This is a medium bodied wine made in a modern style with rich flavors of black cherries, strawberries, prune, slate and black pepper. This is a zesty wine with a smooth mouth-feel and gentle tannins that linger with the long finish. I am a fan of this winery that is run by Concha Vecino, the most acclaimed woman winemaker in Spain. This is another lovely wine imported by Jorge Ordonez. You can find this lovely value wine at Esquin, in Seattle, for under $10.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bodegas Conde 'Vivir, Vivir', 2007

Bodegas Conde 'Vivir, Vivir', 2007

The 2007 Vivir, Vivir is 100% Tempranillo sourced from old vines in La Horra in the Ribera del Duero of Spain. This wine has a lovely ruby-red color and displays an elegant nose of blackberry, cherry and stone. This is a medium bodied wine that is a modern style with rich berry flavors that are pleasantly balanced with secondary flavors of mineral and herbs. Very smooth and fleshy in the mouth with moderate tannins and acidity and no harsh edges. This is a straight-forward Tempranillo that will pair well with any summer picnic. We served the "Vivir, Virir" chilled, with some grilled chicken tacos and wood-charred green beans….yummy! We found this “Summer-sipper” at Top Foods, in Bellevue, for about $10.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Bodegas Ateca Atteca, 2007

Bodegas Ateca Atteca, 2007

This old vine garnacha from the Calatayud region of Spain represents another great value and proves you can get interesting and delicious wines for way under $20.00. The garnacha grapes are from 80-120 year-old vines and this Atteca is aged in oak barrels for 10 months before being bottled. This is another fine wine from the Jorge Ordonez Selection. This is a full bodied wine with a deep red/purple color and a nose of fresh raspberry, cherries and wet rock. On the palate there is ripe red raspberry jam, black plum, cranberry, leather and some spicy pepper. This is a big wine with great personality. This Spanish red is quite jammy and zesty and the delicious fruit flavors are blanketed in smooth tannins and finished with a touch of creamy oak. This wine can pair well with any hearty or spicy meal or would be great for a backyard barbeque. Actually, I think this wine would be great anytime! This wine can be found in the Seattle area for about $15. Seek out this lovely old vine garancha from Bodegas Ateca.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wrongo Dongo, 2007

Wrongo Dongo, 2007

We continue to enjoy our journey into value priced Spanish wines with the latest vintage of Wrongo Dongo, a 100% Monastrell wine from the Jumilla region. This wine has a bright red/purple color with a filtered appearance. Aromas of dark berry are accented by baking spices and roasted nuts. This wine is medium bodied with straightforward blackberry and cherry flavors along with some minerality and black pepper on the finish. There are silky tannins and gentle acidity that add to the overall package. The finish is smooth and lingering. This is another great value from importer Jorge Ordonez that is available in the Seattle area for about $8.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Olive Oil Cake

Radio Milano Olive Oil Cake


Radio Milano is another successful restaurant by LGO Hospitality, the people who created La Grande Orange, Postino and Chelsea's Kitchen in Phoenix. While dining at Radio Milano this weekend, Kate ordered the Olive Oil Cake. She first read about this cake in Phoenix Magazine, back in late 2007, when the restaurant was newly opened. So finally, after being on her 'to-try list" ever since, we ordered this dessert, while celebrating her birthday. The cake did not disappoint! This cake is dense, moist and flavorful and was served with lemon gelato and fresh berry sauce.


1 large baking pan for a water bath
1 large loaf pan
3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups milk
1 orange, zest removed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon anise seeds
Cooking spray
fresh whipped cream or gelato (topping)
quality fruit jam, berries or sauce


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place baking pan, half filled with hot water, on the bottom shelf. (The water bath prevents the cake from drying out while baking.) In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs and sugar. Add oil, milk and zest. In a larger bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt and anise seeds. Use a rubber spatula to create a well, or indentation, in the dry ingredients. Pour about 1/3 of liquid mixture into well. Use a rubber spatula to begin mixing wet and dry ingredients. When almost completely mixed, add 1/3 more liquid and mix; repeat with final 1/3 of liquid. Mix until the batter comes together evenly. It may be slightly lumpy. Spray the sides of the loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Pour cake batter into pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Rotate pan and bake another 15 to 25 minutes, or until cake sets in the center. Allow to cool to room temperature. Run a knife along the sides of the pan and gently place cake top-side down on a plate. Remove pan and parchment paper. Place another plate on top and flip the cake back over. Cut into thick slices and serve with your choice of toppings and fruit sauce.
Makes 6 to 9 servings.

(recipe courtesy of Radio Milano)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dow Vale do Bomfim, 2006

Dow Vale do Bomfim, 2006

This dry red wine from Portugal is produced by from the house of Dow. Their reputation lies in the production of high quality Ports during the past 350 years. The Vale do Bomfim is produced from Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, & Tinta Barroca. This is an example of modern wine making from established vineyards with traditional grape varieties from the upper Douro Valley. This is the latest vintage available in the Seattle area and we were excited to try it. The 2005 vintage was superb. This is another elegant wine with a dark red color and delightful aromas of black fruit, raspberry, oak and violets. This is a light/medium bodied wine with lovely flavors of blackberry, plum, chocolate covered marshmallow and a hint of oak. The tannins are present, but well submerged. There is ample acidity to make this wine pair well with any hearty meal. Overall, this wine from Portugal is very smooth and quite delicious. This is another example of the high quality modern wines starting to come to us from the Douro DOC. We found this “over-achiever”, from Portugal, at Esquin Wine Shop, in Seattle, for about $10.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Palestra, 2006

Palestra, 2006

This Encostas do Douro Palestra is a blend of Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz, all grapes that are indigenous to the Douro Region of Portugal. This wine has a dark ruby color and a rich nose of black cherry, cedar and espresso. This is a medium bodied wine with dark berry and strawberry flavors with a hint of black pepper and some toasted marshmallow. This wine has prominent acidity that is well integrated and balanced with creamy oak and smooth tannins. The finish is soft and elegant. This is another example of a great table wine, from Portugal, that can be found in the Seattle area for about $9. Seek out this easy drinking red, from Portugal, for your next barbecue.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Domini Douro D.O.C., 2005

Domini, 2005

DOMINI is a joint venture between Domingos Soares Franco, head of winemaking at Jose Maria da Fonseca, one of Portugal’s best known wine producers, and winemaker Cristiano Van Zeller. Back in 1999, these two men started purchasing land in Douro Superior and establishing long-term leases with growers in the Cima Corgo district of the Douro Valley, forming a combined total of 77 acres of prime Douro Valley vineyards, source of the Domini wines. Vineyards are all planted in traditional Douro Valley grape varieties, such as Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz, and comprise a mix of old vines as well as younger vines (10 to 15 years). The 2005 Domini is a DOC wine is a blend of these three grape varieties. The color is dark ruby with a purple hue. There is a pleasant nose of fresh berries with hints of flowers and vanilla. This is a graceful, medium bodied wine with flavors of blackberry, blueberry, plum, coffee, earth and vanilla. There is a backdrop of soft tannins and nice acidity that contribute to the overall elegance. We enjoyed this wine with some home-made Carne Adovada and an fresh avocado and corn salad. This wine is another example of the high quality wines coming from the Douro Valley of Portugal. We bought this lovely Douro Red wine at Pete’s Wine Shop, in Bellevue, for about $15.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Berco do Infante Reserva, 2007

Berco do Infante Reserva, 2007


A great advantage we Americans have, being a part of the world market, is the availability of many great wines from regions across the globe. Portugal represents a region offering abundant selections of quality wines at affordable prices. This Berco do Infante is a red table wine made from the Castelao and Aragonez grapes, both indigenous to the Estremadura region of western Portugal. This wine has a dark purple color and is nearly opaque. There are fresh aromas of black cherry, prune and smoke and spice. This is a medium bodied wine with a palate of ripe black fruit, espresso, deep minerality, gentle acidity and fine grained tannins. The finish is smooth and harmonious. This wine will pair well with any summer barbecue and can be found in the Seattle area for about $9. This wine is an excellent value from the coast of Portugal.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Trapiche Malbec, 2008

Trapiche Malbec, 2008

Bodegas Trapiche is located in Mendoza, Argentina at the foothills of the Andes. They own more than 1000 acres of vineyards and grow both red and white varietals that are used to produce numerous different wines ranging form value to luxury. This Trapiche Malbec is a value wine that we purchased, on sale, for about $8.00 at the Bellevue QFC Market. The color is a deep purple with violet hues. There is a luscious nose of fresh blueberries, black cherries and cooked rhubarb. This is a medium bodied wine with an abundance of fresh berry and black fruit flavors balanced by some coco and mineral notes. The tannins are well submerged and there is a gentle acidity that contributes to a smooth finish. This wine is more “New World” than old, but will pair well with any summer barbecue.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Prado

Prado
InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa
4949 E Lincoln DriveParadise Valley, Arizona 85253
(480) 627-3200

Prado is the signature restaurant at the new InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley, Arizona. The design of the hotel is inspired by Andalusia in southern Spain. Camelback Mountain is a stunning back-drop to this sprawling resort. The history of southern Spain is unique with major cultural influences from Roman, Greek and Moorish occupation. The restaurant is a large space highlighted by lovely fabrics, textures and colors that truly create an old-world ambiance of luxury and comfort. Amongst the delightful design of archways, pillars and Moorish tiles, our table was located directly across a large wood-burning fireplace that is an outpost of the kitchen for preparing the wood-grilled specialties. The menu stays true to the foods of southern Spain and the Mediterranean, but is greatly influenced by the Italian born chef, Claudio Urciuoli. There is a strong emphasis on the use of fresh local ingredients and high quality food products along with simple preparations that allow the food to speak for itself.

Kate started with a Gazpacho of tomato and piquillo peppers. The chilled soup was a smooth puree with delightful flavors of sweet tomato, red pepper and a lovely essence of green vegetables. She loved it. I chose the Burrata with roasted tomatoes and olive bread. The Burrata was a large wedge of fresh mozzarella, enhanced with cream, with a fantastic light texture and sweet dairy taste. The accompanying herb scented roasted cherry tomatoes and grilled olive bread highlighted how three simple ingredients, in the right hands, can surpass culinary excellence. I know I will order this dish, again, when we return.

For entrées, Kate had a "nightly special" Arroces ( rice dish), with chicken, spicy sausage and heirloom tomatoes. This dish was baked in a large terra cotta cazuela and is Prado’s version of a Paella. We both enjoyed the dish and greatly appreciated to delightful melding of the flavorful ingredients in a flavorful roasted and toasty (but moist) rice matrix. I ordered the Alaskan Halibut. The large center-cut halibut fillet was perfectly cooked with a golden brown crust and served on a bed of farro. The farro had a pleasant chewy texture, nutty taste and was deftly seasoned with ras el hanout, a cinnamon scented spice blend traditional to Northern African.

The dessert menu looked too good to pass-up and we couldn’t resist each ordering one. I ordered the Spanish-style Churros with a warm chocolate dipping sauce and Kate ordered a Chocolate Tart with fleur de sal (sea salt) and red chili flakes. Both were great. The Churros had crisp, cinnamon and sugar coated outsides with light moist centers. The dipping sauce was cocoa-luscious. The Chocolate Tart was a creamy caramel infused chocolate balanced by a sprinkling of fine sea salt and perky chili flakes. A scoop of refreshing olive oil gelato crowned the dish.

Our service at Prado was exceptional and can be largely credited to their new General Manager, Pavle Milic. We were warmly greeted when we arrived and given perfect attention and service throughout the evening. Our waiter, Olivario, expertly answered our questions about menu preparations and ingredients and he delightfully guided our dining experience. This is a beautiful restaurant with elegant straight forward cuisine and attentive professional service. We give Prado high marks for knowing how to do things right. Bravo Prado.